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"Do U.S. players require too much precision with their rules?" Topic

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Dale Hurtt20 Dec 2010 5:24 p.m. PST

I don't know, is it me?

I have purchased a number of rules last year, looking for various Holy Grails, and it seems like so many of the rules I purchase, especially from Europe (used to just be the U.K.), are incredibly imprecise.

Am I expecting too much when a set of rules do not define whether a unit turns is done by either wheeling or pivoting (after using both terms almost synonymously)? Am I unreasonable when rules state that a leader taking an action to give an order results in the group then rolling for activation, yet no exceptions are listed, but I am supposed to infer from another section of the rules that there is an exception? Is it really too much to ask that when a problem is identified by hundreds of gamers that line of sight issues are not clearly worded, and no official FAQ comes out to clarify those rules, that the next edition would at least address the inadequacy head on?

I don't mean to imply that Europeans are all old school gamers with their port who rely a hearty die roll when there is a disagreement and say "Ah ha! I see you've won the die roll! THIS game we will play it YOUR way!" I just don't see how they tolerate unanswered questions.

I written some rules and put them out on the internet, and I used to get all kinds of questions about this odd situation and that, and I tried to rewrite the rules to reflect that there was some uncertainty which caused the player not to be able to resolve the issue themselves. (That, of course, can lead to serious rules creep, but that is another topic.) My point is that, especially when I received an email that indicated two players had a dispute about what a particular rule meant, I was sure to correct the issue and make it clear. I just don't see that with many commercial rule sets coming out of Europe.

Ah well, rant over. Got another one on service and support though…


idontbelieveit20 Dec 2010 5:25 p.m. PST

Eh? WRG? Slitherine?

thosmoss20 Dec 2010 5:27 p.m. PST

I used to play ASL. You ask a question, the answer *is* in there somewhere. Hate to think that spoiled me.

Mr Elmo20 Dec 2010 5:51 p.m. PST

If you look at most Eurogames from the board game realm, you see very little emphasis on competition. I think the model of easy to play social gaming is moving into the wargame area as well.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick20 Dec 2010 6:00 p.m. PST

Perhaps I'm showing my Americanness here, but…

What on earth is "too much precision" ? That's like saying, "too clear" or "too accurate."

aecurtis Fezian20 Dec 2010 6:05 p.m. PST

Please clarify your question; it is imprecise.


Top Gun Ace20 Dec 2010 6:05 p.m. PST

A little clarity would be helpful, since I find some stuff written in English to be like a foreign language, to one that doesn't have any foreign language skills.

Dale Hurtt20 Dec 2010 6:13 p.m. PST

Okay. Do Americans require too much specificity?

Lack of precision is stated in the original post. Not specifying how you turn a unit (wheeling or pivoting), for example. Think I am joking? There were two articles in Slingshot and a sheaf of discussion on the non-official support forum. And still the players found more than two ways of doing it.

Personally, I don't think it is too much to ask the author to specify that turning a unit should be done by measuring the outside edge movement as one side stays fixed and pivots while the other side moves. Or to not measure, because your intent was that the unit pivots (center of the unit? center front of the unit? anywhere you want? who knows?) as it is accounted for in the movement penalty listed on page 24.

But, from what I am getting on this and the "support" thread, a lot of people don't expect this information. I guess because I game with multiple groups, I would like to know that no matter where I go, it is played with the same rules and understanding.

But, that dream never happened with 40K. There was always some local interpretation regarding LOS. And that is one of the most ubiquitous games I can think of.


Mark Plant20 Dec 2010 6:30 p.m. PST

What on earth is "too much precision" ? That's like saying, "too clear" or "too accurate."

"Too much precision" is a fairly simple concept really. Precision comes at a cost. In wargames terms that cost is the length and complexity of the rules and length of time writing them.

In the real world too much precision using means wasting time and money getting more precise than is required. If I'm buying a dining room table, the nearest 10 cm is good enough. I do not need to specify that the table must be bigger than 1.8732 metres.

I do not need a speedometer in my car that tells me that I am travelling at 97.54 km/hr, as that is actually mentally harder to deal with than "about 97". It would be easy enough to have precise digital speedos, but analogue ones are easier to read.

"Too clear", I accept is rarely a problem with rules, or life. But then the poster isn't using examples of ambiguity or vagueness, only of bits missing.

