Tuesday 29 December 2015

Wargame Design Series - Updated Index

As the "Game Design" series has now stretched to 60+ articles, just a reminder there is a tab (named Game Design Index) on the right where you can search them all and view a summary.

I make no claim to expertise; I simply have a curious mind and like to explore how things work - and why.    The posts can tend towards the ramble or rant, as I'm simply discussing aloud topics I'd like to read about myself but can never seem to find (guess it is indeed a niche within a niche).

For the lazy, I'll reproduce the updated index below:

#1. "Decision Points" 
This is about "decision points"(tm) - the amount of times during a game or turn that the player can make a choice to influence the outcome of a game. "Resolution"" is how long it takes to resolve these decisions.  Lots of decisions + simple/fast resolution = good game.

#2.  The Fifth Element
Most wargames have the four Ms - Morale, Melee, Missile & Movement. But games need something more.  What is the X factor that sets a game apart from its peers?

#3. Special Rules, Stat Lines, and False Economy
In which I posit the modern trend to move away from stat lines is actually complicating matters as well as losing differentiation.

#4. Keep it Consistent
Keeping mechanics consistent vs using 20 different dice rolling methods.

#5. What happened to Time Scale and Ground Scale in Wargames?
They still exist, even if we ignore them.  It's the game designer sacrificing realism for the ability to play 100 genres with the same rule set.

#6.  "Realism"in Wargames
In which the realism-v-fun myth is debunked; it's actually realism vs unrealistic, and simple vs complicated.  Realism is possible, and it's a good thing.

#7.  Design Philosophy
The importance of designers "nailing their colours to the mast" and setting a clear success criteria.

#8. Scenarios for Wargames
The old chestnut. Points systems vs scenarios. Can they co-exist?

#9. Fluff n'Stuff.
A few ground rules for good fluff.

#10.  Pre-measuring vs Guessing
Always a contentious topic.  Do we favour estimation skills or geometry? Or neither?

#11. The Balanced Points System
In which I contend a balanced point system is impossible on many levels - but still worth including.

#12. Commercialism - Supplements, Rules and Miniature Sales
The rise of the "cookie-cutter" one-size-its-all rulebook, and how miniature sales (not fun, playability or realism are driving game design.  The codex arms race. 

#13.  Is Originality Possible?
There are only a finite amount of ways to represent wargame mechanics - and do we really need more anyway?

#14. The "Forgotten" - Terrain, Victory Conditions, & Balance
The often-neglected impact of terrain and alternate victory conditions on game balance. 

#15. Philosophy in Wargames
Game designers need to decide how they want their game to play; then reward/punish using modifiers and game mechanics to "encourage" players to play that way.  For example, 40K rewards good list building and deployment; Infinity emphasizes the good use of cover and positioning of fire lanes. 

#16. Record Keeping, Counters & Bookkeeping
Considering the tradeoffs of "enhancing gameplay" vs ""time/fiddliness." Is it worth it?

#17. Playtesting - is it a fair test?
Using the scientific method of a "fair test" I point out how it's almost impossible to playtest a game properly.

#18. The decline of MMOs, and how it applies to wargames
Drawing parallels between the stagnation of MMO design and trends in wargame design.

#19. "Early Access" ""Pay to Win" and "Wargaming DLC" 
Some less-than-desirable trends from the PC industry that seem to be transferring to wargame companies.

#20. Realism Revisited
I revisit the "realism vs fun" myth and attempt to define it more accurately, in terms such as "process vs results" and "detailed vs abstract."

#21. RPG Resources 
Musing about magic systems, and concepts wargames could borrow from RPGs.

#22. Best Selling Wargames
Analyzing the bestselling games, and trying to quantify what makes a rule set commercially successful.

#23. Enjoyable or Innovative Mechanics 1 - Setup/Activation
Sharing fun and interesting game mechanics.

#24. Favourite Mechanics 2  - Movement
Sharing more favourite game mechanics. 

#25. Mordhiem, Competitive Campaigns, & Balance
No game has filled the Necromunda/Mordhiem niche.  A look at balancing campaigns for the competitive sphere.

#26.  The out-of-game experience
Most successful games seem to have lots to do when you aren't actually playing. 

#27. True Line of Sight
It's increasingly popular, and almost the de-facto for vision rules. But is true-line-of-site really the best choice?

#28.  Morale Rules & Combat Stress
Musing on morale systems.  Is there a "best"method, or can we ignore morale altogether?

#29. Vietnam in Space
Hard sci-fi is everywhere - it's the new "platoon-level WW2" - where has the imagination gone?

#30.  Coherency & Leadership Range
I start to explore command and control, by looking at the ubiquitous 2" coherency rule.

#31. Readable Rulebooks
Writing rulebooks that are user-friendly.

#32. Making Wargames - Ivan Sorenson
Ivan Sorenson (author of FAD, NSiS, 5Core) talks about game design and PDF publishing.

#33. Influences on Wargames
Wargames designers can fall into different categories - from unreformed RPG players, to "British" style rules, to the rivet counters.  

#34. Making Wargames - Brent Spivey
Brent Spivey (author of Havoc, Mayhem, Rogue Planet) talks about game design.

#35.  Game Design & Playtesting - Brent Spivey
Brent Spivey takes a very thorough look at the steps of designing and playtesting games.

#36.  Accessibility, or Why Bad Games get Played More
Popular games aren't always the best. The key? Accessibility.

