Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

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Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by *Lava* »

Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids
A Lava Editorial

14 February 2008

After having played computer wargames for many years and miniatures wargames for decades, I have often lamented that no REAL (that is... designed from the very start) hybrid has ever appeared on the market.

Now wargaming can basically be broken up into 3 broad categores: Boardgames, Miniatures games and Computer games.

Board/Miniatures game hybrids have existed for centuries. One needn't surf over to Fantasy Flight Games to see all the great Board/Miniatures hybrids (such as the wildly popular Wings of War), one need just visit your local retail store to check out the venerable game known as "Chess."

The hybridization of board games with miniatures is a fairly easy construct as both share fundamental characteristics: written rules and counters/miniatures. In fact, one could easy justify that board and miniatures games are essentially the same type of game.

While Board and Miniatures games have merrily conjoined for eons in all kinds of permutations (how many of you remember Risk... loved that game), Computer Wargames have always seemed to be "a breed apart." I've always found this "we are different" kinda mentality as somewhat curious as Computer Wargames are merely electronic mimics of their Board and Miniature brothers. A "sweeping generalization," I realize, but essentially true.

Of course, Computer games have taken wargaming to the "next level" because of the inherent advantages of the CPU. These advantages, as we all know, include the ability to play the game by oneself against the AI, the lack of "bookkeeping", the easy of setup, the ability to "save" the game to be continued another day, etc. etc. etc.

Yet, given the superior qualities of the Computer Wargame in so many areas, it has, by no means, dealt a crushing blow to Board and Miniatures games. On a personal level, I enjoy playing Computer Wargames, however, I still paint miniatures and play the odd tabletop game, just as I am sure Boardgame lovers still break out the "box" and have a go with cardboard counters. It is the "social" aspect of gaming which Computers cannot reproduce and brings us back to the tabletop to fight our friends.

Indeed, "the breed apart" mindset has been breaking down for many years now. As we watch the evolution of Computer Wargames, one is struck by how Computer Wargames no longer merely mimic Board games but have edged closer and closer to simulations of tabletop miniatures battles. The Total War series immediately leaps to mind. Playing a Strategic Wargame with tactical battle resolution (so very like a miniatures tabletop but in "trons"), is now an established game type. In fact, all kinds of new computer games now "blend" into the miniatures gamers reserve, be that "miniature counters" that we find in games such as Tin Soldiers - Julius Caesar to full scale miniatures battles fought with electronic sprites such as Mad Minute Games' Take Command: Second Manasas. Again, on a personal level, as a miniatures gamer, MMG's games have been a tremendous hit with me and I am waiting with great anticipation for the release of HistWar: Les Grognards; hopefully, before I die... [;)]

Yet when all is said and done, even having played a stirring electronic battle, I still return to my beloved miniatures.

I have often thought, why have Computer Wargames and Miniatures Wargames failed to really blend? Why couldn't I play both? Indeed, if I choose, why couldn't I have used cardboard counters or cards in lieu of miniatures which might take ages to paint?

Now, of course, Matrix has produced games for quite some time that attempt to allow me to do this; that is to resolve battles using miniatures. The two games that immediately leap to mind are Campaigns on the Danube 1805 & 1809 and the most recent release Empires In Arms.

Yet to be quite honest... neither really grabs my attention sufficient enough for me to use "off screen." Though you have to give these games credit for trying to cater to miniatures players, they are, like a baby learning how to walk, very awkward first steps. One can't help but view these systems for what they are: a sidelight feature to the main attraction.

Now some might say, rightly so, because there is really no viable economic interest in producing a REAL game in which a player can resolve battles on a tabletop be that with miniatures or counters. But I would counter that since none has been produced, how are we really to know?

Let us return to the Board/Miniatures hybrids for some possible insight. The game "Wings of War" is a card card. When FFG began releasing pre-painted miniatures to complement the game, the first batch sold out completely. Makes one think.

The difference here is that game has an established rule set and that is the key. It really doesn't matter if one is pushing around cardboard or plastic, the essential ingredient is the rule set. And this is where Computer games which try to lure the miniatures player fail: they provide neither a rules set or counters to play out the battles away from our plasma screens.

