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"What Makes a Good Set of Rules for you?" Topic

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792 hits since 27 Nov 2011
©1994-2014 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Celtic Tiger Inactive Member27 Nov 2011 2:52 p.m. PST

What do you look for in a set of rules?

Phil Dutre27 Nov 2011 3:04 p.m. PST

Good command&control mechanisms.

Combat resolution is just a procedural issue, but must be implemented as elegant and smoothly as possible.

Not interested at all in point values and army lists. All my games are scenario-based.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2011 3:23 p.m. PST

One thing I am NOT looking for is a "simulation" Please. Delude yourself if you must, but don't try to convince me.
I do this for fun, and am not prepared to dedicate a lifetime of study to master a game playing with toy soldiers.
If it does not insult my idea of "what should really happen", that is all one can ask for.

ordinarybass Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2011 3:38 p.m. PST

I'm with the OFM on not looking for a simulation.
I just want to have fun pushing my painted toys around the table, and being that I play mosty Sci-Fi/Fantasy, historical realism or plausibility means very little.

As for other stipulations, there are exceptions, but in general I'm looking for:
1) Fast play (less than 2 hours please 60-90 miniutes idealy)
2) Simple, easy to follow rules. I want to be able to teach the core of the rules to my friends in the space of one game.
3) As few stats per unit as possible
4) Alternating unit activation or overwatch, or a reaction mechanic. Anything to really involve both players throughout the turn. This is negotiable for really fast playing skirmish rules that trade turns quickly.
5) Make it fun.
6) Unit creation mecanic and army lists. I want to be able to stat up what ever figs I have in that genre, but I also want some ready to play army lists to jump right in and as guidance for my own lists.

pellen27 Nov 2011 3:59 p.m. PST

Area based movement (or large squares, point2point, etc, not small tiles). Those rulesets are so uncommon I am interested in all of them.

Augustus27 Nov 2011 3:59 p.m. PST

One that keeps the ego and the covert patronizing in check.

Please refrain from using words like: Simple, fast, easy, quick, two hour anything, cheap.

The King of Rock and Roll Inactive Member27 Nov 2011 5:16 p.m. PST

Something that doesn't feel retarded but is still fun to play.

John D Salt27 Nov 2011 5:24 p.m. PST

John the OFM wrote:

If it does not insult my idea of "what should really happen", that is all one can ask for.

If you expect there to be any relation between what happens on the tabletop and "what should really happen", then all the protestations about "not looking for a simulation" are shown to be so much flapdoodle.

You can have it one way, or you can have it the other, but you can't have it both ways at the same time and still have logical consistency.

All the best,


Dynaman878927 Nov 2011 5:25 p.m. PST

it MUST be realistic within it's chosen complexity level. Many people mistake comlexity for realism, not true.

I usually look for tried and true mechanisms, if it features funky dice rolling mechanics I usually shy away.

These days I look for rules that emphasize command and control while not sacrificing technical accuracy. (once again, within level of complexity – Modern Spearhead is good while Cold War Commander is not, due to CWC's additive combat mechanism)

Mako1127 Nov 2011 7:07 p.m. PST

I like realistic rules, that do attempt to simulate real combat, battles, and tactics.

In my opinion, a good set of rules will permit all of the above, with a decent level of detailing, but without bogging down to such a level that only rules lawyers, and people studying them for years can get the most out of them.

So, fairly simple, straightforward, clearly and logically written rules that encourage realistic tactics in order to achieve plausible outcomes.

Activation rules that are something other than IGOUGO, and that have the option for overwatches, or ambushes by the defending, or non-activating player(s).

kyotebluer than blue Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2011 7:11 p.m. PST


Space Monkey27 Nov 2011 8:22 p.m. PST

If they push scenario-based play that's a plus.
If they're not peppered with terms like 'cinematic' and 'tournament' that's a plus.
If the play of the game is on the table and not in the army 'build' process that's a plus.
If they aren't locked to a specific line of miniatures with stat cards that's a plus.
If the rules support using real-life strategies vs. doing weird stunts with the rules that's a plus.
If they have a DIY element that helps me build new elements (for scifi and fantasy) that's a plus.

