Editorial: Are Complex Rulesets Doomed?

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The Tabletop Gaming Industry seems to be trending toward Streamlining – what could that mean for YOU?

According to industry watchdogs ICV2 the estimated hobby market in 2014 was around $880 Million. In 2015, it’s estimated that the overall hobby games business grew another 20%. Some of the fastest growing categories were RPGs, Board Games & Card Games. Miniature games sales stayed roughly flat in 2014 compared to 2013. Why do you think that is? The biggest sellers in 2015 for the miniatures business are X-Wing, 40k, Star Wars Armada, Warmachine and Star Trek Attack Wing – in that order.

There are a lot of factors to consider – pricing, availability, popularity of the license, barriers to entry – the list goes on. But one of the thing I wanted to look at today was the shift away from complexity towards “streamlined” rule sets.

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What do I mean when I say “Streamline” – in this case I’m referring the removal of complexity for a game’s rule set by the removal of “extra” complications within the rules. Some call that “bloat” but that’s not always the case. For example, Warmachine/Hordes MK III just cut about 1/4th of it’s core rule set from the previous edition. A lot of players are loving it saying that Privateer Press cleaned-up and tightened down an already excellent rule set. X-Wing has a rules pamphlet that is around 20 pages and it’s arguably one of the better rule sets out there as well. Age of Sigmar with the General’s Handbook is still just a handful of pages of rules and it’s made a huge comeback recently.

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So what gives? Why is the industry as a whole moving away from complexity in rule sets? I think it’s a case of trying to make the games more appealing to wider markets. If you look at the explosive boom in board games, you can see that there are lots of “casual” gamers out there with money to spend. They don’t want textbook sized rulebooks to read. Even RPGs aren’t really that complex. The Player’s Handbook for 5th Ed D&D really only has about 30 pages of “rules” – the rest of the book is character creation (which now has charts to streamline that process) and the Magic Spells section.

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Now, I’m not rallying against those “filthy casual” gamers. In fact, I welcome them because they can only make the industry, as a whole, better. When a rule set is tight, concise and simple there is less arguing over what you can (or can’t) do. I hate arguing at the table over some stupid rule – I still joke with my friends about the old school Land Raider Pivot rules (it’s funny now, but that was a serious debate!) Having a rule set that is easy to learn but difficult to master is really the best selling point of any game. If you can teach a child to play it but still manage to keep adults interested you’ve got something special on your hands.

That said, I think that simple rule sets do not equal simple games. Look at “Go” – it’s a classic game and if you think it’s really easy to master you should play it against a veteran player sometime.

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Hidden Complexity

The games I listed above as examples (X-Wing, Warmachine/Hordes, Age of Sigmar) all have one major thing in common – the core rules are fairly simple, but the complexity comes from the cards. Warmachine has a TON of special rules but they are all easily referenced by the faction decks or books, same with Age of Sigmar (except they are called “warscrolls” and those rules are free). X-Wing has a TON of cards for upgrades, pilots, crew members…all the rules are really on the cards.

In fact, with these games, I would say that the complexity is just shifted towards the cards. That’s really where the depth in these games comes from. This allows the game designers the freedom to update the units via updating the cards without having to re-write the rule set. However, after a certain amount of “updates” you end up with the same problem you had before – bloat. That’s when you have to go back to the drawing board to cut the unnecessary rules out and slim-up your game.

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What Does This Trend Have To Do With Me?

Well if you’re a 40k player, moving forward I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a “Sigmarized” rule set for 40K. The core rules will probably look very similar to what we have now (at least they SHOULD if they don’t want to tick off every 40K player in the world) but Games Workshop will probably shrink the special rule section down quite a bit. If there is one area that needs to get some attention, it’s that. They should probably give the psychic phase another pass, too. Then you’ll probably start to see all the special unit rules move to their codex or “formations” later on.

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If you’re not a 40K player, you’ll probably see this trend continue. There is a new batch of gamers that has an even shorter attention span than the previous generation, who had a shorter attention span than the previous…well you get the idea. If the Industry is going to continue it’s growth it’s got to appeal to multi-generational gamers. The rules have GOT to be concise and straightforward. Fiddly rule sets are getting left by the wayside or are played in by ever shrinking niches that they can’t support themselves. But at the same time the game has to have variety and tactical depth. There are too many games out there that offer allย  those things – if your game isn’t doing the same, you’ll lose.

Streamlining The Future

The industry of hobby games is heading toward “simple” games. They have to complete with everything else fighting for your hobby time. It’s an uphill battle but the industry has had 7 straight years of growth. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it! Board Games, RPGs and Card games are leading the charge and influencing Miniature Gaming as well. With the massive success of X-Wing and others, more & more companies are trying to tap into that magical formula of “Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master.”

But those “simple” games will have to have that hidden complexity if they want to keep the hardcore players interested – and you NEED those players because they are the foundation of your gaming community. They are your loudest fans and your biggest critics. But will this be the end of overly complex and complicated rule sets? Only time will tell.

