Design Theory: Pre-measuring Revisited

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.

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60 Responses to Design Theory: Pre-measuring Revisited

  1. Sami Mahmoud says:

    For me the conversation is incomplete, because the use of pre-measuring in part or all of a game is dependent upon the other mechanics in the game. I’ll give some examples.

    Warhammer War Machines: it made zero sense for these to be guess range. All other shooting’s effectiveness is determined by the crew’s statline, the rulebook even explains that’s what the statline represents, To have one class of models not be treated consistently with the rest of the game is completely illogical.

    KoW Movement: now because charges are not random, this is akin to chess IMO, and quite dull. Add in racial movement, and it makes the game fairly predictable in terms of who will charge who.

    Warhammer Movement: well since this has random charges, the comparison to chess falls down. Having played in the Warhammer Doubles tournament at the weekend before last, including against the current Throne of Skulls champion, I’d certainly treat the last statement about people dismissing pre-measuring even though it’s in the rules as wildly anecdotal at best.and given some of the (valid IMO) criticisms levelled at Kevin’s post, a little bit naughty 😉

    I think the first example illustrates my point the best.- the [i]effectiveness[/i] (“why”) of models in the game should be determined by a combination of rolling dice and the models statlines. The player component should be deciding [i]how[/i] we use the models. Certainly for shooting the division there is clear. Is being able to eyeball 1/8″ a why or a how? To me it’s not a how. Choosing to place a unit in a certain position to effectively match up against one or more elements of an opposing army is a why.

    Even then it depends on the game rules. The pre-8th Ed Warhammer charge and combat rules were a) fairly rubbish and b) made getting the 1/8″ shuffle the key determining factor in the game, so in that particular context I’m not remotely surprised that people are totally turned off by the concept. I played High Elf all cavalry so it rarely affected me, but when I realised the game was really just down to “eyeballing the eighth” I stopped way before the unholy trio of army books broke 7th Ed because a game where it’s all stacked on that guess is boring.

    Also, in real life missile units took ranging shots in the opening stages of a battle so they had fairly good ideas about what the ranges were, and in sci-fi games technology for most factions should be sufficient to be more than equivalent to that.

    I’d also bring back the point about [i]game[/i] vs [i]simulation[/i]. If something is meant to be a “game” then it should be fluid and accessible, and IMO guess ranging is neither.

    (If this argument is not entirely coherent I apologise, I’ve basically just got up 😉 )

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m catching up here after the Gods of Pre-measuring struck me down with the plague shortly after writing this, so this may be covered by someone later.

      Oh, and don’t worry about coherence – it’s no worse than my rambles 🙂


      This article isn’t really about any game specifically, though you are right to use examples. My thinking here is mainly of the principle of pre-measuring as an abstract design concept. As with any other theoretical argument, once it reaches application it is modified in a number of ways so that you get the spectrum from KOW’s pure approach to pre-measuring to Warhammer’s partly mitigated, and so on.

      The inconsistency of the rules in Warhammer sounds a little silly on the face of it. However, you have to remember that the same kind of situation (breaking a rule convention for a single unit type) is also how we get most rules that would be called characterful for breaking the mould. Whether this is appropriate in this instance I can’t say.

      In real life missile units do take ranging shots, and this happens in games where guess ranges happen too. It doesn’t happen with pure pre-measuring. If the target remains still then subsequent shots are more accurate; if they move then less so. Having to guess mirrors what really happens very well. All this is lost when you can pre-measure. In modern warfare the technology exists in theory, but most first hand accounts of modern warfare comment on the constant failure of equipment, lack of supplies at the appropriate place and time and general having to make do-ness of the whole thing. I’m thinking here of WWII, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan accounts mainly from ground troops but also form helicopter pilots and so on. As the reasons for these failures are human as much as technical, I see no reason to believe that the far future will be that much better organised. It’s an argument that is trotted out repeatedly, but which I find plenty of evidence against and little first hand account support for (as a consistent combat effect).

      I agree entirely that a game should be fluid and accessible, and mostly that that should be true for a simulation too (unless you’re simulating something dull and sluggish). However, I personally find that guess range games encourage both fluidity and accessibility and so am 180 degrees different to you in my conclusion.

  2. *sign* This old chestnut again. Jake you know where I stand on the debate, and it’s probably right next to you on the battlefield defending none pre-measuring games. I’m just not necessarily as fervent as you.

    I am though, as you know Mr Geometry guy when it comes to pre-measuring. In Hordes and Warmachine my Casters range is measured as often as I like and I use it to help me gauge stuff. Much to the annoyance of my opponents, who are free to do the same, but never do.

    People round here refuse to play me at KoW because of my apparently over zealous use of pre-measuring. I have to admit I can’t be much fun to play against in that game. But as you know I’m not 100% against pre-measuring.

    That is as long as there is an element of fog to it all and that there is some unknown quantity to manage… and that the game remains consistent in this. WFB 8th Ed is not, and it is that that really irks me about it, oh yeah and the dumb ass magic phase!

    Just to play devils advocate though here. You say that it’s a natural hardwired skill innate to almost all humans to be able to judge distances and ranges, and you’re right. So isn’t pre-measuring just a mechanism for accurately modelling an innate human skill at a smaller scale?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I agree that in practice, there’s no reason why a rule set is bad just because it uses pre-measuring. The problems come with the certainty and that when people utilise this rule to its fullest (as you do) it breaks the game.

      I was going to change that last sentence – “breaks” is harsh – but that’s really what happens. If one player can use this geometry well then the other player has no chance at all when there is no randomness. It just isn’t fun. As I’ve said before, if neither player is using this then it doesn’t matter, but then that’s true of every rule.

      @ devil’s advocate: If pre-measuring is a mechanism for modelling a human’s ability to guess ranges then it’s an inaccurate and rather poor model. Humans are fallible, can get their guess wrong, and you can’t get pre-measuring wrong (at least, I shall assume that people can read a ruler). Also, why introduce a model of a system that you already have standing next to the table in the form of a human? Isn’t guessing a distance that is in front of them the simplest way to model guessing a distance in front of them?

  3. Hello again.
    Sorry if my previous post was not that well structured.

    If your argument for not measuring is the use of goemetry to gain unfair advantages with pre measuring.At least BOTH players have acess to the same data.
    The same geometry is used with guessing ranges isnt it?Except there is more ‘elastic’ method of measuring..
    What I mean is those LOOKING at terrain features , and remembering previous movement distances , use this raw data to guess the gemoetric ralation ship and distances between units on the table.(Subliminal geometric calculations!)
    Others sort of remember sighting points , lengths of thier own hands/arms, etc to help them guess, more accuratley.

