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GLOSSARY

DEFINITIONS

This website is intended to meet several objectives with a minimum of duplication of other similar, recommended, websites.

  1. provide an accurate and complete database of tactical titles.

  2. cast light on the timeline and development of the tactical wargame genre

  3. raise awareness of how developers have dealt with design issues in the past

  4. keep old favourites in the collective consciousness

  5. help gamers find information on older titles in print and online

Some terms used on the site may be used uniquely on the site. A list of definitions is provided in the sidebar at right.

- A -
 

After Action Report (AAR): In wargaming terms, an article written by one or more gamers relating their experience playing a specific scenario or game. The term may also be applied in some PC software to refer to an actual end-of-scenario report provided to the player. Elements of an AAR generally include some combination of the following:

  • Degree of victory attained/victory conditions met

  • Casualty rates suffered/inflicted

  • Individual awards granted (if applicable)

  • Status of ongoing campaign

Artificial Intelligence (AI): In computer games, the routines that make the game work, sometimes specifically used to refer to those that control the opposing player. In Combat Mission, a “Tactical AI” or TacAI actually controlled human controlled units as well, as player inputs are limited to take place at one minute intervals during which all action is paused. After orders are entered, the game resolves at the discretion of the TacAI without any intervention possible.

In solitaire board games, a form of AI is usually referred to as a “simulated opponent.” In Ambush! for example, a simulated opponent was created through the use of a numbered paragraph book, mission card/sleeve reader and soldier cards with encrypted instructions.

- B -
 

Bathtub Campaign: Term used in miniatures gaming to refer to a campaign reduced in scale to better fit the resources available (i.e. number of players, miniatures sets, game space, etc.) Originally used by GDW.

Beer and Pretzels game: An old board gaming term: "A relatively simple and fast moving game which can usually be played in one sitting."1 The term is not interchangeable with microgames, as one source states: "(many beer & pretzel) games fit the quick & easy play aspect of being a microgame, though they're often in a larger format, with better components, and at a necessarily higher price tag."2

Borg Spotting: In PC gaming, a term used to describe a simplistic Line of Sight (LOS) checking routine. Simply put, when one enemy unit is spotted by a single friendly unit, all friendly units are instantly aware of the existence and location of that enemy unit, despite their actual LOS. Named for the villains in the Star Trek universe who operate as a "hive-mind" or collective consciousness.

- C -
 

Campaign: A method of linking individual scenarios and providing them greater context.

Chit:  A type of systems counter, used for various purposes:

  • Randomization (chit-draw), such as determining the order of play (as in Ambush! or Sniper!).
  • Terrain attributes, where terrain types are redesignated by use of a chit (such chits were provided in Cross of Iron, for example).

The term has also been used as a synonym for "counter" of any kind.

Chrome: Rules added to add historical flavour or to capture some individual peculiarity of a situation, individual or piece of equipment. Sometimes used as a pejorative. The word comes from the shiny metallic trim that used to be applied to automobiles - suggesting something that was eye-catching but having no real practical value. The definition of this word in a wargaming context has evolved over time, and there is no longer a general consensus as to the original intent of the word.
Counter: The cardboard playing pieces used in board games. A typical countermix consists of representational (or "unit") counters and system counters. Counters have traditionally been printed and mounted on thick cardboard and die-cut to various sizes, with 1/2" and 5/8" squares being most common.

Countermix: A set of counters specific to one game.

Combat Results Table (CRT): The standard method of calculating the effects of firepower in operational level board games was by quantifying combat power and applying it as a ratio to opposing units defensive status with a random element. While some early tactical board games (such as Grunt) continued to apply this traditional system, most have of necessity created more complex methods of quantifying the various factors of firepower, morale, terrain, movement and other variables. Advanced Squad Leader, for example, has an “Infantry Fire Table” (and even an Incremental Infantry Fire Table) for firepower attacks against infantry, and a two-step To Hit and To Kill fire resolution process when resolving attacks against vehicular targets.

