Saturday, 12 April 2014

Up On A Soapbox: House (non)-Rules

One of the regular hyperbolic statements those of us who enjoy sci-fi and fantasy miniature games have to endure while perusing the web is "I'm never playing ___________ again!  The new __________ rule totally ruins the game!"

Sinister motives are frequently attributed to rules changes, things like selling more of a certain type of model, bringing balance back to a broken tournament system, etc, etc but the truth (I believe) is that more often than not game designers or game companies are worried about either some notion of game balance or game length.

Back in the youth of sci-fi and fantasy war gaming there really was no play-testing.  If somebody had an idea for a game they published it, if they were really organised the tried a few games out with their personal gaming group and then they published it.  In those days it was not at all uncommon to adopt or invent house-rules to reconcile things that didn't work when you were gaming those systems at home.  Somehow with the growth of both the on line community and various tournament communities there seems to have developed a belief that games must be played as written at all times so that groups of strangers can war game without getting bogged down in endless disputes.  But honestly; how many of us game regularly with strangers?

As war games have grown up I've found that rather than lacking for rules that cover specific situations most of them have far more rules than you will actually use during the playing of your average game.  So here's a thought; what if we ignored the rules we don't like?

I recently had a debate with a gaming friend about a game we both claim to like but we seldom actually play because every time we're done rolling dice and packing away our miniatures we realise we don't actually like that game as much as we thought....but I'm going to end on that one.

Flashing back to my relatively recent past the prime example that came to mind was back when Apocalypse and the Baneblade originally got released for 40K.  I had a friend who really wanted to play with his new shiny plastic Baneblade but he didn't really have an Apocalypse sized force.  We pondered this problem for what in hindsight was an embarrassingly long time before I finally just said "screw it, let's use your Baneblade in a regular 40K game".  I took a few more anti-armour weapons than I would in a normal game and it all more or less balanced out.  in addition no game designers showed up at my house to beat me up for misusing their precious rules and then Internet was completely silent on the issue of how two people played a game amongst themselves.

I also remember more recently there being a big blow back against GW for not initially releasing their flyer rules to independent retailers and therefore a lot of independent retailers banning the use of flyers from their shop events.  Putting aside all the industry-politics and negative feelings of the time what if a group just decided 'no flyers' because they don't like how they impact the game?  Wouldn't that be a valid decision for a group of players to make if they thought it would make their own personal games more fun?

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that when you buy a game; it's YOUR game.  It's not the internet's game, it's not the tournament circuit's game, and it's not the publisher's game so play it the way YOU want to play it.  And you if you have a like-minded group of friends you might find that some games you had soured on or passed over are in fact really fun to play.

So on that note; who says losing your warcaster should immediately end a game of Warmachine?



  1. I should probably mention that a clear bias I have is that when I think about most of my best gaming experiences they are at somebody's house where rules and measurements are suggestions more than laws and most of my worst gaming experiences have come at the hands of people who's last names I never knew.

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  3. This is my usual response on the subject of wanting something that isn't necessarily what it says on the tin.

    Anyone who produces a product will produce the product they want to produce.

    Anyone who has a product they really want should buy the product they want to buy.

    Anyone who wants to buy a product that isn't produced by the person they are dealing with should probably make it themselves, not complain that someone won't make it for them.

    An allegory;

    A young child walks into a bicycle shop.

    "I'd like to have a bicycle!" he declares to the clerk.

    "Well that's just great young man." says the clerk, "We have many fine bicycles here."

    "Excellent." declares the child "I'd like it to have four legs, a fluffy tail and be named Spot."

    Confused, the clerk thinks for a moment before responding. "Young man, it sounds like you're in the market for a Dog. Are you in the right shop?"

    Becoming agitated, the child fixes the clerk with an annoyed glare. "NO. I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A BICYLE." he says slowly and deliberately to the clerk.

    "Well I'm sorry." the clerk is apologetic "I don't have any fluffy bicycles with four legs named Spot."

    Enraged, the child storms off. "WELL WHAT F****** GOOD ARE YOU THEN? YOUR BUSINESS IS BULLSHIT!"

    Defeated, the clerk watches the child storm off, upset he could not help.

    The morale of the story is; if you want a fluffy four legged 'bicycle' named spot, you should likely be spending your money on stem-cell research or genetic cloning, not bicycles. And be nice to the clerk, he's just trying to help you out.

    Second time I've had the opportunity to roll this out this week! :D

  4. I agree. If you don’t like it change it. Home games are the BEST!

    On a sort of similar note, a hate it when people think their game is no good, un playable or broken or what ever because the owning company is not currently publishing material or casting figs for their game.

    This game still plays the same as when people were playing it last year and having fun! Why can’t one still have fun with it?

    This topic should be your next soapbox rant Jay!

  5. Totally agree on all of the above... and the bit about Warmachine. I just don't get parts of that game sometimes...

    Plus with home games you can have some drinks...

  6. In any game involving dice (and most of those that don't), the goal of consistently proving your tactical supremacy is taken out of your hands at the onset. If you both make your enjoyment of a wargame conditional on winning, one of you is guaranteed to be disappointed. On the other hand if you look at games as what they are - entertainment - and make your goal having a good time, you become INVINCIBLE.

    Great post J!