Thursday 14 December 2023

Game Design #102: Game Feel (Reloaded)

 My last post on 'game feel' was, on reading it again, a bit of a mess. I didn't orientate folk, link my points, or summarize it properly. Although the comments as usual were interesting and useful I don't think I was clear at all. So rather than add to the wall of text I'm back to attack the topic differently..

Game Feel: Intangible Feeling based on Tangible Elements

Game Feel is an intangible sensation when interacting with videogames. They use words like "immersive world" and "weighty gunplay." I'm relating this theory to tabletop wargames.

Game feel is made up of several tangible elements, such as:

input (how you control the game; i.e. moves you can make, dice, templates, measuring/movement rulers, available choices)

response (how game responds to your actions i.e. lethality of shooting)

aesthetics (visual details - like cool minis and terrain)

metaphor (how game mechanics suit the theme; i.e. Infinity has lethal sci fi shootouts, MESBG has strong focus on heroic actions)

A game should be fun and engaging even if some elements are removed. I.e. I used to play Battlefleet Gothic and Blood Bowl with tokens not minis and had fun - I felt like I was steering a slow ponderous spaceship or footy team regardless - so they had good game feel even when you remove the aesthetic element. A game should be fun if you just plonk down the minis and fight a 1-off game without a fancy narrative campaign to "carry" it.

I'd say game feel is something which can be somewhat objective "Infinity is lethal shooting, reactive and reliant on cover - about making the best of bad choices" which we can probably agree on, but is ultimately mostly opinion: "Warmaster is the only game that makes me feel like a general"

TL:DR The main point I am making is: we can have intangible feelings about a game as to how immersive, engaging and satisfying it is, but these intangibles are made up of several rather more concrete game elements. The exact categories don't interest me that much. 

Point 1: Design Elements - We have Preferences

So games are made up of several design elements which combine to give this rather intangible, vague game feel.

-They can be physical (the minis, terrain, even the dice you use - in the last post I described the feel of 'swingy d20s, sterile d10s, satisfying buckets of d6s, weird d4 non-dice)

-They can be game mechanics (aka rules) such as saving throws, or reaction mechanics.

We as gamers can have strong obvious preferences towards these. While it can be hard to define and explain your feelings towards a game (which can be a bit vague and will differ from person to person) we can usually easily explain WHY we don't like particular mechanics or physical elements;
"The minis suck"  "I hate using d20s and rolling low" "Saving throws add drama"  "IGOUGO seems silly sitting around while the enemy flawlessly executes their moves".

TL:DR While overall game feel is a bit vague and intangible, the individual physical elements (dice, minis etc) and non-physical elements aka game mechanics (be it activation, rolling high vs low, etc) are much easier to explain. We usually have clear preferences.

Point 2: Our Preferences in Game Elements are not Always Best Practice

We sometimes conflate "I like this" with "this is the best" - or worse - "this is the only way." I hate recording in games such as tracking hitpoints or writing orders. But sometimes it may be a good choice. Reaction mechanics may be cool but they don't belong in every game. Sometimes we need to use a d10, d12 or bigger, not a d6: even if we don't like the other dice. Napoleonics are boring and samey for some; others hate anything sci fi. Sometimes rolling low is the only way to guarantee a consistent dice mechanic across a game. Not every game can be made without measurements. Games don't need to reinvent the wheel with unique mechanics to be fun/tactically interesting. 

Some design elements are objective: lots of special rules/rules exceptions or modifiers are harder to remember than a few. Limiting models to 180 vision does mean more decisions than allowing models 360 vision at all times. But most are preferences.

I enjoy saving throws but usually they are kinda a repetitious, needless extra roll which can "undo" damage. Why roll for damage if you're going to roll another, extra roll to undo it? Saving throws are objectively, needless extra rolls which slow the game (and probably frustrate some!)

TL:DR We often have strong preferences in game elements - what we enjoy. However they are in most cases subjective and are not the best - or only - solution available.

 Point 3: Game Feel can be greater or less than the sum of their parts

I enjoy MESBG although I feel its game mechanics are in general, distinctly average - aka 20 year old streamlined 40K:

Strong aesthetic and lore

Average (simple) input - 6" moves, 24" shooting, roll high on d6 - vanilla as it gets

Output centres on heroic actions and melee for decisive action

Good metaphor - game emphasizes heroic combat of movies

So the game is mechanically unremarkable but has very good metaphor - matching gameplay to strong aesthetic/lore.

