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Glossary

HFC Game Term Glossary

Note:

A glossary containing explanations of certain words and terms often used in discussions regarding games in general and wargames in particular, was (as far as we know) first compiled by “Den and Clerk” on BoardgameGeek – so the credits for the initial idea go to them!

In our compiled HFC-glossary we mostly used our own words to describe the terms, mainly because the German translation we once published required further information beyond the ones given in the original form of the glossary. So even if some aspects of this glossary appear to be a little bit familar, it isn’t the same thingy. In addition, we incorporated some terms and their respective explanation from “The complete wargames handbook” by James Dunnigan, as well as new terms we came across in various debates and forums.


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


A

AAR (After Action Report)

Stories which were written to portray what was going on in a wargame. There are different styles to do that, either in the form of an actual combat report where the game is described as if it has been a real fight, or the more in-game style where the author is using the game terms to give a strategical /tactical overview. While the former are great to read, the latter often give more precise information to learn from. In the end it’s a matter of taste, though.

Abstract

A game that focuses on a relatively simple game concept, often uncomplex moves and actions without paying much or any attention to details and “chrome“. The opposite of  “thematic“.

Abstraction

A term describing a specific concept in a wargame trying to portray certain elements that took place in the historical event in a simplified fashion. The so called “Design for Effect games” use this concept.

Abstract Strategy Game

A game, mostly designed for 2 players and without any luck factor (e.g. without any randomness, dice rolls etc.), which portrays no historical background or any specific game story and works with very simple game mechanics. Chess is a good example for such a game.

Administrative Units

Units that are not belonging to the normal military troop units but more to controlling units – HQ, Leaders, Supply Markers, engineers etc..

Advance

A common wargame mechanic allowing a unit which forced an enemy unit to retreat to move into the hex/area the retreating unit left empty.

AI

see: Artificial Intelligence

Analysis Paralysis

That’s the name for a situation in which one player starts thinking about every little detail in a given scenario e.g. to analyze the ideal move, or the best combat formation etc. and which increases the “downtime” for the opponent. (see also Downtime and Overanalyzing).

Area Movement

A specific movement mechanism in wargames which is used when the map is divided into large areas instead of single hexes. Examples are Axis & Allies, Julius Caesar (CG) or Breakout Normandy.

Artificial Intelligence

Strictly speaking a field of computer science with the aim to create intelligent machines. In terms of games also used as a byword for Game Artificial Intelligence.


B

Balance

The possibilities / odds for each side to win a game within the given game concept. Games not having a good balance are often very frustrating to play, because one player almost always gets wrecked while the other side usually wins (if not making childish mistakes). However, there’s a difference between having unbalanced scenarios simply because the designer didn’t pay much attention to balancing or the development failed in the playtesting procedures, and between having unbalanced scenarios because of historical reasons. Some consims which try to portray specific historical battles in a very accurate fashion may also have unbalanced scenarios, but accept this as part of their design philosophy (e.g. Imperium Romanum II from WEG). Specific wargames (SQL, ASL) offer a statistical analysis (ROAR, ROS) of scenarios etc.. to get an objective balance factor of a game and a given scenario. (see also Dog and Underdog)

Beer & Pretzels Game

A game that is more concerned with having a good time than with any accuracy or detail and which is greatly based on luck so that it’s nearly impossible for the players to plan any long-term strategies.  Axis & Allies or Memoir’44 are good examples for a beer & pretzels game (see also light and Dice-Fest).

Bidding Game

A game in which the players “bid” e.g. on resources in general or on special units in particular. Also a special variant of a non-bidding game, where the players try to change the given balance of a game by allowing to “bid” on units in order to change the normal set up. While the first is the official concept of a game, the latter is often a House Rule. (unless the game allows bidding as an optional rule)

Bits

Term for the playing pieces that come with a game, for example blocks or counters (see also units).

Black Hole

A term describing something which is actually not mentioned in a rulebook, i.e. when players start playing a game and are facing questions and problems that are not answered accordingly. Usually the term Black Hole is not used on the very rare occasions which can come up in any game while playing, but for lacks and faults which prove that the game wasn’t playtested thoroughly or for a rule which simply isn’t written in a good and comprehensive style, thus giving room for more than one interpretation.

Black Wargame

A game that portrays some of the more controversial or even disgusting aspects that are part of armed conflicts, such as terrorism, killing civilians, bombing of population centers instead of military targets, or which at least incorporate such things as an important part of the game. There’s some debate e.g. whether it should be allowed to make a WWII game that portrays concentration camps on the side of the German player as part of the nazi ideology which influenced the war in general. A game that would portray the bombing of Dresden or Coventry would probably
be called a black wargame etc.. However this usually belongs to the discussion within the wargame community and is not so much a term that is used by non-wargamers, because wargames in general are often considered “bad taste” by folks outside of the hobby.

Block Game

A game where units are represented by wooden blocks instead of counters or miniatures. Only the owning player can see the actual unit type; the opponent faces a blank side, so these games allow for much more Fog of War. Examples are Hammer of the Scots or Richard III.