    So in effect gamers playing both types of games are measuring and using the same geometry, but some are NOT using a measuring tape, to ensure both players get the same acuracy of data..

    Guessing ranges is a skill. And I agree this improves with use like all other skills.(Like arm wrestling!Lol,)
    BUT , what does it bring to a game, but adding a skill that is unesisary* to the game.
    (In the fact thier are lots of great games that use pre-measurment.*)

    I personaly belive that ‘guessing ranges’ is best emplyed as a ‘oponents concent’ aditional option.

    So those gamers that like it CAN use it if they want to .
    But those that dont like it are not forced to restrict thier game chioces , becuase its is a compulsory part of the game structure.

    Calculation comparative values from fixed data is easier than those from variable efficency curves.
    Thefore game ballance is easier to achive with pre-measureing.(And rules can be easier to define too.)

    Also if both players have the same acess to data in game, there is no need to ‘cheat’ to get an unfair advantage.(How much grief has thier been over acusations of using arms hands etc to measure lenghts on table…)

    So guess ranges are fine if both players agree to use them as a test of thier comparative range guessing skill.
    Other wise they could cause problems with game balance and sportsmanship. (If the gamers with the ‘wrong mind set’ for the rules plays the game.)

    Not very eloquent , but I hope you understand the points I was trying to make.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hi Kevin, you raise some good points. I don’t agree with them all, but they’re worth discussing.

      Sportsman ship and cheating. Agreeing on what constitutes cheating with regard to this subject is another emotive can of worms, and I’ve seen different gaming groups with radically different “ethical” stances. Also, cheats will cheat whatever rules you have so I don’t think that’s a relevant argument for or against any specific mechanic. The only suggestion I would have is never to go back and play a cheat a second time.

      Guessing ranges and geometry. The absolutely critical point here that you have ignored is that pre-measuring is infallible. This is the problem. The more complex your geometry based on guesswork, the less accurate it becomes until it fairly quickly reaches the point at which it is not worth calculating. In both pre-measuring and guess range games, both players have access to the same rules. However, guess range games are more even because no side has an inherent stat-based advantage: all units have to estimate the same way. In a pre-measuring game I can guarantee that my 9 move cavalry will charge your 8 move ones.

      Player choice. I entirely agree that players should choose whichever suits them best. That applies not just to their preferred measuring system, but also to anything else they choose to tweak.

      “Game balance is easier to achieve with pre-measuring”. Wrong. At least, I can’t see any reason for this to be true, especially as I m entirely convinced that it is an inherently unbalancing factor at higher levels of player skill. You’ll have to come up with some very good examples to support this. On the face of it I would suggest that, if anything, it is the other way around.

  4. bongoclive says:

    Not measuring before taking an action adds to the fog of war/break down of communication/use of initiative in the real world. War and battle are so full of near misses, last gasp endeavours or plain lunacy, that to think pre-measuring is a good idea seems strange, but does boil down to game vs simulation. Game = pre-measuring, simulation = guessing

    Those tank commanders, longbow men or musketeers got good at guessing range by practice, and I hope you can work out how you could improve your ability.

    @Frontline Gamer, do you not worry about people not wanting to play you because you’re killing their enjoyment?

    But this is all bye the bye anyway right? Surely there are enough games out there now that you can find whatever type of game you like?

    • DrBargle says:

      “Those tank commanders, longbow men or musketeers got good at guessing range by practice, and I hope you can work out how you could improve your ability.”

      Sure, but in a game, I put down a model that represents a tank commander, longbowman, or musketeer. I expect the soldier that he represents to be pretty good at his job, just as I don’t expect to have to be an indomintable spirit in the face of danger to field a dwarf army. If the ability to shoot is part of a model’s statline, it should matter. I know we’re going round in circles, but the sub-game of guessing ranges just reminds me of the way that artillery was handled in some early wargames, where the miniature cannons actually fired and knocked over Napoleonic troops to ‘kill’ them.

      • DrBargle says:

        What I meant to add was that I can also get better at swinging a longsword, slogging through mud, driving a tracked vehicle, etc. But I don’t expect a wargame to produce an abstracted simulation of those abilities.

    • Honestly no. I’m not that bad a person to play against. I’m no longer a tournament gamer and I mostly play people I like and my close friends nowadays. Every now and then I might get asked to play somebody for tournament prep, then my game face comes with me. Thing is Jake’s right, most people I’ve played KoW with don’t use the pre-measuring, same is true in WFB 8th Ed. However, because it’s a tool available to me you better be damn sure I’m using it!!!

      Personally though I’m mostly playing games that don’t allow pre-measuring. As I just prefer it that way. I’m also not entirely sure about the false dichotomy people are presenting with regards to mechanics being either simulation or game. Seems overly prescriptive to me and takes them out their context and into the abstract. Sorry not buying it, pre-measuring is just part of the picture and not including the rest of the data (rules) in the analysis just seems like a particularly stupid thing to do. I no wargamers like their binary arguments but this just seems a stretch too far for me.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I don’t agree with the game/simulation breakdown. As FG said, it’s too simplistic, and whilst it’s sometimes useful to break things down in an oversimplified way for clarity, I think this actually makes things muddier.

      As to there beiing enough games for you to always find one you like – perhaps. I’d add to that the notion that you should change the bits you don’t agree with if you find something that’s close. Guessing ranges or pre-measuring is a very easy thing to change in either direction, and I would urge players to do whichever they feel most comfortable with.

      What I’m talking about here is really a conceptual notion rather than a specific game. KOW is mentioned often because it is such a pure instance of pre-measuring and makes an excellent example that most people will recognise. However, my reasons for not playing it are based more on the fact that my own mass combat fantasy game is now available for pre-order and it would be very strange if I preferred Alessio’s game over the one I wrote for myself 🙂

  5. bongoclive says:

    Plus, I never played to win, I played to have fun, and I can tell you all about those near misses and last gasp actions which squeaked in, because they’re great stories.

  6. Ben says:

    Religion versus rationalism? Which side is which 😉

    I touched on this late on in a commont on the previous DT post on this but if your argument against pre-measuring rests on it being more “realistic” then there are many many things about tabletop wargames that are unrealistic and have to be to even remotely have a playable game. It ultimately comes down to what you’re prepared to live with.

    If I’m reading Jake’s comments right then root of his objection lies in a games design problem, namely that allowing pre-measuring means players capable and willing to take full advantage of it become close to unbeatable. This could be true, though it takes pre-measuring in a vacuum. It’s already been pointed out that WFB 8th ed has pre-measuting but random charge distances. More to the point it has a brutal magic phase which all the clever movement in the world will struggle to overcome.

