Gaming, large and small

Sometimes it’s a bit strange being Australian and reading wargaming blogs and sites. Most writers are American or British, and there are some things that are often taken for granted about world-wide gamer culture that don’t tally with my experiences at all.

For example, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that in terms of point sizes, American games tend to be on the large end of the spectrum. In the heyday of 5th edition Warhammer 40,000, the bigger US tournaments were normally arranged around 2000-2500 point games. That is HUGE by Australian standards. I’ve never participated in a Warhammer 40,000 tournament with games larger than 1850 points. 1500 or 1750 is standard.

Likewise with other games, such as Infinity. The Infinity wiki mentions the pros and cons of different sized games, yet it’s not uncommon to see US-based gamers take 300 points to be the standard. Craig on the D6 Generation pod-cast recently referred to a 300 point game as a “full size” game, as if smaller games are lacking somehow. Here in Australia 300 points is more the maximum than the standard. I actually find it hard to build a 300 point list for Infinity that is still focused and works together well. There is just too much space.

If you’re expecting hard science to back up these claims, tough luck! But I did do a quick Google scan. US Infinity tournaments seem to range from 200 to 300 points, but with significantly more 300 point ones. In the UK the spread is pretty even. In Australia we tend to play 200 points as the standard.

Why is this? My guess is that cultural factors cause players to lean towards certain sizes. In Australia we have a frugal approach; we like to see how well we can do when we don’t have the option of taking whatever we like, and we want to limit “no-brainer” choices. That way, not only are the games quicker (which is a sweet mercy in the case of some systems), but designing your army is an exercise in cunning.

Larger, American-style games push the limits. They let you take pretty much anything you like, and thus become bombastic and exciting arms-races that test each faction’s elite against the others.

I don’t want to draw any major conclusions, but I’d like to share this: my dad told me a funny Vietnam war story, of a US soldier with a defective M-16 offering to swap a tank(!) for an Australian self-loading rifle. The US Marine Corps (“the Few”) is larger than all three arms of the Australian Defence Force put together. Perhaps that says something about our respective cultures, and the way we approach even games about war?

All the best,

James

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11 thoughts on “Gaming, large and small

  1. The Warlock says:

    As a fellow Aussie, I can definitely agree with the frugal approach to buying and gaming- Doing more with less makes for better generalship and probably because everything is so damn expensive here ^^

    Regarding infinity, I’m kinda lucky everything I decided to get is exactly 200pts (and 9 guys) all up πŸ™‚ Thanks for posting that info

  2. sinsynn says:

    Well, this is interesting, James.
    I fully acknowledge that there are a large portion of ‘merican gamers that believe ‘moar is betterer,’ but I’ve never really been one of them.

    I REALLY dislike the whole ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to gaming. What I DO like is following the recommendations usually found in every rulebook for ‘game size,’ or whatever.
    Every rulebook, for every game, usually hints at what points value a well-rounded game should be. They never make min or max points an actual RULE, but you’ll generally find a gentle suggestion in there, somewhere. Dystopian Wars slips it in pretty cleverly in their rulebook- ‘An X point game can be played quickly, at lunchtime, for example, while a Y point game is more suited for an evening of fun. Finally, a Z point game can last all day and into the night!’
    I’m paraphrasing, but basically what they did there is lay out 3 different ‘recommendations’ for how many points the game of Dystopian Wars should be played at.
    I tend to place some credence in these recommendations, because I bet dollars to doughnuts that’s the values the game was DESIGNED AROUND. PLAYTESTED AT, even.
    If the friggin’ people who made the friggin’ games are giving you a lil’ nudge-nudge, for yer own enjoyment it pays to take heed.

    I’m sorry, man, but I REALLY gotta disagree with you on the Infinity point value.
    This is what I’ve been running lately:

    Here’s the basic core of what I’ve been running lately

    Ko Dali (*broad, overly toothy Xenos grin*)
    Speculo Killer
    Vector Operator w/HMG
    Daturazi Witch Soldier (x2)
    Shrouded w/Minelayer (x2)

    That core is 189 points, and has no lieutenant.

    Infinity isn’t like other games- points = models, which = Orders.
    None of the above listed models are like, super-powered toys. Infinity doesn’t really have units that can compare with something like 40k’s Terminators until you get to the TAGS, which you can’t even really run at 200 points without your list becoming ‘all about’ the TAG.

    Also, Loss of Lieutenant and/or Retreat! in a 300 point game comes at a time when it SHOULD happen- you and your opponent playing ‘hide and seek’ cuz he’s got 5 models and you’ve got 4 is not a lot of fun. In a 300 point game it would be over at that point, cuz that kinda thing is just annoying.
    Nascar will cling until the bitter end, and even play ‘I pass- your turn, come and get me.’
    Then he huddles his last few models together in a building, and I gotta go dig him out.
    -_-

    I’ve had to put a stop to it. Now when one of us gets sent into Retreat!, the game is over. Period.