Breakdown

In most wargames, the military units come in different sizes: corps, battalions, armies etc.  A Breakdown happens when a bigger unit is split into smaller units whereby the smaller units usually have more Movement Points, i.e. they are faster than the big-ticket ones, but have less firepower or combat strength.

Also a term used to describe a malfunctioned weapon, i.e. a weapon that is temporarily out of use.

Broken

Term for a game which has severe problems with the way the inherent game mechanics works, which has poor rules or an unfair balance, so it seems not worth playing.

Also a specific term for units in a wargame that fail to pass their Morale Check. (see also Morale Check)


C

Capture the Flag

A game variant where teams score points by capturing a flag from the opponent’s base and carrying it to their own base. The game is won when one player or team reaches the score limit.  A popular variant especially in ego shooter multiplayer games. Alternative multiplayer variants are Coop, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch.

CCG

see: Collectible Card Game

Chrome

Anything in a game that improves the playing experience as a whole, giving more “atmosphere”, realism, “feeling”…, but which is not actually necessary to play the game.

Closer

A game that’s very simple and easy to play without too much brain work, so that it’s a good idea to end a hardcore gaming session with it in order to relax and to close the meeting.

Collectible Card Game

A customizable “dueling card game” which is based on a large pool of cards  from which players build their individual custom decks  which are then pitched into battle against other players’ custom decks. Deckbuilding follows certain rules and restrictions, but can be heavily customized according to the players’ individual preferences and strategies. In some games, players lose their cards to opponents as part of the game, but in most CCGs, players keep their cards.

The card pool is expanded on a regular base by new “booster packs” with randomized, unknown contents, so if players are hunting for certain rare cards, they often have to buy lots of booster packs in order to find them, but to many gamers, hunting rares is part of the fun. Games sold in this distribution model can become quite expensive. An alternative distribution model with the same deck building and dueling system is the LCG (Living Card Game). Examples for LCGs are Magic – The Gathering or Pokemon.

Computational

A game that feels more like a math study than a living experience that’s fun to play because players have to consult many tables and calculate odds and effects. Very detailed game systems which are trying to be as historically accurate as possible are always in danger of getting computational. (see also Dry)

Co(n)sim

Abbreviation for Conflict Simulation, the more accurate term for what is usually called Wargame. Within wargaming as a whole, it’s a subcategory related to those games with more details and more “realism”, i.e. games that do portray historical events as close as possible in a game. The opposite would be a “Fun-Wargame“, i.e. a game that it’s more about fun, simple gameplay etc..

Coop

A multiplayer game variant, especially popular in PC- and video games (tactical shooters, ego shooters) where players have to cooperate in order to beat the game. Players  belong to the same team and fight against the game itself and play the Story Mode or Campaign together.

Also available as an option in some solitaire board games, for example London’s Burning, where players play British RAF fighter pilots, fighting against German planes controlled by the game system. Some card-/board games are pure coop experiences where all human players play ‘against the system’ (e.g. Arkham Horror) so that this is the only ‘game mode’ available (although most coop games of this kind can be played solitaire as well).

Counters

Playing piece, mostly die-cut and made of cardboard paper, which represents a unit or contains other important information. Counters can be abstract and printed with symbols, numbers or other information (attack factors, morale, unit type and ID number etc.) or be printed with a picture of a unit, for example the face of a soldier together with his respective properties. The unit size depends on the game type,  so a counter can portray a single soldier, horse or armor, or an entire army. Counter based games use counters instead of plastic playing pieces, pewter miniatures, wooden blocks, or other means of representing units. Almost all hex based games use counters when portraying units, but some other games use a combination of informational counters and, for example, playing cards (e.g. Up Front) or miniatures (e.g. Tide of Iron).

Counter Density

Wargames can have a low or high counter density, depending on the number of counters that are actually used in the game at a time. That means it is not about how many counters a game has in total, since a game can have lots of different counters but still use only a few in any given turn.

CRT

Combat Result(s) Table – a chart which is used in many wargames for calculating the combat results. It’s a certain math that combines attack/defense strength of the units involved or other specific attributes in a combat situation and links this combat factor to a die roll. The higher the attack value gets, the higher the chance of combat success actually is. The basic concept behind this is to have some fixed elements – the attack and defense strength or another certain ratio – combined with a certain element of randomness, because in reality both go along the same line. Combat success depends on more than the actual strength of the attacker or the weakness of the defender. Most CRTs take into account other things like terrain, weather, hindrances to Line of  Sight etc.. to modify the attack/defense ratio.

CTF

See: Capture the Flag


D

Dead Pile

In most wargames there’s a certain unit flow of combat steps taken back into the Force Pool and others coming new to the game from this pool. This force pool is sometimes called Dead Pile because you take your troops from the units already dead/destroyed.

Deathmatch

A game variant where each player scores points by killing other players (Frag). A game is won when one player reaches the score /frag limit. Very popular in ego shooter multiplayer games. Alternative variants are Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch.

Design for Effect game

A game which is based on certain abstractions which – although not being realistic themselves – lead to realistic and accurate results.
Usually the higher the game level gets, the more design for effects mechanics are used. A good example are the support units in Totaler Krieg!

Dice-Fest

A game using a lot of dice rolls during the course of play (like Tobruk) to get the results, or generally a very luck based game (like Axis & Allies).