John the OFM20 Dec 2010 6:39 p.m. PST

There is "precision", and there is "accuracy".
They are not the same thing. Ask anyone who has had to do instrumental analysis, or calibration of instruments.
Your speedometer is reading 97.54 kph. Is that accurate, or merely an artifact of having a multiple readout?

This carries over into wargames rules too. You can take pages of charts, a laundry list of morale grades and armor penetration values, and all the bells and whistles you can think of.
All we have done is to add complexity, which is NOT automatically "precise" nor is it "accurate".

Farstar20 Dec 2010 6:42 p.m. PST

"is moving"

Wrong tense. This difference has been present for years. Decades, even. Even back to the dawn of the American wargame. Avalon Hill and SPI, and the slightly later Metagaming and Task Force, prided themselves on having rules that answered questions or didn't generate them in the first place. While hex grids and CRTs can be more efficient in this regard compared to the early tradition of open movement miniatures rules seen in the UK, it still spoiled the US audiences. We like game rules to be a decent technical document.

The one lapse early on seemed to be the budding RPG industry. Quite a few games came and went due to being uninterpretable disasters of layout, grammar, and/or vision. The ones that avoided the pitfalls of keeping 70% of the game in the authors head (never to see paper) generally succeeded and are remembered. RPGs are now, almost universally, more technically written than tabletop wargames. I suspect this is a natural reaction to both the early negative examples and the need to have an entire table full of gamers agree on common ground rules instead of two friends looking for a polite evening's Very English Civil War.

Technical rules have a dark side as well, as they make it easy to disguise (or miss, if you are the writer) overly complex or truly bad rules.

The British conversational style suits the gentleman's passtime that wargames started as. Such rules are often easily approached and tend to be less intimidating, as long as you have excellent memory and reading comprehension and retention. You'll need these characteristics, as finding details a second time, or figuring out which page (or pages) your interpretation was born on is going to be a bit of a challenge if your opponent disagrees.

None of this is a big problem as long as your wargames are a relaxing passtime. Once those games transform into large rooms of a hundred fiercely competing teenagers, however, the casual writing style becomes a burden. As such, it is really no surprise that the company that made us all painfully aware of this was Games Workshop. A company with an identity problem that grew as fast as the company itself did, GW cheerfully wrote rules in the conversational style, then promoted them in what became an avalanche of highly competitive tournaments aimed at the *least* relaxed age group amongst gamers, the teenagers.

wishfulgamer20 Dec 2010 6:59 p.m. PST

Some rulesets are designed for competition play and as such try to be as precise as possible. It's probably to stop any gamers out there who try and use loopholes in rules to gain an advantage, however silly (petty/irrational/etc) the loophole exploitation may be. Ancients has a history of these things.

I generally find it depends on who one plays against as to how much the 'letter of the law' needs to be applied.

Dale Hurtt20 Dec 2010 7:00 p.m. PST

@Farstar You got it. Our industry in a nutshell.

Pierce Inverarity20 Dec 2010 7:18 p.m. PST

So, what about DBA?

Ivan DBA20 Dec 2010 8:00 p.m. PST

I actually agree with the OP, and I generally prefer the American style. American rules tend to be written more like legal codes, with cross-references, definitions, and clearly defined sections. British rules tend more towards a narrative, with greater informality. The latter are usually easier for a casual read, but the former are ultimately preferable in my opinion.

CorpCommander20 Dec 2010 8:08 p.m. PST

Too clear can be an issue. A rule stated simply in 1-3 sentences might be too clear for someone looking for 2 pages of a rule mixed with designers notes.

Me, I prefer a handout with charts that is so clear I don't need text to figure it out.

Dale Hurtt20 Dec 2010 8:28 p.m. PST

Interesting question about DBA, a game I love and play quite a bit (comparatively). Yet here it is, what 10+ years later, and people are still arguing about the contact to movement rule. (NO, it is contact TOWARDS movement!) And whether there is mutually assured destruction when elephants collide.

What DBA lacked, and HOTT had more of, were examples and diagrams that clarified in a quarter of a page the 1,000 words the authors could not write.

By the way, DBA is getting a facelift, so we will see whether we get the hot button issues resolved finally.


P.S. Barker had an engineering background, if I remember correctly.

aecurtis Fezian20 Dec 2010 10:19 p.m. PST

The quest for precision is not aided by rules that permit the application of the "buttocks of death". Just sayin'.


MajorB21 Dec 2010 1:53 a.m. PST

Am I expecting too much when a set of rules do not define whether a unit turns is done by either wheeling or pivoting (after using both terms almost synonymously)?