  • I think that the vast majority of people would prefer simpler rulesets. I think that is shown by sales figures as well.

    Complicated rulesets can be fun but take a lot of work to get a handle on.

    My favorite example is Battletech. Love the game, but the Total War engine and all of the expansions require a great deal of memory and mastery, which is why they have come out with Alpha Strike.

    For me personally the less time I have to have my nose in a rulebook, the happier I am.

    • Dongmaster

      That last sentence is something I can join hands for.

      Amen!

    • Pyrrhus of Epirus

      simple dosnt mean bad, but theres a reason i like chess more than checkers, the more complex rules allow for more depth.

      • Chess is not complex though in its ruleset. Chess is a very simple ruleset.

        • euansmith

          I guess it is all about the permutations. The chess bits (I think that is what they are called), all have their own special little rules and there are so many of them, and so many different positions they can occupy, they produce a load of complexity.

          If 40k had 20 different types of unit, each with its own special rule, GW could produce a simple game with loads of emergent complexity.

          If the game was based around having a dozen units per side, and allowed for some dynamic movement, I think it would offer more than enough tactical depth for a cool experience.

          • kevinharoun

            There’s a difference between complex making complex situations and and simple allowing many permutations. Chess has simple rules that allow for many (millions?) permutations.

          • euansmith

            Indeed. I’m on the side of simple rules creating emergent complexity, over complex rules creating confusion ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • ZeeLobby

          This is very true.

        • Tim

          I don’t think complexity is inherently good. The issue with 40k is they have alot of factions that have to feel unique and that demands a certain amount of complexity. As someone who lived through the 2nd to 3rdo transition I have seen both extremes in action. 2nd was crazy bloated, the games took forever, and there were so many rules it was ridiculous. 3rd on the other hand went to the other extreme. Everything washould fast but everything also felt the same. Since then we’ve added special rules to spread the game open some, and we’re somewhere in the middle. I think 40k made a critical mistake with the AP system myself. It was supposed to streamline the game and it kinda worked, but since their army construction rules are not super constructive good armor met spammed low ap met cover met ignore cover and now we have save modifiers, stacking saves, and other silliness. Same thing propigated through to hit modifiera. Game would be so much simpler if game was to hit modified by cover (and special rules like jink), armor was save modified by pen, and armor penetration was strength plus pen +d6. Bam a whole crap ton of special rules just got canned. I also think they like randomness too much for their own good. Traits, mutations, etc etc just need to be picks or points. Psychic powers are your mastery level from the discipline ( ml1 get 1st power and primaris). I guess my point is they need to clean they just also have to be careful because of the large number of in game factiona.

    • ZeeLobby

      The thing is, games can have a large amount of rules, but as long as their clear and intuitive, you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the rule-book even if it is big. It’s when a giant monstrous walker can put it’s toe on a patch of grass outside a forest, and somehow get cover, that you have to start looking everything up.

      • euansmith

        So not like 40k then? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Unfortunately I can’t think of a good example. Games like Infinity are fantastic but very complicated. Can’t think of a current example of a big ruleset that doesn’t have my nose in its book often :-/

        • ZeeLobby

          Honestly, after a twice read through of WMH rulebook we rarely open it up now. That said, you have to read over the errata and FAQs (although the rulebook will be updated). I have to say some of GW’s older side games had some deep rules but with easy to understand mechanics. BFG, warmaster, etc.

  • Shiwan8

    Only if written badly.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      there is a lot of bad writing in 40K unfortunately.

      Complex rules are sometimes necessary but 40K has such a long history the complexity is often only there because it is already there, if you see what I mean, and it has little effect in game.

      There is lots of room for simplification without affecting the gameplay. Unnecessarily complex rules for vehicle movement and firing, the different types of unit and all their complex movement rules that could be replaced by a M characteristic, the T vs AV debate (lets just give vehicles W and T and make them roll on a chart which gives the ability to one shot them), the lack of a simple flow-chart showing how to actually set up a game, bazillions of special rules many of which do nothing, unclear army creation rules, the unclear terrain rules and LoS rules (lets just have area terrain that blocks LoS through but allows LoS into please)….. I could go on, but attention is needed in all these areas and more.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        Don’t change Vehicles to Wounds and then give people the ability to one shot them! That defeats the purpose! Some armies have big creatures, others have tanks. They fulfill the same battlefield role. They should be treated the same.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          the purpose of giving vehicles T and W characteristics is to simplify the rules and make them easier to teach. People really struggle to grasp the vehicle rules as in some ways they go counter to the other rules. They also add unnecessary complexity and duplication.

          We could have a special rule ‘vehicle’ and a special rule ‘monstrous creature’ that means you have to roll on a chart if you get wounded (perhaps on a 6 or by a weapon with a S higher than your T), the chart could allow for vehicles to explode and lose weapons or be suppressed (this seems realistic) and for MCs to be blinded, enraged, wounded in the legs or arms etc.