Dog

A game which suffers from bad balance or from an otherwise bad quality which is contra-productive to the enjoyment of playing it. In ASL this term is often used only for unbalanced scenarios and interestingly those scenarios are sometimes even enjoyed by the players – the player who is playing the side that suffers from balance issues is then “playing the underdog.” Some games accept “dogs” in their scenario pool because of historical reasons. (see also Balance)

Downtime

Part of the game when a player is forced to wait until it’s their turn and has nothing to do in the meanwhile. Usually the term is used only if the time of doing nothing is reaching an undesired or even boring level because the opponent is overanalyzing or otherwise slowing down the game procedure. The opponent’s player turn is normally used to think about one’s own strategies for the next turn so a normal game speed keeps all players busy, either with acting or with thinking.

Dry

When a game has no “feel”, no story, no background, no chrome to get people interested in it and/or is heavily based on analytical game mechanics.

Dummy

Some games use special markers to keep track of possible unit position and strength without giving away the exact information to the opponent (e.g. the concealment counters in ASL). Often these markers can also be used to trick the opponent when used like a normal unit on the map but when close contact is made with enemy units, it is removed from the game – it was a Dummy. This is portraying that soldiers may think there’s an enemy at a certain position because of noise or (wrong) intelligence and after actually reaching the pretended location, they realiz that the position is deserted.

Dynamic Potential

The dynamic potential of a game is what players are expecting from the various elements of this particular game. It describes the context in which those elements may be used to portray specific situations which allow to go beyond history and to answer “what if?”- questions. Dynamic potential belongs to a game as well as to historical situations, but unlike a movie which is linear and unchangeable in its story, a wargame allows the players to exercise the potential that was part of this historical situation.


E

Economic Game

A game which is mainly about money managing, buying and/or selling stuff (e.g. Monopoly, Railroad Tycoon). Not used for games that use money managing as part of the game system (e.g. in Axis & Allies the players ‘buy’ their combat units, but Axis& Allies is not considered an economic game since this is not the main aspect of the game).

Ego Shooter

Games played on PCs or consoles which portray a combat situation in any given setting (historical, modern, hypothetical or futuristic) where the player is seeing everything through their ‘virtual eyes’ from a first person point of view. The monitor/TV shows the 3D environment as if the player would actually be there – they can see their hands or parts of the virtual body when they look around, can see their weapon in the virtual hands etc. but they can’t see the entire character or the head or face because the screen is supposed to be at this place. That’s part of other games too, such as Tactical Shooters, but used in a narrow sense, an Ego Shooter usually combines this special kind of perspective with a rather simple gameplay which is mainly reduced to shooting and defending himself against hordes of enemies. In addition, these games often use unrealistic features (e.g the player can carry a dozen weapons including heavy RPG launchers, different rifles, chain saws etc..). Therefore the term Ego Shooter is sometimes limited to such games and so defining a special genre, while shooting from the Ego View as a specific perspective is called FPS (First Person Shooter). Doom is “the mother of all Ego Shooters.” (see also Tactical Shooter and Military Arcade Shooters)

End-Game

Term for the final time in a game, when the players try to get what they can from their special situation according to the victory conditions. It’s actually the same as the end-game in chess and like in that game, wargames tend to have special strategies to open a game, for a mid-game and for the end-game.

ETO

European Theater of Operations (see also PTO). ETO in WWII includes the Western Front, the Eastern Front and North Africa.

Euro Game

See German Game


F

Family Game

Games that focus on fun and high player interaction to keep everyone in the game, usually quite short and without complex rules, so that it’s easy to be restarted and played several times on an evening. Designed for at least 3 players and often up to much more. Many such games are developed by German designers. (see also German Game)

Fiddly

A game whose sequence of play depends on very detailed minor-actions to get the turn going which disturbs a smooth gameplay.

Filler

A game with simple rules which can be learned within a few minutes and does not require deep-thought moves. A very fast going game that can be played between more complex games.

First Person Shooter

See: Ego shooter

Flaw

A game which has flaws or is considered flawed, is a game where the mechanics are not working together in a satisfactory way. Therefore the game is working good enough to avoid being called broken, but has some minor problems the players have to deal with.

Fog of War

Term for the hidden aspects of a wargame, e.g. enemy positions and unit strength. Hex ‘n Counter Wargames usually have low FoW since they give away many information to all players because the counters can be seen all the time. Knowledge of the player which goes far beyond what a actual commander would know in any given situation is called the “Omniscient Player Syndrome.”  Some wargames try to limit this knowledge for the opposing side and therefore increase the FoW by using special markers that conceal real information regarding unit strength or even actual unit positions (see also Dummy). There are also games which are played double-blind so each player only sees their units on their own board  and has limited information about the opponent’s board. While this is clearly increasing the FoW in a more realistic manner, it is much more based on trust than other game systems because double-blind games are open to possible cheating.

Force Pool

A term describing the units which are available for being built / used in a game. Some games allow that all destroyed units are available again for building new troops (so the Force Pool becomes the Dead Pile) and some distinguish between the force pool (units ready for use) and eliminated units (units out of the game).

