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The Stat Line is Mandatory!

 Post subject: The Stat Line is Mandatory!
PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 11:56 am 
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Unctuous Toady
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I've been looking at various sets of miniature rules online lately. When I find a miniature game that doesn't use stat lines I usually just stop reading it. If I check out a set of miniature rules and I can't find stat lines right at the front of the rules then I just think that game is probably really bad.

I can imagine games that don't use stat lines that could be good. But the stat line just seems like such a brilliant dynamic to me. Having a miniature game, that utilitizes a dynamic that neatly defines the capabilities of a miniature just seems so ideal.

Anyone else have any views on the necessity of stat lines in miniature games?


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The game designers themselves know these values are not realistic and they do not intend them to replace or invalidate the fluff. So let's get on with our lives and not fixate over the cosmic ramifications of game mechanics which we already know are streamlined for larger forces at the expense of detail.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:43 pm 
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When I see a stat line, I generally think "Oh look, a 40K ripoff."
There's no reason that stats need to be arranged in a line as opposed to being on a card or record sheet laid out in some other way. Does having a "stat line" really make it a good game?

I would say that in small-scale skirmish games where you can track the stats and condition of a few models in great detail, a stat-line is an over simplification that can be removed in favor of a more detailed treatment. Even in the large-scale and simplified world of 40K 4th Edition, the stat line for a model doesn't really describe everything you need to know about it anyway. In particular, weapon stats are completely lacking.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:26 pm 
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Unctuous Toady
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I just like the stat line because it defines your miniature in the little simulated world that is the table top. Its like giving each miniature a little tiny character sheet almost. I'm totally blown away by how many games don't have this feature. It makes no sense to me.

I mean, maybe its a question of scale. In really large games you can have units that don't need a profile because the game mechanics are so simple. But in anything larger or more complicated a stat line just seems so perfect for the job.


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The game designers themselves know these values are not realistic and they do not intend them to replace or invalidate the fluff. So let's get on with our lives and not fixate over the cosmic ramifications of game mechanics which we already know are streamlined for larger forces at the expense of detail.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:33 pm 
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I see a stat line, i think "hmm, statline" they're simple, and easy to understand/ refer to.
But you look at something like confrontation, it seems like they've only arranged the stats like that in a conscious (and crass) attempt to distance itself from 40K/WHFB. They could just as well be arranged in a statline/roster; and it'd be easier to refer to during the game.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 4:01 am 
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Maybe I'm just slow today, but what is the alternative to the stat line? (I assume that you don't mean a game without stats).

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Even in the large-scale and simplified world of 40K 4th Edition, the stat line for a model doesn't really describe everything you need to know about it anyway. In particular, weapon stats are completely lacking.


I think that the division between what goes on the stat line and what goes into other stats is a critical design choice. When you include weapon and armor stats in the personal characteristics for the warrior, you strip a good deal of the "fluff reality" from the game piece.

What I mean is that, in miniatures games, each miniature has a duel aspects. First, it is a game piece that has certain statistics that operate within the game in a certain way. Second, it is a fictional character, a warrior, whose personality is defined by what the stats are intended to represent.

When you include weapon and equipment stats in the stat line, the game piece becomes more efficient because you have all the information near at hand. This, however, also hollows out the fluff character because it telegraphs to the player that the warriors weapon and equipment is as essential to him as his toughness or quickness.

This is why, IMO, individual warriors have richer character in 40K than, say, in D&D Miniatures.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 7:33 am 
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Auzure wrote:
Maybe I'm just slow today, but what is the alternative to the stat line? (I assume that you don't mean a game without stats).
A fair number of newer games like Confrontation and Infinity use what is basically a stat line with additonal rules and notes added on. I'm not sure if that falls in to Truckler's definition of a true stat line system.
I think the major alternative is to have actual record sheets. Games like Battletech and Heavy Gear uses full-page record sheets for most units. WarMachine uses little record sheets the size of trading cards. Confrontation uses cards too, though I would still classify them broadly in the realm of a stat line.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:40 pm 
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I've seen the record sheets before. Rezolution uses them, as does all the WOTC collectable minis games.

If that is what Truckler is talking about, it seems to elevate form over substance. If you have the same number of stats, it doesn't particularly matter how they are arranged so long as they are kept in reasonably close proximity to one another so as to be "handy."

In a lot of ways, the cards are even more handy, becuase you can put them in plastic sheats and use wet erase markes for record keeping, which is huge (In fact, I've been considering making a template to print Necro cards just to capitalize on this fact).


