Recently I bumped into an old gaming friend in a local hobby shop and we struck up a conversation about various subjects including a new rule system. Over the years my friend and I have played many very enjoyable games of “Volley & Bayonet” but recently he had played several games using “Black Powder”. It seems his main gaming group has adopted this new rule system.
I listened with interest to his description of the game system and his many frustrations with the new rules. He indicated he found the rules generally bland and, from what I took from his description, the games lacked manoeuvre. Clearly he was yearning for a return to Volley & Bayonet. Of course many of his friends were enjoying the new rules.
I have for a while been intrigued by the up take of “new” rule systems. Often there seems to be a ground swell of interest. Sometimes I believe as a result of the release of a particularly glossy rule book or much advertising. While Napoleonic wargaming has always been well served by rule systems other periods have far more options these days. Ancients is a case in point.
For many years DBM dominated the Ancient gaming scene. However, when “Field of Glory” hit the shelves players flocked to purchase a copy, at least locally. FOG it seemed was more enjoyable to play, it was more historic and so well designed it would not need revisions. Further it would result in even more people playing Ancients. Now, some five years on, the gloss has worn off. Ancients is more fragmented and Ancient gaming struggling to recruit players. Now fragmentation is not always bad, however it is interesting that the period that once dominated New Zealand wargames conventions now struggles to achieve enough players to run a competition with any rule system.
So what is it that drives people to try the newest rules? Is it dissatisfaction with older rules? Perhaps it is just a wish to try something new? Any or all of these things are of course fine, but wargamers are such an opinionated bunch it is hard to sort the wood from the trees. Is new really better, or is it really more about an enjoyable game with a good group of friends that makes or breaks a wargame rule set?