FPS

See: Ego Shooter

Frag/Fragging

In video games (or in board games which are based on a video game, eg. Doom- The Boardgame) a term used for killing other players in oder to score points. A frag is usually only a temporary ‘death’ and the player can spawn again right into the game. The term is actually derived from what was called ‘fragging’ in the US military, where it meant to get rid of an officer the soldiers considered unpopular, harsh, inept, or overzealous. Fragging was quite common in the Vietnam war and the term as such is based on the prefered method of killing the officer with a frag grenade (to avoid a possible identification of the murderer and to make sure the person would get killed).

Fun-Wargame

A term sometimes used for very simple wargames. The opposite of a simulation (see also Consim).


G

Game Artificial Intelligence

Programs, algorithms, and techniques which are used to create the illusion of “thinking” characters in video games. The ability of a so-called NPCs is to recognize their environment and to act accordingly to their in-game role with the  human player. Game AI uses much simpler techniques than what is used for the creation of intelligent machines in computer science, but since the interaction in a video game with an AI character is much more limited the illusion of interacting with a ‘real’ person can be quite impressive. see also Paper AI

Game Level

Scale of the game / level of abstraction: skirmish, tactical, operational, strategic, grand-strategic.

Gamer

A person who likes to spend most of his / her free time with playing games.

Gamey

A game that has mostly mechanics that are not related to the historical background of the theme portrayed and/or which exchanges details
in gameplay with simple structures to give the players some fun experience. Quite the contrary to a simulation.

GAP

Game Assistance Program – programs which help the players of wargames to keep records, calculate combats, play games via email or online etc. GAPs usually have no artificial intelligence or rules knowledge, but some do (like the Wargameroom Java GAPs created by Bruce Wigdor). Examples for GAPs are Cyberboard or VASSAL.

Geek

A person who is almost fanatically fixed on another reality – say sci-fi, fantasy etc. – and who seems to live only in that inner environment.

German Game

Games from German publishers that have very simple rules, very attractive playing pieces and components and which don’t need too much time to set up and finish a game. The term counts also for games of this particular style even if not actually from Germany (see also Family Games). An example for such a game with a lot of followers in the USA is “Settlers of Catan.”

Going Nuclear

A player who recognizes that he lost the game but who refuses to surrender but simply does what he can do in order destroy the winning chances of the other players, too. Going nuclear is not considered to be good sportsmanship. (see also Metagame)

Grand-Strategic

A certain level of abstraction in a wargame. The counters represent armies or other large units, the scale is global. Example: A World At War. (see also game level)

Grand tactical

A play level in wargaming, in between “tactical“and “operational” level games.

Grognard

This term has not so much to do with games as such, but refers to a special kind of player. It is used for very experienced wargamers and the term was originally a nickname for members of Napoleon’s Old Guard. It’s a french term meaning “Grumbler” and described the attitude of  veteran soldiers who had deep insight in certain battle situations but couldn’t do much about it if the commanding officer released the wrong orders.

Group Think

The attitude of the participants of a multi-player game who see themselves as “one side” winning or losing and where the single player acts according to the needs of the side he is playing with rather than seeing his personal horizon only.


H

Heavy

Games which have very complex rules, which need practise to be mastered, offer many options to carefully think about and mostly have a long playing time.

Heft Factor

Describing the overall quality and sheer amount of a game’s components. A game with a very well made and attractive board, many detailed playing pieces etc.. is considered to have a high “heft factor.”

Hex Movement

Most consims use a grid coordinate system of hexagonal structures on the mapboard, while most easier fun-wargames use the area system or point-to-point movement. Hex grids allow for more accurate maneuver and combat than area systems, although there are some wargames which use hex grids and some consims which use areas, so it’s not a strict rule.

House Rules

Rules which are created by the players themselves in order to enhance the enjoyment of a certain game, to incorporate new elements not
covered by the original system, or to adjust some problematical mechanics in a game which are not working right. (see also Optional Rules
and Variant Rules)


I

IGO/UGO

I go first (with my actions) then you go (with yours) – a short-term for turn based wargames. (see also Turn based and RTS)

Isometric

A special perspective in a wargame where the environment is two-dimensional, but drawn in an isometric view so that the game looks
three-dimensional. Movement is diagonally based instead of straight up/down/left/right. An example is the game Commandos.


K

Kingmaker

A player, himself in a losing position, that has still the power to decide who will win a given game.


L

LARP

Live Action Role Playing -, a Role-Playing Game in which players are not pushing miniatures over a board, but where they are actually acting as the character they want to be. Has a lot to do with making your own stuff – masks, clothes, weapons etc.. (see also RPG and Reenactment)

LCG

See: Living Card Game.

Light

Games with very simple rules and strategies which do not require deep thought. Also can be used to describe a game with an extremely short playing time. (See also Filler, Opener, Closer, and Beer & Pretzels Game)

Line of Sight

A crucial concept in many hexbased tactical wargames where units on the board have to check if they actually see each other or if there are any obstacles which block the LOS. Most games allow no free LOS checks (which, for example, could be done with a ruler), but the rules demand that players shoot first and check then.

