Uneven Points Scenarios… is it just me that likes them?

Uneven Points Scenarios… is it just me that likes them?

Or as an addition to that, are these types of scenarios mainly used by solo players?

Just some more of my wargaming ramblings folks, although this is a subject that is close to my heart as I often play wargames solo and will often use this type of scenario, I thought that this might be something other wargamers have thoughts about.

So what do I mean by “uneven points” scenarios?

Well imagine a scenario where you are given a task to do but you will be given less points to build your force than the enemy gets to build theirs!

The scenario may go something like this –

You have been ordered to hold the village and stop the enemy getting through so that you give time for your main force to get away to safety.

Your sacrifice will be remembered…

You have 750 points to build your force and the enemy has 1500 points to build theirs.

The game ends when either your force is destroyed or you hold the enemy back for seven turns etc. etc.

Doesn’t sound very fair, does it?

The game you play may have something different for picking your force, or your points may be a lot higher or even lower when building your force for a battle, but the example above should give you an idea about the type of scenario I am talking about.

Not always, but this type of scenario may not allow one side to actually win ( well not without being extremely lucky )

Kobayashi Maru mission anyone?

What the scenario could be doing is testing the player to see how long they can survive before they are destroyed by the enemy.

The scenario may state that you have to survive for a number of turns to win the game or state you have to kill a particular number or percentage of the enemy force to win.

All the years I have been playing wargames of one kind or another I don’t seem to play many games against an opponent using this type of scenario, actually almost never, I normally only play games using these scenarios when I am playing solo!

I have played games where you have objective markers to give you something to move onto and hold, also games with different set-up methods which make things harder in the battle, but not much else.

While gaming solo I use scenarios and narrative play all the time, it is a great help when playing solo and makes it more interesting for the lonely gamer, but why don’t these types of scenarios get played much when playing against an opponent?

Does it have something to do with possible uneven forces in the scenario?

It may do, as I have found that with most of my opponents they don’t like to play with uneven forces, they are only happy when using totally equal build points ( or whatever system the rules use to pick forces )

I have also seen players move or change scenery on a gaming table because it was favoring their opponent more!!

Does it feel better when playing another person to have similar pointed forces?

My guess is it feels fairer to have two even forces… Which is a shame because in my opinion scenario-based games are a lot more fun, especially if the forces are uneven and you have to work hard to achieve your goals.

It feels great if your small beleaguered force holds off the large approaching army until your main force gets away or your small force holds the village until reinforcements arrive or even a small force doing hit-and-run tactics against a bigger force trying to slow them down.

These types of games seem to me to be the best type of wargame scenarios to play.

Also a point I find interesting is that the few times I have seen these types of scenarios being used at clubs or on peoples blogs etc. the game is normally a historical game!

Not always but I find it is mainly World War Two games.

Could that be a factor here? Do these types of scenarios work better for historical games rather than fantasy or sci-fi games?

I am unsure, but my experience does seem to show that it could possibly be.

There are some great scenario books out there for all periods and styles of game, I have a great one by Charles Stewart Grant called Programmed War Games Scenarios and this has loads of different types of one-off battles for Ancients, Horse & Musket and Modern eras.

I also have several of the scenario books for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum these can be played as a campaign or one-off scenarios and bring so much to the battle; they can make the game seem a little more real…


Ok I know that I am talking about games here, but let’s look at things from a slightly more “real” point of view.

How many battles do you know about that have equal sides?

I can’t imagine two Generals with their armies standing around on a battlefield while they make sure both sides are the same!!! “Wait! Hold on, don’t attack yet I need one more unit of cavalry and two more units of infantry plus one more cannon… ok now we are equal we can fight, charge!!

Yeah that’s ridiculous, but we normally only play battles against an opponent if we have equal pointed armies, so isn’t that slightly ridiculous as well?

Maybe not but you can see my point.

I have also seen players move or change scenery on a gaming table because it was favoring their opponent more!! or making sure the scenery is symmetrical so that if favors no one, that seems crazy to me.. again imagine two Generals with their armies in drop ships flying around a planet and saying “No, it’s no good we will have to find another planet to fight on as there are no symmetrical cities on this planet!!

Yeah again that’s ridiculous but I see people redo terrain on a table all the time ( for some games systems ) and I guess that’s their choice, but it drives me crazy!

Another thing that these scenarios give you is more opportunities to field those “special” units that just don’t get used much on the table in a straight fight.

If the scenario was for your small force to clear a bunker or two or destroy a bridge then engineers would be a must.

