Monday, 3 May 2010

Hamlet and the Jester

There is a saying that all great comedians want to play Hamlet. I think that's a way of saying some people don't value their own work, even when they're good at it.

On the other hand it might be saying that even when you are good at something that doesn't mean that you wouldn't rather be doing something else. Even if you are enjoying yourself.

I was pondering that thought as I put the finishing touches to "The Elephant in the Room". I'm really pleased with the overall look of it, and a close-packed line of twenty 1/32 Hastati certainly looks impressive, even if all you've done is block them in and soak them in Ronseal.

Over the years I've designed quite a few one-off single subject games that work as participation games at shows, or are fun for a group of friends in an evening. There's the "Harrying of the North" game about an attack on a Saxon village, "Looting the Baggage" - a game with a rather nice mechanism for simulating drunkenness and "Hack!" - the game of war correspondents lying and cheating their way to being that day's headline reporter. Most of these have won awards at various shows (I used to do Triples a lot, which always liked off beat participation games). All of these games to my mind are unique. There may be a small mechanism here or there that's been borrowed - after all there's nothing original in rolling a die - but essentially they're my games. TEITR fits into that category, - okay so I nicked the domino combat system from Graham Hockley but the game would work equally well with another combat mechanism. Plus I didn't start from Anno Domino and develop from there. The game just had an Anno Domino shaped hole in it.

The problem for me is that I also like, - or maybe even prefer- large table top toy soldier games. What I'd really like to do is design really good table top toy soldier rules. I mean ones people can pick up and play that I haven't ripped off someone else's set. I just don't seem to have the knack. I've got loads of half finished sets which don't quite get there. The last one was a WotR set that had a really radical approach to the way battles held together and focused heavily on the various commanders. It was so radical in fact that it was completely incomprehensible to one of the playtesters I signed up through a Yahoo group. In the end I took Neil Thomas' AMW rules and bolted on some pieces such as the officer incident tables and I had a solution. But it wasn't my game.

I've done the same with the Russian Civil War, English Civil War, Indian Mutiny the Sudan and loads of other periods, borrowing from Richard Brook's Squares system, Pete Berry's File Leader, Matrix Games and even Hordes of the Things. I usually start with all of my own ideas and quite rapidly end up with somebody else's. The only period that remains really intractable from any approach is the Great War. Boxes of the stuff and no rules system will do.

I mean I don't necessarily like WRG & FoG but I can admire the skill that has put them together and I can't work out how they can do it and I can't. Even producing variants of these rules doesn't help me understand the mindset that can produce them.

Ah well, as one of my friends once wrote "As long as everyone's having fun, who cares?"

But I'd really like to play Hamlet at some point.

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