Since some time I have been looking for a method, a more systematic way of reviewing wargame rules. Many rules are hypes: a new kickstarter gets the attention, a well known company promotes a new set of miniatures accompagnied by a ruleset, or a well known game designer with a group of followers publishes a new ruleset.
Test of Honour was published last year by Warlord after they acquired the Samurai range from Wargames Factory. Is it better than, say, Ronin, by Osprey? Or the free Samurai Knight Fever, via Wargame Vault, written by seasoned rule writer Todd Kershner? My favorite rule writer is Sam Mustafa, but is his grandscale ‘Rommel’, a hexed tabletop game, better than Pendraken’s Rick Priestly/Warmaster-inspired Blitzkrieg Commander, or companyscale I Ain’t Been Shot Mum? Can I compare I Ain’t Been Shot Mum with Flames of War? But how? With a topic list or a historical scenario?
Online reviews don’t really help. Many are fanreviews of just battle reports. “We had a nice game of XXX which has many good and some bad points and we will soon play a second game and this is what we really liked”. Or short entries in a forum like The Miniatures Page. Just a few bloggers are reliable.
One of the blogs that I visit infrequently is Deltavector. I admire his insights about wargame design, but today I discovered that he writes reviews with the help of a standardized topic list. Here’s his list.
- Activation system (description, good/bad)
- Combat system (ibidem)
- Rulebook (price, layout, clarity, fluff, supplements needed?)
- Advanced rules (unit builder and/or scenario’s included?)
He mentions the rule family (‘belongs to the WH40K/Bolt Action rule family’) and often comments on the logic or (dis)advantages of certain game mechanisms. He doesn’t ‘test’ or review the ‘battlefield realism’ or the ‘historical veracity’ of a ruleset, he’s more into skirmish games. But a good example of a good reviewer he is.