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"Having problems with rules support?" Topic


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1,220 hits since 20 Dec 2010
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Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 6:36 p.m. PST

The original title was "Are you having problems with the support given by your rules provider?", but TMP complained that it was too long. Okay, so the title was a little tongue in cheek, but the subject is not.

It seems these days a number of rules writers seem that customer support is simply a matter of answering questions on a forum, and that no follow up, like an FAQ or Errata Sheet are required.

How many rule sets have you gone to where the FAQ was created and maintained by a fan, based on answers the author gave in the course of answering questions in the forum? How many times have you found that there was NO FAQ or Errata despite reading messages from the author that a rule was written wrong?

You would think that in this age of cheap bandwidth and storage that posting an official FAQ or Errata Sheet would be a high priority, but I find that it is not true. And I know that some of these guys are one-man operations, but that is beside the point. You get more efficient at answering questions by not answering them over and over, but by writing it once and making it official. That's how you take off the load.

One final rant is against the fan-boys that defend the companies or authors and their poor support, trying to lay blame on the customers themselves. Battlegames #24 ran an anti-consumerism screed (that had no place being in the magazine) about how this hobby is moving away from amateurism and towards professionalism. I say: hurry up!

Dale

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2010 6:45 p.m. PST

I, for one, totally reject the whole concept of "rules support".
Back in my Ancients tournament playing days, there was nothing more irritating than the Friday night "seminar" before a tournament.
EVERYBODY had their "letters from Phil", which were more often than not contradictory.
The GM would pass out the latest "Rev 4.6 Ammendments", some of which were "Page 12, paragraph 4, line 3, delete "must", insert "cannot"".

It is not worth the aggravation. Let the players sort it out like gentlemen, and if their voices get too loud, the GM should just shoot them.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 6:47 p.m. PST

Once upon a time, gamers had to figure it out for themselves.

The only way to reach the game designer was to send him a snail-mail with a SASE and then hope that he answered at some time in the next few weeks or months.

Now, most game designers host Forums and answer emails directly. I get anywhere from 20 to 50 per week. And then of course many people post their issues, questions, and complaints on other public boards like TMP or WD3 or TinySoldaten, or wherever, so who knows if and when any given person will see them.

Unless you're a good programmer with lots of free bandwidth, hosting a Forum for customer support costs hundreds of dollars every year.

I sometimes wonder if the proliferation of forums doesn't actually hobble gamers and prevents them from just working things out, or from reading the book. (A great many questions can be answered simply by reading the book, and probably would have been, in the days before support forums.) I've fielded questions from guys who were literally in the midst of their games, and they were waiting for an answer before they could move on to Turn 6.

And then of course you get the guys who want to argue with you about why the rules are the way they are, or the guys who have memorized the order of battle for every engagement between the Meuse and the Vistula, and want to go through them with you in microscopic detail. Or the guy in Albania who ordered yesterday and is demanding to know where his book is, because it hasn't arrived yet. Or the guy who screwed up placing an order in the online store and put his wrong Zip Code in, and needs you to fix it for him. Or the guy who wants to change his User ID on the Forum, or who forgot his password and can't figure out how to reset it…

I'm not saying that there aren't legitimate or important questions. I'm saying that the level of customer support available to gamers nowadays is nothing short of astonishing, considering that most of us are just one or two guys trying to get other things done.

PS – I'm just as spoiled as anybody else. I've sent email rules questions to boardgame authors on more than one occasion. (Although they didn't have forums, so that was the only option.)

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2010 6:48 p.m. PST

In other words, players today are spoiled brats who expect everything to be handed to them.
This is not an OFM trademark rant, it is what I really think.
Does Tom Clancy stay by the phone to answer questions on what someone should do in a video game when the Spetznaz kill everyone?
Why should wargamers get special treatment?

Publish it, and let the players fend for themselves.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2010 6:50 p.m. PST

Sam, ignore them. Change your email address like you do your TMP names. grin

Or, set up an automated response like "I have a life. Figure it out yourself."

quidveritas Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 6:52 p.m. PST

Dale,

Write a set of rules and 'support' them.

When you buy a set of rules you are getting just that. You own the rules and you can do with them as you please.

There is no implied life time warranty of 'support'.

There are authors that are kind enough to provide a yahoo group or a forum and take the time and trouble to answer questions if and when others cannot. These folks are sparkling diamonds that appear from time to time on a sand bar. Enjoy them while they last because they won't live forever and they may move onto other things.