          This way we could keep the good, cinematic complexity (and actually add some realism by giving vehicles armour saves) but lose the hard to learn and unnecessary complexity. It would also be an opportunity to counter the current imbalance which makes MCs so much better than vehicles/walkers.

          • Shawn

            Just call it AV/MT value. “Armor Value/Monstrous Toughness” So a monstrous creature like Blood Thirster has an MT of 14 and gets “scratched” from a lascannon on a 5. Rolling on the MC Injury/Vehicle Damage chart. 1-2 Creature Stunned. Snap Shooting until next turn.

      • ZeeLobby

        Yup. Most of us recognize this.

      • Shiwan8

        I agree everything you said GW could do better.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          yay we agree for once, high 5 man!

          • Shiwan8

            o/

      • Shawn

        Don’t forget rules that do the same or similar things like Fearless and And They Shall Know No Fear.

  • WellSpokenMan

    The rules don’t need to be simple if they are accessible. Free and searchable PDFs, updated and online rules wikis, and rules boxed with models can make a game with complexity a lot easier to digest. It’s true that the current setup for rules in 40k is a barrier to entry. This is partially due to cost, but it’s also due to the byzantine rules system, with formations, codex rules, and USRs all scattered around. If 40k does get redone, I hope it is with an eye toward improving game flow and not just a simplification.

    • Andrew O’Brien

      Agreed. Articles tend to use complex and convoluted interchangeably. I enjoy complex rules when they provide a deeper game. But it is frustrating when I see formations from white dwarfs I’ll never reader.

      Give me one location to get the info.
      Keep the one location up to date.
      Give me depth.

      • ZeeLobby

        And for gods sakes, give everyone an equal number of options. Nothing is more disheartening in a game when you find out the faction you love has half the options another one does.

        • Shawn

          What you want to make Chaos Marines Space Marines? Say it isn’t so? (just pulling your leg Zee!)

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. Oh the struggles of a traitor!

    • ZeeLobby

      The thing is, the AoS condenses all of these in one place for that system, and it’s still confusing as hell. Just by name and image alone, I’d have no clue what each “formation” actually includes, or what it’s purpose is.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        The Formations were a poor fit for AoS. My friends and I don’t use them and we are the better for it.

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah, I don’t think our group would either. I just don’t know why a year in we already need 100 of them. Basic list building and changing it up should have been interesting enough.

      • WellSpokenMan

        AoS is missing the wiki afaik, and hasn’t made the books with the points available as a PDF. Corvus Belli has the model that I’d like to see GW imitate. Rules PDFs are free, fluff ones are not. There is an updated online army builder and an attached updated rules wiki. It takes a complicated game and makes it accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

        • euansmith

          The Army Builder is great; it could just do with a pronunciation guide for the various unit names.

          • WellSpokenMan

            I just try to imitate Carlos from the BoW videos. Al-hua-see-lez for Alguaciles, for example. I admit though, that most of my gaming group calls them guacamoles.

            Carlos reminds me of something else GW could use. A frontman with some personality.

          • euansmith

            They have Duncan Rhodes!

    • Matt Mo

      I personally like how complicated a game like 40k is, that’s why I play it.

      What is bad is poorly written rules, formations that add a bajillion more rules, and lack of play testing, plus some things that could be trimmed down to make the game run more smoothly (I’m looking at you Psychic phase).

      Simplification is not what I want, just trimming of fat so to speak. IE lots of models with tons of different unit types like Burning Chariot of Tzeentch is a Fast Chariot Skimmer .. Bikes and cavalry and beasts are all similar but also slightly different.

      Plus assault is very hard to pull off for armies that have always been “assault” armies like Orks, Dark Eldar, Chaos Marines, Tyranids, Blood Angels.. That’s why I think some aspects of anti-CC should be toned down.. Maybe make a unit pass a leadership pass to fire overwatch, remove some of the penalties of charging through terrain or, alternatively, give more units access to assault grenades

      PS if GW is reading, PLZ don’t AoS 40k.. We like it how it’s complex. That’s why it’s been around forever and that’s why people play.

  • Graham Roden

    In my experience the simpler ruled games lead to more fun and challenging games. Bolt action and dust both have simple core rules and both are fantastic to play. 40k is still awesome but I do hope GW simplify and streamline the game. Use Epic and HH for the complex rules, put 40k into beer and pretzels territory. Sadly not everyone will be happy but if it gets fresh blood into the game who cares what the long beards think?

    • Shawn

      Well technically, isn’t 40k already in a beer and retzels territory? It’s the ITC, BAO, WAAC Players, and tournament folks that turn it into something it’s not. And while I have fun with other games that have a simpler rule set, some are still complicated to a degree, such as warmachine and D&D. Warhammer can be at that same level and be a great game. I don’t want to see it completely gutted and GW start over, but some fat trimming and streamlining would be in good order.

