Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, October 8th, 2016 (1) - A Question About Game Genres

The dead bird I have in the living room

A comment on yesterday's post about the ocean tiles got me thinking; I did a very quick and terse answer, but I thought that the question deserved a much better answer, as it gets to the heart of why I do things the way I do - and why this blog exists in the first place:

Nice looking gaming surface! What sort of scenarios do you envision using it for, role-playing or more traditional wargaming?

I've been thinking about this for most of last night, after it came in. In formulating my answer, we're going to go back in time about forty years, to the third floor of Coffman Union at the University of Minnesota and the meetings of the Conflict Simulation Club on Tuesday nights. There were guys named Arneson, Maker, and Wesely there, and the faculty adviser was a professor named Barker. So...

First off, thank you for the compliment! I have to say that what had  been a very unpromising project turned out pretty well, and I think the fleet will get many hours of high adventure and low comedy out of it.

When I did these tiles, I did them to match up with the three other sets that I have: 'Temperate', 'Arid', and 'Desert'. I can do a pretty good river or sea front by mixing this set with the others - or the canals of a dying world. In terms of scenarios, I can anything I want with about fifteen minutes' notice; all I have to do is put out the appropriate tiles and 'dress the set' with vegetation and scenery as required.

When I got started in gaming here in the Twin Cities, this was the then-unobtainable ideal; being able to put on a good game was as much about showmanship and craftsmanship as anything else. Quite a few games became legendary, like my "Great Mos Eiseley Spaceport Raid", as much for the sheer spectacle of the thing as for the actual gaming. Games varied wildly in form and content; in answer to your question, as we didn't see any difference between what I think you mean 'traditional wargames' and 'role-playing'. We looked at it as a spectrum of play styles, where one session we'd be playing a man at arms, a wizard, a ship captain, a tank commander, or a space pilot in a one-on-one game - and in the next game, we'd be pushing mighty armies around the table. We had various sets of rules, and each was pretty clear about the scale of the forces involved; for us, the 'campaign'; some rules were man-to-man, like "Chainmail", and some very abstract, like "Empire". It made no difference to us, as we played anything and everything that somebody wanted to run.

I still game this same way; I'll run what I need for players as required by what's going on in the campaign. If it's one or the other genre of gaming, it matters not; it's all gaming to me, and I don't really have any feel for a difference between the genres that seems to have evolved over the following decades. So, in effect, my gaming is a living fossil of what we did back in 1975-1980, and my game room a time capsule of that place and style of Twin Cities gaming. May I suggest:


Both will give you a sense of that time and place, I hope.

So, yes, I'll be using the tiles for both role-playing games and more traditional wargames. I run both, as you've seen, and hearken back to a time and place where I met some of the most amazing people in the world.