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Subject: The 'Rule-Less' Wargame rss

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Boots
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I like the idea, in principle,and I think it has applications well beyond just wargames. If I'm understanding you correct you're talking about a memorable, robust, simple and universal mechanical system of conflict resolution informed by a small number of qualities that each piece possesses, with few if any exceptions and no sub-systems.

Sounds more like an abstract than a wargame, but I'm still intrigued.

I think the things that get in the way of this are the fine-grained, exception-heavy tendencies of wargames - rules that apply to aircraft or tanks but not infantry, or different terrain rules.

Can you post any examples?

EDIT: actually, it sounds a little bit like most CCGs/card games/LCGs, so I immediately think of the Battle of Hill 218 and/or Up Front.
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Robb Minneman
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Jackasses? You let a whole column get stalled and strafed on account of a couple of jackasses? What the hell's the matter with you?
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To get outside of the wargames arena, Galaxy Trucker can be kind of like this. There's a rulebook, but once you've read the rules the components are so well-designed that the game play itself is intuitive, or becomes so very quickly.

There's certainly a role for good component design in all games, and learning how to make information readily available without consulting references is a key game design goal.
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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Solitaire wargames lend themselves fairly well to this idea, particularly the more procedural games.

For example, after not playing RAF: The Battle of Britain 1940 in a long time, I unpacked it a few weeks ago and played an entire game just using the flipbook. Now if this flipbook were somehow printed on the map then there would be minimal need for a rulebook.

Another Butterfield procedural game, D-Day at Omaha Beach has the sequence of play printed on the map, however, there are a few more rules and exceptions to go with this.

The above two are slightly more complex games, so a VPG game like In Magnificent Style or one of the States of Siege games may suit the idea.
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Silent War is another one, most aspects of the game are procedural and I can fairly easily jump back into playing it using just the sequence of play. Most rules can be summarised on in-game charts/boxes, etc.
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Björn Hansson
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Why don't go one step further and eliminate rules all together? Call it post-modern wargaming.

- I think my infantry unit just destroyed your AT gun.
- No, that doesn't feel right to me.
- Well it is 50 elite soldiers versus a small disorganized gun crew.
- Yes, but it still doesn't feel right.
- Ok, your feelings are just as important as my logic. Let's destroy both our units and blame the madness of war and the sexist, consumption driven, capitalistic society we live in.

Ah, sweet university flashbacks...
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Russ Williams
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As you literally describe it ("little to no rules at all") I am extremely skeptical.

A while back, someone was trying to make a rule-less game in the BGG game design forum (if I recall) based on football/soccer I think, purely with icons and symbology etc to guide the players, with no rules text at all. It was extremely cryptic and didn't succeed. And it was a far simpler game (almost an abstract strategy game) than any typical wargame.

But sure, a game could have a "small" set of text rules, which leverage lots of additional textless charts, symbols, tracks, etc.

(Nitpick: charts typically have numbers, which arguably are a type of text.)

It seems analogous to how a computer game program could have a large amount of source code written to give the user a diverse experience (like large rules text) or it could be a smaller data-driven program with a lot of data to give the user a diverse experience (like small rules text with lots of data tables, e.g. as Panzer (second edition) with its basic rules is described). As with programming, a "data-driven" game has the advantage that smaller rules (source code) is easier to verify and test. And the data-driven approach makes it easier to update with new units etc. But it requires the program/rules to be very well planned and designed in advance to avoid the need to update the rules to handle future special abilities.
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Lucius Cornelius
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I fail to grasp this new heretical vision.
Only reminded of


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Russ Williams
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sullafelix wrote:
Only reminded of

My memory of the Glass Bead Game was that it had MANY rules...
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Isaac Citrom
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Peter, it's called just about any computer-based game: Status displys, contextual status, context menus, etc., etc., etc. It's why you can take any computer game and fiddle with it to quickly figure out how it works, i.e. what the rules are; what the rulebook is if the game had been cardboard-based.

