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What Makes a Wargame?
After years of reading people try to define the genre, I've boiled it down to one abstract concept -- stepping into harm's way -- which meshes with Dyer's observation above. In a wargame you step into harm's way in order to advance your agenda. That's the only concept that seems to unify all the titles I put into the category.
Its really got nothing to do with a game having combat in it. May games do but i wouldnt call the wargames. It has to do more with how a game plays.
Ultimately this is why categories exist, I know right away what to expect when one of my game buddies say “this is a war game”. Or “this is a eurogame”. It doesnt help anyone if we lump ASL into the same category as kemet. Sure both have combat but they are different play experiences.
Maybe the term watgame is outdated, sorta how most of the “kids” out theee dont really get what Ameritrash means or was about. But its the term we have.
Sure not everything will fit neatly. I would argure the Twilight Struggle is more of a war game than not, but thats not really the point. The important part is that i can convey to someone who has not played a game what the experience will be like.
So call me old school, but i like to be able to wuickly categorize a game. Even if at best its an 80% accurate description, its a place to start.
I cut my teeth on old AH and West End games, so the concept may be too concrete in my mind and I automatically assign my internal definition to the word when it comes up in conversation.
As a teenager, I spent almost as much time playing wargames as role-playing games. Then my best friend moved away, and the rest of my friends were primarily into rpgs, so I just abruptly stopped playing wargames. So my observations about wargames may be out of date. At least I didn't insist that wargames include CRTs, hex maps, and lots of cardboard chits.
Shellhead wrote: Obviously a wargame is a game about a war, or at least an individual battle within that war. Beyond that, most wargames favor accuracy in simulation over mere playability. That leads to many other things that I associate with wargames, such as lots of components, complex rules, long setup times, and even longer play times.
OK. Since you and Jake both associate the term "wargame" with the Avalon Hill style, even if they don't use CRTs and hexes, does that mean that Runewars, for example, isn't a wargame? It fits Sag's definition, but it isn't an historical simulation so accuracy isn't an issue. The rules aren't that complex and setup is pretty easy and it usually can be played in three hours (as opposed to something like, say, Siege of Jerusalem, to mention one of my favorite old AH titles (and one that I still own.)) Runewars has the rules for the heroes which brings in the "adventure" side of it that you'd never find in one of AH or Columbia's block releases. Does that remove it from your definition?
Jackwraith wrote: So, Titan, for example, wouldn't qualify as a wargame?
I suppose you could have individual monsters or heroes that are powerful enough to fight an army. But I hesitate to agree with an overly broad definition of wargame. If everything is a wargame, then wargame means nothing. Maybe Titan is a wargame, but I wouldn't consider Magic: the Gathering to be a wargame.
Hence, I would say Runewars, like Twilight Imperium, is Ameritrash. Titan is also Ameritrash, despite the wargame minigame. Which makes sense, since it was originally an expansion.
Of course, there are no airtight definitions of any genre, they are always cultural things with no clear meaning. If you go to video game forums you see a lot of debate and back and forth over what is a "RPG" and it's actually kind of hilarious what is and isn't considered a train game because it's not intuitive at first glance (Power Grid is a train game, Russian Railroads is not) and seems to boil down to "How likely are 18XX players to play it".