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Subject: Why do we (play) fight? rss

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Darrell Hanning
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Not wanting to derail the thread 4X Science Fiction Game Dilemma: TWILIGHT IMPERIUM (3rd Ed) or ECLIPSE? more than I already have, I figured it was better to play in this particular weed garden, in a separate thread.

What I'm curious about is not only why people play wargames, but also what they need to be motivated to play wargames, what assumptions they make going in, and what external sources of motivation they might require. And not only as to "why", but how these same factors seem to predicate an individual's perspective on whether a game is a "wargame" or not.

I'm using this particular quote as a kickoff point, because it sort of represents what I find odd (and even sort of "chicken-and-egg" in nature):

mltdwn wrote:
I think what it all comes down to is one's desire for context to the conflict. While some are happy with the say black and white of "you are at war simply because we say so" the majority tend not to be. They want background, they want to understand the reason and purpose of the conflict.

Germany didn't just say "let's conquer Europe for grins", rather they were generally pissed at the Treaty of Versailles, with most of the world siding with Germany that it was grossly unfair (primarily due to Clemenceau wanting revenge for WW-I rather than Wilson's desire for peace). There were also several discrete steps which lead to the war from the Treaty of Versailles, to Germany's desire to take back the lands that were taken from it at the end of WW-I, to the rise of communism, and the failure of the League of Nations.

When you play Memoir '44 all of that has already happened, the politics which occurred in the real world provide the background story and context for the game itself.

Now some people are happy with just the statement "these nations are at war because I say so", but the majority of the people probably want further context and reasoning behind it. You can see that in the basis of what people as a whole prefer in nearly everything from books to games to comics even. The public tends to gravitate towards those things which already have a context and rich back story, with realistic heroes rather than people who are good or evil, or at war, "just because".

BTW I would classify Twilight Imperium as a Wargame, if that is how you choose to play it. It just gives you more tools with which to frame the background of the conflict/war. Think of it more as a tool-box with which to play the game you desire most with it, and in such a way that most of the players at the table can play it their way. I play it more as a political/economic sim while my friend loves to take the war driven races and push more for conquest (with my political actions and persuasion of others to go my way often times giving him his reasoning for going to war), and both are perfectly feasible in the same session and compliment one another nicely.


I understand meltdown's assumption that people need something more than the assumption that "factions are at war". What I do not understand (among several things) is how anyone thinks "more than that" isn't already present in virtually any wargame - whether it be by direct narrative (such as might be the case with a speculative conflict), or by historical reference.

I'm also curious as to why some seem to think the story might be necessary in determining whether or not a particular conflict game can be categorized as a wargame, and this is perhaps the oddest thing of all, to me. The way I see it, a game is a wargame by virtue of its intrinsic characteristics, and not by indirect reference to material found outside the scope of the game, or the context that such outside material might provide (or its lack, having failed to provide).

Meltdown's last comments also bring up an interesting point - whether a game can be a wargame or not, depending only on how it is played. For myself, I cannot imagine classifying a game as a wargame, if there is any option to play the game in any "non-wargame" way. But I'd like to hear what others think, and what they have to say in addressing the distinction.
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Gary Barr
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Re: Why do we "play" fight?
Why Not is succinct answer
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Re: Why do we "play" fight?
First answer this: What are you assuming about wargames that makes you think they need more justification than other games to play them?
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Darrell Hanning
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Re: Why do we "play" fight?
whac3 wrote:
First answer this: What are you assuming about wargames that makes you think they need more justification than other games to play them?


I'm not. I'm also curious why others think so - that was the thrust of my statements, above.

It isn't what I'm assuming. In the aforementioned thread, I was given the impression that others think wargames need more justification to play. I'd like to know how prevalent that sort of thinking is, and how it can even impact what some consider a "wargame", as opposed to "not a wargame".
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Andy Beaton
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I play wargames because war is fun. Explosions, bravery, pitting your mind against your opponent in a contest of wits, courage and strategic skill.
Obviously, war is not really fun. People die, are maimed in body and mind, the survivors are grief-stricken or left to die in the aftermath - the suffering is unimaginable. But what if all the horror could be sucked out of war; the dead are not really dead, the injured are not really injured, and no one grieves the flipping of a square of cardboard onto the disrupted side? All the suffering is removed, and only the fun is left behind.
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aiabx wrote:
I play wargames because war is fun. Explosions, bravery, pitting your mind against your opponent in a contest of wits, courage and strategic skill.
Obviously, war is not really fun. People die, are maimed in body and mind, the survivors are grief-stricken or left to die in the aftermath - the suffering is unimaginable. But what if all the horror could be sucked out of war; the dead are not really dead, the injured are not really injured, and no one grieves the flipping of a square of cardboard onto the disrupted side? All the suffering is removed, and only the fun is left behind.

"It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it."
(Robert E. Lee, Statement at the Battle of Fredericksburg)
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usrlocal wrote:


Do we play in order to experience the thrill of battle? Um, we're pushing cardboard. Play Call of Duty if you want that. And judging from past polls that we've had, many wargamers do not really 'enjoy' war and recognize its horrible aspects (perhaps more than the general population).





