This topic just rumbles on and on, but unfortunately the arguments have grown stale. All I’m hearing is the same tired points again and again, and I’ve refuted them repeatedly already.
It is still obvious to me that allowing pre-measuring enables certain people to be almost unbeatable, and removes a raft of characterful and appropriate uncertainty to your (pretend) general’s role. Quite apart form the loss of story.
I am entirely aware that some folk do not agree, and that’s fine. However, telling me I am wrong without any actual reasoning will not convince me. If you think I should change my tune then you’ll have to come up with some evidence and reasoned argument rather than just emotive language. I’m quite capable of revising my position on things if someone can explain why I should.
But let’s try again to step back a little and look at the arguments in a bit more of a rational light – acknowledging that we have come to a sort of religion versus rationalism point in the debate. Firstly, I’d recommend that you re-read my original post as most of the core points are covered there.
Secondly, I’m going to take a comment from Kevin Wesselby that he posted to the end of the last DT article on pre-measuring. This is a fairly typical statement of the “pro” lobby’s arguments, and stands not just for Kevin, but for a number of comments and discussions I’ve had with folk.
Before I start, I’d like to say once again, that you should play whichever games you find suit you and your friends the best. This post is about design theory, as the title says, and theory and practice are not always the same thing. There are many other things that affect whether a game is worth playing, and whether it is perfectly designed or not comes some way down that list. And that assumes that I would know what perfect design was, which I don’t. However, I do have several decades of experience, and if you look at the reviews of my games they seldom have much criticism of the design, so I like to think that I’ve got a reasonable understanding of the basics as well as the arguments for and against.
Anyway, back to my stalking horse. Kevin’s comment is in italics, and is reprinted here in full. I’ve interpolated my comments in red.
Kevin: I believe a good wargame should JUST focus on the intellectual decisions of the players representatives. That’s why we have specified distances and % chance of success.
Jake: Well you obviously include luck as well as intellectual decisions because you mention % chance of success. If it was to JUST focus on intellectual decisions as you say then you would have no dice rolls, card draws or anything else uncertain or luck-based. In other words, you’d be playing something like chess with a fixed board, set armies and a fixed set of movements and attacks. If I want to play chess then I play chess. I play tabletop games on terrain and not on a gridded board for a different experience. Pre-measuring seems to me to be a way of trying to introduce some of a board game’s gridded board certainty into a game without a gridded board. Whilst there is often experimental value in moving elements across genres, I can’t see that this would be a good thing in general as it denies an essential feature of tabletop gaming as a whole.
Kevin: Guess range weapons just give unfair advantages to those people that are better at guessing ranges. (FACT)
Jake: Perhaps, though that is only half the story. You have conveniently forgotten to say that pre-measuring gives an unfair advantage to those people that are better at geometry (FACT). And anyway, is this “unfair” in either case?
Kevin: Can I ask for all close combat resolution to be ‘arm wrestle your opponent?’As having a good arm I could use this as my advantage to cancel out your ability to guess ranges better than me! (lol)
Jake: you could ask
Kevin: I prefer rule sets that ‘level the playing field.’
Jake: so do I. We just define that differently.
Kevin: Wargaming is an intellectual pursuit, totally devoid of the physical trauma of warfare. And therefore physical skills should not really be utilised (apart from rolling light plastic dice, and moving miniatures.)
Jake: well that’s your opinion, not a fact. Whilst you are right that wargaming is an intellectual pursuit, I can’t see that guessing a range is anything but an intellectual skill. It’s certainly not a physical one unless I’m using parts of my body as rulers (which is generally frowned upon). So you seem to be arguing against yourself.
Kevin: As already said dice rolls can generate the ‘randomness’.(EG roll for scatter/malfunction.) So why do you want to put in a resolution method that IS unbalancing and makes accurate costing impossible?
How do you cost a guess range weapon/unit accurately?
Jake: again, you just use emotive language without actually dealing with the issues. The why is discussed in the original article and above. In terms of accurate costing, guessing ranges is not the main problem here, though it is related to it. The most difficult thing to cost in a points system is the fact (or should that be FACT) that different players, with different skill and experience, get more or less value out of the same unit. Units are also more or less effective against other armies, or more accurately against certain builds of certain armies. So how do I point a unit? Against a better player, a worse one, one with more experience or one who has built his army to nullify these troops a given unit will be worth more or less. Guessing ranges is the least of your worries.
Kevin: And WHY artificially restrict the gamers with poor range guessing skills to non guess range weapons/units?
Jake: if people want to limit themselves then that’s their decision. I’ve not yet met anyone (without a medical condition such as dyscalcula) who couldn’t improve their skill at estimating ranges once they gave themselves a few minutes to practice. I have met plenty of people who said they couldn’t do it until we got some models on the table and had them spend 10 minutes doing it (whereupon they suddenly could).
I think that what is happening here is simple.
The game-breaking and unpleasant experience of playing against people who are very good at geometry in games that allow pre-measuring is not common. When you’ve had that experience I can guarantee you won’t be a proponent of the concept. It reduces a game to a maths lesson, entirely free of story and fun. One side simply has zero chance.
Far more common than this is the situation of someone giving up before they try with guessing ranges. Perhaps it’s the spectre of failure, as I suggested before. Perhaps I’m wrong and there’s something else going on, but there are far more people claiming to be bad at guessing than really are. And I say that based on having run hundreds of demo games, and seen this happen many times. Once people get over this initial hump and just get on with it then they are fine.
(Incidentally, the reason they are fine is that being able to estimate a simple distance is a hard-wired survival skill for humans, whereas geometry is not.)
The reason for this situation is that games that do not allow pre-measuring require you to confront this often. Typically you will need to estimate a range as soon as you want to make a charge or shoot an enemy. Pre-measuring games, on the other hand, hide the real strength of that feature away. The vast majority of people I see playing games that allow pre-measuring seldom use it, and few explore its real potential. Whether this is because they are unfamiliar, complacent or simply fail to realise the advantages they are passing up, I don’t know. Whatever the cause, the irony is that many games that allow pre-measuring are played out as if they didn’t simply because the players don’t use it.