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Mark Herman's Wargaming Blog
Monday, 27 June 2011
Historical Justification in Game Design
Topic: For The People Material
"FTP is an outstanding game that is very, very well balanced and has wonderfully inventive and absolutely elegant systems, but in game play will generally not yield a narrative that is familiar to anyone with any knowledge of the actual Civil War." 


I appreciate the kind words on the design, but you raise an interesting point about the narrative value of any wargame. I would first offer my Clio Corner #1 where I cover your point directly. 

The question that I always face when designing a game is how to capture the strategic situation with all of the considered strategic choices, while factoring in player hindsight. Unless you deeply study any particular historical set of events the narrative history, that which happened, is the standard for judging the historical path. Although this should be a starting point there is a basic view that the historical narrative is the baseline and the most probable path. In my mind that is a false assumption to make about any historical situation. All one can say is that this is what happened and the objective standard that any book must meet. 

Wargames in a way have to meet a higher standard. Once you consider 'what if' history you have to research deeply enough to understand what the historical participants thought was possible. One of the biggest 'historical' critiques of FTP is the unrealistic way in which forces can raid off of their supply lines. I have commented on this before and would ask anyone interested to find those posts, but just last night reading in the OR I found a letter from Lee to Davis during the Gettysburg campaign that he (Lee) intended to maintain his army in the North into the Autumn without a rail connection. Clearly Lee is not worried about the unrealistic tactic of maintaining his army on his opponents resources. Then of course there is the ultimate raid, Sherman's March to the Sea. 

My point being is the kindly worded comment reflects the writers tolerance for historical 'what if', which we all possess in greater or lesser degrees. All I can say is all parts of the FTP narrative have a basis in the historical narrative that did not happen, but was considered. 

FTP requires some skill to play well. I make no excuses for that since I believe that is why we are having this type of discussion over a decade after publication with an ongoing tournament adding to our collective understanding. The net result is in any unique game play situation if a player gambles or does not correctly anticipate how things might evolve the historical paths not taken can create for some interesting game play and for some the perception that the game has gone down an unreasonable path. Given my earlier comments I firmly believe that everything in the game follows a reasonable 'what if' but we all have a different tolerance for what that would be. 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 9:33 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
BGG Wargamer of the Month Thread link
Topic: Wargame Design Musings

Here is a link with some interesting questions and hopefully reasonable answers.

 

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/613492/bgg-wargame-designer-of-the-month-mark-herman 


Posted by markherman at 6:13 PM EDT
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Monday, 19 July 2010
Why one deck?
Topic: Washington's War
've played 5 games now and we've had 2 games decided seemingly entirely by the card draw in the first two turns. Mark, if you're there, I'm curious why you opted for a single shared deck with no real ops or event decisionmaking? I never played We The People so I'm not sure if you just didn't want to stray too far from the original game but I've found the luck factor in the cards in very troubling.

By having one shared deck, you create a situation where if player A draws good cards (high ops), it increases the likelihood that player B will draw bad cards (low ops). Furthermore you've got 7 mandatory events which are just big fat zeros for the player who draws them - especially if the British player draws Declaration of Indepence and Benjamin Franklin.

I've analyzed the deck and of the 110 cards and the ops are distributed as follows: 19 pro American (17 ops), 16 pro British (16 ops), major campaign card (9 ops), 3 minor campaign (18 ops), 5 War End (0 ops), 22 1 op (22 ops), 22 2 op (44 ops), and 22 3 op (66 ops). In otherwords 192 ops distributed over 110 cards. THE BIG PROBLEM IS THAT 137 of those ops are on 48 cards. Granted the campaign cards are useful only for activations and not CP placement but there is clearly potential for huge variance in ops per game for each player. What happens if you have a game where the US player draws 3 3 ops cards and a minor campaign card on turn 1 while the British player draws 3 1 op cards, 1 2 op card, Declaration of Independence, and 2 War End cards? Basically the British player gets completely boxed out and the game is over before it begins. Now we've probably had some outlier results but the fact remains we've had 2 out of 5 games, where the British player had a slew of 1 op cards mixed in with 3 War Ends and Declaration of Independence or Benjamin Franklin on turn 1 and 2...


Thanks for the analysis, but I already knew all of that as that is how I designed the deck. What you see as a problem I see as a major design feature. I think I know what I am doing, so be clear there are no mistakes or unintended consequences going on here. However, your mathematical analysis misses the point. Approximately half the deck has about two thirds of what you call OPs... which is too course a metric. Anyway the point of a CDG is to deal with chaos. Bad hands always happen and I personally dislike CDGs that try and factor out the chaos. My next column in c3i is titled, "Too script or not to script, that is the design question."

Scripting which you would prefer and others that have chimed in have supported a view that separate decks segregated by time (early, mid, late war, etc.) are more advanced and superior. All are entitled to their opinions, but I have the opposite view. Scripting diminishes the historical value of a CDG from my perspective. The reason I created this technique is players have way too much information, especially in a pre-twentieth century wargame. I want their to be uncertainty as to which events will occur so you cannot card count or build a strategy about some future occurrence that the original participants could have no foreknowledge of. In my mind time segregated separate decks is less not more historical, so I do not use them. I did go for separate decks in my Empire of the Sun game but I used probability to control event availability vice time segregation. 

The decision not to use the Hannibal-For The People OP/Event choice is explained in my designer's notes. We the People and Washington's War uses a whole hand vice individual card decision process, which I find that I prefer. Anyway that is why one deck...

Mark

Posted by markherman at 3:35 PM EDT
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Sunday, 18 July 2010
Use of Blocks in Ancient battles
Topic: Wargame Design Musings

Rumbles across the internet...

 

I heard of the recent exchange, so I am marching to the sound of the guns... 

 

Before the academics in the crowd begin doing the ready, shoot, aim... I have taught graduate level Military strategy courses for the Naval War College and do so currently for Georgetown University. I have also been building military simulations for the Pentagon for thirty years. I do this so I can make my point and avoid having to post bona fides later. 

 

There is always some level of uncertainty at all levels of battle, but in a pre-gunpowder linear battle the question is how does the uncertainty impact tactical decisions and are blocks the best model for representing this effect? I would submit that blocks are lots of fun in a two player game and bring good psychological tension, but most block games have mechanics where the units do not reveal themselves until the forces are in contact. Never been in an ACW battle or seen what Pompey saw at Pharsalus, but at some point prior to actual contact you do kind of know what is coming. However, from a model point of view if you cannot do anything or little about it then for all intents and purposes it has the same effect. The question is does having a higher level of information (counters revealed) allow for generous tactical reactions? If the force, space, and time factors are appropriately tuned to the information there are many ways to skin the uncertainty cat. 

 

My take on it is reserves and tactical traps should be allowed in the system (hidden deployment at Dara in our Cataphract game), but having a reasonable knowledge of the width and general troop density of the front lines does not seem unreasonable. In fact not knowing seems more unreasonable. Dust from marching occurs once the forces are in motion, but most of these battles had a forming up period with a lull of sorts so I would expect at some point a good view of the enemy front line would present itself. Also, not every battle was fought on a dusty plain. Wet grass does not obscure vision on a pre-gunpowder battlefield. Now once folks start closing and stabbing each other things would get confused, but most games lock in the frontlines at some point so tactical maneuvers become more difficult anyway. The action tends to be on the flanks where you can get around someone or using the Alexandrian technique of creating an interior flank, etc. In the Roman way of war, when it works you just bust through the front. The ability of the Romans to line change and conduct sub-unit maneuvers was based on some level of tactical knowledge at the point of contact otherwise why would they invent a doctrine that made no sense. 

 

There are lots of ways to get there, but although blocks are a viable option, they do have some shortcomings when it comes to how well they represent the appropriate level of uncertainty in a tactical battle. I think there are better techniques and some of the alternate techniques offer more options in solo play. 

 

Mark

 

First, I wonder if we, in hindsight, overestimate how much knowledge that one person, (the man - usually - responsible for making decisions on the spur of the moment, in the heat of battle, with death, noise, and the screams of fellow humans assaulting his senses, with conflicting information being relayed to him every minute), really could bring to bear on his decision-making process in the midst of battle, no matter how clear a day it was, how little dust, and how flat and open the terrain. 

 

In modern combat where a few folks with lots of firepower can move and conceal themselves, I agree, but I thought the conversation was around linear battles and I was specifically focusing on pre-gunpowder linear battles. I believe that if we were able to see one ancient battle, we would have seen one ancient battle. This is why most of the GBOH scenarios have lots of special rules because the unique circumstances often had a dramatic impact on the outcome. I also would note that I have always followed the view that we are at best guessing as many of the ancient sources are not contemporaneous to the time, often writing centuries after the event from sources that did not survive into modern times. Hard to know, so I do not try for truth, just a spectrum of possible situations as indicated by the sources and let the players explore all of them. For example our Pharsalus battle has multiple options for the order of battles and tactics depending on who you believe. 