I would agree with you that sometimes rules are poorly written and it would be nice if the author would take the time to 'straighten things out'. But that doesn't always happen and frankly I think some authors really don't care -- they have your money -- deal with it!

mjc

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2010 6:58 p.m. PST

I have heard that even that dead horse Empire, that some of us are happily flogging, was played totally differently by the two authors.
So, who would you trust for your "support"?

wishfulgamer Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 7:46 p.m. PST

I'm with John the OFM's first post, I remember the days of playing ancients against people with more recent "I phoned Phil last night" updates.

You young uns don't knows how goods you got it with that thar darn fangled interwebs thingy.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2010 7:52 p.m. PST

Yes, wasn't comparing the timestamps on the Letters from Phil a real PITA? grin

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 7:56 p.m. PST

I guessed you missed my point. It really is no different with this new internet thingy when people produce emails, point to forum posts, etc. rather than saying "the publisher put out this errata sheet on 1/1/2011 and you can download it here. It answers all their screw-ups."

Fantasy I know.

Actually, it is bad that WAB 2.0 needed an errata sheet (or two) immediately after being published, but the fact that it WAS published within, what, a month or two, at least says something positive about being more responsive to the community. Sure, we would prefer the correct rules in the first place, but at least they provided answers in an official capacity and acknowledged that their errors needed correcting.

Given Up Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 8:07 p.m. PST

Bad day, eh, Dale.

My solution is to write my own rules. No matter how ugly they are I know how they are supposed to work. I have finally gone this route for all my rules. Why? Because the only person I can rely on is me, and sometimes that's shaky.

So find some rules you sort of like. Rewrite them and make them your own. Add want you want. Remove what you don't like. Make them as precision as you want.

You should give up looking for your perfect rules and make your perfect rules. It will take a while, but you should get what you want or you don't know what you want. Most gamers don't know what they want, they just know they don't like want they have. (That ought to set off a flame war.)

I am now going to my bombshelter while this brews up and wait out the fallout.

Life is too short to let game rules ruin your day.

Jim

wishfulgamer Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 8:22 p.m. PST

I dunno, expanding on the WRG example, take 7th ed ancients in the pre web days. There was an official errata but also constant rules updates from the author via responses to letter and telephone questions. It meant that the rules were essentially a work in progress, constantly changing by fractions of degrees with each new interpretation or clarification.

Fast forward to today. Whilst the speed of question/reply, clarification, etc and dissemination of that information is greatly enhanced by the web the outcome is essentially the same. Instead of purchasing a finished set of rules there is the potential that it becomes a work in progress.

Errata to fix typos and things that were missed at editing, ok, fair enough. (And if that's your point, that an errata should be available to fix any errors undetected before printing, then I'll happily agree). But how much support an author gives after that is up to them.

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 8:53 p.m. PST

"Actually, it is bad that WAB 2.0 needed an errata sheet (or two) immediately after being published, but the fact that it WAS published within, what, a month or two, at least says something positive about being more responsive to the community. Sure, we would prefer the correct rules in the first place, but at least they provided answers in an official capacity and acknowledged that their errors needed correcting."

Ummmm… no. Not positive. The errors inflicted on the published version were unforgivalble, considering how many hours the (new) author and many contributors/readers/testers had put into the coordinated draft--which did not contain those basic and wide-ranging errors.

And who is "they"? The (new) author--who is not part of Games Workshop/Forge World/Warhammer Historical--was the one who compiled the errata, and them compiled the errata which still needed to be corrected after the initial errata, and then collected changes and clarifications (and errata) from those of the supplement authors who were willing to continue to contribute.

As it has been all along with the system, anything good resulting from the WAB 2.0 debacle was due to the efforts of the dedicated players, not the published. All GW/Forge World had to do was lay out a generally cirrect and coordinated manuscript. The hosed that. Then all they had to do was post the collected errata. Still not there…

I've had Spec 4s--pregnant Spec 4s--pregnant Spec 4s from West Virginia--work for me who could do better, more reliable, and more intelligent layout work than the small-town-circuit circus act at GW/FW.

Allen

kyoteblue Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 9:17 p.m. PST

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Terrement Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2010 9:21 p.m. PST

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Lee Brilleaux Fezian20 Dec 2010 10:08 p.m. PST

The whole concept of rules 'support' is a pretty recent one.

I've been designing wargames for the best part of thirty years, and in the days of yore there might be the occasional letter and phone call (don't call me at 11.30 on Friday night, please) but basically, you wrote some rules, you put them out, and people played them or didn't. If there was something they didn't like, or understand, they made up something and called it a house rule.

