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"Rules Light" -------> "Rules Hidden" / & the return of Techhammer...


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Something I've been mulling over the past few weeks and thought I'd see what the TGA brain trust have to say about it.

TLDR: As the pandemic makes it harder to play games in person and we switch to playing online, do you think this will have an effect on both game design and our attitudes towards using more tech in our 'analogue' gaming?

Over the past few years there's been a huge push, with both RPGs and wargames, towards simpler, more streamlined systems. I'd say 80%+ of the games I've bought recently have been billed as 'Rules Light' in some way or another.

Generally speaking it seems to be a popular trend, much as WHFB 3rd edition is  my holy text I can't imagine actually ever having the time or brain capacity to play it again and I'd take Warcry/AoS over it nearly ever day. Same with RPGs, like I love WFRP but honestly I think Soulbound is a more 'fun' system and most the games I've picked up recently make even Soulbound look crunchy.

At the same time there's still been quite a bit of resistance to using more tech in games to speed things up. People like rolling (buckets of) dice & messing about with their paper character sheets and whatever. Part of that was, I thought, a generational thing, people have an emotional attachment to playing games like they did when they were kids or first got into it and we all know how resistant, violently so sometimes, people are to change. 

But with the pandemic it feels, certainly with the RPG community, that as the pandemic has gone on a rubicon has been crossed. Faced with a choice of playing online or not playing at all I've seen nearly all the old greybeards I know at first grudgingly give playing online a go and now in many cases they're embracing it enthusiastically.

So what I've been wondering is as people get more comfortable playing games online and incorporating tech into their games will this see a change in game design. If people are more willing to rely on apps and the like to handle the backend stuff could we see designers take advantage of this to return to more complicated, 'crunchier' systems, even getting rid of things like universal resolution mechanics.

You keep the player facing side still relatively simple, but underneath the hood there's a lot more going on, what I'm thinking of as 'Rules Hidden'.

Likewise with wargames, I brought this up a year or 2 ago about how we could incorporate more tech into our games just to speed them up and make things easier and generally most people seemed aghast at the idea, which is fair enough, as there's always a point where you think well why aren't I just playing Total War or whatever. But can you see this changing as the crisis drags on?

Let's assume that 2020 is a write off for large tournaments and even just playing in shops and the like and if we're being honest 2021 is going to be touch and go. Does that change your view on things like, for instance, digital  dice. What if a tournament said ok, to cut down risk by speeding up games and removing a possible infection vector you need to use an app rather than a bucket of 50+ dice to resolve things, that was a sticking point for a lot of people before but now?

And if you're more open to that does that change your overall attitude towards incorporating more tech into games?

What if the next AoS app allows you to not only build your army lists in it but then when you play someone else you submit both armies in the app for the game and you can pull up warscrolls etc for the opposing army easily.

What if since it then has all your units logged when you decide to make an attack you can click in the app which unit is attacking, which unit it is attacking and any units nearby giving them buffs and automatically works out all the to hit/to wound/save rolls etc (just think you'd never 'forget' to apply a rule or bonus/malus that way).

What if it then works out all the targets and you can either roll yourself OR it just resolves the results itself within the app from that attack and determines the number of wounds, models removed etc and keeps track of everything in the app.

What if it then keeps track of all your games so you can create leaderboards with your mates, and it gives you constantly updated stats on how your individual units/models perform, allowing you to constantly refine your lists.

What if it uploads that info to GW so they can keep track of what models are over/underperforming or just getting used or not across thousands of games each weekend and so effect changes quicker and more effectively?

 What if this allowed 2000+ points 5 round games of AoS to be resolved in say 60-90 minutes rather than 3 hours or whatever, so you can play more games and whilst playing games you can relax more, especially at the end of the day, not having to remember 50 different rules, abilities etc as the app either resolves it for you or gives you a prompt.

Like in any phase you literally get a checklist come up of all things that models in your army can do.

What do you think?

Has our real world End Times changed how you think about any of this?

Have you read this far?


Thank you for coming to my TED talk.



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I think this is a great chat to have. There was that push a while back for AR type games wasn't there? Physical card games (like Pokemon or something) that also had a coupling to a playstation or whatnot.