 

What a commander did or did not know about what he was confronting varied across the spectrum. Let's take the battle of Metaurus. The Carthaginians knew that they were finished because they heard the morning trumpets and could count that the number of legions had doubled over night. So, the notion that ancient commanders were a befuddled confused lot that walked blind into a combat situation was true on occasion, such as Kadesh, but on other occasions they knew the basic score. 

 

I always go back to the expectations of the participants. Any successful traps and ambushes first occurred at the operational level, prior to contact. That is why it is so hard to balance some of the ancient battles as in many cases like Metaurus the loser had already lost ala Sun Tzu's dictums and in the Carthaginian case they already knew it before they had left camp. There were situations when both sides were surprised, but I think that is more the exception that makes the rule. 

 

Second, out of honest curiosity and respect for someone who has deigned many wargames that I have played, enjoyed, and agreed with the history portrayed, what are those shortcomings that blocks have that can be better handled by counters? 

 

Blocks are great, but they are one tool in the kitbag for me. I find myself with Richard on this. I think they really shine at the operational level in almost any period, but for pre-gunpowder linear battles, I think the hidden intelligence element is improperly represented. Not some fact, just my view. In a linear battle although there is a lot of noise that noise is also information. Twelve guys cannot sound like a thousand up close, so the notion that a weak block at a football field away is going to fool me into thinking I am under heavy assault just does not make sense even with dust and such. Even in modern combat tanks do not sneak up on anyone, even quiet ones. Of course there are great exceptions where acoustic shadows create unusual sound doldrums, but that does not usually happen in line of sight situations. So, bottom line, blocks do not seem to represent for me the kind of chaos that did occur during an ancient tactical battle. That does not mean that I am right, just that my reading of the sources and some basic logic does not lead me to that conclusion. The kinds of chaos that does occur is confused orders, key people getting killed by a missile weapon that shakes a unit, etc. But in the end the block mechanic, while fun does not work for me at the tactical level. Just my view. 

 

My biggest problem with blocks is more mechanical and production oriented. First off I am not a big fan of some assembly required. Not a big deal and I applaud GMT and any other company that gives two sets of labels as I am a klutz with getting them on straight. I also do not like that once a unit loses some strength the unit designation etc., is no longer upright. No big thing, but I do not like the aesthetic. Lastly, I play games mostly solo, so the entire hidden intelligence thing is wasted on me 99% of the time. Not a good or a bad thing, but a lifestyle issue. 

 

Intelligence and who knows what when is critical to understand the circumstances of a particular battle. To handle intelligence interactions I prefer cards and other mechanisms. I also use various mechanics such as in Empire of the Sun, whereby you have a basic idea where units are located, but at the moment of contact that information may not be what you thought due to intelligence failure. It seems more powerful and effective from my perspective. Again that is a design preference not an established fact. 

 

Anyway that is how I see it. 

 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 3:49 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 July 2010 3:53 PM EDT
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Thursday, 1 July 2010
What is a CDG?
Topic: Wargame Design Musings

 <Based on a long and now acrimonious thread on what is a CDG? I wrote this response>

 

I continue to note high levels of hostility over how one group wants to define something and another groups desire that this is anathema or somehow wrong. It is clear why war is part and parcel to the human experience.

 

When I designed WTP I was going for a strategic level political military wargame and that is what I produced. I used the GO mechanic as a metaphor for the political struggle that was part and parcel to representing the American Revolution. See my articles in c3i and ATO on this topic. I stand by my description in my Washington's War design notes on what I think a CDG is and I am happy for others to have their definition. I was not designing a CDG or a card driven game, I was designing and publishing  an American Revolution wargame, which I have successfully accomplished over forty times. The game had many fans, although I would note that the design never won any awards. But it did generate a new interest in competitive play amongst wargamers that was formerly not a critical element in the culture. 

 

When WTP came out I was approached by several gamers who are patent attorneys. They wanted to help me patent the concept. With several patents pending I was aware of the process and chose consciously not to pursue this option. Whether the patent office would or would not have agreed will never be known, but at the time, veteran wargamers and more importantly wargame designers saw WTP as a new design concept. Peer review from the likes of CV, Mark Simonitch, and Ted Raicer to name a few is what created the genre.

 

Mark Simonitch in Hannibal and Ted Raicer in Paths of Glory both acknowledge in their credits and design notes borrowing many of their primary systems from We The People. They did not have to do that but as they are quality individuals and very talented designers this had a powerful influence on opinion. I would also note that both games are much more popular than We The People according to the BGG ratings and the opinion of about everyone I know in wargaming. I then brought out For The People, the fourth in the group, and somewhere amongst all of this the term CDG was coined and it stuck. Was it the perfect term, seemed to work for the last fifteen years or so, and since people who buy CDGs wanted to buy more of them the game companies branded as many games  with the term as they seemed to boost sales.

 

Why are CDGs popular with many wargamers? One aspect is they seem to generate a great deal of enthusiasm for competitive play. Consequently play balance in CDGs is an important feature. But what is a CDG that makes them unique? Basically they borrow heavily from the We The People design. What are those features? If you have not played WTP or any of the other CDGs then this can be argued to death, which is what has been happening. So my advice is try playing one before you tell those of us who are immersed in them what they are or are not.

 

CDGs continue to evolve as noted by me in my Washington's War design notes. We The People does not have the common feature that keeps getting put forward as a unique CDG feature, the card choice of ops or event. We The People had this concept based on a hand of cards, but not around each card. That innovation occurred in Hannibal and was a Mark Simonitch improvement. When I did Washington's War I chose to keep the original concept for the reasons I articulated in my design notes and a nod here to Unhappy King Charles for being the closest of the CDGs to the original concept and why it is my favorite of the recent CDG offerings.

 

The main division in CDGs these days is between the one deck unscripted designs (WTP, FTP, WWR, Hannibal) and the scripted two deck temporally segmented concept (a PoG innovation ala Twilight Struggle, Shifting Sands, BtB, Stalin's War, UKC). Only WTP and Hannibal used the strong GO mechanic whereas the others morphed into using control for supply and territory control icons. What is clear is the wargame community sees a clear genre of games that are recognizable as a group whatever you call them. Literally parsing the term CDG is kind of useless as it is a symbolic term that is based on a collective group agreement. You don't agree then you do not have to, but it is a branded term that works for the publishers and the buyers. The main distinction in my mind is the designers of these games and others in the CDG family claimed they were related to We The People and consequently all branches and sequels thereafter carry the same label. I had nothing to do with their decisions or their professional courtesy in acknowledging the design heritage, but it is hard to argue with.

 

Those are the facts as I experienced them and I am very happy the way things have evolved as I now have lots of CDGs to play that continue to bring new innovations to the hobby. For the record my CDG of choice is Empire of the Sun and it has only a modest relationship to my original WTP design. I suspect that as CV opined with a few more nudges a new genre will break off and coin a new term that everyone will argue about.

 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 9:01 PM EDT
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Sunday, 11 April 2010
How to simulate intelligence failure in an historical wargame
Topic: Empire of the Sun

One of the healthy debates that continues in the wargaming community is what does or does not make a particular game an historical simulation. A challenge that a designer faces is the uneven knowledge across the community on what is factual information or myth based on earlier game designs. A case in point is a key Empire of the Sun sub-system whereby intelligence about enemy dispositions is determined.

 

It should be obvious that if two players are sitting at the same map and moving their pieces that both sides have an extraordinarily clear picture of where the enemy forces are located. Many designs try to handle the 'fog of war' in many ways, but in the end the visual clues of counters, whether real or 'dummy' counters, does indicate where enemy forces are located, but even more importantly where they are not located.

 

As I have predominantly worked in manual games you need to work within your medium. It is an inescapable fact that the pieces on the board have to be somewhere that is visible to both players without creating some elaborate double blind system that tends to bog down play with its resultant feeling of tedium. I look at this issue not as a problem but a feature of manual games and I work with it as a strength if properly incorporated into a design. 

 

When I designed Empire of the Sun I wanted to simulate the 'fog of war' in a very different manner. I went for what I will call the 'empty' map where you see forces, but their location is intended to be imprecise. I see the piece locations as an abstract electron cloud where the precise location of the electrons is only known when you closely observe them at a particular instance.

 

What this means in practical play is once the location of the offensive forces move to an objective fixing their relative location to an objective, the opposing or reaction player then determines where his forces are located for that series of battles initiated by the offensive player. Within this concept resides the ability to have ground forces at the objective despite the fact that the offensive player thought it was undefended or less defended than it appeared when the offensive began.

 

The reason that this is important to a Pacific War design, although it would reasonably apply to any campaign in history, is the historical accounts are replete with examples that the Allies were usually incorrect as to the size and composition of Island defenses. This inability to understand the true nature of the Japanese defenses was an important historical feature of the conflict and one that is simulated in Empire of the Sun. Here is a link to a primary source document that demonstrates my point.

 

http://www.history.navy.mil/special%20highlights/WWIIpacific/Battle%20Experience%20-%20Marianas.pdf

 

If you get a chance to look this document over note this little gem buried in the text. 

