Choose Your Weapons

Posted: 2 January 2011 in Reflections

"A good game has simple rules and complex tactics.‭" ‬-‭ ‬Albie Fiore.

I look for a number of things in a game system:

  • Elegance.‭ ‬It has to be fast and easy to play,‭ ‬and true to the genre it emulates‭ ‬-‭ ‬it has to‭ "‬feel like you’re there‭"‬,‭ ‬which may or may not mean‭ "‬realistic‭"‬.
  • Simplicity.‭ ‬I should be able to generate a viable character in half an hour or less,‭ ‬and it should fit comfortably on a‭ ‬3‭" ‬x‭ ‬5‭" ‬index card.‭ ‬I should be able to memorise the core rules after a couple of games.‭ ‬I should be able to create or convert encounters in mid-game without breaking stride.
  • Format.‭ ‬The core rules should be a single book,‭ ‬lightweight and easy to carry‭ ‬-‭ ‬no more than‭ ‬20‭ ‬mm thick and no bigger than A4‭ (‬210‭ ‬x‭ ‬297‭ ‬mm‭)‬,‭ ‬ideally smaller.‭ ‬It should be available both in dead tree and electronic formats‭ ‬-‭ ‬both have their uses,‭ ‬and I tend to buy both.
  • Quickstart.‭ ‬There should be a free,‭ ‬downloadable version which gives me enough of the rules to evaluate whether I want to buy it or not.
  • Setting.‭ ‬Bonus points for one or more settings.‭ ‬These should be simple enough to grasp easily,‭ ‬detailed enough to suggest ideas for adventures,‭ ‬and vague enough to incorporate other ideas.

Tall order,‭ ‬yes‭? ‬The ones that make the grade,‭ ‬and also entertain me enough to keep me playing,‭ ‬are:

  • Savage Worlds.‭ ‬Ticks all the boxes,‭ ‬although a printer-friendly version of the Test Drive rules would be much appreciated‭ ‬-‭ ‬we use it as a quick reference,‭ ‬even though we all have the full rulebook.
  • The THW Reaction System:‭ ‬All Things Zombie,‭ ‬Chain Reaction,‭ ‬Warrior Heroes and others.‭ ‬Just the ticket.‭ ‬As a bonus,‭ ‬the rules work equally well solo.

Traveller and Castles & Crusades are looking jealously on from the wings, mind; but I shan’t abandon my resolution to focus on a few games deeply this early in the year.


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