Infinity the Game has strong aesthetic and metaphor - with very complex input (vertical learning curve) and output that emphasizes either (a) stay in cover (b) use a cool gadget (c) die fast. 

Again, the elements don't have to follow videogame 'game-feel' convention - but I'm using them for consistency. I also really like the term 'metaphor' - how the gameplay of a game matches its theme/fluff. I've actually identified metaphor recently without having a word for it.

Sometimes a game can be very strong in one or two elements which overrides deficiencies elsewhere.

40K/Warhammer has a very strong aesthetic - visuals, lore etc.  I think 40K has pretty weak metaphor in parts - space marines are just +1 humans where in the lore they are terrifying one-man armies who can throw a grenade so hard it will cause more damage than the explosion itself, and the input/output gameplay is pretty meh in terms of tactics etc.

In fact I'd say aesthetic is VERY important (see link above) - there seems to be an increase in games that recognize this - very strong lore, a cool campaign, amazing kitbashed grimdark minis - but not much actual gameplay attached? I.e. super-simple, almost nonexistent 'rules' but strong aesthetic. I remember one post I pretty much describe the rules of The Doomed to someone in comments and they think I'm winding them up.  I think an interesting test of "is this a good game or is it just relying on the theme/aesthetic/fluff" is would you play the game with just tokens rather than minis? (i.e. if you removed the aesthetic element, would the game itself still be fun?) Is this game fun without the campaign?

Other times, a game has great game-feel (to us) while using mechanics we personally dislike. Perhaps the mechanics merely "do the job" - contributing suitably to the overall feel of the game even if we don't enjoy them/think them optimal. Or perhaps they just don't 'get in the way' of us enjoying other, stronger aspects of the game such as the aesthetics.

TL:DR Sometimes game can be more than the some of its parts - probably because a strength in one area compensating for other elements. Or while we may personally dislike a game element, it still 'does its job' in contributing to the overall 'game feel.' You can enjoy a game which is universally recognized as "clunky" or has individual mechanics you dislike. 'Game feel' can transcend individual elements.


1. Games can have a 'feel' which is fairly intangible - satisfaction, immersion can be quite subjective. "I felt like a general" "The game feels like a fast paced shootout where you watch angles" If you can remove elements and it is still good (say playing with tokens rather than minis) it has good 'game feel.'

2. This hard-to-define 'feeling' is created by several elements (input/output/aesthetic/metaphor etc*). *The individual definitions don't matter as I stole them from videogame design.

3. We have clear preferences on individual physical elements (dice, minis etc) and game mechanics

4. Sometimes these preferences are not most efficient or most tactical. Or the only option. "I like this best" is fine - "This is the best and only solution" - less fine.

5. Sometimes a game 'feels' great despite defying our preferences or even objective analysis . Perhaps it is so strong in one area (aesthetics, lore, for example) it glosses over weakness.

Identifying game feel and elements

 Where I am going next?: Some games have a strong "game feel" but dated mechanics, or maybe a poor link between lore and gameplay. There seems to be a strong nostalgic push back towards Necromunda, Mordhiem, Battlefleet Gothic etc - even in my out of the way part of the world. I reckon every game designer has started with 'making a better 40K.'  If we can identify:

a) games we like (do they have elements that we dislike? i..e games we like "in spite" of x and y)

b) what is the 'game feel' we enjoyed

c) what are the individual elements that contribute to game feel

d) are there poor mechanics/game elements we can 'swap out' with better

...then we can replicate (or even improve) the game-feel of favourite games, transfer the game-feel of one game to another, or even align game-feel more with the lore/enhance realism (aka improve metaphor).

Last post I asked "what games do you enjoy - why?" which was pretty vague. If you think about a favourite game in terms of points a) to d) it may be a bit easier....


  1. "I used to play Battlefleet Gothic and Blood Bowl with tokens not minis and had fun" => this is actually a good test for any game purely as game. Is it fun without the pretty miniatures & cool fluff?

    1. I think BFG is a good example of game 'feel' = you get the weighty 'feel' of a ponderous warship, throwing Age of Sail/predreadnought broadsides, even without any minis.