 

Pg 74-4: "The enemy ground strength was considerably in excess of what was expected, sizeable reenforcements having arrived in the Marianas just prior to our attack." 

 

This is EXACTLY what is being simulated when you make a reaction amphibious move with the Japanese in response to an Allied offensive. The reality being simulated is the Japanese ground unit was already on the Allied objective before it began.

 

However, mechanically this is hard to do with physical pieces on a board if you execute the historical actions in a time linear manner. What I did in Empire of the Sun is the Allied player in this example is forced to launch his offensive with uncertain knowledge. The Allies are aware of what the potential Japanese dispositions may be at the time of the offensive, but needs to apply a risk profile for the attack and plan accordingly. This is what the real commanders faced during the war. Depending on player style you tend to either accept a great deal of risk or send more than you will need, which is exactly the debate that repeated itself throughout the war.

 

The mechanic in the game reverses the actual sequence of events to hide the Japanese intentions until the Allies are committed to their attack. It is at this time that through the reaction mechanic the Allied player finds out what was really at the objective all of the time, but without the Japanese player having to go through an elaborate paper driven planning process. Let's face it, lots of paperwork is not fun in real life or in a wargame. The net effect of the mechanic is player behavior and thinking begins to approximate what occurred during the war. 

 

<sarcastic mode on> Although as many of the 'experts' on the various boards tell me Empire of the Sun is not a very good historical simulation because of subsystems like this as it is too 'gamey'. So, please note, this historical primary source quote, not their opinion, must be wrong.</sarcastic mode off> 

 

Excuse my sarcasm, but this goes directly to my earlier comment that while we have a solid tradition of debate in the wargaming community many voices in the debate know far less than they really know. But that is the nature of a democracy, so you take the good with the bad.

 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 8:26 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 11 April 2010 8:43 AM EDT
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Thursday, 8 April 2010
Washington's War Poitical Control
Topic: Washington's War
Andrew,

Joel explained it elsewhere, but let's see if I can paraphrase:

As long as a space is "open", its leanings in the matter are still open for debate. Once a space leans Tory or Rebel, that crystallizes locals. When you have a large cluster or chain of PC markers that cannot chain to an open area, then that cluster or chain is so crystallized that it now draws military and political attention, especially that it is now surrounded by those of an opposite opinion.

The isolation process, then, is the simulation of those crystallized clusters or chains "going underground" for fear of reprisals.

In other words, it was okay to admit to being a Tory ... unless you were absolutely surrounded by Rebels ... and vice versa.

Brien


This is a reasonable rationale, but I would also add that a community of like political minds needs to be supported. If you have a large group of PC markers that is unsupported by any combat or political figure, it is at risk of folding if assailed by the enemy. The empty space does represent, albeit very abstractly, a situation still in flux, but once hard lines are drawn that community needs to be linked into the rest of the rebellion (counter-rebellion) or its morale collapses due to being isolated from its political leadership.

The way I was thinking about it is similar to Joel's well stated view, but I would put an additional spin on this concept. The American Revolution is at its core a war of ideas. The PC markers are an abstract way of taking a Revolutionary War gallop poll. A group of PC markers in a colony represents this war of ideas and a low level conflict that is pitting neighbor against neighbor. The side that is dominant in the colony has sufficient residual energy to generate a militia on occasion. The political energy of a group of PC markers is either expanding, stagnant, or contracting. If it is still expanding, as represented by additional populace open to the political war of ideas (as represented by an empty space), it continues to gain energy. Once it can no longer grow because it has run up against a wall of political opposition, the issues begin to change. The group needs to begin to govern and protect its community, which requires the trappings of government. This is where many local revolts falter and collapse. Once the exciting moments of protesting and public debate have passed the issues change. The new revolutionaries now have to become a governing body, which at its core is ensuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense (you might recognize that last phrase from somewhere). Failure to do so drives the situation in the other direction and morale collapses and the situation is once again up for grabs as simulated by the fact that isolated markers are removed, not converted. 

Looking at it from a game risk-reward perspective, a one PC investment that is isolated is probably not worth the investment to save, but a multi-colony sized grouping starts to represent a major constituency that is clamoring for support and represents a sizable investment in political capital. The value of the investment should draw enemy attention and at this point the investment is at risk unless you invest in actual military forces to support it. For example a 10 PC marker now requires a one card investment to garrison. Failure to do so is a calculated gamble on your part.

Given this is the big picture of the hearts and minds war you have two main tactics to protect your community of political allies. As the Continental Congress or the British Parliament you need to show your constituents that you care about them and support them. This means troops, so sending even one CU solves the entire isolation issue or for the British connecting them to a port and the British navy. Failure to support your 'political capital' as represented by the PC markers puts your people or said another way your level of political support at severe risk.

The other important tactic is the discard for the removal of a PC markers. This is meant to show, as cited in my design notes, the low level combat that was the essence of the war. The ability of a surrounded cluster to put the situation in flux again by attacking adjacent spaces puts the group back into a potential expansion mode that generates another wave of revolutionary energy. 

So remember, especially when playing your last card; make sure that the battle or maneuver that you are planning is more valuable than just removing one enemy PC marker and preserving a large concentration of PC markers. Another similar tactic for the Americans is saving the second reinforcement for a late turn play and just stick a 1 CU army in the middle of a key PC concentration.

Enjoy,

Mark
Last edited on 2010-03-17 06:54:10 CST (Total Number of Edits: 13)
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RPardoe wrote:
asfhgwt wrote:
Sorry, I see no real difference between a cluster of 10 connected cities with a hole in the middle and one with no hole.


Or perhaps this isn't the game for you. Within the rules of the game, there is a difference between 10 connected cities connected to a liberty and 10 connected cities that have none, so I play to avoid that situation if possible. There are events (Declaration of Independance) that do have some risk, so borrowing from Go again - nice to try to leave two liberties for a group of PCs (without military support) to counter these threats.


Note that there is a difference between the Americans and the British in this regard. Trying to use the GO tactic of leaving two MEI (or eyes) is very vulnerable in Washington's War. Unlike GO you have maneuver forces, so if a PC concentration had an empty space, or two, in its midsts, an army could just move into those empty spaces which would convert during the political phase. The new PC just placed is not isolated because it is supported by an army and the surrounding enemy PC markers, assuming that they were surrounded by a set of enemy PC markers would collapse due to isolation. 

The GO mechanic that I used is significantly modified so GO strategy does not translate smoothly into WWR. Think of yourself in the game as the Continental Congress or Parliament. The PC markers represent political constituents who are all clamoring for support. As a group reaches critical mass its voice is louder than the others and if you fail to support them they can go silent.

Mark

Posted by markherman at 7:37 PM EDT
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Thursday, 1 April 2010
More EoTS Discussion
Topic: Empire of the Sun
Phil,
First off this is an interesting discussion, so I am happy to continue, but
understand I do not expect you to convert to the faithful, although at some
point CV may realized that he has been wasting his time with all that English
Civil War nonsense and see the light. I apologize for its length, so CV and
others please ignore this and move on. In point of fact I need to get into a
game of UKC soon as I want to play a good game for a change instead of this
tripe that I have been designing. &#9786;
I want to take your comments in a slightly different order as I think it will be
a more succinct reply although too long by half. You state that you like how
FITS handles air-naval. I agree with that since EoTS does not examine air-naval
combat at the Operational-Grand Tactical level. I think this is a significant
point. FITS, AE, PacFleet, and East Wind Rain are all the same kind of game.
They are one-map Operational level games with some blend of strategic (oil) and
tactical factors (air phases, surface combat phases, torpedoes and the like). 
The reason that these games have an involved air-naval combat set of procedures
is that each of these designs is centered on the carrier-carrier battle. That's
fine, but it perpetuates a wargame myth about the Pacific War that it was
dominated by these kinds of engagement. There were 6 carrier-carrier battles
during the entire Pacific War, four of which are in 1942. As a player I
personally do not like having to play out a tactical battle board procedure
every time there is a naval encounter because of six, albeit very exciting,
carrier battles. When I want to play carrier battles I play flattop one of my
all time favorite games.
On the other hand carriers are essential to offensive operations in the war and
this is their major impact in EoTS. Supporting this is the fact that the Pacific
war was an air war. I continued to be amused and confused by the claims of
accurate PacWar OBs, when except for EoTS they treat the land based air portion
as air points of specific aircraft types. That is an operational-tactical view
of airpower. At the strategic level it is about the 13th AF and the Offensives
they are supporting not abstract airpoints.
When I sat down to design EoTS I wanted a strategic game focused on the Theater
commander level. I wanted to fight a war where the senior leadership gave me
some basic guidance and logistics and let me execute that strategic plan.
Nimitz, MacArthur, Mountbatten, etc. did not deal with torpedo planes, but
resourced offensives. Air-Naval combat is a necessary function that needs to
occur so we can figure out who is winning the war, not the battle. Another
design abstraction is the location of forces is not very important other than
what battle they are committed to. This is very much out of the mainstream and
has confused many, although players did not trust the rules. For me that has
been a big problem with EoTS. Folks do not want to accept what they say because
it is too different from what they expect. And it seems no one can follow the
sequence of play.
So comparing EoTS to any of the above games is an apples and oranges discussion.
They are at their heart different types of designs. One of the unstated
frustrations that people have with EoTS is it is not an operational one map game
masquerading as a strategic game, but a strategic game that eschews lower
echelon decisions. I make no apologies for that as that is what I was going for.
At the same time having someone tell me that they like how one of the
aforementioned games has a better treatment of air-naval combat misses the point
that EoTS does not deal with air-naval combat per se, but strategic offensives.
So, when I see this comment it is no wonder that you do not like EoTS because it
is not the type of game you want to play even though it is a one map Pacific
game.