The question I have to ask in response to such a conundrum is "Does it really matter?". Very generally speaking, the European (mostly British) style of rule writing tends to adopt the attitude that if it isn't specified in the rules, it is not important and that players should resolve differences of interpretation amicably. The implication is that such differences will not materially affect the outcome of the game.

Just my 0.02.

doug redshirt21 Dec 2010 6:47 a.m. PST

One reason that all the rules played around our gaming table here in Kansas are from the US, "Disposable Heroes", "Tactica II", "The Sword and The Flame" and "Lasalle". I am still waiting for the set of British rules that are playable after a reading and also written in American English.

Martin Rapier21 Dec 2010 7:00 a.m. PST

" I am still waiting for the set of British rules that are playable after a reading and also written in American English."

You may have a long wait, why on earth would a British author write in American English?

I do try to use the correct US terms for formations (Armored Divisions vs Armoured Divs), but planes are made of aluminium and their supplies arrive in lorries after filling up their water from the tap and their drivers have their pants firmly inside their trousers.

Ever had a look at Blitzkrieg Commander? they are very clear on a first reading.

John D Salt21 Dec 2010 7:01 a.m. PST

I've just finished reading Eugen Kogon's "The Theory and Practice of Hell", and had cause to regret that it was never translated into British English, only American (fancy saying "whiffletree" when you mean "swingletree", I ask you).

It would be no bad thing to have separate British and American English editions of rulebooks, I think. I never had any difficulty with the New Jersey Lawyer style of SPI's rules, but other American wargames rules I often find very hard reading -- even when they are for what is clearly an excellent game, such as Crossfire. ASL has to be the most thoroughly indigestible set of rules ever devised (with the possible exception of the rules for Mornington Crescent or Numberwang).

Phil Barker, on the other hand, I regard as the greatest English prose stylist writing today.

All the best,


Dale Hurtt21 Dec 2010 7:05 a.m. PST

And yet an entire article in Slingshot magazine was devoted to the fact that it DOES matter and the differences DO materially affect the outcome of the game, so that logic does not always hold. By the way, the rules were written by a Brit and the article writer was a Brit, so they aren't all "let's just figure it out as we go".

@aecurtis Supposedly Phil is doing away with the Buttocks of Death in DBA 3.0, or at least that is the rumor, as he wants to do away with all geometry tricks and quirks. We are all waiting to see…

I have found this thread, and the thread on customer support, revealing. It seems many people don't expect complete rules (and by that I mean the basic game mechanics, not the background) and where the holes are found the players are expected to fill in with their own local variations.

That mindset should only be a problem if you play those rules in tournaments, with people from other areas, or if the tournament's GM sees things differently than you. As the majority of the rules I use are NOT used for tournaments or conventions, I guess that is not such a bad attitude. As for tournaments, I did come up against strange interpretations in a DBA tournament in another area, but I wrote it off that the guys there did not know the rules that well as they played only once every three months or so.

Thanks for all of the responses so far.


BullDog6921 Dec 2010 7:06 a.m. PST

doug redshirt

'written in American English'

Is this a major concern? Do you find that a document written in (how does one put this?) 'normal English' to be difficult to follow sometimes?
I am very interested as I work with a lot of Americans (and Brits, Australians, Canadians, white Africans etc etc) and, though we might use slightly different phrases ('half past ten' rather than 'ten-thirty' for example), I have certainly never felt there is any problem in communication.

richarDISNEY21 Dec 2010 7:26 a.m. PST

I like 'em loose and fast. It encourages "house rules", which we seem to do anyway…

I just like to have clear rules in the books. Just enough to send me on the right path, and then let me loose.

PygmaelionAgain21 Dec 2010 7:38 a.m. PST

I've found that in my game group, there are 3 types of players when it comes to rulesets.

The "Positives", who look at a ruleset, and only attempt maneuvers that are spelled out clearly therein.

The "Exploiters", who look at a ruleset, and attempt anything that is not explicitly forbidden therein.

and the "Fair", who look at maneuvers that are clearly spelled out, and using them as precedent, try to explain why whatever they are doing makes sense within the internal logic of the rules.

Rulesets that don't explicitly forbid things tend to feel "too simple" to the exploiters, and unfinished to the fair.