      Some rules I've seen lately are just so barebones there's barely any game there. Or are evidently just stripped down 40K, with stats renamed quirky names like "Pew pew" and "Clobberin".

      But they do have very grimdark pretty kitbashed mini pics....

      There's a few weird ones lately where you have to kitbash a LOT of minis - i.e. 50-100, not a dozen. The Weird War I Osprey one (Doggerland something), SLUDGE and Turnip28 all require quite a lot of time investment to play.

      That's an unabashed hobby task/aesthetic > game. I mean that's a substantial time and $$$ investment if you're kitbashing together 3 boxes of Perry Agincourt knights and 3 boxes of Napoelonics and then resin printing some steeds... Sometimes I like a mechanic or aesthetic (the SLUDGE(?) gore tokens were cool) but I'm not THAT committed.


    2. I find it perfectly understandable that people take on Turnip28 as their main, or even only, project. There's the very unique look, and it can hardly be considered expensive if you compare it to GW. Perry boxes are value for money and 3D printing, if you already have access to it, is not expensive either. Plus, if you're into slow DIY hobbyism, it's a dream come true. While you can buy some stuff, kitbashing and making your own versions is very much at the heart of it. That can be refreshing & inspiring.

    3. Completely aside and not relevant to this blogpost, but I also have the impression Turnip28, Inq28, etc. are going for very different gaming arrangements. Most Warhammers I know play more or less frequently, some in tournaments or even weekly at the local GW store. But in these alternative scene, the focus seems to be more on occasional "game day" style events for which players prepare over a longer period and sometimes actually travel quite far. That too can be fun.

    4. "I find it perfectly understandable that people take on Turnip28 as their main, or even only, project. There's the very unique look, and it can hardly be considered expensive if you compare it to GW."

      Yeah - it's that it kinda has to be a main project (and we're comparing it to GW) that I find a little odd. I totally get kitbashing a box of Ghouls for Necropolis, but doing 100 kitbashed minis is kinda falls into the "major 40K army" or "Napoleonic historicals" level of commitment.

      People like what they like - I mean, I think all the SLUDGE/Turnip etc stuff IS cool. I love to see people's weird projects. I just find it a weirdly high bar for entry. *shrugs*


  2. "We often have strong preferences in game elements - what we enjoy. However they are in most cases subjective and are not the best - or only - solution available." => they're certainly not the only solutions, but to say there are others that are better or even "best practices"... I'm not convinced. Best practices are only best practices in relation to specific goals. Is the D10 better than the D6? If you want granularity and like thinking in percentages, yes. If you don't care for those but want modifiers to immediately have a big effect, no. Plenty of other examples.

    1. I'm pretty sure we're actually saying the same thing here...


  3. "There seems to be a strong nostalgic push back towards Necromunda, Mordhiem, Battlefleet Gothic etc" => I think this is more despite than because of the game mechanics. Apart from their familiarity. These are the first massively successful games of their type, with a huge legacy and played by many people (relatively speaking, I know this is a tiny hobby but within it, these are big fish). So a lot of miniature gamers automatically default to them. It's a combination of "good enough", an existing player community and a certain intellectual laziness.

    1. Oh absolutely. The mechanics are VERY clunky. Anyone playing isn't doing it for the smooth gameplay. My daughter recently acquired a Necromunda warband and I tried to get into it.... but just couldn't get past the 1980s mechanisms.

      I think nostalgia, and very strong lore and aesthetic. Necromunda and Mordhiem occupy a smaller grittier place in an already grimdark world - see the Inq28 movement - it's almost its own sub-genre.

      Frostgrave did well to 'tap into' the vibe with strong aesthetic but the rules themselves are rather meh.


    2. People also often informally simplify or play loosely. Inq28 is a nice example, it's all about the figures & the narrative, rules are a secondary conisderation. Games in Inq28 use barebones Warhammer and go by "rule of cool". Sometimes it is closer to rules light roleplaying than to wargaming.

      Frostgrave! 10/10 on theme, 3-4/10 on rules, there's barely a game there in formal terms.

    3. "Frostgrave! 10/10 on theme, 3-4/10 on rules, there's barely a game there in formal terms."
      ^^^Yeah, I don't think it passes "would you play this game with tokens or without the campaign/fluff" test.... It felt a bit like a RPGer who doesn't wargame simplified a RPG to be a wargame.