Or if you were asked to take and hold maybe a bridge / airfield / crossroads that you then need to defend until relieved, a small elite unit of commandos would be my choice for that scenario.

These army choices and scenarios of course change dependent on the era of the battle and of course on the forces available, but all of them would easily work with a sci-fi background and I guess even with a fantasy force, I am sure that Dwarves would be able to blow up a bridge!

And I am sure that you could get your sci-fi guardsmen to hold out against a horde of slavering aliens!!

These all work great for solo and I believe would work just as well against an opponent so I wonder why I don’t see scenarios like these being used in games more often and especially the uneven points scenarios.

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with a straight up fight between two armies of equal size or points value, I have played many straight up fights and I do enjoy these games as well, but scenarios can add a little bit of variety and excitement to the game that you don’t normally get from a straight up fight.

I don’t think I have ever seen a couple of squads of Space Marines defending a small industrial complex against a big force of Orks or even Tyranids!!

Yes they would probably all die, but how many of them could they kill for the Emperor before they die?

The scenario could be to see how long they could survive or how many they could kill etc. etc.

Would this make the game unplayable?

No of course not, although it would probably be very hard to win.

Is it possible for sci-fi games or fantasy games to be used playing these types of scenarios?

Of course it is possible to play these types of scenarios with sci-fi or fantasy figures, I play them all the time… solo!

I know that these types of scenarios can often be seen in World War Two games, so why are they not seen more often in other genres.

Is it that players don’t like this type of scenario when playing their sci-fi or fantasy game?

Honestly I don’t know.

Could it be the type of game being played effecting this?

I know that a game using large units on movement trays would be harder to play using these types of scenarios, I think it would be very hard to get one unit defending against several enemy ones, realistically it probably wouldn’t work, but if there were a couple more units and some scenery to stand behind then they could possibly do a delaying action game.

Any game that has figures mounted on individual bases should be able to use these types of scenarios easily.

I have many scenarios that have been written for Stars & Lasers which use these uneven points scenarios and they work well, this makes some of the scenarios very hard to win.

I have also written scenarios for my Blood Sweat & Iron rules and of course the Last Drifters rules and they all offer a challenge and give an exciting game and a lot of them are uneven points scenarios.

I play many games ( probably too many! ) and I do like to play using a scenario of some sort, but against a real opponent I don’t often get a chance to play these uneven points scenarios which is a real shame as they can be so much fun.

These scenarios will give you something to think about and plan for, this could be something as simple as take that bridge or hill or even clear that wooded area over there!

These are great but if one side has a 2:1 or even 3:1 advantage then the games become harder, but also I feel they become more interesting.

Maybe this type of scenario is only suitable for a solo player as it is perfect for narrative games and is a good way to keep the player involved and of course he or she could play the same game again but this time using different forces.

But surely these would also be good for two friends to play, they could play with one player as the defender and the other as the attacker for the first game, then they could play again and swap who is the attacker and who is the defender and see who does the best.

I know games systems do have scenarios and some of these scenarios are great fun for players, but how often do you use them?

Could it also be something to with the rules system?

What I mean is a game that is maybe using an I-Go-You-Go activation system may be harder to play using these types of scenarios… those two small defending squads are going to be dead very quickly if everything on the opposing side fires at them before they can do anything!!

So I guess games systems may have something to do with these types of scenarios not being used often.

My wargaming experience covers a good many years and in that time I have looked at many blogs and have seen many games at wargaming shows etc and I haven’t seen many of these uneven points scenarios being played other than by solo players.

Or have I just not seen them?

Let me know.

Well that’s my ramblings over until next time.

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  1. Uneven scenarios can be fun, but get tiresome if one is always on the disadvantaged side. They work great for solo games as you note. With proper victory conditions, they can be viable, too. As you observe, historical generals were never eager to commit their troops to an even combat!

  2. Mac

    Hi Peter,

    Yes I agree they could become tiresome if you were always on the disadvantaged side, but swapping who is the attacker or the defender to play again would ease that a little.

    I think I just can’t understand why people never really play against a real alive opponent using these types of scenarios that often, I think that is a shame because it can be lots of fun.


  3. Vic

    Hi Mac,

    A lot of my scenarios feature asymmetrical forces – the trick is to make sure both sides victory conditions are achievable with the forces involved.