    Having played WFB in the transition from 7th to 8th ed, myself and my regular gaming buddies have found the game to be a much smoother and more enjoyable experience. We don’t lay out tape measures here and there and utilise it to it’s fullest, but nor do we play as if it isn’t there either. To me, playing that way is no different to trying to break the army lists. Could I do that and greatly improve my chances of winning? Yes I could. Would I and my opponent enjoy the experience? No we wouldn’t. As Jake says, whatever works for you and this is what works for us.

    I’ll leave with an anecdote. I was down at the most recent Foundry open day with a few friends, two of which had never previously been there or played ToL. After each had been taught the rules they were left to get on with a game against each other. Partway through I noticed they were pre-measuring. I told them they weren’t allowed to do that so they stopped. It made zero difference to their enjoyment of the game either way.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You say that “it takes pre-measuring in a vacuum” which is sort of the intention of my post. It’s considering it as a tool within the design toolbox. As you say, I’ve been looking at it in its pure form, and games like Warhammer mitigate it somewhat by putting randomness on top, though oddly only in certain areas.

      You are right about the root of my objection. It’s the unbeatable players. And whilst the majority of people do not exploit the power of pre-measuring in this way, some do, especially at tournament level, and I think this is a problem. I don’t want to design a game which has this sort of unbalancing problem engineered into it from the start.

      Regarding your anecdote, I think this touches on a real problem: that many gamers think the rules (of any game) are Holy Writ. They aren’t, and what works for one group may not work for another. The rules as they are written say that pre-measuring is not allowed, true. But if both players agree then they can do whatever they like.

      And which side is which? I hadn’t even considered it until you said…

      • Ben says:

        I can understand the objection from a design theory point of view. I rarely play tournaments so it’d be interesting to see what effect pre-measuring has had on the WFB tournament scene these past couple of years. I expect top-end tournament players to break any system and don’t see pre-measuring as worse than breaking army lists though I stand to be corrected.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’ve not been involved in the Warhammer tourney scene for years so I can’t say about that. I’ve heard various things anecdotally about both disaster and triumph, though they mainly seem to support the idea that its current popularity is very patchy and where it still has a fan base it’s doing fine.

          Top end tourney players will always push the boundaries as they want to win. And that’s to be expected. The challenge for the designer is to ensure the minimum of opportunity for this naughtiness 😉

  7. I’m honestly not fussed one way or the other when it comes to games I play.

    When I was designing Skrapyard, I chose to allow pre-measuring for one big reason: it made the rules a hell of a lot easier to write and, ergo, easier to read as well. “You can always measure any distance at any time” is nice and clear and unambiguous. No one can be accused of cheating; no one needs to measure the exact distance between their elbow and their fingertip; no one can use a throwaway model/unit with a cheap ranged weapon to fire first and provide ranging for everyone else in their force. Rather than agonize over whether that target is or is not just in range, you can find out and then make an actual tactical decision.

    Having said that, I have enjoyed many games – such as Inquisitor and Infinity – in which finding that a target is ~just~ out of optimum range has provided a great deal of dramatic tension for both players. But I feel that this sort of narrative drama is suited to friendly, B&P games, perhaps with homemade scenarios or wild homebrew terrain rules, rather than to games that aspire to a “tight”, tournament-friendly rules-set.

    That doesn’t make guess-range games worse or even unworkable in a tournament (40k5, WFB7 and WM/H all make a decent fist of tournament play). But it does mean that incidences in which pre-measuring may occur in fact or in practice (such as the ranging shot) either have to be spelled out in the rules or tidied up in an FAQ. It makes it far easier for the player and designer to just draw a line: measure whatever you like, whenever you like.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      An interesting thought, though I’m not sure why the positive statement is more difficult to write than the negative. “You can’t measure” is as easy as “you can measure”. I played Warhammer from 1st to 6th edition as a guess range game during however many years that was and I can’t recall any specific instances of it being a problem in game.

  8. Guess range weapons just give unfair advantages to those people that are better at guessing ranges. (FACT)

    What?.. Like artillerymen, forward odservers and such? 🙂

  9. For my ten penneth, my interest in wargaming stems from a keen interest in military matters and having to deal with the kinds of problems that are faced under such circumstances, Decisions made by ‘real world’ commanders are never made with perfect information and so I personally want to have to make those calls and If i’m wrong I’ll live by them. (I do admit tho that 11 years in the cabinet making trade might have honed my ‘range guessing’ skills abit better than most 😉 )

    • Ben says:

      So do you do things like grab a group of people, assign a chain of command, spread them out over large distances and then give out orders and hope they carry them out? Do you isolate yourself so you can only see a small part of the battlefield and not from a top-down position? Wargames are so far removed from “real world” situations that pre-measuring makes no difference either way.

      And as an ancient historian, I can think of no account of an ancient battle which says something like “seeing the enemy in front of them, the unit charged but found itself just out of range”.

      • Yes but there are plenty of accounts of failed charges because they had too much ground to cover and the impact of the charge became sporadic, or they were shot to pieces. Just because real world battle reports don’t say and somebody rolled three 1’s to hit and totally fluffed their attacks doesn’t mean they didn’t screw up. Flippancy in discussions is never a good thing. I think you make a valid point in terms of wargames being an abstraction, but at what point that abstraction goes too far is clearly a very different thing for many different people.

        • Ben says:

          I wasn’t trying to be flippant, maybe it comes naturally lol.

          In comments both here and the original pre-measuring post I made the point that it isn’t about realism as much as it’s about what abstractions you’re prepared to live with. I would contest the point that pre-measuring makes wargaming “more abstract” or “less realistic”. Wargaming is already so abstract and unrealistic that it makes no difference either way. If a given player feels like a game is more realistic without pre-measuring then great but that’s just personal preference.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I agree entirely with the idea that gaming “realism” is about the abstractions you are prepared to live with.

          On the other hand, I’d disagree equally strongly with the idea that wargaming is “so abstract and unrealistic that it makes no difference either way”. I disagree for a couple of reasons:

          1) in any model of reality you have to accept certain limitations. You cannot model every factor as reality is too complex. This is true for the weather forecasts as much as gaming. By picking and choosing which areas you will focus on and which you will abstract or ignore you are able to illuminate certain facets of a period or problem. Again, this is true for climate change simulations, and so on as well as gaming. It’s related to all manner of real world applications such as market research and so on as well as obvious simulations. In gaming terms, I think it is important to decide (when you start the process) the things that you are going to model and the position the player will be in. Are you wanting to model a particular level of command and a specific type of command decision? If so, then choose your rules accordingly. I find guessing ranges to be a very simple way to easily model a variety of uncertainties into a players/commander’s position. This gives them “realistic” tactical choices to make which are absent when pre-measuring is allowed. Insert what FG said about charges here.

