Sunday, 10 January 2010

Not Quite BattleTech


I got up today with the intention of painting and making a variety of things that are sitting on my work bench waiting to be done. For instance I have for industrial mechs that I'm making up as "technicals" for games of
BattleTech where one side has really rubbish mechs, because let's be frank and honest here, industrial mechs suck. However, I quite like the idea of campaigns where you have to put down a local uprising, or have to lead a revolution against conventional forces with whatever you have to hand.

This kind of segues into a rant about wargamers only wanting to play what are seen as somehow fair, or at least balanced games, which is fair enough I suppose as we are wargaming, not actually carrying out acts of war. I was thinking in bed last night, as one does when one is about to fall off to sleep, about wargames as games versus simulations. A debate that comes up time and again in the press, on forums and in conversations with one's mates.

You know the argument I mean. Point systems versus balanced play debated against the background of linked scenarios versus pick up games, and whether it is fairer to have randomised armies versus picked armies that exploit the rules etc. I can see it now, Napoleon Bonaparte standing at Waterloo saying " zat Vellington chap is awfully nice and we should have a good clean fair fight to zee oou iz ze best generalé?" Or Wellington looking back across the field and saying that Boney is a fine chap, let's give him a warm welcoming hand. Actually I could imagine Wellington saying something like that, nothing like understated British humour in a tight spot!

IMNSHO, I've find myself thinking that all the games we are playing about war are first and foremost games, and rarely simulate reality in any shape or form, though they can have rules that allow for the game to produce outcomes that mimic historical processes. I'm not a military person, but I have some family who have been, and know quite a few other former soldiers too. This doesn't really qualify me to have an opinion as such, but I will quote the general consensus that military people convey to me. Hobby wargames can be useful, but they are not simulating warfare as such.

Having been out with military personnel on a few occasions getting an introduction to TEWTs (Tactical Exercises Without Troops), and having participated in light infantry training exercises for a number of years through playing a Live Action Role Playing game that has a high number of former military personnel who play, I know what I do, I do for a couple of hours of fun. What real soldiers do is spend hours of their lives bored by stuff, punctuated by moments of sheer adrenaline rush when the shit hits the fan.

Anyway, what I've learnt from my time hanging around soldiers and having fun, is that when you go into a fight the last thing you want is fair. Fair leads to a lot of Blue team casualties. What you want is at least 4 to 1 odds in your favour so that you can mallet the opposition good and proper. If you should find find yourself in the unenviable position of being out numbered, then dig in, because then they will need at least 4 to 1 odds to steam roller over you.

So, when I see people moan about players who stack the odds in their odds, I do sympathise, but I see it as a natural predilection of human being desire to survive, which is probably inappropriately focused when it come to playing games, but which makes perfect sense from a Darwinian perspective. Perhaps the secret for writing really good rules is to factor this need in and have systems that allow for the natural tendencies of the player to minimize their risks, and maximize their benefits?

So to sum up. I can't remember a game I played for hours with boring stuff that ends in a few minutes of total adrenaline overload, not even the ones where I've been on training exercises with soldiers simulating a field exercise. And why would I spend hours of my life doing something that bores me? I have a job that can do most of that, and I get paid for the boredom, and when it get really exciting, as in oh my god someone might die kinda way, then I'm still getting paid for doing my job. Wargames OTOH are generally some enjoyable hours spent with a few mates playing a game, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh yes, I primed another platoon of Pendraken Late WW1 British infantry, and then I was sucked into cleaning up and basing the rest of the company and support elements, but I shall talk about that in another post.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on your opinion of "fair" when it comes to games and gaming. What I've found is that it seems like gamers have lost the concept of a "fair" game being based around other things besides point systems and army builds or balanced rules. Ask Imperial Romes opponents if they thought their battles were "fair". How about the greeks and persians, or the Vietnamese in the 70's?
    I thinks some of this has faded with the concept of tournemant play taking off with a large slice of wargamers. For tourney play things should be fair or on level ground.
    But for fun, where are the scenarios where one side is grossly outnumbered and just has to survive for a few turns to get a "victory"? how about a vastly outnumbered guerilla force that just has to accomplis a couple of limited but challenging goals to win?