Tuesday 20 February 2024

Reasons to Avoid Games/When to Abandon a Project

This blog originally started as a place to stick rules reviews as I was "the guy with all the rules" and I got tired of repeating myself explaining what they were like. I did quite a few reviews - about ~150 or so I'd say. As my aim was saving my mates money, I tended to be more critical than say youtubers who may have partners/sponsors/freebies (or just are more charitable folk). 

As I've sorted my shed (and cleared ~800 of my mini paint backlog) I've noticed a lot of games I've barely played, or minis I'm reluctant to paint, or projects I've abandoned. 

I've made an excel page with column tickboxes for minis/gaming projects:
Have I bought all the minis needed to play?  Have I painted the minis? Have I got terrain? Have I got rules I enjoy? Have I played the game? What is the cost to complete this project?

The stage I get "stuck" in various projects is quite telling. It shows where the 'barriers' are.

I've been thinking about things that instantly turn me off a game. These are preferences, which will vary. What is a turn-off to me, may be a selling point to someone else. For example, En garde was too slow for me - while recognizing it as a good game for others. My younger self would have quite enjoyed it.

So this post is about spotting projects likely to fail early, before we waste too much $ or time. Or identifying minis and half completed projects that need to be sold on.   What are my "barriers?"

The Minis

Now, the toys are probably the real reason we wargame. Some minis are tied strongly to their fluff/background/IP though; there is no rule saying you MUST use x models for y rules - though many companies would like it to be that way. However some people just feel they 'must' use the 'official' minis and it pains them to do otherwise. Or they just like the convenience - you don't even need to deliberate over a paint scheme - you're told how and there are tutorials showing you precisely how. I feel that's about as fun as doing those colouring-in books designed for adults....  

This could be the design or quality.  I love Battletech but my models look like they've been carved from a bar of soap and aren't much fun to paint or play with. I like the steampunk-with-magic aesthetic and chunky easy-to-paint models of Warmachine which I bought despite hating the rules (also due to its popularity). I like the idea of a post-apocalytic wargames, but dislike the gimp suit/bondage/grimy/spikes/leather design aesthetic that tend to be attached to many such products. 

Resin models can be very hit or miss - if a miniature line is 100% resin I will simply avoid it, both for sculpt quality and fragility as a gaming piece. If I'm scared to drybrush a model because I'll break it - it's worthless. Metal or plastic is far superior unless it's only for display. I love my Black Scorpion pirates and cowboys, and would love to add to my collections - if only they still cast in metal. I like Carnevale's sculpts but won't be buying their dodgy resin unless on a vast discount.

I find painting MESBG soothing; they are simple and realistically proportioned (no potato heads, banana fists or bulging boobs/biceps) without being as small and fiddly as Infinity - which are far better sculpts but also stressful to paint/game with. 

There is a certain size, for me, where models become meaningless, uninteresting Risk pieces. I like the idea (and cost) of 1:300 tanks but they are just too tiny.  1:600 scale is OK for a modern jet, but a WW2 fighter is too tiny (a F-15 is the same size as a B-17, btw!). I think the Cruel Seas rules are meh but the Warlord's upscaled 1:300 coastal forces are way cooler than the minute 1:1200 ones I previously owned.

Are the minis nice quality and attractive? Are they fun/easy to paint? Do you need an official line of minis? Do you like scratch building/proxying? Do you even have rules for these minis?

The Lore/Background

"Lore" ties in with miniatures as the shiny, initial attractor. The rules might be amazing (or suck) but most times you wouldn't even open the rules unless you saw cool minis or pictures.

I'm not interested in Napoleonics a la Waterloo. It's just red shirt guys in rows, shooting at identical blue or white shirt guys. The wargaming aspect tends towards mass battle games, which means I'm going to hate painting minis which are just hitpoints of a larger whole.  

French Indian Wars? Fighting skirmishes in primeval forests, with canoes, Indian ambushes and remote forts in the wilderness - I'm all for it. (OK, I did add dinosaurs to my French Indian Wars, so sue me) I like the Mordhiem gritty lore and background - but Age of Sigmar leaves me cold. 