This is close for me. And no, it's not the 'thrill' of
individual combat, but of watching the story unfold. A board
game (and books before I found wargames) served best to stimulate
my own imagination about what is happening. Lets me watch the
movies in my mind - which I generate anyhow, but gives them
a better grounding.


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aiabx wrote:
I play wargames because war is fun. Explosions, bravery, pitting your mind against your opponent in a contest of wits, courage and strategic skill.
Obviously, war is not really fun. People die, are maimed in body and mind, the survivors are grief-stricken or left to die in the aftermath - the suffering is unimaginable. But what if all the horror could be sucked out of war; the dead are not really dead, the injured are not really injured, and no one grieves the flipping of a square of cardboard onto the disrupted side? All the suffering is removed, and only the fun is left behind.
One of the oddities of World War I, if not all wars, is the number of men who spoke (and wrote) of war being exciting, that their lives seemed expanded by the danger, the comraderie, the purpose, the thrill...
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Sort of a combo of things expressed by others.

Taking a myriad of options, crafting a plan, and watching it executed for good or bad. I love it when a plan comes together!

I think that is why I was so enamored with the Gulf Strike/Aegean Strike impulse system when it first came out (still am to an extent). No longer having to wait for an air or naval phase was extremely liberating for me. It added a new level of options and your plans could change during movement!

I wanted to save that airstrike for over there but now, dammit, this other one failed its critical mission! What to do?

Adapting on the fly to changing situations is very compelling game play.
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Lance Runolfsson
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"Germany didn't just say "let's conquer Europe for grins","

Given they did it twice I'm kind of thinking they did

For me it kind of works like this

Current status = Boredom > Play Wargame = "fun" (more or less).

Unless of course, my current Nihilistic, existential crisis is of such a parameter that FUN = happiness, is an impossibility.

Hope this all helps

Thanks
Lance
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I think usrlocal hits on a lot of the reasons why I enjoy wargaming so much.
Additionally, it provides an opportunity for me explore a lot of slightly obscure history, or facets of history. I get to take on the role of the underdog, be it the Poles in 1939, the Italians in 1941 Russia or the French at Dien Bien Phu. I'm also thankful for being able to learn, in a fairly immersive situation, about about The Risorgimento and The Russian Civil War, to name only a few conflicts that have piqued my interest.
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I enjoy wargames because of the mental challenge they present, and the narrative that I can't help but form as I play. While I appreciate and enjoy all kinds of games, wargames represent, for me, a set of higher stakes - virtual lives are on the line, and possibly the fate of nations. For me, that automatically makes for a more visceral experience than whether I can harvest more sugar than my opponent and get it to market in time (though I'm down for that, too).

Do I need all those justifications to enjoy a wargame? Nope - mental challenge and fun are all the reason I need to play any game.
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Wargames are the ultimate "theme games".

They're the only type of thematic boardgames where you can choose to play at different levels of theme.

From Memoire'44 all the way to OCS or La Bataille, wargamers have the luxury of choosing how much play and how much historical depth they want in their gaming experience..
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I enjoy war. Big fan of war.
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TonyClifton wrote:
I enjoy war. Big fan of war.


I think that nails it. Though in my case I would add "at a very safe distance."
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Darrell Hanning
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All good points, so far, and all very much in line with what I anticipated.

What about the question of whether a "wargame" can be a strategy game where war is not a given - not even necessary, in order to win? Does that still fit the wargame paradigm? I'm inclined to think not, and I know my own reasons for that being the case. What about the rest of you?

(And for me, I think usrlocal really stuck the landing - not because his points were more accurate or valid than the others posted, but because he demonstrates that the reasons are many. They are many, and yet when it comes to other styles of games, the reasons I might enjoy them aren't as many, and maybe that's why I keep coming back to wargames. They scratch so many itches.)
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DarrellKH wrote:
What about the question of whether a "wargame" can be a strategy game where war is not a given - not even necessary, in order to win? Does that still fit the wargame paradigm? I'm inclined to think not, and I know my own reasons for that being the case. What about the rest of you?


Hmmm, I would say no. Although, it is a difficult question because I play a game like Civilization AS a wargame. Others won't so it can't be considered one I suppose.

A wargame is about war. Not about the potential for war.

Still the argument can become a little fuzzy because according to what I just said, Labyrinth is a wargame.

So, it must be more than the topic. Something about the mechanics of the game must give you the sense of making command decisions that a real life commander would make (even if the scenario in question is fictional).

Labyrinth, then, is a political game. Because those are the decisions you make. Simply deploying troops doesn't make it a wargame.

Interesting to discuss.
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DarrellKH wrote:


What about the question of whether a "wargame" can be a strategy game where war is not a given ....


I think you've got this inverted.

This one tears me. I don't really know if I want to consider EU, EiA,
and Pax Britanica as not being wargames, when they contain a wargame.

