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MapSymb Logo Wargame Developments Doctrine
"We want to make games that are playable as well as realistic, and we want to understand why."

Contents Introduction

Wargames used to consist, in the main, of two types: The tabletop game played with toy soldiers and using one of several sets of commercial rules representing warfare in a specific period; and the board-game, played on a gridded map with cardboard counters representing variations on specific battles. Both types of game offered the players an unrealistic god-like overview of the actions and effectiveness of the forces represented and an outrageous level of control over them. Some wargame designers recognised these shortcomings in their games but, at the same time, realised that commercial reality meant that they were forced to produce games to be played between only two players, using rules that were written so as to be as unambiguous as possible. This led to games and rulebooks that were needlessly complex and focused on factors that, in reality, were very different to those by which battles were really lost and won.

These two types of game also produced in their players a dependence on their style of design. The toy soldier gamer was bombarded on every side by commercial publications into investing time, money and effort into producing highly detailed models. This made him naturally reluctant to consider any games that were not merely variations on existing game designs. The board-gamer was forced by the fact that each game represented only the variations on a single battle, or campaign, or style of play, and the fact that preparation of his own maps and counters was technically beyond the capabilities of all save the most dedicated, into simply purchasing more new games in the fields in which he was most interested.

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Realism versus Playability

Over a number of years there were developments within these games, leading to a debate within the hobby known as "Realism vs Playability". In this it was observed that rules that took into account more and more factors that the game designers thought were relevant to the tactical battle, became bogged-down in technical detail and difficult to play. It was assumed that the mere inclusion of more detail into the game mechanisms made the game somehow more realistic, and yet some of the most basic unreality's of the situation - like the player's god-like overview of the battlefield - were completely ignored. This debate also implied that games that were simple, playable and fun, were somehow frivolous and childish; whereas complicated, lengthy and inherently tedious games were serious and more adult in their approach.

Both types of game also produced unfortunate side-effects. The nature of toy soldiers led to an entire sub-class of commercial production dedicated to visual and technical information, such as uniform details, weapon characteristics, and unit insignia. Board-games, with their regular grids and precise positioning, produced extraordinary articles analysing in minute and tedious detail exactly the best way to win a particular game. These side-effects tended to focus attention away from any real historical understanding of the conflicts the games were supposed to be representing.

This is not to say, however, that all the games were hopelessly flawed. Within the commercial limitations of the game design, vast ingenuity has been shown time and again, and with some success, in attempts to overcome the inherent difficulties of the two-player face-to-face format.

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Wargame Developments

Wargame Developments is a loose association of like-minded individuals that exists to provide a link between those interested in developing and expanding the boundaries of the hobby. As an organisation it has no collective opinion, only the individual opinions of its members. It is also very firmly a non-commercial, non-profit making organisation within itself, as it is believed that only in such an environment will there be the free and frank exchange of concepts and ideas necessary for the sort of innovations we are looking for.

Wargame Developments represents the "blue-sky" research division of a small faction of the wargaming hobby. Its experiments are sometimes impractical, flawed or downright strange; on other occasions, however, it produces moments of insight and genuine fun unattainable elsewhere. Everything it does, however, is original and free for its members - in WD we don't pay to play the game - because we make our own rules.

This does not mean, as individuals, we do not play commercial games or sell the games that we have developed. Experimental work may be exciting, but it is sometimes unreliable, and even the most dedicated of us likes to play the occasional game that is a known quantity. When we have finished developing a design that is successful, individual members quite often sell their games - it is useful, when facing accusations that all our work is impractical, to be able to point to an article in one of the commercial magazines, or a game on the shelf of the hobby store - and of course the money comes in helpful. Furthermore, we don't dismiss games simply because they have been published commercially - within the limitations of a format acceptable to the market-place there may be new and valuable ways of solving problems that could be useful in other fields - we just don't play them at our annual conference or as "WD" at a games convention. The conference and the pages of the Nugget are for developments in wargaming - not painting guides, equipment statistics, or explanations on how to win at PanzerBlitz every time.

In other words, we are wargamers who like to think we have managed to break out of the straight-jacket of the commercial game format and broaden our horizons. In Wargame Developments we want to play wargames that are realistic as well as playable, and understand why. We believe that there is the capability within most wargamers to produce their own games, that are more realistic and fun than the majority of commercial products available.

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