      It certainly captured a smidge of the Mordhiem lightening ("hunting in a ruined city for warpstone ahem magic artifacts") which has carried it a lot.

      I'm confident that the others "-Graves" (Stargrave, etc) will be nowhere near as popular; as they don't have the same theme/background to disguise the rather lacking rules. All they have is the familiarity factor with Frostgrave to ease their adaption...


    4. Frostgrave came at the right time, it had decent distribution (thanks to Osprey) and an 89s-90s standard fantasy aesthetic that appealed to its target audience of 40ish & older gamers wanting to get back into fantasy but burnt out on GW. Some of these will also follow into the other games in the franchise like Stargrave, out of that weird brand loyalty that tends to develop among miniature gamers. I'm not really following this, despite being more into sci-fi than fantasy skirmish, so I have no idea of how it's doing.

  4. After your last post on this topic, I sat down and really thought about why I was enjoying Kill Team and getting it on the table so much. This led me down the path of the unanswerable question of "What is Fun?".

    Here is what I figured out for myself was fun. This does not apply to everyone, but only me:

    - Making decisions is fun
    --- Stealth or Engage token decisions
    --- Command Point usage
    --- Action Points to secure objectives
    --- Order of activation
    --- The hand-to-hand process requires some decision making

    - Seeing the stories of the world unfold is fun
    --- Yeah, I have a soft spot for the W40K universe.
    --- Models can also be characters in Campaign mode
    --- It is an evocative world and the game captures that

    - The spectacle of the game is fun
    --- My group has painted models, terrain, and game mats so it looks good on the table.

    - Learning about new things is fun
    --- There are always new Kill Teams that I have no idea about
    --- There are several mission objectives we can cycle through
    --- We keep attracting new players to the club with it

    - Seeing "What Happens" is fun
    --- Quick games so I can get several in
    --- Objectives over killing stuff, I have won with 0 models left alive
    --- There are several modes of play, including campaigns

    The game mechanics do not get in the way of getting to these end points that I consider fun, or perhaps there are enough of them that get me there.

    This insight has left me wondering is "Game Mechanics" even matter?

    1. To clarify: This insight left me wondering "Do Game Mechanics even matter?"

    2. I think the resolution mechanics (dice rolling to hit, damage etc) merely need to be as simple and consistent to not get in the way.

      Not many people actually play one game over the other because of say d10 vs d6, but if they are clunky enough they may not play. So it's not a selling point but may be a quitting point.

      As long as you get a "C" and pass - an "A" is less vital than avoiding a "D".

      I swap between dice types and methods (some of my homebre games have seen 2-3 ways; buckets of d6, d10+stat, d4-d12, etc).

      How far you move, facing, move vs shoot ratios are all pretty important for game feel.


    3. Offtopic re: KIll Team
      It's actually priced well in Aus, but I think it's rules would get in the way for me.

      However, I thought Warcry was quite slick/smooth in its rules but I'm not a fan of the AoS "new world" aesthetic. I'd actually play a Warcry based in the Old World/Mordhiem universe, despite hitpoints etc.

      I.e. I wouldn't deliberately play Warcry for itself, but I could look past it if I enjoyed the aesthetic - it would get a "C" and be acceptable...


    4. Yeah, I totally agree on Warcry:

      I've heard lots of good things about it; the couple of demo games I've watched on Youtube look cool. And then I looked at the line of warbands in a box GW has on their website; the only warband that I wouldn't be embarrassed to own would be the lizardmen and even they're merely "decent".

      With the return of the Old World early next year I wonder if they might do Warcry with Old World aesthetic...

  5. I find this kind of articles very interesting (more interesting to me that your updates on your painting backlog; to each his own though!).

    Another data point on game "feel" which I think agrees with your worldview: many reviews claim that Star Wars Shatterpoint has the right "feel" because the rules are un-clunky and the game "feels" fast paced, like Jedis dueling and flipping all across the room should be. I own it but haven't played it yet to form my own opinion, but it seems this would mesh with the "tanglible" rules supporting the "intangible" feel of Jedis being nimble fighters.

    Also, isn't this the problem you're stuck on with your jet game? It seems almost impossible for a set of tabletop rules to give the right feel for fighter jets, which are incredibly fast vehicles. Anything that makes you roll dice and ponder effects is inevitably going to be detached from the "feel" of extremely fast machines zooming above the battlefield.

