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Subject: Games where the theme does not match mechanics rss

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Steve Gilbert
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There has been a lot of talk in other threads about how you can paste any theme on any game rules. IMO that is simply an exercise in mental gymnastics that is true only in the most technical/legalistic sense.

Many theme heavy games are designed with the intent purpose of recreating a specific situation. That situation might be historical (Terrible Swift Sword) or fantastic (Star Fleet Battles). If you accept this premise, IMO some games fail because their mechanics do not capture their theme.

To me a recent example is Axis and Allies Miniatures. I loved the theme of the game and bought a case when it first came out. Two weeks later I was selling them all on ebay. I just couldn't over the mechanic that I can drive my Panther right next to your Sherman and then before I fire you get to move and run around behind a building. It just did not feel like WWII tank combat.

Who knows maybe I would have kept the game if it had been about Blue Magicians vs Red Magicians both of which can teleport.

Are there any others theme heavy games you don't like because the mechanics don't feel right?
 
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Dave Lartigue
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For me the game that best exemplifies this is Metro, a game that is themed with building subway tracks. The first problem is that you want your subway tracks to go in the longest, most convoluted path to your target, which is not what you'd imagine you'd want to do. The second problem is that all anyone ever does in it is try to finish another player's tracks before they get too long, to deny them points.

So a game about building is actually a game about thwarting building, and the primary tactic is to force your opponent to do what you think the winning goal would be in the first place.
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D L
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Quick, make a GeekList about this!
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Tony Farrand
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5th Fleet and the Fleet series in general. The game drips theme, but the 'you go I go' mechanics make for completely ludicrous situations at sea, particularly with sub warfare. We still had fun playing it, though...

Flight Leader had a similar problem. The game was well researched and we had fun playing it, but the engagements did not feel like actual modern dog fights.

Both games were "fixed" with variant impulse systems that we found too cumbersome at the time.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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ErnestBORG9 wrote:
5th Fleet and the Fleet series in general. The game drips theme, but the 'you go I go' mechanics make for completely ludicrous situations at sea, particularly with sub warfare. We still had fun playing it, though...

Flight Leader had a similar problem. The game was well researched and we had fun playing it, but the engagements did not feel like actual modern dog fights.

Both games were "fixed" with variant impulse systems that we found too cumbersome at the time.


At the time, Balkoski's "Sixth Fleet" system was considered original , clever, dramatic and fast-playing - three out of four which were in short supply, at the time.

Could he have designed a system more faithful to "reality"? No doubt, but it probably would have been mundanely similar to existing systems. That pretty clearly is not what he had in mind.
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Tony Farrand
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Quote:
At the time, Balkoski's "Sixth Fleet" system was considered original , clever, dramatic and fast-playing - three out of four which were in short supply, at the time.

Could he have designed a system more faithful to "reality"? No doubt, but it probably would have been mundanely similar to existing systems. That pretty clearly is not what he had in mind.


I don't think that changes the pertinence of these games to the subject of this post.

I agree that Fleet and Flight Leader were fresh in their time. We played both a lot and enjoyed them. However, over time, our enjoyment of them waned, mainly because tactics that shouldn't work did and the games stopped feeling like what they were supposed to represent to us. This is probably because our understanding of the subject matter got more sophisticated, in some part thanks to these games!

 
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Darrell Hanning
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ErnestBORG9 wrote:
I don't think that changes the pertinence of these games to the subject of this post.

I agree that Fleet and Flight Leader were fresh in their time. We played both a lot and enjoyed them. However, over time, our enjoyment of them waned, mainly because tactics that shouldn't work did and the games stopped feeling like what they were supposed to represent to us. This is probably because our understanding of the subject matter got more sophisticated, in some part thanks to these games!



I wasn't attempting to change the pertinence in your case, in your opinion. I was stating that mine is different from yours. The OP asked, "Are there any other theme heavy games you don't like because the mechanics don't feel right?"

I do like the Sixth Fleet system, so it does not qualify, IMO, as being a game I don't like because the mechanics don't feel right. I also happen to like Verssen's Modern Naval Battles system, although the mechanics clearly do not model contemporary naval conflict.

I got the impression the OP was looking for instances where the mechanics seemed particularly unsuited, not simply where they deviated from the conventional in conflict simulation design. And I think those are two different matters.
 
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| Scott Kinzie |
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Interesting topic...

My personal pet peeve on theme vs. mechanic is Winds of Plunder. This is a well designed game, fun to play, and I'd actually recommend it. BUT, it has a mechanic where the players vote on which way the wind blows!

I usually have to take about 5 minutes to remove all the cogs and gears from my brain and reconfigure them to be able to tolerate the concept.

All kidding aside, this is a good example of a mechanic that works within the context of the game, but breaks the theme.
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Bill Eldard
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sgilbert wrote:
To me a recent example is Axis and Allies Miniatures. . . I just couldn't over the mechanic that I can drive my Panther right next to your Sherman and then before I fire you get to move and run around behind a building. It just did not feel like WWII tank combat.


I haven't played Axis & Allies military miniatures (I own and play the A&A naval miniatures, which I find very good), but the mechanic you describe doesn't sound particularly odd to me. Since the Sherman was an inferior tank to the Panther, I can't imagine that the Sherman crew would remain stationary while a Panther drove up right next to it and fired, unless of course the Sherman was (a) immobilized by damage or mechanical failure, or (b) the crew was surprised. I would find it more unrealistic if the Sherman was incapable of reacting while a Panther rolled right up to it finish the Sherman off. That's why I think that in many (most?) miniatures of WW2 and earlier, a unit has the option to either move or shoot on its turn, but not both.