    I fought with Stelek a LOT over 2000 point games of FoW, cuz building a list in that game is all about making sacrifices, and finding balance, and making due. 2000 points in FoW is just over doing it. I used to laugh when he claimed the game was designed for 2k, but NOWHERE in the rulebook did it suggest games be played at more than 1850, I think.

    Infinity is different, though. 300 is pitch-perfect. I wouldn’t wanna play with more. But damn, dude- are you having fun playing at that value? If you are, imagine if you had another 100 points to play with. And if yer not having as much as you suspect you could, it’s cuz you’ve got 7 cheerleaders and 3 capable dudes in yer list!

    • beat ronin says:

      Hey SinSynn. Feel free to write as many posts in my comments section as you like man. I’m honestly really grateful that anyone is commenting at all. Switching blogs and starting from scratch like this, I can totally understand people just not bothering. So cheers mate.

      Right, as to what you said. That’s kind of my point: I do enjoy 200 point games. I actually like only having three competent soldiers and six or seven order generators. And I’m not alone. It seems like most Australians genuinely enjoy playing with less and fighting uphill battles. It’s kind of perverse I suppose but there it is. A game where you have the freedom to choose whatever you want is fun every now and then, but as a standard, it just seems too easy. Many Aussie gamers I know think the way The Warlock does: that getting by with less is evidence of better generalship. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but that’s why our tournaments generally have composition scoring. That’s another thing where I read US gamers complaining about it like it’s the devil and I think “but we do it all the time, it’s not a big deal.”

      Corvus Belli suggests that 150, 200 and 300 are all fine sizes, just different. I agree, but personally I like 200 and I look around and see all our tournaments are at 200 and I think that’s interesting.

      You’re right though. The main thing I don’t like about 200 points is that I still haven’t got to use my TAG 😦

  3. sinsynn says:

    Heh.
    Left a post in yer comments.
    Nyah.

    • beat ronin says:

      Cool list by the way SinSynn. So many camo markers, it warms my ninja heart. Is it a mine, is it a shrouded? No wait, it’s a speculo killer!

      Hey what is Nascar running now he is done with Haqq?

  4. The Warlock says:

    Hey Beat Ronin- I’m in Queensland (Ipswich) with a can of soup for a premier πŸ˜›

  5. aeria_gloris says:

    For me it depend alot on the games I’m playing. In a game like 40k, I prefer to keep things limited to keep the amount of crap on the table down. But 40k isn’t raelly my kind of game anymore, so take that as you will. For a game with the depth of Infinity I prefer having more options.

    That said, I don’t take there is any ‘right’ point size for any game to play apart from the one you and your mates have the most fun with. Like sinsynn, I’ll take note of what the designers suggest, but if there are any groups out there playing 50 point or 500 point Infinity battles, I don’t mind that. Even if it’s not something I would do :p

    (note: I don’t mean either you or sinsynn said that they couldn’t)

    • beat ronin says:

      Hey aeria_gloris, yeah I think you, SinSynn and I are pretty much on the same page in that we’re not going to tell someone they’re Doing It Wrong with regard to game size if they’re enjoying themselves. For one thing that seems like a great waste of energy, and for another, I don’t think it’s a good way to approach the issue.

      I’d like to try some larger Infinity games. I need to paint up the Nomads I just ordered to lure some of my friends in so I’m not reliant solely on Infinity days at my local game store, which are rare, a 45 minute drive away, and normally seem to happen on a day when I have some other commitment!

      So I suppose by saying I prefer 200 points, I mean that’s my preference out of the games I’ve played, and it’s also the largest I’ve played. Still interesting that the Australian tournament standard is 200 points though. I’ve tried to design lists for 300 points but like I said in the main post I find it hard.

      Hmm. Maybe if I just made a regular list and replaced all the light infantry with heavy infantry…

  6. sinsynn says:

    No Nascar was back to playing his Haqq last week. I’ll ask him today if he really wants to make the switch, but I know he wants a Maghariba Guard model, cuz it’s basically a Tachicoma from Ghost in the Shell, and he’s become partial to many of the units he runs frequently in his Haqq lists…waddayagonnado?
    I buy all the models anyway, right now, so I don’t mind either way. Until he gets some regular employment, it’s up to me to make sure we’ve got some genuine models to play with…although I still proxy drones for my Combined (I just haven’t got around to buying them yet), and I don’t mind if he proxies Pan-O or Aleph or whatever.

    Like I said- Nascar is a real sweet guy. He can’t stay mad for long. besides, no other force in Infinity will have you running two groups without skimping anywhere to do so.
    He frequently has a group of ten and a group of four in his list, and a lot of Haqq troops are religious, have V: dogged and/or a medikit. Haqq is no joke, and a lot of ’em don’t even have cubes, so I can Sepsitorize them.
    -_-
    They also have an abundance of MSV’s and flamethrowers. Which really hurts my feelings as a Combined player.
    Blah.

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