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Subject: Is it just me or have our expectations risen in all areas along with the quality of the games? rss

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Kev.
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Asides from the Total War = total wait thread, there have been several other threads recently regarding various publishers, their standards, methods and means of communicating, for marketing and servicing the buyers.

Generally a feeling of expectations unmet.

I think overall as a friend of mine pointed out this could well be a Golden Age of wargaming! More titles, better rules layout, interaction post sale with designers, VASSAL, stunning graphics and amazing new game mechanics.

Added to that niche and one of publishers are more easily able to get into the market , expanding our pool of potential games and experimenting with new mechanics and lesser known conflicts with say a short run or a DTP title.

However the "larger" publishers are held to a higher standard of communication, quality and responsiveness.

What does this mean for the 2nd tier vendors, the faster growing small publishers and for our community?

What will happen to those publishers that refuse the changes or are unable to adapt to them?
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J.L. Robert
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For years, I've been railing against the growing sense of entitlement in this entire hobby, not just in wargaming.

It's a slippery slope for publishers. Answer one e-mail, then you're expected to answer EACH AND EVERY E-MAIL, no matter how poor the spelling, grammar or translation may be. Once a designer sticks his/her head into a forum, there's complaints unless that person then becomes a regular contributor. With this increasing access, there are now 365 days of customer service and complaints instead of just the few weekends during convention season.

While it's great to provide direct feedback at times, there are moments when I wish people would let designers just focus on designing games, like the old days.
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I agree with the notion that expectations regarding communication are very annoying and the entitlement sensation needs to settle down.

However,

The expectations regarding quality products & all other service aspects that are still usually not met can & need to be improved if the community is to grow and prosper.
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Years ago I mentioned to Gene Billingsly (GMT games) that I wanted better counters in his wargames. I made the arguement that I did not care about maps (I have plexiglass) mounted or nought but I wanted the playing pieces, the pieces you actually manipulate, to be higher quality.

At the time, he deferred. He asserted "there has to be some way to connect the counters to the sprues."

Yet, 3 years later we are getting higher quality playing pieces from GMT. He is a smart businessman.

It is a credit to his company that he listened.

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J.L.Robert wrote:
For years, I've been railing against the growing sense of entitlement in this entire hobby, not just in wargaming.

It's a slippery slope for publishers. Answer one e-mail, then you're expected to answer EACH AND EVERY E-MAIL, no matter how poor the spelling, grammar or translation may be. Once a designer sticks his/her head into a forum, there's complaints unless that person then becomes a regular contributor. With this increasing access, there are now 365 days of customer service and complaints instead of just the few weekends during convention season.

While it's great to provide direct feedback at times, there are moments when I wish people would let designers just focus on designing games, like the old days.


It's the age-old problem of customer service: setting expectations and delivering a level of service against those expectations that customers are happy with. If you deliver less service than the customer expects, then you will find yourself with an increasing number of complaints. By the same token, deliver more than the customer expects and you can find yourself in the position of having to spend more time and money on customer service, because customers may come to expect - as standard - this 'improved' level of service that you are seen to have provided.

I think what publishers need to do, particularly the smaller ones, is to state more clearly what they will deliver in terms of customer service. That way they don't inadvertently fall into the trap of being expected to deliver more than they are physically capable of and failing.

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Enrico Viglino
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Once upon a time, companies like SPI/AH could just pretty
much throw their games over the wall, and people would buy them.

The hobby's changed. Companies like The Gamers and GMT, you know,
the ones which managed to survive the great drought, did so both
by producing very good games, AND by providing a level of customer
service which simply hadn't been seen before - and made it a selling
point, advertising the fact.

Gamers who were once used to brusk treatment saw an alternative.

More than this though, when companies started pulling customers
more and more into the risk of production, with techniques like
pre-orders, there's more of an expectation for better communications.

Many of the 'complaints' engendered are actually fantastic feedback -
they allow the company to see where they're not living up to what
are today's standards. In all these cases, those who capitalize
on the changing factors in this niche market - one where things
like customer service actually matter - those are the ones who
survive.


There's one more factor - and again an opportunity - which is that
the smaller publishers once were only making sales to those who
pretty much sought them out. Now, the interwebz gaming sites make
it very easy to learn about all these smaller publishers. People who
aren't die-hard fans of that company, but rather used to the experiences
they get from the larger publishers today are testing those smaller
ones. If they fail to meet expectations - not just in quality of
product, but also on the communications side - they will make (at
most) one sale to many of these.

