Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 Hide
12 Posts

Wargames» Forums » General

Subject: Decisions... rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jim Bourke
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think what makes a game fun is when you must make a difficult decision with limited information.

For example, you might have to choose whether to move a piece to square A or square B. One is much better than the other but you can't tell which without knowing what your opponent is up to. Meanwhile your opponent faces the same crisis.

In such a simple situation a toss of a coin will suffice for strategy so we have to consider that these decisions stack up. Now imagine it is move A followed by move B followed by move C, compared with D->E->F. One string of moves is risky but pays off big if the opponent is acting a certain way. The other has less of a payoff but is safer.

The best games, to me, have such a large number of possible decision paths that any feeling of certainty is an illusion. At the same time a game can't have so many potential paths that it is impossible to predict anything at all.

When both players understand all the potentials then it opens the door to bluffing and surprises. A player might choose to do a move which is very risky in certain situations because he "knows" his opponent is likely to play a safe move, and the risky move gives an advantage only against the safe move.

Randomness adds to the fun because it means you will never know for sure that your strategy is correct and you will have to adapt. A somewhat random result adds to the drama. Too much randomness takes away from the importance of your decisions.

The reason I bring all this up is that in the future I'd like to avoid games with lots of rules, bookkeeping, and dice rolling, but not many decisions that feel like they matter.

(That doesn't mean I don't like weighty games with lots of detail and such, just that I'm recognizing sometimes the detail doesn't mean I have more interesting decisions to make)

Any games stand out one way or the other?

Jim
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Confusion Under Fire
United Kingdom
Warrington
Cheshire
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have always found the Paul Koenig's D-Day: The American Beaches and the others in the series to always have a sense of what you are asking for. You never know if you are making the correct decision. The series is simple to learn but is always filled with decisions.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
jtbourke wrote:
The best games, to me, have such a large number of possible decision paths that any feeling of certainty is an illusion. At the same time a game can't have so many potential paths that it is impossible to predict anything at all. . . The reason I bring all this up is that in the future I'd like to avoid games with lots of rules, bookkeeping, and dice rolling, but not many decisions that feel like they matter.

(That doesn't mean I don't like weighty games with lots of detail and such, just that I'm recognizing sometimes the detail doesn't mean I have more interesting decisions to make)

Any games stand out one way or the other?

Jim


So, if I read this correctly, you're looking for games with meaningful decisions but enough randomness to occasionally disrupt those decisions?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Stuart
United States
Los Alamos
New Mexico
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Block games are inherently better in that regard, because of the uncertainty in the opponent's dispositions. A recent game which in my opinion is outstanding with regard to fate-laden decision trees, is Julius Caesar. On the other hand, some block games have such convergent decision paths that, effectively, choice become limited -- I have found that Forged in Fire: The 1862 Peninsula Campaign, for instance, falls into that category.

However, open-information games (ie, the standard hex-and-counter games) end up having the type of decision trees you describe, because many players (all of us, to some extent) fix a line of action in their minds and tend to follow it despite the full intelligence that the game offers. The secret to playing against an opponent like that is to figure out what he has in mind.

A really good player will change his line of action mid-stream if random events (unfavorable die rolls) suddenly make another line of action more favorable -- but most players, in my experience (including myself, if I let my attention wander), don't exhibit that degree of flexibility.

My favorite games are on the Battle of the Bulge and the Western Desert, just because of the decision trees which are inherent to these two. The Germans have to push to the Meuse but guard their flanks; they aren't strong enough to sweep the whole board, and have to decide where to penetrate, how to deal with stubborn pockets of resistance, and how broad their penetration should be. The Americans have to decide how much strength to put into the shoulders, to what extent they should sacrifice units for time vs space for time, and the nature of their counterattack. From the first great Bulge game, The Battle of the Bulge, to the latest, the most recent release of Ardennes '44, Bulge games capture this dynamic, to a greater or lesser degree.

One thing I haven't gained a sense of, yet, are the types of decision trees in tactical WWII games (squad- or platoon-level). I need a lot more plays under my belt, and perhaps plays focused on a single system, to begin to get a feel for this.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Bourke
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Eldard wrote:

So, if I read this correctly, you're looking for games with meaningful decisions but enough randomness to occasionally disrupt those decisions?


