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"Worst Historical Wargame Rules?" Topic

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Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 3:53 p.m. PST

John the OFM suggests TMP link and so it comes to pass.

So: what are the worst wargame rules you've ever used?

Any criteria you like that reflects what's wrong with the rules – too simplistic, too nitpicking, too slow, so fast it doesn't feel like you're playing the right time period? Or just produce a dull game.

Chimpy Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 3:57 p.m. PST

Napoleon by Wargames Foundry. Systems set up to produce ahistorical results, clunky systems and just quite frankly didn't work. They seemed not to have been play tested and they had absolutely no web support or indeed ways to get answers from the author.

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 4:25 p.m. PST

There was a series of skirmish rules plot out by Old Glory eons ago that covered Samurai, Foreign Legion, etc. If I recall right, the more figures a unit lost the better its morale got!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 4:32 p.m. PST

Not doing it. The worst rules I ever played were still something people worked hard to create and wanted to be good rules. And some people love sets I particularly hate, so all we'd be doing is checking tastes.

When people ask me about a particular set, especially in person, I'll tell them if I don't like it and why. But doing this on line would make me ammo officer in a mud-slinging match.

evilgong01 Oct 2020 4:53 p.m. PST

The worst rules I ever played were still something people worked hard to create and wanted to be good rules. And some people love sets I particularly hate, so all we'd be doing is checking tastes


Indeed I'd cut a lot of slack for anybody producing rules for free or a peppercorn download, but when they put them in the marketplace at the cost of any other book they can be held to a high standard.

If the critique is objective – ie the rules for x are promised but missing, there is no index or appendix, they supply loads of army-building and good scenario back-up, etc etc, it could be useful.

For the OP's features on what might make rules bad; I don't think any of his list are necessarily demerits excepting on how they meet the design philosophy.

If the author says these rules are for 'a fast-play 1 hour game', but they have so much chrome and detail that you need 6 hours and medical back up to play, then there is a problem.

If the author clearly says the rules are for tracking every shot fired at Stalingrad so be it.

David F Brown

jurgenation Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 4:56 p.m. PST

this is wrong…

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 5:05 p.m. PST

Newbury "Fast Play" (sic) Ancients. I have to admit that I never played it. I just bought it at a convention, and when I got home to read it, I was appalled. It took the basics of the already bloated WRG Ancients system and added more categories, like Social Class.

I'll be back. I have plenty more.

Royal Air Force Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 5:46 p.m. PST

A Nation on Trial by Jolly Roger Games. Set up a scenario and found that artillery was invulnerable because there were no rules for combat against them in any way.

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 7:20 p.m. PST

Beer and Pretzels WW2 skirmish rules. I can't say they were the worst, but I did not have fun playing it at Cold Wars like 20 years ago.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 7:25 p.m. PST

I had my say about Piquet a week or two ago. I simply do not like the system. Period.

For those who like that sort of thing," said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, "That is the sort of thing they like.
Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 7:29 p.m. PST

And in a like manner, I played Harpoon. The guy who REALLY liked the rules advised us to launch ALL of our torpedoes and missiles on Turn 1. Then move about 3/8" per turn for the next 20 turns until they struck. Or missed.
What fun.
Again, Miss Brodie.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 7:31 p.m. PST

Those paying attention will note that I seriously dislike a game I never played, and some games I played a maximum of 3 times. That was enough for me. I acknowledge your misgivings concerning my judgement. grin

BobGrognard01 Oct 2020 7:49 p.m. PST

Back on form.

Chimpy Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 8:45 p.m. PST

To all those objecting, this does say the worst rules. Not ones that you mildly dislike.

And I think it is helpful if you state the reasons why you dislike them. Someone may even be tempted by the rules by the things that you actively dislike. For instance, I don't like very complicated rules or rules that involve record keeping on paper. But others love this.

And also if you are charging people for the rules then I feel you should be prepared to face constructive criticism from the wargaming public. Or maybe the public need a warning if you've published something that simply doesn't work.

RudyNelson01 Oct 2020 8:59 p.m. PST

I was at a convention in the mid-west back in the 1990s. An elderly man asked me to play his Zulu rules. These home grown rules had several quirks.
In firing he used a standard d6. The firing table had firing at long range hitting on a 5 or 6 only. At middle range you hit on a 3 or 4 only and short range you hit on a 1 or 2 only. A 33% chance to hit regardless of range. He never ever understood the problem.

Dn Jackson01 Oct 2020 10:50 p.m. PST

I have a couple. All are popular and probably say more about me than the rules.

Bolt Action – Essentially Warhammer 40K. No flavor for WWII in my opinion. Can't even use hand grenades and you have mortars on table in single tubes. That's not how mortars are deployed!

Flames of War – Gimicky rules that don't reflect WWII, IMO. Whichever army list has just come out is the best army to use. Good on them for bringing so many players into WWII.

Fire and Fury – Too generic. Doesn't feel like an ACW game at all. You could substitute AWI, FPW, Crimean war, figures and play the same game.

Saga – Far too much luck nvolved.

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2020 10:51 p.m. PST

I'm against the idea. What makes a good set of rules is a personal thing. I like 'Rank & File' for pretty much all horse and musket games, and think the rest are rubbish, but I know I'm in really small minority. Possibly of one.

Then there's the problem of age. Take WRG (oy, here we go again – but they're MY opinions), the okay 3rd edition Ancients, the great 4th, the again okay 5th, the getting weird 6th, to the 'wha huh?' 7th and then we get a clock reset with DBA, DBM, DBMM, HOTT.

At different times, each one of those were the greatest thing since sliced bread to large groups of people. But as ideas about gaming changed, they fell out of favour and are now, or could be, derided for their continual accounting, lack of historical veracity, national bias… you name it.

