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"'Fast Play' or 'Easy Play'?" Topic

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838 hits since 13 Jan 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Royal Marine13 Jan 2019 9:41 a.m. PST

I've noticed many rules these day selling themselves as 'Fast Play', this is a good thing if you need to get games over in an evening due to set up and clear away times. However, I've often thought that rules really need to sold as 'Easy Play' with a mechanism that allows quick learning and a fun experience. A recent rules review of 'Snappy Nappy' on Little Wars TV discussed the claim of 'Ultra Fast Play' … worth a look.

So what? Rules should be elegant, and Easy to Play and this will then make them faster play.

Mr Elmo13 Jan 2019 10:27 a.m. PST

2 hours with setup and tear down. I also don't want to feel like I need a nap afterward.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2019 12:24 p.m. PST

To be fair to the rules, "easy" is clear, simple mechanisms and not too many different ones. Those are not necessarily "fast." There are simple mechanisms which can be agonizingly slow to carry out. So it's hard to be fast without being easy--but you can be easy without being fast.

And a fast game is not just rules, but also scenario and players. I have seen some clear, simple and fast rules converted into long games by long approach marches or a steady drip feed of reinforcements, for instance, not to mention the horrors of poorly-written victory conditions. No rules can salvage a badly-written scenario. And the players. Games can some to a screeching halt while they argue over who is or is not within the burst circle, or whether the target is just in or just out of charge range.

Anyway, If you want a fast game, clear simple rules by all means. But also speedy resolution, which is not the same thing. Pay attention to the scenario, and when you look at rules and scenario, know your players. If you don't know your players, assume the worst. There are a lot of ways to mess up a game. I think by this time I may have done most of them myself.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2019 1:34 p.m. PST

+1 robert piepenbrink

I would only add three things:

  • Any fast play game can be converted to an archaeological epoch by gigantism too many units on the table, too big a table, too many players in the game, etc. Rules mechanics nearly always have a "sweet spot" in the scale of game they are intended to facilitate, and going beyond the intended bounds slows everything down.
  • Lots of games billed as "fast play" are fast because they are too bloody the pace of damage is far faster than historically plausible. This is more satisfactory to gamers who prefer to "roll dice and blow stuff up", but it also distorts the process and outcomes of historical battles.
  • Familiarity and practice can speed up a game considerably. Moderately complex rules can still play quickly if they are built on elegant and streamlined mechanisms, once players play enough times to become familiar with the rules. A game doesn't even necessarily have to have only rules veterans to play fast, it's often enough just to have a few experienced players to assist the novitiates and help with interpretations. Most of my favorite games are considered "too complicated" by a large percentage of local gamers, but for the small cadre of of us that stick to them and play often, they play reasonably quickly, even when we have some new players at the table.

I agree that there is a distinction to be made between "easy play" and "fast play". That's an excellent observation.

However, I'm not convinced that "easy play" is even necessary to make a game play quickly. Overall, I find that familiarity with the rules, elegant mechanics and streamlined processes matter more than simplicity to make a game "fast".

Conversely, there are plenty of "simple" games that are bog slow because they just pile too many simple mechanisms into a process-heavy quagmire that can't be streamlined or improved. I am a perennial critic of the traditional old multi-step shooting mechanism: roll to hit, roll for location, roll for damage, roll for critical hits, roll to save, roll and roll and roll again… This can be a fun way to adjudicate shooting in some gaming contexts (e.g., low-density games with only 1 or 2 units per player), but it introduces an automatic ceiling on the number of shots that a game can allow if the battle is to be completed in a reasonable time period.

- Ix

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2019 2:06 p.m. PST

Point well taken, Yellow Admiral. Many things are possible when, as a body, the players are familiar with the rules. I go a little nuts on the subject because I keep running into situations where they aren't--or at least I'm not. It's why I always look for "simple rules" or "rules will be taught" when I study the convention PELs.

But scenario design. I fought a CLS3 game in November which got nowhere near a conclusion before we broke for dinner and the out of town players--vets, but out of practice--headed home. Well, CLS was never billed as fast play.

Nonetheless, come the November game, the table was trimmed from 12x6 to 8x6, the troop rosters were set in advance--with troops out on a side table--and instead of a dual attack game with twin objectives we played an attacker-defender with one. From the same start time, the same players fought a 1,000 casting 30mm Napoleonics game to a clear conclusion in five hours and had time to clean up before heading to a proper restaurant. CLS isn't fast play. But it's fastER play with good scenario design.

When you hear a set of rules beaten up for a slow game, keep in mind that the scenario designer is probably present and the rules writer commonly is not.

Royal Marine14 Jan 2019 12:24 a.m. PST

Some great points, scenarios do seem to be key to a good game and as mentioned any decent set of rules can be broken by an impossible scenario.

Thus for "Fast/Easy Play" read "Fast/Easy Scenario"

@robert piepenbrink: What are the CLS rules?

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2019 7:19 a.m. PST

CLS = Column, Line and Square

Very old set of 1960s Napoleonic rules with classic, genre-defining mechanics. I played it once and hated it, but I understand the appeal, especially for people who grew up playing them.

Recent reminiscence thread here: TMP link

- Ix

UshCha14 Jan 2019 9:22 a.m. PST

There may be a third Worth playing. Reality is a bit complicated. You can only simplify a simulation so much before its not really like reality much. To be honest in 2 hrs you would have to reduce the figure count drasticaly. Something like Double DBA with clear up and set out is about it. Great game but not really a great simulation too simple. DMB is better but its going to be a push to get it clear in 2 hrs. However much more worth playing.

