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"How can rules be "interesting" of themselves." Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2018 8:43 p.m. PST

"Now here is a more or less serious question. I've had various chaps tell me over the years that this or that rule set or game is "interesting" – now as to quite what they mean by that I often cannot tell. Do they mean the period is interesting or the actual rule book or even the actual rules.

Now I am by no means a rules junkie but even I have amassed about 30 or so set of rules (other than those contained in the various "Classic" wargames books) and hand on heart not a single rule book is interesting of itself. Hard to read- yes certainly- try the incomprehensibility of "Firefly" for example. Tedious- without a doubt – almost any rule book has tedious bits but some are more tedious than others. But interesting as a stand alone piece of reading? Never. Not a Chance. Rather watch grass grow. Reading rules is a necessary chore to help you achieve a goal which, in my case, is a decent historically based game that resembles – as far as possible -the period I am trying to depict. This is the fun bit. The rules, well, they simply ain't. They are merely a means to an end. A toolbox.

Of course these days publishers like to pretty up the deal so they can charge a higher premium. Hence all the pictures and other associated eye-candy- to make an otherwise tedious publication "interesting" enough to make the punter part with thirty notes or thereabouts. Likewise the "explanations"- some of which are very appropriate but some of which are so bloody patronising that it makes your fists itch…"
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Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 3:55 a.m. PST

If you find mechanics interesting, a set of rules can sometimes be more interesting than the game in which they are used. I find rules mechanics, which is to say the math, systems and interplay between them to be often fascinating. They can create or drain excitement in a game as well as reinforce (or detract) a game's atmosphere.

A great designer understands and can manipulate rules to achieve great results.

coopman16 Sep 2018 6:04 a.m. PST

I am always interested in reading the designer's notes to see their reasoning for doing what they did.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 7:05 a.m. PST

I find the use of the word interesting means the rules use unusual, innovative or creative mechanisms. I certainly use it in that way. I have never seen it used in the sense of a documentary or a biography being "interesting."

Also, interesting is not the same thing as well written, fun to read, or entertaining.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 7:06 a.m. PST

And P.S. I *am* a rules junkie and own over 500 sets of historical rules, including rules for ancients and medievals, periods I do not play.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 9:12 a.m. PST

TGerritsen:+1. Well put!

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 10:49 a.m. PST

I think Extra Crispy pretty well expresses my own preferences, but there are, I maintain, at least SOME rule sets that are an actual pleasure to read.

Well's "Little Wars" is one, and Padre Paul Wright's "Funny Little Wars" is another. Of course, it may not be coincidental that both works are for "traditional" toy soldiers (54mm/1:32) with an emphasis on yard games. Each has an innocence and charm that I'm not sure can be found in rules for any other scale.

In either case, each can be read with no special expectation of playing them yet still bring smiles to the face of any reader.

And while I can't claim any success for myself, it certainly has always been my practice to write rule sets to at least be "readable," and not simply a listing of game mechanics.


USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2018 7:00 p.m. PST

Some rules are written with the intent of playing a historical period. These types of rules may try to simulate realism, or at least give historical feel. Other types of rules are written with the intent of an intellectual challenge (ie chess, checkers), and are abstract in nature but may have a veneer of historical flavor. When I hear "interesting rules", it makes me think of the later type of rules which may have innovative game mechanics.

Andrew Walters17 Sep 2018 10:51 a.m. PST

Rules can certainly be interesting.

Some sets (TSATF jumps to mind) are written so that you can imagine the game and the period while reading them. The joy of the game seeps from the author, through the rules, to the reader.

Mechanics can be interesting when they are novel, evocative, clever, and hopefully all three.

Older rules can be interesting when you read them and see how the state of the art has changed. It's also interesting to read older rules and see how things were done before certain innovations that spread everywhere, like looking at the world before grass evolved and changed everything for plants and animals.

Often rules will give insight into the culture of the gaming group from which they came. Sometimes you get a clear sense of their rules-lawyering or good sportsmanship, their tendency toward campaigns, casual games, giant games, their spirit of fun.

Sometimes it's interesting, and not in a good way so maybe I mean perplexing, to see rules that have lifted mechanisms wholesale from some other game from a different period or scale in an entirely unthinking and inappropriate way.

So "interesting" could mean a lot of things. Probably people should take the time to indicate what they found interesting, but sometimes that takes some thought.

Personal logo COL Scott ret Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2018 10:30 p.m. PST

I think that many sets of "old school" rules were well written and entertaining. I think of "The Wargame" et al, good reads in themselves.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP28 Sep 2018 11:29 a.m. PST

The Old SPI called their games 'Dynamic History Books'--which I have some trouble with.

Rules, to do their job, are procedural instructions on how to do something--play the game. What can be interesting is:

* The history the mechanics are trying to portray.

* Unique rules or combinations of known rules creating interesting game situations/decisions. Command & Colors games for instance.

* Written to entertain as much as instruct. Black Powder comes to mind… I find it readable, but finding the rules themselves among the 'talk' is hard at times.

* Have a load of interesting side bars, pictures and quotes which have little to do with the rules at all.

Or a combination of the above. Bottom line is whether the rules do the job as rules to the game.

UshCha05 May 2019 12:18 a.m. PST

Rules are NEVER iunteresting. CFD code manuals, which is all wargems rules are manuals, are not interesting. They are simply a means to an end. The machanisms may be novel but that not interesting, If they are novel and do a. better job thats great but not "interesting" in it own right. Addin pictures that are not part of the game is a waste and makes using the rules harder, we that is IF you actually play the rules.

I sometimes thing some commecial publishers aim for a story book/picture book that could but is not expected to be used as a rule book. More of a collectable than a working document.

von Schwartz05 May 2019 5:13 p.m. PST

And P.S. I *am* a rules junkie and own over 500 sets of historical rules, including rules for ancients and medievals, periods I do not play

Didn't know there were even 500 sets of all rules around that's impressive!

von Schwartz12 May 2019 4:49 p.m. PST

As a rule I find them, at least the WWII ones, to be fairly representative of the overall effectiveness of the various anti-tank weapons and armour.

von Schwartz13 May 2019 5:23 p.m. PST

it makes your fists itch

Gold Bond cream!

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