28 September 2011

GameTalk - Hitting "Random" on the Event Table

This week's GameTalk topic comes from FoGN (Friend o' GrogNews) and WGer denizen Jack Nastyface:

Random events tables - Some games include random events tables, some don't. What do people think of RE events in a game, and why? Is there a game "scale" (tactical, operational, strategic) where RE make or don't make sense? Does the randomness of random events take away from the careful planning and execution in a game, or does adding unplanned events add to the realism?

What do you guys think? Take it away!

By: Brant


Anonymous said...

Well, some people would say I'm well-known for the random events tables in my games. I certainly like making them up (they can add humour to the game) and they do add some unpredictability to the game.

I try to keep it toned down though - no one likes to lose a game just because they rolled a bad random event. I've had "discussions" with some players who don't like random events at all; I think they are mostly control freaks who should be playing chess but generally there is no problem just dropping out the random events entirely - a bit less of an experience, but if you lose then you know it was just you and not the RE table. No plan ever goes accoridng to plan, even when there are no enemy plans involved.

Once or twice I've gone and built randomness right into the game - e.g. Red Guard, a game I did on the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Play is a very chaotic experience, and some people hated that, but experiencing the chaos was also the point of the game!

Is there a proper scale for using these things? Maybe less so at the strategic level, unless you want to do some things like randomizing the at-start conditions for the game. But quite appropriate at lower levels, where nothing ever goes as planned.

Anonymous said...

there are just too many games that can't keep "random" in the realm of "plausible"

good random events may not be exciting random events - weather has a serious effect on the battlefield, but is not nearly as sexy as random parachuting reinforcements

Anonymous said...

In response to my own question...I think the above comment about "plausible randomness" is very astute. I recall playing AH's "Enemy in Sight" and getting the "Admirality Orders" card...which basically forces you to withdraw a ship from the table to attend urgent matters, elsewhere. I understand the historical construct that is being emulated - the receipt of orders that impacts your situation. I also understand the game mechanic in play - provide a mechanism to force the withdrawal of a ship from play. But tactically, this just doesn't work. I am really to believe that whilst on the edge of battle, sails reduced, gun ports open, netting and hammocks up, that a packet schooner suddenly arrives on the scene, drops a note to a ship of the line, who then packs it up and sails off for points distant?

In other games, I think that randomness may indeed add to feeling of realsim, but that may not necessarily create a compelling game experience. Things like losing a tank to a mine or surprise panzerfaust attack in Patton's Best, or a mid-air collision in B-17. I know these things happened and I know that adding them to the game enhances the historical accuracy...but it is a bit of a "downer" (pun intended) to lose a favorite crew / plane / tank / leader to a hors combat event.

Dying to play Boots on the Ground and Force on Force as I believe both of these games use randomn events and would like to see their implementation.

Yours in gaming,

Jack Nastyface

besilarius said...

Not really totally random, but GDW's Operation Crusader had a great comandand control mechanic.
Each column had to be plotted a move in advance. If there was no commander attached, then they were plotted two moves in advance.
This created a lot of difficulties in the north african desert. Sometimes units ran out of gas by missing a vital supply dump.
Rommel, IIRC, could affect unit's moves by joining them, and this gave the AK a real advantage.
The game was brilliant and maddening by giving the players the opportunity to make mistakes, and through incorrect plotting, set up random encounters and random events.
The players of both sides (the game was designed for teams on both sides)acted more like real generals with the possible mistakes causing great results to the fragile columns.