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One of the magnificent things about Original A&A, and to a lesser (but still-significant extent A&A Europe and Pacific) is the simplicity of the rules. Anyone who's played Monopoly can practicably learn the A&A system. I say "practicably" because, in the abstract, it's true that anyone can learn any rule system.
People can, for example, learn Advanced Squad Leader with all its variations and sub-systems. Heck, people can memorize all those rules. I've hung around on VASL long enough to see that proved time and time again. The mere ability to learn the rules isn't the issue I have in mind.
The great strength of A&A is that basic play and a reasonably good time don't require the time commitment and study power which more complicated games demand. A&A ranks high on the "what the hell, I'll try anything once" meter. And once the rules are learned, they can be effectively played and result in success very quickly, so there's the positive-reinforcement angle at work too. That's why it's popular. It's why the game is routinely cited as peoples' "in" to wargaming.
Still, there's a reason for more complicated wargames. It's the same reason we all collect and dream up house rules, variants, and so on. Sooner or later in A&A, one masters what is (comparatively speaking) a simple game. One moves from the initial stage where every move is happily fraught with the tension and excitement of the unknown to a more developed stage when all the players are using quickly-recognized and widely-known strategies ("Ah! The Karelian gambit! I'll counter with the Norwegian Attack, and by turn four . . . . .").
Adding new players to the mix (in person or on line) can revivify the experience by introducing a new element of uncertainty and tension into the game. But after awhile, the old spectre of boredom raises its head again, and nothing is more frightening to an A&A player than the thought that his beloved game, this wonderful told and re-told story, might get boring again. So we go hunting for house rules, inventing new pieces, trying to keep the game's story fresh and alive.
This isn't to say that the invention of elaborate add-ons to the A&A system is driven only by ennui. The other beauty of A&A is that its basic system easily accomodates new intricacies in rules, units, etc. It's a perfect platform to expand the use of one's talents by increasing levels of complexity and realism. People like a challenge once their "hooked" and have had success at more basic levels. A&A will let them create and meet those challenges on an almost-unending scale.
My point is that these sources of interest in the game aren't necessarily opposed to each other. People shouldn't have to choose between tic-tac-toe and a 90-page rulebook that explains how fog can interfere with your Feldhaubitze. They don't have to, because I think the rules can be "layered" to allow the easy start-up and learning experiences of A&A original and then progress to the more advanced levels.
Think of a series of transparent overlays projected on a wall. Here's the first slide:
I. Tank Combat. Tank Combat is resolved by rolling dice according to the values on the Combat Chart; if your tank hits the correct number, the opponent's tank is eliminated from play.
Here is the second slide:
I. Tank Combat. Tank Combat is resolved by rolling dice according to the values on the Combat Chart; if your tank hits the correct number, the opponent's tank is eliminated from play if its combat strength is equal to or lesser than the combat strength of your tank.
Those aren't actual rules I'm proposing. I'm just trying to point out that since our game is going to be an advanced variation of the A&A system, there's no reason why our game can't be just as simple as A&A to start with. Nobody's really done that yet with A&A (although Europe and Pacific are a move in that direction) and I wish they had.
Can we consider a layered rule system? I think we should, if only for the reason that the people we bring to this game won't be deterred right off the bat by a lot of complication. If I'm not aware of something important that moots this suggestion or makes it impractical, I'd appreciate it if somebody could point it out so that I won't harp on it.
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Heck, they could even choose to do the more complicated and powerful rules for only one aspect of the game -- two guys playing it might go ape over detailed naval combat rules, and only be interested in land warfare because it "sets the stage" for naval battles.
I'm not reading your mind. Just reading your rules. Heh heh heh. Besides I've got a house rule for "early war" armor (represented by A&A Original tokens) and "late war" armor (represented by A&A Europe/Pacific tokens). Same with naval forces and aircraft.
Of particular value are comments that point out inconsistencies, rough edges and unanswered questions raised by other sections. For (an imaginary) example, suppose one team just mentions that "escort fighters" while another team designs a bomber mission without any provision for resolving "interceptor fighter vs. escort fighter combat" during the mission. That should be pointed out and discussed. Can this particular mission have fighter escorts? If so, then how does that work with fighters flying off carriers, etc.
Envision the rules being used by amiable but not-very-bright people. What problems would they have with what's been written? What doesn't seem clear or explained?
Envision the rules being used by niggling, highly-intelligent lawyers. What abuses would they subject the rules to? Where are the loopholes? It's important to close these by elegant writing of the rules, and not by trying to explain every bad interpretation and outlaw it. (Think Monty Python's instructions for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, which basically tells people how not to count to three and doesn't work well anyhow).
When all team drafts are up for a reasonable period of time, our team can start producing another draft ourselves. That gets posted, commented on, and rewritten as needed. The final draft then gets playtested by anyone who wants, with a last round of comments and then another rewrite.
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