  • jasonsation

    I think 40k needs to start moving universal rules and weapon profiles out of the rule book and onto cards that go with each unit. I like playing X-wing because I don’t have to flip through the rule book to find out what I can do and what I need to roll for my Spaceships. It’s pretty annoying to have to look for a page in a book that details what I need to roll for my guard Lasguns, and then look for the plasma gunner, and hope I remember the Gets Hot rule. I think the game needs to be streamlined, but also better organized. You see similar organization in Magic the Gathering and it looks like Age of Sigmar is going in that direction.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      putting all the rules, wargear and weapon entries onto the units page in the codex would be a start and eliminate lots of flicking back and forward. Then you could at least photoopy and laminate the unit entries.

      • Shawn

        I don’t think you’d need to go that far Knight, but just cards for faction unit types. You have army builder software such as Army Builder or Battlescribe and it has “create a card” feature. You build your unit, give them all the options you want. leave room for formation information on the card, then print. Boom. Then you create a card for formation abilities and which unit goes to each faction. You have tick boxes, to mark off which individual models in the unit card have died so far. Hmmmm, this gives me an idea ๐Ÿ™‚ Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow?

  • Stealthbadger

    Needlessly complex rule sets are doomed. I love 40k but there is just no justification for the core rules being across multiple books and having USRs needlessly repeat.

    See things like zealot, the definition is basically hatred and fearless. JUST CALL IT HATRED AND FEARLESS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

    • Malevengion

      You’ve got it right with the word “needlessly”. Too many times a special rule will be tossed in there for flavor but doesn’t really impact a game except in a narrow band of circumstances. That just makes more stuff t remember. Your example of having a bunch of different USRs covering the same aspect is a good one.

    • benn grimm

      Totally. The 40k rule book feels like playing one of those old fighting fantasy books at times there’s that much page turning back n forth.

  • Michael Davey

    Go is a simple game, as is checkers. Did Go make 880 million dollars in 2014?

    • Thatroubleshootah

      Go is quite a great deal more complex than checkers. You don’t need special miniatures to play it, so there is no way it could make a billion dollars a year. If, however, you added up the revenue of every go set sold from 400 BCE to present I am quite sure that it would murder the earnings of Games Workshop. A better question might be will Games Workshop be a company in 2416 years.

      • euansmith

        ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Michael Davey

        First, the rules of Go are simpler than those of checkers, but both are simple games. My point is exactly what you said. The reason miniature gaming is such a big deal are all the fancy models. GW and FF want to sell models. If people want variety in models, then there have to be rules to support that variety.

        • Ben_S

          “If people want variety in models, then there have to be rules to support that variety.”

          Really? Why?

          I’ve been enjoying Dragon Rampant, which has rather generic unit types – for instance ‘elite riders’ could cover Chaos Knights, Cold One Knights, HE Dragon Princes, and quite a few more.

          People still like making an Undead army, or an Orc army, or an Elf army, or whatever, but the difference is cosmetic. So long as people want variety in models, that seems sufficient to justify variety in models without the need for different rules.

        • Thatroubleshootah

          the rules of go are simple. The level of stategic thinking required to win against a skilled opponent is not. Two new models don’t necessarily need new rules. In Bolt Action if something is in the category Transport it follows those rules. Make a spiffy new model, call it a transport and follow the transport rules. Simple. fun. easy.

    • WellSpokenMan

      Considering that the places where Go is popular are far more populated than GW’s primary markets of the US and UK, and that Go is far more popular among gamers of all kinds in those regions than it is in GW’s markets, I think it safe to assume that the profits from all Go related materials (which includes entire TV networks) would surpass 880 million.
      This isn’t about Go, this is about X-wing moving past 40k in sales and 40k’s popularity dwindling in the US.

  • Bryan Ruhe

    I haven’t played 40K.

    Why not?

    The rules.

    They are expensive.
    They are unnecessarily long and poorly organized.
    They are very inaccessible.
    Not many people around here play 40K and I’ve NEVER seen any events geared toward teaching new players.

    A rules update, if done correctly, would resolve all of these problems.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      The last one seems to be an issue with your local stores and clubs. If they don’t push a game and draw people in, no one will play it in the long term.

      • Bryan Ruhe

        The 40K players all dried up at my FLGS. Why? The rules. Most of them play Bolt Action now instead. ๐Ÿ™

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          I can’t blame them for playing a better game.

          But games live and die on support. You need to get people excited about 40k (or whatever game). Without excitement, people will always drift away.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          thats sad. I hope GW make some intelligent adjustments and win them back.

    • ZeeLobby

      Amen. Our group is patiently waiting. GW has time.