    1. Oh, how I hate that I cannot go back and fix multiple typos and autocorrect mistakes. Oh well.

    2. Yeah - it's like the "metaphor" - the game feel must match the genre . If MESBG was all about ranged shooting from cover, it would not 'feel' right. A slow paced jet game seems 'off.' I dislike WW2-navy-in-space sci fi games as it doesn't seem like 'space.'

      I suspect this blog has long ago transitioned from a blog about my minis and game reviews (I've done ~150) - for locals - to being mostly visited by random folk on the net who mostly want to talk about game design.

      However I'm not going to do more about game design than I do = they are random 'shower thoughts' resulting from boring car trips or a new gaming project - I'm not regularly researching things.

      My 10c: I think game design is better served by Discord where there is instant clarification rather than a wall of text anyway....


  6. Pienso sobre este tema y recuerdo juegos que en su día me gustaron y tanto, y pienso en diferentes puntos. Creo que están relacionados con el tema este.

    Hay juegos que me sorprendieron por su novedad, como Heroquest, Battle Masters, Space Hulk o Space Crusade. Entonces no sabía nada de este mundo y me hicieron alucinar.

    Yo era un crío y también influía mi enfoque del juego, mirar sin buscar crítica o analizar mecánicas y simplemente disfrutar. Hoy me cuesta más encontrar ese enfoque y creo que eso influye.

    Me gustó mucho Battletech, cómo a veces se sobrecalienta un mech o un disparo enemigo hace que explote tu munición. No era borrar puntos de vida sin sentido y a veces un ataque enemigo me hacía entrecerrar los ojos y encogerme como cuando prevees un golpe en tu coche. Hoy no tengo tiempo para jugar una lanza en Battletech y me cuesta rastrear todas las reglas, y eso es otro factor a considerar.

    Muchos factores que hoy en día preocupan a muchos jugadores me importaban (y me importan hoy) una mierda, como si habrá oponentes, el realismo histórico, simulación o si está equilibrado para torneo. Aunque muchos jugadores que comenzaron conmigo sí han cambiado su enfoque a estas cosas y anulan esa ilusión de ver un juego como cuando eras niño.

    Por eso creo que nadie responde abiertamente a su juego o mecánicas favoritas, o a la inmersión en el juego.

    Warmaster me hizo sentir un general por su escala y perspectiva, unas reglas bastante coherentes y sencillas, y esa sensación de dar una orden y ver que tus tropas están inspiradas.

    Lo siento por tanto texto. Un saludo desde España.

    1. I appreciate your input.

      I wonder if you are sort of describing how "the rules don't get in the way of the game" - i.e. you can focus on cool explosions and tactics and the rules are kinda just in the background helping it along.

      Some of it may be maturity/experience - a bit like how a little kid doesn't notice bad CGI (aka bad game rules) at the movies like an adult?


    2. Un placer poder aportar algo.

      No soy muy de cine, pero entiendo qué me quieres decir.

      Creo que la inmersión depende de factores como:

      -El trasfondo es del agrado del jugador (ciencia ficción, fantasía, WW2, etc)

      -El apartado gráfico encaja con tu visión de ese tema (simulación o Hollywood puro, estética, etc).

      -El rol que asume el jugador en ese trasfondo (eres un sargento de pelotón, un general, etc)

      -El énfasis del juego coincide con lo que tú asocias a ese rol (logística, posicionamiento, combate, etc)

      Como ya han dicho, la mecánica es secundaria, y en eso es lo que se centran muchos diseñadores (y en buscar algo original a valoro mucho esto personalmente).

      Creo que ese enfoque de diseño es bueno para un eurogame abstracto, donde tus fichas pueden ser cualquier cosa literalmente y te gusta la mecánica, pero no para generar inmersión.


    3. I think your most interesting point is where you say mechanics matter more in boardgames; where we are using tokens etc so the mechanics are dominant; rather than a wargame where atmosphere, aesthetic, theme, accuracy to game world 'reality' (whatever that is) matters more.

      Quite often folk say "why aren't wargames more like boardgames; boardgames have more innovative, 'gamey' mechanics - they should copy boardgames."

      To accuse wargames of not living up to boardgame mechanics is unfair; boardgames can be abstract, purely about mechanics; where wargames have to work within a framework.

