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Subject: The whole shebang, or war with the boring parts cut out? rss

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Tom Russell
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I'm currently in the early stages of working on a wargame centered on a relatively seldom-gamed war. (For personal superstitious voodoo reasons, I'm not going to name the conflict, nor acknowledge any guesses.)

The conclusion I'm drawing-- and it's not a unique one-- is that the war was pretty much decided by the end of the first two months: all the major battles were fought, the losing army had surrendered, etc. But the war dragged on for another five months, mostly in siege warfare. There were some minor conflicts and counter-attacks but it was mostly a foregone conclusion.

In my estimation, the most interesting part of this, in terms of creating a playable and exciting game for both players while maintaining simulation value, is that initial and decisive flurry of violence and maneuver in the early months. Having four (two week) pulse-pounding turns followed by ten lackluster ones doesn't sound appealing-- part of me would rather just concentrate on the early months (with eight, one week scale turns).

At the same time, if I was as a player to get a game on a seldom-gamed conflict, and only 28% of the war was represented, I'd feel a little slighted, especially as I often play solitaire and with an eye towards experiencing the flow of the history. This part of me would much rather be able to play out the entire conflict, and to see if my counter-attacks and defenses could save the day where those of the historical losers could not. This part of me doesn't really care if the balance of the game is less "exciting" for one or both players.

So, as you can tell, I'm a little conflicted, and as this decision will determine the scale of the game (and thus reinforcements, combat resolution, etc.), I thought I'd solicit some outside advice from the helpful and smart folks here on BGG so that I might take that advice into account when making the decision myself. So:

When dealing with a somewhat obscure subject, would you as a player prefer a game that covers only the most important action, or a game that covers the entire war, even if 70% of it is waiting for one side to finally run out of supplies, men, and morale?
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Ocean Druen
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Doesn't matter to me too much - there are plenty of WW1 games that only cover only the first few months of the war. I would suggest that win conditions reflect this point.

I would be wary (and without knowing the subject matter I am not an expert) to coming to the conclusion that you did. One point of simulations to play out the events somewhat outside of history; while events folded the way they did historically they do not necessary have to in the game.

Another option is the have scenarios, have a primary "short" campaign with options for a longer campaign (and some "what if" scenarios).

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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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It is difficult to provide a very specific response without more detailed information. However, one key is related to how 'inevitable' the conflict being largely 'decided' in the opening stage was. By focusing entirely on that limited first period, you might be 'scripting' it too much. What if the side that historically lost those initial battles manages, in the game, to avoid losing, or even wins one? You might be 'pulling the rug out' from underneath the players, just when things are looking interesting. On the other hand, if the war is really going to be 'decided' in those opening stages, and there really is nothing but a lengthy 'mopping up' going to take place following it, then I can see the value in simply dropping that. However, even in that case, you could cover the entire war and have a scenario, or 'sudden death' victory condition to avoid having to drag it out unnecessarily.
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p55carroll
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Well, one thing to consider is this: the historical conflict may have been over, for all practical purposes, after the first two months, as you say, but did it have to go that way? Suppose something very different had happened during those first couple months. How would that have affected the rest of the war? Might it have been less boring?

So, part of what you have to deal with is the question of how scripted the game is going to be. Though "scripted" is often used as a dirty word in BGG, all historical or history-based games follow a script to some extent. But how closely do you want your game to do that?

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Sam Carroll
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My first question is whether it was a foregone conclusion that it would be mostly decided after two months. Was the historical progression the only possible one? Could it plausibly have gone differently, with more action later on?

My second question is whether you can present the players with interesting decisions for the boring part of the war. Is there any way to make it interesting? Could you speed up the time scale (go from 1-week turns to 1-month turns, for example) when a certain board condition is met? I mean, it could almost be two different sections of the game, with different mechanisms, sequence of play, etc. The maneuver portion for the first half, then the siege portion.

If you're going to keep the same time scale, then I'd be fine having just the initial flurry, or maybe have that as the main scenario, with an extended scenario for those who want to play out the whole deal.
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Sam Carroll
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And by the time I've posted my reply, several others have already said the same thing. I do enjoy the repetition!
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Adam Cirone
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spartax wrote:
Could you speed up the time scale (go from 1-week turns to 1-month turns, for example) when a certain board condition is met? I mean, it could almost be two different sections of the game, with different mechanisms, sequence of play, etc. The maneuver portion for the first half, then the siege portion.


