"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.