… oh yeah, and if they're fun/interesting to play.

Rich Bliss Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2011 9:36 p.m. PST

Consistency between player role and player capabilities.

Steve6427 Nov 2011 9:38 p.m. PST

Interesting points. One of my fav subjects !

I have a sneaky feeling that these days, there are sooooo many rulesets available, and so easy to get hold of that there is a slight tendancy for gamers to collect rulesets for the sake of it.

A lot of rules get read over once or twice, and never even played in anger. I know I am guilty of that myself, because I find the whole subject of rules really interesting. Its a big part of the hobby.

After playing with a set for long enough, some of those uber-simplified mechanisms that appear silly at first, actually start to make a lot more sense. An example would be PIPs in DBx … first time I saw that, I thought it was ridiculous. After actually playing it, the prejudices are replaced with appreciation. Its a useful mechanism after all.

As is cherry picking mechanisms from multiple rule sets and applying them on the tabletop on a per-game basis.

ie – lets do this scenario, using these XYZ rules, but use the command activation system like these other rules here.

Over time,my entire collection of rules becomes something of a 'combined arms force', that can be thrown together in various ways to meet any situation.

Over the years, it is interesting to see the combat engines and bookkeeping aspects simplified, and the command aspects made more important. That seems to be a universal trend. Gone are the days of tracking number of actual men killed on a per figure basis. (My first set of WRG ancients did it this way, and I think the Airfix Nap rules did something similar)

Having said all that, here is a quick and dirty list of things I like in a ruleset (these days anyway) :

- Aesthetics. The game board should resemble the drama of the period it is covering. This is a function of the basing, orbats and scales in use. It is important, and is probably the first section I read when I get a new set of rules. FOW for example cops a lot of flak because of this point alone.

- Control. The rules should remove some control from the player. Just enough to make it very satisfying when a plan does actually come together, and very frustrating when some idiot commander down the line ruins a good plan. The mechanics of choice that work for me here are :
– PIPs Simple but very effective.
– TFL style card activation of sub units. Tea break cards, gifted leader cards, big men, etc. Very cool way of handling a complex set of issues.
– Action / Reaction ala crossfire, with initiative swinging from one side to the other.
– Command radiuses and dicing to change orders. Works well in most contexts.

- Luck. You need random outcomes and a high level of uncertainty in a wargame, but its a fine balance – pre-thought out contingency plans and good generalship should beat good dice rolls.

- Bling. I like a game system to have a little bit of silly bling here and there. I dont like having game tables littered with tokens, but it is good to be able to have a couple of units here and there with a gold star carried on the base, and have the rules attach some sort of meaning to those rare tokens.

- Movement and ground scales. Small movement rates per turn – yuk ! It works better if units can move further per turn, but limit the ability to move in the control section of the rules. That setup seems to work better. PIPs, reactions and tea breaks handle all of this well.

- Variable figure scales. Unless you are gaming 1:1 skrimish operations, or linear period rules where troops fight in formations that cover fixed areas of ground … I like rule mechanisms that vary the figure scale for different reasons. "Triumph of the Will" by TFL for example, uses figures to represent the current morale state of a unit, rather than the actual number of fighting troops. That is one radically different approach. Generally, 1 prefer 1 base of troops to represent a 'projection of force' over an area of ground, rather than than try to model the number of real men / vehicles in a unit.

- 1 table on a QRF should be able to describe the entire combat engine, and all the stats for all the units on the board. Opposed dice rolls are good, since both players get involved in all actions. A single mechanism for all combat is good. Keep the combat engine as simple as possible.

- Diminishing level of detail. There is a trick when doing programming of 3D 'simulations' – in that as things get further away from your point of view, you drop the polygon count of the rendered item, and fade the colours down to grey. Likewise, if you are a Company commander, you want all the info you can get on the current state of each platoon as a whole, but for each squad under that, you only need to know if they are still fighting or not. I love the way KISS Rommel handles this – when a base of troops is a casualty, its not dead, it has disbursed into the woods and temporarily lost contact with the main formation. It goes in a reserves pile, and can be put back on the board later on the roll of a good dice. So this offers a random distribution of fatigue and attrition, and zero book keeping. Brilliant.

