You probably don’t know this, but I host an online forum. It’s called Salgan al Sol, and it’s about RPG design. It’s in Spanish, and it’s pretty much the only place where you can talk seriously about RPG design theory with regular, and smart human beings. It’s a place where there are no flame wars, where an interesting answer can be cooked for weeks before answering in the thread the first thing that comes to mind, and simply a place for friendly, but informed, talk.

Wargames-wise I have no knowledge of this kind of places. I know there are places or publications out there concerned about wargame design, but they’re mostly concerned about historical accuracy and simulation, abstract experimental games and stuff like that. That does not appeal to me. I always thought I could find a place to talk about wargames, with the “game” in mind before any other thing. To illustrate my point, I compare the progressive roleplaying games I enjoy so much with rules like Crossfire from Arty Conliffe, or Two Hour Wargames’  stuff with their revolutionary system. AT-43 is also a great game, as is the highly experimental War of the Ring (it was, in fact, testing grounds for the new Warhammer Fantasy, though that game remains mostly traditional in most aspects).

Now you probably see why I was so interested in playtesting Gruntz. The game however is taking some strange turns, with people (I won’t say playtesters, since most in the yahoo group never played the game once) changing basic stuff like the turn sequence and the designer focusing on optional rules for future releases. The base of the game is still pretty solid, and most importantly fun. This has sent me in one of those drives to design my own rules. I’m still fighting with myself, seeing if I’ll use Gruntz just as inspiration (amongst other games) or as a basis for my game.

Though this post was not to share this, but a comment made in one of the many blogs I read everyday. The whole post is quite interesting, but it has some pretty amazing gems spread in there, hiding behind the rules commentary. I especially like this paragraph:

This is as subjective a matter as one can imagine but more and more I find myself drawing away from contrived solutions to wargame design and towards “natural” ones. In essence it comes down to the difference between a mechanism that eventually gives the right result with one that has the right feel. Of course, ideally you want one that does both.

Since instinct and expectation are linked to past experience and knowledge it is not possible to determine definitive intuitive solutions but by observing the reactions of gamers at conventions and club games and listening to my inner voice, I have found a few trends.  Some of these are the result of past experience of rules but others come from our understanding of how the world works and are the sorts of things new gamers expect even if they have never played a wargame before. Here are a few that I have decided were worth trying to incorporate.

a) Immediacy. Things seem to make more sense when results follow directly  from causes and can be linked visually. Perhaps I should say that they make more sense emotionally.
b) Reciprocity. People like to fight back when attacked.
c) Visibility. Particularly if using miniatures, what you see is what you understand. (again emotionally)

There’s so much in there. I specially enjoy insight from the actual game, from someone observing behaviors in the table rather than just reading through a set of rules. This is taken from this post in Battle Game of the Month. In any case a good read, so go check it out.