          2) my real objection to pre-measuring has little to do with realism. My comments on that are mainly pushing back against those that suggest that being able to pre-measure is more realistic because either longbowmen know their range or modern troops have rangefinders. Neither of these arguments is borne out by first hand accounts of battles, ancient or modern. All are littered with the concept of people finding the range by trial and error – by ranging shots – within the context of the battle – not by inherent abilities or equipment beforehand.

  10. James says:

    Point of clarification – “…pre-measuring gives an unfair advantage to those people that are better at geometry (FACT)”

    Could you clarify the FACTual basis for this statement? Range guessing is just as weighted towards those with geometric skill, in my experience, isn’t it? I used to regularly play with someone who would use Pythagoras’ Theorem, working with the approximate distance along the edges of a 6′ x 4′ gaming table to place his artillery shots with uncanny accuracy. I’d argue that, if anything, pre-measuring gives an unfair advantage to those people that can do basic sums (we’re 12″ apart now, I know he’ll charge me if I end up within 6″ of him, so I’m going to move 5″). Where do you see geometry being useful in a pre-measuring system?

    For what it’s worth (i.e. not much at this point, with opinions already filling the ether) I can’t say I’ve ever noticed much difference between games that involve pre-measuring and those that don’t. This is probably a reflection of how I (and my group) play games; if someone were to spend an inordinate amount of time pre-measuring every distance, I wouldn’t play with him again. (Possibly because he’d also be the sort of person who’d argue the wording of rules, or insist that the “1” he just rolled was on a slight incline, clearly cocked, and therefore validly rerollable.) Then again, this is why I stay off the tournament scene, and also why this paragraph might be a bit out-of-place in a discussion about theory…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Sorry, my block caps were simply mirroring Kevin’s comment.

      Skill at geometry clearly helps in either system. However, having accurate and known values makes further calculations equally (100%) reliable. When you apply this same skill to a guess range environment then each step in a calculation compounds the error, making the skill progressively less useful. So, whilst you are correct that being good at geometry is always useful, I’d suggest that it is more useful when the values are all known and can be checked.

      Whether this is unfair or not is another matter. Again, I was just mirroring Kevin’s comment which I thought was incomplete.

  11. HI folks.
    As wargames are the distilation of the intelectual battles from real warfare,simplified and abstracted to make them an enjoyable hobby.

    The variations in results can be modelled reliably and consistantly with dice rolls and modifiers.

    Including a guessing ranges in the core game design is UNECISARY.
    (The only game I am aware of that doesnt use measuring at all is Mr Conliffes Crossfire.)

    Those gamers that agree to guess ranges and DO SO IN THE SAME WAY, have a great game.
    If this is not the case , it can have a negative impact on game play.

    Guessing ranges is a primary skill in lots of sports,but totaly absent in board games.(With grid overlays, squares etc.)

    So if you see a table top wargame as an extension of the board game ,then pre measuring seems to make sense.
    If you see wargameing as a sport then guessing ranges , shooting matchstick at minatures , arm wrestling (lol), or other additional physical activities that are unecissary , can be see as a fun ADDITON to a wargame.

    Pre measuring simply determines if the UNIT or model WOULD attempt to interact with another element or not.It simply focuses the game paly on the unit/models perspective.(When done well.)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think that tabletop games are a different style of gaming from board games and one that deserves its own space, just like computer games or card games. All can pinch bits from each other when they like, but overall there are noticeable trends within each type. I don’t think you need to go anywhere near sport for your definition of the differences and features of tabletop gaming.

  12. I am neither pro nor con vs. both of them. They both have a place and it depends on the context their are in. I also have no problem using both within the same game as long as it does make sense.

  13. ‘So do you do things like grab a group of people, assign a chain of command, spread them out over large distances and then give out orders and hope they carry them out? Do you isolate yourself so you can only see a small part of the battlefield and not from a top-down position?’

    As best as I can yes, Using rules which restrict my ability to react to things that my ‘troops’ wouldn’t normally see from thier vantage point, abstracted chains of command, and generally spreading my troops out to avoid heavy casualties from artillery. Also it’s not unheard of to play double blind games, hidden movement and multi player games with a chain of command.

    I was playing Aeronautica imperialis today, a game that would become rather dull if you didn’t have to use spacial awareness and could just measure everthing beforehand.

  14. So are you saying that this particular game builds it ‘primary game skill’ on guessing ranges and subliminal geometric calculations ?And the strategic and tactical interaction can not carry the game play on thier own?(I genuinley dont know as I have not played Aeronautica Imperialis.)

    IF a game utilises a simple ‘Fog Of War’ mechanic, (rolling to spot a target at range for example.)
    Then players can pre measure , and STILL have valid tactical choices to make and the interaction is still varied and characterfull.(If implemented well.)

    Most games I am aware of use the ‘no pre-measuring’ to replace this sort of mechanic.
    If I want to play a game where my estimation of distances is primary concern, Ill play snooker, golf etc.(Too old for rugby and football now though…)

  15. Yes, AE and WoG/WoW are actually based upon not pre-measuring. Which makes a lot of sense, since this way double blind game without two identical tables is possible. As I already mentioned, it depends on the game context whether one uses pre measuering or not and in this case it would ruin the game.

  16. Aeronautica is an air combat game so spacial awareness and tactics go hand-in-hand. Premeasuring in that context would make the whole thing too clinical and rob the players of those near misses and over shoots which are so integral to air combat.

    I suppose it all comes down to context and personal preference.

  17. Kristian says:

    Interesting. (Long time reader, I think first time poster, although I haven’t checked. Yes, I’ve read many of your articles in White Dwarf during that Golden Age that started in the mid 1990’s.)

    I guess I’ve never played enough that it’s become a problem or at least not with ‘that’ kind of people. Having a hard time visualising how geometry will help you.

    Would someone have the time to explain the real difference between for example
    a) measure at any time + random movement distance
    b) no pre-measuring + fixed movement distance?
    They would appear to have the same result, and to both play differently than
    c) ‘measure at any time + fixed movement’
    (especially with ‘tournament type’ play/players.)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hi Kristian, I’ll give it a go. My view is slightly different from Kevin’s answer (as you’d expect). You’ll have to take your pick 😉

      a) You know exactly how much you need to roll in order to achieve the effect. Your decision is based on an analysis of the odds and a risk/reward calculation depending on the situation on the table. There is no doubt about your odds. Personally, I find this a rather cold and uninteresting way to play.

      b) You know how far you can go, but not how far you need to go. Your decision is based on your estimation, not on a known value (knowing your actual movement does not make your guess any more or less accurate). Like a real commander you have to make your choice based on what you estimate and what your intuition and experience tells you rather than on exact and defined information. It is irrelevant that a real battle is not done in turns. What matters for me here is that your decision making process is based on intuition. Obviously I prefer this option.

      c) as you say, it plays very differently if you actually use the rules. However, people often play games with this rule and then don’t use it. They then claim that it makes no difference. Whilst that may be true for them, it is not necessarily true for the wider game.