- Political Correctness … might be a requirement for tournament gaming or anything involving the general public, but I prefer a touch of dark humour in the privacy of my own gaming den. Some rules attempt to go over the top in the political correctness department, and that can detract from the game. A little bit of non-PC humour in the rules can go a long way. If you look at "If the Lord Spares Us" from TFL, you can have situations on the gaming table where the British show some stiff upper lip as they throw off an attack by a bunch of damned sodomites. It might only be a +1 here and a -1 there, but the use of non-PC language in the rules frames those die modifications in a tongue in cheek period context. I don't have a problem with that at all.

Gane vs Simulation ? It is neither. Miniatures, Scenery, Rulesets and Dice are merely tools to assist the gamer in transporting themselves to other times and other places. A wargame is like a really good movie – on crack. It should be a fully immersive virtual reality experience that has you on the edge of your seat the whole way.

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2011 8:55 a.m. PST

i) something which doesn't send me to sleep after reading the first three pages. A surprising number of rules manage to do this and I find it a useful rule of thumb before decidiing whether to inflict my latest fad on my long suffering gaming friends.

ii) unlike some contributors, I do aim for for some level of simulation, as in 'outcomes on the tabletop are not vastly at variance with outcomes in real life' although willing to accept varying degrees of abstraction and silliness to achieve that.

For me wargaming is the old AGHC tag line 'bringing history to life'.

Pushing toys aroung and going 'bang' doesn't interest me, well it does, but only if I'm doing HG Wellsian type stuff. Perhaps we could debate the merits of simulation using toy cannons firing matchsticks, a better way of modelling beaten zones and enflidae fire I have yet to find.

Wearing silly hats and making appropriate sound effects are also an aid to simulation.

I have a lot of hats.

" a slight tendancy for gamers to collect rulesets for the sake of it."

LOL, I've always done that. Why have an original idea when other people have had them for you:) I read them like books.

Decebalus28 Nov 2011 9:31 a.m. PST

steve64 you said most things, i absolutely agree.

Personal logo richarDISNEY of the RDGC Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 10:01 a.m. PST

Interesting setting.
Fast playing.
Not a lot of charts, etc, so I don't have to put down my beer.

religon Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 10:57 a.m. PST

Rules that lead to a dramatic resolution where if seems that both sides had a chance for victory seem good to me. In retrospect, skillful play and perhaps a bit of luck allowed one side to prevail.

kevanG28 Nov 2011 12:31 p.m. PST

it has to simulate the warfare represented or its just a tiddlywink game.

tiddleywink games are of course completely fine for small children and drunks, although not advised to have them in the same game.

Celtic Tiger Inactive Member28 Nov 2011 2:34 p.m. PST

It seems there are several very different approaches emerging.

KSmyth28 Nov 2011 7:13 p.m. PST

Simple, fun, fairly fast--done in no more than four hours.

I'm always looking for something I can persuade my friends to play, or that I can run at a convention. I also really want period flavor and something that could provide a historical outcome.

Mako1128 Nov 2011 8:49 p.m. PST

At most, a single sheet, two-page Quick Reference Sheet, that includes most of the required rules that need to be referenced, e.g. one page, printed on front and back.

If a rules set doesn't include that, I'm usually not interested in them.

Omemin Inactive Member29 Nov 2011 12:36 p.m. PST

Good period "feel".

Tactics of the time work reasonably well in the game.

Not a lot of standing about.

Decent command control.


Simple enough mechanics that I can play the game instead of the rules.

A chance element, but not one so strong as to render me combat ineffective because I can't roll dice for bleep.

Works well with both solitaire and multi-player games.

Rules I can read and understand.

Rules where I can find the rule I need in the heat of battle.

Not that I achieve this in my own house rules, mind….

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