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Subject: Are there wargames without victory points? Should there be? rss

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Andrew Kluck
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Victory points seem like a very artificial construct. For say, a tactical level game to make a hill worth 3 victory points illustrates the designers attempt to maintain historicity and perhaps command decisions from above.

But lower level commanders have often been allowed a large amount of freedom to accomplish a general goal and operational commanders have often been allowed to shape what 'victory' even means. That dynamic seems lost when a player faced with Meade's command is straight jacketed into fighting for Little Round Top just, well, because.

Are there war games without the concept of victory points? If there are how do those games measure success?
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Steve Willows
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Sure. Lots of games use "on board" conditions such as exiting a certain number of units from the board (or preventing that) or the holding of certain key areas or hexes by game's end. Sometimes the number of units eliminated can matter... other times one side must simply survive a certain number of turns.

Sometimes it will matter if conditions exist by the end of the game, at other times they might also serve as automatic victories or defeats.

Probably a lot more I'm not thinking of.
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Seth Owen
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Victory Points started to become popular in the 1970s as designers moved away from the absolute conditions that characterized the earliest board wargames. Part of the motivation was to create different degrees of victory to make a distinction between just barely eking out a win and winning with decisiveness. They were also useful for measuring victory when there are a lot of disparate factors relevant to assessing success such as integrating losses and territory.

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Ben Delp
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It does become fustrating to realize you lost points because you didn't take X hill, even though in actuality it had no relevance in your particular reenactment of the battle. Doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Of course, you knew about that hill going in...
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Michael Hopcroft
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wargamer55 wrote:
Victory Points started to become popular in the 1970s as designers moved away from the absolute conditions that characterized the earliest board wargames. Part of the motivation was to create different degrees of victory to make a distinction between just barely eking out a win and winning with decisiveness. They were also useful for measuring victory when there are a lot of disparate factors relevant to assessing success such as integrating losses and territory.



Victory Points do have the advantage that, if you tweak them properly, you get a game where all the players have an achievable victory condition. Nothing is less fun for a player than a game that is impossible for them to win if their opponent is at all rational. The original D-Day, for example, was so long and the Germans so undermanned that there was no realistic way for the Germans to win the game. If there had been a proper victory point mechanic in the game it might have been able to create a game condition that gave the Germans a chance to win the game even if the war itself was unwinnable.
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Michael Dorosh
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Sitnam wrote:
Victory points seem like a very artificial construct. For say, a tactical level game to make a hill worth 3 victory points illustrates the designers attempt to maintain historicity and perhaps command decisions from above.

But lower lever commanders have often been allowed a large amount of freedom to accomplish a general goal and operational commanders have often been allowed to shape what 'victory' even means. That dynamic seems lost when a player faced with Meade's command is straight jacketed into fighting for Little Round Top just, well, because.

Are there war games without the concept of victory points? If there aren't how do those games measure success?


As pointed out above, there are other methods, including unit exit and unit destruction. But those are just as artificial - you get into "point counting" with the unit destruction.

I liked the SL VC in which you had to get units in a position to put firepower onto a stretch of road, which represented clearing an objective. Some newer ASL scenarios have more creative VC like this, but its sometimes harder to test and balance these - if that's important to you - as well as implement.

For example, if you say that in order to win, you have to be able to project 24 firepower factors onto a road at the end of the last game turn. Does that count support weapons? Multiple ROF? Point blank range? Does it take into account captured weapons are halved? You can be very clear with a lot of this by stating up front only inherent squad FP at regular range (no long range) etc., but you have to be very particular. Then you get into cases (squads must be good order, not in melee, etc.)

Any way you look at it, the more interesting VC are more complex and harder to implement, but it is not universally accepted they are more 'realistic'.

I suggested on a message board that the "clear the road" type of VC would be great to simulate the "clear the start line" mission many infantry battalions faced in the Second World War, just turn the road's direction 90 degrees to the set-up area. I thought it interesting that a number of very experienced ASL scenario designers seemed confused by the concept of "clearing the start line" as it relates to company/battalion operations.

