Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reality Vs. Playability

Are historical outcomes more important than balance in historical wargames? This is one discussion taking place on the internet right now. Some historical wargames seem to feel that their games should provide a history lesson. Others want to have a game that gives their side a chance to win.

This is certainly a problem for designers. How can you teach history and create a game that is fun at the same time. I have heard players describe Brittania (published by Fantasy Flight) as being too scripted and controlled. I disagree with that assesment.

Obviously when Worthington Games created Blood of Noble Men, a block based game on the Alamo, there was never any intention for the Texicans to be able to break out of the Alamo and drive Santa Ana's forces back to Mexico. In order to provide both sides an opportunity for a win, the Texans earned points which could amount to victory based on the number of losses that they caused. They still get slaughtered in the end, though. Some players would have a game balanced so that the Texans could rout the Mexican army. I think that would completely ruin the game.

What about a game depicting Custer's charge into the Native American encampment on the Little Big Horn? Would we want an actual chance for Custer to eliminate the Indian forces? Isn't it enough to give Custer a chance to escape with his scalp intact?

Once I managed to win a game of For the People as the Confederates. I managed to sneak around north and then move east in order to capture Washington, D.C. My opponent had miscounted the spaces and did not think I could get there. The South never invaded the North as I did. Did that mean the game was ruined because it violated historical probabilities?

I've rambled on and don't have much of an answer. I want to be able to win from either side, but I also want some level of historicity. I don't want to give Hitler the atomic bomb. I don't want machine guns at Saratoga. I want an outcome that COULD have happened, though, even if it was unlikely.

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