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I've seen a recurring thread in some postings, both here and elsewhere, over the years about how wargaming seems to be migrating further and further towards these kinds of games. I can't recall where I first read it, but some grognard appended the label of "history lite" to these designs. Is it an accurate appellation?
I like a lot of these kinds of games, but then again I don't expect the same depth of insight from them as I do games using more traditional design methods. But occasionally I am surprised by something. WILDERNESS WAR was perhaps my first "wake up call" regarding what CDGs could accomplish--it remains the best CDG I've experienced in terms of creating such fidelity to what I'd read about in history. TRIUMPH OF CHAOS is another--if you can handle the complexity and resultant immersive richness of that playing experience.
Regarding the block games, ROMMEL IN THE DESERT seemed to replicate the North Africa experience better than the more "hard-core" titles I'd played at that time. Many die-hard Russian Front players will say similar things about EAST FRONT/EAST FRONT II.
Now, there's no argument that certain "History Lite" games are meant to be fun and competitive games and you don't hear much argument about "realism." I have yet to run across a die-hard PATHS OF GLORY player or even FOR THE PEOPLE addict who is insistent that these are the most realistic strategic games on their subject. No, what attracts players to the games is the narrative experience and high levels of tension and uncertainty when playing the game. These games are exciting. People who have been playing HAMMER OF THE SCOTS, RICHARD III, and now JULIUS CAESAR all say the same things. So there's little argument there.
But are there block games and CDGs that seem to do a better job in providing deep historical insight into their subjects than their hex and counter/traditional design brethren? Which ones are they? Why is this the case?
My own hypothesis is that the "deep historical insights" aren't in the details of the game pieces, tables, or mechanics--it's more in replicating the psychology of the opposing commanders regarding the dynamics/problems of the situation being gamed (vice "simulated"). I think that is why I am so taken with WILDERNESS WAR, TRIUMPH OF CHAOS, ROMMEL IN THE DESERT, etc. It's not that I'm getting a lot of information regarding the weapons, organizations, or logistics of the belligerents. It's that I very much feel I'm posed the "essence of the military problem" in a particularly compelling way and the solutions that work in the game are closely aligned to the workable solutions in history.
But isn't this still "History Lite?" And are we losing ground in "serious simulations" to titles that do such a great job at providing such illusions/vicarious experiences?
What's your perspective?