Friday, June 13, 2008

Tigris & Euphrates, a wargamey euro?

Of late I've renewed my interest in non-wargames.

While I'm primarily a waragmer, I've never been exclusively so. Back in my teen years my friends and I played a lot of non-wargames as well. The Stock Market, Stock & Bonds, Feudal, Football Strategy, Baseball Strategy, Regatta, Win,Place & Show, Ploy, Evade, Oh Wah Ree and a number of other titles hit the game table back then.

Unfortunately non-war games for grownups never really took off back then, but I've never lost my interest in them.

So the recent rise of the euros is an altogether positive thing for me.

Still, there's enough of the wargamer embedded in me that some of my euros involve some conflict and of all the popular euros I think Tigris & Euphrates might appeal to wargamers as a sort of cross-over game. It sure looks like there's some warfare going on.

Of course, Reiner Knizia is primarily a very talented game designer, not an expert in some historical period attempting to model some actual event. All three of his games that I happen to own are dressed up in very nice historical clothing -- T&E, Battle Line and Lost Cities -- but none are simulations in any sense of the word. No, they are really clever games, first and foremost.

But T&E does look like it involves wars and rebellions with its "external" and "internal" conflicts.

So is it a wargame?

No, not really. Not all conflict is war.

The classic principles of war, for example, such as surprise, security, mass, maneuver, objective, unity of command and offensive apply very spottily. The way one wins the game is very unwargame-like, because it emphasizes the need to be well-balanced. Winning by having the best "low" score is an intriguing, brilliant game mechanic, but not one that's easy to translate into military terms.

Indeed, the usual objective of military fighting is to achieve an overwhelming advantage in some key facet of power and leverage that into overall victory. Athens was clearly the better balanced civilization, but it still suffered defeat in its war with Sparta.

But Athens did, in the end, prevail. It's influence did not cease with defeat and it retained its role as the center of Greek culture, while Sparta declined into insignificance. So Tigris & Euphrates is better viewed as a rough model of the clash of cultures, not unlike the old Avalon Hill game Civilization, which was another pseudo-wargame. Like Civilization, fighting is as often as not a distraction in T&E and too aggressive a posture is unwise.

Viewed from the perspective of culture, rather than military might, judging victory on the basis of the weakest link may make sense. No, T&E is not a simulation and I assume Knizia used the unusual victory condition purely for its game interest. But it does fit the theme well-enough to satisfy my wargamer's urge for things to make some sense.

1 comment:

  1. Some one pointed out the victory point mechanism is identical to counting complete sets. You win by having the most complete sets. The number of complete sets you have is the minimum number you have.

    Doesn't change anything you've said, but it's an interesting point.