Editorial: Words, Words, Words

We wargamers know what we want. When it comes to rules: how much is too much?

It appears that rumors are hopping this way and that regarding ForgeWorld becoming an officially sanctioned piece of the Warhammer 40k ruleset.  Previously, these elite rulebooks made it clear that they were more of the optional sort: tournaments clarified whether or not they were allowed, and for the most part ForgeWorld appeared to be a highly specialized form of our favorite grim future wargame starring Space Marines.

Now, while these are still just rumors at the moment, it made me think about our ever-expanding universe and game system.  I had to wonder: do we even want new blood in our hobby?

I ask this because I recent made the mistake.  You know the mistake–the big mistake.  My lady-friend was over.

I’m just helping her conceive, man.

She was eyeing a few of my miniatures: stuff she’d seen before. But that was the day she chose to look me in the eye and ask the question:

“So what the hell is this Warhammer stuff all about, anyhow?”

And I answered.

And answered.

And answered.

I had administered smelling salts for the second time before I summed it up thusly:

“Yeah, these games are pretty deep.”

Now to be fair, Maude wasn’t particularly interested in actually learning to play 40k–she was just curious.  Background information on me, if you will. 

So what if I had been trying to teach her how to play?  Now, the argument could be made that if she had any interest in the game itself, she would be able to put on her woolen patience cap and slowly begin to digest all that glorious information. 

But I’m not sure. 

These are questions that David Ewalt addresses when he touches briefly upon wargaming in his book Of Dice And Men.  Wargamers, he felt, seemed to thrive on the Mobius strip of rules.  This appealed to the older strategians who seemed to make up around 90% of the fanbase.  Slow and steady–adults only.  Let the kids play CandyLand–I’m after a real game!

“Chaos Lord of Nurgle sighted.  Preparing krak missles…”

But over the years, all of those rules have increased like a snowball made out of heavy-stock, glossy paper.  This absolutely lends a massive amount of richness to the game–of that this is absolutely no doubt.  But is it also dissuading new players from joining our ranks? 

And for that matter, is complex somehow better?  It wouldn’t seem to be the case, given the extreme popularity of more straightforward games like Star Wars: X-Wing.  But that game is pretty new–is its current incarnation just the first stepping stone on what will eventually become a decades-long anthill, slowly being built closer to a Tattooine double sun system with pounds of supplements and new minis?

I admit that there’s not that much one can do about it in the first place–you can’t unring a bell.  And any complaining one could do would titter in the face of the cacophonous din that would result if Games Workshop were to announce tomorrow that they’d simplified Warhammer Fantasy and 40k down to a twenty page pamphlet.

What do you think?  Has the massive difficulty of learning a  game kept you from investing in it?  Or is that what you look for specifically?  Will simpler games naturally grow in complexity?
Phil Keeling is a comedian, writer, and gamer.  He can be found at www.philkeeling.com  and on Facebook.  He occasionally says amusing things on Twitter.  His various other nerd musings can be found at Notes From The Conquistadork.

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