So given these points, you wrote, "I agree with your assessment. But the naval
portion feels more accurate due to the oil points (which Asia Engulfed cleverly
copied, so what do you think about AE?).

Due to how FITS treats ground combat, which you agree with, I cannot play FITS
anymore and prefer USN over all of the newer games in this genre. I have not
played AE, so I have no opinion, except to say that each time I pick up the AE
rules and see the battle board operational treatment of the war, I put it away
and play EoTS.
I will lump the remainder of your questions into a broad answer. You wrote: "How
about what you see in many games, the Japanese player keeping his reaction
forces scattered? I think it's more of a 1943 issue than later. Is there any
real benefit to keep your forces concentrated?" Usually, Truk is in range
beginning of 1943, after the US has captured Buna and Lae, isn't it? Correct,
but attacking with Navy only is a risky business in 1943 for the Allied player.
I begin to feel that my many attempts to play EotS were not far enough into the
game?

Let's first discuss the history, because at the root of the criticism of EoTS is
the notion that it plays ahistorically. Said another way it fails as an
historical simulation. Obviously I disagree and I also do not care to change
anyone's mind. CVs and others comments indicate that they also agree, so I write
this as an answer to a question, but it is one that I have written to many times
and I expect the same result. Let's take the 1943 set up as an historical
moment.
Truk has 5 naval units and is as large a fleet concentration as the Japanese had
anywhere and at any time during the war. Rabaul has 3 CA and lighter units with
3 more at Kure. This represents the entire IJN in 1943. There are two schools of
thought on the best way to deploy the IJN fleet, concentrated and dispersed. All
I can say is if you go for dispersed (viewed as ahistorical) you will have your
IJN fleet destroyed in pieces and accelerate the Allied timetable whereas
keeping it concentrated makes it very hard to destroy or severely damage until
the Allies get a major delivery of Essex class carriers in late '43 to'44. In my
view, this makes it obvious that concentrated (historical) is the only way to
go, but it is not dictated by the system, you just lose the fleet faster if you
disperse. In my mind historical deployments are followed not due to rules, but
due to desired outcome.
The same situation prevails for ISR where you do not have to segregate your army
and navy assets for either side, but if you do not you will find yourself tied
up in knots. So, again no rules to make you do smart things, but smart things
work much better. As you point out Truk is in range of Buna at the beginning of
1943, but note that the Allies are also under Interservice Rivalry, so they
cannot coordinate the land based air assets with their weak naval assets. This
is the period of time when the Army and the Navy are going their own way, so
Truk remains a viable naval base, but just barely. A design is more than its
separate parts, so it is the combination of command control issues and assets
that prevents the Allies from taking advantage of the situation. Once ISR is
lifted the fleet base is still somewhat secure from direct attack, but will have
its operations hampered by having its infrastructure wrecked (see monograph).
Once this becomes evident it is time to move the fleet back as they did
historically, without any special rules. I wrote an entire article in c3i on the
1943 scenario, so all of the nuances of how to play this scenario well are
available in deep detail.
Regarding PoW victories, they happen, but not once during any of the CSW team
games. I have found that it is a claim made by folks who do not play much and if
you do not know how to respond it can happen. I would also note that I won a
team match while spending much of the war with a very negative WiE situation and
ISR, which supposedly an automatic Allied defeat situation. The real issue is
the morale of many players breaks when they are in this situation, but that just
shows they are wimps.
Mark


