Saturday, February 18, 2012

A fine on-line reference

The Economist style guide is available again.  I have always loved style guides.  Whether I am good at using them is another thing entirely.

Anyway, this one is well worth the time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

See Margin Call!

OK, I confess, when I see a movie generally I watch things blow up.  I decided to see this film because I work with folks in an investment bank and I wanted to see how well it showed their loves.

I was blown away.  Margin Call is the best drama I have seen in a long time.  It depicts very real people in real situations; there is no over-the-top screaming and shouting but instead the beautifully depicted real behaviors of believable people in very tense situations.

The sets are utterly perfect -- I've done a small amount of IT work in an investment bank in NY; the way the set looks, the way the people look, the way they sound, the way they work, is utterly accurate.  The simple fact that in chimes in as right at so many levels gives it extra impact for anyone who has worked in a business office.

The depiction of how Over The Counter securities are traded is also dead-on-right; quiet people at computer monitors talk to counter-parties over the phone.  The screaming and waving of the old-style stock exchange is gone -- gone, I am told, from the stock market as well.

Great movie, great performances.  I've seen it three times -- cinema alone, at home with my wife, and with the producers' commentary.  Each time it just gets better.  My wife loved it -- felt the character's dilemma, saw the ways in which they were trapped, and really connected with the performances.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hit then kill vs. One roll -- What about the drama?

Many WWII games (WRG, Command Decision, and to a certain extent BKC) resolve AT fire in a two-roll process - first you roll to hit the target (which may also neutralize or suppress it), then you roll to see it the hit "kills" the target.

Statistically, there is no reason why this can't be compressed into one roll - one might prefer to use a D10 or even a D20, but for one unit firing at another it's simple enough to picture a system where 1 through x is no effect. x+1 through y is neutralized, and y+1 through <max dice value> is a kill.

But is it dramatic enough?  Is there actual game benefit in building suspense with a penetration roll?  Or especially in having the defender roll his "armor save"?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The appeal of simplicity

I have been thinking a bit more about WWII games, and more specifically about the old WRG rules that I played for many years with many scales of figure.   Not sophisticated by today's standards, but good fun and representative enough to make an acceptably realistic game.

Points I like:

  • The fire/neutralize/kill model is intuitive;no explaining to players why all these accumulated and removed hits somehow represents the dynamics of a platoon
  • Simple command and control - write orders, stay in command distance.  All good.  More predictable than real life, but less frustrating.
  • Free; OK I do have a paper copy, but it can also be downloaded from the WRG website at the History of WRG tab.
Potential problems:

  • Calls for separate LMG and ATR stands.
  • Very small infantry stands compared to what I am currently using.
  • Uses 1:1 TOE; my lads all already organized into battalions.
All of these can be mitigated.

  • I can develop a new set of infantry fire tables based on my stand systems
  • which makes the size issue less important as well
  • I can "Bathtub" the game to use a stand=platoon or so TO while still having it "act" like a 1:1 rules set.
I am also inclined to produce something closer to a set of "Frankenrules" using:
  • some elements of the reasonably elegant D10 based Command Decision hit/kill roll system 
  • introducing experience-based to-hit modifiers
  • adding and explicit close-assault component
The backbone I will keep from WRG: fire-then-move and write orders.