I think it helps to increase the tension if the outcome isn't perfectly known even when you've perfectly determined what the opponent's move is.

Jim
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laura Creighton
Sweden
Göteborg
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jtbourke wrote:
Eldard wrote:

So, if I read this correctly, you're looking for games with meaningful decisions but enough randomness to occasionally disrupt those decisions?


I think it helps to increase the tension if the outcome isn't perfectly known even when you've perfectly determined what the opponent's move is.

Jim


You can get this with hidden information, without a lot of randomness. Many economic simulation games take this path. Other economic simulations keep this tension because it is possible for people of good skill and conscience to disagree about what the optimal move is in this situation. Are you interested in such games, or do you want an extra dose of uncertainty injected into your game periodically?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Enrico Viglino
United States
Eugene
OR
flag msg tools
Slowed - BGG's moderation policies have driven me partially from here
badge
http://thegamebox.byethost15.com/smf/
Avatar
mb
I always found the kind of decisions one has to calculate to be unpleasant.
Usually things one 'agonizes over' are calculable (at least down
to the odds).

Hidden information - though less calculable, doesn't make a game
enjoyable ot me either. Enough complexity that calculation is clearly
impossible is good - allowing me to make big broad decisions,
and follow them through without huge effort - but also without
too much riding on any given piece of it. That 'complexity' which
prevents calculation is best expressed as a bunch of mechanical actions
or choices, which give little opportunity for a real screw up - leaving
the broad choices, and the overall flow of luck, to determine the outcome
more than anything else really.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Some of the best wargames present the player with a choice of two or three crappy options at different points in the session, forcing the cardboard commander to make a tough decision with the knowledge that other difficult choices are in his future.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
jtbourke wrote:
Eldard wrote:

So, if I read this correctly, you're looking for games with meaningful decisions but enough randomness to occasionally disrupt those decisions?


I think it helps to increase the tension if the outcome isn't perfectly known even when you've perfectly determined what the opponent's move is.

Jim


In that case, I second Robert's recommendation on block games. They offer uncertainty in addition to meaningful decisions.

I haven't played Julius Caesar, though I've heard nothing but considerable praise for it.

Of the block games I've played that may fit your need, I highly recommend War of 1812.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Daglish
United Kingdom
Cheadle
Cheshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jtbourke wrote:
I think what makes a game fun is when you must make a difficult decision


Its more fun when you know what you are doing, whereas "limited information" presumably limits the enemy also, such that there's no point worrying about 'best moves' until the information situation improves. This represents the fundamental problem with block games, not that you don't become very familiar the red or blue wood-grains you've been staring at for the last few hours. Phileas Fogg said repeatedly "the unforseen does not exist", and several commanders well-known for their success & independence were happy to brush aside fog-of-war, fear, worry, "decision trees" and the rest of the nonsense, safe in the knowledge that the crapness of the enemy would be their shield whilst they did as they pleased. General Custer at Trevilian Station placed his command behind the centre of the Confederate line, formed circle and began to expend ammunition happily on numerous emergent targets. This tendency is why we know his name, but not Tom Rosser's, nor those of the innumerable rest. This is what you do in a limited information game: you are not taking a big risk if your opponent is unsure as to whether it is a big one or not, so you might as well go with something mildly outrageous. The upset and concern should be increased by clouded vision.

Julius Caesar had the losses > replacements problem. I see one of the 233 Geek commentators half-alludes to this, which may be a commentary on how well-tested is your next new wargame purchase.

I'd try The Battle of Stalingrad. You know where the enemy units are, but not their strength, which changes constantly in constant combat, and nor can the Soviets be quite certain as to which of the three VP scoring options [both Stalingrad & Caucasus, or just one of them] Hitler has chosen. I understand the campaign is quite popular in some quarters: never mind the bullets, here's Fall Blau.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Enrico Viglino
United States
Eugene
OR
flag msg tools
Slowed - BGG's moderation policies have driven me partially from here
badge
http://thegamebox.byethost15.com/smf/
Avatar
mb
That attitude didn't always work, even for Custer....
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Daglish
United Kingdom
Cheadle
Cheshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
He lost half his men, after attacking a group of similar quality that was seven times larger. Whereas his own companies were probably overrun in five minutes, all the men under his command might have been killed in ten, had they been with their commander.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.