    The typical example (as you pointed out) is the “Hold at all costs – dont let them get past you!” type fight, where a smaller force is trying to hold off a larger force. The trick here is the larger force doesn’t actually have to destroy the smaller force – instead it has a tight time limit in which to exit X amounts of it’s own forces off the defenders table edge … if the larger force stops to indulge in a fire fight (or whatever) with the defender force it risks missing its deadline to exit the table!
    Accordingly the victory conditions would involve time & % casualties of both forces – the faster the attacker can exit the table the better but casualties will degrade the victory, whilst the defender gets victory based on how long it can prevent the attacker from winning but again losses will reduce the victory (but by a lot less than the attacker – being outnumbered the defender is expecting losses!)

    I don’t know any general who wouldn’t shamelessly stack the odds in his favour given even a tenth of a chance – doing that is the whole point of being General!

    • Mac

      Hi Vic,

      Yes I agree with you in making the victory conditions possible for both sides, although that is not always easy to do, but if you get it right then your players should have a good exciting game.

      But like me Vic you play lots of your games solo, which is my point, it is not often that you get ‘players’ playing these types of scenarios, most of the time it seems to be only one player playing solo and I am not sure why.


      • Vic

        Hi Mac,

        There are ways of spicing up equal PV games …

        1). Asymetrical victory conditions. The attacker gets a set of victory conditions (captureva prisoner, exit defenders table edge, occupy terrain feature for X turns etc) and the Defenders victory condition is to prevent the Attacker from achieving his victory conditions … but the thing is the Defender isn’t told what the Attackers victory conditions are, (Sshh! They’re a secret!) – the Defender has to try & work out what the Attackers trying to do and then prevent him from doing it. In turn the Attacker has to disguise his intentions for long enough to actually achieve his victory conditions.

        2). Double Blind victory conditions. This is where both sides have their own victory conditions and neither side knows what the other side is trying to do – this can result in some very free-wheeling games as both sides scramble to both win and prevent the enemy from winning! It also has the fun possibility that both sides can win …

      • Vic

        Hi Mac,

        As to your query as to “why don’t some players play these asymetrical games?” I think the answer is simple (based on my own experience!) …

        The don’t play them because they DO have victory conditions! From what I’ve seen far too many players are wedded (maybe boltered is closer) to the idea of “two equal forces line up opposite each other & fight until theres only one force left” … line ’em up n gun ’em down type games … for me this = yawn! It’s so repetitive!

        But I suppose if you’re a competitive competition type player you HAVE to play this way – there’d be no point using different victory conditions, as that could disadvantage one player & in a competition that cant be allowed – the GAME MUST be ‘equal’ in all ways.

        Unequal forces & scenario based victory conditions are more likely in solo play or ‘real’ history based games, much less so in competition games.

  4. Zac

    Hi Mac
    Wargamers,boardgamers,role players are to my mind cut from the same cloth they like order & balance.
    Take D&D most DM’s are more intended in the maths than telling a good story! You wanna see a DM sweat just split up the party!
    Their was a great boardgame called tide of iorn which had only unbalanced scenarios!
    people felt cheated the fact it was a great game was secondary to balance.
    With gamers Its always about order,balance, control, just like real warfare (snigger)

    • Vic

      Hi Zac!

      I was a DnD GM for overv20 years, and I loved it when my party split up – they were far more vulnerable that way! But I was a (occasionally) cruel GM … 😉

      • Zac

        Hi Vic
        Most of my RPG experience is with horror games and splitting up is what you do!
        I also always had a backup PC in case of death.
        So D&D was a bit of a culture shock.

        • Vic

          Hi Zac,

          DnD is (in my 3.5 Ed experience) balanced by the theoretical ‘challenge rating – CR’, which assumes a ‘standard’ party mix based on 4-5 characters. As in DnD 3.5 character classes are rather tightly defined along the lines of ‘does X well, does Y badly’ sort of thing, having a non-standard party mix (either through player choice of character to play or some character classes missing due to party splitting) can result in serious issues as the CR of the encounter may well include elements that the missing character classes have. The results can be harsh for players … even TPK!

          But I was very much a story teller GM – as far as I was concerned the encounter CR system was nothing more than a base guide and I was prepared to improvise quick mods to any encounter where party mix might unfairly skew outcomes.

          I also liked to allow players equal shares of the in-game limelight – opportunities for players to showcase their abilities & skills – but I wasn’t a fan of player show boating, where 1 player tries to hog the action/scene etc – players who disrupted my game like that too often found their ‘solo gaming sessions’ ended in high CR encounters … whilst they were on their own …

          Sometimes it’s good to be bad …

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