      Compare these with Kevin’s comments.

      Hope that helps.

      • Kristian says:

        Many thanks. I like the reasoning in ‘b)’ especially – it goes to the heart of ‘why we play’ rather than ‘how to play to win’.

  18. Quirkworthy says:

    Gosh, some subjects do rattle cages 😉

    Sorry I haven’t been replying. Been in my sick bed for a few days. Am crawling closer to human this morning, so I should be catching up over the next day or two.


  19. Wishing you a fast recovery Jake!
    A) measure at any time, dice determines random range effects.
    C) Measure at any time AND fixed ranges , BUT dice roll detemines aquisition/interaction.
    (Variation on A.)
    Give both players the same information to base thier decision on.
    All ranges are known and the chance of sucess is also known , determined by the dice roll.
    (Players have ALL the information to base thier tactical decisions on.)

    B)No pre-measurement and fixed ranges , utilise the range guessing skill, and players may use different ways to improve thier chances of guessing right.(Which can lead to acusations of cheating.)
    But the level of randomness is similar but less quantifiable than in A or C.
    (Impossible to get comparative costing as accuratley as A or C).

    People assuming that no pre measuring and fixed ranges ONLY has the other option of pre-measuring and fixed ranges.Without any other mechanics to make interations have varied chance of sucess.Are missing the many ways to give the games better variation of interaction , in a more definable way.

    @Andre Winter.
    If games are developed as double blind games to represent the fog of war,(like Battleships!)
    Fair enough,these are great fun for those that like this type of game.
    But why try to represent double blind game play on a single viewed playing area,by forcing the players to take on this responciblity themselves?
    Rather than writing the game mechanics to acomodate it?

    In my opinion , its better to have no pre measuring /guess range as an option for those that like it.As the strategic and tactical interaction HAS to carry the game play with pre measuring.So you have the option to ADD ON more skill/dificulty if you want to.

    Where as ,you say,a game written relying on guessing ranges , tend to loose part of thier integral game play /appeal if you pre measure.

    For this reason , I belive pre-measuring done well is a better option.

    • Ben says:

      I believe in the case of Kings of War (having never played it) there is no random element. Pre-measuring is always allowed and there is no random movement/interaction. That said, when played as intended you’re supposed to be on the clock (and certainly the Mantic tournaments have been). That means that whilst you can measure any distance at any time it has to be balanced against the limited time you have to do everything.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        That’s right, KOW has no random element in ranges. Having played against some of these good tournament players at the KOW tourneys, I can safely say that the time constraints didn’t seem to cause them any major issues other than in the final where two players with this skill were against each other. Most tournament players I know are quick anyway.

    • Kristian says:

      From an ‘intuitive/instinctual’ point of view I like Jake’s answer to my question elsewhere – shades of ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’. (Which is not calling Jake a naive dreamer.)
      On the balance I think I’d agree with you that pre-measuring ‘done right’ would be my preference, with ‘random’ elements kept elsewhere.

      Perhaps they could be combined in some way. Hmm.

  20. tornquistd says:

    It seems to me some of the more successful leaders found a way to have better information about what was going on. Often they would be closer to the fighting and taking extra risk in order to have better information. Risking your general at the front to measure once in a turn might be a middle of the road solution. That way if it really mattered you could take some risk to avoid guessing which I think a good leader would do if it really mattered. Measuring everything seems a bit much and in effect measuring several moves ahead way to much while no measuring at all might lead to a major gamble on guessing right on distance for THE decisive charge. I am OK with fog of war and all of that but it is frustrating when a game that you played well is resolved with one dice roll or one guess on distance. To be honest watching someone measuring for ten minutes is very boring for me so that puts me in the no measuring camp. In general I don’t have any trouble guessing distances and am into DKH where it is easy to count the tiles. I think part of DKH that I like is facing/zone of control being so clear and that it can lead to outcomes that you did not expect because your facing lasts until you use activations on the next turn which is all the random I need. For DKH I see your turn as the attack and the facing you leave on the board as your defense simple and clean but sometimes there are unexpected issues as some of your war band are over run exposing a rear facing your thought was covered. It seems to me measuring or not should fall in the same category simple, normally not an issue and an element of the unexpected but as an exception from a normal turn.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      There are games that feature a number of different options for commanders and offer them a choice of more info in a limited area (if they are at the front) or a more general overview from the back. Lion of the North is an old 30YW game that did this, though it’s many years since I played it so I can’t recall the details. It’s an issue that most games ignore, probably because it needs a bunch of rules to support it. I have included it occasionally, though usually when I wanted to concentrate more on that aspect of the period. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of my games that look at this area have been published yet 😦

      Personally, I think that the countable board and the lack of measuring on an infinitely variable tabletop are part of what defined the differences between the board and tabletop gaming genres. Pre-measuring in tabletop gaming is, in my view, an unsuccessful borrowing from board gaming.

      And yes, I am aware that that was a sweeping statement and that there are myriad variations…

      • Ben says:

        “Unfortunately, I don’t think any of my games that look at this area have been published yet :(”

        Why not try that crowdfunding thing all the kids are doing these days?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          It’s tempting, but not really my thing (though I am peripherally involved in some of this sort of shenanigans).

          I decided a few years ago that I wasn’t really an entrepreneur and that I was better off focusing on what I was good at and enjoyed, which is the design bit. If I crowdfunded it then I’d end up spending my time doing project management rather than design, which I’m less good at and is less fun.

          What I am tempted to do is make it into a pdf and sell it that way (though that has other issues).

        • Ben says:

          You do it POD as well. It has minimal start up costs and people will have a good quality hard copy of the rules. A friend of mine did this with his own rpg and did very well out of it.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Absolutely. I’ve not used any of them, but there are a few POD sites up now so I would definitely try one of them.

          It’s a way off yet as people keep giving me other projects and my own get pushed to the back. But they’ll turn up at some stage…

  21. Hi again.
    Some gamers are just naturaly slow to commit to an action or makeing a decision.
    (We know who they are dont we, and its DEFINATlEY not

    ‘Lumbering behemoth…’
    ‘Allan ‘ prevaricating with accompianied mumbling , re -reading unit stats- rule book.Meandering round the table looking at the state of play from at least 30 diffent vantage points ,before finaly moving ONE unit then repeating this process….

