Duel of Ages, or, Setting up

Game design is a tension-filled endeavor, rife with competing forces. In technical terms, we call this “Simulationism vs Gamism.” Less obscurely, it’s the question of “accuracy” vs playability. You want your game to represent its subject as accurately as possible, but doing so requires more rules, which makes it less playable. So you cut out some rules, but now your game bears about as much resemblance to “reality” as a tofu hot dog. So the rules come back in and you go round and round like two drunken Spanish-style fencers.

This eternal conflict has been the subject of much debate in our A Call to Arms group as we gear up for the first turn of our campaign. We’re dealing with largely uncharted territory in that the section in the ACTA rules about Mega-Campaigns is…er…nebulous. Rich, our Centauri player, who is the “mastermind” behind this whole thing is re-using the Shannedam County map from FASA’s beloved Renegade Legion universe to give us some structure, but we’ve still got to figure out intrasystem movement, resource allocation, and so on. It doesn’t help that at least three of our players are completely new to ACTA, so the amount of “crunch” that it’s fair to ask them to ingest is limited.

The system resource issue, in fact, quickly snowballed into a hellish snow-demon of epic proportions. Should system resources be as per the rulebook or some other way? Can you repair/build in a contested system? Should you need a mechanism to move resources from system to system? And the children…what of the children?

Rich, Marc (our League of Non-Aligned Worlds player), and I loves us our crunch. By the time we got finished discussing the topic we had 40 (!) pages worth of email and rules options which would have fit right in with ADB’s gloriously complex Federation and Empire (without a doubt one of my favorite games although I’ve only ever been able to force other people to play it once). Needless to say our newbies were not pleased.

In the end we decided to go back to basics and use the rules “as written” in the Sky Full of Stars supplement for all the major issues. In a way I’m pretty happy with that decision…with so many players simplicity is probably the way to go, especially considering that we’re pulling the “Mega” level stuff from between our collective buttcheeks and none of it has actually been tested.

Sadly, it means the  Privateer rules I came up with get tabled for now. But then we’re not using the Interstellar Alliance ships either (screw you, John Sheridan!) so we are effectively without ninjas as well. 

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