Author Topic: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"  (Read 536 times)

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Offline ComradeP

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VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« on: July 10, 2017, 12:58:15 AM »
I've finally made the (small) step of buying some board(war)games, a step which was made significantly easier by the lack of quality wargames for wars/periods that hold my interest the PC in recent years.

I still prefer playing them digitally for the simple reason of not having a table to spare to place a game on for a (few) week(s). Setup time being zero also helps.

With many publishers making rules available on their website, and a wide variety of VASSAL modules available, there's a danger that people play wargames without ever having paid for them.

After reading a discussion about VASSAL and games you don't own on BGG, I was wondering what your opinions are on using VASSAL to "try before you buy".

With no wargame community to speak of, or conferences to go to, in my case the means of getting a feel for how a wargame plays are limited. For boardgames, many designers have their own specific rule systems that they like to use, unlike PC games where rules tend to be more standardized, which means just reading the handbook might not give you a good idea of how a game plays.

I see GMT has a policy on its website stating that for online play, at least one player needs to own the game. There is, however, no mention of solitaire play or if you could use a VASSAL module the way you would use a demo on the PC.

Another question is reprints, more specifically: games currently in P500. I'm supporting a number of P500 titles from GMT, including some reprints. Obviously, I have not paid for any of them yet as they are not charging. I do intend to pay for them when/if they charge for final production. Buying the previous edition would mean ending up with two copies of more or less the same game. In many cases, the originals are out of print as well. Would it be inappropriate to play the original's VASSAL module while waiting on the reprint/new edition, if you're supporting the reprint/new edition?


Offline JudgeDredd

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2017, 02:24:40 AM »
Personally, I don't think boardgames translate very well to the digital medium. Mostly that's because there's a "tactile" thing with boardgames.

Rolling the dice. Moving the pieces. Rooting through the manual for a specific rule or some clarification. Turning cards. These all make the boardgame experience for me and almost every boardgame conversion I've tried on PC either doesn't convert well (I'm looking at Warfighter on TTS) or by removing all those tactile elements simply reduces the game to a boring shuffle of pieces.

A couple of examples of games that have not transferred well imo are Fleet Commander:Nimitz for Vassal and Warfighter for TTS. I will hold my hands up and say I didn't stay in either long - but there were reasons for that. A key reason is space. Look at Warfighter on TTS. You are constantly zooming in and zooming out and scrolling to get to various parts of the table and see various aspects of the game. The manual was an issue too. Nimitz was the same. Constant zooming in and out and scrolling was a nightmare.

Don't read this wrong. They are quality conversions - but they do not give that boardgame experience.

I think one game that converted well imo was Heroes of Stalingrad. I can't honestly put my finger on why - perhaps it was the throw in of a story? - whatever it was I did enjoy playing that. I think another thing with that game was there was very little scrolling or zooming in and out required.

Anyway - to answer your question directly -
...I was wondering what your opinions are on using VASSAL to "try before you buy".
I don't think they would necessarily do the boardgames justice and may well even put you off buying. I'd like to say that whilst that, on the face of it, might sound like Matrix Games stance many years ago re demo's for wargames, it's TOTALLY different. With a digital demo of a digital game, you will get a feel for the game and the mechanics. For a digital demo of a boardgame, it WILL do it a disservice imo.

I feel a good review (written or video) followed up with a few Youtube "Let's Play" videos will always stand you in better stead and give you a much better feel for the game. I highlighted feel because for me that's alot of what a boardgame is about. I don't play boardgames with other people, so the human interaction isn't a thing for me, though when it's there (when I play a game against my daughter - we've been having a blast with Star Wars:Rebellion), then it's a huge plus also.

I am not answering this with a legal perspective. I don't know the legal position if that's what you're asking.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 02:26:49 AM by JudgeDredd »
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Offline ComradeP

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2017, 03:58:14 AM »
I guess it depends on the kind of boardgame you're playing whether it's suitable for VASSAL or not. I'm mostly interested in playing traditional hex and counter games. If a boardgame has all kinds of special components, or a board that is more easily understood when physically present (because it requires zooming in VASSAL for instance, as in your example) I think playing it on VASSAL might indeed not give an accurate depiction of what the boardgame could be when you have it on the table.

I roll the dice myself, that's one aspect that I want to keep for the immersion. I'd prefer to use VASSAL as a projection of the board and components, not as a true digital version where you do everything on the PC.

The only game I've played for a longer amount of time on VASSAL is a magazine game that I'm playtesting, so I don't really have the feeling that I'm missing much in terms of the experience offered due to it simply being a map and counters.

The exact legal status might be similar to downloading a game to try before you buy, which is still a form of theft. Informally, it might be a different matter as VASSAL does allow people who might otherwise not be able to find opponents to play a game, which aside from the space concerns is one of the main reasons people on BGG mentioned for playing more games now than before due to VASSAL.   

Technically, you don't own a game yet if you pre-order it but have not paid for it either, so that might also be theft from a legal perspective.

For me, the question of whether playing an older version of the game you're supporting through P500 while you don't own the older version is acceptable or not would be more important than the try before you buy matter.

