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"“Hardest” rules set you’ve enjoyed?" Topic

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Dukewilliam23 May 2021 7:39 a.m. PST

What's the most complex rules set, miniature, board or card game, that you've played and enjoyed?

Gaming since the 70's, I've seen quite a few but Advanced Squad Leader is a game I've enjoyed since the late 80's.

On the other hand, what were some games that were so complex, you either couldn't wrap your head around them or just didn't care for them?

For me, two stand out: the Fighting Wings series from Clash of Arms and Up Front card game by Avalon Hill. In the former, I just could not visualize in my head what was happening on the table and never could. In the latter, I played enough, but saw no need for the complexity. (Plus, as anyone who played it will remember, once you moved through terrain, it disappeared and different terrain would be there if you moved back through.)

I've never met a miniatures game ‘too complex' (started off with Chainmail), though I've played a few that weren't worth the effort.


Martin Rapier23 May 2021 7:58 a.m. PST

Boardgames: AHGCs 'Third Reich', 2nd and 3rd Ed. Played that to death. Gave up on SL after Crescendo of Doom, I bought GI just for the counters but basically just played SL+COI.

Figure games: Never been a huge fan of ultra complex minis rules, maybe Korps Commander? It was just Highway to the Reich turned into a figures game.

stephen m23 May 2021 8:34 a.m. PST

ASL and SL turn me off by the outdated mechanics and insanely convoluted turn sequence so it always amuses me to see people say how playable but complex it is.

I used to play about 4 to 8 scenarios of Air Superiority back in the day each week and had developed stands to use micro armour size planes with it.

Try flying an early radar homing missile to a successful intercept. Both the missile and firing aircraft have to keep the target in a very small tracking cone in three dimensions through the entire flight. If the target can break the radar lock on or move outside of the tracking cones it gets away. That and while doing all this the firing plane, and to a lesser but still relevant degree the missile, can only perform relatively gentle turns or maneuvers or the radar system will shut down or fail in some way. Maybe not the most difficult rules to learn but to be able to pull them off in a "combat" situation, well…

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 8:59 a.m. PST

JOHNNY REB had a great deal of subtlety. It wasn't that hard to play but it was very hard to play WELL. I played regularly with a couple of sharks who pounded me until I learned the tricks. I enjoy JR immensely, but was often frustrated at cons when playing on a team with guys who didn't know how to get the most out of their troops. So definitely a learning curve. Worth it, though.

PzGeneral23 May 2021 9:28 a.m. PST

Armor, Panzer and 88 from Yaquinto Publishing

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 9:38 a.m. PST

It's not a wargame, but the card game Bridge played in
tournaments was too difficult for me.

advocate23 May 2021 10:20 a.m. PST

By Fire and Sword.

14Bore23 May 2021 10:31 a.m. PST

Board game – Aircobra, a hour of time played was about 5 minutes of game time.
Still have lots of it but missing unit sheets

Dukewilliam23 May 2021 10:51 a.m. PST

I was going to mention bridge!

skipper John23 May 2021 10:53 a.m. PST

Column, Line and Square.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 11:44 a.m. PST

CLS for me, too. Fun, but CLS II was much more complicated than it needed to be, and a lot of the game stuff detracted from realism instead of adding to it.

The list of games I tried and didn't enjoy would be fairly long.

Mister Tibbles23 May 2021 12:17 p.m. PST

At the top of my list is AD&D 1st Edition--a different mechanic for every situation, but I enjoyed it before leaving it.

A close 2nd is SPI's DragonQuest RPG, which had the most complicated combat system but got me into miniature gaming (on a hex map) instead of just painting.

Napoleon's Battles is probably the crunchiest rules I've played, but I still like them over newer sets. Too many figures is the game's downfall for me. (BTW For me, playing CLS in any version is like running my fingernails across an old chalkboard! But gaming is highly subjective!)

This is tough. Too many to pick. Third Reich when I was a teenager. Almost anything by SPI--hard but I liked them. (I was an SPI/VG junkie.)

Star Fleet Battles as it added more and more rules until it collapsed in on it's own weight and suffocated me.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 2:08 p.m. PST

Many SPI games had an excellent balance of complexity and playability. I especially liked Starforce Alpha Centauri, Red Star White Star, Sniper!, The Siege of Constantinople, and The China War back in the day.

GDW's Striker (1983) is probably the most complex rules I've enjoyed in the last couple of decades.

Pocho Azul23 May 2021 2:40 p.m. PST

My favorite "complex"(by my standards, anyway) games were complex because of the large number of moving parts, and open-ended situation, rather than because of the rules themselves being hard.

I enjoyed Squad Leader up until Crescendo of Doom, when it got a little weird (vehicles driving along hexsides, motorcycle troops driving into houses).

Even though I only spent one seventh of the time in Advanced Civ taking my own turn, I had to spend the other 6/7ths running numbers so that I knew what I wanted to do when my turn came around again.

