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Jack Man and the Crackpot Discuss Table Top War Gaming: 2/11/22
[Crackpot comments in brackets.]
Hello James,
Jack Man here.
As a fellow friend of gaming, storytelling and anything in between, I enjoyed your takes and stories on wargaming.
[I owe the hobby of gaming. It is how I learned to think and write descriptively.]
I mean this sincerely, I think there is something magical or special about wargaming that speaks to the very spirit of boys and even adult men.
[I love maps, and to be able to fight over the face of a well executed graphic map is pure joy. I am in about the 60% of table top gamers with whom I have played. My strength in all operational levels from squad to corps level, is reading the terrain and finding advantageous positions and angles. I think fighting helped me here.]
Of course these hobbies are somewhat sieged as well, as is anything which was once seen as a pure domain of men.
[Table top wargaming now, I think, has an average age around 60. It may be almost extinct in a generation.]
But it survived the rise of video game culture and depending on the parameters some would say it is thriving.
[My favorite games are:
Empires in Arms,
Korea,
The Civil War,
Divine Right,
Samurie,
Lock and Load
Mark Herman’s tactical ancient warfare series.]
Some of the oldest games in human history are variants of go and chess which are also wargames, they are or were
somewhat more abstracted but in the end still resemble two opposing forces fighting over territory and position and many even having pieces that directly resemble different arms of combat.
[The NFL and NBA should be abolished and the leagues converted into human chess games, in which coaches plot the player’s move, and he must fight the player occupying the square he is moved to, with bats and trashcan lids.]
Although I do enjoy games like chess, it does miss something very essential many Tabletop wargames do have, and that’s in my opinion the main axis on which every game has to be measured, called variance.
[Chess players seem to prefer number crunching war games where odds of success are more a mater of calculation than lets say in something like Empires in Arms, where the player with a weaker force may win based on him outwitting the enemy field marshal. The best time I ever had in gaming was when Patrick [Turks] outflanked Brian [Napoleon] with the Grand Vizier commanding. Patrick had to roll a 1 on a d6 to “come in” on the flank with that terrible general, and he did! The French broke and Patrick rolled a 6 on the pursuit roll with a force of 26,000 Muslim horseman and wiped out the entire french army!]
The handling of risk management and chance is in my opinion a key factor that resembles warfare on a gameplay level significantly better than games Like chess, where variance (except who gets the first turn) is minimized to the absolute minimum for an even playfield to measure skills/brains.
[Chess compares to war gaming like karate does to violent street crime. War games are just much more realistic.]
So there are many many different war-game systems ranging from very complex simulating warfare/Battle in gameplay rule-wise to more rule-light systems.
[The best light rules game, in my opinion was Lord of The Rings Risk. Also, Avalon Hill’s old Feudal game, was a good compromise between chess and wargaming.]
The level of variance of course does vary, some randomize movement/charges in part, other only parts of the fighting.
[Dice and other randomizing factors are key to realistic wargaming and the placement of calculation into a field of dynamics.]
I think these elements of chance do something significant as well in making it possible to deliver memorable moments and stories.
“Do you remember that one time where my peasants hold that cavalry charge in my back?“ „Do you recall when I had nearly won, but this one damn unit from you rolled up my entire front from the flank“
So without further due I present the archetypes of wargaming.
The Warhawk:
He games the rules, trying to maximize every gain,
There is nothing more important than victory,
Of course he doesnt remind you if you forget rules that would benefit you, after all this is war!
[Ken, we called him “The Surgeon.’ What a prick.]
The (military) Historian:
Recreates historic battles on the field,
Appreciates realism,
Can make for interesting stuff - as often the strength of forces is asymmetrical
[That would be, me, usually the opponent selected for playing the underdog. I will never live down my reputation for digging in in North Africa instead of fighting like Rommel. Sensie Steve as well, who tries to always fight like the winning side did while I try to fight as the losing side differently then they did.]
The filthy casual:
Can see enjoyment in every aspect,
While not being all too focussed into one,
Often not very invested in material and time
[Tattoo Rick, who, partnered with me, once defeated Sensie Steve in Korea while smoking pot by making irritating bugle calls with his plastic dice cup.]
The Dad Gamer:
As much emphasis on Refilling his beer accurate as measuring on the table
[Patrick, real nice guy.]
The Nostalgic:
“I played this as a kid, Id love to do it again“
Plays one - two times, then leaves for another 10-20 years
[Ben, real nice guy.]
The Painter:
“I don’t even know the rules”
[Walt, real nice guy.]
The Neckbeard:
Asocial weirdo who found this to be his niche,
Fat or skinny, or skinnyfat,
Physical incapable of anything but at least an efficient Gatekeeper
scaring women and children away or creeping them out
[Brian, real obnoxious guy.]
The Girl:
“I can do as well as any guy…“
Theres always someone who has to drag his girl into his buddy circle
[Ajay, but she said, “You guys are scary—I’m going to lose!”]
Sir, I will add two more.
The Die Jockey
A man like K.C., who was the best gamer I played with, who combined calculation with a flare for the gambit.
The Wild Man
Dan, who always attacks, always, and has to be give the Americans, Union, Russians of Chinese, or some other side with overwhelming material, to play.
The Creative Genius
Francis, a man who reads period literature before a war game, takes big chances, says “Go big or go home” and once, as the Turkish player in Empires in Arms, cobbled together a Danish-Swedish-Prussian-Spanish-Sicilian-Venetian-Russian-Turkish naval armada to invade England. I was the dumbass playing Great Britain and was defending London in 1807 with York and 5,000 Red Coats against a horde of Syrian-Mameluke-Moroccon horse and Swedish infantry!
The Designer
Curtis, a very good player who puts his creativity into design and needs an envelope-pushing players like Francis and historical minded players like Steve, to develop his game. Curtis Bear does Operational Combat Series game designs, including one on the Syrian Campaign in WWII.
Jack Man, thanks so much for taking me down memory lane.
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