Reposted from Board Game Geek here.
Everybody has their pet peeves about what they don't like in games, even some of their favorite ones. I always find it interesting to listen to, especially when I don't know or am not familiar with the wargame in question as I'm a bit more free of my own personal biases. This is more than the usual AH versus SPI or playability versus realism versus complexity type debates and arguments. No, I'm talking about what we consider to be important in our games and why.
I think a lot depends on what kind of gamer you are. I'm a historian-gamer first and foremost, so those considerations tend to rise to the top for me. Sure, I am a social gamer at times and there days long ago when I was more of a competitor than I am now (playtesting sure changed me regarding that).
But I reflect back on the kinds of complaints about games, variants we liked (or didn't), house rules and other "fixes" me and my friends went for, and it's interesting to see how this changed over time.
Here was my "grumbling" experience, arranged into sequential "phases"--other historian gamers might find something parallel or very different, and it would be cool if the competitive players and social gamers could devise their own like this.
THE HARDWARE PHASE: When I started playing MIDWAY, FAST CARRIERS, RICHTHOFEN'S WAR, and PANZERBLITZ, I naturally compared game performance of various major end items of equipment (e.g., battleships, planes, and tanks) to what I knew from reading popular and pulp histories. What drew the most criticisms were when we thought equipment silhouettes could have been drawn better or contained what we felt were inaccuracies, etc. When TOBRUK came out, we were simply dazzled and that game occupied our attention for quite some time. I laugh about this now. So fixated we were on the gadgets and toys and completely ignoring everything else. It was years before I realized my AH STALINGRAD game did not--I know, hold your breath--did NOT replicate the Russian Front in WW II very well. I think I must have been too busy researching late war anti-aircraft gun configurations on the Yamato and Musashi and wanting that reflected better in FAST CARRIERS.
THE FRICTION OF WAR PHASE: Game designers started to inject command and control aspects into their games and we'd moan about what didn't work all that well (e.g., those hated "panic" rules in SPI's TANK!, PANZER '44 and MECH WAR '77). And then there were those discussions about how much control we could or were willing to surrender. Made some of us crazy when playing campaign games of NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES when some of our pieces were beyond the command range of our leaders and thus were not in command and control (and suffered accordingly). A lot of us were doing our own tinkering with command and control rules, but we didn't generally know squat and so, in retrospect, some of our efforts were pretty funny.
THE FOG OF WAR PHASE: One of the things I loved about MIDWAY and was glad to see in AH's 1914 and JUTLAND were the abilities to hide units. We'd wonder why more games didn't do that and would come up with double blind-game systems and umpired sessions to play with this. Some of these worked really well, many more did not. Games that had inverted counters or other devices to simulate limited intelligence got our attention (and applause). Some games got really good and sophisticated at this and reconnaissance actually meant something (NATO DIVISION COMMANDER and CITYFIGHT by SPI, AIR & ARMOR by West End). Some of us got entranced by the block games by Columbia Games for that very reason.
THE LEADERSHIP PHASE: As soon as a game came out with leaders, it was only natural that grognards would obsess about them--were their ratings too high or too low, did they perform reasonably accurately in the games that used them, why did some sides in some games have them and other games did not (e.g., PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN), etc. Hours of arguing over leader capabilities as shown in the LA BATTAILLE series, in TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD, and so on, coming up with rules and ratings more to our liking. Our games seemed to have LEADER in their title...SQUAD LEADER, FLIGHT LEADER, HORNET LEADER, TANK LEADER, etc. We loved the CIVIL WAR BRIGADE SERIES for their command system and watching some our pet personalities triumph or fail (often spectacularly).
THE LOGISTICS PHASE: Mercifully, this did not last long. We'd argue about how supply and other logistical functions operated in our games and--woe unto us--the designers listened. From the initial thrill at seeing a more detailed logistical system in WINTER STORM by Vanguard Games, it spiraled out of control to result in monstrosities like WAR IN THE PACIFIC and the unplayable CAMPAIGN FOR NORTH AFRICA. Well, we got what we asked for. Pretty soon, we were satisfied with toned down logistical subsystems such as seen in LONGEST DAY, GMT's EASTERN FRONT series...and even MMP's Operational Combat Series. But that's about as much detail as we can take!
THE JOINT WARFARE PHASE: As groundbreaking as PANZERBLITZ was for demonstrating combined arms warfare to board wargamers in a tactical setting (miniatures players had understood all this for a long time before this), Victory Games' GULF STRIKE did it for the operational level of war when it got published. There had been a number of efforts before this (BLITZKRIEG, THIRD REICH, EUROPA, etc), but here was a game that didn't give short shrift to anything. In fact, that title stunned us. Before that time, we wanted better portrayals of ground and air in our naval games, better air in our ground games, and operational level portrayals in our air games. After it, we were afraid of more to come because the system was so demanding.
THE PRODUCTION, RESEARCH AND DESIGN, DIPLOMACY, AND ALTERNATIVE HISTORY PHASE: This only happened in our strategic games--typically arising out of many playings of AH's THIRD REICH. We wanted more variety. German players wanted more fleets to invade England and didn't want the limitations in the Force Pool. How about mounting strategic bombing against Russia? All sorts of hypotheses and theories abounded, many fueled by our history (and alternative history) book reading. Designers rallied to the call. We soon got AH's ADVANCED THIRD REICH. WORLD IN FLAMES came out. KRIEG eventually led to TOTALER KRIEG. Bruce Harper carried his A3R modifications to their apogee in GMT's A WORLD AT WAR. Oh, we got exactly what we asked for--the ability to mess around with what countries built, what deals they could make with other countries, what technology the could pursue, and completely different historical possibilities. Oh boy. Yeah, we got that.
THE "ELEGANCE" PHASE: Once we got everything we asked for in all these other phases, we simply got overloaded. Nobody had time for marathon sessions of WORLD IN FLAMES with SHIPS IN FLAMES, PLANES IN FLAMES, MECH IN FLAMES, and all those other modules. Our favorite monster games were admired, maybe a couple short scenarios played, but the campaign games weren't ever completed if they ever were even started. So, we began to groan and moan about achieving "design elegance" in our games so we could get historically "valid" insights for all these other phases at a far less cost in learning and playing time....
What stuff do you remember grumbling about? Why? Did your prayers get answered? Did that work?