I just had a really interesting conversation with Alex from the Team Yankee Facebook community and it was actually so interesting for me because it's probably the first time I've put into words the different things that I believe I need to see in a game before I will buy into a game.
|Ambrose T Burnside|
|An image of wargaming beauty...|
|Apparently those that Pol Pot left alive |
were never taught about grammar
OK rant over! Abstraction isn't just an obvious thing to point out it is in fact so fundamental to the writing of a set of rules that one could actually say that its the skill of abstraction (and not the abstraction of skill) that a smooth, fun, pseudo accurate set of rules relies on. This then could be said to be one of the key pillars in determining which rules are rugged enough to stand up under a cursory scrutiny. No abstraction = No rules. Fact!
|A game that may just have some flavour!|
Where aesthetics are concerned, I think it may be fair to say that its the overall aesthetic that draws us to a game initially but its the narrative function that keeps us coming back for more.
Now of course we have all the Corpocrats and their boxed games with only marginally tested rulesets and a half life of less than a Crisp Sandwich!
|A game possibly lacking in flavour?|
Because of these considerations the Narrative Function represents the second pillar of a good set of rules for me!
The technical aspect of a rule set comes next for me. Pillar No.3. Essentially this is the nuts and bolts of the rule themselves. The pieces that make up the whole. The use of statistical probabilities to bring an abstract reality to the table top. It is very difficult to justify a set of rules that claim to mimic reality (and in this case I mean serve as a representation or in the case of Sci Fi and Fantasy games an mimicry of an historical event) if they have thrown all statistical probabilities out of the window... although one also has to bear in mind that if rule sets were written solely with the purpose of historical simulation in mind then if the statistical probabilities were adhered to you would likely have a very boring set of rules with very few casualties and an awful lot of people running away!
This is a difficult one because some good rulesets are very complex with lots of rules, and therefore lots of technical elements, whilst on the other hand there are also lots of simplified rulesets that abstract the majority of the technical quantification into meta-systems. Both types of rulesets can be very good, but sadly far too many of them are very bad with nowhere near enough forethought and play-testing to failure.
|Fog of War?|
Despite me only addressing this in such a short fashion it is the Technicals that will cover processes such as command and control, fog of war, shooting, casualties, movement, morale and game housekeeping. It is these nuts and bolts that need to be really REALLY nailed down well if the rules have any hope of 'making the grade'
The final pillar for me, Pillar No 4. is the Rules Mechanics. What is the difference between the mechanic elements and the technical elements I hear you ask? Well, this is an arbitrary term of description chosen by me, but it does allow me to separate my own thought processes when I'm writing rule sets.
The mechanics is what stitches all of the technical elements of a game together resulting in how the game flows. We must have all played those games where all of those different rules were excellent and made so much sense but when you put it all together it was just a heavy and slow, unwieldy system? Right?
|Some wargames are winners!!!|
Abstraction is supposed to simplify reality... not break the rules of physics so for me when I see a common occurrence in a game where an abstraction routinely breaks reality, to me this is a real cause for concern and is very likely to diminish any interest I can work up for a game.
Where Team Yankee is concerned, with its habitual 'tank bricks' this is an extreme example of an 'abstraction fault' and I have to say that I was living in West Germany at time of the military exercises for Operation Lionheart and I have to tell you, at no time did I ever see, or even hear of British, nor American nor even West German armour bricks rolling across the German countryside.
|hang on a minute....|
Now admittedly this sounds like an obscenely stupid idea. A bit like making the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon fight the battle of Waterloo but replacing their armies a lot of Colossi of Rhodes!
|British GPMG operator on deployment|
It is an absolute necessity to reduce the ground scale of a game to bring all weapons within the reach of a table. This is also carried over into the Artillery of a game.
Do we know any games out there where the majority of weapons in a game have practically unlimited range? If not why not?
However this Ground Scale Abstraction has its collateral problems and where Flames of War and Team Yankee are concerned, in my opinion its the tank bricks.
So to summarise; for me there are four pillars that underpin a majestic set of rules.
i) The Aesthetic. Probably the easiest to get right, and capable of attracting a lot of new blood
ii) The Narrative Function. Based more on personal skills than ruleset elements but if it isnt achieved the game will likely die very quickly anyway no matter how good the next two pillars are.
iii) The Technicals. How well thought out and rugged each of the component parts of the rules are. If you cant get these right then the rules are as good as dead anyway
iv) The Mechanics. How well does it all stitch together? Have the abstractions that are written into the rules reinforce the technicals or detract from them?
The first pillar can be taken as a standalone element that may not really have too much impact on the following three pillars BUT the next three fulfil a circular function and if there is a break between any of them, then the rules themselves breakdown.
I personally have a problem when I see a break between the narrative function and the mechanics especially because when I see this I believe that the game isn't serving the aesthetic and if there is a break between these two pillars you will end up where Games Workshop is now, with their 4 page toilet paper rule sets.
So thats my thoughts on what has to go into a set of rules and what may make or break them.
What do you guys think?
Is there any room for a Bayonet in all of these postulations at all?