    ‘Mr Whippy….’
    ‘Bobby’ flits around the table measuring every distance imaginable at least twice!Then moves one units ,momentarily interupting the flashing blade of tape measure gymnastics…

    If we assume that its average gamer behaviour, where diliberation is about ‘ within a few inches’.
    Eg is that unit within 24″, it might be 25 or 26 inches away?
    Simply measuring the distance , IS QUICKER than the ‘guessing process ‘ of looking from different vantage points , remebering previous ranges of shooting and movement etc.

    Annalagy time.
    Would you object to some one using a calculator to work out modifiers , if they were not very good at maths?(In more complex simulation type games.)

    I can work out 2+2+1+3 -1-1=6 in my head , so why should I let them have a calculator?
    Maths is a important life skill people naturaly develop as a survival instinct.
    So why shouldnt my skill at maths let me have an advantage.Every time they mis- calcuate modifiers to my advantage Ill say nothing. Every time they mis- calculate to thier advantage , Ill point it out.

    Letting BOTH players have acess to a calculator , simply speeds up the resolution process.
    (If its just +1 , we wont need it.But if its loads of modifiers , we might both use it to stop mis-calculation!)

    I undestand the POV that some people like guessing ranges.
    It.However games that depend on it ,(pre measuring ‘breaks’ the game.)Seem to be limiting the game appeal .Where as allowing guessing ranges , in a pre measuring game ,(if both players agree ,)doesnt.

    • ‘Would you object to some one using a calculator to work out modifiers , if they were not very good at maths?(In more complex simulation type games.)

      I can work out 2+2+1+3 -1-1=6 in my head , so why should I let them have a calculator?
      Maths is a important life skill people naturaly develop as a survival instinct.
      So why shouldnt my skill at maths let me have an advantage.Every time they mis- calcuate modifiers to my advantage Ill say nothing. Every time they mis- calculate to thier advantage , Ill point it out.

      Letting BOTH players have acess to a calculator , simply speeds up the resolution process.

      As someone who struggles with mental mathematics (as Jake can attest to), this idea caught my eye but I’m not sure its comparable as, at some point, the distance will get measured (regardless of how that affects your plan/tactics for the rest of the game). What your annalagy sounds more like is ‘gamesmanship’ if not simply cheating.

      And also ‘playing games’ is an evolutionary way in which humans learn skills, from a very young age. Surely taking out the need for learning and using new skills, is somewhat missing the point.

      Wargaming has taught me lots of things and also helped with weaknesses like struggling with my mental mathematics. (tho my alliteration skills are in full swing!) 😉

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Some gamers are just slower than others. I used to go to a board game group where we played a different game almost every week. The same people were slow every time, and were well known for it. The rules didn’t matter. They’d always find something to ponder. In board games, this is usually known as “analysis paralysis”.

      measuring a single distance is quicker than guessing? Perhaps, but this misses the point entirely. And saving that second loses you what I find to be an interesting tactical decision, which is not replaced anywhere else – it’s just lost. And McDonalds is not the best restaurant because it is fast.

      Being quicker has its place, and I will remove elements of games that turn out to be slowing a game down for little gain, but it is always a case of weighing the gain in speed against the loss in other things.

      Calculators? I’m unlikely to be playing a game that would need them, to be honest. However, in principle, I’d be entirely happy with someone using one. It doesn’t tell them anything they couldn’t work out for themselves and allows the game to be played as intended. Importantly, it does not remove any decisions from the player, simply speeds up an existing process and reduce the chances for mistakes. Can’t see why I’d object.

      Your last paragraph is simply biased. I understand that you prefer pre-measuring. However, guessing ranges cannot logically be said to “limit the game appeal” any more than allowing pre-measuring does. There are gamers that prefer one and gamers that prefer the other; some don’t care and others will just use their preferred method regardless of what the rules say. As long as they’re having fun then they should go for it.

  22. Well, games like WoG/AI are quite fair though they require a lot of guessing. Since you have to guess virtually a hundred times during a game some bad guesses get evened out by your better guesses, also since you know the exact length of a base this helps you too to guess better. This is the quivalent of throwing a lots of dices to get a better average.

    Premeasuring would not work with the above mentioned games and even take away from them what makes them so special.

  23. Quirkworthy says:

    This has been interesting, though I’m not sure we’ve got anywhere, really. However, I am a hardened gaming geek, and so I’m happy discussing the details of the mechanics. I’d just like to remind you about the title: Design Theory.

    I’m not trying to tell you that you must play games in a particular way, and I’m not trying to diss any specific games, I’m just trying to illuminate details of the design process which I believe to be true. So far, nobody has actually suggested anything that contradicts my original view in the sense that my argument is fatally flawed. And, as a real world trial, I also know that Jody has been demonstrating this problem in person to those that don’t see it, and (he can correct me on this) seems to have be universally persuasive.

    However, people will happily play with pre-measuring systems, and that’s fine by me. I’m all for people having fun, and having fun in most cases is more to do with who you are with than what you are playing. I’m just using you guys to bounce ideas and concepts off so that when I design my own games I engineer out as many future problems as I can 🙂

  24. Sami Mahmoud says:

    I think if you set out to deconstruct someone’s argument, you should provide a compelling factual counter-argument, and I don’t really think yours is much better, though it is a better articulated.

    “It is still obvious to me that allowing pre-measuring enables certain people to be almost unbeatable”

    This is just as true of non-measuring games.

    “removes a raft of characterful and appropriate uncertainty to your (pretend) general’s role. Quite apart form the loss of story.”

    I happen to disagree, I find events generated by appropriate random mechanisms far more characterful and story-telling. Either way this is opinion not fact.

    I re-read the original article and pros 2-4 for not pre-measuring should also appear as pros on the pre-measuring side.

    “You have conveniently forgotten to say that pre-measuring gives an unfair advantage to those people that are better at geometry (FACT).”

    I don’t think this has anything to do with geometry. Much like chess, it gives advantages to people that can visualise more move possibilities than others. It has been researched that chess grandmasters can store and process thousands and thousands more potential move sequences than “garage players”. I’ll take sensible extrapolation of existing research over speculation as the reasoning.

    “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.”

    “In a pre-measuring game I can guarantee that my 9 move cavalry will charge your 8 move ones.”

    “What I’m talking about here is really a conceptual notion rather than a specific game.”

    The problem with this line of thinking, and you’ve used it again in a comment this morning, despite me prefacing it in the very first response to this blog, is that you’re trying to make the case about pre-measuring in isolation. You even slipped it as a con into the original article. A game can include a variety of other mechanics to simulate fog of war regardless of whether something is pre-measured or not. You can’t talk about it as an isolated conceptual notion because how it interacts with other rules defines it’s impact on a game. This is true of most tools in the tool design box.

