Thursday, September 02, 2010

I'm Writin', I'm Writin'!

Intro, first draft. Rough, but recall what Hemingway said about first drafts.


Politics By Other Means...(PBOM) is a simple game of tactics and combat, suitable for play by everyone from the greenest neophyte to the most battle-worn tabletop commander. Players move their forces (represented by miniatures or other markers) around a simulated tabletop battlefield, shoot at their opponents’ forces, and resolve the outcome with dice -- and logic. Its rules aim to remain simple in its execution, but not mistake “simple” for “simplistic”! In fact, PBOM is capable of such nuance and flexibility as it is rare to find in games of its kind.

Furthermore, the scale of play is variable. The same rules work for a skirmish between a total of a dozen fighters as for a large-scale battle with hundreds on a side. Movement, shooting ranges and the like need not be altered.

Unlike most other wargames, PBOM does not present long lists of charts and variables with which to resolve conflicts. While such things can add verisimilitude and complexity to an otherwise abstract and simple game, PBOM builds these factors straight into its primary conflict resolution system: The Argument.


Arguments are the backbone of PBOM (and its predecessor, Engle Matrix Games). They are nothing more than statements about what could happen in a given situation. The stronger the argument (i.e., the more sense it makes), the likelier it is to happen. Whether or not it happens depends on a dice roll.

Here’s an example: In a SF skirmish scenario, Hal argues that his opponent Lulu’s hovertanks are unable to spot his hovertanks, because they’re hidden behind some rocks. If the scenario is taking place in a rocky area, or in the rubble of a city, that argument would make some sense; it’d be a fairly strong argument. If Hal argues that he’s hiding his tanks behind some rocks in an open field, Hal’s asking too much.

A player present his or her argument and selects another player to judge them. The judge sets the likelihood of success, the player dices for success, and play proceeds accordingly.

Not only does this system allow for the aforementioned nuance and complexity, it allows for all sorts of other things as well -- including changing the rules of the game!


Here in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it’s easy to come across miniatures to represent fighting forces from all eras. Scores of companies make them in multitudes of scales. Selecting, collecting and painting miniatures is a hobby in itself, and one that can very easily turn into a lifelong obsession. They look beautiful and engaging upon a well-presented pretend battlefield, the construction and design of which can be yet another delightful time-sink. Be forewarned!

On the other hand, some players of a more economical mindset (i.e., the cheap ones) prefer to go a different route, and use paper miniatures -- little paper or cardboard figures that stand up on a base and can be printed or copied in the hundreds if need be. Paper miniatures are a great alternative to metal and/or plastic figures because they’re cheap, disposable and easy to store. Plus, there’s the fact that anything that can be drawn can be made into a paper mini. There are tons out there on the internet, both free and inexpensive; look around.

Terrain can also be as simple or as extravagant as you wish (or wish to pay for). Throwing a piece of green felt over some books on a table and indicating a river with some blue tape is no less acceptable than carefully sculpting hills and casting clear polyurethane streams (or purchasing same). The goal is to play, after all; assemble what you feel like.

Whether you choose to buy and paint lavish miniatures or just print up a bunch of little paper zombies, it will be important to observe two criteria:

1. All pieces should be at the same scale (i.e. all 25mm, all 30mm, etc.); and
2. Players should agree, before gameplay begins, what scale their figures actually represent. Does one figure represent one man, or twenty? Are three mounted knights on the same base a whole cavalry group, or just a few guys? This will depend entirely upon the scale of your scenario, of course. Just make sure to agree.