In a recent design post, I discussed how too much lore can stifle creativity. You don't need much - I know someone who who did not read any of Carnevale's 150 pages of lore, yet is making their own Venice-with-assassins-pirates-magic based on a 30 second flick through the cover art and a quick look at some of my half-painted minis.  I'm not interested in Star Wars as I feel I "have" to paint minis and create forces/scenarios a particular way because of the exhaustively detailed background which I already know "too much" about thanks to my kids. It can kinda pigeonhole your minis. A storm trooper tends to be viewed by others as a storm trooper, even if he battles medieval knights and dinosaurs...

Basically - even if the game and minis are great, I'm just never going to paint 100 Napoleonics. It's just not 'my thing.'  That project with 1:300 interwar tanks? Should probably be bequeathed to my son who likes hordes of little vehicles. I'll probably never start Warcrow as it's just another generic fantasy elves/humans/dwarves. I also don't need too much background info. If I know all 22 Space Marine legions, how can I create my own? I would be fine with say:

"It's 1947 and WW2 has continued on. Britain has warlocks, Germany has vampires and zombies, Russia has mutants, USA has aliens and robots."   ..and a bunch of art and minis and I'd be set.

Do you need detailed lore? Is the background the sort of thing you like? Is there too much lore?

Initial Impressions

I've found in both wargames and PC games, if I don't enjoy the rules/game the first few times, I seldom suddenly change my mind. Sometimes folk say "you just need to play it 4-5 times, then the rules will 'click.' Nah. It's a sunk cost fallacy. I don't owe them more of my time. If you went on a few dates and found the person unpleasant each time, you don't 'owe' it to them to go on half a dozen more dates. It's like when you have to play 200hours to Level 75 before a MMO is 'fun.'  

Nah. I already bought the rules/minis.  I've got limited hobby time. In PC games, reinstalling a game is the press of a button. I tend to reinstall and try PC games once a year or so, to see if my initial impressions were wrong. (I think I've changed my mind about 5% of the time, and it usually because another better game was sidelining a merely good game at the time). Retrying a wargame, however, takes a bit more effort. It's OK not to like things others like. Sometimes a thing is fun for others, just not for you. And that's OK. No one needs to be offended on the designers behalf.

The Rules

Kinda a big one. Some games just seem unintuitive or unenjoyable. I remember the edition-but-last (2018?) of Kill Team having an insane amount of rolls and re-rolls to resolve combat. It just seemed clunky, and had odd inconsistent choices like alternate models moving, but an entire force shooting, then the other force shooting (or the other way round).  

Other times they trigger pet peeves. There's the western game where you place a card next to models you activate. I don't care how 'western' the playing card is, it's a bunch of cards laying about cluttering my table. Or the infamous hitpoints. Nothing like a human with 20 hitpoints who loses 19 hitpoints to a series of axe blows then dies to a 1hp rabbit bite the next turn. Unnecessary recording AND a little odd. (Any clutter and recording tends to get a sceptical look).

Ore even the gameplay not matching the 'feel' of the game - a zooming jet dogfight where you laboriously record moves and consult maneuver charts. 

If the models and terrain (cool toys) are the graphics, the rules are the interface, the mechanics, the game engine, the controls (to use PC gaming terms). A game can have poor graphics and still be fun (I mean, popular boardgames often have rather lame 'graphics' and toys.) But if the game itself (rules) are unfun.... the models will quickly become shelf queens for display only. Or - if you are lucky - they can be co opted for a better game.

Do you have to fight the rules to have fun? Do you play in spite of the rules?

Cost (Time/$$$)

I have a short attention span, and while I enjoy painting, a project that requires a complete new table of terrain (even if it's free, converted pizza boxes) is investing a few afternoons of my limited free time. Likewise, if a game requires 100 minis per side, it's more of a time investment than one that is 10 minis per side. This goes double (literally) if you are painting/supplying both sides in a newish/indie game (you are the local 'early adopter'). 