This simulates that units as well as soldiers in reality cannot be sure if they actually saw the enemy or were able to shoot at them. LOS rules can be quite complex, calculating the relative height and distance of the units and the terrain they are in. A good example for very elaborate LOS rules is ASL.

Living Card Game

An alternative collectible card game distribution model developed by Fantasy Flight Games. In contrast to a CCG (Collectible Card Game), the contents of each monthly expansion pack is public knowledge and fixed (not randomized). Deckbuilding and customization is similar to a CCG, but players don’t have to “blind buy” booster packs in order to enhance their decks and they don’t have to hunt for rare cards because cards are not rare anymore. Examples are A Game of Thrones, Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game or Warhammer Invasion.

LOS

See: Line of Sight


Luck

A result of randomness giving one or more players an advantage within a game, usually caused by die or card draw. (see also Random)


M

Map

Besides the traditional “Map” which describes a playing board of a traditional wargame, this term also describes a “level” or “stage” in a PC- or video game. Here a map is defined as a limited area which can be a planet, a city, a building, an island or any other setting (depending on the game) where people meet and fight. Maps for multiplayer variants such as Capture the Flag are often taken from the main story mode and adapted to the requirements of a multiplayer level. In CTF two bases are necessary, while Deathmatch maps often consist of a central part which is surrounded by different ways and tunnels allowing the players to hunt for each other. The available space is often very limited in order to enforce a confrontation; the size of a map depends on the number of players it was designed for.

Mechanism

That part of a game’s overall rule system that covers one general or specific aspect of the game. Having good mechanics means those parts work smoothly together.

Metagame

A player using reasons and arguments not strictly related to the game at hand for changing one’s playing style and attitude towards other players. Choosing to attack player A instead of player B, even if player B would be more worth attacking because of strategic reasons, simply because one doesn’t like player A out of personal reasons, is an example of metagaming.

Military Arcade Shooter

Term used for Ego Shooter video games which are based on a military setting but which are more concerned with easy/fast gameplay and thrilling features (unlockables, awards, points) than with any realistic approach. The Call of Duty series is probably the best example for this genre. The opposite would be a MilSim like Operation Flashpoint (the original created by Bohemia Interactive) or Armed Assault, but also sim-like FPS shooters like the Battlefield Bad Company series

MilSim

Short for Military Simulation. Term usually only used for video games (and therefore the equivalent to the term  Co(n)sim in card-/board wargames) which are set in a military context (which may be a historical, hypothetical, fantasy or alternative one) and which have a very realistic approach regarding weapon usage, terrain features, soldiers abilities, tools, techniques etc.. The best example is the Operation Flashpoint/ Armed Assault series. The opposite to a Military Arcade Shooter.

Mini/Max

Analyzing your turn with an emphasis on getting the best ratio of personal resources expended to realized gains. If this analysis gets too long, it is called overanalyzing and causes Downtime.

Miniatures Game

Complex wargames mostly on the tactical level which use small three-dimensional figurines to represent military units. Many of those games have a high level of simulation and their rules tend to be rather complicated.  (see also Wargame)

Mission

Usually a term with the same meaning as Scenario but used in a PC-/video game and not in a board/card wargames. (see also Scenario)

Monster Game

Used for wargames which use very large maps and/or have a high counter density.

Morale Check

In consims portraying combat on the skirmish or tactical level, units have to undergo Morale Checks as a possible result of combat procedures. This is done by comparing their morale value to a dice-roll: when the roll is higher than the morale value, the unit fails the Morale check and is “broken” or “shaken” etc.. This reflects the ineffectiveness of soldiers in combat when they lose their “Kampfgeist” or panick etc..

Multiplayer

Games which are designed for two or more players. Players cooperate with each other (Coop) or play opposing sides. Most board- or card-based wargames are designed for two or more players who control competing enemy factions; some Solitaire games offer a cooperative variant where two or more players can beat the game system together. Popular multiplayer variants in PC- and Video (war)games are Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch.


N

Negotiation Game

A game in which players make deals with other players and trade resources or favors as the main mechanism. Diplomacy is an example of this type of game.

Nerd

A person that tends to be immersed in intellectual interests, or hobbies often at the expense of social functionality. (see also Geek)

Newbie

Someone who’s new to a game, a beginner. Some newbies don’t like to be called by this term, though and it is often considered to be rude to use it.

Noob

An even  ruder version of the word Newbie and usually used to insult a gamer.

NPC

“Non Player Character”. A term used for the characters in a video game with whom the human player can interact.


O

Oleson Point

A special system created by Tom Oleson to compare unit strength in the game Panzer Blitz (PB). Basically done by assigning a point value to each unit by totalling the four numbers printed on it.

Omniscient Player Syndrome

OOP

Out Of Print. A game which isn’t published anymore. Sometimes, very successful games will be reprinted later, but until then, the games are hard to find and only available on marketplaces like boardgamegeek, ebay, and sometimes in specialized game shops.

Opener

A game with very simple rules and strategies which does not require deep thought and which can be used at the beginning of a gaming session to get people warmed up for heavier games. (see also Closer, Filler and light)

Operational

A specific game level (between tactical and strategic) with units mostly having battalion size up to divisions.

