Narrative wargames

@komradebob @Adam_Dray @hamnacb

Here it is! Just creating this so I don't forget.
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Comments

  • The quick and dirty version.

    1) Have a general situation for all sides. This is the broad framing of the problem.

    The snow pack up north has led to a drastic reduction in flow on the Rio Nuevo. Human caused climate change and management practices drove water reserves to 1% capacity.

    Red has a general situation and broad goals.
    Gather up as much water for local uses.
    Red is made up of different groups who have different agendas. Such as City, Farmers, Developers, and so on.

    Blue has a different agenda but also made up of different groups. Such as Service, Bureau, Corps, Save the Cottonwoods, Save the Fish.

    2) Fancy looking map of some sort and counters/figures.

    3) An odds table of some sort for resolution.

    4) A ref to help push folks along and translate fictional action into mechanics.

    5) Decent folks to play.



  • Or you can cheat and ask @Jason_Morningstar about The Calamity of Morgard.
  • There are many different versions of these type of games. Ranging from the early Kriegsspiele, to Totten, to Braunsteins, to Morgard.

    All have slightly different feel and focus.
  • Like from the other night
    image

    This looks more trad but it's Totten-ish.
  • Man, I have a ton of questions, akooser!

    You mentioned multiple factions, all with slightly different goals, meaning even folks all on Team Blue are going to be causing friction with one another's schemes, right?

    Can you give an example of that? That seems very core to what Braunstein play is like to me, both in the many factions part, and the friction within alliances part.


    In terms of keeping things rolling and herding cats, er players, when you have say 2 x 4 person factions, what exactly does the Ref GM do to make that happen?


    How much can players color outside the lines? What I mean is, how far can players go in attempting to have their "assets" ( troops, etc) accomplish theoretically possible stuff, but stuff generally outside of the core activity of play? How does the ref choose likelihood? and immediate or ongoing implications of pass/fail?


    Example: Instead of immediately investing a town with their platoon and fortifying it ( core, assumed activity), the infantry commander decides to round up townsfolk as hostages/human shields ( decidedly not a core activity!). Is this too far outside of consideration? Or do you deal with this sort of weirdness and roll with it in some fashion?


    Does having one weirdo at the player level cause real world friction with other players? How is that handled gracefully?

    Do you have factions with varied, unbalanced resources, or do you try to keep every player at roughly the same level of resources?

    Do you steal core mechanics from other games and modify them ( I totally would)? If so, in what fashion? Do you have core mechanics you always seem t fall back on when the game is under way? I know of a couple people who always use an ad hoc X in D6 type mechanic modified as needed for during-play weirdness.



    Overall, how much do you create pre-game? What sort of stuff ( love that map and those widgets, btw)?
  • Easy one first ;)

    "Overall, how much do you create pre-game? What sort of stuff ( love that map and those widgets, btw)?"

    That depends. At a minimum player handouts, maps, toys as needed, 15mm buildings or cities.

    The Napoleonics is pretty easy since it's most maps with funny looking blocks. Then toss in the General and Special situations, Time sheet (if you are tracking time), odds tables to the players, players maps if you want.

    JM's Morgard was a bit more complicated. Map, character counters, lance counters, cities, money, family tree, character cards.
  • I gotta admit that old school military symbols on colored blocks on a b+w topo map like that looks super cool.

    I'd be secretly roleplaying a staff officer no matter what, as soon as that was shown.
  • Yeah I like the old school maps and blocks mostly cause it invokes a sense of wonder and strangeness.

    Staff officers, kitchen officers, and such are great roles.
  • Also paxsims is full of all this kind of good stuff. https://paxsims.wordpress.com/

    Linked from the paxsims site http://www.playthepast.org/?p=6146
  • @komradebob The paxsims games and stuff they link to contains lots of methods and mechanics for getting at these kinds of games.
  • “You mentioned multiple factions, all with slightly different goals, meaning even folks all on Team Blue are going to be causing friction with one another's schemes, right?”

    Yup. However all the players on the same team need to play hard towards their General Situation. That needs to be clear and everyone agrees to that. As the ref you may need to remind folks of that. Also we are here to play a good story/narrative not to win.

    “How much can players color outside the lines? What I mean is, how far can players go in attempting to have their "assets" ( troops, etc) accomplish theoretically possible stuff, but stuff generally outside of the core activity of play? How does the ref choose likelihood? and immediate or ongoing implications of pass/fail?

    Example: Instead of immediately investing a town with their platoon and fortifying it ( core, assumed activity), the infantry commander decides to round up townsfolk as hostages/human shields ( decidedly not a core activity!). Is this too far outside of consideration? Or do you deal with this sort of weirdness and roll with it in some fashion?”


