Friday, January 29, 2016

Dice versus Technology ?

With today's technology comes progress. Or does it? We, as gamers, can either embrace technology or discard it. After wargaming for over 25 years, I have witnessed (and fully participated in) the rapid rise of computer-moderated rules, such as the Carnage and Glory systems and the Computer Strategies systems (I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones I am most familiar with). I have also witnessed great resistance to computer-moderated rules. Which camp do you fall in?  Or like me, do you see the benefits of both methods of miniature gaming?

The bucket of dice approach......or the technological power of a computer???

Let's face it, computers can calculate and store data faster than any of us. The ease of letting the computer "do all of the heavy lifting" while we, as gamers, focus on making tactical decisions is very appealing. With no charts or math to worry about, gamers can focus more on the game itself and the social aspect of gaming. I have participated in many computer-moderated games that were smooth-flowing and, to put it simply, great fun. Computer-moderated games seem more like historical simulations than "games." The luck factor is very small, but a gamer needs to understand period tactics and how to make sound decisions to master a computer-moderated wargame. Though there are no charts, successful gamers need to fully understand how to manipulate variables such as mass, flanks, and formations in order to get a historical result. The common complaint of computer-moderated wargames is the "bottleneck" factor. Because a computer can only compute the data that it's given, someone has to manage this data. If this "game master" is slow or inexperienced, players will become restless waiting for their turn to move, fire, or charge. The key to a smooth-flowing game is an experienced GM that can manage the data.....and the players. A veteran team with a veteran GM can breeze through a game with very realistic results. This equates to more beer drinking and socializing.

On the other hand, most gamers started with "dice and charts" games. These games never seem to go out of style. Gamers love throwing dice! Personally, I think most gamers have a psychological need to test their luck and to see if they can beat the odds. I mean, there is really something truly satisfying when your beat-up unit of Confederates destroys a much larger Union unit by your throwing of  "boxcars" at point-blank range. I could lose the game miserably, but I'll remember that throw of the dice for years! Wargaming is connected to gambling in a way (with no money lost......in most cases) and to many gamers, that is the true spirit of miniature gaming. In contrast to the excitement of the luck factor, there are usually some charts or rules (and maybe some math) that have to be frequently checked throughout the game. That is the "bottleneck" when it comes to traditional miniature gaming.

The truth is that both methods of gaming have pros and cons and will appeal to different gamers. That is the real beauty of our hobby; there are so many choices out there that all gamers can find their niche. My personal feeling is that I like both........I love the historical accuracy and freedom that computer-moderated systems give me. I also love throwing those dice and battling it out with Lady Luck. I think, as wargamers, that we should try both methods and embrace what technology has to offer as well as having a grand old time with dice and charts.