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How I Write Skirmish War Games: Narrative As Goal Not Excuse, Part 1 Scenarios


There is a sentence that turns up in various war games, it amounts to something like this: “if rules are unclear/confusing/badly written stop arguing over them and remember that you are not having fun/have lost sight of the story.” Because of course if rules are unclear it must be your fault for not choosing to have fun and being a cut throat tournament gamer. This is not an acceptable sentiment, narrative and fun are the goals of good rules, never an excuse for bad ones. Narrative is used as an excuse as opposed to “competitive” or “tournament” rules because this claim cannot be flown in a game that has any ambitions to be a tournament game (or at least it shouldn’t be). I’ve been to plenty of top end miniatures tournaments and the very concept of telling someone to “just have fun” in the middle of a rules dispute is unhelpful to say the least. As such some games take the attitude that their game is “narrative” meaning never intended to be run at a tournament, so it can be sloppy. This attitude is unacceptable for two main reasons. First and most important, we’re all the heroes of our own stories, even the most narrative of war games lacks “narrative imperative” in that anyone can fail or die at any time. Clint Eastwood can get his head blown off act 1 scene 1 and that just does not fit any story where he’s my hero, but it can fit your story when its your hero who does it. If I want to tell a story with loose rules I can do it better with no rules, I need the rules to show me a story I didn’t know I was playing to, not to be formed by my stories or conform to my ideas. The second problem is that narrative and competitive are not on the same continuum, saying a game cannot or should not be competitive because it is narrative is like saying a car can’t be fast because its green.