British Cromwell hunts Whittman!

British Cromwell hunts Whittman!
A pic from a Fireball game at Fall In 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Designing Rules: Engineers and Artists

In between playtest reportss and rules development I'll give some ideas behind the philosophy of the Fireball forward rules.

It is said here in Northern Virginia that wargame rules are like art. Some people like the Impressionists and some people like 18th Century Dutch Still Life. In gaming some Napoleonics players might like 'Carnage and Glory' and other might prefer 'Shako.' Both types of art and both sets of rules are valid and fine examples of their genre but people naturally gravitate to one or the other.

I have found that many wargamers tend to be quite partisan when it comes to rules. They expect certain game mechanisms, sequences of play and level of detail. This tends to cause most rules to follow a model that was created in the 1970s. I think of 'Combat Commander,' (remember that one!) 'Panzer Tactics' and 'Tac Force.' These rules were created (I would argue) from the point of view of an engineer. They focus on elements that can be quantified: range effects on weapons, penetration of warheads, armor thickness, etc. They steer away from combat situations that can not be measured: fear, heroics, training, etc. In recent years this has started to change with most rules have 'morale.' But I would still argue that 'leadership' is very much negelected. Caught in the 1970's model leaders exist to confer either a morale modifer or a combat modifier. They float around the battlefield and bestow their ability like Merlin. Good leaders do so much more than that. But how do you measure good leadership?

I am not an enginner, I am a television producer. What does not interested me about a battle is the penetration of an American 75mm gun against the front armor of a Tiger I at a range of 250 yards. I am interested in the tactics and the drama of a battle. When you read a memior of a soldier in Normandy he talks about laying down fire and then moving out. They worry about snipers and the opening in the hedgerow were the executive officer took a bullet in his head. For them the battle is a series of dramatic events. ie. 'We new the Germans were holding the farmhouse so we laid down some fire with the machine guns and dashed towards the hedgerow on the left flank.' That is the feeling we are trying to achieve in Fireball Forward.

We see the game as highlighting story-lines and dramatic events. This allows for some significant differances from 'traditional'-style (read 1970s) rules. Ultimately, these rules stand on the shoulders of all of the those 'traditional'-style rules but they are moving things in a different direction. I will address those in later posts. Next week I will blog about the infantry rules. I think in tuesday we will be playtesting a sceanrio with artillery rules I'll let you know how those are developing.


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