I tend to avoid rank and file games for that reason - you are painting 100 minis just to get 5 units. Basically you are paying/painting glorified hit markers that look cool. In contrast; a skirmish game you paint 5 minis and get 5 independently maneuvering units. And can be playing that afternoon, not next month. In my dotage, I'm not even so keen on 40K-ish scale games anymore (you know, 5-10 minis clumped together in a loose unit, ~30-40 models and a few vehicles). There's a few games (SLUDGE, that Weird War I one that just came out) I've recently looked at and gone 'cool theme, but I'm not painting 100 minis on the off chance I'd like it.'

Likewise terrain - if I have to spend two weekends making terrain, it's also a potential barrier to play. My lack of appealing sci fi terrain is hampering a few projects at the moment.

Then there is literal cost. I'm pretty certain I'd both like to paint (and play) GW's sadly defunct Titanicus. The rules and gameplay looked like something I'd enjoy, and the minis are epic. But I just can't shell out $150-200 for a single model. $300 for a starter box is a lot to 'test the waters.' A $90 rulebook is a lot for something I don't even know I'll like. Warhammer Total War on PC cost me $25. Dozens of armies. A campaign. Don't even need an opponent. I wonder how Old World will stack up to that?

I'd like to support smaller boutique creators but base cost+P&P is often prohibitive. A copy of the Spectre rules would cost me $50+$50 P&P, with individual resin-printed minis that make GW look benevolent. Whilst I get why they are that way, PDFs seem to be insanely overpriced as 'limited print runs' and 'economy of scale' don't seem to apply. I remember paying $35 for a Killwager PDF then discovering I needed a $25 army book to play. Wtf. It's a fricking electronic file - using GW tactics.

How much time and money to get going in the game? What is the time/$ "investment"?

Obviously this is toys we're talking about, and very subjective - but it can be compared to other wargames (maybe even boardgames, PC games) ....I ask myself: "Is Titanicus really worth $500 that could be spent trying 3 other wargames.... or 10 $50 PC games??

I'm trying to kinda 'codify' my thoughts as to how avoid getting bogged in needless projects - how to best spend my gaming time/$$$ - and when to move on.  I now even have a 'projected projects' Excel sheet with potential buy-in and time costs, and similarity to other games I like/have played, and even things like if models can be used for other projects (i.e. my recent pack of 60 Victrix vikings are used as Dunlendings and to battle ice zombies in the Second Ice Age). I don't think I've randomly bought a mini in years.

When do you know when to cut your losses?

How do you know when a game is not for you?

Do you have a 'system?' or is it just impulse buy?


  1. An interesting thread- enjoyed your analysis on whats behind the "does it bring me joy" question

    Availability of an a fun opponent(s) is also usually (but not always) a key factor too. I'm a guy who moves around often, and different areas have different gaming themes, and different groups have different preferences.

  2. This is all pretty reasonable stuff:
    - does it look interesting?
    - is it reasonably priced?
    - is it playable with fair effort?
    - does it actually play well?

    The deeper you get, the higher the sunk cost investment, leading to sunk cost fallacy.

    Well-themed skirmish games get around many of those hurdles, but not always, haha!

    - GG

  3. En mi caso, la pelusa ha de engancharme. He de ver esos trozos de plástico/ contadores como algo más que miniaturas/ cartones

    Juego muchos juegos hex and counter y superé lo de entrar a un juego por sus miniaturas.


  4. I been there and am guilty of all of it.
    This article is full of truth.
    Nowadays, it's just skirmish games for me - few mini and maybe some vehicles.

  5. I agree, PDFs are often overpriced. If you sell a pdf, the buyer will probably need to get it printed himself, especially if it's a substantial book, so you should take that into account when pricing them.

    1. I'm talking Australia, obviously, but to get something with a simple spiral binding and just sheet of plastic cover is say $30 for a 100+ rulebook. Now if your pdf costs $5... it's still $35. And I did all the work myself.

      If the pdf costs $20, $30... that could be ~$60 for a set of rules that's just black and white notebook style. And a big GW glossy rulebook, hardback, wargaming pr0n.... is about $75-80. An Osprey blue book is far cheaper - $25.

