Simple Mechanics, Deep GameplayThe Age of Sigmar core rules are apparently 4 pages. Players are deriding it for its lack of "crunch" and over simplicity. Whilst I bet there ends up being plenty of rules clutter (given GW's track record, and the Warmachine vibe I'm getting via the special-rules-in-the-unit-box approach)
I've also been thinking about simplicity in games, due to my recent playing of the PC game World of Tanks. For a videogame it has ultra-simple controls (basically WASD, left click, shift) but it has a very high skill ceiling. Good players, as part of a 12-man team, can sustain 75% win ratios. Over 1000s of games. That's a massive swing, considering the "purple" player is just one of 12 team mates (whose skill may vary wildly from game to game). The entry level is easy, but it is hard to master.
The "Chess" analogy is a tired one and not so applicable to wargames - but it is the epitome of 'easy to learn, hard to master.' In a wargame, we have dice which can make the unexpected happen, but there is no "hidden knowledge" or special rules players can "game." In videogames we call this "metagaming" - gaming an aspect of the rules. For example, this could be as simple as choosing long-range weapons when you know 90% of maps are open (Mechwarrior) or it could be using a special build or loadout of weapons/armour special attacks (most RPGs). Games like Warmachine and Malifaux rely a bit too much on intimate knowledge of a rather complex game system, and knowing all the "exceptions" to the rule. Warhammer 40K is heavily dependent on "building" a good army. In contrast, games Ambush Alley have no unexpected rules, and is more common sense. Interestingly, Infinity bridges both camps - I feel it is severely over-complicated with gear and special rules, but its overarching rule (stay in cover/move from cover to cover) overrules the rest so strongly you still need common sense use of tactics.
The simplicity vs complexity debate is perhaps a bit tired, but a related question is "when does the metagame become bigger than the game itself" - and when is it desirable? (Warmachine trades on its CCG-style, and Games Workshop naturally encourages army building)
2D6I've been interested in 2D6 mechanics lately, and the "bell curve" they create. A lot of game designers seem to be favouring the "buckets of dice" approach lately. I.e. roll a handful of dice, with 4s,5s and 6s (or often 5s and 6s) scoring hits. "Modifiers" are created by adding or removing dice to the pool. This is done I think to primarily avoid modifiers that go "off the dice" i.e. if a 6 is needed to hit, but it has a -1 modifier... It also allows smaller increments than the 33% jumps of a single d6. Personally, I like the "neatness" of a d10, but it can have some wild swings. I've been experimenting with a way to simplify Battletech damage - instead of ticking of 100s of armour and structure boxes you roll 2d6 and it is either stripped of armour, deflects the hit or is blown off. The 2d6 allows a good balance of predicatability (over the more random d10) whilst still having a 10-point "range" (from 2 to 12). Math for unit building etc is a royal pain, though.
Possibly worth investigating is a 'bigger' question - when does "luck" become too random, and when is it too predictable? I.e. if I roll a d6 and need a '6' to hit/defend/accomplish anything, the game is rather too random. You cannot make plans with any certainty - it all comes down to the roll of a dice. If I attack with the total of 12 d6s and the defender rolls a total of 3d6s, the result is a foregone conclusion. That's not random enough.
Defensive Ability/Unit SkillThis came from online rumour of the Age of Sigmar rules, and spending time reading through Fistful of ToWs. Fistful of Tows uses the system now made famous by Flames of War; unit skill not only determines how accurately a unit attacks, but also how hard it is to hit them. I.e. the better the unit, the better the defensive "saving throw" - any hits against an elite unit are saved on a 3+, but rookies only save on a 6+. This shows that veterans are better at avoiding damage and taking cover.
Age of Sigmar (apparently) has a "to hit" roll based purely on unit skill. They've done away with the old WS which measured unit skill relative to each other. So you might have two elite units rolling to hit on a 2+ and absolutely knocking the stuffing out of each other, and two rookie militia units flailing around uselessly trying to get 6s to score a hit. In reality, the elite units would not necessarily take casualties at a higher rate, as their skill relative to each other is similar and they would have superior defensive skills to compensate.
Perhaps the bigger question is "when should rolls be relative, and when should they be absolute?" and when/where is the time/place to use opposed rolls.
The Trap of Too Many MinisThis comes of looking at my homebrew spaceship rules and deciding how many spaceships would make a decently fast flowing game. Due to the vector counters, there is a distinct and visible point where the game "bogs" down with too many ships and clutter. However we all do this. We get a simple game, lauded for its fast play. "Play three games in an evening" and all that. Finally we have a game which we can finish in a gaming session! But since it plays so fast, gamers add more and more models. For example, LOTR:SBG works really well as a skirmish game in the 20-40 mini category. But I see most games have 50-100 minis - well beyond the "skirmish" level the game was originally aimed at. The game gets "gluggy" and slows to a crawl - and you're back where you started. Naturally, gaming companies encourage this (bigger armies = sells more minis*) but I think people naturally do this anyway. (*Age of Sigmar apparently has no "unit cap" - you can have units of theoretically unlimited size)
Maybe the bigger question here is "how do we curb the tendency of gamers to want to oversize their games beyond which the mechanics are equipped to handle?" or "do we have mechanics in place to adapt to these bigger games?"