When I think of all that power that the PC has given us, I am bewildered that, unlike traditional game makers, Computer game designers are unable to see the potential for crossover with board and miniatures players. Is it all that difficult for a computer game to produce a "map" of the area that the battle should be fought on? Is it really all that difficult to provide, either as a part of the game with .pdf files or a stand alone product printed counters? Would not the printed counters, if wisely constructed, be easily converted to actual miniatures on bases? And what about rules... those all important rules? The designers obviously have the knowledge to produce a written set of at least rudimentary rules which would be compatible with all three forms of gameplay... electronic, miniature or card battles.

Somehow, I can't help but believe that a Computer Wargame designed right from the beginning to allow both board/card and miniatures tabletop battles would not be anything but, as they say in the business world, an opportunity.

Now I know most folks who read this editorial will quite literally [8|] . Yet, one cannot help but be struck by the convergence of game genres in the form of hybrid games. That convergence is not slowing, in fact, it is speeding up. Why should Computer Wargames be left in the dust?

I believe the day will come when I can buy a Computer Wargame and a "Miniatures Battle Supplement" to fight out my battles on the tabletop.

The only question is... when?

Ray (alias "the long winded" Lava)
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by pzgndr »

Check out Empires in Arms. It has a feature where you can export a battle file, resolve the battle using miniatures rules or whatever other system you want, and then import the results back into the game.

Another game to check out is Waterloo by L2 Games. It's not exactly miniatures, but battles on the main map board are moved to one of twelve smaller battle maps for resolution. Crown of Glory does the same similar thing, moving battles from the strategic map to a smaller tactical map for resolution.

There may be a trend here.
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Grell »

Hi Ray,

Very nice article you wrote. I myself gave up playing miniatures about 15 years ago, as it was too time consuming to set them up, play the battle and take them all down. I did love it though.

Regards

Grell

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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by *Lava* »

ORIGINAL: Grell

Hi Ray,

Very nice article you wrote. I myself gave up playing miniatures about 15 years ago, as it was too time consuming to set them up, play the battle and take them all down. I did love it though.

Regards

Grell

Thanks Grell.

Indeed, as I put in bold in your post, time is the main problem.

When I was younger, and did not have a computer to distract me..[:)].. I used to paint up an army in no time. Now, when I say army, I don't mean 20-40 figures, I'm talking somewhere around 200+ figures. Playing a game with my local club on a ping pong table meant at least a 30 or so minutes for set-up and another to put it all away. The game itself... 4 hours. That takes a lot of dedication.

Miniature gaming has been moving in a lot of different directions for quite some time now. Big armies, in many cases, gave way to abstracted systems, such as DBA. Skirmishing with mini's became quite popular with Scifi and Fantasy stuff. Pre-painted minis have now been thrown into the pot.. though with mixed results.

Yet.. people still like miniatures tabletop gaming and I would assume, boardgaming as well. However, saying that, the trend is definitely towards gaming that consumes less time... that word again.

If I could have my wish, what I would want is a computer game that also had a companion tabletop game that you could buy if you wanted. At the least I would want some very nice counters, counters which would allow me to, if I had the time, place painted miniatures in the central area of the counter instead of a printed symbol or picture. I could thus resolve the battles with either just the counters, or, with the counters serving as a base for my miniatures. Heck, one could even mix the two, I would imagine, to play such that at least one has an attractive setup rather than shiny metal "placeholders."

Mind you, I would want a lot more than that, but that is a good start. That and a set of rules which allow an easy transition from computer to tabletop and back to the computer.

Given the capabilities of the computer, one could expect the game to generate OOB's for the game, a map of the area, reinforcement schedules, readiness state of the troops... I could go on for quite some time.

But a nice set of counters which could be played with as is, or allows sufficient room to serve as a base for a few representative troops type mini's... plus the rules... that would be very nice.

Ray (alias Lava)
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Grell »

Hi Ray,

I really like your line of thought. You have some great ideas there. It would be amazing to play a miniatures (time standing still of course) game with a computer game as the strategic layer. [:)]

I have 6mm lead figures, all Napoleonic, with the entire French army at Waterloo as well as Russians and Austrians. My friend painted the British and Spanish. We used the Empire rules, ah the memories, hehe!
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Kuokkanen »

I have often thought, why have Computer Wargames and Miniatures Wargames failed to really blend? Why couldn't I play both?
Dunno abut you, but I play Classic BattleTech with and without computers. Computer version, MegaMek, is compatible with Internet what real thing is not. Furthermore, I'm in process setting up my own mercenary unit (damn schoolwork delays bit), and I'll play battles with MegaMek against whoever agrees to play OpFor.

