Just Do It…


Last week I posted a quick video on a # of topics. Primarily I was encouraging folks to push the counters, play the game (well ok and letting you know I was not going to be doing personal email rules support! ). Grasping the mechanics of the game can often best be achieved by just doing it! That is assuming we have given the rules a good read, and thought about the situation at hand!

For example in Boots on the Ground – A bad guy can run right around you and shoot you in the back! Realistic? No. Accurate rule read yes.. Likely time for a house rule or worse!

Impetuousness and Ferocity impact on Warriors fighting the Romans in Great Battles of History, they are allowed a bonus on Morale checks, ok that makes sense from what we know! Most of the time rules will make sense, be intuitive. Sometimes not.

World at War, Soviet command and control in the 1980’s really was not as flexible (as far as we know) as the US/NATO forces, so 2 command chits for NATO, versus one for Soviets..ok! Sounds reasonable.

Now, does this mean we setup some monster game and just play….maybe, but that is not my approach. Where possible I want to learn from AARs, vblogs, rules questions etc as well as read the rules before I play.

It is easy for us to procrastinate on a new system however!  Sorting counters, clipping, highlighting, scanning…endless often valuable delays! BUT DELAYS!

When I approach a monster it is just like a Knight approaching the Dragon to slay it.

Boldy, but with good recon and knowledge of my weapons and a lot of bravado to get me thru it!

Recently I had the opportunity to ‘coach’ not teach a new player on the World at War System from Lock’N Load Games.  After a one or two turns my opponent, said ” This is great, I can focus on the strategy and the tactics of the game! Not the rules system”

I had a similar experience being taught Operation Shingle! Great systems making learning a game that much easier.

So that would bring us to WHEN! When do we start to take seriously what to do and how to do it in the context of playing the games with suitable or even good tactics and strategies?

Strategic, Operational and Tactical level games are what we play. Your approach to a given title is first off going to be driven by scale, then by era and conflict represented.

If you are playing a game like The Russian Campaign, (TRC) you are playing strategic level game, and your goals are usually then tied to geographic elements or perhaps a political goal within a given time frame. You will then employ discrete tactics in the game to achieve your ultimate objective. That will drive your choices of who to move, what to do and when to do it.

When you look at the tools you have, you form a plan on how best to tackle the objective with the tools you have to overcome the tools your opponent has.  Yes… a bit glib, but here is the point, that is just half of the story. The other key thing lots of newer and even seasoned players forget is to look at all of these objectives, Victory Point tallies, Victory hexes, and Victory conditions from within the framework of the games mechanics.

Que? What I mean is, if my objective is to capture Moscow for an auto victory, in say TRC, I have a limited number of turns to achieve that prior to the game flooding the board with historical arrival of forces to save Soviet Russia, and winter setting in.

BUT, the game attempts to model the German Blitzkrieg, with aggressive air and 2 moves per turn cycle for mechanized units!  How do you take advantage of that? How do you use air, movement, combat and supply to your advantage? That is where your strategy and tactics begin to be tied to the game system, or mechanics. The rules you now know will guide your actions correctly within the spirit and intent of the game designer.

That is the time you begin to transition from working thru the rules on a how to basis, to a what if basis. Will the system support this idea or that stratagem?

The same applies at a tactical level, in some games even more so! The approach to winning a scenarios goals for a given side are going to be driven by the rules. Attempting to storm the  bunker in ASL, LNL or Combat commander are 3 very different experiences and 3 very different set of rules. These games all model different aspects of their view of the reality of combat at the squad level.

Great game systems are going to allow you to use tactics and approaches that were or could be used in real life if they are good games. Or at least approximations of those tactics. The games mechanics will encourage suppressing your enemy prior to assault, popping smoke, the use of hand grenades, bloody melee results and the mayhem of command in fluid situations!

Getting to those decision points above in any game are part of the vision of the designers intent. I love experiencing how designers ‘saw’ in thier minds eye the battles represented unfold based upon their research. The narrative usually flows really well from such designs

Which rolls us to WHY. Why is the actions I am undertaking important? Why do I feel like this is un realistic or stupid or awkward or WRONG! Ask why, versus second guessing yourself. Why does that ATGM run out of ammo? Why can’t that Tanks company over run those dudes across the river? If you understand the era, then understanding some basics will guide you. The ATGM does not run out of ammo unless it gets ALL hits versus no hits! (we changed the rule from all hits to no hits for World at War…it felt right), Those Tanks cannot cross the river! They cannot ‘swim’.

What to do When it all goes wrong?

The good news is it really likely does not matter. In a short game you can reset! In a long game unless it is a catastrophic error, it will come out in the wash over time. In fact, I have way too many examples of me and the OCS system coming to blows over missing a ‘factor’ on an attack, then go back rehash it, only to find that the result was identical or darn close to it!

So for all the veterans out there, what are your tricks to getting off the mark on a new game or a new system? How do you approach “getting started”?

6 thoughts on “Just Do It…

  1. I’ve never tried to learn a game by watching videos or reading AARs as it’s a process that just doesn’t work for me. Same deal when it comes to having others try to teach me a game – I just don’t learn that way. I’m one that will check rules during play, even when an opponent knows the answer to what I’m looking up. It’s not that I don’t trust my opponent, it’s that I NEED to read the rule in order for it to stick in my mind.

    Now someone teaching me how to use the rules, as in proper techniques that one can use in order to meet certain goals (like your storming a bunker example) is useful, although I generally like to figure things like that out myself. Most of my enjoyment from playing games of any type is figuring out the little puzzles that are presented during play.

    My process for learning games with longer rulesets (over 16 or so pages) consists of reading through the rules once, coming back a few days later and reading them again, and then setting up a small scenario to play where I read through necessary rules yet again while playing. I’ve rarely played a game with an opponent that I haven’t at least stepped through a little bit solo as I don’t like going into games completely blind.

  2. Coming to the same place as JK. Also, I think this is one thing that appeals about shorter tactical games.if I screw up a rule too bad, it won’t be a huge deal to set up and play again.

    1. yes, but by the same token it is amazing that over the course of a game mistakes here and there in the long run – i.e. DAK2 100 odd turns it all evens out.

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