Capitalism is funny that way. Consumers expect things, and will just
walk away if they aren't satisfied.
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Lee Kennedy
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I was expecting more from this thread.
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I have only dealt with the two major wargame publishers of the current era (MMP and GMT) and both their service and products have been excellent. GMT excel in this area and set a standard which smaller or less committed publishers might struggle to meet. As I am unlikely to do business with any other companies, their level of service or product quality is not a major issue. The fact that we have excellent online retailers like nws-online.net also makes life easier for me as a consumer of wargames.
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Brian Morris
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I think overall both the quality of games and service from wargame publishers today is extremely good. I think our expectations in terms of communication from publishers today is higher because with the Internet communication is so much easier than it was 20 years ago. We no longer live in a world of writing a letter, sending it off in the mail and hoping in a month's time we get an answer. People simply expect better communication today because that is the current standard.

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Paul Cornelissen
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calandale wrote:
Capitalism is funny that way. Consumers expect things, and will just
walk away if they aren't satisfied.

Voting with your wallet and your feet is a very powerful way to communicate with a company. It tends to get their attention rather quickly.
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Enrico Viglino
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Largo68 wrote:
calandale wrote:
Capitalism is funny that way. Consumers expect things, and will just
walk away if they aren't satisfied.

Voting with your wallet and your feet is a very powerful way to communicate with a company. It tends to get their attention rather quickly.



True enough - but one of the wonderful things about
a small hobby like this is that the consumers often will
give warning, via message boards like this, allowing the
company to understand why they're losing sales better.

In everyone's best interest really - it gets their attention,
helps them to rectify some issues. Sure, big companies can
afford to target polling to determine why they aren't successful
any longer, but with the small margins, I'd guess most look
quite positively on discovering the risk before losing people.

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Andy Daglish
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Largo68 wrote:
calandale wrote:
Capitalism is funny that way. Consumers expect things, and will just
walk away if they aren't satisfied.

Voting with your wallet and your feet is a very powerful way to communicate with a company. It tends to get their attention rather quickly.


'Voting with your wallet' won't work because there's always several tens of thousands of dollars-worth of hoopleheads out there, who of course keep the industry afloat. Its very rare for a game title to make more than this, hence the long P500 lists. Maintaining an industry rep & market share may be more closely connected with giving the customers what they think they want.
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Lance Runolfsson
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aforandy wrote:

'Voting with your wallet' won't work because there's always several tens of thousands of dollars-worth of hoopleheads out there, who of course keep the industry afloat. Its very rare for a game title to make more than this, hence the long P500 lists. Maintaining an industry rep & market share may be more closely connected with giving the customers what they think they want.


Really good point. Its a strange market where the product gets purchased based on expectations. But strong chance it won't consumed (played) until long after it is purchased. In fact big chance it never gets played by the guy that bought it in the first place. Personal example, bought Nothing Gained But Glory played one of the scenarios with a buddy 3 times first two times pretty much just to learn the rules. Like the game so much that I P500 two more in the series. But in the mean time have done 10 plays working through 3 scenarios of COHATB wound up trading for two more games in the series without having even finished playing through the first! Previously had started to play through the Napoleonic 20 series but have played none of those in for a couple of months but I keep collecting the series through trades and purchases. So I'm acquiring games a lot faster than I am consuming them. Which is I suspect likely to mean that I collect way ahead of meeting the burnout threshold of each game series. Bottom line is I think I am an at least a semi irrational consumer in the area of board wargames. This is probably good for the sales of the game companies. But does not necessarily reflect what I am going to want in the future. Thing is I do not think I am in anyway abnormal in this. This all makes this niche market a very weird market I suspect.
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J.L. Robert
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thelivekennedy wrote:
I was expecting more from this thread.


We're waiting for YOUR contribution.
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Brian Morris
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Good post Lance. In many ways when you do a P500 pre-order you're purchasing not just the game but the company's reputation. You have expectations based on past games and the company's history.

This puts publisher's in a rather unique position. Both MMP and GMT rely heavily on their P500 systems and those systems are driven by their reputations. So their reputations are even more important for their bottom lines than most other companies.
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Björn Hansson
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red black wrote:
no living rule books


Living rules are the best. No rule book will be perfect the first time around. In fact: no rule book will ever be perfect, hence the living rules concept. Long may it reign.

Having said that, we shouldn't accept poorly written rule books to start with, but the odd need for clarification here and there will always be needed, IMO.
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out to lunch wrote:
As far as box art is concerned I think we're definitely on a downward slope. Recent GMT cover art were pretty shoddy cut & paste jobs that looked like they were put together in 10 minutes on photoshop with no concern whatsoever for image composition, contrast and such (Virgin Queen or Combat Commander: Resistance! are the prime culprits imho).

