Streamlining Games

 The Streamlining of Games

Definition of Streamline
VERB 1. To design or construct with a streamline. 2. To bring up to date. 3. A. To put in order. B. To make simpler or more efficient: a system that streamlines a process.
                -Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Over the last year or two I’ve heard a concept bantered about quite a bit and that is streamlining.  As a lot of games are coming out with their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and continuing editions of games people are making claims of rules being streamlined.  A friend thought it might be interesting to take a look at the concept of what appears to be occurring in our communities.

Of course I can only give you a perspective from my personal experiences so anything you read here is obviously just my opinion and should be taken with any grain of salt you’d like.

Let’s start out with the game that I think really facilitated all of this ‘streamlining’ talk and that is Age of Sigmar.  This was Games Workshop’s switch from Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Edition.  What was at one point a massive rulebook consisting of hundreds of pages was suddenly cut down to a four page brochure.  The individual Army Books were suddenly cut down from 80-100 page books to 20-30 page PDF documents that were available from Games Workshop for free online.  You could say it was immediately simpler just on the basis of comparing rule books but it changed even more.  The ages of charts of model statistics vs each other were now gone.  Each model now had a simple line to follow indicating the dice roll needed to hit, wound, save, etc.… which meant no more memorizing a chart.  The movement rules shifted massively from those of complex regimental formations to free form 360 movement ability like that of Warhammer 40K.  Simpler.

Simpler however did not mean better in this particular case.  The older gamers seemingly rioted against the lack of point’s values and the ‘fun’ rules that the game developers had put into the PDF documents saying things like if your beard is longer you get a bonus or if you talk to yourself your opponent gets a certain detrimental effect.  Eventually Games Workshop introduced a new book that added points values back to the game which brought a lot of players back.  Then the new Army Books began to appear.  These were as large and as complex any previous books honestly.  They added charts, special abilities, a plethora of magic items, spells and more but it definitely started adding significantly more to the game.  Eventually more books came, and more and now streamlining doesn’t exist anymore; at least not to me.  To play the game accurately and correctly you need at least 2 books.  The current Generals Handbook which outlines the points systems and the book applying to whatever army you’re currently playing.  The base rules brochure is still available on the Games Workshop website but so many rules from the books change some of the base rules that other than the turn order/structure and the basic spells you almost don’t use it.

Sure I guess the basic structure of the game is simpler now.  Free range movement, simple mechanics as far as aiming and shooting and casting but there are so many other rules introduced by the different armies, battalions, allegiance abilities and items that I often find myself confused when playing games about how things are supposed to work or interact with each other.  Now, I’ll give this a caveat that I’m not playing a lot and I’m certainly not playing in a large tournament or competitive environment so perhaps if I was it wouldn’t seem so hard but I feel like overall the game is just as complex as before but that now its moved from the core rules to the army specific rules.

There’s a lot to think about with all of these and I’ll have another post next week talking about a different game system which has been ‘simplified’.