What makes a game a wargame?

Actionjick

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The " if ASL was never developed " thread sort of branched off into a discussion of top wargames. I started thinking about what makes a game a wargame.

Chess is awesome but is it a wargame? What about Stratego or Feudal? Dogfight? Battleship?

Does it have to have some historical background?

So I toss this out for the forum's consideration. What makes a game a wargame?
 

Actionjick

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Chess: not a wargame

Stratego: no, different form of chess

Feudal: sort of, still like chess

Dogfight: yes. The first wargame I ever played.

Battleship: no

I would think one pre-requisite would be some historical context but then what about Starship Troopers or other sci fi or fantasy games?
 
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Honza

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Maybe the subject of the game indicates whether it is a war game or not. If the subject is of some type of armed conflict then you are close to being a wargame. If the game then goes on and represents the armed conflict in its play then you surely have a war game.

It is the 'armed conflict' issue. Is the game about and does it represent 'armed conflict'?
 

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Possibly a game mechanic that cannot be easily (or without willing suspension of disbelief) transferred to a different theme? Typical war-like activities and results - actions usually at a distance to degrade or remove an opponent's assets? Having an opponent (i.e. typically competitive rather than cooperative)?
 

MichalS

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I see several spectra where establishing clear boundaries will be difficult:
(1) Games which use solid, gamey rules with the focus on simplified design and fast play, including PAXSIMs, COIN series or games with euro-style mechanics that use the theme of war - there is a fluid spectrum away from historical simulation and campaigns spanning several sittings towards abstract and integrated mechanics, shorter plays and smaller role of luck.
(2) Very freeform and pre-D&D games such as the original Prussian Kriegsspiel, Diplomacy, Braunstein which attempt historical simulation and thematically are about war - yet they lack solid rules (might require a referee) and there is a fluid spectrum away from command and control over combat forces towards playing only for a single character and pursuing non-combat objectives.
(3) Games which use solid rules, are thematically about war, perhaps even attempt historical simulation, but do not place the players into the position of combatants - i.e. where armed conflict is used as a backdrop and for generating meaningful decision situations for civilians.
(4) Use of mass combat rules in roleplaying games - many of which cross into one of the three above categories.
(5) Games which are thematically about war, share the mechanics of archetypical wargames, even attempt simulation - but are not historical (e.g. SF wargames).
(6) Real military conflict simulations and scenarios, which are thematically about war, attempt simulation and place participants into situations of command over armed forces - but are less about the game (e.g. lack clear victory conditions or resolution mechanics, or even a written rules text as we understand it, usually requiring referees).

Question is: For what purpose and in what context is such a definition relevant?
 
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Actionjick

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[QUOTE="MichalS, post: 2031496, member:

Question is: For what purpose and in what context is such a definition relevant?
[/QUOTE]

Merely pondering some posts in " ASL never developed " thread where a game was mentioned and in response it was posted that it wasn't a wargame.

Twilight Struggle was the game and it was Fort who stated it is not a wargame. I tend to give a lot of weight to Fort's opinion and judgements.

Besides I like thinking about such things.?
 
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MichalS

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I meant my question differently: For what purposes and in what contexts is Twilight Struggle considered a wargame then?

In a discussion with general boardgame enthusiasts you could argue that TS is a wargame. It is a historical game, attempts a simulation (although instead of simulating actual military command and control it rather simulates political aspects), it uses conflict as a backdrop and offers military options in player decisions, while placing you in the position of leadership. It also is not quite euro-gamey. Therefore it is quite distinct from the usual euro game.

On the other hand on this forum or Consim it is implicitly understood that when you mention "wargames", you are not speaking of Twilight Struggle.
 

Actionjick

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I can't make an argument one way or another about TS being a wargame as the only thing I know about it is what was described in the other thread. I haven't checked out any new games since the last century. I have no idea what a euro game is but still find myself curious about what the modern gamer likes and dislikes.
 

MichalS

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In my earlier post above I think I made clear along which criteria I would define a wargame, but I will spell them out explicitly:

A game is to be considered a 'wargame' if it fulfils all of the following three requirements: (1) The player is able to command and control military units or conduct other military decisions from the position of leadership. (2) The main focus lies on the simulation of some military aspects in or around an armed conflict. (3) The victory conditions reward at least in part the reaching of combat objectives.
A 'wargame' is thus distinct from a 'game about war' or a 'war-themed abstract game' which might fulfil some, but not all, of the above.

Of course, the boundary problem is not entirely solved through such a definition. Having said that, couple of examples: Diplomacy would be in and Twilight Struggle probably out (mostly because of the second requirement, partly because of the third). Roleplaying games are generally out since they do not possess victory conditions, although early D&D (especially with Chainmail, the Sword & Spells supplement, the more recent Delta Book of War) - when the focus of the game is a military campaign - would be in. The COIN series would be in (as well as the fantasy-themed Root), since despite euro mechanics they also quite well succeed at simulation. Combat Commander, though usually considered a wargame, is a more tricky one since it relies on hand management, a metamechanic which arguably does not simulate anything. Compare with Fighting Formations which uses metamechanics, but these simulate the conflicting priorities, insufficient capacities and friction of command and control. Warhammer 40K would be in. Those I would see outside the category would still qualify as 'games about war', Combat Commander probably as a 'war-themed abstract game' (or a 'wargame with added metamechanics'). Perhaps interestingly, I do not think the notion of an in-game opponent is absolutely necessary for a wargame, irrespective of whether it is competitive, cooperative or solo. As an example, Advanced Recon simulated patrols in Viet Nam (see also the Hunters series) and I can also imagine a game based around logistics and campaign planning (which are still military decisions around an armed conflict, even if no actual conflict takes place in the game). This is reflected in the formulation of the requirements above.
 
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Sparafucil3

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Chess: not a wargame

Stratego: no, different form of chess

Feudal: sort of, still like chess

Dogfight: yes. The first wargame I ever played.

Battleship: no

I would think one pre-requisite would be some historical context but then what about Starship Troopers or other sci fi or fantasy games?
 

Actionjick

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My favorite sport is Calvinball!!!


Thinking about it a variation of Calvinball for ASL would be great!!! No rulebook or pesky questions. Call it CalvinASL. My VASL tournament debuts next week.
 
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stuh42asl

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Chess: not a wargame

Stratego: no, different form of chess

Feudal: sort of, still like chess

Dogfight: yes. The first wargame I ever played.

Battleship: no

I would think one pre-requisite would be some historical context but then what about Starship Troopers or other sci fi or fantasy games?
Chess is a feudal era wargame, it actually developed from a desire for the upper class to test strategic skills, it also shows your opponent your mental ability to formulate a strategic plan.
 

Actionjick

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Chess is a feudal era wargame, it actually developed from a desire for the upper class to test strategic skills, it also shows your opponent your mental ability to formulate a strategic plan.
Very nicely put, I like it.

Chess is what got me into organized competitive gaming, I love that game and the memories it made for me.

While it may have been a wargame in ancient times it's only real competitor was Advanced Cohort Leader ( see Today in ASL History thread ). In terms of longevity and actual ease of learning the game I don't believe it has a rival. Notice I said learning, big difference between that and mastering it. In modern times I don't think most people would consider it a wargame.
 

stuh42asl

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A real hard to master game is the Chinese game GO, that is pure strategy, a takes a lifetime to really master
 
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