    “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.”

    Come on, if you’re going ask someone to make an argument to support this decision you can’t finish with some ropey anecdotal comment, it has no right being there at all. I went to a 250 player tournament the other weekend, people were pre-measuring a variety of things, working out combinations of moves before they got down to their movement phase. At least my experience provides a credible sample size.

    “In real life missile units do take ranging shots,” (didn’t want to copy the whole paragraph)

    There are two ways of looking at this:
    a) if stuff malfunctions or otherwise goes wrong then write mechanics to represent it. I don’t think you’;ll find any recorded accounts where an army’s reliability of equipment was directly related to the general’s ability to guess distances – so it isn’t a realistic solution
    b) it’s a game, and much like the movies, we want cool, heroic stuff to happen and therefore broadly speaking our heroes should have reliable equipment so they can get on with the job of kicking butt – subject to variable battlefield conditions modelled by in game random mechanics

    “And whilst the majority of people do not exploit the power of pre-measuring in this way, some do, especially at tournament level, and I think this is a problem.”

    If this was true then there’d be a game somewhere (and KoW doesn’t count as it has only had two tournies so far) where one player was simply sweeping the opposition aside. Once the variables of selecting an effective army, other in-game mechanics and playing against other players of similar ability come into play I can’t see any evidence that this is true in practise. The player that wins is almost always the one that understands the capabilities of all the units on the board within the context of the ruleset, and makes the moves that balance the match-ups most to their advantage, regardless of what those mechanics actually are.

    “There is no doubt about your odds. Personally, I find this a rather cold and uninteresting way to play.”

    But there is doubt about the outcome, which is what’s important. You play enough half-decent players at a non pre-measure game and when they plonk that unit some distance in front of yours and you know 9 times out of 10 they’re going to be 1/8″ outside your charge range, well that’s cold and uninteresting, and the main reason that I realised how dull 6th and 7th Ed Warhammer actually were, which was compounded by their poor charge/combat resolution rules.

    “(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.)”

    I wouldn’t consider something formed by habit to be intellectual, as you argued further up.

    Anyway, I had my period where being able to guess war machines hits to 1/4″ was cool and gave me a warm glow, then I realised I wanted to win/lose because the player used their resources better, not because they can guess a fraction of an inch better.

    *shrugs* Each to their own.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hmmm, where to start?

      Firstly, thanks Sami, for taking the time. Lots to read. We can agree to disagree in places, I’m sure. I won’t deal with every point, but I’ll try to comment on the important ones. Pull me up if you think I’m deliberately ducking tricky issues 😉

      Secondly, I apologise if I’m a little inconsistent at times. It is, I’m afraid, the nature of the context. Commercial work is more rigorously checked.

      1) I don’t think I am obliged to provide a “compelling factual counter-argument” in order to disprove another. One can disprove something without replacing it. You are right that it would be better if I did though.

      2) In several places you say things to the effect that a player who is good at guessing ranges is as certain of his position (or near to) as someone who is pre-measuring. I’d disagree here, and the simple fact that he is cannot be certain has a value and changes the whole experience of decision making. The extent to which he is uncertain obviously reflects his skill (and self-belief), but he must always be uncertain to a degree if the particular instance is in any doubt.

      3) Continuing on from point 2, I therefore think that the difference between being fairly sure and absolutely 100% certain is a very much bigger perceptual difference than its percentage improvement in accuracy might indicate. There is, therefore, a major difference between even a good guesser and someone who can pre-measure.

      4) I am not speculating that geometry is involved here as I have used it and spoken to others who do the same. Other factors are also at work, including your chess example, but just because your chess example is valid, it does not follow that my geometry one is not.

      5) I absolutely can talk about it as an isolated conceptual notion. I would even suggest that examining individual parts of a process in isolation is a valuable (if not almost essential) precursor to really understanding how all the parts interact. Looking at individual bits of a whole process/rules system/etc allows you to better understand which bits are working and what might need changing when you need to modify the design as a whole. If you do not understand the elements as individuals then you end up poking and prodding at the design without really knowing which bits to change for the effect you want. For example, the ‘O’ ring which failed on the space shuttle, causing it to explode, is only a single small part of a massively complex system. However, a lack of understanding of that simple part caused the whole to fail catastrophically. A better understanding of the properties of that piece would perhaps have averted the disaster, and it was the nature of the piece itself, rather than the way in which it was combined, which caused the problem.

      6) You disagree about story elements being lost. I don’t see how you can argue that, logically. The randomness (I assume from dice rolls) you prefer is/can be present in equal amounts alongside either system of measurement. That is not an issue. Situations (for example) where one player thinks something is possible and the other thinks it is not is a story element which is simply absent when players can know for sure either way. That is what I was referring to, and whilst you may not personally think this important, you cannot deny that is it missing from pre-measuring.

      7) Are you sure my “ropey anecdotal argument” is any worse than your “credible sample size”? On what basis? How many decades do I have to game for, how many tournaments do I have to attend, how many industry professionals do I have to hear the same anecdote from before it is valid?

      8) In terms of tourneys where someone sweeps his opponent aside because of this, I was at the KOW tourneys and I can tell you that the top tables were exclusively populated by people with this skill. Now that is not the only reason they were up there, not at all. However, it was a noticeable feature of all of them (I know because I played them and watched the “final”). In games where they met someone without this they obliterated their opponents. The same chap won both tourneys. KOW is interesting because it is one of the purest of the pre-measuring games so it’s easier to see the effects. Of course, more data would be better.

      9) There are more than “2 ways of looking at this”, but to just look at the ones you mention. I never made any claim that the reliability of an army’s equipment was anything to do with a general’s ability to guess distances. However, it is obviously true that a general’s positioning of his troops is relevant to the effectiveness of his army’s weaponry at different ranges. If he positions a unit at too great a range from their targets then their weapons will be less effective. Even if the members of the unit themselves knew exactly what their weapons could do, they are not (always) free to move to such a position – they must go where their general tells them. This is a general’s decision to make, and I enjoy the fact that he can do it wrong. Incidentally, that is very realistic: poor positioning of troops is commonplace among historical accounts.

      Your second choice is rather beneath you as it’s just an excuse to ignore what you don’t want. As Ben mentioned earlier, and I commented on before, in game designs you have to pick and choose what you want to model as reality is too complex to do it all. Some stuff will always be left out. Whilst you could choose to model a heroic and “Hollywood” version of a topic as you suggest, that is far from the only possible interesting or acceptable approach.

