Captain Dave’s Top 10 Requests For Wargame Designers & Developers

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I’ve been playing at least one new wargame a week for many years. Over time, I’ve seen some things that I really like and I’ve also seen some things I’d like game designers and developers to stop doing. This is a compilation of the top suggestions I have for game designers and developers. If you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to post it in the comments section below.

10) Have people who aren’t your friends or relatives read your entire rulebook and then watch them try to play your game. This will quickly bring to light the areas of your rulebook that are not crystal clear. In addition, they can be honest and give an accurate appraisal of your game since they don’t know you. It’s best to find out that your game is unplayable and boring BEFORE you decide to publish it. Your friends or relatives won’t tell you this, since they care about your feelings.

9) Ensure that there is a player’s aid card for each player. This should contain a DETAILED sequence of play and all the charts and tables needed to play your game. If you don’t do this, the players will constantly be passing the rulebook back and forth, which slows down the game and is annoying. If your game only has a few charts, consider putting them on the map.

8) Make sure the back of the game box has an accurate appraisal of the complexity of the game along with the typical time it takes to play. Some people like low complexity, some like medium and some like high. If you say a game is low complexity and it isn’t, some of the people who buy it will not be to figure out how to play it. If you’re not sure of the complexity level, ask the subset of your playtesters who are not your friends or relatives. Are you starting to see a pattern about using playtesters who are not your friends or relatives?

7) If you have a medium or high complexity game, you should consider having an example of play section in the rules. There have been numerous occasions where I read a rulebook and wasn’t sure how to play until I read the example of play section in the rules. You usually don’t have to have an entire game in the example of play section. A quarter or half a game is probably enough. If you want to really impress your customers, considering posting a play through of an entire game on Youtube and put the URL in your rulebook.

6) When a wargamer spends big bucks on your game, they expect to be able to play it many times so they can get a good return of investment. One way to do this is to have numerous scenarios. If you’re simulating a specific battle, you may have to use what-if scenarios. Don’t be afraid to be creative here. If multiple scenarios don’t seem feasible for your game, consider optional rules instead. This will at least give some more variation in plays.

5) Put the starting hex number on the counter for any units that begin the game in a specific location on the map.

4) Put a bar code on the game’s packaging. Many game shops don’t like to carry products without bar codes. A bar code allows the cashier at the game shop to scan your item to put it into inventory when it’s received. In addition, the item is automatically removed from the inventory database when it’s scanned at the counter and purchased. This means that the storeowner doesn’t have to do inventory every week to see what needs to be ordered. He can simply look at a report on the computer to see what has to be ordered.

3) If your game has more than a dozen random events, please put the events along with their effects on cards. It’s ok for a magazine, folio or microgame to put events on chits that you draw out of a cup and then have a lookup table in the rulebook. It’s not ok to do this with a big box game that costs $60 – $100.

2) Please have more science fiction and fantasy based wargames. Purists may call these hex and chit “Adventure games”. The best thing about these “Adventure games” is you don’t have to worry about historical accuracy and can instead concentrate on making the game fun and balanced.

1) Last, please have more games that are suitable for beginners and market them as such. Most of the wargamers I know are middle-aged or senior citizens. This hobby will go extinct if we do not get new blood into this hobby and soon. The best beginner games are low-complexity games with a small rule set that can be played in an hour or less. You’re not going to get the young crowd interested in this hobby by marketing high-complexity games to them. Get them hooked with easy, but fun games and then introduce them to progressively more complex games.

6 Comments

  1. Please let us know what suggestions you have for wargame designers and developers.

    Reply
    • Make a wargame for the stones of Shannara. A cold war battles system game for the Iran-Iraq war, Lebanon, The Balkans conflict, Chaco

      Reply
  2. I like point #10. It’s not easy being a beginner at this hobby and the two of us have found rules about one thing in a different location and no text linking the two together. After a few under my belt, I have started to scan the common stuff for oddities and start playing from the top of the game turn phase outline. Publishers might benefit from having a new player approach / orientation to these games available. I see a lot of posts asking for gateway games, which they just need to learn the fundamental mechanics of games. And honestly don’t know why designers are not required to make a video of one of the test games or write up a walk through of there game to show the work flow.

    Reply
  3. Try employing someone with professional editing experience. If you can afford to pay graphic designers to design the look of your game, you can afford a professional editor to ensure that your rules read clearly and are logically organised.

    Reply
  4. Similar to what Stephen wrote, have someone with writing skills (in the language the game rules are written in) at least proof read the text and correct spelling and grammatical errors. There’s no excuse for them. Maybe hire someone with experience writing operating manuals edit your text. Such people know how to get the point across but be simple and succinct.

    Reply
  5. How about an SF COIN game based on Dune? You could have four or more factions, like the Atreides, Harkonnens, Empire, Fremen, and others. Or, how about a game on Angola civil war back in the ’70s (or 80s?)? COIN system would seem perfect for that.

    Reply

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