The Positives are happy to play Killer Bunnies… so I tend not to hear much complaint from them.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick21 Dec 2010 7:50 a.m. PST

" I never had any difficulty with the New Jersey Lawyer style…"

Really? That means you bribed the author and/or threatened him with violence, in order to get special rules that only apply to you, and which aren't generally revealed to the public, except of course to your cousin and his contractor pal, who live in a different borough, but who can get you a good deal on some HVAC repairs, as long as you agree that his Cuirassiers get a +2 whenever they charge?

Daffy Doug21 Dec 2010 8:55 a.m. PST

How about the "Brigham Young style"? "My way or the highway"….

WarDepotDavid21 Dec 2010 4:56 p.m. PST

A sign of the times my friends. We are being dumbed down beyond question.

Etranger21 Dec 2010 5:46 p.m. PST

" I never had any difficulty with the New Jersey Lawyer style…"

Really? That means you bribed the author and/or threatened him with violence, in order to get special rules that only apply to you, and which aren't generally revealed to the public, except of course to your cousin and his contractor pal, who live in a different borough, but who can get you a good deal on some HVAC repairs, as long as you agree that his Cuirassiers get a +2 whenever they charge?

Sounds like some sets of Napoleonic rules then….. ;^P

Sane Max22 Dec 2010 4:39 a.m. PST

Is the tendency for British players to know the people they will be playing with in advance, while American Players use the internet to arrange to meet strangers at public places to play with them, a factor in this?


Connard Sage22 Dec 2010 6:50 a.m. PST


Angel Barracks22 Dec 2010 7:44 a.m. PST

American Players use the internet to arrange to meet strangers at public places to play with them

Fnarrrrr indeed.

Paint it Pink22 Dec 2010 9:36 a.m. PST


Yes it is you who has the problem, and others like you that has caused the rule writers in America to try and produce games with "water tight" rules no ambiguity. European rules writers work on common sense, which it appears you see as imprecision.

It all depends on whether you see wargaming as a hobby that you invest your time in to research stuff, or as a commodity that you invest money in to be entertained? Your pivoting example for instance is a good example of this. If you knew your period, you would play what historically happened. Since you clearly have no idea what should happen, your conclusion is that having purchased a set of rules they should cover everything you don't know. This expectation arises because you see the purchased rules as a commodity, which they were clearly not in the cases you provided.

Of course if you play SF&F then this question is rather academic as the answer is whatever you want it to be.

Perhaps this difference you observe is a product of the different expectations of American versus European cultures? Perhaps Europeans are more patient, whereas American want the answer now, otherwise the game devolves into a shoot out at the OK Corral.

As for writing your own rules and posting them on the internet. Over here in Europe, homebrew rules use to be the defacto standard, and if they didn't suit you would write your own.

Dale Hurtt22 Dec 2010 1:41 p.m. PST

Wow! That was funny!

@ Paint it Pink

For me, I am a gamer first, historian second. I do the historical research because of uniforms, wanting to write historical scenarios, and to determine if the game has a proper 'feel' to it that distinguishes it from other periods, not because I need to make a decision on whether pivoting or wheeling is more appropriate. (By the way, did Ancient Britons wheel or pivot?)

As a gamer, I play the Rules As Written, so yes, I like tight rules, whether I play competitively or not. If the game turns out not to have what I feel is a proper historical 'flavor', I have two choices:

1. Find another set of rules, lather, rinse, and repeat.
2. Decide if they are fun, historical feel be damned, and play them anyway.

Memoir '44 is a good example. Fine game, but not many people's idea of a historical rules set. But we play it a lot. We can bring kids into the game because it is easy to understand, and the rules are clear. (Although the new 'special rules' are increasingly requiring clarifications as the synergy between rules creates more exceptions.) There are very few disputes about how the rules play, and when there are, it is someone's misreading of the rule.

So, if being a gamer first makes me different, so be it. It is me then. When I spend my hard-earned cash on a product, I expect it to work. Just like the toaster that won't toast. Just like the book missing 64 pages in the middle. I want the rules to work; that is what I paid for.

Maybe rules, like software, should carry disclaimers like "completeness of these rules is neither implied or provided, many rules are left up to the gamer; no warranty is given; all loss of fun is the responsibility of the purchaser, not the authors; these rules are not recommended for tournaments". At least then you would have a better idea of what you are purchasing and could dole out your cash better informed. : )

Thanks for the feedback Pink.