      But boardgames can be all about the mechanics. They can be very abstract.
      "Go" is for me a pinnacle of simplicity in mechanics vs depth; but it would make a terrible way to play out a sci fi Kill Team skirmish... ....My wife enjoys games like Sagrada and Azul but they have only the vaguest theme/metaphor. There's one boardgame where you make mosaics - it's only connection to mosaics is the glass tiles you use - it's like saying a game is about mining cos it uses metal minis.

      A bit like comparing a personal jet to a bus, and declaring that all buses should be more like jets; without considering any factors like cost, ability to operate on roads, etc.

      Shower thought: I wonder if the folk who demand "innovation" and "creative mechanics" in their wargames tend to come from a more boardgame-orientated background?


    4. I was just talking with a friend about different board games and he asked if I saw game design as a spectrum between theme and mechanics. I told him I view game design along three axis - theme, mechanics, and player agency. When people compare board games to wargames, wargames are strapped to mechanics that are concretely tied to the theme. You can make a worker placement game set in an ancient village, Carcassonne France, or WW3 with near identical mechanics just change the illustrations. GW did effectively the same thing with fantasy and 40k - mechanics are nearly identical, move shoot ratios are basically the same, etc. but for the most part an ancient/fantasy game shoot have shorter ranges compared to maneuver, Napoleonics should favor gun lines, etc. You just have less design freedom with wargames because they have to feel "real", unless you're going for something like eM's supernatural possession game (which sounds like great fun!) because the war being gamed is naturally abstract enough to support unconventional mechanics.

    5. Hm. I don't think Warhammer Fantasy (especially Fantasy Battle, I'm less familiar with Age of Sigmar) has much to do with Warhammer 40K. I'd say they share very little "DNA".

      Not arguing whether they are fun or good, just specifically about your claim.

    6. When I played 40k (20+ years ago?) The systems shared WS, BS, Ld, armor saving throws, terrain modifiers were similar if not the same between systems, 40k weapon ranges matched the short bow / crossbow / long bow ranges of fantasy. I think the only big difference was that every 40k unit deployed the same as fantasy skirmishers (2" apart) instead of in blocks.

      I know now units don't have a move statistic anymore. Have there been other changes that separate the two systems?

    7. Well, for one Fantasy doesn’t exist anymore and has been replaced by Age of Sigmar, an entirely different system without "ranks" of infantry.

      Fantasy was all about wheeling blocks of infantry, and 40K has never been about that (having been born as a kind of RPG in space).

      Meanwhile, 40K has been radically revamped (I think it has gone through more than one change since you last played, including but not limited to using objectives, stratagems, command points, renaming/consolidating stats, going back and forth in how it treats vehicles, etc).

      I very much agree these are systems heavily anchored in an 80s design ethos, which I don't think is appealing anymore, but I think it's unfair to call them the same system.

    8. 40K & Fantasy certainly share similar DNA, as do Flames of War and Bolt Action. (I think fantasy came from Chainmail and 40K more from the Rogue Trader RPGlite - I'm only old enough to own 40K 2nd ed?)

      The 6" move, 24" shoot, 4+ to hit, 4+ to wound, save throws etc, the 'shopping list' approach to list building...

      It's fair to say they inspire each other/there is some overlap.

      Indeed it's the similarities/commonalities that grate (using 40K's space fantasy ranges for WW2 Bolt Action = modern rifles that can't shoot the length of a tabletop bridge) - rather than basing each game properly within its own genre framework.

      Whereas a boardgame like Risk can be Space Risk, LoTR Risk, Narnia Risk, Transformers Risk etc...


  7. "Game Mechanics" even matter? -> suppose Kill Team didn't have all the shiny, and your buddies were not (yet) into it. Would you then play it or make the effort to introduce it to others? Would it work?

    1. Si veo algo que me gusta cómo es en concepto y me "entra por los ojos" estaré dispuesto a aprender su mecánica. Por eso hay gente que decide aprender un instrumento musical u otro, cualquiera supone esfuerzo y DEDICACIÓN pero te tiene que gustar.

    2. Eric's comment seems pretty logical.

      If you only learn/play a game because of the 'shiny,' or your mates - - perhaps 'despite' the mechanics....