I thought it interesting enough to include an article on the subject in TWJ 2.

The Combat Mission video game series has some more sophisticated VC, which include "touch" objectives and "spot" objectives, meaning you get points for just moving onto a spot once, or even just seeing something, to help in creating recce missions. Still points-based, but a more flexible way of assigning those points in addition to just counting "kills", exited units, and objective flags.

I actually wish CM had the ability to be as flexible as ASL with some of the non-points based VC - for example, "to win, at game's end the attacker must have 10 good order squads, or their equivalent, on or west of hex row S (inclusive)." Pretty iron-clad VC.
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Mike Windsor
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For tournament play, you obviously need victory points. However, I've long suspected that victory points can tend to make the participants fight the game in the same way that the actual battle was fought. The other problem with victory points is that they can lead to play toward the end of the game that would be silly in the context of an ongoing military operation, but which graqbs those victory points.

I've often thought that many games would do well with having no victory points. Instead, let the participants debate the outcome (as would happen in real life anyway). Alternatively, let the participants (maybe secretly) determine their own victory conditions (which might not be the same as the other side's). For example, victory points could be awarded to one side simply for holding an objective, without any other consideration; the other side could get victory points for capturing an objective, but lose points for units lost.
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Lee Kennedy
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I think any kind of victory conditions can be reduced down to victory points anyway. And yes they are an "artificial construct" but so is everything else in the game. Being artificial doesn't make them bad

The main question is are the victory conditions (whether explicitly based on victory points or not) flexible enough. Do they force the players to follow scripted behaviour to achieve them or are there a number of different approaches that can be explored by each player?

For example imagine a game with victory conditions that combine taking a number of objectives, casualty levels, and penalties for activating certain formations. As the attacker you can be fairly cautious, keep the casualty level down, don't activate extra formations and just try and control a few objectives. Or you can be aggressive, taking high casualties, activating extra formations, and then try and make up for it by taking lots of objectives.
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Andrew Kluck
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Michael Dorosh wrote:

I thought it interesting enough to include an article on the subject in TWJ 2.

Which was a fantastic article, by the way, I'd really like to see the same treatment of other actual battlefield conventions and how they're represented in games in the next issue.
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Andrew Kluck
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Since victory points are in essence a caption of success for a larger military operation perhaps a VPless game can only exist on a grand scale that also includes production, resources and diplomacy.
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Andrew Kluck
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thelivekennedy wrote:
I think any kind of victory conditions can be reduced down to victory points anyway. And yes they are an "artificial construct" but so is everything else in the game. Being artificial doesn't make them bad

Perhaps, but VPs are worse than 'firepower', 'morale' and 'movement' numbers, they're worse than commander ratings and turn based reinforcements or even chit draws.

They're up there with 'god knowledge' in that they tell a player how to play.
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Darrell Pavitt
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The victory conditions for Campaign for North Africa start with the comment:

Quote:
It would be hard to imagine anything more exasperating than playing a game for five years, getting to the end, and finding out that you have lost by one point or two hexes or something of that ilk.


And later:

Quote:
Again, anyone who actually finishes this game should consider himself a winner (much as a soldier who fights two-three years does when he survives.)
Questions about the balance of the campaign scenario received before 1981 will be considered with the seriousness which they deserve.


And the first victory condition is

Quote:
Even (1 to 1) Draw (My God, what a waste of time!)
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Alfred Wallace
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nyhotep wrote:

And the first victory condition is

Quote:
Even (1 to 1) Draw (My God, what a waste of time!)


More chilling: That's what all the victory condition levels say...
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Darrell Hanning
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The best places to get away without using VPs are likely at the two ends of the spectrum - tactical and strategic.

You can state, in some tactical situations - "take and hold hex number blah-blah".

And you can state, in some strategic games - "take and hold the enemy capital, and you win".

However, even in those circumstances, you can find yourself in a somewhat ambiguous situation. You might be at the end of the number of turns alloted, and neither side has satisfied its victory condition(s). What then? "Oh, well, we just spent eight hours and all we got is a draw for it." That just doesn't make a lot of people happy. Enter Victory Points. VPs give you a gradient that absolute victory conditions do not.
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Lee Kennedy
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I don't think VPs in themselves are "worse" or "better" only how the game designer uses them. To me VPs are any method of assigning value to one of several objectives so that you can assess the overall final state of the game.