When I look at the cover art for Andean Abyss or the VG edition of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage I suspect videogame imagery and the inability to think of graphics editing software as a means to an end rather than as the end itself goes a long way towards explaining the considerable uglification of wargame art in recent years.

Lots of really iconic cover art in the 70s and early 80's, not so much nowadays. When a reprint comes out, invariably the new cover art is inferior imho. Breakout: Normandy, Titan, EastFront II, the list goes on.


Personally I couldn't care less about cover art, and the development is only natural:

20 years ago the covert art was what sold the game on the shelf in a gaming store (or magazine). As mentioned above due to these wonderful websites we now get much more pre-release information (designer's diaries, rulebook previews, game board sneak peaks, beta-this-and-that etc.) directly from the publishers and designers, which is now what is selling the games. Hence the companies are now more focused on communicating with customers than contemplating cover art.

I think it is pretty interesting to take part in, and it surely creates a symbiosis between designers and gamers. There is of course a danger, that it will take focus away from developing new games, and simply become too much for the designers to live up to the expectations. I think we should all remember to treat the designers with respect. I see many forums requests like "..if only the designer would chime in..." and I think we need to be careful with posts like that. One recent example that I remember very clearly was an attempt to get news on the realease of The Guns of Gettysburg from Bowen Simmons in this thread:

cornjob wrote:
bowen wrote:
cornjob wrote:
UniqueRabbit wrote:
That would be the suckiest thing that ever sucked.

I would be disappointed, too, but things have been pretty quiet for a long time now. Its just starting to seem more and more plausible that this one never gets that final push. Someone had to say it first.


I don't think there is any scenario where it doesn't come out. The state of the design is not an issue. It is completed and is a very good game. (I think.) The issues have been related to my physical ability to handle it the way I've handled my past games. I have several possible solutions to this and hope for a resolution soon, which would send the game directly to the printer.

That's great news, Mr Simmons. I hope your health is improved, or at least manageable.

I have to admit, my post was meant in part as a bait in hopes you'd weigh in since we'd heard nothing for quite a while. I wanted to be told I was wrong by the authority on the matter. Now, I just hope you can find a workable solution to getting the game to market. You have lots of fans that are eager to move from Napoleonics to Gettysburg!
Link to thread

I know that was all posted because people are exited about the game which is good, but behaviour like that could push some designers away from participating in the forums. In other words, we just need to be careful not to expect designers to be able to spend the crazy amounts of time on BGG that some of the users do whistle
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Greetings from Tartu, Estonia!

I think it is pretty obvious that our expectations have indeed risen regarding everything having to do with the hobby: game quality, customer reservice, on-line interaction on fora like CONSIMWORLD and the like. We want more from our gaming magazines, more from our video reviews and published replay sessions. More from our conventions and awards programs.

At least in terms of game components, if you want improvement, you can always build your own ADC, VASSAL, or CYBERBOARD sets electronically, to say nothing of physical "mega" game treatments or enhanced DTP components that you can have printed out professionally at Office Max, Office Depot, or a professional print shop, if not your own computer printer.
 
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LanceRunolfsson wrote:
aforandy wrote:

'Voting with your wallet' won't work because there's always several tens of thousands of dollars-worth of hoopleheads out there, who of course keep the industry afloat. Its very rare for a game title to make more than this, hence the long P500 lists. Maintaining an industry rep & market share may be more closely connected with giving the customers what they think they want.


Really good point. Its a strange market where the product gets purchased based on expectations. But strong chance it won't consumed (played) until long after it is purchased. In fact big chance it never gets played by the guy that bought it in the first place. Personal example, bought Nothing Gained But Glory played one of the scenarios with a buddy 3 times first two times pretty much just to learn the rules. Like the game so much that I P500 two more in the series. But in the mean time have done 10 plays working through 3 scenarios of COHATB wound up trading for two more games in the series without having even finished playing through the first! Previously had started to play through the Napoleonic 20 series but have played none of those in for a couple of months but I keep collecting the series through trades and purchases. So I'm acquiring games a lot faster than I am consuming them. Which is I suspect likely to mean that I collect way ahead of meeting the burnout threshold of each game series. Bottom line is I think I am an at least a semi irrational consumer in the area of board wargames. This is probably good for the sales of the game companies. But does not necessarily reflect what I am going to want in the future. Thing is I do not think I am in anyway abnormal in this. This all makes this niche market a very weird market I suspect.