  • ZeeLobby

    Complex rules CAN be fun AND balanced if they’re consistent and logical. Sadly 40K has just thrown those things out the window. There are so many specific unit rules that are very close to other rules, but are slightly different. I thought they were going back to refocusing the USRs, like giving things FnP instead of some special ability, etc. But then they release a bunch of new stuff that totally ignores them.

    I don’t know. They could fix it, but it needs a total rewrite, and going AoS simple isn’t the solution. Somehow Infinity, WMH, X-Wing, etc. have pretty complex gaming systems (the core rules might be simple, but the interactions are extremely diverse) and they seem to pull it off.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      Infinity is not intuitive and not simple, nor does it hide its complexity.

      Infinity is in the same league as 40k in terms of muddied, overly complex rule systems for games with pretty models.

      To me, Infinity is not an example of the direction the industry is headed in ๐Ÿ™‚

      • euansmith

        I was disappointed when I got to the Hacking rules section and found that it read like the Magic Users’ spell list from D&D. There is no need for all that sort of thing.

        • WellSpokenMan

          Look up Captain Spuds Hacking helper. It’s so slick that I forget that it’s not official. There is also a hacking program guide in the Army builder now, that is way simpler than what is in the rulebook or on the wiki.

          • euansmith

            Thank you. I went for Nomads as they are apparently the “hackiest” faction, and so was disappointed when I got to that section of the rules.

          • WellSpokenMan

            Yeah, Spud’s program is really user friendly. Choose the device type and the target, and all of the available options show up. Select the program and it will give you the details.

      • WellSpokenMan

        Infinity blows 40k away for how easy the rules are to access when you have a question. It’s definitely a lot to wrap your mind around, but when you do have a question, it only takes a minute to look things up.

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          I have to disagree with you about how easy rules are to access. I mean they are better than 40k but that isn’t saying much.

          • WellSpokenMan

            If you bring up the army builder on your phone or on a computer, and you want to know what a rule does, you just click on it and it will take you to the official wiki. For example, Jeanne d’Arc in the PanOceania faction has a fairly complicated and rare set of rules. However, if you click on the rules listed in her profile each one is explained. The hacking rules are very confusing, but as I mentioned to Euan, there is an app for that.
            The game certainly is complicated though, and it has a high mental load due to how unforgiving it is. It’s not for everyone. For me it helped a lot that my local Infinity group is the coolest bunch of guys I’ve met in gaming.

      • Heinz Fiction

        Infinity falls in the very hard to learn, nigh impossible to master category of games…

      • ZeeLobby

        Yeah, I’m least familiar with Infinity’s complexity. I just know a lot of new gamers seem to be picking it up pretty easily locally.

      • DeadlyYellow

        I wish more that GW would take a lesson from CB on game support alone.

    • Aezeal

      AoS is not complex.. playing a good game isn’t simple either though when you have experience.

      • ZeeLobby

        Yeah, def not complex, but the core rules are too simple. That was my point. The complexity you’re talking about is hidden in the hundreds of units unique rules in warscrolls, which I’m not a huge fan of either.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      GW change their design philosophy so often, and there is so little communication between different writers that consistency is never achieved.

      • ZeeLobby

        Which is just horrible for gameplay. I REALLY wish they’d adopt the update factions all at once method.

        • Shawn

          Agreed. All have the writers/designers work as a team. Force them to work together on the codices and then force them to play test it all, and then rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite.

        • Aezeal

          Not realistic.. but would be ideal. They need to do a new ruleset AND update the factions. That way they can delete a lot of the old rules which only exist because some unit had it in a printed codex so had to be taken into account. I’m not saying they should go AoS on 40K but when I hear discussion about some rules of 40K I just am stunned there can be so much bloat in a manual (I must admit I never really saw it like that when considering the 8th edition of WFB but I think that was less bloated than 40K)

          • ZeeLobby

            Why not realistic? I mean GW has a metric ton of resources compared to other companies. Why couldn’t 8th edition drop with digital rules updates for every 40K faction?

          • Aezeal

            I agree it could be done.. but it’s not really how GW seems to be working with 40K so that is why I think it’s not realistic. The fact they’ve been releasing a ton of upgraded codices (or whatever they where) recently and seem to be continueing this in the near future makes me thing they are not contemplating something like this anytime soon. At least I’d guess they wouldn’t bring out a codex and then bring out a revised ruleset which would require a rewritten codex.

          • ZeeLobby

            True. I guess they just didn’t hesitate much with endtimes. Def not saying 40K is at that level yet, but they’ve def shown they can flip the table if need be. Even a re-release of the core codices would be refreshing though, maybe a rethinking of the allies chart.

    • Shawn

      I don’t know that 40k nees a total rewrite, Zee. I think you can get some streamlining and fat trimming with out starting over, which is what a rewrite, essentially is, as they did with Fantasy.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        I think a complete rewrite could be very dangerous for GW.