Anyway, the models are key for me. I also like some of the other physical elements of gaming -  rolling dice for instance. I put that down to the same factor  (whatever it is) that makes playing chess or cards physically better than on a computer.

I don't like rules referencing that much. I especially don't like the amount of rules material you have to have on the table - taking away from terrain and models.

I think this is some very interesting stuff. An enterpeneurial company in the industry (with an existing model base - to avoid any kind of legal repurcussions) could (should) use this concept to build a kickstarter that would probably break some records.

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I, like most of us, have a computer or smartphone in front of me the whole day. So 3 hours without tech is something I appreciate.
If the electronic tools to support the game are super smooth integrated, it would be ok. But even to unlock my phone would mess up my immersion.

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so things like this, the push in AoS has been towards streamlining and simplicity (at least at a core rules level) which I think most of us agree is in general a good thing but throws up these kind of things. go more digital and you can have more stats etc to better represent how, for example, behemoths interact with horde units without it slowing down the game or adding to brain load.

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thank you for the Ted talk first of all. I also don't know why I read to that point ;) 

In my mind technology will be more and more included. but it will be in a supporting role.

So things like dice app.. only if it makes the game faster/easier/clearer/safer. Otherwise there is no need to change and lose the satisfaction of rolling dice yourself. But it's also low tech. I started using a dice tray, never felt I needed it but it feels more natural now. So there is a kind of natural progressing to it. And i'm convinced it's because I see dice tray's being used more around me, and now it feels more and more natural. Same would happen with a dice app I feel. 

But it tech-ing up the core of the game. That I find hard to believe. Because then you come to the point where it's done better by game designers. And our hobby is very tactile and personal. The painting, the conversions, the creativity add to that the personal contact, the gamemanship, the gathering of likeminded individuals. 

I will keep playing TTS because it solves a practical problem, travel time, but i'll keep looking for other solutions to that. 

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The involvement in technology in our game is an interesting topic.

We are at a point where a smartphone with appropriate app could probably manage the whole GM part game like Silver Tower as exemple (instead ot he enemy behaviour table held by each player one by one, book with event, ...). Cannot deny that it could make game more quick and fluide and avoid to have to handle some not really instinctive rules&process to manage ennemis or env.

So it would make the game experience probably better.

Anyway, would it make the game more attractive to me. I'm not sure. This is typically sort of stuff that would make me not buy the game.

As said, could be generational, but there is (to me) this feeling that "papper is eternal". In 10 year, I'm confident beeing able to play Silver tower again as it involve only stuff in the box (papper dice, card, mini, ...). If I have to involve external ressource like smatphone app or web site as mandatory element (with not decent "papper in the box" alternative), I will have feeling that this game only have a 3 to 5 years life time and then will no more be usable.

This is even more true to me for AoS. After hundreds of hour painting hundred of minis, I want to be sure to be able to use them for years, even if I have to use a old game version because my range have been discontinuated. So as long as technology come as alternative like warscroll builder, AoSreminder, ... this sound good to me. but if starting to go the way as beeing mandatory with no alternative (or game design so oriented by technology option that alternative make game too unplayable), I'll see it as a regression.

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Looking at an app takes me out of the direct experience in any context. If I’d spend actually more time with looking at an app than looking at the table, I’d really rather play a computer game in the first place.

But I’m old, and surely the next generations will have a very different point of view. Which is ok.

 The only problem I see is that complexity can (and, thus, maybe will) be added and handled, complexity that you don’t even have to be aware of the whole time. Which objectively does divide you from experiencing the game as it works.

Edited by Beastmaster
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1 hour ago, Kramer said:

So there is a kind of natural progressing to it. And i'm convinced it's because I see dice tray's being used more around me, and now it feels more and more natural. Same would happen with a dice app I feel. 

yeah see this is the crux of it. there's been this resistance to incorporating more tech into games because, very understandably, we're playing an analogue game and a large part of the appeal is the tactile nature of it, and I think to a large degree a sense of nostalgia.

