Streamlining Games Pt. 2

I'm back this week to continue my thoughts on the streamlining of games that seems to be happening across a lot of miniature systems right now.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t come up to Flames of War since I’m so engrossed with it right now.  Last year Battlefront came out with its 4th edition of the game which, much like Age of Sigmar heavily split the community.  The 3rd edition was a behemoth of a rulebook at nearly 400+ pages spread across three different books.  Being a historical game the company and game designers put a lot of effort into accounting for realistic outcomes via terrain encountered and hardware available to troops at the time.  This lead to a lot of rules that could be very specific to certain armies and never apply to others but because there is a chance that you could run into these other rules you had to get yourself at least a knowledge that they existed.

The Army Books were almost the same.  They covered huge swaths of factual information about armed forces that existed in specific battle zones and gave many options for customizing your force to a very deep level.  Sure, it could create extremely realistic games but it was a lot to read and remember.  I can say this much.  I’ve read the first of those main rulebooks which was just shy of 300 pages and I can say for certain this, I was not going to have the ability, cognitive or strategic enough to play this game, nor was I going to be able to put the effort into it.  However for their 4th edition the new core rulebook was pared down to roughly 110 or so pages.  A ton of rules simply disappeared, many relating to movement as it became much simplified.  Many special rules also disappeared or were consolidated into simpler terms.  Having no experience actually playing in 3rd edition I hesitate to really comment further about the bigger changes.

The Army Books supposedly took an even larger beating from the simplification of the game.  Those massive books of the past which often clocked in at 120-150 pages themselves suddenly dropped to half of that, the largest coming in at only about 60.  Many and I mean many of those very specific army builds disappeared and we’re simply pared down to the most common formations that were fielded in the era or zone of conflict.  Army or faction specific rules were brought down and simplified here as well as those that were in the core book.  The points system was drastically changed from a 1000 point basis to a 100 point basis.  Suddenly a tank that in 3rd edition cost 125 points became a very simple 5.  Much like the shift of Warhammer to Age of Sigmar it caused a large rift in the community between newer and older players.  Suddenly the game had lost its historical accuracy and become dumbed down.  Sure, these older players claimed that the old rules weren’t that hard to understand; at least not once you learned them.

The game introduced Unit Cards which gave you all of your most important information in a much simpler form.  Instead of having to remember that you were a ‘veteran’ troop which meant you were dug in on a 3+ the card very simply stated these things.  You were now hit on a # or had a skill # listed to achieve things like digging in.  Your weapons were listed on the card with their ranges and strengths.  Your movement is listed on the card where in the previous edition there was a massive chart in the book which listed the movement values based on the vehicles.  So if you were fully tracked you could move so far, half tracked so far and wheeled so far.  Now with each model having a specific unit card these numbers are able to be changed by each vehicle in a more fluid way.  I can say that even though the older gamers seem to be against the version 4 rules, that newer gamers like myself seem to really embrace it.  I love the game in its current incarnation.  I think as opposed to Age of Sigmar this game really does appear to have kept it’s simpler or ‘streamlined’ end goal.  Less rules, less pages and easier to play.  Of course again, this could be me wearing blinders from having no experience with 3rd edition but that’s my gut feeling on the subject.

Also this could of course change as the company releases more army specific books in different battle zones.  As of this writing there are only five books and they are all designed for mid war desert combat.  Fighting First, Afrika Korps, Avanti, Desert Rats and Armored Fist although AF was basically a replacement for DR which was not received particularly well and thought to be missing too many units and formations.