It was fine.

But in recent times the designer is supposed to put out a string of follow up supplements, codices, whatever, and be on call for explanation and justification at all times. he's supposed to run an incessant parade of demo games at the bigger conventions, or – better still – have tame minions to go around and provide 'official' demos of the rules.

People sometimes ask me if I am going to do an updated version of rules I wrote in 1994, or put out a proper, expanded set of rules from a magazine article I did when MWAN was going strong. But I'm probably not going to, because I don't want to run a forum about it, or run games when I have something else scheduled, or answer the phone at 11.30 on a Friday night when I have better things to do.

Grumpy enough for ya?

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 11:16 p.m. PST

Yep, that were a good 'un, Jack.

Allen

BiPolar Bear Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 11:35 p.m. PST

We think Blitzkrieg/Cold War Commander has good rules support.

The author chimes in sometimes but it's mostly the community who play the rules offering advice.

bruntonboy21 Dec 2010 12:03 a.m. PST

A "rant" in Battlegames magazine?

I read the piece and was relieved that at last we had a magazine article that was actually opinion about the hobby and not sheer naked psychopathic slavering. As to it being anti-commercialism, well I didn't actually read it that way anyway but even if it were, is this is so wrong? Can we not question the way the hobby is changing or do we have to accept that glossy is good, big is better and what the "evil empires" says goes?

Please remember the hobby is just that- a hobby, and for the most part is made up of grown men pushing a few model soldiers about a table top, rolling dice and laughing at each other.

MajorB21 Dec 2010 2:56 a.m. PST

Unless you're a good programmer with lots of free bandwidth, hosting a Forum for customer support costs hundreds of dollars every year.

Rubbish. Using a blogging site like wordpress.com you can do it for free.

bruntonboy21 Dec 2010 5:50 a.m. PST

"psychopathic" was meant to read sycophantic of course. Trying to type in the early hours of semi-gloom is never a good idea especially when half asleep.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 6:21 a.m. PST

" Can we not question the way the hobby is changing or do we have to accept that glossy is good, big is better and what the "evil empires" says goes?

Please remember the hobby is just that- a hobby, and for the most part is made up of grown men pushing a few model soldiers about a table top, rolling dice and laughing at each other."

That's the sort of cognitive dissonance that always depresses me on gaming forums and chat sites like TMP.

The guy who decides to publish his game book in hardback with glossy color, is not doing so in an attempt to oppress you and take away your freedom.

In fact, it's inconceivable to me how anybody could think that more choices and more options in the marketplace could equate to being taken over by an Evil Empire, but I suppose we just live in times when everybody sees a plot or nefarious intent behind everything. (And those who don't see the evil plot for what it is, are guilty of "sheer naked sycophantic slavering…")

Wargaming is a tiny niche hobby with a minuscule marketplace. There aren't actually "evil empires." In fact, there isn't even an "Evil Duchy." The guys whom you call an Evil Empire in your first sentence, are the very same guys whom you regard fondly in your second sentence. They're just gamers who decided to go out on a limb and publish games for others, as best they can. They're the same guys you play with at your club.

Connard Sage Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 7:02 a.m. PST

Most gamers don't know what they want, they just know they don't like want they have.

Wise words.

Echoing a few previous posters. I come from the age of Featherstone and Grant rules. We just read the book, and played the damn game. If an anomaly cropped up, we devised a work around to everyone's (or nearly everyone's grin) satisfaction.

It never occurred to us to write to the author, much less expect 'support'. It's a hobby, not a job.

In fact 'support' sounds altogether like something provided by Social Services. Whatever happened to self-reliance?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP21 Dec 2010 8:08 a.m. PST

Right on.
REAL MEN don't need support! (Well, maybe a little in their declining years…)

You want support? Go on Oprah or Phil Donahue or Doctor Phil.

Caliban Supporting Member of TMP21 Dec 2010 9:21 a.m. PST

Doctor Phil – doesn't he paint ancients figures?

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 10:47 a.m. PST

"The guy who decides to publish his game book in hardback with glossy color, is not doing so in an attempt to oppress you and take away your freedom."

No, just my money (which is a form of economic oppression). If I resist that, then I must decline the rules.

"In fact, it's inconceivable to me how anybody could think that more choices and more options in the marketplace could equate to being taken over by an Evil Empire…"

You don't read the news, do you, Sam? This is the way *everything* is presented now.