My gut tells me to go with the test which worked all along - a very
personal one. If I thought non-wargamers would enjoy the game, I'd
say, "it's not really a wargame". Thus, Pax sits outside the hobby,
but EU and EiA are probably within (the only non-wargamers who liked
EiA also liked WiF, so I question their non-wargameyness). Of course,
that excludes things like Axis & Allies and SFB as well.
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Scrogdog wrote:

I play a game like Civilization AS a wargame.



I take it you don't win much.
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calandale wrote:
Scrogdog wrote:

I play a game like Civilization AS a wargame.



I take it you don't win much.


If you mean that I don't analyze the situation and go with the best available policy, that is correct. I'll play it as a wargame even if the initial starting position says I should go trade and diplomacy or something. I'll still try to force my warlike ways upon the situation.
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calandale wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:


What about the question of whether a "wargame" can be a strategy game where war is not a given ....


I think you've got this inverted.

This one tears me. I don't really know if I want to consider EU, EiA,
and Pax Britanica as not being wargames, when they contain a wargame.

My gut tells me to go with the test which worked all along - a very
personal one. If I thought non-wargamers would enjoy the game, I'd
say, "it's not really a wargame". Thus, Pax sits outside the hobby,
but EU and EiA are probably within (the only non-wargamers who liked
EiA also liked WiF, so I question their non-wargameyness). Of course,
that excludes things like Axis & Allies and SFB as well.


I probably didn't phrase that the best. What I meant was whether a strategy game, having more paths to victory than only prosecution of war, can be considered a wargame.

And the examples you give are the ones that immediately come to my mind - Pax Britannica And Europa Universalis.

There are other games, too, where a "hot war" is not in effect at the beginning of the game, but inevitable, in order for one side (or both) to win. War will occur, but is not consistently the game state, from beginning to end. And I personally would consider these "wargames" before considering PB and EU wargames.

PB and EU are grand-strategy games, where war is but one tool in the arsenal. At least, that's how I see them.
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Scrogdog wrote:
calandale wrote:
Scrogdog wrote:

I play a game like Civilization AS a wargame.



I take it you don't win much.


If you mean that I don't analyze the situation and go with the best available policy, that is correct. I'll play it as a wargame even if the initial starting position says I should go trade and diplomacy or something. I'll still try to force my warlike ways upon the situation. :)


What I mean is, without bothering to utilize the trade mechanisms,
the game is unwinnable. In fact, it's pretty damned pointless.

Depending on the nation, some have the padding to expand and
engage in a lot of conflict. But that's just a means to getting
trade cards, and eventually advances, which have little or nothing
to do with the military situation.
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usrlocal wrote:
TonyClifton wrote:
I enjoy war. Big fan of war.





Nice photo for the usual caption contest

- See Dick. They love me !
- No Leo. It's me !
- No ! It's me and this love will last a thousand years !
- No way ! It's all for me, because they know I'm honest and good looking.

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usrlocal wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:

What about the question of whether a "wargame" can be a strategy game where war is not a given - not even necessary, in order to win? Does that still fit the wargame paradigm? I'm inclined to think not, and I know my own reasons for that being the case. What about the rest of you?


A very interesting question. On the surface, something like Magic Realm could fit most of the criteria I laid out for myself above. However, what's missing there is the comparison of game outcomes to historical data. Not so much in terms of expressing the simulative power of the game, but in terms of linking it to a context in which its 'feel' or 'authenticity' could be experienced (which is something more subjective and personal), which fits in with the ability of the game (in collaboration with the player(s)) to weave a narrative. Could a complex *historical* strategy (i.e. non-war) game do this? Perhaps, but I think most complex historical games are wargames because so much hard historical data is related to recorded conflicts (and more interesting than farming statistics).


And while Magic Realm misses the mark for me, too, it misses for a different reason. It misses in my book, because the game doesn't simulate an armed conflict between the forces of nations (or other, large factions, such as in rebellions). For me, it's an adventure game with conflict, but not a "wargame" - not that different from most other fantasy games, from Dungeon! in 1975, to last year's Mage Knight Board Game. (But then there's the irritating case of SPI's Sorcerer. Are these "large factions" at war? Or merely the fantasy equivalent of the Hatfields and the McCoys?)
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p55carroll
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calandale wrote:
Scrogdog wrote:
calandale wrote:
Scrogdog wrote:

I play a game like Civilization AS a wargame.

I take it you don't win much.

If you mean that I don't analyze the situation and go with the best available policy, that is correct. I'll play it as a wargame even if the initial starting position says I should go trade and diplomacy or something. I'll still try to force my warlike ways upon the situation.

What I mean is, without bothering to utilize the trade mechanisms,
the game is unwinnable. In fact, it's pretty damned pointless.

Depending on the nation, some have the padding to expand and
engage in a lot of conflict. But that's just a means to getting
trade cards, and eventually advances, which have little or nothing
to do with the military situation.

Sounds like one of you is talking about Civilization and the other is talking about Civilization.
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