--- In perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com, Philipp Klarmann <philipp.klarmann@...>
wrote:
>
> Good points, let me address them a bit.
>
> 2010/4/1 markherman50 <MarkHerman@...>
>
> >
> >
> > We now are descending down into how to play well, which I am happy to
> > address. But it is clear that you have not played in a while. The notion of
> > scattering your fleet to avoid pinning, does not work well in the game
> > because it allows the JP fleet to be defeated piecemeal.
> >
>
> How about what you see in many games, the Japanese player keeping his
> reaction forces scattered? I think it's more of a 1943 issue than later. Is
> there any real benefit to keep your forces concentrated?
>
> > I have no problem defeating a JP player who plays this way, so I'm good
> > with it. What I do is keep three or four concentrations of ships, which was
> > the historical deployment. A Japanese concentration of three or four JP
> > naval units is a large concentration of ships in EoTS and as big a
> > concentration as the JP usually had at any one fleet base like Truk. The
> > monograph I wrote is about Truk, so to avoid repeating what I wrote there,
> > another game myth is Truk. Truk was abandoned by the JP, because it was in
> > range of Allied bombers at the beginning of February 1944 because of its
> > vulnerability to US air power. When that happens in EoTS varies by the
> > situation, but once it does occur you need to move the JP fleet back to
> > Palau, which is what they did historically.
> >
> Usually, Truk is in range beginning of 1943, after the US has captured Buna
> and Lae, isn't it?
>
>
> > The other issue is Interservice rivalry. You can only do the smothering
> > operations that you speak of when their is central agreement, otherwise you
> > cannot coordinate in the same manner.
> >
> Correct, but attacking with Navy only is a risky business in 1943 for the
> Allied player. I begin to feel that my many attempts to play EotS were not
> far enough into the game?
>
>
> > Again every game plays out differently, so there is no common way to handle
> > the situation each time. Lastly, there is the issue of the JP fleet reacting
> > to every allied offensive. So which is it, it is either pinned or it is not.
> > It has been my personal experience with playing the game that what you speak
> > of is theoretical not practical. In my games the ships get sunk, so if the
> > JP is using their fleet to react to every Allied move, they tend to not have
> > it very long. Even a poor rolling Allied player by late '43 has more than
> > enough naval factors to make this a short lived strategy.
> >
> Indeed, but what about up until then? Progress of War is needed early on.
> So, how many PoW losses the Allies can afford?
>
>
> > But let me ask a question in return Fire in the Sky, which I believe you
> > like better. Or someone else said that several posts back. One of the big
> > issues in a strategic Pacific game is the JP strategy for inflicting heavy
> > Allied ground casualties to bring the US to the negotiating table. On the
> > Allied side it was a bloody business to take the various islands and in the
> > end it was the bloodbath of Okinawa that contributed to the expanding
> > estimates of anticipated casualties for invading Japan that made the A-bomb
> > decision an easy call.
> >
> > So, with that preamble, when you play FiTS and you invade an island once
> > you get past the air-naval stuff and you hit the beach there is NO
> > possibility of taking any land casualties for the attacker. Now in EoTS
> > invading an island is a major Nimitz level decision, but when I play FITS
> > and I have the ships no worries as the Marines are not going get hurt, so
> > not much pressure there. And yes I know you can lose in the counterattack
> > during the next JP turn, but if you send sufficient ground forces you never
> > lose anyone. For me that was a an interesting way to portray ground combat,
> > but it does have oil points.
> >
> I agree with your assessment. But the naval portion feels more accurate due
> to the oil points (which Asia Engulfed cleverly copied, so what do you think
> about AE?).
>
>
> > Anyway, check out my various articles in c3i on JP strategy where I
> > specifically deal with how to deploy fleets and such.
> >
> > Over to you... :-)
> >
>
>
> >
> > Mark
> >
> > --- In perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>,
> > Philipp Klarmann <philipp.klarmann@> wrote:
> > >
> > > I appreciate this conversation very much! Trust me, I still harbour good
> > > feelings for EotS and I am not ready to give up as there are lots of good
> > > things in the game.
> > >
> > > I am with you on historical grounds, but so far, what I have seen
> > happening
> > > is, that a typical Allied offensive involves activating the pinning
> > forces
> > > and then go in for the kill. This means, the Japanese player should
> > rather
> > > spread out his forces, isn't it? And if you keep a large stack in range
> > of
> > > Long Range air, you will not be able to react at all...granted, in 1943,
> > > this does not happen too often as the Allied player will not have enough
> > air
> > > to always block you. But it happens.
> > >
> > > So, if I put a Long Range into Buna after having conquered it, you block
> > > Truk. No big fleet there ever afterwards, if the Japanese player is not
> > > stupid.
> > >
> > > But that's just the old pinning discussion. How about the oil issue (and
> > > let's revisit that). Correct, the Japanese player sortied his big boys a
> > few
> > > times. In EotS, however, they not only threat you with an attack, they
> > > occasionally do this. But, they can do it as a reaction to every card
> > play
> > > if interception occurs. Ok, you might say, it would be bad for the
> > Japanese
> > > player to sortie on every reaction but especially in 1943, the odds are
> > > pretty even and the Allies are under immense pressure.
> > >
> > >
> > > 2010/4/1 markherman50 <MarkHerman@>
> >
> > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > Well you answered the question on oil as I would. It is why the
> > Japanese
> > > > start the game with 7 cards and by mid game or so are down to 4. Think
> > of
> > > > cards as oil points like in FiTS if you like points more than
> > activations.
> > > >
> > > > As far as the Yamato moving around it did move around, but if the JP is
> > > > sending it to a continuous stream of offensives/reactions, why is it
> > not
> > > > dead. Note that any naval unit loses a great deal of its value when it
> > is on
> > > > its reduced side, so the Allies need to wack it and then it stops
> > moving
> > > > around a lot. As far as the fact that the Yamato was very expensive in
> > oil,
> > > > which is the point that you are making, it did not matter so much once
> > it
> > > > was located near the oil.
> > > >
> > > > But here is where wargaming myth gets in the way of historical fact.
> > The
> > > > Japanese used the Yamato and the Mushahi as the centerpieces of several
> > > > reactions in 1943 and in 1944 (Leyte). For example the Yamato sortied
> > from
> > > > Truk on September 18th with the Nagato in response to American raids.
> > On
> > > > October 17th the Mushahi with six battleships and carriers sortied from
> > > > Truk. My point being is the Japanese did move the big boats out on
> > several
> > > > occasions to meet Allied attacks and they were always the centerpiece
> > of all
> > > > of the reaction forces. Sure it cost them lots of oil, but these
> > movement
> > > > had priority over mama san getting cooking oil. The home front
> > suffered, but
> > > > the fleet was moved when they wanted it to move. My advice in EoTS is
> > if the
> > > > JP are enamored with the Yamato focus hits on reducing the Yamato when
> > it is
> > > > used, once hit you will not see it again for at least 1 turn (4 months)
> > and
> > > > usually longer. It is usually only impressive once.
> > > >
> > > > As far as the 1943 scenario being a very tense scenario where one
> > mistake
> > > > costs you the game. What's wrong with a tense scenario, I thought that
> > was
> > > > the point of good gaming. The same could be said for a Japanese
> > mistake.
> > > > Each situation is unique in a game where based on probability you will
> > not
> > > > see the same hand twice in your lifetime. As they say in chess for
> > every
> > > > chess brilliancy there is a reciprocal chess blunder.
> > > >
> > > > But this is how all my EoTS conversations go. I do not expect you to
> > change
> > > > your views and quite frankly it does not bother me that you do not like
> > the
> > > > game. What you will find is I have lectured at the US Naval War College
> > on
> > > > this topic and I have studied it in great detail. Folks are always
> > telling
> > > > me that this is unrealistic and this is not historical, but I have
> > reams of
> > > > data that says that most of what I am hearing are wargame myths not
> > concrete
> > > > facts. EoTS is a strategic game not like all the other Pacific games
> > > > mentioned (Pacific Fleet, Asia Engulfed, East Wind Rain, etc.) an
> > > > operational game on one map. That is what I was going for and that is
> > why I
> > > > play it. Nimitz never concerned himself with air points and wave
> > attacks
> > > > etc., which are considered the standard for this type of game. EoTS
> > goes its
> > > > own way on purpose and is not everyones cup of tea. I am fine with
> > that.
> > > >
> > > > But I love the debate...
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > Mark
> > > >
> > > > --- In
perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>,
> > > > Philipp Klarmann <philipp.klarmann@> wrote:
> > > > >
> > > > > I think the pinning issue is resolved (at least for me), but what
> > about
> > > > the
> > > > > oil issue? I see that you argued many times that the cards display
> > the
> > > > > logistical limits on major movements by the Japanese, but it's often
> > the
> > > > > case in EotS that Yamato scurries around reacting to offensives. I
> > find
> > > > that
> > > > > EotS especially in 1943 is brutally tough on the Allies, mostly one
> > > > mistake
> > > > > will cost you the game.
> > > > >
> > > > > 2010/4/1 markherman50 <MarkHerman@>
> > > >
> > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > That is the point these days. There are lots of games out there and
> > > > many
> > > > > > calls upon people's time. The fact that there is an active EoTS
> > group
> > > > is
> > > > > > much better than most games have these days. Most games generate no
> > > > long
> > > > > > term enthusiasm so I am glad that EoTs still is actively played.
> > The
> > > > fact
> > > > > > that a game does not reveal all of its mystery's immediately is a
> > two
> > > > edged
> > > > > > sword. If it does not catch your fancy you move on because it is
> > too
> > > > much
> > > > > > effort to play well, if it does you stay with it and the experience
> > > > doesn't
> > > > > > get old even after many playings. No free lunch there.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > As far as the rules go, people deal with rules of games they want
> > to
> > > > play.
> > > > > > I break out in hives when I think of ASL rules or most of the more
> > > > popular
> > > > > > CDGs and just about any of the magazine games. The ones on topics
> > that
> > > > I am
> > > > > > interested in I deal with, if I am less interested then any set of
> > > > rules is
> > > > > > too much. My take is we all take in information differently and if
> > a
> > > > game
> > > > > > has many nuances to add historical richness, which I wanted for
> > EoTS,
> > > > which
> > > > > > makes the rules more involved. What I find is experienced gamers
> > seem
> > > > > > incapable of following the EoTS sequence of play. All wargames have
> > > > > > sequences of play, so why is this one so hard. It is what it is.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > As far as the wtf moments that you mention regarding 'pinning' of
> > > > fleets
> > > > > > all I can say is WTF! I wrote an entire monograph that anyone can
> > get
> > > > on my
> > > > > > website about this very point with all of my research. It would
> > have
> > > > been
> > > > > > easier to write a rule that states that historically fleets
> > abandoned
> > > > their
> > > > > > anchorages when they were in range of enemy land based air. Of
> > course
> > > > then
> > > > > > people would try and get around this rule. Instead I chose to
> > > > incorporate it
> > > > > > into the system. You do not have to move your fleet back, but if
> > you
> > > > choose
> > > > > > to ignore the historical facts thats the players business. I just
> > set
> > > > the
> > > > > > table, but if you want to eat your dessert first, go for it. The
> > > > monograph
> > > > > > comes with the post war interviews establishing their thinking on
> > this
> > > > > > topic. So, WTF...
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Anyway, Washington's War is appealing to a broader audience due to
> > its
> > > > > > lower complexity. I went out of my way not to make the game more
> > > > complex,
> > > > > > just more interesting, at least for me. Over time I had issues with
> > WTP
> > > > that
> > > > > > kept me from playing it. That has now been addressed in
> > Washington's
> > > > War and
> > > > > > due to its short playing time it gets a lot of play around my
> > house.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Break, break... One of the annoying things about Yahoo groups is I
> > find
> > > > it
> > > > > > hard to get to the original message in a thread if it is set within
> > a
> > > > > > subthread etc. So to CV...
> > > > > >
> > > > > > I may be a cheap bastard, but if you had asked, I would have been
> > happy
> > > > to
> > > > > > send you a copy of Washington's War. One of the unfortunate aspects
> > of
> > > > my
> > > > > > later years is I have lost the ability to read minds. And if you
> > ever
> > > > get to
> > > > > > DC, I will buy you dinner.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > Mark
> > > > > >
> > > > > > --- In
perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>,
> > > >
> > > > > > Philipp Klarmann <philipp.klarmann@> wrote:
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > Thanks for your comments. I think Empire of the Sun suffers a bit
> > due
> > > > to
> > > > > > the
> > > > > > > fact that there is small group of excellent players giving you
> > > > feedback
> > > > > > > while leaving out the large rest of the gaming population. I do
> > not
> > > > doubt
> > > > > > > that EotS is a great brain exercise and therefore, fun for some,
> > but
> > > > I
> > > > > > fear
> > > > > > > that most of the players like me are put off by the complexity
> > and
> > > > some
> > > > > > > mechanisms which make sense after a dozen or so playings.
> > Compared to
> > > > the
> > > > > > > easy approach Washington's War offers, one dreams about a similar
> > > > playing
> > > > > > > experience with EotS which it simply isn't.
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > 2010/3/31 markherman50 <MarkHerman@>
> > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > --- In
perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>,
> > > > > >
> > > > > > > > "Steve Crowley" <steve@> wrote:
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > Good news about Washingtons War - just arrived here and
> > you've
> > > > saved
> > > > > > me a
> > > > > > > > > job of getting out WtP to do a comparison.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > EoTS is a game I desperately want to like but every time I
> > play
> > > > it I
> > > > > > get
> > > > > > > > too
> > > > > > > > > many wtf moments. The pinning of fleets (mentioned oft times
> > > > here)
> > > > > > just
> > > > > > > > > doesn't seem right.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > Not everyone's cup of tea I know but I prefer Fire in the Sky
> > at
> > > > this
> > > > > > > > level.
> > > > > > > > > Of course, I'm still waiting for the reprint of Pacific
> > Fleet.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > We should probably kidnap Mark and not release him until he
> > has
> > > > > > produced
> > > > > > > > the
> > > > > > > > > CDG game on the Pacific which we really want - and no remarks
> > > > from CV
> > > > > > and
> > > > > > > > > LBW about EoTS being the game MH wanted to design if you
> > please.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > From:
perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > > > > > >
[mailto:perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>]
> > > > > >
> > > > > > > > On Behalf Of Philipp Klarmann
> > > > > > > > > Sent: 28 March 2010 8:11 AM
> > > > > > > > > To:
perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > > > <perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>
> > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > Subject: [perfidiousalbion] [Games] The Herman night
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > Two games of Mark Herman back to back, and it's certainly
> > > > enlighting
> > > > > > as
> > > > > > > > we
> > > > > > > > > go backwards in terms of the evolution of the CDG genre.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > The first half of the evening is spent setting up and playing
> > > > through
> > > > > > a
> > > > > > > > turn
> > > > > > > > > of Empire of the Sun's tournament 1943 scenario. Lot's of
> > > > complicated
> > > > > > > > rules,
> > > > > > > > > intertwined with bean counting and hex counting, odd rules
> > > > > > exceptions,
> > > > > > > > most
> > > > > > > > > cards appearing at the wrong time (just witness the cards
> > that
> > > > need
> > > > > > to be
> > > > > > > > > taken out in the scenario instructions, almost all card
> > numbers
> > > > are
> > > > > > low)
> > > > > > > > and
> > > > > > > > > the US losing it's will to fight in 1943. Huh?
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > After so many tries, I consider this a valiant failure. It's
> > over
> > > > > > > > > complicated, ignores oil as the major factor in the naval
> > warfare
> > > > and
> > > > > > > > > strategic consideration of the Japanese and forces in my
> > opinion
> > > > > > > > unrealistic
> > > > > > > > > behaviours (just look at the Yamato BB running around). I
> > know
> > > > Mark
> > > > > > > > defends
> > > > > > > > > his game with vigour and it's, if you have understood the
> > > > horrible
> > > > > > rules
> > > > > > > > > book, a brain exercise par excellence. But is it fun outside
> > of a
> > > > > > circle
> > > > > > > > of
> > > > > > > > > insiders and enlightened readers? The current playthrough in
> > the
> > > > CSW
> > > > > > > > folder
> > > > > > > > > sees the Philippine scouts landing in Korea for lack of Air
> > ZOC
> > > > in
> > > > > > Japan.
> > > > > > > > > Double huh? I think given time and effort spent to learn it
> > to a
> > > > > > degree
> > > > > > > > of
> > > > > > > > > perfection, I rather pull out another Pacific War title or
> > Mark's
> > > > > > older
> > > > > > > > PW
> > > > > > > > > title for a campaign.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > The second half of the evening is reserved for Washington's
> > War.
> > > > And,
> > > > > > > > boy,
> > > > > > > > > given the tedious exercise of the previous three hours, this
> > game
> > > > > > really
> > > > > > > > > shines even more. It's fast, exciting, close and runs
> > smoothly.
> > > > The
> > > > > > new
> > > > > > > > > combat system is easy to learn and poses great trouble for
> > the
> > > > > > American
> > > > > > > > > player so he is even more reluctant to go head-to-head
> > against
> > > > the
> > > > > > > > British.
> > > > > > > > > The British steamroll the coast but have troubles controlling
> > the
> > > > > > > > colonies.
> > > > > > > > > A near perfect 10 for this redux of We the People. Better
> > cards,
> > > > > > better
> > > > > > > > map,
> > > > > > > > > better counters, tense gamplay, a must buy.
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > > No virus found in this incoming message.
> > > > > > > > > Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
> > > > > > > > > Version: 9.0.791 / Virus Database: 271.1.1/2775 - Release
> > Date:
> > > > > > 03/28/10
> > > > > > > > > 07:32:00
> > > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > I have not been here in a while, good to see you got a chance
> > to
> > > > play
> > > > > > > > Washington's War. It is not a reprint as you have already
> > surmised.
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > As far as EoTS goes, its not everyones cup of tea, but I design
> > the
> > > > > > games
> > > > > > > > that I want to play and this is the one that I play the most. I
> > > > guess
> > > > > > we
> > > > > > > > have different tastes.
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > As far as the Philippine Scouts ending up in Korea, this is
> > just
> > > > part
> > > > > > of my
> > > > > > > > design philosophy. I could just write a rule that says you
> > cannot
> > > > do
> > > > > > stupid
> > > > > > > > things, but why bother. The first stupid thing was the Japanese
> > > > emptied
> > > > > > > > Japan of every air and naval unit. Would the real Japanese do
> > that,
> > > > no,
> > > > > > but
> > > > > > > > I hate writing garrison rules and other such nonsense. If they
> > want
> > > > to
> > > > > > play
> > > > > > > > badly let them. As a consequence there was nothing stopping the
> > > > Allies
> > > > > > from
> > > > > > > > raiding the coast. The Allies are out of supply and will
> > quickly
> > > > > > disperse,
> > > > > > > > so it is more about pissing off the Japanese.
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > Anyway, enjoy Washington's War...
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > > Mark
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > > >
> > > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> >
> >
> >
>

