Author Topic: I’m Not the Wargamer You Want Me to Be – A Response to Harold Buchanan  (Read 664 times)

mcguire

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On 22 Feb 2021, RockyMountainNavy posted an article here on the Dragoons regarding Harold Buchanan & His Historical Simulation Engagement Profile, mentioning Ananda Gupta, an article by Patrick Carroll in The General Volume 25, Nr. 5 from 1989, and Jon Peterson’s latest book, Elusive Shift. Blah, blah, blah, trigger some discussion and welcomed comments, blah, blah.

Note: I haven't seen Buchanan's article. Anybody got a link?

Anyway, I have some comments.

History

In his discussion of Buchanan's "History" attribute, RockyMountainNews (hereafter RMN, because it's more fun to type) writes, "I’m trying to think of a wargame that players play only because it represents 'their views of the history.'" One immediately comes to mind: a person who refuses to play Fire in the Lake (and in fact seems to seriously dislike it) because it, in my interpretation of his words, moves the focus away from a purely military analysis of the war into social dynamics and politics, and views the Vietnam War in the light of counterinsurgency thought rather than military attrition. He claims that the result is "scripted". (You probably know who I'm talking about at this point. Yes, he's irritating. However, he knows a lot and freely shares that (often irritatingly) with others. I'm in no way casting aspersions on anyone. Or asparagus, for that matter.) That does seem to me to be a fine example of a (generous) interpretation of Buchanan's attribute.

Mechanics

RMN: "Harold doesn’t explicitly say it here, but I feel like he is communicating that “good” mechanics have “elegance” whereas more simulationist wargames are, by default, “bad.”" Again, there are certain people floating around who feel that "wargames" reached their peak in the old SPI era, with complete knowledge, complete freedom to act, and an odd-based CRT. Any move away from that, either with a new mechanic for a new mechanic's sake or in an attempt to simulate some other aspect of a conflict (or any conflict) is a dilution, a retreat from that peak. That may not be precisely what Buchanan says, but it seems a reasonable interpretation of what he's getting at. Sort of.

The profile diagram

RMN: "One question I have for Harold concerns the “area” of the graph for a given wargamer. Is it possible in your taxonomy to “max out” every category? Or, does the “sum” of the five attributes have to equal 100%, meaning the more you are in one attribute the less you must be in another?"

Yeah, I don't get those graphs either. The attributes are almost certainly independent and the area inside the diagram has no meaning whatsoever.

Gatekeeper

Whenever I see a list of archetypes, I have the urge to hum the theme song to Borges' "Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge", which is somewhat unfortunate since I have no idea what that theme song would be. Slotting all wargamers (and near-wargamers?) into 5 categories might be fun and all, but I'm not sure it is a useful exercise, much less meaningful (or is that the other way around?), especially when some of them are "good" and the rest "bad".

On the other hand, I have myself run across examples of what can undeniably be called a "gatekeeper". The examples I've seen have significant overlap with those who profess the "wargame = SPI-style" belief, but I would not want to call that a requirement; it was concluded that I am not a wargamer primarily because I not only didn't usually play games with others, I don't necessarily play them at all.

The bottom-line

I don't believe that trying to separate people into "archetypes" is a worthwhile endeavor. And "To me, a Gatekeeper is defined by their attitude and actions and not by the games they play – or don’t," is exactly right. But, I think Buchanan's attributes have some utility, even if he did not express them well (or is not thinking about them correctly, unlike myself of course).

On the other hand, RMN's comment, "Harold’s model may also have use as a descriptor of historical wargames instead of players," is a very good point. Compare his attributes with the Little War TV's folks' rule review criteria. On the other, other hand, using the attributes in that way breaks my interpretation of what Buchanan was trying to get at with those attributes. (Which makes me sad.)


I'm not sure where this belongs in the forum, but I 'spose I can hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong. Or whack me with a stick.

"Man...knowing how to use the cards properly certainly changes how I play the game" -- judgedredd


bayonetbrant

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Note: I haven't seen Buchanan's article. Anybody got a link?

it's not online - it was in print in the latest C3i Magazine, but hasn't gone digital.

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mcguire

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Note: I haven't seen Buchanan's article. Anybody got a link?

it's not online - it was in print in the latest C3i Magazine, but hasn't gone digital.

Your article was really interesting, by the way.

"Man...knowing how to use the cards properly certainly changes how I play the game" -- judgedredd


bayonetbrant

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Note: I haven't seen Buchanan's article. Anybody got a link?

it's not online - it was in print in the latest C3i Magazine, but hasn't gone digital.

Your article was really interesting, by the way.

which one?  and "thanks," either way :D

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bbmike

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"That’s like saying someone is not a fantasy literature fan just because they haven’t read Tolkien."

Maybe. But if someone that claims to be a fantasy literature fan tells me they haven't read Tolkien, I'm gonna be like:




 :P


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bayonetbrant

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I read it, I just don't have a desire to read it again

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mcguire

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which one?  and "thanks," either way :D

Motivations of Hobby Game Players.

Brilliant!

Quote
I read it, I just don't have a desire to read it again

Uh, I may need to revise that...

"Man...knowing how to use the cards properly certainly changes how I play the game" -- judgedredd


bayonetbrant

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Harold's extended reply over on FB

Quote
Harold Buchanan
Hey Mr. Navy
Thanks for taking the time to read my column in C3i and taking the time to break it down in such detail. No higher praise than to make it on a serious wargamer’s radar. It is interesting to see my piece through someone else’s eyes. I expect it will never look the way I envisioned it. I also expect players won’t agree that my 5 archetypes cover 80% of the hobby. Hopefully they will come up with their own archetypes and debate why we play. In which case its mission accomplished.
A few thoughts on your analysis.
First, the C3i piece was never meant to be an evaluation of good and bad. My model is offered as an opportunity to discuss why we play wargames accepting there are great differences in why many of us play. Judgement is not made on any wargamers (although I admit I am always disappointed by Gatekeepers.)
Second, the scales of measurement are not 1 dimensional with good versus bad. Rather they are multi-dimensional continuums with positive qualities at any point. Not good and bad. Not best and worst. From the article: “The extreme measure of that attribute (furthest from the center) does represent the most visible manifestation of that attribute. In the interest of simplified presentation, a range of measures (not just the absence or presence of that attribute) are represented by the line.”
Third, my dad told me something years ago that rings true today. “When people are talking and you think it is about you, it probably isn’t.” You can be any kind of gamer you want and I will be fine with it. Design of the Uber Wargamer is not my goal – they are likely a jerk anyway. My real goal would be to have us talk about our differences and more importantly how we can welcome new players from many backgrounds into the hobby we love.
In summary I will direct you again the conclusion of the article. “In the end it appears that the Core Wargamer has some of each attribute. That’s powerful and it’s what really pulls us together as a group.”
Thanks again for the vigorous commentary. Everything you publish is must read in my book. As for me, I’m off to work on my next column. Maybe something a little less controversial like “What is a wargame”
HB

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RockyMountainNavy

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Thanks for posting this. I’ll stand by my view that Harolds taxonomy may be useful for games but less for gamers.

At the end of the day it doesn’t actually matter. We are a community of gamers - full stop.