Wednesday, 8 May 2013

"Fast play" rules are very relative ...

Last night we had another game of Cold War Commander (CWC), played on the table shown in this blogpost. It had been a while since we played moderns in 6mm, but our experience with the ruleset Blitzkrieg Commander, and the promise of "Fast Play Rules" on the cover of the CWC rulebook, stirred up our hopes of producing an excellent game.

I have to admit the game was a bit of a dud. Not due to the excellent terrain and figures set up by comrade-in-arms Bart - the motto of our small gaming group still is Visual Appeal is Everything - but rather due to the slowness and unattractiveness of the rules themselves.

What exactly was the problem in my view?

The command & control system is fine. Roll 2D6 vs. command rating of an HQ to activate a bunch of units, and off you go. This is very similar to some other games we play regularly (Black Powder), and since a few years, an accepted mechanism in the stable of wargaming rule mechanisms (see also Warmaster, Blitzkrieg Commander etc.). Although one can think off many small variations and modifiers to fiddle with this basic idea, the core rule itself is very sound. It forces you, as a player, to think about what the most important actions on the table are, try to resolve these first, and then switch to the less critical areas. Nothing wrong with this aspect of the rules.

The major thing that bugged me, however, was combat resolution. Over the years, I've come to see combat resolution as a stochastic process, that yields some outcome of having inflicted a certain amount of hits. This process should obey a few principles:
  1. The stochastic outcomes should be plausible and linked to the historical context of the game. So, after throwing dice, drawing cards, looking at tea-leaves etc., the odds should be such that when a toy tank shoots another toy tank, there is at least some connection to the event of a real tank or platoon shooting at another real tank or platoon in terms of range of probable outcomes.
  2. The procedure itself should be fun. It is indeed possible to design a myriad of different procedures to reach the wanted outcomes. Look-up tables; buckets-of-dice; single die with modifiers; opposed die rolling; card drawing; spinners; throwing darts etc. etc.
    But, whatever procedure you choose, it should be fun to execute, and fast. It is here, as a game designer, that you have the liberty to design a game that is fun to play.
CWC falls short in this 2nd aspect. Combat resolution is NOT fun, and it is SLOW. A single stand rolls upto 6 D6 - which all have to be saved. Then more dice are needed to decide on suppresion. All this for causing perhaps a single or 2 hits on a stand that can take 6 hits. This is a frustratingly slow process, and hence, not much of a fun process either.

The end result? We will design our own rules for 6mm Modern Wargaming. Now, that is FUN to do!

But, as I said in the title, everything is relative. Your fun might not be my fun, and your notion of fast play might be different of mine. Fair enough, and nothing wrong with that. Wargaming is a broad church, and that makes it an interesting hobby.

No comments:

Post a Comment