When waging a full and bloody warfare, one of the most common weapons used in propaganda are bullshit generalizations, be it that Germans are a bunch of sausage eating savages or that the Chinese are diabolical, but evil. The AT vs Euro war lead by the now deceased General M Barnes was no different, with the bullshit flying thick and fast from both directions. I thought in this article I would look at one of these myths and debunk it.
Originally I was going to tackle the claim that “Euro games are boring and people who play them are poopy heads.” Upon further research however I found that this was in fact the case and I’d either have to pick a new topic or have one very short article.
The next one I chose was the claim that “in Ameritrash games, the theme is what is important, not the mechanics” which is a load of old bollocks really.
As an example, let’s take a game which I should love in theory, MIDEVIL, which is a spin off of ZOMBIES! (a game I have never played.)
Now take a look at that cover. There is a horde of skeletons straight from Army of Darkness is about to tear two our heroes limb from limb. One, a buxom young lady, has a pistol in one hand, a sword in the other, and a face that says “I don’t care that you just brought me dinner, try and touch me again and I’ll rip your knob off you creep!” Meanwhile her companion has a skeleton lifted over his head, one hand clearly having the poor old bag of bones by the balls, and is ready to smite him straight into his waiting buddies. Surely such a cover promises gaming fun never seen on planet earth before.
Now let’s open the box. Holy shit there is enough plastic in here to give all our girlfriends boob jobs bigger than Roseanne Barr! And there is dice in here too! We may as well go and rate this thing a 10 right now!
But let’s play the game first.
Hear that sound? That sound is my heart dropping through my ass in disappointment. And it’s all because of the mechanics.
First let’s take a look at the combat, because I love reading combat mechanics. In a game like this I imagine that the way the designer would tackle it is to have your hero be stronger than a skeleton and have an advantage in combat over it, but this would be balanced out by having the skeletons defeat you by sheer weight of numbers. Space hulk was like this, where the marines have guns to blow the aliens away, but the aliens have unlimited numbers to swamp the marines.
Instead, this is what the designer came up with: You roll a die, if it’s a 1-3 the skeleton hits you, if it’s a 4-6 you hit the skeleton. That’s about it. Apart from being really uninspiring, this mechanic doesn’t fit the vision of the game at all for me. Basically I have a 50% chance of beating a skeleton. Shouldn’t my guy, who was taking on 400 of the bastards on the cover, be given better odds then that? Apparently not.
But don’t fret, because after you beat that first skeleton you get to take him as a trophy, which you can later ‘spend’ to give a bonus to a failed combat roll, depending on the color of the skeleton. After a few turns it quickly becomes apparent that once you take down a few skeletons, taking down more becomes increasingly easier. And the more you take down, the stronger you get, so it’s in your interests to go after and collect them. But here is the thing – as well as moving your guy, you get to place and move skeletons on your turn as well, in any direction you like.
Starting to see where this is heading?
Instead of playing a game where I’m beating down hoards of encroaching skeletons, or running away from them, the game ends up having me have to chase skeletons that are running away from me; because that’s the only behavior my opponents will be giving them. So in the end the game becomes a really boring skeleton chasing game that makes me feel like I’m in a really boring episode of Scooby Doo, despite its apparently cool theme and plastic bits.
All because the mechanics are utter rubbish.
It doesn’t matter how good a game looks, smells or tastes, nor does it matter how many goodies you get inside the box. If the game mechanically is crap then it’s a bad game, pure and simple.
So yes, mechanics are important to AT games. In fact they are important to all game types really. Well, maybe not party games.