That's really too bad. We're defeating a feedback mechanism manufactures depend on. It's a sure way to actually reward companies for producing lousy wargames.
 
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Enrico Viglino
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Largo68 wrote:
LanceRunolfsson wrote:
aforandy wrote:

'Voting with your wallet' won't work because there's always several tens of thousands of dollars-worth of hoopleheads out there, who of course keep the industry afloat. Its very rare for a game title to make more than this, hence the long P500 lists. Maintaining an industry rep & market share may be more closely connected with giving the customers what they think they want.


Really good point. Its a strange market where the product gets purchased based on expectations. But strong chance it won't consumed (played) until long after it is purchased. In fact big chance it never gets played by the guy that bought it in the first place. Personal example, bought Nothing Gained But Glory played one of the scenarios with a buddy 3 times first two times pretty much just to learn the rules. Like the game so much that I P500 two more in the series. But in the mean time have done 10 plays working through 3 scenarios of COHATB wound up trading for two more games in the series without having even finished playing through the first! Previously had started to play through the Napoleonic 20 series but have played none of those in for a couple of months but I keep collecting the series through trades and purchases. So I'm acquiring games a lot faster than I am consuming them. Which is I suspect likely to mean that I collect way ahead of meeting the burnout threshold of each game series. Bottom line is I think I am an at least a semi irrational consumer in the area of board wargames. This is probably good for the sales of the game companies. But does not necessarily reflect what I am going to want in the future. Thing is I do not think I am in anyway abnormal in this. This all makes this niche market a very weird market I suspect.

That's really too bad. We're defeating a feedback mechanism manufactures depend on. It's a sure way to actually reward companies for producing lousy wargames.



I don't see it as too likely to be a real problem. Few buy games
without at least LOOKING over what they get - so yeah, there may
be some issues, but anything really glaring will show up
by skimming the rules, I think.

I'm not familiar with the COH stuff, but in the case of M&P,
the series is highly unlikely to be terribly different from other
examples of the series - same core rules. Shoddy scenarios are
likely to be detectable by that once over. Issues like balance are
unlikely to factor into someone already enjoying the series - they
understand that some attempt is made to find balanced battles,
but many just aren't going to be so.

We're also looking at games, in each of these cases, which have
largely already been vetted. They may not be to the buyer's taste,
no denying that, but they're good solid games.

It's the pre-order system for untried systems which is more
problematic. The companies can indeed put something out there
which isn't a terribly good game, and people will buy it based
on hopes and expectations (along with reputation) - and enough
are committed to do so to even get the thing produced. The industry
needed that though. Companies which betray that trust too often
will fail - or at least stop being able to float such products.
It just will take a longer time for the market to punish them.

I know I was damned suspicious of pre-orders (and kickstarter),
but feel comfortable entering into these agreements in many
cases now. Then, there are games I'm less convinced will please
me - and I hold off on them until I hear enough to sell me.
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mrbeankc wrote:
I think overall both the quality of games and service from wargame publishers today is extremely good. I think our expectations in terms of communication from publishers today is higher because with the Internet communication is so much easier than it was 20 years ago. We no longer live in a world of writing a letter, sending it off in the mail and hoping in a month's time we get an answer. People simply expect better communication today because that is the current standard.



This is what I remember. I do not remember companies or designers being standoffish or brusque. If you had a question, comment or criticism of a game, you wrote to the designer or publisher. If it was questions, you included a stamped, self-addressed envelope, so you would get a response. And I did, on many occasions. I remember one letter in particular, that I wrote to Mark Herman concerning Pacific War. It was 8 pages long, and included questions not just about rules, but also about some of his design choices. Off it went, with its SSAE, and not only did Mark reply, he replied at length, and addressed every point I had brought up.

Designers and publishers actually appreciated feedback from customers, when it required the effort of thoughtfully composing a letter, typing it up, and enclosing the means by which they could respond. It showed a personal side to the consumer base that likely only helped to make the designers and publishers feel good about what they were doing.

If anything is missing from the equation, today, with the advent of the internet, it is the effort required by the consumer, which serves as its own kind of filter against ad hoc queries and bitch sessions. The feedback from the publishers and designers, though, was always there, if you went to the trouble of trying to get it. At least, that was my experience. Everybody (in this hobby, anyway) wants to feel good about the products they put out, and also want to believe that their products are appreciated.
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DarrellKH wrote:


This is what I remember. I do not remember companies or designers being standoffish or brusque. If you had a question, comment or criticism of a game, you wrote to the designer or publisher. If it was questions, you included a stamped, self-addressed envelope, so you would get a response. And I did, on many occasions. I remember one letter in particular, that I wrote to Mark Herman concerning Pacific War. It was 8 pages long, and included questions not just about rules, but also about some of his design choices. Off it went, with its SSAE, and not only did Mark reply, he replied at length, and addressed every point I had brought up.

