What LittleWarsTV is doing WRONG

I love the new vlog Little Wars TV. Compared to many other vlogs they’re doing most things right. They’re – apparently – independent; experienced; entertaining; and interested in history. Beasts Of War, now On TableTop, is totally the opposite: a marketing channel for kickstarters and the games industry, all reviews are positive, all vlogs are advertorials. However LWTV’s reviews are wrong.

Again, most aspects of LWTV reviews are quite right. The games they have reviewed are peer reviewed; they play a wargame more than once, with different players; they use a weighted rating system; and they give arguments for their opinions. Still their reviews lack structure and comparison. ‘Just being better’ than others is not good enough, not good enough is not right, not right is wrong. Sorry, my friends.

More precisely, they have broad categories, presentation, playability, mechanics, historical flavour and support, that they rate 1-10. Check their methodology, here

  • presentation is: is it looking good? – 10%
  • playability is: is it easy to learn, how few miniatures do you need, can you play it within 2-3 hours, are the rules clear? – 30%
  • mechanics is: are the mechanics innovative and not (too) random – 30%
  • historical flavour: are the tactics in line with the period: does it play as you expect: are the tactics well-researched? – 20%
  • is the rulesystem supported by a community and/or by the authors/company? Is the support free? – 10%

LWTV reviewed Chain of Command, Force on Force, Combat Patrol and Disposable Heroes II, all platoon level modern games. I wondered.

  • Why is the special command & control system of CoC and the randomized movement worse than the IGOUGO system and reaction system of FoF?
  • Why does FoF get very high marks for the hard-cover book, while the hard-cover is out of print? Why on the other hand is the presentation score of Disposable Heroes negatively influenced because of the fact that one of the reviewers just doesn’t like hardcover?
  • The reviewers complained that for FoF they had to consult a lot of rules over and over again, that the game lasted quite long and that some rules are very granular. Why is it playable?
  • Why is Combat Patrol Steves most favorite WW2 game, while he is jus as positive about FoF? And why is DH2 also his most favorite WW2 game?
  • Is the FoF system with different dice (beat a value with d4-d6-d8-d10-d12) superior to CoC D6-system with modifiers or Combat Patrols card drawing system? Is Combat Patrol innovative or just WW2-Magic the Gathering?
  • How often did the club play FoF? The vlodcast says twice a year, how many games did the reviewers play?
  • If innovation is influencing playability and mechanics, shouldn’t it be a separate category?
  • historical flavour is sometimes tactics, sometimes a ‘feel’, sometimes ‘the (limited) ability to coordinate your troops and sometimes a special mechanic. But then it should be a sub-part of mechanics, isn’t it?
  • Why is the Combat Patrol’s very mediocre website rated as good? Because the designer is a friendly guy trying hard?

In the end, the aggregated scores for the 4 games are:

  • CoC 69 (give it a try)
  • Disposable Heroes (written by one of the club members) 74 (highly recommended)
  • Force on Force 77 (highly recommended)
  • Combat Patron (70, highly recommended)

But the deviation is quite high. CoC is reviewed by 6 gamers and scores between 44 and 100. Disposable Heroes 2 is reviewed by just 3 gamers, scores 69, 70 and 84. The high 77 rating is too much influenced by reviewer Josh.

LWTV accentuates”innovation” but doesn’t say a word about the dice statistics and how they influence the game. Or the scale conversion. In many WW2 games the ranges are skewed to adjust them to the standard 6×4 table. Historically that’s nonsense. Is skewing a plus to playability? Or is it negative in the historical flavour category?

As I see it, the ‘methodology’ is more a topic list with talking points in a logical order. I like the intelligent chat in the LWTV-vodcast about historical wargames and after each review I have a short impression of the game.

For a vodcast, the show is doing fine. I like how they are promoting the lesser known, original games and how this vodcast promotes the fun of the historical miniatures hobby. Oldfashioned roll to hit, roll to wound, roll for morale-games might however be more playable and better just because they follow the standard dice mechanics of wargaming..

So for serious reviews I think I prefer written blogs, like for example Deltavector that does a very good job. I’m exploring how to write an informative, professional wargame review, The LWTV-list is not bad but I hope to do it better myself, some day.

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