Monday, June 8, 2015

One-Hour Wargames (Miniature Rules) Review

Marco is a well-known reviewer in the boardgame community and I find his game evaluations balanced, insightful, and entertaining.  While Marco reviews and plays primarily hex and counter wargames, he expands reviewing to include a review of Neil Thomas' One-Hour Wargames rule book.

While I have and enjoy Thomas' Wargaming 19th Century Europe, I have not picked up a copy of his One-Hour Wargames.  What I found especially interesting in Marco's review is his definition of a miniatures wargame.  Marco makes the argument that miniatures wargaming does not necessarily require miniatures.  Miniatures wargaming could include figures, blocks, paper soldiers, cardboard counters or anything to denote the basic maneuver unit.  What then makes miniatures wargaming distinctive from the traditional board wargame?  The difference, as Marco makes it, is a classification between discrete and continuous systems.  That is, a miniatures wargame is not governed by discrete grid with movements, ranges, etc. defined by this grid but played in continuous space.  Gaming in a continuous system allows greater tactical flexibility and nuances not present in a hex game. 

So, when I play Commands & Colors: Ancients using miniatures, according to Marco, I am not technically playing a miniatures game since movement and combat resolution is based upon a discrete system of hexes or grids.    

I must ponder this definition.  

In the meantime, if you have about 30 minutes and are interested, take a look at Marco's review of One-Hour Wargames.

14 comments:

  1. Reviews of rules are good way to suss out whether you're likely to like a particular set before you parted with you hard earned dollars, thanks for posting.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the review, Cyrus. Marco always does a thorough job on his many reviews. Tackling a miniatures rulebook is a new direction for him.

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  2. I enjoyed the review, and I thunk that Marco is right that they seem like they would be an excellent introduction to the hobby, with good potential for classroom use. The other target audience - gamers with more experience but limited space and time, and perhaps limited collections, also seems apt.

    Now for the his definition of "miniature wargames". This could be quite a fascinating discussion, because the lines surely have become blurred over the years. Sam Mustafa's "Blucher, and the System Seven counters for Napoleonic wargames are good examples of the blurring separaed by about 30 years of wargaming history. I would submit that the C&C designs are quite clearly of the "miniatures" style, whether played with such or not, despite the use of a grid. As a more extreme example, consider Charlie Sweet's Ancient wargame rule, or my own, partially derivative "Legio Quaternarius" rules. The use of a grid in integral to both... but there is stand or casualty marking/removal, and.... shooting catapults! I don't see who that could be called a non miniatures game! Many other blurry examples abound, like the Pikette Squared adaptation of the simple set in my own Band of Brothers (Piquet - 1200 -1600) rules.

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    1. Marco's definition has me pondering the way I previously defined the hobby. Nearly 40 years ago, I too, was introduced to GDW's System 7 Napoleonics. We played many a good game using the cardboard counters upon a continuous playing surface. I still recall a great refight of Coa in the Peninsular War. Was that boardgaming or miniatures gaming? Remember Milton Bradley's venerable boardgame, "Dogfight?" I played that non-stop as a youngster. Played upon a grid with miniatures, was that a miniatures or board game?

      Since GDW's System 7 won the H.G. Wells Award for Best New Miniatures in '79, my guess is that it was miniatures gaming despite the howls from many. Though played out under a continuous structure, it would fit into Marco's definition as miniatures gaming even though the playing pieces were two-dimensional cardboard.

      To me, C&C seems to be a miniatures game even though played on a grid. As noted below in my response to Soren, discrete or continuous design is simply a method for laying structure into a gaming endeavor. Both can have advantages and disadvantages. In some situations one might be preferred but both are viable means of reaching a conclusion.

      For me, I enjoy both methods for governing a game and consider both as miniatures gaming. Marco’s review has provided a catalyst for more thought as the lines between the two are beginning to appear fuzzy to my aging eyes.

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    2. It was System 7 winning the award for Best "Miniatures" from ? GAMA in the 1980's that lead to the formation of HMGS, and the first Pennsylvania conventions dedicated (semi) exclusively to Historical Miniature Wargaming, which became Historicon, then Fall in and Cold Wars. That happen ed at the nadir of my wargaming activity, during Residency training, marriage, starting a practice, and being on call 24/7 for three years straight.

      While I think it would be fair to term a continuous playing surface as a "miniatures - style" game, it is clear that there is far more nuanced than that. I would simply call that "gridded" vs "non gridded" playing areas. Of course, then there is area movement (like Risk), Horizon Movement, and so on. I would say that variable terrain is another key feature of Miniatures type games (which CC has, and the (very miniatures like) board game Squad leader has through multiple geomorphic boards).

      Definitely more grist for what is now looking to be a rather lengthy series of blog posts on our Hobby in general!

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  3. Interesting observation - We've had that discussion here at the wargaming society in Stockholm. There is a faction playing a lot of hex based games, while another group plays mainly what is referred to as "continuous systems". I think both approaches hold merit, and in many ways cater to different gaming experiences. The smaller format; board games with miniatures and up to coffee table format games, seems to work really well in hex, while if you're replaying a big multi-based ACW game in 28, hexes would just be too "mechanical" to give a natural troop movement pattern on the larger table.

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    1. I enjoy both methods: discrete and continuous. Before Marco's review, I had no consideration that the hobby could be bifurcated in that manner. To me, play using a discrete (grid-based) model with miniatures is still miniature gaming. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Each provide useful avenues for replaying historical battles.

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  4. I will need to watch that when I get a moment. It sounds interesting.

    Christopher

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  5. Marco is a top class reviewer. Always worth listening to (or watching, as the case may be!).

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    1. Agreed! His boardgame reviews are always first rate.

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  6. I'm not sure I buy the definition as he sets it out, but certainly a thought provoking review.

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    1. Not sure I buy that bifurcation either.

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    2. As one might infer from my above comments, I don't, BUT it is certainly a valid and very interesting point for discussion and analysis.

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