April 18, 2024

Mentioned in Dispatches Season 10 Ep 6 ~ Wargaming Rules Formats

17 March 2023

OK look, we all have rulebooks we love, and ones we hate.  Formats we love, and formats we hate.  Podcast guests we love, and…  well, you get the idea1.  So let’s talk about rules, and the rules that govern rules-writing.

Don’t forget, you can always catch up with past episodes on the “podcast” tab of our site.

Case system?  Conversational style?
Learn-to-play vs quick reference?
“Did you read what I wrote?”
Programmed learning to slowly roll out the rules, or just throw players in the deep end?

We tackle all of these topics, as well as why you don’t want to be the person who gets a rule named after them, why you should always have blind playtesters2, and the breast & worst typos you can make.

Just for kicks, we did ask Chat GPT for the definition of a “rules lawyer” and this is what we got

A "rules lawyer" is a term used to describe someone who focuses more on the technicalities and specifics of the rules of a game, system, or situation than on the actual intended outcome or spirit of those rules. This term is often used to describe individuals who use their knowledge of rules to gain an advantage over others or to argue their case in a situation where the rules are unclear or contested. While knowing and following the rules is important, being a "rules lawyer" can be seen as negative because it often involves using technicalities to manipulate the system or win at all costs, rather than playing in the spirit of the game or situation.

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"Mentioned In Dispatches" with the Armchair Dragoons
Mentioned in Dispatches Season 10 Ep 6 ~ Wargaming Rules Formats


  1. seriously, though – we love all our guests or we wouldn’t’ve asked ’em to join us
  2. especially now since digital platforms have made it so easy

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One thought on “Mentioned in Dispatches Season 10 Ep 6 ~ Wargaming Rules Formats

  1. Two things to say:
    First, agree with Gary: Free time is the enemy to the middle-aged “typical” wargamer. Never enough of it to fully enjoy our hobby. Such is life. Ironically, when we’re younger there is often much more free time, but usually not enough extra cash. The Wargamer’s Quandary.

    Second: there’s two sides to the coin on the subject of rules quality in most wargames. On one hand, yes doing this as a hobby will never pay the bills. As such, there just is never going to be neither human nor financial resource to retain the kind of professional technical writing staff to give our hobby’s rulebooks the kind of true polish we wish they could always have. Errata and ambiguities will be inherent to the way wargames are made, just like fleas to dogs. You can take steps to reduce the problem, but if the process of writing game rules doesn’t fundamentally change, we have to live with the problem. The other side of the coin, in my opinion, is that it’s just a hobby, so some of the designers & publishers out there should throttle back deadlines and utilize the advantages of digital communications to make that extra two or three passes in playtest and get DIFFERENT sets of eyes on every project. The odds of knocking out more errata and ambiguity will only improve with a larger sample size of testers. This was well expressed by the panelists in the podcast. I agree completely. Perfection will remain agonizingly elusive, but the errata being churned out in some games continues to astonish me.

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