Simple rules, highly recommended.

When you play as many different games as I do (and that probably isn’t even that many compared to some people), a common problem is that you end up not playing some games frequently enough to remember the rules. This can be particularly difficult with complex rules, that are subject to frequent change. Take Warhammer 40k for example. I’ve been playing it for about ten years and gone through two changes to the core rules along with numerous changes to army specific codex rules. Playing different armies at sporadic intervals all while trying to get a solid grip on the core rules is big challenge when you have rules for other games floating around in your head. Unless I’m playing on a regular basis for a few weeks, my group generally spends far too much time having to reference the book for some obscure or finicky rule, or situation that may create an exception to the rule. Throw in the possibility that we’re trying a new army or an army we rarely play and looking up rules becomes even more time-consuming. If we weren’t so heavily ‘invested’ in the game and the world wasn’t so intriguing I wouldn’t bother.

Simple rules, that are effective in what they do, can provide immense tactical depth without bogging the player down with finicky technicalities for every unique situation. The end result is more play time, more strategic planning, more tactical maneuvering and less interrupt to reference rules. When done properly It is for that reason that Kings of War is so intriguing to me. I think Kings of War is the most elegant of war gaming rules I’ve encountered so far and it’s truly changed the way I look at game systems.
KoW has also filled in some genre holes for me, so I thankfully won’t have to waste time with complicated systems just to play games for which the only available rules are overly complex. First of all, despite owning many Warhammer Fantasy models, I’ve never actually played the game and despite wanting to, the time required to learn the rules just wouldn’t have been worth it in my opinion. With Kings of War however, I now have no need or intention to ever play Warhammer Fantasy, or to pay the ridiculous price for the rule books. The level of abstraction in Kings of War lends itself to other genres very nicely as well. I had originally intended to get more involved in De Bella Antiquitus (DBA) and Hordes of the Things (HotT) to fill my historical and fantasy war gaming interests, but Neldoreth‘s amazing work on his Kings of War: Historical Ancient Combat (KoWHAC) supplements and KoW army lists (currently lizardmen and humans) allows me to cover historical and fantasy gaming all with the same, simple core rules. Currently the only KoWHAC supplement available is Rome Rising, which covers Imperial Romans and their barbarian enemies but there are many more lists in the works, also covering different periods, some of which are very close to completion. There may also be a Napoleonic supplement for KoW in the future. Exciting times indeed.
This brings me to spaceship combat. After painting my Battlefleet Gothic models, I wanted to get some gaming in with them. Despite having all of the rule books and supplements for BFG on hand, I decided to turn instead to a system that Neldoreth introduced me to called Full Thrust by Ground Zero Games (the rules are free but beware, the website sucks). While slightly more complex than KoW, Full Thrust is one of those beautifully designed rule sets that you can read through once and know how to play the game. Neldoreth and I got together with HappyDD at the Sentry Box last Tuesday evening to have our first play through the rules and finally use my BFG models (it was so nice to use them after having them collect dust, unpainted for so many years). We played through the introduction scenario three times in about two hours and only had to reference the rule book about two or three times. Not too bad for our first play through. I will be posting a game review of Full Thrust in the next few days but to sum it up here, I think it’s a great system and highly recommend it. I like it so much that I will be renaming some of the sections of the site to reflect that I won’t be bothering with the BFG rules.
As I said earlier, the simplistic effectiveness of KoW has changed how I look at game rules, especially for war games. It’s sort of hard to admit but when Mantic eventually releases their science fiction rules (something they’ve mentioned in the past), Games Workshop may have a very hard time keeping my business on the rules front.
All that said I recently been turned onto a collectible card game called Legend of the Five Rings and it’s got me hooked. The rules are very technical and the learning curve is steep. For whatever reason though, I’m thoroughly engrossed despite my recent perception on rules. I’m going to be writing some articles on the game in the near future though and I’ll touch on some of the reasons why this may be. Truly though, I’m not completely sure.


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