    I like Totten’s view here. You can try whatever you want given the constraint of the fiction surrounding the game. I have a general odds table which is take from Totten. It runs from 1/2:1 up to 4:1 odds. A broad way of thinking about this:
    I want to do a thing with this intent!
    Is the world against you? Start with 1/2:1 odds
    Is the world indifferent? 1:1 odds
    Is the world actively cheering you on: 3/2:1 odds
    Is nothing really opposing you or do you outclass the world? Automatic

    From whatever starting point the player(s) can make 1 and only 1 argument as to why their odds should be better. This only applies to things that have no apparent or immediate impact on the opposing team.

    Like in your example and from my photo of the game.

    Red wants to retake Hamelet. However Red does not want to make insurgents of the town. So artillery is out of the question and the battle needs to be decisive. Red took the town and then offered up parts of the baggage line to the town. The intent is keep the town happy and deny Blue some new Skirmishers.

    The world was against Red (trying to retake the Valley) 1/2:1 however they ar offering food, clothes, wine, and medical aid. So the odds move to 1:1 .
  • How do you feel about using something that can produce mixed results, like what you'd commonly get by using the core 2d6 mechanic from a PbtA game?
  • Also, akooser, what are your overall feelings about these sorts of games, where you have multiple players? Running them or playing them, or both?

    I'd love to be involved with something like this, but being mostly an at-home gamer ( as opposed to a shop/club/convention gamer), they're absurdly hard for me to organize.

    One last thing: Have you put anything together where there are many factions? Not just friction causing goals and such within teams, but really multi-sided affairs? If so, how did those turn out?
  • Excellent questions. I am still trying to get caught up on the first ones ;) Keep asking away.

    I run these games primarily at home to avoid some of the issues with certain folks at cons.
  • Yeah, cons, when I've been to them seem a bit fraught. The couple that I've attended in the past have introduced me to the far ends of the good/bad spectrum of gamers.
  • “In terms of keeping things rolling and herding cats, er players, when you have say 2 x 4 person factions, what exactly does the Ref GM do to make that happen?”

    Everyone has to agree to play towards the General Situation. Otherwise it will fall apart or folks will get board. Mechanically (system-y type stuff) the Ref needs to check in with every person and see if they are pushing towards their goals. If not – try and figure out why.

    Mostly this comes down to writing or having player authored goals that produce some nice friction. It helps to play test these goals a few times.
  • "Does having one weirdo at the player level cause real world friction with other players? How is that handled gracefully?"

    Get rid of them. Seriously not worth the time or effort if they are unwilling to play into the game. For home cons keep the straight white male population at or lower than 50%. I am being serious here. Makes for way better play. It’s a mandate for games I run.

    At cons if you can make it invite only or run it as a shadow con. The small game during but outside the regular con.

    Do you have factions with varied, unbalanced resources, or do you try to keep every player at roughly the same level of resources?

    Just about everything is asymmetrically. A Napoleonic game might be close to being balanced.

    Do you steal core mechanics from other games and modify them ( I totally would)? If so, in what fashion? Do you have core mechanics you always seem t fall back on when the game is under way? I know of a couple people who always use an ad hoc X in D6 type mechanic modified as needed for during-play weirdness.

    Well the odds tables covers all that. But if you are not using a general odds table then 2d6 is better then x in D6. So AW it ;)
  • "How do you feel about using something that can produce mixed results, like what you'd commonly get by using the core 2d6 mechanic from a PbtA game?"

    It's great! There is a long history of using AW for wargamey type games. The Regiment, Colonial Marines, To Good To Be True, Tony Dowler's Car Wars reworking.
  • I still have a few more to answer for you.

    A couple notes -

    If you are going to be the center of this going to some facilitator trainings (doesn't really matter what), improv trainings, LARP trainings, and reading up on those topics (like mask play) is pretty helpful.

    Kriegsspiel weird things. One of may favorite was all the food making groups in the City of Ur competing against each other for one of the feast days. Like the Brigade de cuisine system is prefect for this.

  • For home cons keep the straight white male population at or lower than 50%. I am being serious here.
    I absolutely believe this one.

    Whenever I've discussed any even slightly out-of-the-commercial-mainstream games with friends, inevitably they'll suggest something similar to what you've said, possibly in slightly different words.

    In every case that this has come up, both myself and the other person were SWMs. :D
  • Also, akooser, what are your overall feelings about these sorts of games, where you have multiple players? Running them or playing them, or both?

    I like them a lot. GMT does this pretty well with their COIN series. Another set of games that is worth checking out.

    I'd love to be involved with something like this, but being mostly an at-home gamer ( as opposed to a shop/club/convention gamer), they're absurdly hard for me to organize.

