Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Time scale in wargaming

I come from the 70's-early 80's miniature wargaming culture- Rules based on some of the ideas from Donald Featherstone's books (like Miniature Wargames and Advanced Wargames) and rules like Chainmail. Time scale was considered kind of as an aside, and it created fast, fun rules that I still sometimes yearn for.

I think one of the most eye-opening things I've ever read on time scale and wargaming with it is in the designer notes to Frank Chadwick's Command Decision rules. (Paraphrasing)

"A lot can happen in the time-space of 1 turn. But a lot also does not."

Just because a person can move 20 paces in 10 seconds does not mean that he will move that fast. Conditions due to enemy action, the state of a man's morale and possibly training as well as just random things happening (e.g. tripping and falling down,stopping to catch one's breath, stopping to scan the terrain around for threats etc) can prevent that person from moving the stated 20 paces in 10 sec. The best rules sublimate this stuff elegantly.

Some rules use a roll a certain amount of dice totaled for movement (e.g. The Sword and the Flame). This works, after a fashion, but I feel is a bit clunky and artificial. But is is fun though....

Why the concern about time scale ? I overheard some folks at Historicon this year (in more than one game) discussing time scale and both loudly proclaiming the rules were "unrealistic" because the fixed time scale allowed "a unit of could do all that during a game turn." I laughed whenever I heard that (and it was quite a few times). Wargamers like to kibbitz a bit, and wargaming is a social thing after all, but I thought it was highly amusing.

Personally, I think that best time scale is somewhat variable in wargaming. I prefer "effect" based instead of "calculated" based time. If after a battle, you can run the events over in your mind that happened, and they make sense considering the scenario being played and the forces involved, the time scale really has no bearing. You fought a battle and certain things happened. Does it really matter that after 20 turns, the much vaunted "time scale" calculates out to say 1 hour ? Maybe the battle took 3-4 hours to play (real time) in miniature. You can really say that the battle occurred in 3-4 hours.

As a matter of fact, a group a couple of years ago at Historicon did exactly that- it was a 10mm wargame that was run in "real" time. It had a lot of players and as can be expected, there was a lot of "down time" getting orders in, moving the troops, rolling combat etc. From what I can recall, it worked out well, the battle taking a couple of hours as it would have in real life. As in real life, alot can happen in an hour but alot might NOT happen.

In the end, a part of a day was taken up (both in game time and real time setting up and playing the miniature game) and things happened. And after all, what more can we ask of our hobby than to happily engage us for the time required to actually do it.

Speaking of time, this is a few minutes of your life you will never get back after reading this stream of consciousness post...... :D

1 comment:

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