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Old September 12th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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The Meta-meta-game

In a recent thread by a new member of the site, a fairly new recruit to HeroScape asked the question "What is the meta-game?" (Here's the link). What resulted, after a couple of fumbled attempts and one snide remark, was a definition of the meta-game of HeroScape that in other disciplines might be distinguished as the "tactical" and the "strategic." The discussion became about discerning the trends in tournament play (the strategic level) given the army choices of possible or probably opponents.

There are a couple of other meta levels that I would like to point out, however, which have to do with the nature of the game of HeroScape itself in the realm of contemporary gaming. These have been pointed out before (even by me), but not in these terms, I think.

First, the meta-game of HeroScape is NOT a simulation. There are many games, miniature games and others, that strive to be simulations of real or fantasy situations (usually war or battle). HeroScape is not one of these, and that defines one end or polarity of the game.

Second, the meta-game of HeroScape is NOT an abstract construct, such as Go or Othello, chess or checkers. There are image elements in HeroScape, themes, figures that flavor the game and it's play well beyond the "knight," "bishop," "king," "queen," "pawn," symbols of chess or the mere markers of other games. Yet, these abstractions (in HeroScape you can mix Utgar and Jandar in one army) do have an influence on the game. Just how much is, I think, an interesting matter for debate...Do you hesitate to put Krug in an otherwise all Ullar army or Cyprien in an otherwise all Jandar army?

HeroScape occupies a middle ground. There is some of Risk in the mix. There is a lot, obviously, of HeroQuest, although HeroScape's meta-game is clearly NOT an RPG, either.

I think, personally, a large part of why I love HeroScape so very much (and I do) is because of this "in-between meta-game position. It is, clearly, a war/combat/battle game (and therefore the appeal to girls and women is less than I would wish); yet, it is neither a historical simulation nor a hack-n-slash game, especially with the possibilities of scenario games with differing "victory conditions."

My own meta-game version is pretty standard, as y'all, no doubt, know. I like the 500 pointish, one hour, 24 hex zone, kill 'em all game best. But I appreciate the variations that are so easily accommodated in this game system. The system we have is deep, yet easy to play; with tactics and strategies that will tax the best players, yet with an element of fun that I've found in no other game currently alive, affordable (not a small issue) and predictable (not blind-purchase), yet still of high quality production.

In the meta-meta-meta game of game production; my vote continues to be strongly for HeroScape.
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Old September 12th, 2009, 01:49 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

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Originally Posted by Revdyer
Yet, these abstractions (in HeroScape you can mix Utgar and Jandar in one army) do have an influence on the game. Just how much is, I think, an interesting matter for debate...Do you hesitate to put Krug in an otherwise all Ullar army or Cyprien in an otherwise all Jandar army?
Yes I do though this aspect of heroscape is amazing to me. The game offers something for every one. Each can make it their own without running into problems with the rules. The adaptability is uncanny and the choices are plentiful.

At my house the boys and I are split into factions.

J4J - Jandar, Ullar, Aquilla
ChocolateDrizzle - Utgar
Tyler - Einar, Vydar

Some have expressed repression of flexibility though I feel working within these boundaries challenging and fun. Theme for us is huge and reflects our individual likes and dislikes so it works for us. The game just has endless possibilities and I will never tire of all the different options available.
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Old September 12th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

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Originally Posted by Revdyer View Post
The system we have is deep, yet easy to play; with tactics and strategies that will tax the best players, yet with an element of fun that I've found in no other game currently alive, affordable (not a small issue) and predictable (not blind-purchase), yet still of high quality production.

In the meta-meta-meta game of game production; my vote continues to be strongly for HeroScape.
A lot of good stuff in that post, but this last point here is what really continues to excite me about Heroscape, even coming up on 5 years after my first game.

This is a remarkable system that incorporates so much. If we get a bit tired of 1v1, 500 pt., kill-em-all games, then we switch to some scenarios, or 2v2, or Epic, or adventure-based*, etc. The system is flexible and adaptable. Even in the organized play we do, we switch from tourneys to group play, from melee only games to longer 1v1 non-tourney play. Just changing the nature of the maps and start zones shakes things up so much.