As I said, I cannot think of any game whose victory conditions cannot be reduced down to VPs.

Are using VPs to mean only "You get 10 VPs for controlling Little Round Top"?

VPs can be awarded based on lots of criteria:
- entering/holding certain objectives (by a certain time)
- exiting certain units (by a certain time)
- casualties inflicted
- casualties received
- eliminating certain units (by a certain time)
- using certain units (before a certain time)
- exerting certain firepower on specific areas (which are in some ASL scenarios)


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Lee Kennedy
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DarrellKH wrote:
The best places to get away without using VPs are likely at the two ends of the spectrum - tactical and strategic.

You can state, in some tactical situations - "take and hold hex number blah-blah".

How is that any different than "You get 100VP if you take and hold hex blah-blah."?


DarrellKH wrote:

And you can state, in some strategic games - "take and hold the enemy capital, and you win".


Not functionally any different than saying:
VPs: You get 100VPs for taking and holding the enemy capital.

End of game: Game ends immediately if you hold the enemy capital or after x turns.
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Brian Morris
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Victory points often represent things that were of a historical importance at the time but might be out of the scope of the game itself. For example perhaps taking a certain city doesn't have a huge tactical significance in a game but historically that town was the manufacturing hub of an important strategic war resource. Thus taking the town awards victory points to represent it's strategic impotence in the wider scheme of the historical conflict.
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Darrell Hanning
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Sitnam wrote:
Victory points seem like a very artificial construct. For say, a tactical level game to make a hill worth 3 victory points illustrates the designers attempt to maintain historicity and perhaps command decisions from above.


I don't think this is necessarily true. Making a hill worth X number of victory points may be precisely in line with what one side or the other was historically trying to achieve, in that situation. It may have been a superior position for spotting artillery fire, or a chokepoint for enemy supply transport, for instance.

Sitnam wrote:
But lower level commanders have often been allowed a large amount of freedom to accomplish a general goal and operational commanders have often been allowed to shape what 'victory' even means. That dynamic seems lost when a player faced with Meade's command is straight jacketed into fighting for Little Round Top just, well, because.


Again, it quite possibly is not a matter of "just, well, because". Little Round Top was considered a perfect location at which to anchor the left flank of the Union line - it had a real, tangible value for the Union, and thus had just as much a value to the Confederates, in depriving the Union army of its advantage.

And while some gamers have read all the relevant history, and understand the value of such locations without having it pointed out to them, others may not. And in that case, VPs have another use - they are a very good way to "guide" the newcomer to the key locations in a historical situation.

Are there war games without the concept of victory points? If there are how do those games measure success?[/q]

* Oops - looks like Brian and I were on the same wavelength, and he beat me to it.
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"Occupy hex XXXX" means hex XXXX has more VP than all other hexes on the map.

"Occupy more hexes of X, Y, and Z than your opponent" means a majority of those hexes have more VP than the remaining hexes.

"Destroy X enemy units" simply replaces VP with enemy units.

"Exit X friendly units" means each unit that exits is worth so many VP.

"Wargames take too long to play" means there needs to be a method to play the game in a shorter time frame, even if it means halting it mid-match.

VP's are as arbitrary as fixed reinforcement schedules, inflexible rates of supply, or pretty much every rail movement rule I've ever read.

There are plenty of wargames that don't use VP...I own a bunch of 'em. Play one of those.
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Darrell Hanning
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thelivekennedy wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
The best places to get away without using VPs are likely at the two ends of the spectrum - tactical and strategic.

You can state, in some tactical situations - "take and hold hex number blah-blah".

How is that any different than "You get 100VP if you take and hold hex blah-blah."?


DarrellKH wrote:

And you can state, in some strategic games - "take and hold the enemy capital, and you win".


Not functionally any different than saying:
VPs: You get 100VPs for taking and holding the enemy capital.

