Pen and Sword Books very kindly sent me a copy of Tabletop Wargames: A Designers' and Writers' Handbook for review. I was very pleased about this as, like a lot of wargamers, I have, over the years, considered putting pen to paper and trying to come up with a set of rules of my own.
The book is well written and lays down a lot of different aspects of rules writing that need to be considered. It doesn't go into the nitty-gritty of calculating all the intricate maths needed to balance a game, but it does give a few suggestions on how to approach that.
There are times when it becomes apparent that the writers are approaching things from their own experience and guiding rules writers to create similar rules to their style of games, but this is only to be expected and is easy to spot when it happens. The book does get very "wordy" in places, especially when the authors use terms that relate to specific game mechanics design aspects and then combine those into long descriptive paragraphs. There were several places where I had to read bits two or three times to get my head around them properly.
Setting these criticisms aside, the book does quite a good job of explaining the mindset needed for a games designer and also points out some of the less obvious considerations when creating a wargame that is planned for publication.
The book is an interesting read for the average player of wargames too, as it gives an insight into the mind of the designer, and answers some of the "Why did he do it that way?" or "What was he thinking?" kind of questions that most gamers have had when reading different sets of rules.
Even if I had not been sent this book to review, I would have ended up buying a copy. It is a bit wordy in places, but nothing compared to some older rules sets that are out there. In my opinion, it is well worth a read for both players and rules writers.
The book can be found at all the usual places, or direct from Pen and Sword.