#37.  The Better the Hit, the Better the Damage: Managed Probability & Modifiers
Randomness is good - or we end up with chess.  However probabilities must be predictable and manageable to promote tactics.

#38. Reactions in Medieval & Fantasy
Can we use the now-trendy reaction in fantasy? What might it look like?

#39. Reaction Moves, Reaction Fire
Defining types/genres of reactions in wargames.

#40. Avoiding the Scrum in the Middle - Manuever & Spacing Units
How do we avoid our games degenerating into a mess of pushing everything into the middle and chugging dice?

#41.  Reactions Again - Types of Reaction
We further explore the reaction move, and classify reactions as they impact gameplay.

#42.  Fluff & Stuff II
We revist the topic of in-game "fluff", with some commonsense ideas regulating its use.

#43. Skirmish Wargaming Means so Many Things
Skirmish wargaming is a bit of a catch all term.  What is a true "skirmish" game?

#44. Random Roundup
A few musings on simplicity, dice and absolute values.

#45. "Original" Sci Fi Wargames
Why are all sci fi games re-badged fantasy or WW2?  They need to focus on a particular new technology and build the game around it.

#46.  Skirmish - Basing, Group & Individual Moves
Many skirmish games tend to be binary - either everyone moves in units or everyone moves and acts individually.  But is there a middle ground?

#47. In Praise of Area of Effect Weapons
"Blast Template" or "AoE" weapons are not as popular as they should be.

#48. Wargames & "Setup":A Neglected Topic?
The setup phase of a game is a opportunity for depth and tactics: Chain of Command shows us how

#49. Musings About Activation Pools & Resource Management
A quick look at how activation and resource management can be merged to add gameplay depth

#50. Focussed Fluff vs Generic Fluff - and the Shiny Factor
 Detailed, rich fluff beats generic bog-standard fluff, but should not be "prescriptive." Production values matter.

#51. Intellectual Theft
Designers miss out on valuable playtesting, feedback and publicity through paranoia someone will steal their idea.  News flash: Get real.

#52. Casual vs Competitive Game Design
What makes a game "competitive" or "casual?"  Is bad competitive experiences the result of bad game design?

#53. The Future of Wargaming
Extrapolating a few trends to guess where the hobby could go in the future....

#54. Special Rules Best Practice: Infinity vs Savage Worlds
A current trend is to avoid a "stat line" in favour of a zillion special rules. Special rules have their place - but what is the best way to implement them?

#55.Solitaire Wargaming. Designing NPC "AI"
Exploring solo wargaming mechanisms, and "AI" flowcharts to direct opposing troops.

#56. Solitaire Wargaming. Part 2
Defines the difference between tactical (easy to implement) and stategic (not so easy) AI.

#57. Asymetry
Wargames are always trying to be "balanced."  But is balance always desirable?

#58. Reaction Mechanics - a Waste of Time?
Reaction mechanics are trendy for adding decisions and player involvement - but are not without their issues.

#59. Unit Count - is there a Perfect Number
In which I attempt to prove there is an "ideal" number of units in a tabletop game.

#60. Movement:Shooting Rations and Scale
How does shooting range relate to movement and game balance?  ...and how it links to ground scale.

#61. Lethality & Modifiers
How likely are units to be destroyed each turn? How this links with modifiers, and how it effects gameplay.

#62. What Should the Commander Know?
How much should the player actually control? What should be abstracted?

#63. Detection, Blinds and Vision Range - an Unwanted Mechanic?
Despite being vital to warfare, detection and vision rules are out of favour.

#64. Wow I need to finish this draft off.... sometime....

#65. Abstraction, Tables & Negative Game Design
They're very 90s, but are we ditching tables too soon?
Also, should you be allowed to move all your toys, every turn?

#66. Designing with Focus: Lessons from The Forest vs Ark
Sweeping, ambitious games that try to do everything are often weaker than a more limited game geared around a strong concept.

#67. Character Skill vs Player Skill
I connect PC MMOs with the concept of army/list building wargames; or "he who designs the best army, wins."

#68. LOTR, Alternate Activation, and Actions Per Turn
Move+Shoot+Melee = Do we do too much in a turn?

#69. Momentum
Or: games that ebb ad flow; that allow you to seize the initiative from your opponent and become the "active player."

#70.  Wielding the Axe: Why "great ideas" are not always best for your game
Harsh truths. Taking advice from others. Keeping the design goals in sight. Realizing that a great idea is not always great in a particular game.

#71.  Zone of Influence, Facing, Arcs and Flanking Fire
A grab bag of topics, exploring firing arcs and unit positioning among others.

...and more, when I have time to tidy up my drafts collection...


  1. Thanks so much for these articles, you have excellent insight regarding wargames. I had a fairly concrete idea of what I wanted my game to be, but after spending 10 hours or so reading and considering your articles I've already revised a major mechanic (you really converted me on the TLOS issues)and a host of minor ones. and I've only gotten as far as #28. Invaluable stuff. Thanks.

    1. You're welcome! I'm not really trying to convince anyone "my way is best" but rather get people to examine WHY we make the game design choices we do.

      ...and perhaps shine a bit of a torch at little-considered areas which are important but people merely copy+paste from their favourite set without thinking about its importance relative to their game...

      Ugh I just realised I need to update this series - I think I'm up to #75 or something....

  2. @evilleMonkeigh; this is exactly the reason why I peruse your site and joined your discussion group. Lots of material with thoughtful insight and meanderings. =)