Here’s a partial response to Lewis Pulsipher, designer of Dragon Rage and Doomstar, about dicey wargames and deterministic euros. Occasionally Mr. Pulsipher floats a taxonomy he is considering to see what it provokes. Mr. Pulsipher associated dice and wargames with an historical approach, an association which I challenged, citing the necessity for designers of professional wargames to hide coarse-grained (non digital) randomization from military clients who really don’t appreciate it. You gotta pocket your dice if you want credibility with some soldiers. There is a huge reluctance to be seen taking chances in armed conflict. I’ve witnessed this myself. Leadership means certitude. Dice are the physical manifestation of incertitude. Better not to touch them.
As for wargamers, they only think they want control — what they really want is plausible rationalizations for failure at the right moments. A lot of so-called serious gamers are completely full of shit and need to be called on it. Not necessarily a winning commercial strategy, I’ll grant you. I’ve talked this over and over with every designer and player I respect and who will give me the time of day. After I finish my big project [FTGU] (which is deterministic move/randomized combat and a good system designed by Jim Krohn) I want to do a grand tactical system that I’ve outlined called “Nine Rabbit Heads in a Box”. My idea is to allow everything to be deterministic to better get at the differences in the fluidity of operational rhythm by emphasizing time and attrition effects. A “move” will include maneuver and combat in the same go. The objective is to create a game I could use for a staff ride and resolve in an hour or so, reliably evoking C2 and terrain challenges.
To which Mr. Pulsipher reasonably responded:
If they want rationalization for failure, surely they prefer games with uncertainty, not games where they feel in control (and consequently have to blame themselves, in two-player).
Yes, that’s what I’m saying. That’s my take on wargamer psychology, anyway. And why I responded to the initial post so enthusiastically. I think the most psychologically desirable outcome on a classic CRT is a “Defender loses one step and retreats one hex.” Resolution systems which deliver too many outliers too frequently beyond this outcome raise hackles. Everybody thinks they’re awesome at probabilistic analysis even though research shows otherwise– which is certainly true in the heat of the moment. This human weakness seems absolutely true considering historical contexts for warfare.
A little about humanity. In sports like tennis and fencing it has often been remarked that the most successful contestants will despatch the adversary without a second thought, something that most people — even good players — naturally hesitate to do. A winning mindset demands that sympathy be the opponent on the other side of the net more deserving of annihilation. Hence my notion that one step, one hex is the outcome that both attacker and defender find easiest to accept. This is the psychological norm for an attack on a given position. This psychological subtext demands that an attack, which is a rational, calculated decision — better that it have some effect, after all — but the attacker’s humanity in turn depends on sparing the defender’s ego. Or honor or whatever. The dice are there to take the heat for outliers to this yearned for outcome. They spare players’ humanity. Gamers of any sort don’t suffer violence to this notion well.