Tuesday, 26 October 2010

If they are free ... they cannot be very good!

Oscar Wilde once said that:

'The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.'

But what about wargamers? Sometimes they can appear to be just like Wilde's cynic.

Let me explain. Over recent weeks I have been developing a set of naval wargames rules based around the firing mechanisms used in Richard Borg's BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR '44. The resulting rules – MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA – have been play-tested, and after a few minor changes, they have reached a level of maturity that satisfies my needs. I have made the rules readily available on my blog, and over the past two days I have added a couple of diagrams that I hoped would enable potential players to have full understanding on the rules.

I have had several requests for copies of the rules, and I have sent them to everyone who asked for a copy. Imagine, therefore, my surprise when I received an email from one of the recipients that said how disappointed they were with what I had sent them. Apparently, they did not like the way the rules were laid out, found some of the rules far too ‘vague’ for their liking, and described the diagrams I had used as ‘amateurish’.

My first reaction was disbelief, followed rapidly by a sense of anger, and then resentment. If something is given to you freely and at no cost, do you have the right to ask that changes be made to suit your particular requirements? Am I being unreasonable to take affront at the manner in which requests were couched? (They were more akin to demands than requests!) Or am I just being oversensitive?

I certainly do not object to valid and well-argued criticism; in fact, the whole process of wargames design would be far more difficult without it … but this did not and does not seem to me to be valid or well-argued. It seemed more petulant and self-centred than helpful and constructive.

This particular wargamer seems to me to be someone who does not know the value of one thing … goodwill … but would probably have paid a handsome price for my rules – and not complained about the cost – if they had been printed in colour with lots of illustrations and professionally produced explanatory diagrams.

In future, if someone wants a free copy of my rules I will have to add a rider:

No Wildean cynics welcome!


  1. The answer to that is if you think you can do better go on then.

    Seriously, this is the internet, people have no idea.

  2. Seeing that the entire rules are already there in your blog entries, he should have known what he was asking for!
    The diagrams are fine and IMHO professionally done. I've seen a lot worse in some rule sets you have to pay for!!

  3. Hi Bob

    I think the best response here should be to ignore the ignorant! It's not worth the rise in blood pressure.

    If the miscreant decides to make further issue of it then you can always lay open the matter to a public judgement by your other readers.

    I am very pleased with your efforts so far and I expect to increase that pleasure once I've had a chance to display them to my playing group.

    Keep up the good work!

    Jim Duncan

  4. Hi Bob,

    Staggering! I would be just as peeved by this because at the end of the day you have gone to a lot of trouble to produce the thing in the first place! I am not so naive to believe that my rules are all things to all men and as you rightly say, constructive criticism is welcome. You can please some of the people etc, etc...

    Don't let this put you off as I for one have made much use of many of your rules and would hate to think that this would put you off!!!

    All the best,


  5. Hi Bob,

    .....I nearly forgot, could you email me full set of MoBaS (including the firing arcs)and the latest version of your Memoir 44/Battle Cry fusion. I forgot to save them!

    All the nest,


  6. Bob, the person who replied to your kindness in sending him your rules in such a way was an ungrateful, discourteous 'bleep' [insert your own favourite pejorative], whom you should treat with the disdain he so richly deserves! Don't let such ill-judged comments upset you, or cause you to change the clear, concise and printer-friendly way you present your rules in any way whatsoever.
    Your rules are 'amateur' in the best sense of the word: written for the entertainment of yourself and others without desiring monetary reward - long may they remain so!
    Many commercially published wargame rules - I won't name names! - demonstrate that the fact something is sold at a high price does not guarantee their quality.

  7. Bob,

    There is a substantial segment of the naval gaming population that seems to insist upon extreme detail. They are generally known as "rivet counters".

    Perhaps this person was of that mentality of perhaps not . . . but it does seem to me that he can safely be labeled as ungrateful.

    However I suspect that some of the others who asked for the rules will be pleased with them.

    -- Jeff

  8. Perhaps someone was going to plagiarize the rules and sell them. A finished and glitzy package is always easier.

  9. let us dismiss the boorish ***** as not worth wasting virtual ink on and consider a more interesting thought.

    What does the person who writes the perfect set of rules do? He has honed and trimmed until he has a set of mechanisms that are breathtaking in their elegance and cunning as a fox in a dinner jacket. They can be learned in an afternoon yet take a lifetime to explore and they only take up one side of A4 paper.

    He will need at least another 61 pages of pointless padding and colour photgraphs before anyone will even consider picking them up.
    Indeed he may well find that he cannot even give them away for free without some moron complaining.

    I don't want to be the typical grumpy old man but is just wargamers that have become thick or is it all society.

  10. Dear all,

    Many thanks for your comments and support; it is nice to know that I am not alone in thinking that there is a small (hopefully, very small) minority of 'wargamers' who are a total pain for the rest of us to deal with.

    I have given up counting the number of sets of wargames rules that I have written and developed over the years, and I try to answer emails sent to me by people who regularly use rules that I wrote quite a long time ago – and have sometimes even forgotten about!

    What was annoying in this case was the disdain in which the comments were couched. I felt that I was being talked down to by someone who not only thought they knew more than I did … they knew that they did! In the end I sent back a very polite – some might say icily polite – email, thanking him for his comments … and asking him for copies of the rules that he had written so that I could see where I was going wrong.

    I have yet to receive a reply.

    If I do – which I doubt – I shall let you all know. In the meantime, where did I put those slightly larger model warships that will fit nicely onto my Hexon II sea hexes?

    All the best,


  11. As my old granny used to say, "Some folk have neck for owt but soap."

  12. Captain Quincy,

    That's an expression I have never heard before ... but it is very appropriate!

    10/10 to your old granny for getting it spot on!

    All the best,


  13. Wargaming certainly is full of "characters" Bob, sometimes without what was more commonly known as manners.

    Please don't let this stop you developing rules in public, especially as I have a Naval strain in me and have as yet not had a chance to sit down and read your rules ;)

    (Pressures of work and family etc)

  14. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    Very true ... I am afraid to say.

    However, most wargamers are – like yourself and the others who have commented – a most pleasant bunch of 'chaps' and 'chapesses', and it is a joy to 'converse' with you all via the Internet.

    I will certainly continue to ramble on (and hopefully entertain as well) for the foreseeable future.

    All the best,


    PS. If you ever want a copy of the rules or anything else I can help with, please get in contact.


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