Our strategy and innovation gameing group has met a dozen or so times and played 4 different game to this point. What have we gotten out of this expenditure of about 40 hours each?
One of the most important is the value, or lack thereof, planning – particularly in the military sense – has on “chaotic” game situations. Its interesting to read the negative comments on many Euro games at Board Game Geek. “I can’t “play” the game – it plays me”. “You can’t figure out how to win, the winner “just happens” at the end”. “Too much is go on to keep track of, there is no way to way to “play to win” just survive until an artibray conclusion”. Our group had a lot of the same kind of comments, and dicussion lead to a distinction between two kinds of fundamental “winning processes” – planning to win, and coping until the opportunity to win presents itself.
The degree of structure to the interaction coupled with the rate at which the game state changes seem to govern what sort of “winning process” is applicable. Traditional wargames tend to be classic “plan to win” games. The structure the interation ocurs within is fairly static, often “Newtonian” in operation. A 7-10-8 armored unit is always worth 7 attacking, 10 defending, and moves with 8 movement points. Never 10, never gets stuck at 6. The CRT doesn’t change. 1 more attack strength point added to a 20-7 battle always has expected results according to the 3-1 column. You can plan, because the situation evolves at a know pace, and the rules prevent “Black Swans” from gumming up the works. Wargamers tend to love games like this becasue they develop “game winning processes” based on planning long term interactions between the ways and means to get to ends. Means are fixed and innovation occurs in the “ways” department. you gauge progress toward ends, and make relativley minor tweaks as you go.
Give a died in the wool wargamer a Eurogame and often they throw there hands up in disgust. “I can never get (insert desired resource here) when I need it”. “Too many things happen too fast, how are you supposed to take everything into account?” “This is stupid, just when I figure out a way to win, the whole thing changes on me.” All gripes that arise from not being able to plan and implement a strategy to win the game or at least succeed in the different “phases” of the game.
It struck several of the group “This sounds alot like the gripes you here coming from Iraq and Afgahnistan”. They were trying to play a “wargame” with its planning conventions, and found themselves in a Eurogame, where the situation is too dynamic and interactive for planning to propagate heirarchically from strategic to tactical levels. That is not to say there is not strategy at each level, the “game winning strategies” are just not neatly heirarchical.
The result which has lead to a very interesting dicussion regading how you “innovate” in thse situation when there is so much novelty involved to begin with? This whole discussion reinforced my own notion of the need for a complement to heirarchical military planning that involves synthetic inference of synergies between opportunities (and threats) rather than always use the analytic deduction of actions from desired ends.
Part of this is what the “design’ movement seems to be getting at, but that seems to be a “conditioning” of top-down “strategy-based” planning, rather than the notion of “coping to keep yourself in the game” (often reactively) sowing the seeds of potential opportunity, most of which will not come to anything, but a few will. This can be done within an overall strategic framework for winning, but becomes a bottom- up “luck = opportunity + preparation” thing than a MDMP style top-down hierarcical planniing problem.
When someone asks “Why are you playing those silly games” this is the first “elevator story” I’m trying to simplify to have in my back pocket 😉
More to come…