      ...then it's accurate to claim "the mechanics don't matter" as much. They don't stop him from having fun, so ultimately they don't matter.

      Sure, we can hypothetically separate game elements (aesthetic/metaphor/input or however we define them) here and pick on hitpoints or weird range rulers or whatever: but in the real world, Kill Team is the sum of its parts (which is kinda what the OP is about).

      .....Including the aesthetic 'shiny'. Including popularity/brand recognition/ease of obtaining minis that makes newbies want to play more than if you brandish a B&W indie pdf and a sprue of generic sci fi minis....


    3. "suppose Kill Team didn't have all the shiny, and your buddies were not (yet) into it. Would you then play it or make the effort to introduce it to others?"

      An excellent question. The answer is no.

      Therefore, you argument sounds like it might be "Mechanics matter" as they can dissuade you from ever playing. That maybe true.

      However, I am 100% sure my fellow club members did not get started with Kill Team because they loved the mechanics. They were attracted by the aesthetics and the availability. Those seem to be bigger factors to get us started.

      Mechanics and Designers like the folks on this blog are the fringe of the hobby. Most people seem to be attracted by aesthetics and availability, not mechanics.

    4. "....the folks on this blog are the fringe of the hobby. Most people seem to be attracted by aesthetics and availability, not mechanics."

      That's why it's fun to point out that mechanics aren't viewed as important. It's like telling two uni professors arguing the relative importance of Tibetan Philosophy vs Abstract Gaulish Art that neither is that important in the scheme of things. It's useful to keep us grounded! :-p


    5. Game mechanics only matter to the extent that they support a specific vision of how a game should play. OG Kill Team, as a 40k spin off at low points and using existing models, was great as a low investment gateway into 40k. Modern Kill Team is good, but very different with specialized models for sharper aesthetics and stronger theme. Same with GW's Fantasy warbands. Good stuff! Arguably superior to modern 40k and their WFB replacement. That said, if I'm starting from a clean slate, I would avoid GW on general contrarian principle. Something smaller and more strongly themed would be my choice

      - GG

  8. Some of the comments really make me sad, becuase they're going in the direction that indeed rules don't matter at all, and arguably the most worthwhile games are easy, shiny stuff that newbies buy on sight and which therefore are most likely to make it to the table and really it's ok because you can still have a good time even though you know the game is actually pretty inferior :-(

    1. Given that 40k has been the (singular) dominant seller in wargaming for 25+, 30+ years, it's hard to argue otherwise.

      - GG


  9. "To accuse wargames of not living up to boardgame mechanics is unfair; boardgames can be abstract, purely about mechanics; where wargames have to work within a framework."

    Here I disagree. It's perfectly possible to work within a framework & still learn from boardgames. This is, in fact, exactly thereason Fantasy Flight's miniature games (X-Wing, Star Wars Legion,...) are more exciting than Warhammer, which, possibly from purely marketing reasoning, is extremely backward looking and remains firmly stuck in the 1980s wargaming tradition. Obviously not everything can be transplanted to miniature gaming, but it wouldn't hurt if some designers took a look at the other side of the fence to get fresh ideas, instead of churning out miniature games that are just copies of other miniature games.

    1. I didn't say you can't learn from boardgames.
      I'm saying boardgames don't have the same restrictions.

      It's like comparing a uni professor to a junior school teacher - one might be more about cool abstract theories (pure mechanics); the other, you're more concerned the kids are safe and learning stuff (does it work in the setting). The priorities are different.

      X-Wing/SWL being 'more exciting' than Warhammer is obviously subjective/opinion. The 'superior' boardgame mechanics (or CCG mechanics - X Wing seems more about collecting card combos than playing) don't make them more popular, despite being tied to the most famous sci fi IP.

      They are a good example of why mechanics may not matter as much as we think.

      You know how audience and critic scores sometimes differ on Rotten Tomatoes? We're the critics here, indignant the masses are having fun watching yet another sequel.

      Are you a regular boardgamer? Do you play boardgames more than wargames? I've been wondering if a boardgame background focusses preferences more on mechanics rather than the 'overall' - which includes background/toys etc.


    2. Strictly speaking, boardgames labor under much more stringent restrictions than wargames. Boardgames are limited in board size, almost never exceeding 3'x4', much lower page counts, and much smaller component volume (both count and size). Kingdom Death: Monster is the exception that proves the rule, with a $600 USD MSRP for a 25-lb game that's more RPG toolkit than traditional board game.