- D -
 

Deformable Terrain: In 3D computer games, the ability to change the environment by modelling the effects of vehicles and explosives on terrain.
Design for Effect: Remembered now as John Hill's explanation for some of the game mechanics of Squad Leader, Alan Emrich defined it as a game abstracting complex procedures for the sake of simplicity, or in his words, "so that the players can get straight to the 'boom'." He added: "That is, when the designer does all the work so the players can have all the fun." 3 Emrich contrasted this with Design for Cause which he described as a design that has players following "all of the logical steps and procedures to obtain an outcome."
Design Your Own (DYO): Term used in board wargames to describe either a scenario created for one-time use without historical references. The term can also refer to a system used to facilitate such creation. PC games often have a DYO capability, but the term does not seem to get applied. See Mission Builder.
Die: A randomizer. The most commonly used in wargames is a six-sided die. Clever wargamers have come to know the odds associated of achieving various rolls with two six-sided dice, knowing that there are only 36 possible outcomes. The first game ever released with a 10-sided die was Tanktics, a set of miniatures rules covering armoured warfare in the Second World War.
Dice: Plural of die.
Dice Cup: A small cup used to jumble dice in before throwing to ensure sufficient randomization.
Dice Tower: An object used to facilitate the throwing of dice; uses gravity to jumble dice and provides a small flat surface for the dice to come to rest on and be easily read. Preferable by many to using a box lid or dice cup so as to save space on the table top and prevent wild dice from hitting the game board and displacing counters.
Dog: An unpopular game or scenario, possibly due to a perception it is unbalanced or unwinnable by one side, or because it is simply not fun whether due to poor design or workmanship.
Double-Blind: Playing a board game using two identical copies of the game, with each player able to see only his own copy and those enemy units that a neutral referee determines he is able to see.
DOS-based: A PC game designed to run within DOS (Disc Operating System); that is to say, outside of the Windows environment. The disadvantage of DOS-based games is that other applications cannot be accessed while the game is running.

- F -
 

Face-to-Face (FtF): Playing a game in person with another gamer.
Fanboi: A noisy proponent of a particular game at an internet forum. Usually distinguished from a simple fan by an unswerving loyalty to a single title or publisher, an unwillingness to discuss criticisms, and/or an abusive posting style.
Fan site: The electronic version of the fanzine; unsolicited online material provided by fans of a particular game.
Fanzine: An amateur newsletter or magazine created by fans of a particular game.

First Person Shooter (FPS): A style of PC and console game dating back to the 1980s, evolving through games such as Castle Wolfenstein into more detailed games such as Medal of Honor. These games put the player into a first-person point of view but generally have little emphasis on unit tactics though more realistic military man-to-man games such as Operation Flashpoint or Band of Brothers have started to address these issues. The latter may be considered true tactical wargames; MOH, Call of Duty, etc., generally are not given their emphasis on hand-eye co-ordination rather than tactical skill.

(There are several contenders as to who the first FPS actually was. In the webmaster’s opinion, the Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin cartridge for the Intellivision has a good claim.)

Forum: Online message board. A variety of categories of these have evolved into the 21st Century from their beginnings in the electronic bulletin board services (BBS). Modern forums may be hosted by game publishers but these are outnumbered by third party forums catering to a diverse array of audiences. General interest gaming websites such as gamesquad.com, for example, cater to board, PC and console gamers alike.

- G -
 

Gamette: Avalon Hill used this term for its additions to Squad Leader beginning in 1979. Compare to the term “Module.”
Game Console:  An electronic device producing a video display signal for the purpose of permitting interaction for recreation/entertainment in the home. The term "video game console" generally distinguishes those devices marketed for playing video games exclusively, as opposed to personal computers, which have many other functions, or stand alone arcade machines, which are operated for profit by third parties. The first game consoles were created in the 1970s before the advent of affordable home computers and several generations of technology have evolved in the years following. The style of game play of console games has meant that that analysis and textual input on which traditional tactical wargames have relied have made them poor contenders for console adaptation.
Games for Windows: In 2006, Microsoft attempted to combat the rising popularity of game consoles by creating the "Games for Windows" brand. The logo was intended to be applied to the games of several manufacturers and identify personal computers as a viable alternative to purpose built gaming consoles. The first game so branded was Company of Heroes.