WarDepotDavid22 Dec 2010 3:54 p.m. PST

I think those that do follow a set of rules for their impression of history and their level of complexity are few and far between. I think most wargamers would not find their way out of a wet paper bag even with the holes in it. I had a guy just the other day that looked at the new rules I purchased for ACW and asked, "what do their figure look like?" Most gamers now find 1 problem with a set of rules and have no idea how to asses, adapt and overcome. They simply say the rules are too complex or too simple and throw them away in search of another.

I am of the opinion that 90% of rules can be used at any scale at any size battle using any collection of relevant figures. So I can play Fire and Fury with multiple Corps using 6mm Adler or I can play it with a couple of divisions of 40mm figures. Not hard!

Most can not think outside of the square even if its drawn for them. And this is not just in wargaming. The staff I have been hiring recently have left a lot to be desired when it comes to problem solving and logical thought.

Maybe Europeans are better at this than Americans, not sure.

Dale Hurtt22 Dec 2010 8:29 p.m. PST

Given that you are from Australia, isn't it a bit logical for a wargamer there to ask what ACW figures look like? I don't know about your education system there, but our textbooks didn't have pictures of, say, the English Civil War in it.

Wargaming has a string visual appeal for a lot of people (especially males), and is a prime reason I would guess as to why a wargaming becomes a miniatures gamer over a board gamer. Because of that strong visual appeal.

So, if they wanted to know what ACW figures looked like, could it be that they need interesting uniforms to get them excited enough to spend their hard-earned cash on figures, and the limited time to paint those figures?


(Phil Dutre)23 Dec 2010 3:57 a.m. PST

In principle, when two history-educated wargamers meet, the rules can be as simply as this:

"One figure represents 33 men. One turn represents 5 minutes of real time. One cm on the table represents 10 meter. During your turn, you can do anything that was historically possible; given the figure, time and distance scales. Have fun!"

Of course, such a game would be Free Kriegspiel, a form of wargaming seldom encountered these days.

But in other passtimes, such looseness with the rules is still employed, e.g. in games of pick-up football (I mean soccer). When we were kids and playing a game on any grass field, 2 jackets on the ground served as goal posts, the out-lines were some mutually agreed 'grey zone' that evolved over time (and depended on the length of the grass), and whether a fault gave rise to a penalty depended on a lot things, such as the relative skill and size of player in question and the goalkeeper.
Did we play football? Not according to the official rules. But everyone said we played football, we had fun, and any rules arguments were resolved by the 'experienced player', meaning the kid who was the tallest, loudest, or oldest.
Many adults still do this when playing sports as passtimes.

So, why should wargaming be different? I can see the point when playing tournaments, but most club-games are rather friendly affairs, where a bit of rules discussion now and then adds to the charm of the experience.

Of course, this is a more philosophical view about the wargaming experience, rather than what a wargaming ruleset should be.

(Phil Dutre)23 Dec 2010 4:09 a.m. PST

Boardgames are perceived as 'closed systems', hence gamers tend not to fiddle around too much with the rules of a boardgame. E.g. I've never met someone who claimed the combat factors in Russian Campaign (AH) are a bit too generous for the Germans, "so let's reduce them all by one".

However, in miniature wargaming, by nature very open systems (people have to put together their own games by selecting terrain, figures, painting, rules, …), such questions pop up all the time. A few weeks ago we were playing Black Powder, and felt the movement distances were too large to our liking, so we reduced them by two-thirds (of course, after some careful discussion ;-)). That house-rule works for us. I agree it might not work for the next club, but we don't play games with guys from the next club, so why bother?

So, I guess that due to the open character of miniature wargaming, it also attracts for the most parts gamers who are more interested in putting together 'their own game', rather than play someone else's game. Hence, loosely written rules are quite happily accepted. Personally, I see rulesets more as a source of ideas, or as a good starting point, rather than a definitive guide. Perhaps this view on miniature wargaming is more prevalent in Europe than it is in the US?

IMO, people who expect exact precision in miniature gaming have chosen the wrong gaming subculture. Boardgames serve that particular style of gaming much better.

Paint it Pink23 Dec 2010 5:05 a.m. PST

Dear Terement,

Dale Hurtt asked: "I don't know, is it me?"about "Do U.S. players require too much precision with their rules?".

I replied yes it is him, because ultimately this sort of question can only be about him and his feelings. If this is seen as some sort of Bleeped texting contest by me on some people's part, I can only say your feelings are always right, but not necessarily facts.

