Thursday, 28 July 2016

Delta Vector: A Restrospective

I don't like self congratulatory "I have 200 followers" or "100,000 views" posts but as I was finishing a game design article yesterday I was reflecting on how this blog has evolved.  From under 100 hits a day to averaging 2000, from a review repository to game design musings and PCs, novels and design groups.

Given I avoid the aforementioned posts, and also never do "reposts" I thought I might get away with a "look back" article.

1. Storage Spot for Critical, Thorough Reviews
It all started as I belonged to a few forums as well as local gaming groups. As the resident rules junkie, I was often asked if a system was worth trying.  Getting tired of repeating myself (or retyping the same stuff in three different places) I wanted a repository of reviews so I could just repost a link.

When looking for rules myself online, I found rules tended to fall into two categories:
Vague reviews with no explanation of actual mechanics besides "this is fun!" or
Reviews that focussed on the layour of the rulebook and little else "it is perfect bound, with colour photos"    ....I was left wondering "so what is the game like?"

Few actually contained the information I needed to decided if I would like to play the game.
Most were gushingly effusive in their praise.  I often wondered if I had played the same game as the reviewer.  I don't think I ever saw a review that said "avoid this game, it's bad."  Yeah, you want them to send you free stuff, but have some integrity!  So I decided to share the rules with the wider public, and tightened up my review format to make them more consistent.

2. Quick Paintjobs, Fast and Easy Terrain
I get annoyed at the fact all hobby magazines and sites (and most blogs) show paintjobs and modelling to a supremely talented standard unachievable by mere mortals.  Personally, I can find them discouraging rather than inspirational.  I think there's a middle ground between Golden Demon nominee and "undercoated/bare metal armies" and terrain of model-railroad meticulousness and the random mix of "tissue boxes, paper terrain and random 40K corner pieces on top of a tablecloth."
Articles on making cheap and consistent Infinity terrain from foamboard, sand tables and spray foam proved popular.

3. Game Design & Homebrew Rules
A rant about how spaceship games suck (fast forward to 2016 - they still suck) struck a chord.  Fiddling around with homebrew rules based on skirmish rules such as Ambush Alley and Infinity rather than traditional naval games generated a fair bit of interest.

A rant about IGOUGO (yes, some things don't change) also attracted something of a following. Emboldened, I embarked on what was intended to be a series of a dozen articles about issues in game design.  The topics interested me, but I couldn't find anywhere to read about it. So I thought I'd write my own.  Without making any claims to superior wisdom, I wanted to look at WHY we follow certain traditions when designing games.   Apparently I was not the only one looking for game design articles, as they generated quite a bit of response.  It cheers me up to know I was not the only nerd musing on the deep and meaningful issues behind activation mechanics.  I'm working on my 70th article, so obviously there is more to discuss about gaming than I first anticipated...

4. The Review Period
This was a very prolific period. I'd often review 3-4 rulesets a month.  I started to receive a lot of review copies and playtest rules.  At this stage I'm now spending more time discussing and testing rules than simply sitting down and playing. I feel like I'm transitioning more from a sports player to a sports scientist.  I'm also getting to know quite a lot of the indie rules authors, which concerns me a bit, as I feel it might effect my impartiality.  It's not as fun to sink the boot into rules when you have to consider feelings.  This phase also coincided with a series of book reviews, both of hobby books and novels. Delta Vector was branching out.

5. Delta Vector Google Group
The comments section of the game design posts were often really informative.  Talented designers were chipping in ideas. The regular readers tended to be quite energetic, and the comments section were usually much more interesting than my pontifications. I wanted an area where they could easily share, rather than be confined to a cramped comments box where they would be lost to posterity.  At the same time, I noticed a reluctance to share alpha/beta/draft rules.  People like to present their rules as fait accompli - all nicely laid out, ready to publish - a status 99% of homebrew rules never reach. By sharing the rules early, they can be encouraged by other enthusiasts, who are willing to test out kinks and make suggestions.  There emerges some really interesting discussions, and I've learned a lot of  new mechanics.

6. PC Games Intrude
Much to the horror of old-school regulars, PC-centric content has started to creep in.  This is simply a time factor. It's easy to grab 10 minutes on the computer or laptop while a toddler plays at your feet - it's harder to get painting time. PC games also has a game design aspect which link with their tabletop ancestors. In fact, now PC games are senior and tabletop games are the weird little brother.  Despite it being outside the usual scope, articles on Mechwarrior and World of Tanks have proved well liked.  This will continue, with a focus on "Dad" games*. (*A "Dad" game is one that requires cunning rather than twitchy reflexes,and can be played on small time chunks with scope for interruptions).

7. The Lull
After a fairly active 2015, hobby activity has dropped off a lot. In a word - my second child learned to walk so dad never has a free quiet moment.  Besides testing homebrew rules from the google group and the odd cheap new Osprey title, game time is near non-existent.  I've frozen buying new miniatures even my quick, cavalier painting style has slowed to a crawl and the lead mountain of unfinished projects is outpacing my ability to keep up.

8. Where to from here?
Well, I'm keen to keep to my self-imposed 50-posts-a-year-without-reposting-unoriginal-content rule, but I'm keenly aware of my reduced circumstances.  For example, I'd like to do a "design a game" playtesting and recording my thoughts on the blog.  But that's nigh impossible, given I have a "helper" or two within minutes of entering my man cave.  I have a backlog of rules to test.

With limited time, I need to prioritize, blog-wise. Are there any particular articles you'd like to see?  
I'll post up some incomplete projects, and you can vote on any you'd like to see finished in the comments.  Any particular genres for rules? Any particular type of article? (I'm expecting "no more PC stuff"...)  I'm trying to align my hobby and blog time better.


  1. I actually enjoy your World of Tanks content. I also enjoy your reviews and cheap, quick terrain. Your blog has been a source of much inspiration for my own hobby, and makes me want to fix my gaming computer so I can play WOT again.

  2. I have enjoyed visiting and have always found your entries thought provoking. I have particularly valued your game design rules where you have made me think about WHY I like a particular game and how different effects can be achieved through different mechanisms.

    1. Yeah, it's the WHY that interests me. Sadly, I don't have the answers, but I always wonder why wargames tend to fall into the same rut. Sometimes the rut is a good thing - but often I suspect we are simply following tradition for its own sake....

  3. + More game design articles, they inspire me a lot
    + More reviews of tabletop games, I learned many new ones through this blog
    + more video game articles, I play the same games

    - Less book reviews (novels), I dont read fiction.

    This is my wishlist :-)

  4. Speaking of the little ones, I have found that the basic rules for Heroscape are a really good intro to gaming for my 4 year old daughter. There is the Lego-esque setup of terrain and the simple 4-stat system with color coded dice to match. Also it is very good for teaching counting and reading numbers.

  5. I come here for game design articles and reviews. More of those please.