OOB (Order of Battle)

Basically a listing of all those units, weapons etc. that are part of a given player sides starting or reinforcing units in a Wargame.

Optional Rules

See: Variant Rules

Overanalyze

To use an exorbitant amount of time to find the perfect setup or an optimal move, especially when the resulting move is virtually equal to all other choices. (see also Downtime)


P

Paper AI

‘Paper Artificial Intelligence’ – term for mechanics used in Solitaire (war)games which control the actions of the game/characters in reaction to the actions of the player. There are several forms of such Paper AI systems, from using a simple card draw to the more sophisticated use of tables, charts and lists of possible actions based on what the player does. Wargames with good Paper AI are e.g. SASL (Solitaire Advanced Squad Leader) and Ambush.

Party game

Any game that is addressed to bring together many players for having fun, without too complicated rules, can be considered a party game.

Phasing Player

The player whose turn it is. Often called “active player”.

Player Interaction

The degree and frequency with which players can affect each other during a game. High player interaction means less Downtime.

Playing the Underdog

see: Dog.

Playtest

To examine the rules of a game and to play a prototype game many times, testing the rules and experimenting with strategies in order to find possible improvements and obvious bugs.

Point-to-Point Movement

A movement system in wargames which allows moving units along specific lines (often roads) which are connecting endpoints (mostly cities) and not freely over the map. (see also Hex-and Area Movement)

Processional

Describes a game that tends to be very monotonous. A processional game will often have little Player Interaction and high Downtime.

Programmed Instruction (PI)

A way to teach a game system to new players. The game has Scenarios which portray situations that need only some of the rules that the game as a whole provides, so it isn’t necessary to learn all rules before even playing the first scenario. Each scenario introduces more rules than so that after all scenarios were played, the game is learned – learning by doing and step by step. An example for a game that uses a PI approach is Squad Leader.

PTO

Pacific Theater of Operations. World War II in the Pacific region.


R

Race Game

A game where players try to be the first at a specific goal-line, portraying horse-races, car-races etc.. There are combinations of Wargames and Race-games, e.g. Circus Maximus or Bloodbowl.

Random

When events or player actions in a game are very unpredictable, for example die rolls and card draws. Often players will have little, if any, control over the elements that control their performance in the game. (see also luck)

Reading a Game

Most collectors of wargames play only a few of their games (not surprising because there are folks out there who own up to 3000 games, or they don’t have any opponents in the area) and are satisfied with just “reading” the other ones of their collection. Which means they buy a game, lay out the map, punch out the pieces and read the rules while pushing some counters. Once they think they know the Dynamic Potential of the game, it goes on the shelf.

Re-creation

A game with a very high level of simulation which is trying to duplicate original historical conditions in detail. (see also Simulation and Re-enactment)

Re-enactment

A term for portraying historical events and battles of the past in a very accurate manner. The best possible recreation of an event in all of its structures, preferably at original locations, with clothes or uniforms made as close to the the original ones as possible, and under the same environmental conditions.

Not to be confused with Live Action Role Playing (LARP) – although sometimes LARPers try to be as close to their (fantasy or Sci-Fi) setting as Re-enacters to historical events. The difference is that LARPs can have accurate elements (that is being true to details given in a fantasy story like the Lord of the Rings that they try to portray) but Reenactment is based on the best possible accuracy.

There’s a certain connection to things like Living History or Experimental Archaeology, although Reenactment is sometimes called “Histotainment” (a mix from History and Entertainment) to make clear it’s not a scientific way to learn about the past and therefore to depreciate it. Sometimes people with a certain political agenda use re-enactment to propagate their ideology, e.g. groups that portray SS units. Although these groups are a minority in the re-enactment community, it caused a serious debate about what should be allowed to portray in the hobby and what is not acceptable. It eventually led to the International WWII Living History Agreement 2007 that states a special responsibility is mandated to ensure proper sensibility is given toward the conduct of Third Reich military forces.

Respawn

see also Spawn/Spawning.

Replay Value

A game’s capacity to remain entertaining and fresh after several playthroughs.

RGB

Abbreviation for Rec.Games.Board, a Usenet newsgroup which has discussions about all types of board gaming. It can be very useful for researching information about games and for getting answers to rules questions.

RPG

Role-Playing Game, in which a gamemaster creates a progressive storyline and other players control the characters within the story. Dungeons and Dragons is an example of an RPG. (see also LARP)

RTS

An abbreviation for Real Time Strategy. Traditional wargames are usually turn based games, but after the usage of computers for wargames it was possible to create an environment where everything would happen simultaneously. So in RTS games there’s no strict Sequence of Play anymore, but the player moves his units and does his actions at the same time as the opponent. There are a lot of debates whether this style is actually better portraying reality than turn based mechanics or not, so it comes down more to a matter of taste.

RTS games tend to become rather complicated, not so much because of the rules which are the base of the game, but because the action easily can get very confusing – you see many units moving and fighting on the screen, while you try to give commands to them and the opponent is doing the same at the same time. Command & Conquer is an example for that kind of games. (see also Turn Based)

Rules Lawyer

Either used for a gamer who interprets rules in an overly literal sense or in such a way to use certain aspects of a game to his favor, or used to describe a person that has an extremely detailed knowledge about a given rules system.