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2017, 04:33:30 AM »
I think that most people who use VASSAL, use it responsibly. I've downloaded rules and a module to ray the game out. This always results in two things, if I like the game I buy a physical copy, if I don't then I delete the rules and the module.

I also think that most companies have determined that VASSAL modules are great sales tools and are not, for the most part, resulting in their games being "stolen".

With wargaming being such a niche hobby, most people in it want to see the companies that make games succeed so they just don't use VASSAL as a way to get free games.

So in your case I would say it's perfectly valid to "try before you buy" and also just fine to play the games for which you have ordered and are just awaiting the physical delivery.
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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2017, 04:57:35 AM »
With wargaming being such a niche hobby, most people in it want to see the companies that make games succeed so they just don't use VASSAL as a way to get free games.

^this

If someone is so cheap and pathetic as to use VASSAL to avoid paying for games, it's unlikely they'd ever be a paying customer.
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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2017, 06:04:19 AM »
Plus, most times, even though the rules are posted for download, things like scenarios and setups are not. So you can try out the mechanics of the games but you really can't play them.
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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2017, 07:19:20 AM »
Yep. And generally a read of the rules is enough to tell you if you're going to like a game.
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Offline JudgeDredd

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2017, 08:42:04 AM »
Oh - I forgot to add setting up.

Setting up a boardgame is one of the most interesting parts for me. A very enjoyable part too.

"Setting up" a computer game - for example Combat Mission - I find a horrendous chore and one of the worst aspects of computer wargaming.
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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2017, 08:51:21 AM »
Ummm... JD why do you keep bringing up PC games when the topic is VASSAL?
Setting up games in VASSAL is very like setting up games on a board....
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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2017, 09:25:32 AM »
I think he segued into a comparison with PC games from digital boardgames as 'boardgames' per se, in VASSAL and TTS.
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Offline JudgeDredd

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2017, 09:38:00 AM »
^that - thanks JP

Vassal and TTS are digital representations of boardgames as are PC wargames.

I don't think I answered his question at all. I think he was talking about the legal implications and legitimacy of Vassal - hence my legal statement at the end.

But I was referring specifically to the "try before you buy" statement, suggesting that the digital representations, whether Vassal, TTS, or PC wargame conversions of boardgames wouldn't necessarily do them justice.

I then blabbered on about the specific pleasing attributes of boardgaming - again comparing them to their digital counterparts.

Because I basically limited my answer to his try before you buy statement, PC games fell into my scope.

As for this
...
Setting up games in VASSAL is very like setting up games on a board....
I agree that it is procedurally exactly like setting up a boardgame but the actual setting up of a boardgame on Vassal (or any other software used  ;) ) is absolutely not the same "experience" for me.

If we stick with Vassal then - setting up Fleet Commander:Nimitz in Vassal is the same as setting up Fleet Commander:Nimitz the boardgame - but they are both vastly different experiences imo - with the board game coming out head and shoulders on top.

Anyway - don't you have counters to clip or something?  :-*
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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2017, 09:42:35 AM »
 :knuppel2:

But I agree with you the setting a physical boardgame is vastly more enjoyable.
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Offline bbmike

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2017, 10:02:45 AM »
...
If we stick with Vassal then - setting up Fleet Commander:Nimitz in Vassal is the same as setting up Fleet Commander:Nimitz the boardgame - but they are both vastly different experiences imo - with the board game coming out head and shoulders on top...

Well, possibly. In Vassal, Fleet Commander Nimitz can be loaded already set up and ready to play. That could save you a good hour when playing it vs setting up the board to play.  :P
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Offline Phantom

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2017, 11:03:00 AM »
I like VASSAL for its ability to have scenarios already set up. I like VASSAL for the ability to see stacks easily. I like VASSAL as I can't knock it over or spill tea on it.
However, I rarely if ever play on it as for most of the games I play I find it important to be able to see the whole board at a glance in some detail, and in this VASSAL is limited by screen size. I guess my ideal would be some of those huge screen game tables I've seen around.

I have downloaded several games on VASSAL to get a better look at the game components and check things like counter density etc, but as I rarely actually play on VASSAL the copyright aspect doesn't really come into it for me.

Offline JudgeDredd

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Re: VASSAL, reprints and "try before you buy"
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2017, 01:57:38 PM »
...
If we stick with Vassal then - setting up Fleet Commander:Nimitz in Vassal is the same as setting up Fleet Commander:Nimitz the boardgame - but they are both vastly different experiences imo - with the board game coming out head and shoulders on top...

Well, possibly. In Vassal, Fleet Commander Nimitz can be loaded already set up and ready to play. That could save you a good hour when playing it vs setting up the board to play.  :P
True - but setting up IS part of the boardgame experience - and loses some of it's appeal when that's not there. You do have to do some scrolling and zooming in and out on FC:N too which I pointed out was particularly annoying to me.

Nothing beats a big, blank board with lots of counters and manual flicking and scenario sheets to get the juices flowing - anticipating setting up to see that big bland map take shape.  :bd:
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