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    Warmachine, AoS and X-Wing both have simple rules but disperse much of the complexity out to the individual units and upgrade cards. That complexity is hidden from view for new players, who only see a small rulebook and a the rules for the handful of models they play with.

    • ZeeLobby

      Exactly. I’d argue AoS is the same, a lot of the rules being tied to a units entry. That said, AoS’s core is too simple imo.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        X-Wing’s base ruleset is only a little longer (and would be shorter if you remove the pictures).

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah, but those couple pages have some depth. A lot of AoS rules are very wordy, you could probably summarize the 4 pages in one.

          • Shawn

            Everything GW writes is wordy! That’s why there are so many rules problems with 40k!

          • Mike in Melbourne

            Forsooth they verily write in gothic for the universe is dark and full of ye old terror!

      • Ben_S

        Yes, I think people are overestimating the simplicity of AoS for that reason: a lot of the special rules are hidden away on the warscrolls.

        The original purpose of 40k’s USRs was to avoid so many unique special rules, and consolidate what special rules there were in one place, which ought to make things simpler.

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah, that was the idea, even toted by them at one point I think.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          they just didn’t simplify them enough, I think they got all the rules from the codexes in one place, but there are just too many special rules in the different codexes.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      interesting how you and I have come up with pretty much the same areas which need improvement. I think its obvious what needs doing, the question is why can’t GW see it!

  • Thatroubleshootah

    Why are simpler games with minis you have to paint more popular than complex wargames with minis you have to build and paint? People are are lazy/don’t have a lot of time on their hands and don’t perceive building and painting the minis as fun. Everytime I explain to anyone the amount of time it takes me to build and paint a miniature their eyes go glassy and then when I tell them how much all of it costs they are really not interested. Miniature games with complex rules will only ever play to a small segment of the public.
    Of that segment most people are coming to the conclusion that any rule that does not simulate a battle effect is not necessary. Rolling to hit, and rolling to wound and then rolling a save and then rolling a few more saves is not simulating what happened which is a group of dudes shot at another group of dudes. If you want to do that all you need is a hit roll and a save roll. Anything more wastes time and clutters up the sim.

    I don’t want to have to memorize everyone else’s codex. I just want to put my awesomely painted minis on a table, roll some dice and see who catches a bolter round in the face. I think this is not too much to ask.

  • euansmith

    If only Space Marine minis actually looked like this. The proportions are so cool with these guys.

    • WellSpokenMan

      I agree, and I’m more than ready to let heroic scale slide into the past. Lots of people are fond of that look though, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

      • euansmith

        The Stormcast look more Space Mariney because their heads are proportionally smaller; plus they’ve got the height for Space Marineing. It would take balls of steel for GW to change Space Marines over to Storm Cast sized minis; but it could kickstart a buying frenzy among loyal Space Marine fans for true scale Marines.

      • euansmith

        I suppose it is fitting that a cyberpunk game should have an app ๐Ÿ˜€

        • WellSpokenMan

          I just wish I could break the habit of saying that my hacker is “casting” things.

          • euansmith

            ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Dongmaster

      Look at the size of a SM’s head (on the mini) and compare it to how the body must look under the armour.

      They would make Tau look like The Mountain.

  • JonnyRocket

    Battle for Vedros might be GW’s way of testing the “simple rules” waters without investing too much.
    As a casual gamer, I like systems that allow me to play right away without having to set up a whole study session with a big rule book.
    That’s why boardgames are gaining so much terrain. Everything you need to play in a single box and they usually have simple rules so you get to play in only a few minutes.

    • Bryan Ruhe

      Unless they get the distribution sorted, their “test sample” is going to be very small.

    • Shawn

      Really? What board games are you talking about? The only games I know if with simple rules are Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.

  • Heinz Fiction

    40k is a good example for a game that isn’t all that complex, just unnecessarily complicated. So yeah, there is a lot of room for streamlining…

  • Robert Meade

    There is a way to do it right and a way to do it wrong. Just look at board games. There is a huge demand for very simple, elegant rules in a board game that minimize things like downtime for players, but on the other hand you also see deep and crunchy boardgames flourishing (such as those offered by FFG). It all depends on your mood… some days you are in the mood for a comic strip and some days you want to binge watch an HBO miniseries! Board games are just organized into a spectrum of light-heavy and we pick and choose depending on our personal taste and our mood or our schedule.

    Currently 40k is the posterboy for how to do it wrong. think of what it would take to have all the rules for 40k in written form in one place. you would need a mobile bookcase and end up with a pile of codex, big rulebook, forgeworld publications, campaigns, supplements, and white dwarfs. Not only that but there is no game balance or place to look for easy answers and resolve disputes, all of which adds to the complications (since for a playable game you have to reference even more material such as tournament FAQ’s).

    Contrast that with a game like Infinity… which is crunchy, but does many things correct… first and foremost, the units all pick and choose from essentially the same pool of weapons and abilities, that are all located in one place, and online in wiki format. There are many weapons and abilities to remember but at least once you learn them, you are done! So Infinity might be streamlined in some respects, but it’s also very complex.

