Hi there all,
Today I’m going to look at some of the rule systems I have played and what, in my opinion, makes a good rule system. When I was about ten I started playing with toy soldiers and very soon after realised that some kind of system was required to govern or control and to add an element of randomness to their actions. This was, I think, more than anything else to add an element of chance or fate? that was out of my control and thus provide me with more of a sense of uncertainty as to the outcome. My first laughable attempts involved simply rolling a six sided die to govern first how many models could move and then a second roll for the lucky few to decide how far they could move. Shooting was simple; everyone was considered to be in range and needed a 6 to kill their target irrespective of weapon type. Luckily I was given Charles Grant’s ‘The War Game’ not long after this and discovered there was slightly more involved in writing a rule set.
My friends and I first played ‘proper’ wargames using a system by Stewart Asquith from an Airfix publication (the GW of the day!) this took us through world war 2 games with our mismatched armies of Revell, Matchbox and Airfix kits and soldiers. Balance was achieved by simply ‘eyeballing’ the opposing army and coming to an agreement as to what seemed fair.
“Take off the 3rd Stukka and I’ll drop the B52”
“Ok sounds good, but I’m taking the Normandy Gun Emplacement set”
We later moved into Napoleonics using a set of rules by Donald Featherstone. We modified the rules a little here and there to fit our own ‘style” of play. I remember the “Stomp” rule which allowed Cavalry to destroy up to D6 inches of a infantry line if they caught them in the flank. For the next few years however a little paperback called Dungeons and Dragons.
Away went the armies and out came metal Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds, Gelatinous Cubes, and mighty heroes. A completely different system of rules but strangely the concept of ‘Stats’ for each figure (SIWCDC) was what prepared us for the next big thing; the release of a new independent game from a little company called Games Workshop … Warhammer Fantasy Battle!
This and successive rewrites kept us going for the next 10-15 years to the exclusion of more or less anything else. It felt like the world of wargames had become Either the beautifully produced though expensive works from the Nottingham giants or badly produced black and white booklets from most of the other companies. this continued till probably the early 90’s when a few others started writing some beautifully conceived and produced historical games. These included the excellent ACW game “Fire and Fury” and Shako, a wonderful Napoleonic system. I started buying 15m armies by the dozen and playing these 2 games.
Around this time a rule set was written by Arty Conliffe which I still consider to be one of the most original games I’ve ever played. This game is Crossfire. Crossfire is a company level WW2 game that uses two innovative mechanics. The first is the concept of no fixed movement rates or ranges. The second is that there are no fixed Turns. A turn continues until a ‘Change of Situation’ occurs. A unit can move as far as they want but… as they pass through Line of Sight to any enemy model they can be halted and fired upon. This firing can have one of four effects; Miss, Pin, Suppress or Kill. A suppress or kill will end the active turn and initiative passes to the other player who then starts moving or firing with his units. Initiative also passes when the active player fails to achieve a suppress or kill while shooting. This game requires a large amount of area terrain and a lot of care must be taken while setting up the table to ensure that there are no ‘fire lanes’ across the board. To a certain extent Infinity has some elements in common with this game. Certainly the concept of “Its always your turn” could have applied equally well to Crossfire. I would recommend anyone to pick up a copy of these rules and give it a go. Figures based for either Bolt Action or Flames of War would work perfectly so the only cost would be a £10 rule book from Ebay!
A little community flourished around some of these games but nothing compared to the GW Warhammer and 40k scene untill I guess in 2003 when Privateer Press released Warmachine and I think the balance of power started to shift for ever. Although I don’t really play that much, was a beautifully produced, written and conceived system. Finally the same company was responsible for producing the rules and the minis. High production values throughout. Others followed and some excellent games and communities were born.In fact there are so many great games out there now that this year, for the first time since ..cough…the 80’s!!!, I doubt I will be playing anything by GW, except maybe a little Blood Bowl (their finest hour)
Some of the highlights for me are;
Infinity, Futuristic shooting-heavy game from Corvus Belli. Confusing book but once learned a very rewarding and enjoyable game with some incredibly beautiful miniatures. http://www.infinitythegame.com/infinity/en/
Warmachine, Privateer Press. Alternative Earth sci-fi setting with lumbering steam powered behemoths and foot troops. Beautiful minis and a thriving gaming scene. http://privateerpress.com/
Saga. Produced by Gripping Beast. Dark Age Skirmish level game. Absolutely love this. An innovative activation system and some simple mechanics make this one of those game that one can pick up in 10 min and still take years to master. Or not, in my case!!http://www.grippingbeast.com/shop.php?CatID=2396
X-Wing. By Fantasy Flight Games. This is a fantastic game. Beautiful models of all the famous ships from the extended Star Wars universe battle it out using one of the best rule systems I’ve ever played. http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=174
Malifux. From Wyrd Miniatures. This is the game which has me all fired up at the moment. Still waiting for Smogcon to hopefully get an Intro Game.This game has it all in Spades! or should I say Masks, Crows, Tomes and Rams. Beautufully innovative rule mechanics combined with a Wild West-Zombie-Steampunk-Magic-Alternative world setting and without a doubt some of the best miniatures I’ve ever seen! http://wyrd-games.net/
I hope this doggerel that flows from my fingertips has been of some interest . If you have a questions or more Ideas of great games to add please leave a comment.
I guess that’s about it from me till next time which will hopefully be a ‘How I paint Flesh’ guide
See you soon