But on the subject of counter-intuitive mechanics, in the original edition of PanzerBlitz, the effectiveness of indirect fire (i.e. artillery, mortars, rockets) decreased as the number of units in the target hex increased. This was due to the odds calculation for indirect fire attacks: the sum of attack factors from the firing units was divided by the the number of units in the target hex. Then, the determined sub-factor was applied against each targeted unit and resolved as a separate attack. For example, if the Russians have 30 factors of indirect fire firing into a hex containing a single German rifle platoon (Def = 8), combat is resolved as a single roll on the 3:1 odds table. But if I've crowded 3 German rifle platoons into the hex -- thus creating more personnel density and logically increasing the chances of taking casualties -- I divide the 30 by 3 an get 10. Then I resolve 3 separate 10:8 attacks on the 1:1 column of the CRT.

This strange mechanic also led to the tactic of co-locating unneeded low value units such as wagons, with high-value units merely to reduce the effectiveness of indirect fire against the hex.

This rule was later corrected so that in the example I gave, the full 32 factors would be applied to each German platoon separately, resolving three separate 30:8 attacks on the 3:1 column.

PanzerBlitz
had some other problems, including the one that earned it the sobriquet Panzer-Bush, but most were ironed out in the Panzer Leader game and rules mods.
 
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Benjamin Maggi
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Some people have said that "Shadows over Camelot" has a theme that isn't replicated at all by the gameplay. To be honest, I am not sure how you can replicate being attacked by seige weapons or killing of Picts/Saxons or searching through dense forests looking for treasures like the Holy Grail or Sir Lancelots armor.

That being said, being able to lay down a poker hand "Full House" or a "straight" definitely do NOT feel like the above situations. Perhaps if it was "Shadows over Las Vegas" it wouldn't feel so empty.

However, I still want to play SOC and consider it at the very top of my Game List to buy, despite the suggested disconnect in theme and gameplay.
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The first time I played Thunderstone I went nuts. You hired a hero and when you're ready to enter the dungeon, he isn't there. Or everyone shows up, but nobody remembered to bring torches. Or someone brought too many torches, but no one's there to go into the dungeon. Or you have your shiny new sword, but no one can pick it up.

Thunderstone needs to be re-themed as either Orcs or Dilbert...
 
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Steve Gilbert
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Eldard wrote:
sgilbert wrote:
To me a recent example is Axis and Allies Miniatures. . . I just couldn't over the mechanic that I can drive my Panther right next to your Sherman and then before I fire you get to move and run around behind a building. It just did not feel like WWII tank combat.


I haven't played Axis & Allies military miniatures (I own and play the A&A naval miniatures, which I find very good), but the mechanic you describe doesn't sound particularly odd to me. Since the Sherman was an inferior tank to the Panther, I can't imagine that the Sherman crew would remain stationary while a Panther drove up right next to it and fired, unless of course the Sherman was (a) immobilized by damage or mechanical failure, or (b) the crew was surprised. I would find it more unrealistic if the Sherman was incapable of reacting while a Panther rolled right up to it finish the Sherman off. That's why I think that in many (most?) miniatures of WW2 and earlier, a unit has the option to either move or shoot on its turn, but not both.

But on the subject of counter-intuitive mechanics, in the original edition of PanzerBlitz, the effectiveness of indirect fire (i.e. artillery, mortars, rockets) decreased as the number of units in the target hex increased. This was due to the odds calculation for indirect fire attacks: the sum of attack factors from the firing units was divided by the the number of units in the target hex. Then, the determined sub-factor was applied against each targeted unit and resolved as a separate attack. For example, if the Russians have 30 factors of indirect fire firing into a hex containing a single German rifle platoon (Def = 8), combat is resolved as a single roll on the 3:1 odds table. But if I've crowded 3 German rifle platoons into the hex -- thus creating more personnel density and logically increasing the chances of taking casualties -- I divide the 30 by 3 an get 10. Then I resolve 3 separate 10:8 attacks on the 1:1 column of the CRT.

This strange mechanic also led to the tactic of co-locating unneeded low value units such as wagons, with high-value units merely to reduce the effectiveness of indirect fire against the hex.

This rule was later corrected so that in the example I gave, the full 32 factors would be applied to each German platoon separately, resolving three separate 30:8 attacks on the 3:1 column.

PanzerBlitz
had some other problems, including the one that earned it the sobriquet Panzer-Bush, but most were ironed out in the Panzer Leader game and rules mods.


I think your indirect fire example is a good example of something that might make great sense, from "wow what a cool rule, it really gives me strategic options", but the rule has nothing to do with the theme. If it wasn't for those darn stacking limits you could create a solid mass of units that was invincible to indirect fire.

Regarding A&A miniatures I still don't think if "feels" like WWII tank warfare. I understand your point that a Sherman would react to the approaching Panther, but to run right past the Panther and hide behind the same building the Panther came from... that's just silly. I'm sticking with my original Red Magicians and Blue Magicians with teleporters.
 
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Bill Eldard
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sgilbert wrote:
Regarding A&A miniatures I still don't think if "feels" like WWII tank warfare. I understand your point that a Sherman would react to the approaching Panther, but to run right past the Panther and hide behind the same building the Panther came from... that's just silly. I'm sticking with my original Red Magicians and Blue Magicians with teleporters.


I believe that tactical warfare games have a hard time simulating ground combat from WW2 to present. They can be very enjoyable and educational as games, but many essential aspects of the battlefield -- mainly the non-Newtonian/non-linear factors and results -- just can't be simulated well. This is especially so with regard to command and control. Adding more and more detail to a design -- even fog of war -- can approach some level of realism, but not achieve it.

While I like PanzerBlitz and PanzerLeader, I've never trusted that they were superior simulations of WW2 tactical combat.

 
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