      A PDF is almost the same cost as GW for incomparably worse production value, and the pdf seller doesn't exactly have a lot of overheads...

      I find it hard to justify more than $10 for a pdf...


    2. I might go up to $20 but then it should really be something!

  6. I tend to buy/collect around favorite themes and haven't bought miniatures just for a particular set of rules for a long time. Doesn't mean everything fits together, I have some very different subjects I like, and also some very different styles/scales. But as a result of this, I do have miniatures to try out rules that interest me :-)

  7. Oh man, this post couldn't have arrived at a better time! I've been pondering making an inventory list in excel to try and untangle the pile of rulebooks and miniature I've accumulated over the past few years, hoping to make the unavoidable cull easy and meaningful. I've reached a point where although I still 'like' all the stuff I purchased and the ideas of what I want to do with it have not disappeared. There's just an imminent sense of dread whenever I look at the whole pile and start thinking when will I actually have the time to get around and get any of those ideas into reality. And I'm not even talking about playing the actual games here, just the hobby part to get stuff assembled/painted etc to get to the 'play ready' stage.

    So this year I've decided to actually do something about it. First step is to put all future shopping on hold at least for a while until I can figure out the direction I want to go in. Certain projects will just have to be dropped, there's no going around it I'm afraid..

    1. This is good. It's far too easy to buy stuff that you don't get around to. I ended up gifting and selling much of my Pile of Shame (tm) to get things down to a (more) reasonable size. The buying moratorium is the first step, following the Rule of Holes (when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!). Next is to fully inventory everything, built and unbuilt. Understand what is immediately playable (good), what needs work (ok), and what needs buying more stuff (bad). Consider whether you have a game-in-a-box (ideal for skirmishes), or whether you need an opponent to bring their own (fine for Warhammer). Then, start figuring out what can be cut, ideally worth selling to simply get your money back (in nearly every case, you can always just re-buy if you clear your pile and need a new project). The smaller Pile is far less daunting, and much easier to see progress as you complete projects.

      Good luck!

      - GG

    2. "I've been pondering making an inventory list in excel..."

      -Super helpful to clarify your thoughts. I divide mine into "needs minis" "needs assembly" "needs paint" "needs terrain" "needs rules". You can also see overlaps to save time = i.e. if you make terrain for Game A it may also solve the terrain problem for Game B - and save time.

      "There's just an imminent sense of dread just the hobby part to get stuff assembled/painted etc to get to the 'play ready' stage."

      -I pick low hanging fruit; i.e minis that are quick and easy to paint. This gets momentum going. I accept lower quality painting - my aim is to have it "table ready" and "painted" not "cool artwork" and I often skip a final detailing I COULD do to save time. If I paint more than 3 layers I ask myself "why?" I then aim to do ~10 minis per week.

      The most important is the mini-buying freeze. Or a 2-for-1; I allow myself to buy 1 new minis if I've painted 2 in the same genre.... so I'm still making progress.


    3. " Certain projects will just have to be dropped, there's no going around it I'm afraid.."

      -Another rule I have is "no new projects until TWO old ones are done" - this means table ready = terrain, painted minis, working rules. So you can try new things but you motivated yourself to finish the old...


    4. The 2-for-1 is an excellent advice! Both for new miniature purchases AND projects overall, it keeps the whole thing moving and not feeling like a punishment. I'll have to incorporate this immediately, thank you for the advice!

    5. "as punishment for your crimes, I hereby sentence you to playing with the toys you bought!"


      If you bought it and intend to keep it, then it's not really a 'punishment' to finish what you started as a hobby. It really more along the lines of 'discipline', specifically self-discipline.

      If you truly look at working on a particular project as punishment, then you should sell it and get your money back, rather than leaving it in the Pile of Shame as something that your heirs will have to dispose of. Seriously. This is the whole Marie Kondo "does this bring Joy?" thing in a nutshell. Selling and gifting stuff that you not longer cherish is the best, as it completely frees your mind. Instead, save your time and energy for the things you really enjoy.

