This post by Sinsynn over at the House of Paincakes had me thinking about people’s expectations of wargames. Specifically, that the general mass of people who play Games Workshop’s flagship games aren’t interested in anything else. And because of this unhealthy(?) focus on one particular system and product, they seem to have slowly got a twisted view of what is possible and desirable in a miniatures game. I’ve been investigating historical games lately, and I have to say the difference in attitude towards the games is very interesting. Take this description of GW’s Lord of the Rings from the excellent blog I have just discovered, Delta Vector:
The “bastard stepchild” of GW’s core series, LOTR is the least popular with
powergamersthe core GW demographic as model differences are less marked and forces are more balancedbland; magic is subtle and not an “I win” buttonboring; and the rules are cleaner and fastertoo simple.
OK, so it’s a teensy bit bitchy, but it also made me laugh. And only this morning I’ve read worse levelled at historical gamers by someone who is primarily a Warhammer player, so I’ll allow it.
It’s interesting because evilleMonkeigh, as someone with a wide experience of wargaming systems, seems to take for granted the fact that simplicity in rules design and similarity in the way that factions play are necessary for a good balanced wargame. Whereas I think many in the community of GW gamers (and, I would argue, fantasy and sci-fi wargamers in general) think a game is only fun if your factions are wildly varied with completely different playstyles. Yet these same people often (quite loudly) expect the games designers to deliver inter-faction balance and an accurate points system.
I’m coming round to the belief that you can’t have it both ways. Historical games are not so prone to imbalance it seems, since pretty much everyone in history was a human being, and people near enough to fight each other tended to fight the same way, i.e, the way that worked the best. What happens in real life when two forces go to war with wildly divergent technologies or tactics? One of them inevitably has their arse handed to them.
It might be time to face the truth here. If you want a game that’s interesting because of the tactical options it presents, you’re going to have to sacrifice things like factional diversity. You want psychic space beetles to fight cyborg super-soldiers with chainsaw swords? Sorry mate, you’re going to have to let go of any expectations you might have for a high degree of balance.
I mean that’s why Infinity largely works balance-wise right? Most of the troops are within a very small band in terms of abilities and have similar (if not the same) weapons as other faction’s troops.
Fantasy is fantasy and realism is realism and maybe we all need to just accept that?