Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Can we have realism in Wargames?

Well ladies and gentlemen,

Today prize for the most imbecile poster in a forum has to go to mr. Mike D. Mc Brice from the Lead Adventures forum, closely followed by Miss (?) Queen Catherine  from the dreaded TMP/PMT (The iMbeciles Page?). As usual we are down to the end of the line. It is just a game and a game cannot be realistic. from the LEad Adventure we have the usual utterance  "there is no realism in wargames" while from TMP we have the "If someone wants realism join the army". Well as usual the lowliest forms of life that populate the wargame community have roared. As usual I felt honourbound to call them imbeciles.

What is Realism? How we can define it?

There are realistic wargames. There are bad and inaccurate wargames. But realism =can be obtained in wargames. Sadly it seems that for the imbeciles anything realistic has to be bloody, noisy, sweaty. Realism in not in how a given wargame reflects real life tactics and problems rather than how it reflects the fact of being shot at or being sneaking in a muddy field.  The more arguing of the imbeciles (the ones that just avoid the silly statement about joining or digging trenches) often accuse wargame to be unrealistic because there is no fog of war. On the other hand several people who strive for realism in wargames look at fog of war has an holy grail. In the end for them realism seems to linked to some kind of hidden movement or umpiring. Fine, hidden movement and umpiring are time honored mechanics  that have followed us for almost a couple of centuries now.  Yet too often that holy grail reveals itself has a chimera heralding the advent of bad design.

Fog of War is bad? Are you an heretic? I can hear you screaming. Well, first of all we need to define it in a meaningful way. For the simpletons around here it is often the fact that enemy units are hidden. You cannot see them. Thus you cannot react to their movement and actions as you have a good like view of the land. On the surface this is a commendable goal, but hiding the units is the only way to achieve this? Well, in real world enemy units are not hidden. There is a thing called reconnaissance.  Both commanders strive to increase the amount of information they have on the enemy to divine its intentions. This means that often, before doing anything they wait until they have informations. In a student's game about naval warfare in the North Sea I worked on last year fog of war was total. The Germans and the British had (except is some special event happened) no idea of what the enemy was about to do and they had to commit their formations in advance to areas in the north sea blindly. Well it was not what they were doing. Usually both sides had reconiassance force at sea trying to find the enemy, once information was available their main forces would, eventually, sortie. The time lag between these activity was sufficiently short to make the long turns of the game a moot point. As much there was a strategic fog of war at operational and tactical level there were several way to react to enemy operations. As simple the design was its focus on a mythic fog of war was displaced.

What is fog of war in tactical or skirmish games? Do we need umpires and hidden plots there to have some bit of realism? Well, I would say that there is a lot of fog of war even if every unit or model soldier is on the table if the rules are realistic. First of all let me make a point; the player just get a snapshot of the enemy position not a continually updated report. Except in awful games like the recent Bolt Action or Flames of War were realism is purposefully thrown out of the window for different design goals  the game itself creates an integrated Fog of War. If we are playing an 1 to 1 scale game or a platoon sized skirmish or a company level games the chances are that we are  already at the point of contact or just about to reach it. This means that we have decent information on where the enemy is and, roughly, in what strength.  Of course these informations are incomplete, but they are much greater than completely hidden units.  Let's move to some real table example.

Blinds that bind... I Ain't Been Shot Mum

I Ain't Been Shot Mum, (IABSM for shorts) is a company level game at the same level of Flames of Vomit but with a much more accurate engine. Here confusion an the limited ability of reaction to enemy moves are modeled in two ways. First there are the blinds. Blinds are just generic counters that represent real forces or nothing. A good commander will use them to hide is real positions. As in real war forces do not simply materialize from thin air. They produce some signs that could be interpreted (or misinterepted) like noises, flashes, and, in defensive positions, alterations of the landscape. Furthermore the game does not give full control on forces. Units, usually platoons, are activated by drawing their cards. Even if you know exactly where the enemy is, this is no a guarantee you know what he is doing or that you will react in time. IABSM has a small element of hidden units and a large element of command friction. You runits will send you reports on enemy actions, but when and in what sequence (and when an d in what sequence your orders will reach them back) is not a given element. I would argue that the combination of officers, cards and blinds of IABSM offers a very good and realistic representation of the information' flow at a company command post. It is realistic and you do not have to join the army to get it.

Jumping off into the dark... Chain of Command

Chain of Command uses a different approach. It places you on the point of contact, but also makes sure something is happening around you all the time. Having opted for realistic ranges means that even a large 4x6' table is cramped. Even a puny bolt action rifle will cover it pretty well (no... it is impossible you can have only 6" effective range... you cannot cover a whole table... you will not have maneuver those ranges are... right you idiot? just beacuse you shiny bolter is hardwired by a lazy designer to not fire further away than a pebble this does not mean that it is real...) . In Chain of Command the solution is to have forces entering the table from specified jump off points that represents areas you can approach concealed. You know those people are bound to enter the contact are and from which general directions, but not the exact point. You have also a patrol game where both sides attempt to push their own Forward Edge of Battle Area as forward as possible to limit the enemy freedom of maneuver. Chain of command has thus hidden units, but no umpires or plots.


Thus I hope to have clearly demonstrated again the fallacy of the imbecile's straw man. The fact that we are seeing the enemy models or, in boardgames, counters on the table does not mean that tyhe game is unrealistic. As far realism is concerned is more important to understand how this observation influence our own actions and if we

Of course this is not a concern for our imbeciles. For them realistic ranges, scale, friction will never have a place in their universe where only rolling dices and pushing badly painted model in empty flatlands adorned with randomly placed houses and hills is the thing.  They will always use the excuse no wargame can be realistic to defend their favorite poor rules or to tell us that we are just playing with toy soldiers and not doing anything interesting as the latter argument somewhat make them standing out of the crowd.
To them  I can only suggest to go on a toilet jump into  and flush it, as usual their utterance have only demonstrated how stupid they are and certianly not added anything to wargaming. If they are happy playing their own games why they feel always the need to tell serious wargamers that our own games are no better that their junk? 

An d sorry for a post without pictures, we are working on it do not worry and stay tuned!

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