Posted by markherman at 9:38 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 31 March 2010
EoTS Historical Debate
Topic: Empire of the Sun
Re: [Games] The Herman night

Well you answered the question on oil as I would. It is why the Japanese start
the game with 7 cards and by mid game or so are down to 4. Think of cards as oil
points like in FiTS if you like points more than activations.

As far as the Yamato moving around it did move around, but if the JP is sending
it to a continuous stream of offensives/reactions, why is it not dead. Note that
any naval unit loses a great deal of its value when it is on its reduced side,
so the Allies need to wack it and then it stops moving around a lot. As far as
the fact that the Yamato was very expensive in oil, which is the point that you
are making, it did not matter so much once it was located near the oil.

But here is where wargaming myth gets in the way of historical fact. The
Japanese used the Yamato and the Mushahi as the centerpieces of several
reactions in 1943 and in 1944 (Leyte). For example the Yamato sortied from Truk
on September 18th with the Nagato in response to American raids. On October 17th
the Mushahi with six battleships and carriers sortied from Truk. My point being
is the Japanese did move the big boats out on several occasions to meet Allied
attacks and they were always the centerpiece of all of the reaction forces. Sure
it cost them lots of oil, but these movement had priority over mama san getting
cooking oil. The home front suffered, but the fleet was moved when they wanted
it to move. My advice in EoTS is if the JP are enamored with the Yamato focus
hits on reducing the Yamato when it is used, once hit you will not see it again
for at least 1 turn (4 months) and usually longer. It is usually only impressive
once.

As far as the 1943 scenario being a very tense scenario where one mistake costs
you the game. What's wrong with a tense scenario, I thought that was the point
of good gaming. The same could be said for a Japanese mistake. Each situation is
unique in a game where based on probability you will not see the same hand twice
in your lifetime. As they say in chess for every chess brilliancy there is a
reciprocal chess blunder.

But this is how all my EoTS conversations go. I do not expect you to change your
views and quite frankly it does not bother me that you do not like the game.
What you will find is I have lectured at the US Naval War College on this topic
and I have studied it in great detail. Folks are always telling me that this is
unrealistic and this is not historical, but I have reams of data that says that
most of what I am hearing are wargame myths not concrete facts. EoTS is a
strategic game not like all the other Pacific games mentioned (Pacific Fleet,
Asia Engulfed, East Wind Rain, etc.) an operational game on one map. That is
what I was going for and that is why I play it. Nimitz never concerned himself
with air points and wave attacks etc., which are considered the standard for
this type of game. EoTS goes its own way on purpose and is not everyones cup of
tea. I am fine with that.

But I love the debate...