"Wise words."

If garbled. It's that lack of proofreading thing again…

Allen

bruntonboy21 Dec 2010 11:32 a.m. PST

Funnily enough I don't really see how more choice or more professional production or even larger companies (hence the quotation marks around evil empires) are in themselves such a bad thing for our hobby. But not being able to question the nature of the hobbies development within one of the magazines certainly is.

More is good, shiny is nice but it doesn't make wargaming enjoyable by themselves at all- what makes waraming fun is people playing the game in their own and that can be done without high production values rules, without museum standard painting or without "rule support".

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 11:42 a.m. PST

"But not being able to question the nature of the hobbies development within one of the magazines certainly is."

I'm still having trouble getting my head around this Oppression thing.

Could you please explain where and how gamers are not allowed "to question the nature of the hobby's development?"

Since you've now conceded that there isn't actually an Evil Empire, then who, precisely, is preventing gamers from expressing themselves? And how?

vojvoda Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 12:02 p.m. PST

I think Sam covered it pretty well. Yahoo group fan sites are free but it the author is on there someone to take him to task over every interpretation of the rules. When I had a site for a home brew set and I stated that casualties represented Combat effectiveness not dead soldiers on the ground I had a three month diatribe from one rules lawyer who could not understand what I was talking about. Now I leave it up to one posting as to why it is as it is in my rules and any further questions I refer back to the original posting and state that the players are free to modify the rules as they see fit. Phil V. at Classical Hack taught me that one.
VR
James Mattes

Feet up now Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 2:36 p.m. PST

Not as popular as others but I like the way combat zone is done.The game is quite basic which allows easy modification to suit your scenarios.You can pick and mix the articles from the support site and even submit rules and items to the community yourself.
So far played WW2,Mad Max storylines,X-com and 200AD (bounty hunting and Judge dredd) all will the help of the support pages.Same set of rules too.

bruntonboy21 Dec 2010 3:50 p.m. PST

The opening post states that the Battlegames article shouldn't have been published due to its supposed anti-consumerism. That is what I was referring to, that is all.

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 4:16 p.m. PST

I did not say it should not have been published. It should not have been published in THAT magazine. I can think of a number of magazines where it would have been more appropriate, from my viewpoint.

bruntonboy21 Dec 2010 4:31 p.m. PST

Fair enough..I thought it was entirely appropriate for a wargaming magazine myself. Anyhow its not worth anyone falling out over it- we all have different views and long may it be so.

Graham

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 5:46 p.m. PST

I'm definitely with the OFM here. Does a great set of rules suddenly stop being a great set of rules because they don't have a website and haven't published anything in a while? Does it hell.

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member21 Dec 2010 7:54 p.m. PST

Mark, A "great set of rules" doesn't generally need much "support", especially when we are talking about FAQs and errata.

Jemima Fawr Inactive Member23 Dec 2010 3:44 a.m. PST

Maybe so, but I've seen that criticism levelled here in the past – that a set of rules fails to 'support' its customer base because it does not have a website and doesn't publish supplements or scenarios.

In my experience, people who need nit-picking rules clarifications and pages and pages of errata/addenda are not the sort of people I'd choose to game with in any case. We've always just agreed a consensus on a rule interpretation and cracked on with playing the game (and writing/researching our own scenarios and orbats without being spoon-fed)… Probably because we're pre-internet kids.

vojvoda Inactive Member23 Dec 2010 7:46 a.m. PST

Don't get me wrong but I think any rules set need a yahoo group, board on TMP and or a website. To keep them relevent scenarios, rules discussion and player interaction and networking is a good think. The author does not have to be the moderator or even on the site but it is nice to have. Look at the JRIII yahoo group as an example. Lots of good ideas, feedback, errata etc on the groups. I like to see links posted here about rules and such and think it is a great marketing tool.
VR
James Mattes

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member23 Dec 2010 9:47 a.m. PST

Since nobody can agree on what a "great set of rules" is, I think it's easier to look at "popular" sets. (After all, they're popular because lots of people think they're "great."

And for the most part, the most popular sets all have fairly elaborate forums with lots of support.

Warbeads Inactive Member23 Dec 2010 12:17 p.m. PST

Ah, "popular"! Unfortunately many of my "favorite" rules are not "popular" but since I provide all sides for a game I provide the "rules summary sheets" with the scenario when I run a game (which is never often enough for me anymore.)

Gracias,

Glenn

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