Sunday, 15 April 2012

Open vs Closed Rules (Fantasy/Sci Fi)

Open: Can be used to design your own armies and even figure stats; can be used with a variety of figure lines
Secrets of the Third Reich, Song of Blades and Heroes, AAG/Tomorrow's War, Where Heroes Dare, Full Thrust, Starmada, Strange Aeons, any 2HW game. Primarily designed to sell rulebooks.

Closed: Specific rules for specific figures, usually have unit cards. You often find yourself with an identically painted character figure as your foe. Often lots of unit-specific rules, seldom any room for campaign/advancement. . 

Malifaux, Infinity, Bushido, Warmachine, Lightning Strike, Anima Tactics, Heavy Gear, Confrontation 3, Alkemy, Carnevale, Havoc, Primarily designed to sell miniatures. 

I do not include historical rules as these usually constrain the player with a specific army order of battle.

So what do you play more of, and why?

I know I have a strong preference for open systems. I like the freedom to have a unique army - to avoid situations like Malifaux where everyone has an identical (and identically painted, since no one seems to be able, in any game, do a paint scheme other than the fluff). I have probably played more AAG/SoBH

The irony is, if a figure line is good in itself, the miniatures will sell anyway. I have hundreds of Confrontation minis, and many Anima Tactics, despite not using either ruleset.  Bushido looks like a great game, but the narrow focus (small force selection, unit-specific cards) has stopped me getting involved.  I like their minis, but if I had the ability to create my own forces I would have already gotten into it - I could have created my own armies until more official ones became available.  In this case, a 'closed' system stopped me getting involved at the start-up stage - instead of jumping in, and buying rules and box sets, I'm waiting til they expand - and spending my $$$ and efforts elsewhere. 

So what do you think - does a closed or open system benefit a games company most, and in what situations?
Does a closed system REALLY sell more minis? 
Does proxying lose miniature companies so much money?
Can/should miniatures stand on their own merit or do they need their value to the game to prop them up (*cough* Lucky 13th Gun mages *cough*)
Does this link to units who are valuable-in-game having a higher price?  (i.e. a single heroic mini might cost as much as a box of 6 normal 'grunts.')
Would having an open system attract more players to the game? Have you been deterred by special cards-n-lotza-rules?


  1. I can understand why a game company would want a closed system, and it certainly seems to be working for Games Workshop.

    Personally, I tend to play games that let me use my existing minis, or at least use them as proxies for the "official" units.

    1. I think some companies (GW) would deliberately do it and others (who can blame them) have followed suit based on their success. (I actually think GW's business model is bound to collapse soon - we have seen the cracks appearing with the Finecast/price hike)

      I think if the minis are good, people will buy them. I bought 3 warmachine armies to play a Song of Blades campaign with... and I don't actually own a WM rulebook - it has a horrid CCG style of play.

      Aside: "Havoc" is a brilliant ruleset, with intriguing mechanics - its meant to be 'open' but having only generic and un-modifyable, set-in-points-cost spearmen/swordsmen/archers and 5 hero types meant I have put it aside as a 'closed' game in favour of the infinitely more customizable "Song of Blades" rulesets. I wish someone would tell the author to make a character-builder option...