      - GG

    6. 'Some' hobby projects get you super excited at first but fade quickly when a new, similar shiny thing comes along. Buying and piling the newest bling is not a road to happiness for sure.

    7. "as punishment for your crimes, I hereby sentence you to playing with the toys you bought!"

      -This made me chuckle.

      "If you truly look at working on a particular project as punishment, then you should sell it and get your money back.."

      -Sometimes an ASPECT of a project slows you down. I'm struggling with Tankmunda due to cost of 15mm infantry. My 28mm sci fi is halted by terrain assembly. Having a few things 'on the go' is fine (and swapping between them) but I'm trying to restrict them to 3-4.

      "Selling and gifting stuff that you not longer cherish is the best, as it completely frees your mind."

      -Luckily I have an 8 year old who thinks ANY of dad's toys are awesomer than his. :-P Sadly it doesn't free up space though...


    8. Thanks, I try to keep things light. I was just reacting to "punishment" as a perverse way of looking at hobby activities that should be enjoyable. We all have things going on, and get hung up from time to time. That's normal, and one presumes to resume Soon. Shelving or back-burnering a project for Reasons is really different from declaring it a "punishment", with all the negative connotations of doing something "bad". I think we all have enough stress in our lives without our hobbies becoming one of them. As I get older, it's a lot easier to just cut out negative stuff for my peace of mind, and maybe it works for others, too. Take care.

      - GG

  8. The thing with PDFs is that they usually sell you the exact same file they use to print the glossy, fancy, beautiful full color book. But if I'm buying the PDF I'm more likely to be printing at home or the local print shop, perhaps even just in black and white, and possibly avoiding the beautiful full color art pages etc. to cut down on the costs of the whole thing and just get the 'needed' actual rules parts printed. So maybe the makers should consider offering a 'home print friendly' version of their rulebook with all the bling cut out, sell it for less $$ to get new people in. If I really like the game I can always order the glossy hardcover book later.

    1. Some authors do offer a printer friendly version, though it's almost always included in the same bundle as the color PDF. I think it's unrealistic to expect indie authors to manage multiple bundles with different prices...

      "Cheap" PDFs are outrageously expensive to me anyway, since I live in a country with a very disadvantaged exchange rate with the USD.

  9. > "The stage I get "stuck" in various projects is quite telling. It shows where the 'barriers' are"

    You describe the various aspects you pay attention to, but I'm curious: if you keep the statistics, what would you say IS the most common barrier for you, eM? Especially since you consider it "quite telling" :)

    To me, the barrier is how many minis I need to paint. I hate playing with gray plastic but I have very little painting time, which means I'm more often thinking/planning projects instead of actually accomplishing anything. Someone in your previous post commented that most rulesets are "read only" and I think that's probably true!

    In order for a game to go past this seemingly insurmountable barrier, for me it has to:
    - have few minis
    - have a topic and/or a community that keeps my interest
    - have a ruleset that is simple and non-clunky, and plays fast

    You'll notice that I've listed the ruleset last. I think that's because realistically it's the least important hurdle and possibly the least important part of my hobby time. For people where the ruleset/game is the most important thing, I bet they are less worried about playing with gray plastic. Though I suppose there are people in between.

    1. Contradicting what I just wrote, I must confess I have played Song of Blades and Heroes using bottle caps, and Rangers of Shadow Deep using gray plastic. I vow never to do this again!

      I had fun times with both though.

    2. A corollary of "very little painting times" is that slapchop + speedpaints have been a boon to me. I won't win any awards, but now more of my minis are painted to a *decent* tabletop standard.

    3. WRT painting time, have you considered 'spray & dip' armies like undead? Spray white, dip with brown. I read about a couple guys who knocked out a full WFB tournament army in almost no time. I think this also works for Space Marines, lol.

      - GG

    4. I live in an apartment so spray cans are a big no-no (especially with young kids in the house). I own an airbrush which is slightly better than a spray can, but honestly, airbrushed are fiddly and require more time keeping them clean and functional than you'd spend actually painting minis.

      I've no love of army games, either. It's skirmish all the way, as I said it's the number one barrier for me.

