When writing any game the first thing to do is to pick a topic and set some goals and boundaries to help make the necessary choices and decisions. When looking at wargames, these come from a desire to simulate or recreate some experience of a real world conflict situation, or in the case of fantasy or science fiction, something from literature or movies. This could be the experience of a commander of a division or platoon, admiral of a fleet, or pilot of a plane. In some cases it can be more abstract, such as the response of an number of individuals without a real world equivalent in the position of the players. This ‘prototype challenge’ involves decisions on the strategy or tactics, possibly logistics, economics, motivation and psychology of the troops, etc. and is what players usually look for in these types of games.

When it comes to creating a game for such a player experience we need rules to simulate that experience. This means that players are not only tackling the challenges presented by the prototype situation, but at the same time need to deal with the game mechanics used to simulate this situation. The game design challenge lies in the fact that if you want to recreate or represent the prototype concept accurately and in detail, you need a lot of rules, which will require players to refer more to rule books, tables with modifiers, special rules, etc. which takes them away from the situational challenges and confronts them with the game mechanics. On the other hand, if the game mechanics are simple enough to play without constantly referring to the rules, it is often too simplistic to accurately represent the situational challenges and the results are counter intuitive, restrictive, strange or plain wrong. As both extremes destroy the experience we intend to create, a balance must be found.

Choices for For Reign or Ruin

With respect to the concept of the game. I wanted a set of rules for large scale fantasy wargames where the player feels like a general commanding his or her army of thousands. Nothing new, I know, but I want the game to focus primarily on normal troops with a firm footing in medieval and ancient history, without the fantasy aspects of monsters, heroes and magic becoming dominant.

The challenges of a general are in command rather than in coordinating and doing the fighting. It is the tactical situation combined with the level of information and control that defines the options and challenges of leading an army, and this is where I wanted the game challenge to be as well. As the commander you have to be in the right place, give the right orders at the right time to the right sub-commander or unit in order to win the battle without micromanaging the troops. Then you can only hope the troops will actually do what you ordered them to do and perform as you expect.

What are your thoughts on the balance between accuracy and playability? What do you find more important in a game? As the whole reason behind a game is the player, next time something on player engagement.