Gamey: The manual for Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord (Big Time Software) offered a definition of "gamey" when it was released in 2000. Examples of “gamey” play are any actions taken in the course of a game which would have been unlikely to be repeated by real world counterparts, in order to bring about an advantage in game terms. Using unarmoured troop carriers to draw fire and locate enemy anti-tank guns would be such a tactic (in PC games this is particularly effective as an AI will often not recognize this tactic whereas a human player may be wiser and hold fire in such a case); rushing headlong at an objective simply because it was the last turn of a game with a fixed time limit would be another.
Grognard: The word comes from the days of Napoleon, literally one who grumbles but a term used to refer to an old campaigner. In the context of modern commercial wargaming, may mean one of any number of things. Affectionately, an old wargamer, or in a negative context a detail-obsessed nitpicker, complainer or blowhard.

- H -
 

Head-to-Head (H2H): See Face-to-Face (FtF).

Hex (Hexagon): Traditional unit of measurement on boardgame maps used also to determine sighting. (diagram – hexside, centre dot) Squad Leader introduced the concept of drawing LOS using the actual terrain depictions rather than having the entire hex determine who could see what.
House Organ: A magazine published by a game company in order to highlight its own offerings. The General was the first such magazine, and carried no advertising (save for Avalon Hill products) and very limited mentions of the products of other companies. Other house organs had more open approaches to advertising and discussing competitor’s games.

- I -
 

IGO-UGO: A term used in PC gaming literature to refer to a game in which player turns are resolved consecutively rather than simultaneously (“I go, then you go”).

Isomorphic: Term used to refer to maps designed to mate with each other using common terrain elements on their edges. Sometimes incorrectly called “geomorphic.”

- L -
 

Ladder: A gaming ladder is a listing of players of a particular game who compete against each other and whose scores are used to rank themselves against one another.

Line of Sight (LOS): A reference to determining what units in the game can “see.”

- M -
 

Meta-Campaign: A style of free-form campaign created from an existing open-ended game system linking scenarios with home-made rules for tracking unit status, engineering, logistics, air and artillery support, etc., quite possibly in a multi-multi-player format.

Microgame: Small, inexpensive game concept pioneered by Metagaming, adopted by other publishers such as SPI and TSR. Later associated with desktop or other non-traditional publishers, in time, the definition of a "microgame" expanded to include inexpensive games published on a desktop in a more conventional 8.5" x 11" format, perhaps with unmounted and uncut counters.
Miniatures: A form of wargaming dating to the late 1800s using physical models of soldiers and equipment in place of counters, and generally using model terrain rather than a ruled map surface using hexes or squares.

Mission Builder: A program which enables a user to create scenario files for a PC game. May be referred to by a variety of names; may include any combination of the following abilities:

  • map editing

  • AI scripting

  • order of battle alterations

  • briefing creation

Module: Open-ended games or game systems are often broken into modules, of which one or more are necessary in order to make play of the game possible. Advanced Squad Leader's core modules differ from the “gamettes” of the original Squad Leader series in that while both act as a vehicle to introduce new rules, counters, and terrain into the system, the gamettes were incremental and each was a prerequisite for the ones that followed. The core modules have a lesser degree of interdependence in order to be functional.
Monster: Best left to individual interpretation in many circumstances, generally refers to a board game that takes a concerted logistical effort to play, meaning it may have a large map area, many counters, long time limit, or some combination of these. The game itself may be large, or the term may refer to a single scenario of an open-ended game. The classic “Monster” game at the operational level was The Longest Day which portrayed the fighting in Normandy on a map which required the better part of a regulation billiards table to set up, and all the forces involved were broken down to individual companies. “Monster scenarios” are often discussed with regards to board games (such as “The Last Bid” for Red Barricades or “The First Bid” for Valor of the Guards) but the term doesn’t seem to have transitioned into PC gaming.
Mounted Mapboard: A playing surface permanently attached to a hard surface. Avalon Hill was most renowned for providing these; for example Patton’s Best or Storm Over Arnhem, though most of their tactical level games included them. The added expense of mounting the maps was prohibitive for many other game companies, while including them in magazine games was logistically not feasible.