    Start small with a Napoleonic. You act as the Ref and have 406 players. Red and Blue, with small non-conflicting goals for everyone. Let me see if I have a small Napoleonic written up.

    One last thing: Have you put anything together where there are many factions? Not just friction causing goals and such within teams, but really multi-sided affairs? If so, how did those turn out?

    Yeah. Our Empire of the Petal Throne games as like this. Ideally you will have a multi-sided game. The Morgard game does this really well. The main thing to remember here it’s not the Ref’s job to remember everyone’s goals. Just to keep things moving and play unaligned factions hard.
  • edited January 13
    Yeah, 406 players is a good start. It takes time to prepare sandwiches though ;P
    I guess it's 4-6
  • @DeReel !!!! Ha. Yeah 406 players would be a bit tough. ;) I'll edit that. Or maybe leave it to worry folks.
  • "Time must be tracked carefully in campaigns with 406 players"
  • edited January 13
    akooser said:

    Yeah. Our Empire of the Petal Throne games as like this. Ideally you will have a multi-sided game. The Morgard game does this really well. The main thing to remember here it’s not the Ref’s job to remember everyone’s goals. Just to keep things moving and play unaligned factions hard.

    Can you expand on this?

    I don't have a specific question yet, but just would like more general info on these games you mention, and what you mean by playing unaligned factions hard.

    Also, do you ever use assistant GMs/Refs, or have you kept player numbers small enough that it hasn't been necessary so far?

    If it is a Ref team, how is that structured in terms of duties, communication, etc?

    Oh, and I'm still trying to get a handle on how to keep things moving with say, 8 players.

    I've played a couple of 8-10 player wargames at conventions, and it seems like things tend to slow to a crawl, even when individual players don't have a whole lot of units ( say 2-4) to deal with.

    Is there a good method to keep things moving quickly that goes outside of more common initiative sequences you see in commercial games designed for two players/sides?

    ( It has occurred to me that, with the right group and attitude, PbtA style initiative might work well. But then, I often think that might be useful for many sorts of games. I think that may have been what Verdi was doing anyway.)

  • “I don't have a specific question yet, but just would like more general info on these games you mention, and what you mean by playing unaligned factions hard.”

    When looking at a map what factions aren't in control of the players. And what do they want. In Hamelet (town from above) the villages want the armies out of there fast. But if the town is harassed, shot at it's likely they will form some insurgency against Red or Blue. And maybe the mayor is pro-Blue while the farmers are pro-Red. This will impact Red and Blue's interaction with the town when they are trying to get shelter, information.

    “Also, do you ever use assistant GMs/Refs, or have you kept player numbers small enough that it hasn't been necessary so far?”

    Having two is always nice even with an 8 players game. Or have 1-2 players who know what's up. <- as in the style of play.

    “If it is a Ref team, how is that structured in terms of duties, communication, etc?”

    All the refs are roughly equal. The main job of the sub-refs is to keep the orders coming through or to stir up trouble. They can also play the role of different NPC's.

    “Is there a good method to keep things moving quickly that goes outside of more common initiative sequences you see in commercial games designed for two players/sides?”

    Don't use I GO YOU GO. Written orders or total freeform if better here. It's part of the design for fog of war. IGYG and hexes tend to convey perfect information. And we want to reduce that.
  • "Can you expand on this?"

    Let me get a few things together and we can workshop a small game here if you want to. That might be a better way to get across some of these things.
  • I like the sound of that!
  • akooser said:


    “Is there a good method to keep things moving quickly that goes outside of more common initiative sequences you see in commercial games designed for two players/sides?”

    Don't use I GO YOU GO. Written orders or total freeform if better here. It's part of the design for fog of war. IGYG and hexes tend to convey perfect information. And we want to reduce that.

    I had suspected those were the better options, but it is nice to see that confirmed by AP experience.

  • WORKSHOP 1
    So we can start by grabbing all this fun stuff to print
    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cK_BvpeW9krRKqF8Jv3_ivxb9j4I9f4C?usp=sharing

    All the pdfs are vectors so you can scale to the heavens or a pin head (so many angels). I made it so you can run this stuff off just B&W except for the counters.
  • OKiedoke. Looks cool so far!
  • Chris Engle's Matrix Games explore a similar design space, and are worth taking a look at.
  • It was Matrix Games that got me interested in this sort of thing years back.
  • I'll grab one of the scenarios from Totten that I modified and we can start from there.
  • General idea
    Two armies are fighting over four square miles of the Somme. Blue fell back southeast of Montobert while Red withdrew into the hills around Pierre-Aigle (northeast corner).

    The primary focus is on the art of infantry maneuver and time management. Secondarily is achieving your personal goals while pushing towards your Special Idea.

