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POLL: Simple Rules Are Best?

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surdu2005 Sponsoring Member of TMP writes:

The question as posed has no answer. Not all simple games are good. Not all complicated rules are bad. Too often we confuse the coplexity/detail of a set of rules (what a simulation professional would call "resolution") with whether it is a reasonable abstraction (what a simulation professional would call "fidelity) of an historical period. In the simulation world we say that all simulations are wrong, but some are useful.

Lots of details often provide the ILLUSION of accuracy. I argue that any modifer that is not worth at least a 5% bump (e.g., a +1 or -1 on d20) isn't worth adding to the game. At the same time, is an isolated occurance at a single battle worth a modifier? Adding a bunch of modifiers may provide an illustion of fidelity, when it fact it can even hurt real fidelity. Often when rules authors start adding modifiers for lots of special cases you find that you have to add still more modifiers to compensate for unintended consequences from that last set of modifiers. Grrrr.

Many simple rules trim too many of the unique details of a historical period, making them a poor abstraction. It is often important to represent the different ranges and rates of fire of weapons, for instance. Not doing so would be a glaring error. But do you need to represent the nuanced differences between each of 35 different makes of submachine gun, or can you abstract a submachine gun as a high rate of fire, short range weapon firing pistol-caliber ammunition. Whether this is an appropriate simplification is entirely dependent on what abstraction best meets the itent / goals of the rules design.

Many complicated rules are complicated in the wrong places. For example, does a battalion commander really concern himself with what round of ammunition an E-4 is shoving into the gun of his tank? On the other hand, it's probably important to represent the differences between open- and close-top vehicles, assault guns and tanks, etc. We've all seen rules where the players are supposed to be battalion commanders but they are worrying about turret orientation, type of rounds being loaded, the number of loose bolts on the right front drive sprocket, etc.). On the other hand, PERHAPS these things matter in a skirmish game with very few figures per player.

I find most rules authors base their rules on someone else's rules instead of original research. The process of gaining the "feel" of a period and devising the CORRECT abstraction is an art that takes time. I don't believe you can design a set of rules properly without taking the time to really think about abstraction and then challenge yourself on whether EACH mechanic, modifier, and system is consistent with that abstraction.


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Writing in Miniature Wargames magazine, Gary Mitchell remarks:

As always, simple rules are best...

Do you agree?