S

Scenario

Many wargames do not have only one setting in which the players strive for victory, but do portray smaller battles and military operations as well. Such battles and the objectives the players are after in these battles is called a scenario (see also Mission). Many games offer a long campaign, portrying the entire war, and single scenarios which are spotlights on certain battles and events within this war. Sometimes, a campaign is played by playing a sequence of scenarios.

Shaken

Sometimes used for “Broken” and another term for units that fail their Morale Check.

Sequence of Play

See: SoP

Set-Up

The initial phase in a game during which players ready all the components that will be needed for playing, lay out the map, determine the sides and place their starting counters or pieces on the map.

Sim-like FPS

First Person Shooter video games which are not as a hardcore simulation of military procedures as a MilSim but which are not Military Arcade Shooters either. Where MilSims often sacrifice a certain ease of handling in order to allow as many realistic actions as possible or even don’t care about the actual ‘fun’ of a game situation (you might have a very accurate sniper simulation that is not considered fun by the majority of players because the real job of a sniper is not much fun (slow movement, long waiting for the shot etc.), the Sim-like FPS is trying to get the best of both worlds so to say. So while trying to provide a fun gameplay they tend to portray key-aspects of the military context quite accurately. Best example for a sim-like FPS is Battlefield Bad Company 2.

Simulation

A game that puts major emphasis on accurately depicting (historical) reality. (see also Wargame and Re-creation)

Skirmish

A level of abstraction in a wargame: one counter/figurine/card represents a single soldier. Example: Up Front (see also game level).

Soak-Off

A popular tactic in games where attacks against adjacent units are mandatory: before attacking the enemy unit which is the real target in a given combat situation, the phasing player makes attacks towards other adjacent enemy units with only a few  and cheap units of his own, often even at bad odds. If everything goes well, the enemy unit the player is actually interesting in, is the only unit surviving this first attack and is forced to  attack in the opponent’s turn, because he must attack adjacent units. This time though, the odds are in favor to the other player because he deliberately didn’t attack with many of his stronger units. After the opponent lost all adjacent units in the soak-off attack, he will also lose now his last unit against the stronger troops he is forced to attack. A game which is known for soaking-off attacks is The Russian Campaign.

Solvable

Not as good as it first sounds: a game which can be won almost every time if you apply a certain strategy or “trick” which exploits the game mechanics. When the players discovered this particular winning strategy, the game is solved – and put on the shelf because there’s no reason to play it anymore. (see also Broken)

SoP

Sequence of Play – in turn based wargames, each player must follow a strict sequence of actions which must be done in a certain order before the player turn is over and the opponent starts playing (see also IGO/UGO).

Solitaire

A game designed for one player. The player doesn’t control all factions represented in the game (as he does when playing a multiplayer game solitaire), but plays versus the game system itself which controls enemy movement. Examples for solitaire games are B17 or London’s Burning where the game system controls the german planes and defense by a random system. Most Solitaire games are limited to the tactical or operational level. (see: Multiplayer)

Spawn/Spawning

A term used in video games (or card/board games that are based on video games) which means  that a player/character/NPC is coming into play. When the character/player/NPC comes into play in a new round and not in the first round of the game, it is called a Respawn.

Spielfreak

A gamer that is totally into German games. From the German word for game, “Spiel” (see also German game).

Story Mode

Part of a PC- or Videogame which tells a story, composed of different missions or chapters and in-game movie sequences. Most story modes are available for one player only, but some games offer a coop variant, where two or more players can beat the story mode together. A story mode is similar to a campaign in traditional wargames where different missions are linked together to tell a larger story. A story mode is the opposite of multiplayer modes such as Capture the Flag or Deathmatch where killing other players in different maps (often taken from the story mode) is the only goal.

Strategic

A certain level of abstraction in wargames using armies, corps etc., instead of single squads. Map scales are larger (entire countries or continents) and time frames portrayed in a turn are higher than in tactical games (often months or even years).  Example: Totaler Krieg. (see also game level)

Strategy

The overall plan which a player tries to put into action in a game. Gaming decisions based on long-range goals as opposed to immediately effective tactical decisions. (see also tactics)

Supply

This term refers to supplies which are used by certain units in a game e.g., ammunition, fuel, food etc.. Units that have enough of those things are said to be “in supply” and units which don’t are said to be “out of supply”. The latter have to pay certain penalties in regards to movement and combat, and supply therefore plays a very important role in consims. Fun-Wargames normally don’t bother with this issue, because supply tends to slow down the overall game speed due to the time needed to plan  blocking, freeing, and destroying supply lines. While extremely important in strategic level games, supply seldom is part of tactical level games, because the simulated time is too short for supply having any influence on the Scenario.


T

Table Eater

A term used to describe a very large game, with many maps, counters etc.. Same as “Monster Game“.

Table Top

Sometimes used for all games that are played on a table which would include board- and card games, but more precisely used only for games that are played on a plate where the players have created some 3D environment and which is used as the playing area for figurines. Warhammer e.g. is a Table Top in this strict sense. Some games that are a mix from maps/boards and figurines are also called Table Tops by some and as board games by others.

