Monday, November 2, 2009

Simulation Versus Imagination

What is a game? More specifically, what is a war game?

According to the dictionary, a game is "a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules".

There are two components to a war game, the game concept itself, that is, how one plays and wins, and what the game play simulates.

In a war game, what is being simulated is usually an historical conflict of some kind.

The war game with probably the least simulation involved is chess. Yet chess is an extremely complex game, perhaps the most complex war game. So the degree of simulation doesn't necessary indicate the degree of complexity.

What exactly is simulation in a game?

Recently, I browsed some games for research on MASTER AND COMMANDER, a Napoleonic naval combat game I was designing. I encountered one naval game set in that period that had a rule for putting out fires aboard ship!

Now THAT is simulation.

However, to achieve that level of simulation, one has to sacrifice ease and speed of play.

In MASTER AND COMMANDER, the game aspect is emphasized over the simulation aspect. Oh, there are broadsides and boardings and ship collisions and loss of steerage. There is plenty of action and wind direction to be concerned about. But you won't be bogged down in time-consuming minutae. Instead, your imagination will fill in the details while the game captures (hopefully) the essential flavor of Napoleonic sea combat in a quick-play format.

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