It's probably worse with Napoleonics. What was brilliant in 1977 compared to what is considered brilliant in 2020? There's probably nothing that has stood the test of time. Accepting that some gamers have aged with a preference (Column, Line and Square! No Featherstone! No, Guilder!), say and they see no reason to change.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 2:37 a.m. PST

Newbury "Fast Play" (sic) Ancients. I have to admit that I never played it. I just bought it at a convention, and when I got home to read it, I was appalled. It took the basics of the already bloated WRG Ancients system and added more categories, like Social Class.

Oh grief – yes! I remember the talk was all "they are so much more detailed and accurate than those lightweight WRG Ancients". My copy is way back in the cupboard somewhere – never played. I almost fell off my chair laughing after I'd read them at the thought that they were "Fast Play". evil grin

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 3:16 a.m. PST

Point taken Chimpy. But as a poll, there will be no explanatory material. We'll be lucky not to have the same rules twice under minor variants in the name, or nominees dropped because someone in the editorial hierarchy doesn't think we're serious.

I'll post something long, pompous and generalized later. But I'm going to try not to hurt fellow miniature wargamers who were doing the best they could.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 4:05 a.m. PST

Also : Kudos for quoting Muriel Spark – we just don't get enough literary allusions on TMP.


Oh – this is a heartfelt and honestly meant comment: it is not sarcasm and does not constitute a personal attack on John the OFM in any shape or form intentional or otherwise.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 4:20 a.m. PST

I had heard the quote before and Googled it. I thought it was from a movie or Broadway review at first. grin
Never saw the movie. I thought it was a Chick Flick.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 4:22 a.m. PST

It's a great film – Robert Stephens is very good. He'd go on to be the definitive Aragorn in the BBC adaptation of LOTR.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 6:00 a.m. PST

WW2 naval games where you have to estimate ranges. I played in one such game where I made a "rangefinder" from a 1m rule and two protractors but the umpire said it wasn't allowed as it was "unrealistic" (the ship I was driving in reality had fie control radar!). Also, once I realised how slooooow the game was playing I launched all my torpedoes immediately, since there was no way they would get even half way towards the enemy ships in the 6 (!) hours we had for the game and they were a severe risk to my own ship in the unlikely event that the enemy managed to land a shot on target. Dreadful rules, I think they were a variant of Fletcher Pratt. Also an ACW naval game at the Naval Wargames Show in the 90s where after 2 hours each side has damaged about 5% of the hit points on the enemy's ship. Then I scored a critical hit that started a flood, noted that there were no rules for stopping flooding damage, declared that I'd won, obviously, and legged it back to reality.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 7:34 a.m. PST

There are quite a few rules where I had to look up a key concept in the middle of the first game I put on using them. Never found it until the next day, but it was there!
They don't count.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 7:41 a.m. PST


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 8:01 a.m. PST

The first thing I do these days is check basing requirements. Anything I can't play with existing forces is put back.

Phase Two is to see whether I can quickly find the fire, movement, close assault/melee sections--and the C&C section if there is one--and understand the mechanisms. If I can't, I don't take it home to see whether something can eventually be located and worked out.

Further checks involve rosters and activation systems, but those are matters of taste, and Phase One is arbitrary. But really, rules sets shouldn't have trouble with Phase Two and often do.

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian02 Oct 2020 10:14 a.m. PST

I'm usually pretty laid back about rules. I don't care for FOW but I'm OK playing with friends if they enjoy it. The same goes for Seekreig, not my cup of tea but I know plenty of folks who love counting the rivets that's OK, each to his own.

I do recall Newbury "Fast Play" something as rules that were simply awful upon reading and as I recall, the only saving grace was that they were cheap. Was there a Newbury Fast Play Napoleonic set?

Chimpy Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2020 11:25 a.m. PST

Yes there was a Newbury Fast Play Napoleonic set, and yes they weren't.

One problem with living over here is that you can't physically look at most rules in the shop. So you're stuck with reviews or other peoples opinions.

RudyNelson02 Oct 2020 11:59 a.m. PST

Back in the late 1990s, a USA terrain making company released a set of WW2 skirmish rules. Slow is an under statement. Each turn was only SIX seconds. Took forever to reload or to even have an explosion from a grenades.

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian02 Oct 2020 8:16 p.m. PST

Each turn was only SIX seconds.

I just threw up, a little, in my mouth reading that.

paul liddle03 Oct 2020 5:27 a.m. PST

The worst rules I have used are usually my own home brew efforts. They are OK to a point but never have enough work put into them and lack flavour and depth.

I find most but not all commercially published rules much better, it doesn't stop me trying to write my own though.

von Schwartz05 Oct 2020 4:17 p.m. PST

I haven't played a lot of different rule sets but, as I've mentioned before on these pages, the worst set I've ever played was Empires III, they sucked out loud.
Another set was a modern Micro-armor that was really bad. Don't recall the name, I just remember my opponent charging though thick woods, in buttoned up, APCs and tanks, my concealed dismounted infantry with LAAWs and a couple TOWs couldn't shoot at them without disclosing their position and getting slaughtered, and they were able to see and shoot, accurately, 360 degrees.

Wargamer Blue08 Nov 2020 7:24 p.m. PST

Infamy Infamy

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2020 1:23 a.m. PST


Dragon Gunner Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2020 2:48 a.m. PST

Phoenix Command

Most of the game was an obsession with incredibly detailed damage charts. It was more of a game about medical trauma than a true wargame.

von Schwartz09 Nov 2020 6:15 p.m. PST

I still DESPISE Empire III!!!!

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