The difference here is that game has an established rule set and that is the key. It really doesn't matter if one is pushing around cardboard or plastic, the essential ingredient is the rule set. And this is where Computer games which try to lure the miniatures player fail: they provide neither a rules set or counters to play out the battles away from our plasma screens.
Computer games have plenty of advantages. They can perform enormous amount of calculations that wouldn't be fun to do without. They're cheap too, or totally free: $80 + shipping for SPWAW General's Edition is dirt cheap compared what I've invested for Classic BattleTech (~400 €uros by the way). Not to forget fact, that I can play MegaMek with same rules without paying anything.

Is it all that difficult for a computer game to produce a "map" of the area that the battle should be fought on? Is it really all that difficult to provide, either as a part of the game with .pdf files or a stand alone product printed counters? Would not the printed counters, if wisely constructed, be easily converted to actual miniatures on bases?
Heck, such programs exists for miniature/board/table top games. HeavyMetal Map can be used to design and print maps for Classic BattleTech. HMMap alone isn't game though, but it's part of one (CBT). Some people have made those PDF files too, that can be printed and used as flat counters, or bend into 3d models for miniature purposes (CBT can be played miniature too).
You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.

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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Mobius »

Lava,
Maybe you're not up to current events on all of Matrix’s new games. Panzer Command uses a set of miniature rules to form its underlying system. The computer does allow very fine calculations and regulated movement far exceeding pushing lead. (No more fudging a little extra distance.) The original miniature rule system has been in existence 29 years and is still being updated and tested so there has been time to purge out all anomalies. No thinking up rules as the programming code is being written.

In fact things have gone full circle in some instances with miniatures players using the some of the multiply-by-percent tables of Panzer Command in place of the +/- add-a-factor tables of the original rules. (I would of thought using a calculator during play would slow things down too much, but the players think the added realism is worth it.)
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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by *Lava* »

Hi!

Sorry, I'm not up on either BattleTech or Panzer Command.

My remarks are focused at either large strategic or campaign games.

When I refer to maps, I'm not asking for the computer to provide a print out map, merely a layout of the area which the gamer can reproduce on his tabletop. Here I am referring to the major physical terrain areas such as towns, rivers, roads, forests, and hills. Modular terrain would be one way to approach the problem, such that a "set" of terrain could either be constructed by the player or part of the "Miniatures Battle Pack" in the form of card tiles. This terrain "set" would be used no matter where the battle took place.

During a campaign, when battle is joined, the computer would then provide a battle "scenario" if you will. It would include:

- A general map using standardized terrain whose setup could be reproduced on the tabletop.
- An OOB and entry points of the the forces corresponding to areas on the map.
- A reinforcement schedule, if such applies.

After the battle is over, the player would then enter the combat details appropriate to the game and any movement of forces which left the map and where.

As I say, this isn't the sort of thing which one can simply "bolt on", it would have to be taken into consideration from the very beginning in the design phase of the game. For those who wish to play the game totally electronically, it would be ignored, but for those who would want to play board or miniatures battles on the tabletop, it would provide all the key ingredients such gamers would require to setup and play the game apart from the computer screen in such a manner as to be compatible with its electronic Big Brother.

Ray (alias Lava)
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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by *Lava* »

Oh...

I realize, because such a system has never been devised before, one has no idea what kind of "demand" it would or would not create.

That is why I suggested a .pdf setup in lieu of actual printed card.

A marriage with an established game system, such as the Flames of War miniatures game system, could also ease the burden and increase projected sales.

Take a moment and look at Slitherine's recent effort. This company has traditionally made historical based computer strategy games and more recently computer campaign type games. Their "Field of Glory" Ancients Miniatures Rules set first involved a partnership with Osprey, then extended to Wargames Factory to produce complimentary miniatures. The missing ingredient: A strategic or campaign computer companion game which incorporates their rules set. Can this be far away, given Slitherine's expertise in such games?

Are we on the edge of finally seeing hybrids which blur the lines of traditional wargaming?

As I have said before, the question is not if... it is when?

Ray (alias Lava)
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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by anvl »

Lava,,

Good article here...

Here is a computer gaming system I have been dealing with for a long time. It is a great combination of computing power and miniatures gaming. not sure if it fits the bill of your article, but check it out.

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepage ... /index.htm

There is a yahoo discussion group as well.

There are a few other computer moderated miniatures systems out there, but this is the one I prefer,,but this is a totally personal choice

I found out about this system when they were on Version 3,, and he used to advertise in the Courier magazine.