Maybe you can have FAST, EASY and Worth Playing. You can proably only get 2 out of 3 in 2 hours.

Mr Jones14 Jan 2019 9:26 a.m. PST

Not to be outdone by all this nonsense about playing a game that lasts a hefty two hours, I want my games to be finished within three and a half minutes, no more, no less. After spending months, years even, collecting, cleaning, assembling, basing and painting my minitures, let alone all the terrain that has been lovingly cared for, my aim is to get all those minis back in their storage boxes in as quick a time as possible.

My ideal rule set would allow a preliminary test to see if I even have to get the miniatures out of their boxes in the first place. Oh that would be heaven. Not too many modifiers though, or the rules would be too complex and I wouldn't be able to store them on the head of a pin.

Russ Lockwood14 Jan 2019 3:02 p.m. PST

As the author of Snappy Nappy, I think LWTV did a great job of reviewing the rules -- because they actually played them.

LWTV gave SN a '9' and an '8' for playability, although dinged me for lack of online support -- of note, they did miss Alan's Snappy Nappy Yahoo group that he's run for 10 years with all sorts of design commentary, rules Q&A, errata, variations for other black powder periods, and so on. But to be fair, I googled "Snappy Nappy Yahoo group" and came away without a direct link -- I guess Google bots don't delve into Yahoo groups.

In any case, Snappy Nappy offers a flavor of the period, not an exacting simulation. It's meant to challenge your higher-level command abilities, not your command of rules nuances. Even with the melee modifiers (probably the most detailed part of the system), we finish four and six player games on a 3x4 or 3x6 foot table in two to three hours. The large sprawling, multi-table, multiplayer games (see the blog BlundersontheDanube for recaps of the last five SnapCons up in CT with 15 to 20 players and up to 16 or so 4x6 tables) take 6 hours.

Of course, no matter what the rules, the more you play, the more you learn, and the more you remember.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2019 5:50 p.m. PST

To be fair, I think only one person in this thread has mentioned a 2 hour limit.

I can't imagine fitting most of my games into 2 hours. Sometimes I spend longer than that just laying out the terrain. If I also consider scenario design and research, organizing the miniatures into units, gathering or producing the play aids, arranging the game day… miniatures gaming is perhaps as much a love of labor as it is a labor of love.

I don't think "fast play" necessarily implies "over soon". I personally prefer games that move at a reasonable clip (say, about 3-4 full turns per hour?) so that I can get a lot of action into a 3-5 hour game. I really prefer games where there is more maneuvering going on than a single close/shoot/flee cycle.

- Ix

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2019 6:28 p.m. PST

I'd say something sarcastic about really short games, but I approached the Elmo Limit today. Took armies to a friend's house. Got there at 11:00, set up the table, fought a small WW2 game of 40-50 1/72 figures a side with supports to a conclusion, spun the table around, fought the same game with sides reversed and had everything put away not long after 3:00. That's not quite a single two hour game, but it's close.

Depends on circumstances, though. The game before that was half a day of preparation and five hours of warfare--because I could spend half a day on preparation, and I knew the players had five hours. "Short" isn't necessarily a design consideration, but "playable within the allotted time" always should be--and sadly sometimes is not.

The engineers have a saying: "good, fast, cheap. Pick two." We may have something similar. "historical, easy, short: pick two" perhaps?

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP16 Jan 2019 3:26 a.m. PST

I approached the Elmo Limit today
LOL! The "Elmo Limit" is now official jargon.

Short games are not necessarily unhistorical or at any rate, not less historical than longer games. It's possible for miniatures rules to simultaneously be fast play, easy play, and historically authentic.

My miniatures gaming career started with DBA, and under that system a long battle was over an hour (or roughly double that if I tripled the armies into Big Battle DBA). Tactica was all the rage at the same time, and was ironically easier to learn but much slower to play. Adherents of each argued incessantly about which was "more historical"; I considered them roughly equal on historicity, though I did knock Tactica for being suitable for only one type of scenario (the pitched battle on an open field).

I still like short games. My present preference for longer games of 4-6 hours is mostly a reflection of preferred rules and preferred style of game, not an indication of any truths about gaming.

- Ix

Blutarski17 Jan 2019 4:14 p.m. PST

"Short games are not necessarily unhistorical"

My early days in the hobby were spent playing CLS games every Thursday night for about five years. A one-on-one regimental/brigade level battle ~500pts per side was easily fought to a clear decision in 3-4 hrs. What many people do not realize about CLS is that the game mechanics are so simple, straightforward and consistent that 90pct of the time, the entire game can be fought without ever having to consult the rulebook. There is a lesson there IMO.



UshCha18 Jan 2019 3:39 a.m. PST

What does EASY and FAST mean? Easy is like chess minimal rules but that does not mean its easy to play.
Chess is "FAST play" noone ponders over the rules they are very simple.
Is Chess a Fast game., not really it needs thought, The time is spent thinking, the moving is trivial.
You could make chess a fast game by allocating points to pices and allowing only 4 to 6 moves. But basicaly its not chess. Any game needs to last proably 10 bounds to make it interesting. You cant get ebb and flow attack and counter attack in 3 moves.

So 2 hour games are going generally to be VERY limited. I have to agree that DBA is proably about the best but it is no way as good as its longer brother DBM. DBM if the stupidity of multi age combat is reduced and factors ajusted for real protagonists is supprisingly historic.

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