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Freyberg

Over-'engineering'

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When I was kid...

Don't get me wrong. Mines, fortifications and engineers can be fun - they can add some challenge and colour to a game. Some of the best scenarios and campaigns I've played have featured mines and fortifications.

But let me tell you about my dad...

When I was a kid and my old man - my beloved old dad now - first caught me playing Second World War wargames, he wasn't pleased.
He was only a boy in the war, so he hadn't seen it first-hand (he was still in primary school when it finished), but he was old enough to have found it frightening, and he'd had uncles who served, including one who was wounded.

Anyway, when he first found me playing WWII wargames, he got quite indignant. "What's this?" he said, to which I replied, "it's just a game dad - it's fun." "It's 'fun' is it??" he said gruffly, "you think the war was 'fun'? Hitler and Goebbels and all those 'fun' guys?" "Geez, Dad, it's just a game."  "Yes," he said profoundly, "but it wasn't just a game though, was it?!"

Anyway, I've played a couple of scenarios recently that dad would have loved. One in particular - I won't name it, as a lot of work clearly went into it and to make sarcastic comments about the work of volunteers would be spiteful. It was magnificent in many ways: it was realistic, well-researched, the map was spectacular (you really felt like you were in Italy), the briefing was good, it was immersive, even the platoon leaders had names.

But it was as if the purpose of the scenario was to instruct the player that the war in Italy was anything but fun.

Sacrificing fun on the altar of realism...

As I say, I don't mind playing against fortifications, but at a certain point it becomes tedious. In this case, I had a large number of infantry in an exposed area, who had to thread their way forward while engineers cleared gaps in minefields, all while being shelled by an array of artillery ranging from mortars to what seemed like small tactical nukes. The walking-through-minefields phase probably took 20-30 game turns, which amounted to about 3 or more hours of play. If you think clicking vehicle paths on roads is time consuming, that's nothing compared to trying to keep several companies of men, split up into teams, well dispersed as they walk team by team through some zig-zagging mine-cleared paths.

There was some exciting combat in the game - but of the the nearly 200 casualties I took, over 100 were from artillery (and I gave up before the end) and probably at least 20-30 from mines. I spent most of my time micro-managing troops and giving buddy aid (although I gave up on this before the end).

I know some players love realism above all else, so please take this as a personal view and not a serious complaint - and I know that the reality of war for most men was of being constantly shelled without being able to come to grips with the enemy, but it is possible to sacrifice fun on the altar of realism.

Anyway, dad as he was would have loved this kind of scenario...

"So, the Second World War isn't so much fun now, is it son?"
"No, Dad, you're right - it's not much fun, not much fun at all."

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Most designers develop missions to be fun to play.  Admittedly, there are a few who don't agree that this is an entertainment product and have a point to make.  Sounds like you may have found one.  My sense is that if this was so realistic then many of us would be xnt as RL Co CO's by now.  And that just aint so...  

Try another scenario or campaign...  Most are fun.

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Thank you for sharing this anecdote. I think there's a world of difference between a serious wargame such as CM and many of the instant gratification shooters. I personally think of CM as an "anti war game" - it shows how quickly any soldier on the battlefield can turn into a little cross, often for no good reason at all.

Edited by Bulletpoint

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8 hours ago, c3k said:

Great post. A doff o' the cap to your beloved old man.

 

Yeah, that game was frustrating, but I mostly wanted to tell the story about my dad :D

Having had a whinge, it's true that fortifications can sometimes be fun - I guess it's just a very hard kind of scenario to design (and I do respect designers - I've tried to design my own more than once). For example there's that one in CMRT where the Soviets have to bust through an intense German fortified line and that was fabulous.

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On 19.12.2017 at 11:57 PM, Freyberg said:

Anyway, when he first found me playing WWII wargames, he got quite indignant. "What's this?" he said, to which I replied, "it's just a game dad - it's fun." "It's 'fun' is it??" he said gruffly, "you think the war was 'fun'? Hitler and Goebbels and all those 'fun' guys?" "Geez, Dad, it's just a game."  "Yes," he said profoundly, "but it wasn't just a game though, was it?!"

My grandfather, who was a Stalingrad vet, helped me simulate a "tactical nuke attack" on a plaster diorama. I still remember the fireball rising three meters in the air ...

He was not very fond of US artillery, though.

Best regards,
Thomm

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On 12/19/2017 at 5:18 PM, Erwin said:

Most designers develop missions to be fun to play.  Admittedly, there are a few who don't agree that this is an entertainment product and have a point to make.  Sounds like you may have found one.  My sense is that if this was so realistic then many of us would be xnt as RL Co CO's by now.  And that just aint so...  

Try another scenario or campaign...  Most are fun.

That's a wonderful anecdote, @Freyberg.  Thank you for sharing.

To @Erwin's point, some designers want to develop historically realistic scenario's too.  In those cases, though, the description or briefing should make that intent clearly known to you because they may be unbalanced and grueling.  Seems you and your father can be proud of each other.  Cheers to that!  B)

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A good read.   My tag lines help explain my interest in wargaming since I was 9 or 10.  Hunter Thompson "Edge" comments is the reality:  The only one's who know are the one's that were there.   And Steve's very clear understanding of Wargamers generally and CM Gamers in particular.  Your Dad Loved you enough to speak his mind.  A rare thing of his generation.

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In the editor you'll see settings and equipment that you'll rarely encounter in a scenario.
The combo of deep snow, blizzard & high winds, for example, is a weather event that's almost impossible to play through. Moonless overcast nights (yes, CM tracks the phases of the moon and moonrise times) leave you stumbling around blind. Unfordable rivers or deep minefields with no way to get across halts gameplay dead. If you ponder all the ways to make scenarios impossible you start to appreciate the scenario designer's art of making battles playable. It been awhile since I've seen posters angrily ranting about 'balanced' gameplay. Remember, if the scenario designer had wanted to they could have pitted your conscript infantry against battleship heavy artillery!

 

Wander outside the self-imposed 'playable' parameters and war really does become hell. I advise everyone should build themselves at least one impossible scenario just once as a 'demonstration scenario' just to feel the desperation and frustration of it..

Edited by MikeyD

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