In defense of simple games

The Cape Cod Wargame Commission finished up our Eclipse Phase 2.0 adventure last Tuesday evening. For the final battle, the Firewall team was reinforced with two additional Agents – a Combat Medic and Scout/Soldier – (Mike D and Liam) as they infiltrated an abandoned war-tech bunker in the Titan Quarantine Zone. The Planetary Consortium and Firewall HQ were on the verge of taking radical, potentially devastating action in order to stop the spread of proscribed weaponry and fork-napped consciousnesses. (they had been infected with the Exsurgent virus and were spreading into the solar system) This was a last ditch effort to excise the threat with minimal loss of life.

The Team L->R: Mike E’s Leader, Mike D’s Medic, Matt’s Infiltrator in a giant robotic snake body, Pat’s soldier with very handy rail rifle, John’s cyber-war specialist, and Liam’s Scout/Soldier.

Working against the clock, (contingency plan was an imminent nuclear strike) the team had to hack three terminals in order to seal the vault doors on the underground armory/storage servers. Throwing any social pleasantries or clever puzzle-solving to the harsh Martian winds, this mission was a straight up brawl. Enemies spawned as the critical locations were approached.

The mission itself went well as players fought off ever-more lethal enemies while they hard-jacked into the objective terminals. The countdown, some serious gun play, a particularly vicious close combat encounter where Mike E’s leader had to dive off a 2-story platform to get away from a trio of cyborgs all combined to make an action-packed evening.

However, I thought the post-game discussion was even more engaging.

“I’m here for a good time, not necessarily a long time.”

Final Verdict – TL:DR version: Eclipse Phase is a phenomenal sci-fi setting. The rule book is incredibly inspiring and an extremely cool resource. The game’s rules are in my opinion, convoluted and unnecessarily complicated.

Again, that’s personal opinion and not meant to slag those that enjoy heavy detail, high-complexity rule sets. As previously mentioned, I openly admit I’m at the ‘beer-n-pretzel’ end of the gaming spectrum. Nerdity has gone firmly mainstream in the past decade or so and I’ve discovered there are tons of people who want to get together and game. Really. Far more than when I was a kid.

Thing is now, the busyness of modern life means most of them simply do not have the bandwidth for a deep investment. Which is why I prefer simple games.

Perhaps ‘simple’ is the wrong word. It has connotations of ‘simplistic’, which is not what I mean. Chess, Go, Abalone are ‘simple’ games. Maybe ‘elegant’ or ‘efficient’ are better descriptors. Smooth. Streamlined.

I think Neighbor Mike summed it up best when he said our group ‘doesn’t play rules as much as play genres.’ (cyberpunk, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, alien invasion, horror…) That’s not to say we ignore rules – we just view them as guidelines. Adjustable scaffolding for our adventures.

So Eclipse Phase will go back on the shelf as a fond memory and future resource. Next up is Mork Borg, (maybe Cy Borg if my KS pledge ever arrives) an Insurgent Earth mini-campaign, a trip to the Ninth World of Numenera, and of course more Nightmares play tests.

Shameless Plug

Big shock – my games (Zona Alfa, Kontraband, Exploit Zero series, Nightwatch, Insurgent Earth, and the upcoming When Nightmares Come) are all designed to be simple, miniature-agnostic rule sets for busy gamers. Read the book in an afternoon, run the game with your friends that night. The rules lean into solo and cooperative play and are designed with a shallow learning curve that lets you get miniatures on the table fast and start rolling dice.

You can learn more about them HERE.

Thanks for stopping by. Have an excellent day.

6 thoughts on “In defense of simple games

    1. Hi Pete. Good to hear from you.
      Simple not simplistic is key. Admittedly, a table top war game demands higher degree of complexity, but IMO, the challenge is to create something that’s ‘easy to learn – tough to master’.
      I need detail and distinctions for thematic flavor, absolutely. But I’m convinced that kind of granularity needs to worked in on the front end by the designer. Baked into the game’s structure rather than piled in as bookkeeping for the gamer.
      Writing, GMing, or playing, I always want to keep the action moving, keep the game flowing with minimal interruption. Wind it up then let it go.
      (I’ll get off my hobby horse now)
      Have a great rest of the week.

  1. I agree with this sentiment. I’ve been playing smaller and shorter wargames. Also, I’ve built simpler Commander decks for Magic the Gathering that play faster instead of building complex combos that take too long

    1. Have friends into MTG but I don’t know it myself. At all.
      It’s competitive, correct? Does the lack of complex combos effect your chance to win? Or do short, sharp plays reflect a play style with inherent advantages?

      1. Magic can competitive like match play in Warhammer. I learned complex game states don’t always win, but they always take more time to play and the other player is stuck watching. Since I game with others less, I want everyone to have a good time.

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