Friday, 6 July 2018

How can rules be "interesting" of themselves.

Now here is a more or less serious question. I've had various chaps tell me over the years that this or that rule set or game is "interesting" - now as to quite what they mean by that I often cannot tell. Do they mean the period is interesting or the actual rule book or  even the actual rules.
 Now I am by no means a rules junkie but even I have amassed about 30 or so set of rules (other than those contained in the various "Classic" wargames books) and hand on heart not a single  rule book is interesting of itself. Hard to read- yes certainly- try the incomprehensibility of "Firefly"  for example. Tedious- without a doubt - almost any rule book has tedious bits but some are more tedious than others. But interesting as a stand alone piece of reading? Never. Not a Chance. Rather watch grass grow. Reading rules is a necessary chore to help you achieve a goal  which, in my case, is a decent historically based game that resembles - as far as possible -the period I am trying to depict. This is the fun bit. The rules, well, they simply ain't. They are merely a means to an end. A toolbox.
 Of course these days publishers like to pretty up the deal so they can charge a higher premium. Hence all the pictures and other associated eye-candy- to make an otherwise tedious publication "interesting" enough to make the punter part with thirty notes or thereabouts. Likewise the "explanations"- some of which are very appropriate but some of which are so bloody patronising that it makes your fists itch !
 Now in the greater scheme of things tedious to read does not automatically preclude any rule set working well on the table- though it can slow things down awfully. Finding the bits you need in "Black Powder" is middling tough at best unless you have a prodigious boredom threshold- which I don't-and that was one, of several, things that put me off the set in the first place. It has resided on my shelf unused for a couple of years now. I just can't bear the chore of tunnelling through it. "Pike and Shot" from the same stable is far better but again not  stand alone interesting .
Now as I type this I wonder if the lack of interest in many of these documents  is because I'm pretty historical-have actually read actual history books (sometimes without pictures!!) and- in certain areas- know my stuff so obvious -and not so obvious- historical bloopers in rules do tend to get my back up. Not only that the hushed reverence with which some dudes go on about this or that rule set is positively nauseating especially when they mention that awful phrase "interesting mechanisms" - What ?  Rolling  a dice or two or turning a card is .. interesting - what without money on it !  Yes I'm taking the mickey  but the way some blokes go on about rules you would think any given set was actually important even unto approaching Holy Writ.
 Now if you have read this far you may have noticed that I said at the beginning- excepting the classic wargaming books- and that is largely true Featherstone, Grant Wise  Gush and Young all had interesting things to say in their various books- whose remit was significantly wider than the narrow confines of the latest sci-fant skirmish a -like but there have been some published  turkeys too- The PSL guide to wargaming by Quarrie is pretty much a waste of space- full of WRG a like rules as was the fad at the time of publishing as is his Armoured Wargaming- both of which infest my shelves. Niether are particularly interesting of themselves other than perhaps examples of the poorer side of what has gone before.
 I can see how you need the right tools to do the job - so yes a given mechanism might be useful if it makes the troops behave in an historical way- therein lies the interest - but of itself - no . This is possibly why I find Fantasy  gaming especially so unappealing- even when I like the actual figures-.A small part of me would quite like to go adventuring in Hyboria- as in Robert Howard - but only a small part and lets be honest this kind of stuff NEVER games the way it reads so it becomes merely a dice rolling exercise.

So to finish - how can rules be interesting of themselves- rather than for what they MAY enable you to do- short answer - no they can't - unless you have a different informed opinion