Anyhow, I guess I'm just getting at the fact that one of the excellent things about Heroscape is the fact that it itself encompasses so many possible metagames and games.

We play dozens of great games at my house (rotating through everything from Harry Potter CLUE to RISK 2210, Catan to Pillars, Last Night to Carcassonne, and more), but I never grow tired of what Heroscape offers. Five years later and I'm still excited for every chance I get to play.

Thanks for this thread, Rev.

[*One of my favorite variants is a rescue map. Each of us begins with one hero, about 80-120 pts. We race to some of the many Brandars on the map and claim them to "rescue" an army. Sometimes we have set units near the Brandars (you get what you see there), sometimes we have a die roll for reinforcements. Definitely mixing things up. You need a large enough map that you don't bump into each other right away.]
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Old September 12th, 2009, 04:26 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

A superb post, Rev Dyer.

This is one of the few times that I find myself entirely in agreement with you (especially the part about wishing more women played this game). I have played this game more than any other and I still want to play it over any other any day, with or without women. Great read, Rev.
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Old September 12th, 2009, 09:26 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

Excellent points Rev. I agree whole heartedly.

As to more girls or women playing. I'm surprised when I see a female involved with any sort of gaming. I've played, and still play, all sorts of games. From warhammer, to star wars minis, to pokemon, to D&D and other RPGs. What I have observed is that Heroscape has more female players than any other game I've played. While the percentages are still heavily skewed towards males, 'scape does enjoy more female players than other games.

As to mixing. Sometimes I let the backstories and "fluff" overtake me. I still can't bring myself to mix Utgar with the others. I guess thats why general wars format feels so right to me.

72 tournaments. 173 - 142 - 1 overall record. 6 tournament wins.

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Old September 13th, 2009, 03:29 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

Neat insights, Rev.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Revdyer View Post
Second, the meta-game of HeroScape is NOT an abstract construct, such as Go or Othello, chess or checkers. There are image elements in HeroScape, themes, figures that flavor the game and it's play well beyond the "knight," "bishop," "king," "queen," "pawn," symbols of chess or the mere markers of other games. Yet, these abstractions (in HeroScape you can mix Utgar and Jandar in one army) do have an influence on the game. Just how much is, I think, an interesting matter for debate...Do you hesitate to put Krug in an otherwise all Ullar army or Cyprien in an otherwise all Jandar army?
My off-topic tangent on Chess:

I prefer to think of Chess as a refinement of an ancient war game, as opposed to an abstract construct. Chess pieces can be (and often are) represented as symbols, but they can also be imagined as detailed pieces/figures with flavour and with specific attributes, much like Heroscape. In Heroscape, units have no less than 5 basic attributes (i.e. Life, Move, Range, Attack, Defense) and many more special attributes (i.e. General, Unique/Common, "Species", Class, Personality, Size/Height, Special Powers, Special Attacks, 1-Hex/2-Hex, etc.). By contrast, Chess has one key dimension for representing a piece's combat readiness: Movement. Secondary dimensions reflecting combat readiness of Chess pieces are initial positioning on the Chess board and the dimensions of the Chess Board itself (i.e. standard 64 space 2D Chess vs. other variants e.g. 3D Chess).

As I've alluded to, I think the representation of Chess as an abstract construct, as opposed to the refinement of an ancient war game, is actually a reflection of the standardization efforts that went into the creation of modern Chess and of the sophistication of game design technology at that point in history (i.e. 3 dimensions of variation: Move; Starting Position; Board Dimensions). I think that Chess still has remnants of the image and flavour elements that you refute. From my own experience, I can recall being a little kid and fixating on the Knight piece's awesome sculpture. The artistry of the Knight piece captured my imagination - I could imagine that this was a medieval knight, a favourite childhood fantasy of mine. Of course, from a historical perspective, the Knight piece evolved from Cavalry in an earlier iteration of the game of Chess. We can see these origins in the elegance and complexity of the movement of the Knight piece. This complex movement enables the Knight to outmaneuver enemy pawns, which represent infantry - symbolic of the domination of infantry by cavalry through flanking maneuvers. It may sound like I'm really stretching things by describing Chess in this manner, but these are the roots of the ancient war game. Modern Chess is a distilled and standardized abstract construct of a more imaginative war game whose flavour is represented in the game's sculptures/symbols, design, and mechanics.