Terrible Swift Sword (and its offspring) was also a lot of fun, even if we always ran out of time early on the second day.

Magic the Gathering, which I had to quit playing in 3rd Edition (spent way too much time thinking about it), was probably the most mind bending, considering all the potential combinations.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 2:41 p.m. PST

I started out miniatures gaming with WRG Ancients. Silly me, I thought all rules were supposed to be that way. After all I came over from board games.

Korvessa23 May 2021 2:45 p.m. PST

Similar story to John, except it was Empire III.
Took forever to finish a turn. But since it was my first minnie game I did not know any better.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 2:59 p.m. PST

Started with CLS at the club as a newbie(my excuse for not knowing better) and soon renamed it to Column, Line and Squabble.


Frederick Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 3:43 p.m. PST

Old School Panzer Blitz – a bit complicated but I liked it

There are a fair few rules sets since that were hard and I didn't like!

khanscom23 May 2021 4:08 p.m. PST

SPI's "Strategy 1" with any of the WW2 or post- war scenarios. Played many a weekend long game of those in college.

myxemail23 May 2021 4:46 p.m. PST

Yeah, Empire III even though it was fun with the group we had. With the same group we found that AH's 3rd edition of Third Reich was pretty complex, but we got through that too and had fun

rmaker23 May 2021 4:56 p.m. PST

Fletcher Pratt.

miniMo23 May 2021 5:18 p.m. PST

Board gaming: Panzer Blitz / Panzer Leader.

Miniatures: Empire III with half the rules crossed out to bring it down to a manageable level of complexity.

21eRegt23 May 2021 6:07 p.m. PST

Seekrieg5 for me. I found Seekrieg4 relatively easy to pick up but they went full on complex with 5. Best naval simulation ever but way too much for this kid.

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 7:37 p.m. PST

Miniature rules: WRG 5th Edition – only pre-gunpowder rules I had played before being introduced to these was Chainmail.

Board game: SPI game called Conquistador – having extensive errata didn't help.

ASL is deceptive. Anyone looking at the full rulebook or watching a game will walk away thinking it's the most complex game ever. However, it's core mechanisms are fairly straight forward once you have played several times. Then you can play 90% or more of the various scenarios just knowing the basic rules. What gives it the reputation and book thickness is the extensive chrome added to address a plethora of situations. Need to know what happens when you machine gun a truck loaded with troops? There are special rules just for that. What happens if you attempt to throw a Molotov cocktail and you drop it? There's a special rule (hint: it ain't good for your squad). There are tons and tons of special rules for situations that do not occur in 99% of the games you play. I don't know if that counts towards being complex or not.

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 7:49 p.m. PST

Miniatures rules: From Valmy to Waterloo. The fighting in towns was undecipherable.

Board Game: Avalon HIll's Magic Realm. Even today with the 3.1 rules, which are now over 100 pages compared to the 36 in the original, the game is hard to figure out. I still keep trying because when I have been able to get things rolling it's pretty amazing.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 8:22 p.m. PST


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2021 9:24 p.m. PST

For miniatures: DBM. But that was a long time ago.

I still own three of the boardgames in the old Avalon Hill GCACW series, but I only played On to Richmond! once, and have just never found the time since. It was complex, hard to learn, difficult to track (lots of fiddly mechanics using counters for fatigue and status and force composition and stuff), and proceeded at almost 1:1 time scale (it took a long day of play to get through a single day of the Seven Days Battles), but I loved the command perspective and decision cycle.

T Labienus24 May 2021 1:27 a.m. PST

SPI "NATO Division Commander", with much more time spent learning than gamin

Dexter Ward24 May 2021 2:01 a.m. PST

Newbury 'Fast Play' Ancients rules. Never was a rule set so mis-named. Their Napoleonic rules were equally over-complex.

Cavcmdr24 May 2021 2:42 a.m. PST

Some people have alternative meanings for "fast."

I played in one of their competitions ONCE.
If the situation was not clear or covered in the Newbury 'Fast Play' Napoleonic rules the other player said you had to refer to the full rules! I did not have those ….

stephen m24 May 2021 4:58 a.m. PST


Sorry but the sequence of play is what makes it complex. I agree playing it a few times makes the rest of the mechanisms become second hand but the SoP breaks the ease.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 5:05 a.m. PST

Napoleon's Battles

Oddball24 May 2021 7:25 a.m. PST

"Follow Me" – W.W. II squad level rules.

Squad might be too much as each player often had only 1 or 2 figures. No morale rules if I remember as with 1 figure, your morale is your figures morale.

The opening paragraph said that having a pocket calculator to find the final percentage chance of each shot was encouraged.

Played these rules to tatters in early 80's, college level statistics class was a piece of cake after figuring out a burst of fire from a MG-42 with these rules.

