The early history of matrix games; 2p matrix games

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Bob Cordery talks about the early history of matrix games:

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.ca/2016/07/28-years-later-my-small-part-in-early.html

I read about these in the 90s (it may have been from when they started to get mentioned and printed in Wargames Illustrated magazine) and may have been one of the first to mention them to the US professional wargaming community, back when I set up a small wargaming wiki (now defunct) for the Military Operations Research Society’s Community of Practice on Wargaming. If I wasn’t, so what – I’m glad this useful method is having its moment in the sun over on this side of the pond.

The US military has always had a bit of a problem with the “not invented here” issue, but then again, in the very beginning, it was invented there. Or “here”, depending on where your here is. Either way, we owe Chris Engle much.

EDIT: Over at Rex Brynen’s blog Paxsims, Chris Engle himself contributes a piece about how he came to conceive of and develop them! He is now writing a book that sets out the intellectual argument for, and varied uses of, matrix games. Looking forward to this one!

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/engle-a-short-history-of-matrix-games/

2-player matrix games?

Over on BGG.com Peter Perla and I were discussing the argument resolution mechanism for a small press game by David Janik-Jones called “Move it, Soldier!”. It’s a card game, an attempt to render the Engle matrix game engine for two players – that is, no umpire.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/132795/move-it-soldier

The strength of each player’s arguments are rated by the other player, and the differences between the two ratings add or subtract dice from a total number of d6 to be rolled (highest total wins the argument). Peter pointed out that someone who looked at game mechanics, or at least knew about game theory, would never bother rating one’s argument at less than 5 (the highest possible), just to exploit the mechanism. My counterpoint was that the probable point of David’s game is for both players to work at creating a believable and enjoyable narrative together, and that hypercompetitive Lizard People who view all games as elaborate puzzles to break and win ought not to play it. David said much the same thing, less bluntly and more articulately. Peter responded that if that is really the case, then the formalism of the argument resolution mechanism actually got in the way of what the players were trying to do, that trying to make the mechanism objective undermined the motivation to make persuasive arguments. Players would be better off not  using it at all, or at least talking it through and coming to a consensus on who ought to get a DRM and how much.

In the end I suppose Peter is right, as he usually is. But there ought to be a way to solve this 2-body problem. Chris Engle always wrote about these games in terms of role-playing, and perhaps there are mechanisms in that world that could help without getting into thick rulebooks and lists of conditional DRMs. I don’t know enough about what’s been done with RPGs.

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Interview with Grandmaster Phil

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On Waterloo Bridge, looking east. King’s College London is on the left. Taken on 2013 trip to the inaugural Connections-UK conference. London was having a heat wave. I loved London.

The Centre for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) blog today features an extended interview with Dr. Phil Sabin, of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, also author of the excellent book Simulating War: Studying Conflict Through Simulation Games.

Dr. Sabin discusses his start in wargaming, , how military professionals can and should use wargames (and advances some very good reasons why professional wargaming is currently experiencing a swell of official interest), what makes a good wargame, the essential differences between board and computer wargames, and names several wargames on asymmetric conflict that are of interest (two of these are my Kandahar and A Distant Plain! Beirut ’82 and Drive on Baghdad get a shout-out too).

Have a read of it!

http://cimsec.org/lord-wargame-chat-dr-phil-sabin/26631

Teaching COIN (with Cuba Libre)

Over at the Ludobits site, Paul Dussault talks about his methods for teaching the COIN system (using Cuba Libre as an example) to newbies, whether they are Eurogamer or wargamer in origin.

Some great advice here, that can be applied to teaching other games like this. I’ll admit that after playing these things off and on for over 35 years, and designing them for 25, I do forget how complex and daunting they must seem to some people.

http://ludobits.com/blog/posts/cuba-libre-coin-pedagogy

A Distant Plain – another review.

 

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https://theplayersaid.com/2016/07/08/a-preview-of-a-distant-plain-insurgency-in-afghanistan-by-gmt-games/

A long and nice review of A Distant Plain, including an account of his game.

I thought a few more of these might come out since the reprint has become available (almost 1,100 pre-orders for the reprint; no idea how many GMT actually printed – the first print run was around 3,600 copies).

Thanks!

Back, bruised, from Tempe.

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Playtesting Colonial Twilight with Joseph Vanden Borre (who came all the way from Belgium) and Ian Weir. Photo: Harold Buchanan

Okay, I am back and things went well, considering.

The day after we arrived I was starting down the stairs with Lianne on the way to lunch, and I stepped on something that wasn’t there (bright sunlight into dark staircase). I fell and got a bruise+hematoma on my but-tocks (say it Forrest Gump style) that made and makes it hard to sit, sleep, or walk normally. It’s not the ugliest thing ever to happen to my body but the bruise was so large and spectacular I gave it a name.

Apart from that, I got in some really good playtesting of Colonial Twilight, met with Mark Simonitch about the final art, cemented an idea about the ‘bot (which is the last major detail to be completed in the game), and buy-in to the forces adjustment (a slight reduction in the number of Government pieces). Also, Lance McMillan and I took Red Horde 1920 for a spin and he gave me a lump of good ideas to use in it – much improved I think.

Met lots of people I never see except at this convention – though LCOL Barsness from the Army War College was there for the first time too.

Highlight was Daniel Thorpe and the other five or six Canadian attendees organizing a Canada Day Eve event – he laid in 60 bottles of Labatt’s Blue and boxes of poutine from a US Fries place around the corner from the hotel, and group entertainment was provided with a Canadian military history trivia quiz. Team “Dieppe” won the donated prize copies of War Plan Crimson and Scheldt Campaign !