Don't forget, the bulk of a cardboard consim's rulebook is the programming of the engine, which you the player will execute as a pseudo computer.
.
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Darrell Hanning
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I don't know about doing away completely with a rule book, but if simplicity is being driven solely for simplicity's sake, let's just make it a comic book, instead, with a little Patton running around, frame-to-frame, pointing out shit with his riding crop.

"Now, this here is called a 'Zone of Control', and no, yellow-bellied, sonofabitch in my army ever withdraws from one without getting shot, but if you are feeling cowardly, the extra cost is 2 Movement Points!"
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K G
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usrlocal wrote:
It leads me to wonder, if taken to the extreme, could optimal use of 'physical systems design' (to use Redmond Simonsen's term) result in a wargame that has little or no rules at all, except for information displayed on the game itself?


I think you're talking about most marriages.
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Aaron Silverman
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Boots01 wrote:
If I'm understanding you correct you're talking about a memorable, robust, simple and universal mechanical system of conflict resolution informed by a small number of qualities that each piece possesses, with few if any exceptions and no sub-systems.


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Alexei Gartinski
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Kriegspiel is pretty much a "rule-less" wargame, where commanders can do whatever they want, the only limitations being the terrain and physical and logistical capacity of the troops involved. The results of their decisions (encountering the enemy, results of bombardment and attacks etc.) are decided by the umpire who basically compares the troops capacity, using various modifiers and a dice roll to add randomness.

Most role-playing and many fantasy board games nowadays use the mechanism of rolling a successful skill check (roll below or equal to a pre-set number) for completing various actions. Applying the same principle to a wargame, you can simply rate your units for different capacities (e.g. movement, morale, coherence, firepower, accuracy, initiative etc.), and then checking an appropriate capacity every time they are given an order to do something. For instance, a unit with Morale 3, will run away under heavy fire on rolling 4,5 and 6 with a 6-sided die, while an elite unit with Morale 5, will only panic at a roll of 6.

An even simpler version of the system is to basically state what your unit intends to do, then deciding (usually this is done by opponent) what is a probability of this to succeed and rolling this number or lower on a 10-sided die (if the probability of success is 50% you'll need to roll 5 or lower to succeed). If you succeed, the stated action happens, if not, the initiative goes to the opponent who then start activating his units in the same way.
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Darrell Hanning
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alexeigartinski wrote:
Kriegspiel is pretty much a "rule-less" wargame, where commanders can do whatever they want, the only limitations being the terrain and physical and logistical capacity of the troops involved. The results of their decisions (encountering the enemy, results of bombardment and attacks etc.) are decided by the umpire who basically compares the troops capacity, using various modifiers and a dice roll to add randomness.

Most role-playing and many fantasy board games nowadays use the mechanism of rolling a successful skill check (roll below or equal to a pre-set number) for completing various actions. Applying the same principle to a wargame, you can simply rate your units for different capacities (e.g. movement, morale, coherence, firepower, accuracy, initiative etc.), and then checking an appropriate capacity every time they are given an order to do something. For instance, a unit with Morale 3, will run away under heavy fire on rolling 4,5 and 6 with a 6-sided die, while an elite unit with Morale 5, will only panic at a roll of 6.

An even simpler version of the system is to basically state what your unit intends to do, then deciding (usually this is done by opponent) what is a probability of this to succeed and rolling this number or lower on a 10-sided die (if the probability of success is 50% you'll need to roll 5 or lower to succeed). If you succeed, the stated action happens, if not, the initiative goes to the opponent who then start activating his units in the same way.


I don't think I'm interested in a wargame where my opponent gets to decide what my chances of success are, for my Flak 88 taking out his M4. 88mm AP rounds are notoriously impartial in their effects.
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Wendell
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I'm skeptical this can be done in a (non-computer) wargame. Except perhaps for a very simple, "war-themed" game.
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Andrew Kluck
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Panzer General: Allied Assault is probably pretty close to what the OP is looking for I think, all the information is on the cards and it's a simple; play a card, compare battle factors, add terrain modifiers, and roll dice type system. I've only played it on my Xbox 360 so there could be more to it that the computer is taking care of behind the screen.

