Wargame Review Guidelines
In an attempt to streamline and standardize reviews I’ve settled upon a framework from Peter Perla. Specifically from his The Art of Wargaming. If you’re interested in wargaming as a serious hobbyist or even a professional then do check it out. Below is an excerpt from his section on game reviews.
When is it a review? Is it critical? Is it a features review? How do you properly take into account the reviewer bias. In an effort to no longer attempt to “wish” a game was something else I’m going to follow the below framework. Note, some of this is specifically for paper war games, so we’ll adjust accordingly.
Subject of the Game
The who, when, and where. For example JTS France ’14 would be the French-Belgium-British Vs. Germans. 1914. Western Europe.
Scope, Scale, Level of Play
What is the focus of our game? For something like France ’14 this is tricky, one scenario may be a Division while another covers the entirety of the Western Front.
Decidedly a term from the paper space, so we’ll use it in the context of representations. Is it hex-and-counter? Lavishly detailed tanks? Stylized units?
The meat and potatoes. What is the designer focusing his game on? Is it a logistical slog depicting the Eastern Front or a squad level battle near the Mius Front?
Overall System Description
What are you getting into?
Principal areas of reality represented in the game
This is an interesting one. For a game like Combat Mission you are getting ground combat. Naval or Air units are abstracted. Or CMO, you get amazing radar and sonar representation but ground combat exists as a complement to the air or naval side of things.
Is there supply? Is the Command and Control hand waved? What are we putting aside to make this game happen?
Intricacy of the system and mechanical ease of play
This is where we’ll look at the grogginess of the system. Graviteam Tactics may gain points for intricacy but lose them for mechanical difficulty. On the flip side a game like Unity of Command 1 is mechanically easy to play but lacks intricacy.
Evaluation of the systems success at achieving the designers goals and representing the real situation
What is the developer trying to do? If we expect a game to be something it’s not, and was not intended to be, then we will be disappointed. Don’t complain that the steakhouse had bad sushi. It’s a steakhouse, not a sushi bar.
Contributions to the wargaming state of the art
Is it derivative of other titles? Is it groundbreaking? How has it improved the art of wargaming?
The Game in play
What is available to us, the player. Can we add to it? Can we mod it? Can we share data, scenarios, campaigns?
Who are you in the game? An omnipotent god person who controls every unit or an overworked commander?
Types of decisions required
What interesting things do you, the player, need to do to bring the game forward?
Effects of the game systems mechanical requirements on the players decision making
How do you make these decisions in the context of the game?
Evaluation of the players experience
Do you feel engaged, mentally challenged, frustrated, or all of the above?
Does the game work?
Mechanically, thematically, and structurally. Can you call artillery? Does the game crash? Is the system glitchy?
Is it a good game?
Maybe a better way to ask, is it enjoyable? There are games I enjoy that are not really good games.
Who would be most interested in the game?
A hardcore Grigsby fan will find different likes than an ARMA afficionado.
Is the game a good value?
$20 to you may not be much, but to someone else it’s a lot. How does one compare the price of a JTS game for $40 and stack it up next to a Grigsby title for $80? Does one offer twice the value? The trouble here is it is subjective, game are not potatoes. But I’ll attempt to look at it on the whole and give my thoughts.