HansPeterB Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 8:37 a.m. PST

For board games, I enjoyed SPI's "Next War" but that's about as complex as I could go and my tolerance for minutia has diminished considerably over time. As far as miniatures rules are concerned I agree that Empire 3 was miserable, but I'm not sure that just "complexity" was the issue. I did play one micro-armor game, though, way back in the day that seemed nuts, with tables for absolutely everything. I enjoyed it only because some old guys who the knew the rules were running the game.

mildbill24 May 2021 9:35 a.m. PST

Several games fit the bill. These games are usually 'lifestyle' games meaning if I was going to only play that game every week it would be great, but I prefer simple rules now and dont want to play only one game or period. Any monster board wargame and the latest Empire rules set. Gone are the days of playing the eastern front in Europa once a week for 50 weeks straight.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 10:35 a.m. PST


emckinney24 May 2021 1:16 p.m. PST

Birds of Prey link

Pretty much the only modelling of pilot skill/quality/training that organically shows the advantages that better pilots have. It affects how much stuff you can keep track of during the dogfight, like enemy planes, friendly planes, stuff you need to do in the cockpit (switch from gun mode to radar missile mode), etc.

emckinney24 May 2021 1:18 p.m. PST

ASL and SL turn me off by the … insanely convoluted turn sequence

Squad Leader had an insanely convoluted turn sequence? How???

Yes, ASL got more and more baroque, but SL's turn sequence always made perfect sense to me. I think I recite it now, it's it's been at least a decade since I've played (too many other projects).

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 1:45 p.m. PST

+1 gamertom on your Conquistador and ASL comments.

My sons picked up ASL when they were still in grade school. People look at the rulebook and think they have to memorize it. You don't need to know that much to play and when any chrome comes into play you just look it up.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 3:17 p.m. PST

GDWs Striker, I bought into the system big time on the recommendation of the local hobby shop at the time. Bought the rules, and a load of the official minis. I think we managed to get through one game before we gave up on it.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 4:03 p.m. PST

Zulupaul, could you expand on that, please? I've never liked Napoleon's Battles, but I've also never found it especially complex. Do you remember what edition you found hard but enjoyable, and what made it each?

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 4:37 p.m. PST

I loved Air Superiority back in the day! Definitely a very crunchy ruleset, but so cool.

I have to agree with some of the sentiments regarding Star Fleet Battles, and need to add Car Wars. I found myself getting less and less enjoyment out of SFB and Car Wars as they continued to get more and more bloated. I'm hoping the new Car Wars is more streamlined.

stephen m24 May 2021 5:03 p.m. PST

Back page of the Squad Leader rule set 4th edition, 29 steps to the Sequence of Play. Three fire phases, two movement phases plus close combat. Each consisting of three steps. 'Nuf said.

I love Striker. Could design equipment and unit organizations all day, back in the day. Play a game and it sucked then and now. We did play a few games but were always disappointed that actual games were never as much fun as the design phase. I wanted to update it and bring it back but the core system is too broken to be fun. Best to find or create a new core system and add the parts I like.

Air Superiority was awesome. BUT we only played a single, and very rarely two planes per player. Very immersive one on one but I couldn't split my attention fairly.

huron72524 May 2021 7:07 p.m. PST

Final Combat by Ben Lacy. 1 second increments. It really threw me for a while but finally getting the hang of it.

I 30 second battle can take a couple hours to complete, very complex but I feel very true to combat. Rather bloody too. You find yourself NOT taking the chances you would in other game systems.

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 7:14 p.m. PST

Advanced Squad Leader – almost made me give up board games.
Column, Line, Square – made me avoid Napoleonic's for a couple of decades.
Villains & Vigilantes – the many, many different sided dice and different abilities that had no difference… Luckily somebody smacked me on the head and I went back to Champions as my preferred super hero RPG.

Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2021 7:50 p.m. PST

The miniature game Infinity, too many unique interactions.

Wolfhag25 May 2021 6:29 a.m. PST

Original Squad Leader, Armor, Panzer and 88 from Yaquinto Publishing.


emckinney25 May 2021 9:30 a.m. PST

Air Superiority--often flew four planes at a time.

Much simpler than JD's Fighting Wings WWII system, but those games have such great information on the aircraft that they're worth getting for the aircraft data cards alone.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2021 9:44 a.m. PST

Narratio, did you read the title or the OP? He's asking for games which were hard but proved enjoyable. We all have long lists of games we regret getting roped into.

Dexter Ward25 May 2021 9:45 a.m. PST

One of the issues with ASL (and to a lesser extent SL) was the crazy number of acronyms, which make every rule look like gobbledygook until you have memorised them. Why say ‘weather' when you can say ‘EC', or ‘weight' when you can talk about ‘PP'. But the bigger problem is that the games concentrate on the hardware in crazy detail and then don't model command and control at all. Any leader can rally any squad; every squad can move and always goes where it is told. It's a good game, but not a terribly good model of WW2 infantry combat.

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