You (Terrement) then replied directly to my post, saying: "It seems you are looking to get into a peeing contest where one was never intended nor fueled by the original author's post or his (or my) subsequent comments. OK, more than happy to oblige you.No, you are wrong.".

As I have said I answered the question, and used the OPs original comments as evidence. You are entitled to your opinion that I'm wrong.

Terrement then said: "Where is the "common sense" in providing rules that can be interpreted in more than one manner even going by historical information?"

The common sense only applies to the resolution of ambiguity and the feelings it generates in people, not to the actual events themselves, which are generally a result of the unimaginable confusion that arises during war.

Terrement goes on to say "I see nothing in there that justifies your straw man attack."<

You really did get out of the wrong side of bed.

Terrement then goes on to say: "I'd ask that you get down off of your high horse and actually READ what has been posted in terms of objects and answer those points, not some preconceived notion of what you happen to think about American game players. I won't generalize about European gamers vs American gamers as do you in your apparent ability to know how patient each of us are or how much or how little we may research a game. I take specific issue with YOU."

Also to point out the obvious, typed posts on forum are a poor medium for conveying tone, which is the problem with posts on a forum. People interpret and add tone to posts as they see fit. People also use metaphors to justify their feelings.

Terrement goes on more: "Wrong again. Even if playing in fantasy / science fiction, the rules have to be established and followed. If the rules themselves are unclear, then the group mutually deciding on a course of action to be followed is fine, but that is no different than what I presume gamers everywhere do even with poorly written historical rules."

Sounds a bit like common sense in action to me.

Terrement continues: "So it is hardly a case of "being academic" and even less so if you mean that both the players themselves individually and the GM each are making it up as they go, consistency and uniformity of decisions be damned."

So real war always has consistent and uniform outcomes? Nothing untoward ever happens?

Sorry, whatever, really. Losing the will to live. Let me sum up…

Miniature wargames where the ground scale no longer equals the figure scale are forced to abstract reality. The difference between a pivot and a wheel turn was obviously something that people felt were too abstracted because the players of the game could exploit the advantages of the abstraction.

An academic discussion to support their viewpoints then took place, where the author of the rules was blamed for not writing concise enough rules for the players that generated the argument. IMNSHO said players were playing the rules, and engaging in "pissing contests" rather than thinking about the reality of the period versus the abstraction of the ground scale. IMNSHO this is all rather an academic argument, a definition being you take something that is debatable and argue it.

PS: I suggest you rearrange your bedroom so that the bed has a right side and change your morning habits so that you get out of it, rather than always choosing to get out of the wrong side of the bed.

PPS: my partner is American and I have American in-laws etc. So please don't assume things.

PPPS: Dale wrote: "Maybe rules, like software, should carry disclaimers like "completeness of these rules is neither implied or provided, many rules are left up to the gamer; no warranty is given; all loss of fun is the responsibility of the purchaser, not the authors; these rules are not recommended for tournaments". At least then you would have a better idea of what you are purchasing and could dole out your cash better informed. : )"

Absolutely right IMO.

Mal Wright Fezian23 Dec 2010 5:35 a.m. PST

Fortunately Australian education is not as inward looking as American education seems to be. Last year I helped Grandchildren with subjects ranging from Ancient Egyptian soldiers and battles, through 100 years war, Napoleonic, WW1 and WW2. Even Vietnam for one of the older ones.

No need for any American subjects as our kids get bombarded with that stuff on TV.

Mal Wright Fezian23 Dec 2010 5:50 a.m. PST

I have no doubt at all that many American rules writers believe there is a need for precision way and above simply relying on the commonsense of the players. You are from a very litigious society so everything is expected to be laid out like a law book, numbered, paragraph and line.

That produces very slow rules that many players find boring. Some are excruciatingly boring with moves covering a few seconds and allowance for far too many variables.

To me that implies that the writer feels the need to 'control' how the game runs and how the players use the rules.

Personally I prefer to have faith in the intelligence of the reader…and just in case…give a description of what went on. House rules are a part of wargaming, with players adding or subtracting according to their own reading on the subject being wargamed. Therefore I prefer to provide lots of information and let the players get on with it because no matter what, someone will go for house rules anyway.

British rules and because of education style, Australian rules, seem to seek to provide an interesting game that runs fast and is going to be enjoyed by a group of friends…often over a beer or two.