This was my first thought too. You could specify some conditions that would shift the time-scale of the game and what options are available to players. Until the "deciding-point" is reached, players still have plenty of options, but at some point the pace of the game changes.

The first two turns of Paths of Glory represent one month each, while all the later turns represent three months. I think you should experiment with a more fluid system that changes time-scale based on player actions.

Note: this makes me think that the month-to-month turns in Paths of Glory should continue until players reach Limited War, instead of being based simply on game turns.
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Ryan R
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War is a contest of wills. Who has more willpower. War is the result of two strong willed individuals failing to work "it" out. When diplomacy fails, cemeteries grow.


It is my personal belief that all US diplomats, Senators, Congress, Presidents, Secs of whatever, should have to stand at the Tomb of the Unknown, look out over Arlington, and read the following: "Before you rest America's finest and the results of failed diplomacy. Do not fail us."



Now to you original post.

What would be intesting and stimulating would be a simulation on some SOLIC stuff. Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (one of my 2 A's in college) items. Stuff like Entebi (Operation Thunderbolt), Desert One (without the mechanical problems), Somalia, those "one off" short fights where the violence on the objective was quick and over faster than it took to read this post.

Wargaming/Simulating a long drawn out war is most difficult to do.

Good luck!
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Pete Belli
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I'm looking forward to your game on the Franco-Prussian War.

End it when Napoleon III capitulates.

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Det var bara en hake...
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pete belli wrote:
I'm looking forward to your game on the Franco-Prussian War.

End it when Napoleon III capitulates.



Peeeeeete

You killed the game
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Tom Russell
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Good points all.

W/r/t scriptedness, well, yeah, those first couple of months could have went very differently, in which case the rest of the conflict would also unfold very differently. When I say the rest of the war was a foregone conclusion, it's only because of how thoroughly one side stomped the other in the early-going.

I try to avoid overt scripting in my wargame designs-- I stay away from "so-and-so's blind spot" or "must-attack-this-area" rules. Instead, I try to identify decisive factors in a conflict and recreate them with game mechanisms that "slant" the game towards historical results if played historically while allowing for very different (and interesting!) results if players are a bit more creative.

For example, with Line of Fire #13: Blood on the Alma, one of the decisive factors was that the allies had the Minie Rifle, while the Russians were armed with Muskets. So the Allies have a special long-range attack with its own table. The Russians had very bad morale, and so they have to check to panic. The Russian commander deployed his brigades haphazardly with little regard to command structure, so the Russian phases are scattered across the Sequence of Play instead of happening sequentially. All these things slant the game against the Russians slightly. There are also factors that are in the Russian's favor-- the British are wonderfully accommodating in this regard-- but if the game is played historically, with each side more-or-less reproducing the actions of their historical counterparts, they will more-or-less reproduce the historical result. But there's no rule saying that the Russian Player has to conduct himself like a first-class twit, and a smart player can pull out a win. It's a tougher position, but by no means unwinnable.

To come back more squarely to the topic-- I guess my thinking with this currently-in-progress design is that, supposing a game that covers the entire war:

The game, in recreating the factors that resulted in one side's clear victory over the other, will "slant" mechanically towards the historical result if played historically in the first forty-five minutes. If the player taking on the historical losing side plays well in the first forty-five minutes, the game should be pretty wide-open. If he doesn't play all that well (or if the other side plays better!), then the remaining two hours would see him slogging on from an impossible position.

I guess a better way to pose the question is, if there's a decent chance that one player will have a (likely) unrecoverable position 45 minutes in, how would you feel about playing out the rest of the war for the remaining two hours? Would you rather play a 90-120 minute game that covers the decisive campaign?
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Lance Runolfsson
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Seems like the answer to this problem should just be sudden death victory conditions. If the historical early situation is achieved at the end of any turn, game ends. Victory side A depends on how quickly its done. Victory side B based on how long it is forestalled. So the game is then variable length.
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Wendell
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pete belli wrote:
I'm looking forward to your game on the Franco-Prussian War.

End it when Napoleon III capitulates.



He capitulated. FRANCE didn't!
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David Morneau
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Is it possible to leave the choice to the players?

Design your game so that it can cover the entire war, including the later sieges and then offer different scenarios. Battle to one side surrenders or play the entire campaign.