One of the things I have noticed is that there seems to be a real sense of "Traditionalism" amonst miniatures gamers,,no matter what their period,,and for some reason,, never the twain shall meet, at least for combining computers with miniatures.

I would say that over the last 10 - 15 years the number of people using this, or any other computer moderated miniatures system has been really small. But over the last three years or so,, this seems to be changing.

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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Kuokkanen »

ORIGINAL: anvl

Here is a computer gaming system I have been dealing with for a long time. It is a great combination of computing power and miniatures gaming. not sure if it fits the bill of your article, but check it out.

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepage ... /index.htm
FAQ page says something about Windows 97. I don't know that one, and neither does Wikipedia...
You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.

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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Sarge »

ORIGINAL: Lava

A marriage with an established game system, such as the Flames of War miniatures game system, could also ease the burden and increase projected sales.

Ray (alias Lava)

Me and my war gaming buddies (hex n’ counter) use a Hybrid system of

1) Tide Of Iron boards (outstanding module map system)

2) Flames Of War miniatures 15mm (best detail and availability )

3) GMT’s Combat Commander rules, counters and so on


A strategically place bush on the figure base make Fog Of War achievable [;)]
(always a soar spot with table top hex n’ counter)

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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Sarge »

[;)]

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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by *Lava* »

Hey Sarge!

That looks very kewl!

Nice setup!

Ray (alias Lava)
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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by anvl »

Matti Kuokkanen,,

It works fine with Xp,,which i have,,and I have three of the game eras..and I believe some have tried it with vista with no problems,,but wont swear at\by its use in vista...[;)] here is the yahoo site if you are interested.. http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Com ... =209270491

use your own figs,,use your own terrain,, and use your own friends.. or play solo in the computer or on the table.... it includes a very good operational level campaign system,solo system, naval component with, at least all the eras i deal with,, and a grand tactical module as well..

Clinton keeps his game up to date,,and also is very open to input from we who use his system.. very low key,,, very good system,, thats about all i can say.. [8D]


Edit here: you got me curious so I checked out the faq,, that was windows 97 or later as a minimum requirement..

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RE: Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Sarge »

ORIGINAL: Lava

Hey Sarge!

That looks very kewl!

Nice setup!

Ray (alias Lava)
Thanks,

I would rather play on boards then the 3D modeled maps most miniature fans play on.
To much time n’ space involved in rendering WWII theaters .

One of my buds has a 28mm adaptation of Band Of Heroes with the same basic idea as above , again a module map system made up of felt w/hex lay out . Way cool stuff , we made wooden topographic jigs 12 X12 that you lay the felt ground over the top and place your 3D buildings, trees and so on .

And when finished, roll up the maps, roads, wheat fields and store the wooden jig.

The depth of hex n’ counter in a miniature setting with easily obtained fog of war , I will see if I can dig up some photos .
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Kai »

I too am sad and somewhat baffled that there are not more options here.

Most turned based computer games could incorporate miniatures combat pretty easily. All that would be required is the ability to generate orders of battle prior to any combat, and then the ability to input combat results manually into the game once the miniature combat is resolved.

This would open up a whole new market for any number of games.
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by Rising-Sun »

Been working on a project here "War in the Pacific" mostly between strategy and tactical on boardgame with some roleplaying involve here. I played many wargames and none fit in as realism and details, so that why i been working on this project. Incase you didnt know what or how roleplaying works, its close as D&D pen/paper/rulebooks. Of course this is going to be a very large scale and here some infos how this going to be lay out...

https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?f ... =3&theater

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.com ... -game.html

The map up there is from War in the Pacific by DG, most infos on the map are incorrect and some details need to be moved. So i will be making a new one from scratch. The tactical maps that came in with the game are pretty lame and i will be remaking them into more enhance and bigger maps of course. In my project i will have two options for players to choose from, they can play as historical settings right after Pearl Harbor was hit, or play sandbox and make anything you want. What i am trying to do is make this game into historical settings as possible. After sharing this ideas and my skills, talents, etcs, they said i should go for it. Note that WitP:DG was sale for 350+ that is insane and i want this game to be sell alittle cheaper that comes in with everything you need and of course you need a big room to set this up or hang it on the wall like i did, wont be cheap though.
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RE: Board/Miniature/Computer Wargames Hybrids

Post by AbwehrX »

Great ideas everyone. Keep up the good work!
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