Thus, I'm reluctantly agreeing with you that Chess is an abstract construct whose flavour and image elements are relics of Chess' origins as an ancient war game. I just felt that Chess warrants a special distinction from the other abstract constructs that it was grouped with in your analysis.

Last edited by mccombju; September 13th, 2009 at 03:36 PM.
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Old September 13th, 2009, 08:52 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

I also saw that thread and regognize your point, good post!

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Old September 13th, 2009, 09:05 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

Quote:
Originally Posted by clancampbell View Post
Excellent points Rev. I agree whole heartedly.

As to more girls or women playing. I'm surprised when I see a female involved with any sort of gaming. I've played, and still play, all sorts of games. From warhammer, to star wars minis, to pokemon, to D&D and other RPGs. What I have observed is that Heroscape has more female players than any other game I've played. While the percentages are still heavily skewed towards males, 'scape does enjoy more female players than other games.

As to mixing. Sometimes I let the backstories and "fluff" overtake me. I still can't bring myself to mix Utgar with the others. I guess thats why general wars format feels so right to me.
This is something I've also noted (and appreciate). While I've seen plenty of girls playing Pokemon at the local shop, I've rarely seen any women there at all--except when we come in for Scape.

We have daughters, girlfriends, wives, friends, and moms all present (and in a few cases I think the women might be more into it than the men who come with them). It is still in the 25% range, but that is a step up from any other game I've seen there.

I think part of it is the game is streamlined so well. Most women I know just don't get as much of a kick out of obscure rules and attempts at pseudo-realism in a game. ("Isn't this supposed to be fun?) Scape has such a nice balance of immersive elements while also being just a game--a very fun, easy to learn (with plenty of depth) game.
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Old September 13th, 2009, 10:05 PM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

Well said sir well said.

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Old September 14th, 2009, 04:27 AM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

Great thread, Rev, haven't seen a post by you in a while.

But I must disagree about Krug in an all Ullar army. Krug be Troll, elves and trolls sometimes enemies, but close enough that they could be friends.

Now Cyprien in Jandar? Forget it.

I am very glad to here the thing about females and this game. Unfortunately in Turkey women (and men, but women more) think of any game as a childhood pursuit. I think this is sort of true about women more generally.
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Old September 14th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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Re: The Meta-meta-game

Quote:
Originally Posted by mccombju View Post
Thus, I'm reluctantly agreeing with you that Chess is an abstract construct whose flavour and image elements are relics of Chess' origins as an ancient war game. I just felt that Chess warrants a special distinction from the other abstract constructs that it was grouped with in your analysis.
I think you're right, mccombju, that there are relics and remnants, echoes and shadows of an earlier war game that became modern chess. Some of the flavor remains, with the knights' movement and the Rooks' stolid "squareness." But, most of the similitude to real armies and war is deeply hidden at this point in the game's history.

Quote:
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Great thread, Rev, haven't seen a post by you in a while.

But I must disagree about Krug in an all Ullar army. Krug be Troll, elves and trolls sometimes enemies, but close enough that they could be friends.

Now Cyprien in Jandar? Forget it.

I am very glad to here the thing about females and this game. Unfortunately in Turkey women (and men, but women more) think of any game as a childhood pursuit. I think this is sort of true about women more generally.
Kroc, part of why, I think, I used the Krug example is because it took me the longest time to get it into my head that Krug was not Ullar. After all, he's green, right?

As to girls and women and games; I wonder if there is any good statistical information (think I'll go a-looking here in a bit, since I'm sitting at the garage getting my car maintained). Bridge and Scrabble, at the tournament level, certainly have a large share of women who play and play well. Chess is just now opening up to women at the grand-master level. Interesting, anyway.

As to my lack of posting much lately; I've been busy with editing the BOOKS and, more importantly, just haven't had anything worth posting.
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