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  #1  
Old 28 Jul 08, 08:50
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Dicey Situations - Are we losing our tactical edge?

Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a rise in "diceyness" when it comes to our board games. I remember the Avalon Hill style of games, where you rolled one dice or, in the game of Kriegspiel, none at all. The games were 90% strategy and 10% luck.

These days it doesn't seem to be the case.

My realization came from playing Settlers of Cataan. I found myself hating the game and looking at my watch because there was absolutely no strategy in the whole game. Everything was beholden to the dice and card deck. Resources were dictated by dice and actions were dictated by resources. No resources no action. We spent over an hour playing the game where no one rolled any resource we had use for. There was no cranial sweat, you just waited until you had something you could use and then used it. No planning, no tactics, just along for the ride.

It's not an isolated condition.

Axis & Allies Miniatures, while very entertaining, has a suffocating number of dice. And these dice more than your battle formations will determine who wins. Tiger Tank, point blank range, Sherman in my sights. 1s, 2s, and 3s. Total miss! Nice shot Oedipus! Meanwhile the Sherman cuts lose and desintigrates the frontal armor of my tank. Tiger kills from the front? Not unless you're flying a Thunderbolt!

I'm not a dice lover. I like to win or lose based on my skill. Any fool can blunder to victory when the dice always come up 6. The real test is when you can win without the aid of the D&D gods. And as games seem to be getting more and more dice dependent, it makes me wonder, our we losing our tactical edge? Is the reason for increased diceyness becuase the modern gamer prefers chance to brain power?
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  #2  
Old 28 Jul 08, 13:11
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The only two non military boardgames I play are Talisman and Carcassone - and those only every few months. You may want to take a look at a game like Carcassone. It's another 'German Game' like Settlers of Catan but there are no dice. There is randomness because you pull a tile to place but it is up to you where you place it and everything else in the game is how you play on the semi-randomised board.

I disagree about the old AH games being 90% strategy. Many of them, such as Waterloo and PanzerBlitz, you know who is going to win before the game begins because the balance is poor and your most important skill is knowing how to take advantage of the rules.

You could go back to your roots though. Pick up one of the new wargames that is available. There are quite a few coming out these days. I've always wanted to try Mark Walker's stuff but I have enough trouble finding time to play ASL - which I haven't at all in 2008.
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Old 29 Jul 08, 12:49
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Originally Posted by Duncan View Post
I disagree about the old AH games being 90% strategy. Many of them, such as Waterloo and PanzerBlitz, you know who is going to win before the game begins because the balance is poor and your most important skill is knowing how to take advantage of the rules.
I'll give you PanzerBlitz and Panzer Commander as well. The scenarios did tend to be imbalanced. In Panzer Commander I thing they way overestimated the capabilities of German Infantry and exagerated the benefit of holing up in a city but that's another debate.

I like A&A's point system as a way of acheiving balance. The game itself is entertaining and I've been customizing to rules to minimize dice tossing. But Cataan was the last straw. I couldn't stand that game.
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Old 30 Jul 08, 23:48
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There was much of this in the original Squad Leader as well. I recall playing a game with a friend in Korea while on DMZ duty. He charged right up the street with his Russian squads straight at my German HMG's. I rolled the dice, and missed.

Completely.

Twice.

You had to wonder if those imaginary Russians on the cardboard counter were standing around checking themselves for holes, ala the two hitmen in Pulp Fiction, before they greesed my HMG's.
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Old 31 Jul 08, 01:18
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Originally Posted by Martok View Post
There was much of this in the original Squad Leader as well. I recall playing a game with a friend in Korea while on DMZ duty. He charged right up the street with his Russian squads straight at my German HMG's. I rolled the dice, and missed.

Completely.

Twice.

You had to wonder if those imaginary Russians on the cardboard counter were standing around checking themselves for holes, ala the two hitmen in Pulp Fiction, before they greesed my HMG's.
It's always funny when you play ASL all day and the game comes down to one die roll. I have on occasion said - "Why didn't we just flip a coin eight hours ago?"

I've had two particularly funny games. The first I was losing bad. Then my sniper goes waltzing across the map destroying everything in his path for two turns. I still lost but it turned into a close run thing. The second was when my Germans needed to cross open ground with US MG and mortar holding a key corner. No bloody hope. The MG fire created a beserker and he ran right over wiping out both positions. I win! It only takes one heroic episode to turn the battle sometimes.
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Old 31 Jul 08, 23:20
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I forget who posted it (Think it was from RPG.net) but its a quote that I've had saved for a while now:
"Between dice, stats and rules, in a typical roleplaying/board game, A Marine infantry fire team has equally good odds of shooting each other in the back, everyone's rifles jamming, grenades exploding inside the M203s, everyone missing the one terrorist in the room at 10-foot ranges, or hitting him in the chest without hurting him."
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Old 01 Aug 08, 15:53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan View Post
The only two non military boardgames I play are Talisman and Carcassone - and those only every few months. You may want to take a look at a game like Carcassone. It's another 'German Game' like Settlers of Catan but there are no dice. There is randomness because you pull a tile to place but it is up to you where you place it and everything else in the game is how you play on the semi-randomised board.
I see what you mean by "German Game". I recently got two games originally made in Germany and both of them are zero bloodshed.