Incidentally it's a very underrated game, IMHO.
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Darrell Hanning
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Sitnam wrote:
Panzer General: Allied Assault is probably pretty close to what the OP is looking for I think, all the information is on the cards and it's a simple; play a card, compare battle factors, add terrain modifiers, and roll dice type system. I've only played it on my Xbox 360 so there could be more to it that the computer is taking care of behind the screen.

Incidentally it's a very underrated game, IMHO.


Buy the board game - there's a bit more going on under the hood.
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Andrew Kluck
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DarrellKH wrote:
Sitnam wrote:
Panzer General: Allied Assault is probably pretty close to what the OP is looking for I think, all the information is on the cards and it's a simple; play a card, compare battle factors, add terrain modifiers, and roll dice type system. I've only played it on my Xbox 360 so there could be more to it that the computer is taking care of behind the screen.

Incidentally it's a very underrated game, IMHO.


Buy the board game - there's a bit more going on under the hood.

And can be purchased here for a song apparently, my local brick and mortar couldn't give them away a few months ago, I should have taken them up on it.
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Lucius Cornelius
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russ wrote:
sullafelix wrote:
Only reminded of

My memory of the Glass Bead Game was that it had MANY rules...
Ha, I knew it made no sense! I'll tell that to my mind. Thanks!
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Andy Daglish
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This idea has often been mooted previously but you need a deep box to contain the 40 pages of FAQ, errata and clarifications.
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Anthony Simons
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alexeigartinski wrote:
Kriegspiel is pretty much a "rule-less" wargame, where commanders can do whatever they want, the only limitations being the terrain and physical and logistical capacity of the troops involved. The results of their decisions (encountering the enemy, results of bombardment and attacks etc.) are decided by the umpire who basically compares the troops capacity, using various modifiers and a dice roll to add randomness.


That is not the link you're looking for (some kind of Chess variant).
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Anthony Simons
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usrlocal wrote:
isaacc wrote:


Don't forget, the bulk of a cardboard consim's rulebook is the programming of the engine, which you the player will execute as a pseudo computer.
.


But that's what I'm getting at. All I'm saying is ditch the rulebook and lay out all the 'programming instructions' onto the game components themselves. No physical separation.

Obviously I'm not claiming that this approach would work with *every* type of wargame, but as others have said, it could work for a solo game.

And I think it would be one hell of a design challenge.

I'm fairly certain this has been done; however that depends a great deal on how narrow your definition of "programming instructions" is.

There are some fairly abstract minis games out there which are part of the way there (just lacking the chits and the symbolism); there is also the total abstraction of games such as Diplomacy and Power.

I've a feeling the conflict element of such an intuitive system will ultimately boil down to a combination of one of the above and the R-P-S variations (such as Stratego).
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I took this approach in a number of miniature wargame rules I published in MWAN years ago. Rules that needed no charts and had no turns. Turns are probably the most overlooked artificial structure in gaming. They assume that one side sits still while the other moves all around, with just the occasional "opportunity fire" or something. Rather than turns, I randomized all the actions of the armies and used chit pulls. An example: "Side A fires", "Side B moves", "Side A moves", shuffle cards. "Side A moves" (again). "Side B moves," shuffle. "But Side A moved twice in a row and Side B never got to fire!" Them's the breaks in a chaotic world. A real general deals with it.
The goal was to make wargaming less like chess and more like real life chaos. Some people liked it; many didn't.
As for charts, firing was based on rolling numbers greater than the distance in inches to the target, for example. I forget all the details, but they were simple, and not really less realistic than the "accurate" charts produced by armchair theorists.
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David Redpath
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a game that comes very, very close to your ideal is Modern Naval Battles by Dan Verssen

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/28828/modern-naval-battle...

Almost every modifier needed, and special reminders, are printed on the cards and the ship units....I have played a whole series of games using this set without referring to the rules at all, and even when I was fist learning the game it was very infrequent.

If this was a totally 'beer and pretzels' game then I would be less impressed, but it actually works very well in depicting the cut and thrust of modern naval conflicts and the units are varied enough to have a lot of decision making possibilities every turn for both players.

D
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Philip Thomas
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I'm suprised we've got this far without anyone mentioning calvinball.

(Calvinball is a wargame if one of the players says it is!)
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