    Special Idea - Blue
    3 Skirmishers
    1 group of telegraphers

    You arrive at the outskirts of Montgobert at 5 a.m. to drizzle and fog. Somewhere across the valley are 800-1000 soldiers and a dug in artillery position. Blue needs the location of the artillery and it’s removal if possible. Blue also needs to reestablish telegraph lines from Montgobert across the valley to Montcouve. Blue needs to exit off the north-east corner to link up with the 3rd Skirmishers.

    Special Idea - Red
    2 half battalions
    1 horse artillery 12 lbers

    Most of Red pulled back several miles. Blue is rumored to be pushing into the valley on a series of probing missions. The number of troops and their mission is unknown but expect skirmishers and light calvary. Determine where Blue is at and what their true numbers are in the valley. Maintain the forward artillery battery at all costs. Blue is likely to use the valley as a point of entry.
  • I can't see that last post.
  • Hmm it's just a photo of the map with pieces. Not to important. ;)

    So at this point we can workshop some of the smaller unit or personal goals.
  • Oh, I saw it earlier I think.

    How do you do that goal development, normally?
  • If I am the only person working on them I look for places where goals would cause friction.

    The telegraph team actually goal is to break Red's forward line of communication. One Lt. in the group wants to make contact with his family in town XXX.

    Marie-Jeanne Lamartiniére commanding one of the Red half battalions needs to convince the town of Montgobert to rebel against Blue.

    Stuff like that. Does that make sense?
  • How is "fog of war" handled in this kind of play? All that "you don't know where the enemy is" stuff - logistically, with minis and maps, how do you do it smoothly?
  • @Paul_T

    I've done:
    Dummy counters for a single shared map

    Written orders in 15 - 30 minute intervals (in 2 min batches)

    Three maps - Blue, Red, and the Ref map

    Screen dividing the map in half.

    ---
    For more wargamey time thing usually the Commander of each side drafts an overall plan that everyone tries to stick to. I'll give about 15-20 mins for this before we hit the table. Each player will have a high level map for charting out their plan(s).

  • edited January 16
    An important phrase for this kind of play is "Oh hey I hear you are breaking orders and violating the chain of command. Did -insert PC's name and rank- get this far by doing that?"
  • akooser said:

    An important phrase for this kind of play is "Oh hey I hear you are breaking orders and violating the chain of command. Did -insert PC's name and rank- get this far by doing that?"

    Oooooh...that _is_ slick!
  • Interesting! I'm not sure I understand how the first two options there work, though.

  • akooser can correct me if I'm wrong, but I might be able to answer those Paul_T.

    Dummy Counters for a single shared map

    A couple ways to do this, depending on style. You can even combine them sometimes.

    One simple way is that counters are simply numbered, and only the owning player and ref(s) know what each represents until both sides' units are close enough to interact in some fashion, or one side takes an action that default reveals what they are.

    Sometimes rules can even interfere with this, like misidentifying, badly, the type of unit or the shape it is in ( common in real world circumstances), even after contact and possibly combat, has occurred.

    Alternatively, sometimes there are extra counters for either or both sides. These may be marked to indicate a unit type, or might be blank/numbered as above. The idea here is to disguise, on a shared gameboard, the actual nature, position, size, and composition of bigger formations ( again, until close contact is actually made). This is good for situations where both attacker and defender are a bit ill-informed where the main attack will take place, and several options are possible. It then becomes a guessing game between the two sides. Use of dummy counters here allows for feints by the attacker, and possible traps by the defender.
  • edited January 17
    Written orders in 15 - 30 minute intervals (in 2 min batches)

    Mostly this works for the amusement of the Ref(s), who get to act like a perverse Djinni granting wishes :wink:

    Basically, the sides take a bit of a time-out, Diplomacy style, to write up orders for their subcommands, and then sub units (below player level, so basically NPCs) try their best to follow said orders. Often literally. You know, those orders for the next 15-30 minutes that were written in 2 minutes of real time.

    Hilarity ensues, even if the orders are always considered to reach the units in time, the units don't have some other weirdness going on ( like overly bold or cowardly leaders), and the order giver did not add in a bunch of confusing conditionals (guilty).

    If it works like Diplomacy, all the orders/actions then go off simultaneously, or as close as makes sense, in a big clockwork ballet of death and destruction.

    When that's all resolved, go back to the order giving step and do it again.

    Mwahahahahaa

    Alternative meaning to this is, much like above, but you write out several turns in advance, so multiple 2 minute intervals adding up to 10/20/30 minutes of time, then resolve each 2 minute turn at a time, until all orders are used up/ you are allowed to issue new orders.

    In any sort of written orders game play, the idea is to force players to commit to a course of action, as least temporarily, without being able to back out/double up/ re-assign as results are immediately seen.
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