Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Joy of Simplicity

Last weekend MLB and I had plans to get in a game of Warhammer 8th edition. We wanted a rematch of the game between my Greenskins and his Ogres that we played at Christmas. Him to test out his 16th birthday present, the Blood Sail pirates, me to erase the stain on my honour caused by my previous ignominious defeat. In the end we found ourselves with less time than we had expected and the game was put on hold until Easter. Ultimately we ended up playing Dwarf King's Hold in front of the TV.

DKH is by no means as straightforward as Warpath and Kings of War, it has a few quirky features that take some getting used to, but it is in keeping with Mantic's preference for straightforward fuss-free game play.

There's no getting around the fact that we have a hobby with a complicated infrastructure. After the assembling, painting and scenery building there is the simple practical concern of setting up and putting away. I am one of the fortunate who can maintain a hobby room with a permanent gaming table. In my younger days getting in a game meant squeezing onto the dining room table, or clearing a substantial patch of floor. When you combine this with a less that straightforward set of rules, the game can start to feel more like work than fun.

This is why I question Games Workshop's choice to push bigger and bigger armies. It makes sense as a marketing strategy to get your players to buy as much as possible, but if the net effect is to make playing the game increasingly a chore, it can only be counter-productive in the long run.

Of course Mantic have also pushed the big army concept, but are at least attempting to marry it to a simpler, quicker, more straight-forward set of rules. But, as I wrote in my last post, one of the most refreshing things about Warpath was how quick it was to get through a game with the models in the box. MLB and I took no more than an hour. Double or triple the number of models and we are still talking about a game we can get through comfortably in an afternoon, even with setup and pack up time.

Rules complexity isn't solely about length. I wrote at length about the poor presentation of the Infinity rules, but once you get your head around the unusual turn structure it actually isn't that difficult to play. Though I would recommend producing a summary sheet with your models profiles for quick reference. What slows down Warhammer is the sheer number of special rules and exceptions of which you have to keep track.

I suspect part of the problem is trying to scale up a game that works better with smaller numbers. Warhammer 3rd edition has proven ideal for skirmish games between Chaos Warbands, but I expect it would be horribly cumbersome at the 3,000 point level recommended by Warhammer armies.

All of the above is really a round about way of saying that in my old age I increasingly appreciate simple and stream-lined rules. If nothing else, Mantic is good at providing a wargame experience with a minimum of fuss.

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