Mark

--- In perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com, Philipp Klarmann <philipp.klarmann@...>
wrote:
>
> I think the pinning issue is resolved (at least for me), but what about the
> oil issue? I see that you argued many times that the cards display the
> logistical limits on major movements by the Japanese, but it's often the
> case in EotS that Yamato scurries around reacting to offensives. I find that
> EotS especially in 1943 is brutally tough on the Allies, mostly one mistake
> will cost you the game.
>
> 2010/4/1 markherman50 <MarkHerman@...>
>
> >
> >
> > That is the point these days. There are lots of games out there and many
> > calls upon people's time. The fact that there is an active EoTS group is
> > much better than most games have these days. Most games generate no long
> > term enthusiasm so I am glad that EoTs still is actively played. The fact
> > that a game does not reveal all of its mystery's immediately is a two edged
> > sword. If it does not catch your fancy you move on because it is too much
> > effort to play well, if it does you stay with it and the experience doesn't
> > get old even after many playings. No free lunch there.
> >
> > As far as the rules go, people deal with rules of games they want to play.
> > I break out in hives when I think of ASL rules or most of the more popular
> > CDGs and just about any of the magazine games. The ones on topics that I am
> > interested in I deal with, if I am less interested then any set of rules is
> > too much. My take is we all take in information differently and if a game
> > has many nuances to add historical richness, which I wanted for EoTS, which
> > makes the rules more involved. What I find is experienced gamers seem
> > incapable of following the EoTS sequence of play. All wargames have
> > sequences of play, so why is this one so hard. It is what it is.
> >
> > As far as the wtf moments that you mention regarding 'pinning' of fleets
> > all I can say is WTF! I wrote an entire monograph that anyone can get on my
> > website about this very point with all of my research. It would have been
> > easier to write a rule that states that historically fleets abandoned their
> > anchorages when they were in range of enemy land based air. Of course then
> > people would try and get around this rule. Instead I chose to incorporate it
> > into the system. You do not have to move your fleet back, but if you choose
> > to ignore the historical facts thats the players business. I just set the
> > table, but if you want to eat your dessert first, go for it. The monograph
> > comes with the post war interviews establishing their thinking on this
> > topic. So, WTF...
> >
> > Anyway, Washington's War is appealing to a broader audience due to its
> > lower complexity. I went out of my way not to make the game more complex,
> > just more interesting, at least for me. Over time I had issues with WTP that
> > kept me from playing it. That has now been addressed in Washington's War and
> > due to its short playing time it gets a lot of play around my house.
> >
> > Break, break... One of the annoying things about Yahoo groups is I find it
> > hard to get to the original message in a thread if it is set within a
> > subthread etc. So to CV...
> >
> > I may be a cheap bastard, but if you had asked, I would have been happy to
> > send you a copy of Washington's War. One of the unfortunate aspects of my
> > later years is I have lost the ability to read minds. And if you ever get to
> > DC, I will buy you dinner.
> >
> > Mark
> >
> > --- In perfidiousalbion@yahoogroups.com<perfidiousalbion%40yahoogroups.com>,
> > Philipp Klarmann <philipp.klarmann@> wrote:
> > >
> > > Thanks for your comments. I think Empire of the Sun suffers a bit due to
> > the
> > > fact that there is small group of excellent players giving you feedback
> > > while leaving out the large rest of the gaming population. I do not doubt
> > > that EotS is a great brain exercise and therefore, fun for some, but I
> > fear
> > > that most of the players like me are put off by the complexity and some
> > > mechanisms which make sense after a dozen or so playings. Compared to the
> > > easy approach Washington's War offers, one dreams about a similar playing
> > > experience with EotS which it simply isn't.
> > >

Posted by markherman at 10:45 PM EDT
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Dialog on my views of Game Reviewers and Ratings
Topic: Wargame Design Musings
bentlarsen wrote:
MarkHerman wrote:
Thanks for posting your views over on the Washington's War folder. Based on your comments I did re-read Chris Farrell's comments again and I am not sure why you think that this is a better review than the more positive ones other than it is more negative.

Chris is a smart fellow who is very impressed with his own opinion. I read all comments about my games, so I have a view of what does and does not make a good review. A good review sets metrics for how the game will be judged, otherwise it is just opinion with no objective standard. One of the reviews that you did not like did a very good job in this regard. 

Chris fails as a reviewer as he has very distinct tastes, which is fine for a gamer, but a major problem for a reviewer. He makes ascertains without any supporting thoughts and thinks he is stating facts. He has reviewed all of my recent games and he has disliked all of them. No problem, but all I can conclude from his reviews is he has not played any of my designs all that much, so his comments on design features and their impact on game strategy are misguided at best. As a consequence he offers a professional game designer and the reader nothing much beyond his personal tastes in games.

He starts off by saying in the review that you wanted me to re-read that he did not like We The People all that much, then points out several factors that he thinks make Washington's War a worse game (discard mechanism and OPs Queue) and then later contradicts himself by saying that the activation system does not work because the British need 3OPS cards, which is the point of the OPS Queue. It is my belief that he imagines how the game should play out vice actually figuring it out through play. The discard mechanism is generating a lot of positive comment, so people like it. Chris does not like it, but as usual without much explanation other than it makes the game more complicated. Complexity is in the eye of the beholder not some objective standard of goodness. 

Frankly I have read all of Chris's reviews and all that comes through is he seems to know how to design a better version of the game he is playing. That's fine, but upon reading his remarks it is clear that he really hasn't played Washington's War many times as his comments about the worthless American generals demonstrates to me that he does not understand how to play the Americans well. This point was true in We The People, but the new attrition rules require the Americans to play very differently, so it is my belief given how quickly his review came out that he read the rules and applied his thinking to what he remembers from We The People. I was told at a recent convention from serious players that Chris does not know what he is talking about on this specific point. Again this demonstrates to me that he is just doing a drive by review with little thought or time invested.

It is my understanding that the basis of the BGG game rating was tied to a player's willingness to play it again. From what I can tell on BGG and over on CSW, the players that are rating the game very highly are playing it constantly, which may be the basis for their high ratings vice some philosophical design standard. In the end if a game grabs someones fancy, and most of my designs do not generate this level of enthusiasm, then it is what it is.

I decided to write you privately as I find that open forums are not useful for real communications, but I do take all comments seriously and I wanted you to know that I took your advice.

Take care,
Mark


Mark,

Thank you again for reading my comment and writing to me.

Before I get to your response, I do not want you to take any criticisms of your designs as criticisms of you, Mark Herman. Your games must be like your family, so I imagine it might be tough. Second, you are the "guy" who started it all with these Card-driven wargames. You are the inovator. We the People might not be a game I like, but your original concept and design has led to many games that I do like. Third, I would rank you among the very best designers. I never try to rate a list like that from best on down; it is just too difficult.

If you reread my comments, what I hoped you could influence in the BGG community are those individuals who helped develop or play-test the game, and who are rating it highly. I think it is not ethical for these individuals (there are two for sure, are there more?) to have ratings, not that anyone is going to go to hell for loving or hating a game. I think they are entitled to comment, but they should leave off the numbers. This issue is a frequent flyer on BGG. You are not responsible for what they do or say. If you see my concern, maybe you could give them a nudge. If they do not budge, that is not your fault. 

"Sycophant" is a strong term, a fighting word, as Yosimite Sam would say. I haven't read any hate mail about it, so I guess that no one has seen my comment because it does not have a number rating. Either that, or these people do not know what it means.

None of these tens qualify as a review in my understanding of the term. None of the reviews under the review forum qualify as a real discussion of the strengths and weaknesses--no game is perfect, not any on my top ten list, that's for sure--a your design. The geeks leaving tens come across as people kissing up. You have earned your place among the best of the best (and I am not kissing up, just stating a fact), and your behind does not need any lips on it (the image makes me go "ewww!"). 

Most of the reviews I have read for wargames are an embarrassment to anyone who wants to have a serious discussion. These kinds of comments should just go under the "genera" forum so that everyone gets to exercise his or her freedom of speech. I know this is a social networking site for gamers, but if I am going to write a serious piece by way of review, I want to sweat before I write it. I have written at least six reviews for Paper Wars, not that anyone would know it because there has not been an issued published during the past two years or so. I have typed out 35 pages or more. When I gripe about this on the geek, I am looked down as an eliteist. I just want an intelligent discussion.

How many times have you see the mob mentality at work on BGG? You go with the flow or you get dumped on. The first serious (it likely won't be, it will just be a rant) negative review of your new WW will bring out the wolves in force to tear the nay-sayer apart.

Now, turning to Chris Farrell. He is an odd duck (so am I, for that matter). He has tremendous influence (anyone with tremendous influence has too much power) on the BGG community. It would seem he has earned his position with comments that I find sober and serious and free of the nastiness that I sometimes--sometimes?--leave when I am on a roll of one sort or another. It is sad, but I find I have to "yell" to be noticed around this place, that is when I want to be noticed. 

The comments that Chris left with his six rating do not qualify as a review (nor, as I said above, do any of the tens or other ratings, for that matter). But Chris says it without rancour. 

Take another look at what I said about his comments and the six:

Is anyone taking Chris Farrell's comments, and his six, seriously? Chris can be wrong (just look at his comments on Pursuit of Glory and compare them with the actual game). Chris has good gaming instincts, if you choose to ignore the time factor (everything is too long for him) and chrome (everything is too detailed). Other than these, he is usually okay. 

Mark, do you see there is a fair bit of agreement between you and I concerning Chris. One, he can be wrong. The five rating he gave for Pursuit of Glory, with his brief comments, is a joke. How do I know this? Look at my review that I wrote after playing the game for at least a full week. Two, I note how everthing is too long or too detailed for his taste. I use hyperbole, but I am well aware that Chris has, or seems to have, a strict set of guidelines for every game, and woe be to the game that falls out of him. For me, as an example, I can find Paths of Glory a blast to play, lots of fun, but do not confuse it with an historical wargame. Raicer has a great design with history pasted all over it, but that's all it is: paste. I prefer a game to be both good history and good game, but I can like it if it is only one or the other.