And one of them involves Vikings for crying out loud! With Viking boats you can "threaten" a noble. Threaten? THREATEN?! No burning, no pillaging, threatening?

I know things got a little crazy between 1870 and 1945 but does that mean your board games have to be pacifist? Rio Grande Games needs a visit from Mr. T.
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Old 01 Aug 08, 16:07
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I think dice in boardsgames are little bit there to make it easier to play balance a game. By adding a randomness to the game the developer does not have to be quite as good at play balance

Balancing a boardgame is different then balancing computers games. Even ASL in it hayday was not playtested after development more then a few dozen times before it was released. It is not unusual for a computer game to be playtested tens or even hundreds of thousands of times before release.
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Old 05 Sep 08, 15:39
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Cool 'bloodless' games...

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Originally Posted by pirateship1982 View Post
I see what you mean by "German Game". I recently got two games originally made in Germany and both of them are zero bloodshed.

If you look closely, it's not just lack of bloodshed, it's lack of elimination mechanics altogether - all the players are in the game until the end.

That's a cultural issue, but not the one you think. It's not about shying from bloodshed, but keeping the players together throughout the game.

Think about "Risk". You and 4 friends start playing at 8pm. The red player is knocked out on turn 5, about 845pm. What does he do while the other 4 of you finish the game around 11pm? Watch TV? He could do that at home. If everyone's still playing 'til the end, the family is all still around the table. Even if you can't win, your play will likely affect who does, and that keeps everyone together on 'game night.'
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Old 05 Sep 08, 20:59
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I disagree about the old AH games being 90% strategy. Many of them, such as Waterloo and PanzerBlitz, you know who is going to win before the game begins because the balance is poor and your most important skill is knowing how to take advantage of the rules.
This is true of many AH's and other publisher's simpler games. Most had zero depth and as you said play balance was poor. Athough I enjoyed playing Caeser Alesia I think the game is representative of your statements. No skill needed you played until one side or the other, usually the Gallic player, made a mistake. Tobruk was another.

OTOH some games required thinking. Air Assault on Crete was a tough nut as the German player. This game a great tactical brain exercise.

Before buying a game back then I would study the CRT. Spending time considering the table told me if I would enjoy the game and if the designer had spent time developing game mechanics.
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Old 28 Sep 08, 17:35
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Originally Posted by Duncan View Post
It's always funny when you play ASL all day and the game comes down to one die roll. I have on occasion said - "Why didn't we just flip a coin eight hours ago?"

I've had two particularly funny games. The first I was losing bad. Then my sniper goes waltzing across the map destroying everything in his path for two turns. I still lost but it turned into a close run thing. The second was when my Germans needed to cross open ground with US MG and mortar holding a key corner. No bloody hope. The MG fire created a beserker and he ran right over wiping out both positions. I win! It only takes one heroic episode to turn the battle sometimes.
That's why I gravitated towards The Gamers' TCS system - historical maps of the area and your people don't move without orders (in most cases, they begin with orders in place) so, you don't have anomalies like the sniper incident you describe above;
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Old 06 Oct 08, 21:45
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"historical maps of the area and your people don't move without orders"

Hmmm....

Wonder how that would affect a game on Gettysburg. Say, day two?
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Old 06 Oct 08, 22:52
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Originally Posted by Martok View Post
"historical maps of the area and your people don't move without orders"

Hmmm....

Wonder how that would affect a game on Gettysburg. Say, day two?
Martok,

I've played both the regimental level and brigade level games from this company of not only Gettysburg, but Chickamauga, Shiloh and South Mountain. They are excellent games and simulations.

In most cases the players begin with the historic orders in place. Changing orders to get subordinate generals to do what you want is tricky (an effort to show friction on the commanding generals' designs). Actually, I wrote an article about this system on this site named "Anatomy of a Game System". I don't know if it is available to read anymore.

The Civil War systems differ from the WWII system in terms of scale and the way orders are written (the WWII orders conveyance system is more graphic, the ACW system is a matter of simply writing orders, i.e., take your corps and attack LRT.) There is even the possibility of a "loose cannon" order dice roll result a la our buddy Dan Sickles. The ACW regimental system is 110 yds to the hexagon and the ACW brigade system is 200 yds to the hex. The WWII system has platoon level units and 125 yards to the hex. There is also an offshoot of this general system for Napoleonics.
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Old 08 Oct 08, 14:12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martok View Post
There was much of this in the original Squad Leader as well. I recall playing a game with a friend in Korea while on DMZ duty. He charged right up the street with his Russian squads straight at my German HMG's. I rolled the dice, and missed.

Completely.

Twice.

You had to wonder if those imaginary Russians on the cardboard counter were standing around checking themselves for holes, ala the two hitmen in Pulp Fiction, before they greesed my HMG's.
Yes. I remember these types of 'issues', though I usually was bolted hull down in something like a Tiger for safety. But there sure were occasions when I had to wonder whether those commies walking on water had got religion.

Acquire (AH) seems pretty good if you've a mind for it.
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