25 April 2012

GameTalk - Winning a Losing Game

Military history is full of great losses, such as Little Big Horn, Beaumont Hamel, and the Raid on St. Nazaire.  What do you think of games where "winning" still occurs within a context of inevitable defeat?  Are the only measures of victory in such games either a) inflict more damage - or b) evade disaster for longer - than in history?  Can you make a compelling game out of US perspective of Pearl Harbor, or the loss of Torpedo 8 at the battle of Midway?  And do such games have limited replayability?

By: Jack Nastyface

1 comment:

Brian said...

Brant touched on this yestereday at BGG.com, when he asked me about why I designed Summer Lightning, my game on Poland '39.

Eventual German victory in the campaign was probably inevitable, and was certainly sealed by the second, Soviet invasion. Yet, I designed the game in a way that tried to show the reasons why the Germans won (mostly better C3I and mobility), not just giving them a preponderance of combat factors (as had been done with a couple of Poland 39 games in the past).

I also worked in a lot of variations on play to tweak things a bit this way and that, from simple speeding up or delaying mobilization to having the Blitzkrieg doctrine not work or giving the Polish player the ability to hole up in a bridgehead in the Carpathians and draw supply through Rumania. These options were worth more or fewer victory points to the other player, to give it a bit of game balance as well as play balance and replayability.

In the game, the end was triggered by the fall of Warsaw - it was just a matter of time after that and then the focus shifts to moving what's left of the Polish Army out of the country, while damaging the Germans on the way.

I think there's a perverse appeal for many gamers in organizing and conducting a desperate defense. Look at all those France games, both '40 and '44 - still and abiding subject that still attracts new games and studies, yet in either case one player always ends up losing France....