Tobruk was notorious for requiring continual dice-rolls and table references every time a tank fired a round. Whereas the effects of armor-piercing rounds on various tank types were arguably well modeled in that game, the tactical flow completely broke down as tank-by-tank, turn-by-turn fire and movement bore no resemblance to an actual World War II tank skirmish in Libya. The realism trees got in the way of the simulation forest, so to speak.
|Age of Renaissance: commodities cards|
Paul R.'s specific issue with Eurogames is that they don't necessarily gain playability when they sacrifice realism. Here is an excerpt from an email response to my post last October on approachability:
For any new rule introduced, the designer should ensure the new rule adds either realism, or playability, and be aware of the impact on the other.
As I see it, the objective is to simulate the processes (mechanics) of the real world, as well as historical or at least realistic boundary conditions, to the extent possible without making the game unplayable. There is a balance, which will vary from game to game, as it should. Players can then seek the balance between playability and realism that best suits them, on that occasion.
However, ... I find with some recent games -- more often with the Eurogames focusing on optimization of unrealistic mechanics dealing with construction or economics -- the designers introduce mechanics (rules) which add neither realism nor playability, but seem to subtract from both. As a result, the game is difficult to learn, and not realistic. The game ends up being a struggle between players to be the first to understand the artificial mechanics, to "solve the puzzle." In follow-up games, victory goes to the first to optimize the unrealistic mechanics. The better examples of these games allow multiple ways "to solve the optimization puzzle."
Why would the designer add artificial mechanics which don't increase the playability? I think it's based on a different perception of what a "game" is supposed to be. Some players see it as a puzzle to solve. Others, including myself as a wargamer -- see a game as a simulation of the mechanics of the real world.
|Image courtesy of|
Rio Grande Games
I don't necessarily object to games as puzzles, but I certainly see Paul R.'s point. Moreover, familiarity with the deck can certainly skew the "historical simulation" of a game. In History of the World, if you know the Romans are coming, you might play the Macedonians differently from what you would do if you really were Alexander the Great with no foreknowledge of the Roman empire.
For my part, I like a good game. SJW is a good game, and part of what makes it good is the degree to which it seems to simulate the real-world battlefield decisions that faced generals like J.E.B. Stuart and John Pope. At the same time, Agricola is a good game because its mechanics require planning and forethought as well as taking one's opponents into account - even if it doesn't model in any realistic sense the challenges of farming at the dawn of the Renaissance. In an email interchange among my gaming friends, I concluded that "a game is enjoyable if it's a shared mental challenge where you can look back and see which decisions led to your result." Whether that comes in the form of a real-world modeled decision-space or an abstract game with a pasted-on theme doesn't affect my enjoyment of the game.