    • SeekingOne

      That is until you remember that in terms of models, units and armies the whole Infinity has less variety than the Imperium-aligned factions of 40k alone.

  • Painjunky

    As someone who knows a lot of school teachers, both primary and secondary, attention spans are shrinking but so is general knowledge, science, literacy and numeracy skills.

    If something requires more than a google search to access and understand it is quickly rejected.

    Games are obviously reflecting this long term trend. Sad.

  • DeathBy SnuSnu

    Streamlined doesn’t mean simpler as the article states. Streamlined rules mean better designed rules imho. You can still have complex interactions, without complex rules (Go being the excellent example used).

    GW have in the past, for most of their systems have relied on complex rules to produce complex interactions. This was why I was initially interested in AoS, before it became clear that the actual rules they had were streamlined to the point of being uninteresting. GW rules are also hampered constantly by market pressures. They’re forced to keep selling rulebooks and army books, so their games tend towards layers of rules, with special exceptions for each new army book. This is a terrible way to design any game.

    I think the popularity of ‘Euro’ style board games also shows this nicely. A Euro style game focuses on a few core mechanics and typically uses them to produce clever interactions between the players, with many of the classic Euro style games being interesting to play for years. I’m enjoying the Renaissance that war gaming seems to be experiencing at the moment, with many clear, clean but clever rule sets in the market. Unfortunately it really does highlight how old GW style rules are though.

  • Aezeal

    I liked 4th till 8th.. but when I started playing at 16 I had lots of free time during my last high school years and still some during uni. Now that is all finished and I just have way less time (work, wife, kids and the other obligations you get) and I don’t have time to dig into a 200 page rule book or play 5 hour games. AoS now fits me better than 8th did last years.. I’d still like 8th if AoS wasn’t there, but now I can actually play more games since I don’t have to finish work early (which is not really doable) to play a 4-5 hour game and I CAN play a 3 hour game in the store after a work day (on Thursday that is) and still be home in time to get SOME sleep before working on Fridays.

  • ctFallen

    I enjoy simple games for fillers but for me I always enjoy games with more meat on their bones more than simpler games. The more complex games are the ones that stick with me thru the years. While the simpler games come and are fun for a little while I tend to get bored with them much quicker.

    Even if the majority of people prefer simpler games there will always be people who don’t so there will still be market for more complex games.

    Look at board games, I wouldn’t say over all they have gotten simpler in this big explosion in popularity. Yes most are more concise, use better mechanics and the rulebooks are better on whole but I wouldn’t say most are simpler(some are) than they used to be. For awhile Twilight struggle was no 1 on BGG(now #2 and was beat by pandemic legacy) and thats not the simplest of games to pick up for a casual player. Also there are alot of popular HEx and Counter, block wargames coming out and some would seem complicated to non-waragmers but still sell out pretty quickly like the COIN games or Empire of the Sun.

  • Fomorian

    The author forgot to mention Kings of War, Deadzone and Frostgrave, especially the last one is the best miniatures game of 2o15 and got some awards this year also . Kings of War is a very good example of a streamlined and easy to learn, but hard to master ruleset :)! I think other factors are freetime, everybody have to decide what to do with it, the offers today are really huge (Video games, boardgames, Ccardgames, rpgs and tabletops). Only time will tell :).

  • Dan T

    Streamlining. The word that devastated the video game industry for years after CoD took off. Ruined a lot of good series. It might not be quite applicable here, but ‘appealing to mass market’ isn’t always healthy.

  • David

    I’m trying very hard to figure out what you guys think is complex about 40k…
    As someone who grew up on AD&D, then moved into Rifts and MtG (yes, the hated magic) – 40k is pretty easy. It requires you to read a bit… and remember some things. Then, if something comes up *gasp* you look it up.
    Between 2 players you need 3 books – the BRB which has a bunch of rules… but if you don’t know 90% of them off the top of your head, read….
    Then each army has a book (or 2…) and another dozen? Rules.
    I’m failing to see how everyone is saying it’s “SOOOOOO Complex”.
    Honestly, if you can navigate the menu at Starbucks….

    • usGrant7977

      Don’t forget the 2 other allied codicies and/or formations. The formations are from the internet, White Dwarfs or a campaign module. Please also bring a printed copy of the 5 or 6 relevant FAQs. It’s easy ya boobs! Ye olde Grognards remember when you had to walk up hill , through the snow just for a chance to see someone play Battletech!

      Sorry for the last 2 sentences, just had to. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      Ive been playing for 30years, and play a game every week, so you’d think I’d know the game pretty well. I’m a pretty smart guy and majority of the people I play against are educated to phd level, some are even professors. Yet I would say at least half of games end with someone remembering a rule we forgot to use that might have changed the result. Others start with a conversation about how we will interpret all the unclear rules this game. Every game is interrupted frequently by looking things up. When that is the case, you know the rules are overly complex or at least badly presented.