I want Chris' six, his sober, non-insulting tone, and his comments to put a brake on the lips of the sycophant chorus. He would need to move his comments into the review section. Given what passes for reviews, he would have no problem being accepted. Then the community might enter into a serious discussion of your game.

When I wanted to discuss ACW leadership ratings in games like For the People and others, I did a pretty botched job of trying to express my points. I think Chris, with his comparision to how the generals are rated in Hannibal, made a valid point that perhaps you could consider for a variant for the GMT magazine (the name escapes me).

Mark, I understand if I cross historical swords with you that I am likely to be on the losing end, but I think you have rated the American generals to highly in their combat capabilities. How many major battles did the British lose during the Revolution? Three at best? Howe bested Washington at New York and during the Philadelphia campaign, but you only have one point of difference between them. Washington is a great leader, but competant only, at best, general. 

To go back to For the People, I think you are of the traditional school that sees Grant, Lee, Sherman and Jackson as being on an equal plane of skill, and I feel this view has been overturned in the past ten years (if not before). For FtP, it would be nice to see a Hannibal aspect to the generals in these games. Grant is better on strategy that Lee. Lee is the tactician bar none. Jackson is at his best in a subordinate role. Sherman is a lousy tactician--he was at least honest enough to admit that he was not the best--but you have him equal with the others. Argh! 

But I digress.

In fairness, I do not know how any designer, even one as experienced and wise as you, can do full justice to the complexities of the the American Revolution. 

I hope you will consider me part of the loyal opposition, and I want to stress the loyal part. I have WW on order through the p-500, but Canada seems to be on the other side of the globe for all the time I have been waiting for its arrival. I want to get your Pacific War game, and I have heard that you and Richard Berg are working on a monster ACW game. Is this true? You can be sure that I will buy a copy. I want to help put food in your table, even while I preach to you how you have some--only some--things wrong. 

Invite me to your house for a week, or come to mine, teach me the basics of wargame design, and you won't have me as an armchair critic. Or hopefully even a critic.

I do wish you the best. If time allows, I will try to review WW, but I have to master the rules to Berg's Dead of Winter for a Paper Wars review--do you have an "easy guide" to these GBACW games?

Let me know how you feel about what I have said. 

Take care, and I hope you continue to do well with WW and with all your other designs.

Joseph 



Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. You bring up many points so I will focus on a couple. First off thank you for your warm remarks about my overall body of work, I appreciate the sentiments.

To your game review remarks I also read Chris's comments on Pursuit of Glory and based on my single play I mostly agreed with him. On the other hand I only played the game one time and I think that is all Chris may have played it. As a professional designer I feel that I can ethically support a game that I actually play and enjoy, but I will not criticize a design as it would be perceived as a conflict of interest. As far as the playtesters rating the game on BGG goes I do not see this an unethical or a conflict of interest, because they gain nothing by doing so. The review that I liked from the guy who was Sean or Paul, I forget, was a playtester and gave it a nine instead of a ten because I did not take one of his suggestions. So it is not clear that the playtesters are always a home field crowd. 

You state that Chris writes without rancor. That is in the eye of the beholder, but lets for argument state that I agree. That is not my issue with Chris' reviews. Why people think he deserves his reputation is not for me to say, but what he says is never supported or measured against any objective standard. So, for me all I am getting is Chris' opinion, his right, and based on the sameness of his reviews I find that they have little value for me as a professional designer. 

For example he has panned my EoTS game not once but twice. He does not like the War in Europe mechanic and states that it has driven every game that he has played. As background, I am a professional OPS Research analyst and I have taught Analytics (probability and statistics) at the graduate school level for Georgetown University. So, I am very strong in probability mathematics. When I built the decks of cards I ran them through a simulation and this was validated by independent gamers who have posted the spreadsheets that are available on CSW for all to see. So what he claims is not mathematically possible or he does not know how to shuffle a deck of cards. Based on this his remarks carry no weight with me as they cannot be substantiated in mathematical reality.

In the same review he makes a comment about how unrealistic in EoTS it is for a fleet to be pinned by a bomber. I wrote a monograph on this specific point with all of my research that is posted on my website. It seems to me that unless a reviewer is willing to wade into the historical detail that he is commenting on how seriously can I take said review. On a review he did for my For The People game he made a similar offhand remark about the CRT and how it was ridiculous or some such. Yet, I built that table out of actual data and every battle of the war can be reflected through that table. As I said Chris does not do his homework, just levies his opinion. For me that makes him no better than any other opinion on BGG or CSW.

I could go on but you get the point. Later in your letter you make note of the general ratings in Washington's War and then I remembered our earlier exchange and your thoughts on the For The People general ratings. If done well and I think I know what I am doing, a design is an intrinsic whole. If you take out one piece and evaluate it alone without the remainder of the design you can draw incorrect conclusions.

I agree with your analysis that the British won most of the battles they fought in the war. Actually, if you find my old General article on We The People what you really find is the attacker won the majority of the battles during the AmRev. This by the way is characteristic of most low density battles in musket and rifled musket period (AmRev and ACW). 

Your point is that Howe is only one point better than Washington, so it must be incorrect, because he won all of his battles. However, that is only one piece of the battle puzzle. First off you can never more than double your combat unit strength, so since the Americans lose half their CUs each winter (except the Continental army if it is in winter quarters) the ability to achieve those full ratings for the Americans is very rare. Another issue is the British gain a regulars advantage and in ports the navy, which is two more ticks. On top of all that the attacker wins ties which is effectively another tick. The end result from actually playing the game is that the combination of all of the above creates a large British advantage in combat. If you look at the message traffic it appears that the British strategies in the game are more obvious so no one is having any problem winning battles or the game with the British. My point is you have to look at the totality of the battle system, not just the General ratings, to see how the game achieves the historical result.

What Chris is totally missing, which makes me believe that all I am getting is a rehash of his We The People review is his point about the worthless American generals. Due to attrition the Americans do not want to over invest in large armies that will just evaporate. However, any General will never lose his last CU due to attrition. Think guerrilla army. The Americans have 7 generals to the British 5 and if the French come into the game it is 8 to 5. For the Americans to achieve a strategic maneuver advantage, which was not necessary or desired in WTP, you want to have as many 1CU armies in the game as you can get. If you do this the Americans can maneuver to gain leverage over PC markers, which the British are hard pressed to do. The point is to demonstrate, albeit abstractly, a key feature of the real war. Therefore, Lincoln is a very useful general if he has 1 CU, but dangerous if you give him a substantial force. Lincoln with 1 CU protects a group of PC markers from isolation and is expensive to kill as the British do not move as easily as the Americans. 

The same is true in my For The People design. The ratings are not my evaluation of Lee or Grant specifically, but generally. What is also being represented is their ability to eschew logistic certainty and their impact on their subordinated command structures. The ratings are also how the game represents terrain. Note that there is no terrain distinction between spaces. How could that make sense? My view is there is defensible terrain everywhere, but it is the ability of the commander to find it that generates a terrain advantage as reflected in the rating. As you can see unless you bring in all of the factors, the ratings make no sense. Besides on any given day everyone had a bad day, which was an improvement that I brought into Washington's War.

Another point that you raise is about synchophants and people following the herd mentality and shouting down those that they disagree with etc. All I can say is that is not a BGG phenomena, but an internet feature. I have hardly ever seen any open forum discussion, anywhere, remain civil or change anyones view from the one they held when the shouting began. It is not a problem, but a feature, so I just avoid those situation as they go nowhere. What I will say is that David Dockter who is a first class consultant did a very detailed analysis of BGG ratings and CSW message traffic. Not perfect, but better than one persons' opinion. Empire of the Sun and For The People which are two games that Chris dislikes are in the top four games of total player activity. My point is the BGG rating system is interesting, but it is the temperature not the weather. Before they modified the algorithms not one of the games that I actually play were in the top 100 wargames of all time. Now I may not represent the mainstream of gamers, but that is too statistically odd for me to think much of the BGG rating system. Now that they have modified how they calculate things at least a couple of the games that I play are in the top 100 and not one that is in the top 10 or 25. Not much for me there.

Note that For The People has been played continuously for over a decade by a very active group of gamers. Not many wargames can claim that. Is For The People perfect, no, and neither is any game, but lots of people play it despite Chris panning it. Clearly they do not give a hoot about what Chris says or thinks. The same is true for Empire of the Sun. So, if a BGG rating represents your desire to play a game, not a subjective rating of design goodness, then activity should equal a high rating for these people. Does that make them synchophants? On another level who cares if they are having fun. 

My last point is important to me. I do not design games for money any longer. There is no money in it to be had and the amount of time I spend discoursing with gamers if put on a per hour basis would be less than I made when I had a paper route as a kid. I do this because of my passion for wargaming. I design games that I want to play. I spend most of my time playing For The People, Empire of the Sun and now Washington's War. If I do not want to play them why would anyone else. I only like to play games that are in my opinion, historically accurate. I actually research and think about all that goes into one of my games because if it bothers me I would change it. 

Well time to write another lecture and get some sleep,

Be well,

Mark

Posted by markherman at 9:09 PM EDT
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