Sunday 1 March 2015

Sunday food for thought: game design

Hi guys,

Long time no posts... I guess real life does that sometimes. Anyway, just surfacing for a moment in order to introduce this excellent series of articles by evilleMonkeigh on Delta Vector!
Walls and walls (30 of them) of text for sure (but it's Sunday: shops are closed, weather is shitty and kids are getting mad), but utterly interesting ones. evilleMonkeigh is field stripping every part of our favorite hobby (various aspects of what makes a rule system tick of course, but also broader topics like how "fluff" or commercialism interact with game design. A few dead horse in there (and the occasional rant embryo, thankfully kept under control), but quite a few eyes openers too... I've been avidly reading them since they started and found my self thinking "so THAT is why I like this or that game"  more than once!

I assume quite a few Dropship Horizon frequent flyers are regulars at Delta Vector too, but for the rest of us... Mandatory reading if you ever considered writing your own game (wouldn't that be every miniature wargamer ever?)

Thank you for evilleMonkeigh for allowing us to repost this here! 

The series so far:

"What started out as half a dozen posts dissecting common rules issues has grown into a surprisingly large, comprehensive series, often driven by reader responses.  Here's the break-down of the articles so far:

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?"


  1. Thank you for collecting these links together - very interesting stuff.

    1. Didn't even have to: evilleMonkeigh provided this index himself on his blog, just lazily reposting ;-)

  2. Well worth reading. I do wish we had more analysis for the miniatures field, the same way it's happened with RPG's and video games.

  3. Number 3´s link is broken. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!!

  4. Really great series. I've only read the first few so far, but I'm keeping at it.