Tactical

A certain level of abstraction in wargames using Squads, single Support Weapons etc. instead of armies, corps etc.. Map scale is smaller than in strategical wargames (villages, streets, countryside) and the time scale portrayed in a single turn is only minutes up to days (see also game level)

Tac(tical) Shooter

Virtual simulations that portray a realistic combat situation in whatever setting (historical, modern, futuristic or fantasy) in which the player is supposed to be a combat specialist of any kind and where the 3D environment allows for real life combat tactics. A Tactical Shooter can be a Team Shooter, but doesn’t have to (Splinter Cell e.g. is a Tac Shooter, but not a Team Shooter, because the main character is one man alone, the player is not part of a team) and is not to be confused with an Ego Shooter(Tac Shooters can have Ego View or are designed as Third Person Shooters) although sometimes its hard to tell to what genre a shooter actually belongs to because it is perhaps meant to be a Tac Shooter by the designer but due to shortcomings in the gameplay and unrealistic elements it’s more an Ego Shooter in the end. Examples for Tac Shooters are Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell and Operation Flashpoint. (see also Ego Shooter and Team Shooter)

Tactics

Decisions that are based primarily on current situations and short-term goals.

Team Deathmatch

A multiplayer variant, especially in ego-shooter games, were players are placed into teams. A player scores points by killing a player of the opposing team. If a player kills another player from the same team, points are deducted. The total score for each team is the sum of the scores of the players in that team. A game is won when one team reaches the score limit. Other Multiplayer variants include Capture the Flag and Deathmatch.

Team Shooter

Tactical Shooter, Ego Shooter or Third Person Shooter in which the player is part or head of a combat team. Counter Strike or Battlefield Bad Company 2 are an examples for a Team Shooter.

Thematic

Games which use a rich environment and many details to portray the topic and setting of the game. A game ‘dropping with theme’ is able to immerse the players into the theme and world the game is based on using a lot of Chrome. Opposite to ‘abstract

Theme

The topic of a game, the story told by it – either historical, or fictional .

Third Person Shooter

A shooter game in which the player is not looking through virtual eyes of a life-size character, but where he can see the entire character he’s playing in a 3D environment from an over the shoulder perspective from behind. Such a Third Person perspective can be an optional perspective in a Tac Shooter, or Team Shooter otherwise running in an Ego view. The Conflict Series (Desert Storm, Vietnam etc.) or Gears of War are  examples for Third Person Shooters.

Tile-Laying Game

A game which features the placement of components onto a playing surface (rather than moving components along the playing surface) as the main mechanism.

Train Game

A game that features route-building and/or picking up and delivery of commodities along particular routes as the main mechanism.

Turn Based

Turn based wargames are played in an I Go / U Go fashion, which means that each player has a strict Sequence of Play with specific phases allowing some actions like movement, combat, rally, reserve etc.. When one player is through his SoP (Sequence of Play), his turn is over and another player starts with his actions. Turn based games portray reality in a kind of abstract manner because of this limitation of actions one after another although they describe things that actually happen simultaneously and often have a special phase when the opponent can interdict movement or make Defensive Fire to avoid the unrealistic consequences of this style of play. (see also RTS)


U

Underdog

Someone who is playing the unbalanced side in a certain scenario which is “famous” for its unbalanced nature. Only matters in scenarios which are portraying very interesting combat situations or certain hopeless historical situations where the “underdog” simply tries to play as best as he can although knowing he has usually no chance to win.

Units

A term for a playing piece in a wargame: counters, blocks, miniatures, plastic figures…

Universe in a Box

A game which is complete and ready to be played just with the things enclosed in the box. Needs no debates, errata, forums, add ons, downloads etc..


V

Variant Rules

Rules that are part of a game, but which are only used if the players agree on using some or all of them. Such rules are incorporated to increase the level of details and to be more accurate in portraying certain things, but since the game also works with the basic rules, the designer decided to leave the decision to the players if they want to use these additional rules, because they also increase complexity and/or playing time. The same as Optional Rules but not to be confused with House Rules.

Victory Conditions

In simulations which recreate a certain (historical) battle or war, players are given specific conditions which have to be fulfilled, a goal which has to be achieved in order to determine which player has “won” the game. These victory conditions tend to be very closely related to the actual achievements that were the goal in such a battle e.g. the destruction of a building, blowing up a bridge, holding out at a position, defeating enemies, capturing key countries or strategic locations etc..


W

Wargame

A game in which players put military units in direct conflict with each other. The goal of these games is either annihilation of the opponent’s units or the attainment of certain strategic conditions. These types of games will often have high thematic content and a varying degree of abstraction. (see also Miniatures Game)

The term is also used to describe a subcategory within wargaming itself and then it means games on the lower complexity scale as opposed to consims. (see Consim, Simulation)

Weather

The more accurate a wargame is, the more likely weather plays a big part in the game mechanics. While strategic level games have to consider weather changing like winter, harvest, sommer etc. through the course of the year, tactical level games more often have wind strength, rain and fog that influence movement and combat conditions.


© 2004-2010 by HFC – Homefront Wargame Center (www.homefrontcenter.de)

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