On the other hand some American rules writers are fond of claiming they are not writing wargames rules at all….they are writing 'A simulation'. That in my opinion, usually ends up with disaster because in order to carry out this so called simulation, they have to slow the game down into fractions of a minute to allow the players control of minor details that will supposedly produce this 'simulation'.

But in real life the people engaged in combat cannot just call out for things to be slowed down while they made decisions and ensure every detail is carried out. In real life people are called on to make decisions and it is those decisions that determine what happens next. Those decisions require them to rely on others to make decisions about other detail, not do it all themselves.

Far too many rules try to put the player in a position of being able to control everything instead of forcing them to rely on subordinates doing those things for them. But these slow and boring rule styles seem to be on the decline.

Thus there has been a rise (return too??)of rule sets where chance factors play a strong part in what happens and these can seriously effect the actual overall command decisions taken by players. To me these are far more real life as the player not only has to deal with the enemy, but with the mistakes or unexpectedly greater successes, of his own side.

That is decision making after taking into account all factors that can go right or wrong, and certainly my preference for wargames rules.

Connard Sage23 Dec 2010 6:12 a.m. PST

Well said Mal. Your opening sentences might raise a few hackles though.

There's at least one American who produces readable, playable, not-written-in-a-lawyerly-fashion rules.

Any guesses?

I do wonder if his American customers play the rules differently…

Early morning writer23 Dec 2010 10:03 a.m. PST

to the OP, why I no longer buy any rules created in England – I have several and I've not played a single one because of the way they are written. Too bad, because some of them have curious ideas in them. But just not playable in my opinion – despite all the people who "play" them. Ambiguity entirely intended – just like those rules.

Maybe its to do with the legal level here in the states: twenty years ago (and lots more lawyers have been created since) there were 60 lawyers per capita in the USA to one per capita in the rest of the developed world.

Paint it Pink23 Dec 2010 1:28 p.m. PST

So are we all agreeing then that American players require (too) much (more) precision with their wargame rules?


Since you clearly had so much cutting and pasting my previous post I think you missed the obvious part, which bears repeating:


Miniature wargames where the ground scale no longer equals the figure scale are forced to abstract reality. The difference between a pivot and a wheel turn was obviously something that people felt were too abstracted because the players of the game could exploit the advantages of the abstraction.

Academic Discussion

IMNSHO this is all rather an academic argument, a definition being you take something that is debatable and argue it.

Keep arguing if you like. You are allowed to be wrong you know! ;-)

PS: You are really doing what you protest about in my original post.

Etranger23 Dec 2010 5:43 p.m. PST

Isn't it an issue of personality rather than nationality? Last time I checked 'rules lawyer' was an international vocation……

Mal Wright Fezian23 Dec 2010 8:04 p.m. PST

I agree that rules lawyers are international. Its a matter of personalities rather than nationality.

No doubt there are US writers who dont turn a rule set into a legalistic mess. Lonnie Gill for example (General Quarters) writes excellent material and it is always understandable. I've had the privilege to read some of his work pre-publication and it always clear, yet somehow achieves the precision that other writers set out to achieve via making things some really legalistic. There are not a lot that can do that.

Two hour wargames are also a breeze to read and their popularity is an indication of that.

But because of the US being a very litigious society I feel it is quite fair to state again, that most of the more legalistic writing style seems to originate from there. That is not necessarily a bad thing. A writer can write for his expected audience and if US players require lots of precision then its fine to write for them.

On a more wide world scale the legalistic seems to be preferred discarded, for a really fast and usable style. When I write, I try do it visualizing that I am writing for friends. So I dont want to get too demanding of them, nor stand over them with section this, brackets that and so forth. Yet I get a lot of mail from American wargamers who really like what I have written. So it could be that there is a perception of what they want, but that perception is coloured by the attitude of a vocal minority of rules writers, rather than the great bulk of players. Could it be that they are writing for the perception of what is wanted rather than what the bulk of readers like???

Paint it Pink24 Dec 2010 7:12 a.m. PST

Terrement: Arguing with the strawman again. Give it a rest.

Without doubt you are the biggest Bleeped texttaker on the board.

Mal Wright Fezian25 Dec 2010 3:39 a.m. PST

US players probably do use lots of less legalistic rules from elsewhere.
But perhaps some US authors have a false perception of legalistic being required and write accordingly.

Paint it Pink25 Dec 2010 5:01 a.m. PST

@ Terrement

Sorry, understood every word of your post, but not sure I understood what you meant?

Please don't hold back, tell me how your really feel?

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