- O -

Operational Layer: Another means of providing context for tactical level games similar to a Campaign.

- P -
 

Percentile Dice: Two 10-sided dice used to generate a random number between 1 and 100 by designating one of the die as the “tens” die and the other as the “ones” die.
PC (Personal Computer): Generally today an “IBM-clone” running a Windows operating system or an Apple/Mac. Personal computers became common gaming platforms in the 1980s, and the use of email and internet have produced increased contacts and community links among tactical wargamers.
Play by E-Mail (PBEM): A natural extension to PBM, enabling turn-based PC gamer to play without the necessity of connecting live via TCP/IP.
Play by Mail (PBM): Postal game systems allowed for board gamers to send hand-recorded game turns through the mail to each other in the days before electronic mail made the task much simpler. Systems for determining dice rolls were created, such as checking pre-determined stock quotes on specific days in order to find random numbers.
Precision Dice: There are those that believe that inexpensive dice produce an unacceptable variation on the standard distribution of rolls due to the altered balance caused by differing weights (six spots on one side of a die produce different mass than one spot on another side). Precision dice are engineered so as to be equally balanced on all sides and theoretically produce a more equitable distribution of dice rolls over time.

Programmed Instruction: Method of presenting rules in board games such that a series of scenarios gradually introduces new rules a few at a time.

- R -
 

Reboot:  In computer terms, a "reboot" of a computer is a condition in which power is stopped and then restarted, so that nothing of the computer's previous operating session has any bearing on its new session, with the exception of data stored on non-volatile devices such as a disk drive. The term has extended to entertainment, such as video games, comic books, and television shows, to describe a condition in which a popular property is re-imagined from a set of familiar initial parameters. In wargaming, the term can be used to describe a game system similarly re-imagined, such as Advanced Squad Leader, which was a major re-write of four separate games of the original Squad Leader game series.

Relative Spotting:  In PC games, a type Line of Sight (LOS) checking. Generally used to distinguish a system improved and distinct from "Borg Spotting" in which units did not make individual checks. "Relative" in this case means that LOS checks are made relative to (in other words, independently of) each other.
Role Playing Game (RPG): Generally not associated with tactical wargaming, there have nonetheless been at least two RPG titles released with an emphasis on squad-level military operations. Moreover, some meta-campaigns have had role playing elements introduced.

- S -
 

Scale (Miniatures): An indication of the relative size of the miniature, expressed either as a ratio (i.e. 1:72 scale means that 1 measure of length on the miniature equals 72 equivalent measures on the actual object) or in millimetres (i.e. 40mm figures are approximately 40mm tall when representing a 6-foot tall man standing to full height).

To convert from one to the other, the conversion factor is 1717. For example, 1:285 scale = 6mm:

1717 ÷ 285 = 6.02

Height Ratio Notes
6mm 1:285 "Microarmour" scale
15mm 1:115  
20mm 1:87 "HO" railroad scale
24mm 1:72 Common model aircraft and armour scale
30mm 1:57  
35mm 1:49  
36mm 1:48 Common model aircraft scale
40mm 1:43  
45mm 1:38  
49mm 1:35 Common model armour scale
54mm 1:32 "Toy Soldier" scale

Scenario: A specific situation for an open-ended game, in which order-of-battle, game length, and victory conditions are outlined to define a single playing. Referred to by different names depending on game and/or genre, for example:

  • Battle: Combat Mission

  • Mission: Solitaire ASL, Ambush!