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2006 9:22 am 
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Unctuous Toady
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Actually this whole thing started because I had been looking at different free miniature games that people had created at...

www.freewargamesrules.co.uk

I was looking through all the 28mm sci-fi skirmish games that I could find. I didn't have time to sit down and read through every ruleset, so naturally I would just skim through the different games looking for ones that seemed good. I was surprised, nay, baffled, at the number of games that don't have a neat and intuitive system for displaying the stats/characteristics of the units and models in the game.

If I'm reading through the rules of a new game one of the first things I want to know is what the stats for a unit are. Knowing the relevant stats is one of the most essential aspects of evaluating a game. The stats tell you how detailed the game is. Are there too few stats? Are the range of possible values for stats too limited? Are there any extra stats that indicate inefficiency or poorly thought out mechanics? Do the miniatures have a toughness/endurance stat that is separate from their armor?

I looked at many games where I couldn't find any stat lines whatsoever. I have no idea how such games defined units or individual miniatures. These games generally tended to be the most poorly made and shoddy in terms of sophistication, but not always. Some games just presented all units in the whole game in one big table somewhere in the rules. I suppose that these tables could have just been presented differently as statlines, but generally the games with tables seemed to somehow short change the models, is if you could have just used chits or counters instead.

I think that to me one of the key elements of a good miniature game is that the miniatures are personalized. I'm mainly concerned with 28mm skirmish games, so this is all kind of subjective. A lack of statlines or personalized details might not be necessary for something like a 1/300th scale mass combat game.

-----------------------

As for the playing card sized record sheets I have mixed feelings. I like the idea of a handy and individualized card for each character or unit. But I feel that the playing card sized ones are a bit too small. They often end up looking too busy as they are cluttered with all kinds of data at the same time they are trying to fit in a largish picture of the miniature.

I do like the 2nd edition era type datafaxes for characters, units and vehicles. I don't care for the unique damage tables for each vehicles, I think a more generic universal damage table has many more advantages. I think the datafaxes should be clean and nice, with a minimalist esthetic.

Image

I know that I've shown off these before. But this is the datafax card that I made for a recent game of Necromunda in Space / Rogue Trader-ish gaming I ran.


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Venator wrote:
The game designers themselves know these values are not realistic and they do not intend them to replace or invalidate the fluff. So let's get on with our lives and not fixate over the cosmic ramifications of game mechanics which we already know are streamlined for larger forces at the expense of detail.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 9:04 pm 
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Venator wrote:
When I see a stat line, I generally think "Oh look, a 40K ripoff."


GW did NOT invent the stat-line. Almost every wargame more sophisticated than Risk uses some sort of unit stats, and many of the older ones use stats similar to those in Rouge Trader. Hell, most non-minature based rps usestats and skills that aren't to much different in concept.

I'd say the only real divergence I've seen in a miniatures game is in the Wizkids "clickbase" games, and even those still have stats, its just that the stats change as the game is played. Alternatley, some games with very restricted unit types, or very abstracted rule, could be considered to not have a "statline" because they use only 1 or 2 stats per unit.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 8:44 am 
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I think that a game lacking any written values for the miniatures involved would be a game of imagination assisted by the miniatures used. Players would have to decide what particular figures could do, and without any stats involved the written rules would be very simple. It seems like the sort of game you'd spend years learning to play properly and one would need to be an extremely un-beardy person.

Really the main difference is how the stats are presented and how many of them there are. A statline is one way of setting out stats, but I would say it differs only cosmetically from data sheets or click bases. Adding weapons really just makes a combined statline with the model stats assimilating the weapon stats.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:56 pm 
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Humongus wrote:
Venator wrote:
When I see a stat line, I generally think "Oh look, a 40K ripoff."
GW did NOT invent the stat-line.
Did someone claim that they did?
GW games have borrowed heavily from a lot of sources, but they are the de-facto miniatures games for a lot of people and have spawned plenty of rip-offs.

Humongus wrote:
Almost every wargame more sophisticated than Risk uses some sort of unit stats, and many of the older ones use stats similar to those in Rouge Trader.
Jack The Snipper wrote:
Really the main difference is how the stats are presented and how many of them there are. A statline is one way of setting out stats, but I would say it differs only cosmetically from data sheets or click bases.
This is my question for Truckler: Since miniatures games pretty-much all have stats for their units, what makes a "Stat Line" (stats arranged horizontally?) so magical and essential? If someone made a 40K clone but arranged the stats in a grid or some other way, would it fundamentally harm the game?

Certainly it's possible to have "bad stats"... making the game confusing or slow to play by having too many, overly simplistic by having too few, or perhaps a poor selection of stats to accurately represent what is needed. But what does it matter if they form a line? To me, the datafax is a character sheet, not just a statline, and it still falls well short of listing all the stats for the model. Is this an example of good stats or bad?

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:43 am 
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Unctuous Toady
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My initial concern, which caused me to begin this thread, was about miniature games that didn't seem to include a statline or something similar.

