Saturday, June 12, 2010

Positive and Normative Wargaming

Good day everyone, I thought I'd bring some food for your brains. When we discuss and debate wargaming we fall into one of two general categories in what we say: positive or normative statements. There is a very fundamental difference between these two types of statements and ways of thinking. positive statements are based upon verifiable, objective facts, such as the statement "A fire warrior has a ballistic skill of three." A normative statement is based upon personal beliefs, such as the statement "A fire warrior should have a ballistic skill of four." If a debate centers around positive statements there are facts that can be referred to to solve the dispute. If the debate centers around normative statements there is no independent, objective source of data to which to turn to solve the dispute. In an normative debate, all points of view are equally valid as they are based on beliefs, not evidence.

How does this apply to wargaming? When we are constructing army lists, what do we look for? Do we look for an army that is mathematically the most damaging for the points spent, an army that resembles one from a story, or do we try to make an army how they "should be?" The first approach is based in positive thinking: there is statistical data that can be compiled to analyze the amount of kills a unit should get for its points, if used ideally. The second approach has some grounding in each as you are looking at a force whose composition can be verified, but you are sometimes sacrificing more points efficient units for accuracy. The third approach is entirely based on normative thinking. How an army "should" be is based entirely on your own opinion. I may not agree with your perception of what an army "should" be composed of, but that does not make my opinion any more or less valid than yours.

What do you folks think? Which type of thinking do you employ more often when you think about wargaming? Which do you think is more prevalent in the community at large or in our local gaming group?


  1. I would have to say that I personally think that I like to game off an army that I think resembles an army that I have read about. but as for running an army otherwise, I can do that to.

    In our local gaming group however, I find alot of people who 'power game' for lack of a better phrase. they take the biggest baddest people in their codex...and that is how they run their armies.

  2. There are a lot of armies that are built for tournaments around the Muncie area, definitely. I do appreciate that you run armies based on Logan and his story and hope you have great success with it.

    There is something to be said for the majority of people running (named) character based armies. I'll admit I'm guilty of it myself with my marines. I would like to try to create some benefit to not taking named characters in an army. Stay tuned and thank you for commenting.