  • Scenario: Squad Leader, ASL

  • Situation: PanzerBlitz, Panzer Leader

Screenshot: Or “screen capture,” an image capturing exactly what the computer screen is displaying at any specific instant in time during the operation of a PC game.
Si-Move: Style of play introduced in the 1970s in which both players plotted moves and resolved turns simultaneously rather than consecutively, as was traditional in board wargames and miniatures.
Simulation: An attempt to accurately recreate an event or situation using a scientific approach, including the replication of variables and statistics. Wargames are often categorized as either simulations or games but in actuality are both. Those with heavy reliance on data and complicated rules are often said to be more rightly considered "simulations" than games as they may be considered less fun to play. The term is sometimes used a pejorative in that sense. It should be pointed out that there is considerable debate in the wargaming community as to what constitutes a simulation, and no general consensus exists.
Systems Counter: (Informational counter) A counter that is not representational of an individual soldier, group of soldiers, unit, vehicle or piece of equipment, but used to denote status or otherwise used for record keeping within a game.

- T -
 

Tabletop Gaming: Used in a variety of manners; originally used to refer to miniatures gaming to distinguish it from board gaming, may also refer to board gaming and miniatures collectively to distinguish them from PC gaming.
TCP/IP: Internet Protocol Suite (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol); jargon for a means of connecting a computer to the internet; in gaming terms, shorthand for playing another player (or players) "live" or in real time.
Tournament Scenario: In board gaming, a description usually applied to a scenario suitable for use in tournament play by virtue of a combination of several factors; high play balance, short length, small number of units, and/or lack of complicated rules. The term has been extended into PC gaming also. There is no single definition or template.

- V -

Victory Conditions (VC): A set of parameters used to determine the outcome of a scenario.

- W -
 

Wargame: strangely enough, the community that generates the most debate about what a wargame is or isn't, is the wargaming community. No generally accepted definition exists upon which consensus has been reached. Synonyms include "conflict simulation" though the term "simulation" is also a contentious one (q.v.).
WEGO: refers to a style of game in which player turns are resolved simultaneously rather than consecutively. See also Si-Move and IGO-UGO.
Windows-based: A PC game designed to run within the Windows operating system, rather than within DOS. The main advantage is that the game can run while other applications are being accessed.

- Z -

Zocchihedron: a 100-sided die, named for its inventor, Lou Zocchi. The Zocchihedron was introduced in 1985 after six years of design and development. The original patent ran out in 2003 but an improved model with additional internal weights for faster braking and more even distribution of rolls is patented until 2025.

 

Game vs. Simulation

The age-old problem facing developers of wargames in general and tactical wargames in particular is how to trade off the requirement of realistic detail with the necessity of a clean game system that is easy for players to manage and fun to play. Titles with reams of statistical data and complicated procedures may be labelled simulations while those that favour less complexity might be referred to simply as "games" in the specific sense of being distinct from a simulation - but as social media overtakes conventional media in importance, these definitions have become much more open to individual interpretation.

Levels of Simulation

There are four basic levels of simulations in wargaming. The levels are defined by what role the player assumes, as determined by what resources he is given and what choices he is permitted to make in managing them. These levels are:

Strategic: players control entire nations and have access to diplomatic, political, and economic resources; military resources may range from army groups down to corps or divisions depending on the game scale.

Operational: players control areas ranging from entire theatres down to individual sectors of front, with access generally restricted to military resources, generally ranging from corps down to company size.

Tactical: tactical games are generally those in which individual units under the player’s control are platoons, squads, or individual men though the latter are often considered a separate category.

Man-to-Man: often considered a separate category of “tactical” gaming.

Unit Control

There are two methods of describing player control in a tactical game; “(unit)-level” and “(unit)-based”. The two are not the same thing. For example, Squad Leader is traditionally considered a company-level, squad-based game. The basic units each represent a squad, while the player’s role most closely matches that of a company commander in real life. In Squad Leader, he directs where the squads should deploy themselves and their weapons, for example, but there is no control over where individual men will go or when to fire. 

Notes

  1. Beginner's Guide to Strategy Gaming: A Special Publication of F&M, DTI, 1986

  2. Microgame Headquarters website, accessed October 2008: http://micro.brainiac.com/faq.html#beer-n-pretzel

  3. http://www.alanemrich.com/Class/Class_PGD_glossary.htm

 


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