I've played wargames where units had two stats, combat ability and movement for instance, abbrievated as 5-3. These games featured cardboard chits moved on hexagon maps and it was easy enough to just print the stats right on each unit's chit. I think that for a miniature game you need something more substantial than that. I think that in a miniature game the models themselves should be the focus of the conflict.

The problem of the statline is one of representation. The stat line is certainly borrowed from a format more familiar to role-playing games, though GW's warhammer games have made it ubiquitiuos.

To me the miniatures in a miniature game should be central. If the look and appearance of each miniature isn't significant than why bother using them? If every miniature in a game had the same stats and the same importance then why even bother with miniatures, just use plastic tokens or pawns stolen from a chess set.

I see the rules to a miniature game sort of like the instructions to some complicated construction project. You use those instructions to build your games. The game rules allow you to create some kind of modular construct that is extremely adaptable and which can be reconfigured in countless ways. The miniatures are key components of this system and in order to function come complete with precise measurements and instructions. The statline and other in formation about a miniature are the equivalent to the measurements and instructions regarding their use within the game.

I think the statline is the most efficient and practical way to organize the information that defines each miniature in a game. So my appreciation of the statline is two fold:

1. I think that the statline is the best way to represent the various numerical an statistical data which define models in the a miniature game. I think that the statline is more practical, and indeed more elegant, than other systems that use paragraphs of text, complicated grids or matrix, vertical lists, etc. I just think as a format for laying out information the statline is very effective and visually pleasing. It also makes it every easy to compare and contrast different units by looking at their statlines next to each other.

2. Another part of the beauty of the statline is that it forces you to "flesh out" the miniatures in a game to the right extent. This isn't absolute obviuosly, but here is what I mean. If a game uses only two or three stats to define a miniature, then there is little point in organizing them into a proper statline. Such games to my mind are too simple and often boil down to boardgames that transend the boundaries of their genre but still fail to live upto the basic promise of a miniature game. Similarly, if a game can't put down most of the relevant information needed to define a model on a statline, then that game is most likely overly complicate or so indepth that it generally goes beyond the mandate, if you will, of a miniature game. Such games end up becoming either a role-playing type game (Inquisitor pushes the envelope here) or a strategically orient boardgame like Star Fleet Battles. So the statline's very structure enforces a sort of happy medium between overly simple and overly complex games, neither of which can be easily adapted to the statline format. The statline, in this regard, becomes a test of a game's scope.

-----------------

I'm not saying that the statline should be the ONLY information for every unit. I think that a statline combine with a few extra pieces of data like special abilities, weapons and equipment is idea.


Truckler (FASERIP)

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Venator wrote:
The game designers themselves know these values are not realistic and they do not intend them to replace or invalidate the fluff. So let's get on with our lives and not fixate over the cosmic ramifications of game mechanics which we already know are streamlined for larger forces at the expense of detail.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 7:04 pm 
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Interesting discussion.

I think the horizontal statline is easiest to read and comprehend quickly is our way of reading. I would think that Asian or other cultures that don't read left to right, top to bottom would not find it so easy.

Battlemasters was a miniatures wargame. Each unit had a single stat to define it's combat ability, and used a deck of cards to determine movement. The miniatures were the focus of the game, and certainly couldn't be played it chits or counters. It was quite fun, if simple.

Chess is THE wargame. Each miniature has only a single "stat" and although most sets come with simple, stylized models, if you take the time and make up your own pawns, rooks, etc. using two WHFB (or 40k) races then you have yourself a pretty sweet game o' chess.

So, while I generally agree with you Truckler, I would say that no/ simple statline does not automatically equal a bad game.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:37 pm 
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Maybe the problem is just one of definitions?

I don't personally consider either Chess or Battlemasters as proper miniature wargames. To me they are both board games. You might use figurines in Chess, but its played on a chechered board for goodness sakes. Its not a miniature wargame.

I am making some assumptions about just what sorts of games count here. I'm generally interested in 28mm skirmish level miniature games. So I'm not 100% sure if something like Battle Fleet Gothic works with my stat line theories, but then I'm not really concerned about games like BFG anyway. So maybe my comments need to be taken within the context of the sorts of games that I'm focusing on.

But hey, sometimes these discussions are more interesting when the widest possible amount of sources are used. It brings in some really interesting ideas sometimes.


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Venator wrote:
The game designers themselves know these values are not realistic and they do not intend them to replace or invalidate the fluff. So let's get on with our lives and not fixate over the cosmic ramifications of game mechanics which we already know are streamlined for larger forces at the expense of detail.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2006 4:16 pm 
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I have made necromunda cards that fit in plastic cases. It is a huge help.

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