      - GG

    3. "Strictly speaking, boardgames labor under much more stringent restrictions than wargames. in board size, ....lower page counts ....smaller component volume "

      But your rules, the size your board is or how many pieces you use isn't an issue if your game is abstract.

      Go is a great game with 3-4? rules, which you can play with a handful of stones and a home made 9x9 grid, but it's not simulating AoS naval warfare, or squad level skirmish.

      If it is a wargame (say simulating WW2 squad level combat) packaged as a boardgame then it's more apples to apples, then they are relevant restrictions, but I guarantee there will be significant trade-offs.


    4. OK, so I've done abstract board games, such as Slime War, but that's not really what anybody is talking about here, is it?

      I'm talking about typical high production 2-player board games that fit in a 12" (30cm) x 12" x 6" (15cm) box, such as BattleLore as a proper alternative to LotR MESBG / WFB; Memoir '44 instead of Flames of War; Zombicide; and so on. Yes, you can put a lot of gameplay in the box, but you're never going to have the "full" experience of something like "tournament" scale WFB / 40k wargaming.

      - GG

  10. Wow, I'm impressed by all the comments. I like the discussion about the all too human contradictions between what we like (preferences), and what we believe to be "best". It's the same as Jeremy Clarkson saying "this is brilliant, ... but I like this."

  11. Veo que cuando se ha dicho que la mecánica no es importante han saltado las alarmas.

    La mecánica creo que es el factor menos decisivo para crear inmersión, es algo que forma parte de esta, pero creo que no es lo más decisivo en un wargame.

    La mecánica ha de estar "al servicio" de la temática del juego, es una herramienta más, no el juego en sí.

    Si por ejemplo un juego quiere enfatizar el mando sobre otras cosas, requerirá una mecánica y quizás para otro tipo de juego requiere otra diferente.

    Cuando alguien me pregunta de qué trata un juego, nunca comienzo diciendo algo de la mecánica como: tiras piscinas de dados contra un número objetivo o tienes un tablero de malla hexagonal. Comienzo con algo como: un juego a nivel pelotón de la segunda guerra mundial (la pelusa).

    Hay juegos que casi comparten mecánicas con variaciones muy sutiles pero tienen trasfondos diferentes y eso hace más (creo) para que un jugador se decida por uno u otro.

    Por otro lado, cuando creo un juego (en nuestro club tenemos varios juegos propios para usar allí, si alguien quiere uno que me lo diga y se lo puedo enviar) primero pienso en su trasfondo, porque si no sé qué quiero representar no sé qué regla aplicar para hacer que el jugador tenga esa sensación.

    ¡Qué gran debate! Me encanta este blog, que lástima haberlo descubierto tarde.

    Un saludo.


    1. Oh, mechanics DO matter. But perhaps not as much as some folk think. I suspect the blog readers here are arch-nerds in a nerdy hobby; like uni professors - who could probably debate endlessly over the 'best' mechanics; the sort of folk who would prefer an obscure indie movie rather than a Avengers sequel - and will have strong preferences.

      (I mean, 'real people' are probably PLAYING games; not dissecting each part of them or making their own at home :-) I only posted design stuff in this blog because no one I knew was interested, locally (and there wasn't much about it, 10 years ago).

      It's a good reminder that mechanics are just ONE element of a game - and to the average player, probably not even the most important element. Our favourite mechanics (preferences) may not matter as much as we think.

      However yes, mechanics SHOULD be suited to the game; both in scale (10v10 skirmish is different than big 100-man blocks of Napoleonic troops) and theme (modern combat fire and move vs viking shieldwalls) and for each instance, some mechanics can be more efficient than others.


    2. I'm glad to read that from you. I've been saying that any collection of mechanics makes a game, and the only question is whether the particular set does what the designer wants. For example, Igo-Ugo is optimal for certain types of games, while AA is optimal for others, and so on it.

      - GG

    3. You may have joined late but I'm glad you're here.
      Mechanics are the "how" of a game, how you move, how you shoot, etc. "How" is really important, but the theme of a game is the "why", and why something is being done is always more engaging than how, so if you're introducing someone to a new experience it's the why that you lead with.
      Even though sometimes the why is "because we can"!