    • SeekingOne

      My thoughts exactly…
      I heard many people complaining that playing a game of 40k takes too long (over 3 hours), and blame that on the complexity of rules. Which looks like an extremely strange position, because 40k can be played on a variety of scales, and a game of 1000 pts can be easily played in less than 2 hours. But for some reason noone seems to do that…

  • disqus_dcbZY0MiwM

    A friend and I recently returned to 40K to play in a tournament after years of being away playing other games like Warmachine. As previous 40K veterans we were blown away by the amount of complexity added to the game since we last played. It seems like it has evolved over time and just piled on more and more complexity with each new edition. The missions especially just seemed so confusing and unnecessarily complex.

    If GW came out with a solid streamlined version of the core rules I could easily get back in to the game. It has the best imagery and fluff hands down IMO and that’s the thing that’s keeping people there.

  • disqus_dcbZY0MiwM

    I feel like GW are a little trapped as far as innovating their rules and making major changes by they way their release schedule works. New editions always have to be able to accomodate the rules in existing codices. To truly streamline the rules I think they’d need do something similar to what PP have done with Warmachine MK3 where they took the time to rebalance the entire game, every single model. As mammoth a task as that would be.

    • Dongmaster

      Except they didn’t.

      When your mini base is that huge, balance will never occur. Close yes but not balance.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        Close is good enough. Close would be excellent compared to what we have now.

  • Mike in Melbourne

    Easy to play, difficult to master.

    Games like Xwing fall into that category and that’s great. More streamlining the better.

  • Rufus Der Eisenhans

    I would rather have a slightly complex ruleset than have every army having super special shiny rules that are almost identical to the rules from the main rulebook bar, one tiny little thing.

    The Main Rules should contain ALL Universal Special rules, for every army. There is no need for, It will not die, Feel No Pain and the Resurrection Protocol, which all do the same sort of thing.

    Each codex adds in a tonne of special rules that you cant know unless you have one of their armies. That there, is bad rule writing for balance.

    Were it me, I would want a solid core ruleset, with little to no unique rules in the Armybooks, or Dataslates, or Battlescrolls or whatever.

  • nurglitch

    Players want elegance and usability. Complexity vs simplicity is beside the point.

  • SeekingOne

    I’m pretty sure that the popularity of X-Wing is caused not so much by ‘quality’ of its ‘streamlined’ ruleset, but rather by the fact that models are not too expensive and – most importantly – that they come PRE-PAINTED.

    I mean, honestly – when you start a new 40k army, even if you’re content with assembling and painting your models really fast and to a relatively poor quality, it will still be at least about 1-2 months before you can field a fully painted force of even 1000 pts. And, unless you’re a talented artist, that force would look like crap – and if the main thing that got you into the game were the fantastic models, that probably wouldn’t be the result you want. It takes a really patient and dedicated person to get through this initial period.

    X-Wing on the other hand is a game based on pre-made gaming pieces, which half-decently represent units from the Star Wars movie. Compared to a neatly assembled and painted to a good tabletop quality 40k model an X-Wing model looks downright horrible. But X-Wing players don’t care all that much about it, because all models are the same – your models are the same as your opponent’s, and both are the same as the ones pictured in rulebooks/catalogues/etc. What matters here is that you can buy a bunch of stuff, and literally on the same night throw it down onto a table and start playing. Of course this is, like, infinitely easier than getting into 40k.

    What I’m trying to say is that the complexity of rules as such is absolutely not the primary (and maybe not even the secondary) factor here. Rather, it’s the overall delay between the moment when you bought your new toys and the moment you can start playing them – the smaller it is, the easier the game will attract new players. Which is exactly why boardgames and card games are so popular. In this regard X-Wing cannot even really be compared to 40k – it is not a true miniature game, but rather a board game supplied with more complex-shaped pieces. And rulesets have very little to do with it.

  • AstraWlad

    Having an experience of design and playtest of a board game myself I can say that there are a handful of pretty simple rules one can use to decide whether the rules are to be simplified or not:
    1. If players constantly forget about some rule or dice roll (be it in the general or special rules) — get rid of this rule or roll.
    2. If even after a dozen of games players still routinely check some rule in the book or are asking you as a host about it — get rid of this rule or simplify it.
    3. If you see players bored with some dice roll — get rid of this dice roll or change it into something more enjoyable.
    4. Put as much information at the board in form of markers alongside a miniatures and some sort of info-cards for your players to be always informed without any need to look at the books (including codexes).
    5. Make rules consistent. Do not change any standard behavior for _some_ models (units) even if you think it is a good idea. Because it is not.

    I think now GW goes this way. I hope we will see a more comprehensible (and memorizable) WH40k rules in a year or so.