Designers and publishers actually appreciated feedback from customers, when it required the effort of thoughtfully composing a letter, typing it up, and enclosing the means by which they could respond. It showed a personal side to the consumer base that likely only helped to make the designers and publishers feel good about what they were doing.

If anything is missing from the equation, today, with the advent of the internet, it is the effort required by the consumer, which serves as its own kind of filter against ad hoc queries and bitch sessions. The feedback from the publishers and designers, though, was always there, if you went to the trouble of trying to get it. At least, that was my experience. Everybody (in this hobby, anyway) wants to feel good about the products they put out, and also want to believe that their products are appreciated.



There were other barriers in place. Companies like AH and SPI (and
VG IIRC) tried to dissuade any but the simplest questions. Proof
is right in the rulebooks. Maybe IF you were obnoxious (IMO) enough
to ignore their instructions, they turned out to be fine, but such
brusqueness actually dissuaded me from attempting to resolve a
legitimate customer issue (my copy of Ambush came with incorrect/
incomplete components - but I had lost the receipt, and really didn't
think a company that made simple questions so unwelcome would
be any good dealing with - yeah, my fault. I was younger, what can I
say? But it did keep me from buying more of their products. Such
signals can do harm).

SPI's customer service was as likely to ignore questions as anything.

The first company I remember going out of its way to ask for
ad-hoc feedback, and to be really open to handling problems was
The Gamers. And they made a big point of it.
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LanceRunolfsson wrote:
. . . Its a strange market where the product gets purchased based on expectations. But strong chance it won't consumed (played) until long after it is purchased. In fact big chance it never gets played by the guy that bought it in the first place. . . .


Great observation, Lance! I think you nailed a critical aspect of the hobby and the commercial vendors who cater to it.

I will add that many of the consumers are satisfied that the game they purchased is flawed, but will continue to buy products from the publisher as long as the customer service/support it good.

I used to get into somewhat-heated discussions with wargamers over that last point. I hate "living rules." To me, if I get a product, I expect it to be complete; I don't spend upwards of $45 to be a beta-tester, and consequently, I've declined from buying products from certain publishers because of these experiences.

Many others have no problem with it, and that's fine. But I think some publishers have taken advantage of that, and release games with inadequate development and playtesting.
 
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Eldard wrote:


I used to get into somewhat-heated discussions with wargamers over that last point. I hate "living rules." To me, if I get a product, I expect it to be complete; I don't spend upwards of $45 to be a beta-tester, and consequently, I've declined from buying products from certain publishers because of these experiences.


Got mixed impressions on 'em. There are GOING to be errata for
any moderately complex games. Period. Systems like CWB/OCS are
going to slowly evolve. The question becomes then, should there
be a single codified source - which I think the answer is yes.
For those of us used to using paper rulebooks though, it would
make sense to provide a changelog - very similar to how errata
used to be delivered. Don't count on users printing out (unbound)
copies of your PDF, or having a tablet to access rules' changes.
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Bill Eldard
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calandale wrote:
Eldard wrote:


I used to get into somewhat-heated discussions with wargamers over that last point. I hate "living rules." To me, if I get a product, I expect it to be complete; I don't spend upwards of $45 to be a beta-tester, and consequently, I've declined from buying products from certain publishers because of these experiences.


Got mixed impressions on 'em. There are GOING to be errata for
any moderately complex games. Period. Systems like CWB/OCS are
going to slowly evolve. The question becomes then, should there
be a single codified source - which I think the answer is yes.
For those of us used to using paper rulebooks though, it would
make sense to provide a changelog - very similar to how errata
used to be delivered. Don't count on users printing out (unbound)
copies of your PDF, or having a tablet to access rules' changes.


Admittedly, it's a matter of degree. I can accept some errata, like corrections to a misprinted counter or table, and certainly clarifications of rules.

But I'm sure most of us have seen games where major portions of rules are rewritten because customers found they didn't work. And, yes, that includes things like changing words like "may" into "must," because these should've been ironed out in playtesting IMHO. If I go to a company's game errata page and find several pages of errata, I won't even consider the game.

Consequently, I shy away from even moderate complex wargames these days.
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