Nerds who are incapable of understanding abstraction (or just don’t like it). Literal Minded Nerds. L.M.N.’s.

Am I an “L.M.N.” when I refuse to read “glitter” as “glisten?” I don’t think so. I’ll explain the difference. An LMN is somebody who took part in the gradual destruction of Simulations Publications, Inc. back in the 1970’s. They wrecked SPI with their goddam insistence that EVERYTHING be spelled out or LITERALLY represented in a wargame.

Let me whip out my example.

“To the Green Fields Beyond” is the only old-time SPI game I kept. It’s never been played– but it’s so damn beautiful. But it’s never been played. It’s never been played because it suffered from an unholy amount of “compromise” that was similar to a lot (almost all) of SPI games from the olden days of wargaming. It ended up being a mess because SPI, in those days, catered to, and (let’s face it) sucked up to LMN’s. People who could not tolerate abstraction.

The game features a “supply system” that forces the player to laboriously count hexagons to each and every unit on the map, starting from a “supply unit” and ending up at the combat unit, and then a chart is consulted and a number of supply points is deducted from a total.

What’s wrong with that? Everything.

The whole point of this abomination is that the armies on the western front were seriously constrained by supply problems. Not just the usual ones for all armies in all wars, but ones that had been constructed by the armies themselves due to a nasty tendency to fall into bad habits. These bad habits tended to pile up and become what we now call “trench warfare.” The armies doing this could not see how NOT to do it because if they stopped shipping goods over open roads to the soldiers, then the war would stop, but if the soldiers won a battle, then it would be impossible to ship goods over open roads to them because they would be in “enemy territory,” but if they didn’t go into enemy territory, then they couldn’t win a battle, but if they did, they would be cut off from supply… and so on ad infinitum.

You can see what a convoluted mess this was, in reality.

In “To the Green Fields Beyond” this could have been simulated in a number of ways, but all of them would have been abstract. It could have been made literal, but it would have obliterated the entire idea of a simulation, since no sensible person from 1980 would do it that way. They’d make the armies mobile using different supply methods. Like the German shock troops did.

But allowing the players to instantly time-travel and “just” change the mind-set of the armies on the western front seemed weird and impossible to SPI. It took away too much of the “simulation” element.

But what if they abstractly showed that the obsolete supply system would bog down in mobile warfare? What if, for example, the British Army just removed one out of supply unit each turn, to (abstractly) represent this “attrition due to stupidity?”

No. Can’t do that because it’s too abstract.

But the original problem IS abstract. It’s an attempt to simulate stupidity, and that’s always problematic. It’s, dammit, abstract.

No. The LMN’s say no.

But wait. What if we just use supply convoys to represent the obsolete supply system? Actual units that each have a supply point value, and are “used up” in combat?

No for two reasons. First of all, SPI games were ALWAYS short of counters. Can’t do anything that requires another sheet of counters.

But also.

This also too abstract– UNLESS you let the LMN’s shoot at and destroy the supply “convoys.” The convoys are supposed to be abstract, but in the LMN’s mind anything that shows up on the map “must be destroy-able.”

Hey, they’re LMN’s. That’s how they think.

So Dave Isby, the designer of “To the Green Fields Beyond” was in an impossible Catch-22. Can’t let the LMN’s invent modern supply concepts, can’t let them shoot up imaginary “convoys” just because.

So what did he do? He forced the players to count those mother-lovin’ hexes in a clever attempt to hide all the abstraction in a place where the LMN’s would never find it.

“To the Green Fields Beyond.” Beautiful. Unplayable.

1 Reply to “L.M.N.’s”

  1. Hmm, never played it but such a beautiful design.
    Simulation like Kharkov supply rule for the Germans – let them lose one rail hex on the southern part of the board and the easternmost part of the Germans on the frontline is out of supply; doable but rarely.

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