(same as why millions of comment section bores under any news story about pop music are utterly convinced that music or whatever just happened to magically peak when they were around 16 🤔)

I think here there's also an element that we don't want to change things not just because we're comfortable with the slightly awkward out of date elements of wargames but we actually like, or have convinced ourselves we like, those awkward elements.

it makes it feel more REAL.

whether we actually put them down or not (and hearing most people's complaints about players we don't) it feels like it's a break from our laptops, phones, whatever.

it's artisanal, organic wholemeal wargaming. It's a pain in the ****** but it tastes better and is healthier for us.

but then as soon as we try something, say dice towers in your example, we go oh actually yeah that's fine, in fact it's improved things in some way.

and that's why I wonder if this pandemic will or has accelerated a paradigm shift.

as I said loads of blokes my miserable age and up who I've always seen grumbling about online gaming have, when forced, taken to it likes duck to water. suddenly realising hey yeah I love that getting together with mates but now I can do this from the comfort of my house on a work night, and this bit actually works better etc etc.

and that's when we're still to most intents and purposes just trying to recreate the IRL experience but online. what I'm interested in is when we start developing games that actually take advantage of that.

already you people going from basic sketched drawings to these really nice maps on roll20 or wherever, and as we get more familiar with it we're incorporating more elements that actually think digital first, rather than just creating a facsimile of the tabletop experience. things like fog of war on maps, or the DM being able to have private conversations with characters without obviously tipping off everyone else.


Obviously with Wargames, the whole collect, build, paint models part is fundamental. take that away and yes you would just be better off with TW or something like that (saying that it totally has it's place. I would actually like an exact simulator of the bare Warhammer game).

But if you look at the random plucked from my head ideas in my OP then not much of that actually takes away from the tactile experience of Warhammer.

You still have your models on the table and you still have to think about what you do with them, where you move them etc and then perform that action yourself.

A dice rolling app  is the only physical action that you'd be replacing, and obviously that could be just an optional extra.

Everything else would be replacing either books, or mental calculations.

So... picture the scene (you can really tell I'm unemployed now can't you...)...

New AoS app.

£X per month, but within that you have access (paid or with subscription) to all the updated errata'ed rules, all the battletomes, all the extra supplements, all the warscrolls the lot.

Straight away you've cut down on several kilos of baggage for when travelling to games.

But you get to mess around building army lists, saving them, sharing them with friends.

Before a game/tournament you submit your lists via the app, then you go into your upcoming events section, and it gives you the rules pack for that event and all the lists of your opponents to check out at your leisure.

On the day you turn up with your army and a tablet, again go to the events section and click the game you're about to play.

It syncs with your opponent.

You tick what units you set up etc and then start to play as normal.

In each phase you have a checklist of what models you currently have on the table can do in that phase, (basically AoS Reminders kind of thing), so you can run through all phases quickly without having any 'oh sorry I meant to do x with my battlemage 2 phases ago can I go back and do it' situations.

You move and play as normal but when you go to combat you just tick which unit you're attacking with, and which unit it's attacking. It looks through your other units and maybe prompts is Hero X within 6", if so click and it automatically works out any modifiers.

Then it either just tells you what to do (Roll 30 dice, 3+ to etc etc then do this, then do that), or you use the dice app or it just resolves it for you.

None of what the app's just done has taken anything away from the tactile, tangible nature of the game it's just prompted you or done the maths for you, so you can relax and have fun at 9pm in the evening and not sit there feeling frazzled.

The game's take less time, hurrah, and leave you feeling less drained. Hurrah, maybe this actually makes the game MORE SOCIAL. as you can relax more.

The app allows you to take photos mid game and upload them both to a feed in the app that your friends can see and to other social media, along with what happened.


After the game the app keeps tracks of models being killed etc and who or what killed them, so you (and GW have access to all those stats). And it creates various leaderboards etc with friends and  people you've played but also the wider community.

You can save several photos  of the models, of your oppentns cool models or you and your opponent just having fun along  with the record of each game, so you have this record to remember them by. 

The whole social side doesn't have to be just fixed to the game.

It can even have in app challenges.

Play every week for a month and get a special badge. 

You've played 50 times unlock an achievement etc.

But then also upload a photo of a model this week and get a badge.

or hey ! It's the August paint a 20 man unit from scratch challenge, all that kind of thing.

Anyone whose used something like the Nike Running app knows how addictive these meaningless stupid ****** digital awards can be.


None of that except a dice rolling app changes how we play the game in person.

And in fact it makes it more of a community experience.

