Sunday, March 13, 2011

Die Fighting, part I: Bob Jones' implicit theology

I received in the mail the latest work of Bob Jones, of Piquet fame. It's Die Fighting, a ruleset for the Horse and Musket period 1700-1900. Before I write a review, which will probably take a separate post, and after, as a full disclaimer, I mention that Bob is a good friend, companion in several good meals and sparking chats, I have to say a few words about Bob Jones' implicit "theology." By that I mean the views about wargaming, rules writing, and combat that lie at the heart of a rules writer's work. In the "Die Fighting" Foreword, Pat McGuire offers many interesting remarks about Bob's style, and in the very same spirit I want to add one though or two to the excellent points made by Pat.

There are at least three core ideas that shape Bob Jones rules:
  • he writes games where players face several crucial decision-node points. In this respect, Piquet was widely and wildly misunderstood. In Bob's games, you have a chance to act on your own turn, phase or card, but you also need to consider opportunities to act at any other moment, oftentimes directly challenging the actions undertaken by your opponent.

  • he writes game that reflect the chaotic nature of the battlefield, where you seldom have a clear picture of the whole situation, where circumstances change suddenly and radically, and where your seldom have control of the events when the battle unfold.

  • he writes games where leadership is fundamental, but it is also a scarce resource. Either in the composition of a sequence deck, a' la Piquet, or in the tally of Resource Dice, as in Die Fighting, Bob's rules provide you some latitude for action, but a latitude which is not unlimited. Doing something now usually means that you will not be able to do something later. Maddening, for those of us used to linear, I-go-You-go sequences of play: but a mechanism which is a wonderful engine of excitement and uncertainty in the game!
On this backdrop of gaming "philosophy", on to Die Fighting: any fully successful creation that delivers exactly what it promise to accomplish! In the next post, a preliminary review, following a reading of the rules before my first playtest.

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