      There, I hope that’s better argued 🙂

  25. Hi Jake.
    I was labouring under the impression, that in a game where guessing ranges is used to provide the uncertanty in the interaction.It has not got the game mechanics used in a pre measure game to provide the uncertanty.(Other wise what would be the point?)

    So putting pre-measureing in to a guess range game, removes the MAIN mechanic for uncertanty.Making it no longer much fun to play.(As atested to by a few people already.)
    (And maybe what you are basing you argument for guess ranges on perhaps?)

    Where as a pre measuring game that HAS mechanics to represent uncertanty , can ADD more uncertanty by ADDING range guessing.(If both players agree.)

    So a game that depends on unecissary* player skill over intergrated game mechanics does limit its appeal.
    As opposed to games where the unecissary* skill, can augment the intergrated game mechanicss with player consent.(Allowing it to appeal to everyone pre-measure and guess range camp,)

    This is the point I was trying to make using logic.(And failed to do!)
    (I like both sorts of game realy, but wanted to play devils advocate against your apparent ‘pro guess range’ stance.)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Devil’s advocate is fine Kevin. I do it all the time 😉

      Guessing ranges is part of the uncertainty, but there are dice too. If you wanted to fiddle with the randomness then you could use the dice mechanic instead of the guessing if you wanted to. There are numerous mechanical methods you could use to introduce more uncertainty. But it’s not just about that – it’s the decision making process behind the guessing and the story it kicks off which I especially like. Both of these elements are lost if you pre-measure. Of course, you can add story and decisions elsewhere. I just find this very simple to use and explain and a good model of what I want to be modelling 🙂

      And guessing range (at least in my games) is very much an “integrated game mechanic”, whether you like the rule or not. It’s integrated into the flow of the game, the style of play and the odds of events happening (and therefore the length of game, balance of armies, etc).

      As I think I’ve mentioned, I’m happy to play more perfect information games, but I think that works best on a board so tend to leave it there. But that’s just me 🙂

  26. Wedgeing the devils advocate hat down realy hard now..(lol)
    I agree that guessing ranges usualy replaces some form of Fog of War mechanic.And the other varables are still there.

    BUT the decision making processes revolving around targeting a unit at range ,is similar for both methods.(If implemented well)
    Its just guess range method overides ‘battle field view’ with ‘God like knowlwedge ‘ of the players.
    The uncertanty of distance can be moddeled easily using a simple fog of war mechanic.
    EG unit size at a specific distance gives a % chance to see/hit it, for example.
    Or can be left to the ‘ players ability to guess.’

    I realy can not see the differnce in decision making and story telling elements?
    If you miss becuase you didnt roll high enough, or because to misjudged a range ,what changes?
    If you know the % chance of hitting based on distance to target,(and unit characteristics,)
    Or you know how accurately you can judge ranges , the decision making proces is the same.(But based on different criteria.)

    If you stick to guess range games and you ability to guess range improves dramaticaly.Then all those long range shots that you get most of the time , suddenly evaporate when you switch to a game with a mechanic that presents a more ‘battle field centric view ‘ used in most good pre-measuring games.

    I see table top wargaming as an extension of board games, so find pre measuring a logical extension of this type of gameing.(Buts is that just me ?)

    I belive its easier to add guess ranges to a pre-measure game, and arrive at a mutualy enjoyable experiance.Than adding pre measuring to a game that depends on guess ranges,( to replace FOW mechanics), without negativley impacting the enjoyment of the game…(Without having to add the extra game mechanic to replace the guess range funtion, which can cause even more problems!).

    Therfore pre measuring is better .
    (Purley logical argument assuming optimum use of game mechanics and resolution methods delivering theroreticaly optimum game play in theory.)

    Ill take off my devils advocate hat now, it was making my ears hurt!(lol)

    I think we can agee that some people prefer guess range , and other prefer pre measure.(I too have played and had fun playing both.)

    And in the real world its just easier some times to put in ‘guess ranges’ thats easier to explain and implement than having to provide a game mechanic that replaces it.
    Which is totaly understandable and accepted practice.

    In summary, pre measuring and associated suplimentary game mechanics is the theoreticaly the logical chioce of preference.
    Where as guess ranges is a pratical solution in the real world.

    There is room for both, and when used well in rule sets they both deliver enjoyable games.

  27. Lacrobat says:

    ” 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.”
    I think what Kevin wanted to know is how can people with medical disorders that prevent the eyes from focusing and/or aligning correctly compete in non-pre-measure games? I have strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other and in my case involves a lack of coordination between the motor muscles of each individual eye preventing me from pointing each eye to the same point in space thus I do not have proper binocular vision like you do.

  28. Poosh says:

    I took the middle road… You can pre-measure 18” from any unit’s base. It represents the unit’s common-sense estimate of the distance in front of them and rough knowledge of ranges etc. Because you can’t measure over 18”, (you have to guess the rest) an element of skill is involved. It seems to balance things out. This is only for fantasy type mass-rank games and not sci-fi which I suspect will involve difference issues? Not thought of it really. Also is, this is going on 30” is the standard range of long-range type weapons, such as a bow (which is quite unrealistic but seemingly unavoidable 😦 )

    My main issue with not pre-measuring were 1) people being douche’s and finding cheeky ways of measuring anyhow (outright cheating to “that’s not in the spirit” ways); 2) the simple fact that soldiers have a rough idea about the distance in front of them, to a point (they all roughly know the distance they can charge, they all roughly know how far their weapons can shoot.. roughly); and 3) it is problematic with the points-cost of ranged weapons (you paid for a weapon with a probability of roll-hitting built into the cost, however the players brain is a variable that cannot be factored into the point cost very well).

    My issues with pre-measuring are the usual: take the drama and fun (excitement) out of the game (the chemicals that are stimulated when we roll the dice and take risks are probably one of the reasons we play wargames,) lack of fog-of-war, giving advantages to long-range units such as fast-cavalry and so forth, all the stuff you mentioned in you previous article.

    My middle way, at least to me (lol) softens and bypasses a lot of the issues. Ayn Rand may say the middle road is always evil … but not in wargames! Allowing premeasuring up to 18” from ya base stops some douche’s from being cheeky; gives soldiers a reasonable but still imperfect “line of sight and range” that is appropriate realistically; gives players who are useless at range guessing the value of their points cost (you can meassure 2/3rds of your bow’s range, but for that last 7”, your men are not too sure, it’s your guesswork). The drama is back in when it should matter (is that cannon in range?); there’s a degree of fog-of-war back in, but not an oppressive fog-of-war; long ranges are not as advantageous (fast cavalry can charge far more than 18” in my “game” etc). It just all makes sense to me.

    Seems to work from my pov anyway ha ha!

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