(You could even offer a scenario that only covers the late sieges in case any players are interested in trying out just the "boring part"...)

 
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Michael Taylor
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pete belli wrote:
I'm looking forward to your game on the Franco-Prussian War.

End it when Napoleon III capitulates.



My thoughts exactly when I read the OP.

And if this isn't Franco-Prussian War, we need one. Badly. Pete, I nominate you to lead the effort.

Mike
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Adam Siler
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I'm not experienced in Strategic games, but it seems to me like the ability to choose when the decisive moment is makes the game fun.

I do like smaller level games where a tie is a strategic defeat for one side though. The battle may be balanced and can swing either way, but it forces at least one player to make decisions. The script is nothing but the battle's importance to the whole strategic imperative.
 
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One of the ways is to make the victory conditions dependant on the situation at the time. Let me explain further, If Player A needs to capture cities X.Y and Z for him to win the game and after 7 turns of a 10 turn game he has captured none, then the game could end there. On the other hand if he had captured cities Y and Z then the game could continue as there is a chance he could take city X before the 10th turn is up. Looking at this from a different view, you could make the same game a 7 turn game with the chance of extending the game length depending on current conditions.
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Justus Pendleton
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Why are you subjecting yourself to the straight jacket of all turns being the same length?

Make time fast forward if nothing interesting is happening.
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Zhe Leng
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hoostus wrote:
Why are you subjecting yourself to the straight jacket of all turns being the same length?

Make time fast forward if nothing interesting is happening.


The problem is that you'll need another set of rules for movement/damage/supply etc. because of the different time length.
 
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Zhe Leng
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tomrussell wrote:
When dealing with a somewhat obscure subject, would you as a player prefer a game that covers only the most important action, or a game that covers the entire war, even if 70% of it is waiting for one side to finally run out of supplies, men, and morale?


The first thing is, the victory of one army does not neccessarily means the victory of the player. You can award victory to the loser because he/she lose less than the historical result. As long as you can make the outcome of the game always pending. It should not be boring.

Besides, what you can do is to set a "sudden death" condition to the game so that if one side achieves high superiority, then the game is over, there is no need to go farther.

Just let the game on when the victory is still not clear.

For my group, no one would like to play a battle when the outcome has been decided. So early decisive battle is good enough. The whole conflict is not important.
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Justus Pendleton
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lengzhe wrote:
hoostus wrote:
Why are you subjecting yourself to the straight jacket of all turns being the same length?

Make time fast forward if nothing interesting is happening.


The problem is that you'll need another set of rules for movement/damage/supply etc. because of the different time length.


Guns of Gettysburg manages variable length turns without doing that. They are there to solve the same exact problem, too. So a good designer can obviously do it without just doubling the rulebook and throwing in the kitchen sink.
 
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Wendell
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hoostus wrote:
lengzhe wrote:
hoostus wrote:
Why are you subjecting yourself to the straight jacket of all turns being the same length?

Make time fast forward if nothing interesting is happening.


The problem is that you'll need another set of rules for movement/damage/supply etc. because of the different time length.


Guns of Gettysburg manages variable length turns without doing that. They are there to solve the same exact problem, too. So a good designer can obviously do it without just doubling the rulebook and throwing in the kitchen sink.


Other games do as well - an especially good way for example to take account the slower ops tempo in winter without a bunch of special winter rules.
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john f stup
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a good example of this gaming situation is THE KOREAN WAR by Victory Games where the early part of the war is exciting with lots of movement, desperate defense, and amphibious landing/s behind the lines and then the Chinese come in and after they chase the NATO troops back, then the game bogs around the 38th parallel.
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Michael Dorosh
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hoostus wrote:
Why are you subjecting yourself to the straight jacket of all turns being the same length?

Make time fast forward if nothing interesting is happening.


Ambush! did this by having two types of gameplay, Operations, and then regular game turns. Granted, it was a solo title, but it was a fairly elegant way of doing things.

I see some other examples have been given as well.

It seems that the crux is whether or not the armies are in contact or not. When in contact, it appears time moves at a different rate than if not. The only sticking point might be how many units need to be in contact for any special rules to apply and could it be abused.
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Martin Gallo
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One thing you could try is to have the game split into two parts - Part one is the "interesting part of the war" that sets up part two. Part one could be a "standard" wargame and part two could be some sort of siege resolution system that determines the final outcome quickly but with enough tension to make it interesting.
 
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