      Finally, the topic must be appealing for me. I don't find skeletons all that appealing!

      Slapchop+speedpaints has been revelation, however.

    5. Got it, thanks! When I was in an apartment, I waited for clear, dry days and sprayed outside. Nobody wants overspray inside the house!

      If I were planning to airbrush, I'd have looked into setting up a folding spray booth with a window exhaust, (MDF and foam board), but that's because I did armies which needed a lot of spraying.

      Thinking about it, I probably should make one for airbrushing. Hmm.. Something to think about.

      - GG

    6. Yeah, love Speedpaints for Skirmish games. Oddly, I still use my old base + wash approach for non-skirmish games.

      The biggest barrier for me is the cost of entry. If I all ready have minis I can use, terrain I can use, accessories I can use, etc. I am open to just about any game. However, if I have to buy a whole new "look" of models or terrain I am less likely to do so.

      However, once I have tried the game and like it. Cost of entry seems to melt away as an issue. I have to get over the "hump" first to justify the price.

    7. GG, a big problem with sprays is the smell/fumes, not only the overspray. And there's no such thing as "outside" in a city apartment ;)

      I think airbrush booths, to be effective, need ventilation. But that's not my actual problem, my problem is that airbrushes are fiddly, require maintenance, regular cleaning, and expertise to use. You spend more time taking care of your airbrush than actually painting! I think I used my airbrush thrice since I got it, and already I've had to replace an o-ring... and this is an expensive Paasche airbrush!

    8. "....what would you say IS the most common barrier for you, eM? Especially since you consider it "quite telling" :)

      1-Decision paralysis. Where I can assemble a mini or terrain several ways but I MUST glue them permanently. So I defer the decision... and it adds to the pile. Imperialis Aeronautica, Dropfleet Commander, and much PDF terrain are major tasks.

      2-Unpleasant/fiddly painting. Like Infinity. I get terrible 'bang for buck' as it takes ages to do a single mini. I can do 50 LOTR in the time it takes to do 10 Infinity and even then, the LOTR looks comparatively better. "Is it easy/fun to paint" is actually something I reckon people need to pay more attention to. I had great fun painting a Mumak and it only took me a few hours.

      3-Extra purchases. I tend to need to buy both sides, and as I have so many rules, I am unlikely to play if I merely have generic troops for both sides; I need some heroes/specialists. This creates a $ barrier.

      Surprisingly, the AMOUNT of the minis (which used to invoke paralysis) is less an issue. That's since I began my regime of "clear the mountain/relax painting standards" and have painted 400 LOTR each year. It's only an issue if I've lost momentum (I have 100 pike and shot and I forgot my original purpose) or combined with other issues (my 100 Samurai lack Japanese terrain). Whereas 100 cowboys or 100 LoTR could be done in a few weeks...

      Rules are not a big deal as I can make my own, but if I have to do this then the projects drops down the priority list.


    9. Andy, I suggested "folding spray booth *with a window exhaust*" because I'm well aware of the fumes issue if you're using spray paint. If you're in an urban area, then maybe rooftop, alley, or empty (parking?) lot? If there's a hobby shop in town, they might be able to recommend something. Or you might be able to work something out with hourly rental of a spray booth. OTOH, if your propellant is compressed air, then fumes shouldn't be an issue.

      I have an old single-action Badger for basecoats, and it's been pretty sturdy, but you're right about the maintenance. Of course, if you have unlimited compressor air and work with water-based acrylics, then it's not a big deal to just blow water through and finish with a little rubbing alcohol for cleanup.

      Good luck!

      - GG

  10. Another one is "what minis and games do you have a track record of painting/playing."

    I KNOW any 15mm (tanks or infantry), LoTR or Warmachine will get painted THAT WEEK and have 100s or 1000s of minis to prove it. I know I have unpainted 40K and Infinity from 2015... and also have 100s of minis to prove it....


  11. Tiempo sin saber de usted. Espero que todo vaya bien.
    Un saludo.

  12. Hope you're doing well with end of term work and kids. Looking forward to new posts!