Sunday, 1 February 2015

Rules and playing the game

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I went to Cancon in Canberra to check out the way in which miniature wargames and even board games use rules to simulate some aspect of reality. It was difficult to follow some of the WWII miniature wargames with the complexities involved but I nevertheless came home with these three rule books to examine at my leisure.

These rule books, and others including the popular Flames of War, seek to represent different conflicts (principally WWII) in terms of geographic location, battle contexts, and military personnel and equipment. Establishing the right combination of personnel and equipment (e.g. number of soldiers and number of tanks) is necessary for each "game". Added complexity comes into play when dealing with levels of experience and resilience to stress in combat situations; psychological aspects that seek to simulate real life situations and add operational interest. Some miniature wargames include aircraft to add another layer of complexity.

The upshot is that these wargames rely on history (and research) for their operational contexts. While not mandatory, having a good understanding of the history enhances the experience of the game. The games also rely on geography and the types of equipment rosters applicable at the time and place. Such characteristics are very similar to those in the model railroad hobby. Also very similar to the model railroading experience is the commercial side of the hobby with various books and magazines, kits, detail parts, hobby tools and accessories, and paints and powders all available at the show.

There are of course some differences between the two hobbies  However, I am more interested in finding out whether aspects of the wargaming experience (e.g. the rules and the "playing") can be applied to enhance the operational enjoyment of model railroads. I need to read more and talk with more wargamers to better understand what they do and how they do it.

That said, I would be interested in hearing from any dual code modellers (wargaming and model railroading) to get their perspective on the operational aspects of both hobbies.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brad, as we discussed the other day, I think there is quite a bit of "crossover" between the 2 hobbies. I played board games, miniatures and RPGs for many years and have a few points to offer.

    First there are all the similarities, model making, interest in history and a set of prototypes. And not to dismiss what I think is the main one for me, the social aspect of the hobby and the freedom for a bunch of grown men to "play" and talk about the interest together.

    As to what aspects can be added to the operational side of running a model railway?
    I must admit to not being a keen MR hard-core operations fan. But I think there is already plenty of crossover in this area as well. Rules that are applied to the operations, the compromises enforced by scale, amount of time and space available, these come to mind quickly.

    In wargames and board games there is also another motivation. Winning or meeting the victory conditions for the scenario. It was never my strong point :-)

    I think trying to add or build on the element of winning/victory/success might be successful in a regular group who meet to run operating sessions.
    If you establish the rules and the results which set the condition for a success, eg running on schedule, a time penalty system or the like, then it is possible to create leader boards for the group which can be run over a number of sessions.

    The other competitive aspect that could be applied to some larger operating sessions is an economic result for a session. Bonuses and penalties could be applied to each operator.

    I think it worth adding that the main limitations to these ideas are the personal preferences of the members of the group concerned. "Local rules" are an important part of most miniatures games, and help make the activity fun for all participants.