Monday, 19 April 2010

Hammers Slammers Hardback - Rules of game design

The revised harback edition of Hammers Slammers that incorporates all the various updates is in preperation.

The pick shows a draft of a page.

I do not claim to be anything other than an amateur game designer as it was never my day job. However, I have had a number of games published commercially with a degree of success and I do have some thoughts on what makes a successful game. So I have put them below.

1. KISS - Keep it simple stupid. This is the most important rule. Complexity and detail do not increase realism, whatever that means. Every extra rule adds exponentially to the grit in the machine. The rules of chess are so simple that even a computer can play yet no one has come up with a better game. Less is more.

2. It's a game. Repeat that to yourself. Games by definition are based around game theory - i.e. there should not be a single best strategy.

3. You are providing entertainment not setting an exam. If it ain't fun it ain't a game.

4. Ask yourself a key question - What is the game about? Decide, focus on it and stick to it.

For example, Hammers Slammers is about David Drake's iconic SF books - that is armoured cavalry warfare in colonial wars. That immediately tells me what matters in the game. It has to be a fast-moving vehicle game where the tanks are king and infantry abstracted. The player must be able to field decent numbers of tanks so complicated tank damage rules are out. Colonial warfare as depicted by Drake involves multiple tech levels AND multiple skill levels. The latter has to be as important, no more important, than the former.


  1. As a fellow amateur game designer I agree wholeheartedly with all four of your points. Simple, game, fun, focus. I also use the self-check of "Does this give players more options or less?" More is always better unless it conflicts with #1. It was a fun ride working on my book Treadhead, and it's still a treat working with Agis neugebauer on his Gear Krieg books.

    How has it been for you to work on a new edition?

  2. Dear Rabid
    Ah, you are working on Gear Krieg. I don't play 15mm but I am very tempted by GK. Very nice models. Does anyone in the UK sell them?

  3. John,
    Unfortunately no, there are no sellers in the UK.

  4. Shame. They are nice and I particularly like the look of Luft Krieg.