End of game: Game ends immediately if you hold the enemy capital or after x turns.


I don't dispute what you're saying. It was the OP who had taken exception to using VPs, not me.
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DarrellKH wrote:
Again, it quite possibly is not a matter of "just, well, because". Little Round Top was considered a perfect location at which to anchor the left flank of the Union line - it had a real, tangible value for the Union, and thus had just as much a value to the Confederates, in depriving the Union army of its advantage.

Because the Union occupied Cemetery Ridge, had the battle continued on McPherson Ridge it would have been irrelevant.

But ok, say the game begins with the Union Army's position on July 2nd, Little Round Top's value is still evident without victory points.

Historically both sides didn't even want to fight at Gettysburg, given that what is the purpose of giving a hill a numeric value?
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thelivekennedy wrote:
I don't think VPs in themselves are "worse" or "better" only how the game designer uses them. To me VPs are any method of assigning value to one of several objectives so that you can assess the overall final state of the game.

As I said, I cannot think of any game whose victory conditions cannot be reduced down to VPs.

Are using VPs to mean only "You get 10 VPs for controlling Little Round Top"?

VPs can be awarded based on lots of criteria:
- entering/holding certain objectives (by a certain time)
- exiting certain units (by a certain time)
- casualties inflicted
- casualties received
- eliminating certain units (by a certain time)
- using certain units (before a certain time)
- exerting certain firepower on specific areas (which are in some ASL scenarios)

You're right, VPs can be awarded to shape a general picture of success without necessarily straight jacketing a player to history. My concern is they change battlefield command into, well, a Euro.
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Alfred Wallace
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Some later scholar will stumble across this thread, compare it to all the various "Are there eurogames without victory points?" threads and geeklists that are eerily similar, and write a seminar paper on it. Because that's what I would do in that scholar's situation.

Anyway: thelivekennedy up above questioned what the difference was between a game victory condition of "Take and hold Hill 219 at the end of the game" and "Hill 219 is worth 100 VP at the end of the game and nothing else is worth anything." Easy enough: Aesthetics. Verisimilitude. It makes us feel more like commanders if we're given a "real-sounding" objective rather than a "game-sounding" objective. Easier to suspend disbelief.
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Darrell Hanning
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Sitnam wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
Again, it quite possibly is not a matter of "just, well, because". Little Round Top was considered a perfect location at which to anchor the left flank of the Union line - it had a real, tangible value for the Union, and thus had just as much a value to the Confederates, in depriving the Union army of its advantage.

Because the Union occupied Cemetery Ridge, had the battle continued on McPherson Ridge it would have been irrelevant.

But ok, say the game begins with the Union Army's position on July 2nd, Little Round Top's value is still evident without victory points.

Historically both sides didn't even want to fight at Gettysburg, given that what is the purpose of giving a hill a numeric value?


I had assumed (perhaps mistakenly) that what was being posited was a game covering only the three days at Gettysburg. Under those circumstances, Little Round Top is a very nice piece of real estate regardless of where the Union line forms (although I don't think anyone could offer a justifiable scenario wherein Buford's cavalry holds off the entire ANV for three days).

But if you're going to instead zoom out, to a scope covering a larger piece of Pennsylvania, then - sure - Little Round Top is of no significance. The two armies never even meet there, perhaps.

So, what wargame map currently covers that amount of terrain, and also identifies Little Round Top, that you're concerned VPs are being awarded where they shouldn't be?
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Lee Kennedy
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alfredhw wrote:
Anyway: thelivekennedy up above questioned what the difference was between a game victory condition of "Take and hold Hill 219 at the end of the game" and "Hill 219 is worth 100 VP at the end of the game and nothing else is worth anything." Easy enough: Aesthetics. Verisimilitude. It makes us feel more like commanders if we're given a "real-sounding" objective rather than a "game-sounding" objective. Easier to suspend disbelief.

So are you just arguing against VP on aesthetics? It sounded like in your OP you were complaining that VPs are too restrictive in what it allows the player to accomplish. I think a number of the above posts show that this does not have to be true.

 
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