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Style of Play can make a big difference

In working with Mike Reese for nearly a year on the second edition of Tractics, I have learned about the difference in how he played the game. His experience goes back to Gary Gygax's sand table in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Mine goes back to 1970-1974 on our 6x10' sand table in Decatur, IL, with some pointers from Doug Cragoe and the pre-release version called GRT.

Gary's introduction alludes to how Mike was often the judge in those playtest games. Since then, I find that Mike promotes apprenticing players to become judges of tiny games. It may be true that getting people involved in setting up scenarios and judging the wargame is probably a way to get greater participation. The risk seems that you could overwhelm people with little background in miniature games. I doubt he twisted people's arms but just encouraged them to try.

He mentioned a subtle way to involve gamers is to have them roll for their hidden tanks' damage evaluation. Cautioning them not to blurt out the roll or result if less than a six, explosive destruction, he figured it saved time going over to them and whispering what his die roll was. Indeed, there may not have been anything in those woods edge at all. With a -12 penalty, one can fire at a Totally Concealed target that may not be anything. We never allowed such "blind" fire, but that was because we didn't realize one could.

Acting as the judge for nearly all of our 70 games, I rolled for everything. At first, I thought that was because I had the "TOAD" (the D20 equivalent of numbered billiard counters in an ice cream tub). But damage evaluation is rolled on a six-sided die. It doesn't seem right to have players roll for their own tank's destruction! I contend that having a judge run the games means new players can start playing without any background in miniatures games. Eventually, a few of our players judged a scenario they made. But I can see now that Mike's encouragement to try is probably right after you have many players.

Hidden set-up and movement is a play style that both Mike and I support. More than any other rule section, this provides tremendous suspense and tension. It requires that the game be less complicated. I'm convinced that the lack of hidden set-up leads contemporary games to break the turn into phases of a few seconds that require constant allocation of orders and activations. Micro actions attempt to counteract the 5000' general effect of having a perfect view of the battlefield. But it also reduces the suspense and tension. Some can become hours-long slog of lots of die rolls. Tractics or even Fast Rules can be the structure for an exciting game with hidden aspects. With Tractics, once one learns Direct Fire Mode's logical progression, a key benefit is how it provides narrative detail. These details and flukes become the events that you recall for years to come.

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