“WOT! NO COLOUR” I hear you cry. It’s a funny old world at present. It seems to me that the quality of a set of rules is now based on how colourful it is, how high the “production values” are, rather than what the rules actually do. Indeed I am constantly amazed these days by the number of rule reviews that rave about a new set that then say at the end “I can’t wait to try these”. Rather like Jeremy Clarkson reviewing the latest Aston Martin without driving it.
It is very noticeable that many of the glossy publications that were being lauded a year ago are now no longer heard of; no game reports in magazines or on-line, no vibrant discussion forums, just silence, despite the perceived “high production values” that were all the mode a short time ago. It is noticeable, but it ain’t shocking. It is representative of the current emphasis in the hobby press on style above substance, and a year on it is proof that the wargaming public are not fooled.
Yes, we all splash out occasionally on something that looks fantastic and promises the earth, especially when XYZ magazine foams at the mouth about it, but when it turns out to be complete tosh we do not slavishly keep gaming it; we discard it an go on to something better. In truth what appeared to have “high production values”, that glittering, shiny object that caught the eye of the magazine editor who then reviewed “the sizzle and not the sausage”, was in fact fools gold.
It is my belief that when producing a set of rules “Production values” should be about how well the rules are themselves produced, not the paper they are printed on. How much time is spent on research, how much time is spent playtesting, how clearly they are set out. This is what truly makes a quality product.
Do I want a return to the days of the grubby A5 pamphlet? No, of course I don’t, and if I am honest our rules are produced on high quality glossy paper, and some even have glossy covers, however I do say that the product, i.e. the rules themselves and the resultant game, should be more important than what they look like when you first flick through them.
I am sure that there are some truly excellent rules out there that comply with the principles that I have mentioned above; yes they are brilliantly researched, yes, they have been play-tested to death, they give a great game and yes, the DO have lovely colour pictures in them. If I am again honest I did take a look at producing our latest set of rules, Le Feu Sacre in full colour. Napoleonics is a fantastically colourful period and we could get some great shots to tart things up no-end. But no matter how I attempted to square the circle, the rules were just the same, and ultimately the choice for the gamer would then be to pay £12 for the rules or to pay twice as much or more for the same product plus a few jazzy snaps. Rather like paying twice as much for your car because the salesman threw in the album of his holiday photos with his missus in a bikini.
So, you’re right, there are no colourful photos in our rules, but what there are is rules that conform to our ideas of “high production values” that do not cost an arm and a leg to buy. So come on you magazine editors out there, why not actually play the rules before reviewing them, and then comment on the game they produce rather than on just how shiny they are. Is that too much to ask?
There are some dates or events in the wargames calendar which mark special or memorable day; Crisis in Antwerp is always the first date on the wall planner in the Lard Island Office, the Lardy Games days across the UK are always next. But sometimes a day comes along which is unique and deserves celebrating