Here endeth the sermon (for now).







Edited by JPjr
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This is very much a "just my personal opinion" reply, and I can't speak to every point or for everyone (and in fact am not in a great position to do so, as I exclusively play with a small group of friends) but here's my take on tech and gaming.

It can be a marvelous resource and great asset, but while I'd be happy to use it I'd never want to put myself in a position where I rely on it, because tech can fail. Computers crash, files get corrupted, batteries run out, phones get dropped, electricity goes off, etc. Not to mention the potential for abuse by those who can manipulate the tech (which is really just like any other sort of cheating, so it's not so much a new problem as the same problem with a different flavor.)

If I have a physical book, some dice, maybe some warscroll cards, and some sheets of paper for my personal reference then I could play the game by candle light if necessary (I'm not saying I would try, or that it would work very well, but it's nice to have the option.)

Technology allows us to play the game faster and more efficiently, and there's a point where I really appreciate it for that. However, some things you've just got to do yourself to truly enjoy the experience. An app could roll my dice for me, but it would eliminate the thrill of picking out my hits from my misses, and counting out how many unmodified 6's I got. That wouldn't break the game, but it takes some of the soul out of it.

I can appreciate having something that "remembers" all the little rules for us. We all forget things and it can be un-fun to loose a unit or even a game to a forgotten esoteric rule. I don't think there's a really good sweeping argument for why that wouldn't be a good thing. Personally, I'd just rather eat the failure and use it to improve. It's part of the experience. You can still learn by having something automatically cover all of the rules for you (repetition is a reliable method of learning) but it feels less like I'm playing the game at that point. 

During the recent unpleasantness, technology has allowed me to continue meeting up with my friends for our weekly rpg. We're all very grateful that it has allowed us to continue doing this thing we enjoy in an easy and convenient way (as an introvert, not leaving home is but still doing the fun thing is always a plus.)  We also all can't wait until this mess is over so we can all sit across the table from each other again. It's just not the same experience when technology takes up this much of our game.

I feel the same way about tech "taking over" more of tabletop wargaming. I appreciate some of the benefits, but don't like how it could potentially alter the experience.

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49 minutes ago, Galas said:

When the computer is making all the rolls and remembering all the rules for you the system can be as depth and complicated as it wants and the game to remain easy and fun to use

I would mitigate that... it remain fun as long as you understand (at least high level) what is happening and why. Nothing is more frustrating that seeing your actions failling because computer apply a rule your not knowing (and if you would have know would have make you taking different options).

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For casual games I think players should do whatever they want.

For tournament games though? I would absolutely 100% love to see an official AOS dice app that would be used for all dice rolling in tournaments.

Bonus points if it also can be used to submit tournament lists, results, generate automatic pairings, and keep track of things like VP and CP.

Don't get me wrong -- I love to roll buckets of dice especially with my dice tower. But it's very time consuming (especially with rerolls, modifiers, mixed weapon units, units that can throw hundreds of dice a turn etc.). Worse, it's a source of error when people misread dice and can easily become an opportunity for cheating.

An app that will allow you to throw 200 dice at once, set the parameters for hit, wound, and save, tick boxes for rerolls etc and then just instantly tell you the number of successes would massively reduce error, reduce opportunity for cheating, and speed up games tremendously.

How long it will take to roll the dice in a tournament context should never be a factor in listbuilding, and yet it very much is.

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Honestly Age of Sigmar is a rather bad quality game and it certainly is not due to the game systems that I spend hours upon hours on this hobby. It is due to collecting figs, painting and the whole social aspect of getting together, playing games and rolling dice. Sure I like to get competitive, but there are tons of way better games with significantly better systems if all I wanted was to “compete” or “game” the systems.

If you want me to stand and stare at my iPhone and click/swipe repeatly within an app, it completely goes against the reasons why I play. I want to be social, not interact digitally. 

I also think it would be super difficult to have an app recognize all potential buffs a certain unit might have. How is the app gonna detect if your support hero is wholly within every model or not etc etc.

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I agree with you 100%. For me, nothing kills a game faster than an opponent digging through four books trying to find that rule they vaguely remember reading. With all of the expansions and everything now it only becomes more problematic. Put it all in an app and remind us of the buffs we have in place for each phase. 

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