Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Confessions of a Rules Junkie

I’ve wanted to write this blog entry for some time now. I have not had the time, or I thought there were more interesting things to add to my blog, like my various projects and such. Well, after getting my latest set of rules in the mail the other day, I felt it needed to be done. "Hello, my name is Chris and I’m a Rules Junkie." I buy rules, I download free rules, I do whatever I can to obtain wargaming rules. For many of these rules, I will read once or twice and never look at them again.

Why do I do it?Why waste the time and money? I’ve thought about this long and hard.The main answer I can come up with is that I am on a spiritual journey to rules enlightenment.Or maybe its a quest for the Holy Grail, or the golden fleece of rules. My quest for the perfect rules has changed over time. Early in my gaming career, I was hung up on the technical side of things. Realism was everything. I wanted rules that would take into account the effect of an armor-piercing shell at a 38 degree angle on a side rivet of the turret of a German Pz 38(t) at 300 meters, or the accuracy of a 250 pound bomb dropped from a Douglas SBD dive bomber after it had been hit in the rudder by one shell of a 25mm AA gun fired by a jittery gunner from a Japanese destroyer that is turning to avoid the oncoming spread of six torpedoes, or the effect of a falchion when used as a thrusting weapon on chainmail covered by a gambeson…you get the idea.

Today, my journey is three fold. I am searching for rules that will give the most realism in command and control, that has the highest degree of playability without sacrificing a lot of realism, and/or can be easily used for solo gaming. If I hear any hints of rules whose mechanics are rumored to be tops along those lines, like a zombie to brains, I am drawn to them and compelled to order them. I try very hard to stick to my areas of interest, but if I hear of rules that are really outstanding, I will get them. For example, I read a post on TMP that polled readers as to which set of rules they thought were the most playable and fun. The consensus seemed to be the colonial rules The Sword & the Flame. So, what did I do? I ordered them! I don’t even play colonial games! But I had to see what these rules were all about. Maybe they would be the key to everything! This is it folks…it will all be revealed to me once I turn to page one and start reading! The quest is over! such luck. They look pretty good, there is raw material I can use, and if I were to get into colonial gaming, these are the ones I'd use, but did I really have to buy them? No, not really.

So far, I have managed to draw the line at board games and really expensive rules.I have read where people have adopted the rules or rule mechanics from various board games for the tabletop. I used to play a lot of board games long ago. Nowadays, the cost of board games is way too high for me to justify getting them, as tempting is it might be. Also, I will not pay for rules that are at or above the $50 range. Up to this point, I think the highest I’ve paid has been $40, and that was for only one set.

More and more, I will buy the pdf format to cut down on costs. I am still old school when it comes to rules. I don’t need hard covers or glossy photographs. I try to avoid rules where you have to buy a bunch of supplements to play the game. I only buy the latest edition of a rule set if I absolutely love the previous edition and there have some major changes that merit the new edition. I can think of only two or three sets of rules in my collection where I have more than one edition. I am sure I am not the only one out there that is a rules junkie. I do enjoy reading them, and with one or two exceptions, I have not been terribly disappointed by what I got. Nonetheless, I need to really put the brakes on the rules purchases. I really enjoy my hobby, but I don’t have unlimited funds. Plus, my carefree days of bachelorhood are long behind me. Many things like the need for bigger and better stereo equipment (that must date me!), or the purchases of music and movies are long gone. I’ve noticed that I don’t really miss those things. For example, my wife and I still happily use the same TV we got as a wedding present 13 years ago. Each Christmas time, we talk about getting a new TV, but we never do. With the mounds of minis that need to be painted and the collection of rulebooks, I think I can taper off the spending side of things a little and still have a happy hobby life. Maybe its about time I come up with my own, free rules. Maybe that will break the habit.


  1. I've often equated my own fascination with buying and reading rules for games I'll never play with my wife's similar habits with cookbooks. Even if you don't make the recipe, there's little things--tips, ideas, concepts--that can be ported over to other projects. Plus you never know when you'll want to serve creme brulee.

    It's interesting that you specify the solo option for wargaming. That's gotten to be a bigger point of value for me over the last year or two as I weigh how much I enjoy the FLGS scene.

  2. That's a good observation. I've never thought of it like that.

    Yeah, solo gaming has become more important, more by necessity than be choice. A friend of mine and I tried to start a wargame club, but we just couldn't generate much interest.

  3. I was a huge rules junkie also. Being in the Navy
    for years, buying rules was my way of "being in
    the hobby". I have resolved to clean out all
    rules that are just placeholders in the boxes.
    Yes, in the 80's I wanted the detail oriented
    rules. Now, more playability is better.

  4. Jim, there are days when I am very tempted to sell of all the ones that are just taking up space, but then I think that a) I probably wouldn't get much for them and its not worth the trouble, and b) you never know when you might want to reread them again. I do the same thing with novels. I can't seem to part with them even though its pretty obvious that I won't re-read them again.