Rules design philosophy

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  • Rules creation and modification is an all-favorite topic for discussions.
    But behind the rules, there are many constraints! This post is intended to help interested people understand why we made some decisions about rules.
    Some are obvious, others are better explained than left to guess. Here there are.

    The game The Ninth Age was created with several constraints and goals, which - of course - partially contradict each other…

    One overarching concern was that T9A at its start wished to cover most of the needs of existing players, owning large existing collections, which often included old models which had been very popular in the past.
    Additionally, rules needed to remain reasonably close to player's expectations.
    Basically, the first version of T9A had to provide immediately to players the feeling that it was "their" game, addressing "their" needs.

    See also: Existing and new models usable with The 9th Age

    Clarity, simplicity, no ambiguity.
    The greatest care was taken to avoid the frustration that comes from badly written rules, which would result in the need for numerous FAQs and erratum. A permanent focus is to get a simple system that is easily understood. One of our overarching design goals for the 9th age is "simplicity, without removing tactical depth".

    Balance, both internal and external.
    External balance (all armies of equal power level) is something we value highly. As you can probably imagine, balance is a very difficult thing to get right without extensive play testing; the search of balance is a never ending task, and the more the factions and options, the harder it becomes.
    Internal balance (choices within the army of equal power level) is something we also value highly. No unit in any army book should be auto-include, and every unit or option in the army book should be useful at least in some builds. This means that all units should have a role to fill in the army.
    For the rationale for balance adjustments, see also 2.0 General Discussion
    EDIT: after moving to 2nd edition, the balance is reviewed annually. See: Patch Update

    Appropriate risk reward; controlled randomness
    Randomness is a part of the game. But the result of the confrontation should not be decided by a single, all-important dice roll! We strive to reduce the worst random elements (not all, just the most game-breaking effects of completely random stuff that the players have minimal control over). We value better educated tactical choices taking into account risk.

    Background, customizability and diversity.
    Beyond a desire for perfect balance, what makes the charm of this game is its diversity. Each Army Book must have a unique feeling, as reflected in its background. Of course, if the background described a unit or a faction to be so skilled as to be nearly invincible, that would not be playable; but a part of that "invincible" flavor would need to be (mildly) reflected in the rules.
    We strive to allow more than one play style for each faction. On a related note, we also want to limit so called RPS (Rock-paper-scissor) effects, i.e. very matchups dependent lists. We don't want a game where the outcome of a match is determined before armies are even deployed. To achieve this, we are looking at making very one sided armies (pure gunlines, flying circus etc.) less attractive.
    A great fun is to create customized army lists. The more the options, the happier the player. We will maintain this flexibility as much as we can. However, this is to be balanced against the necessity to test out all the possible options as much as possible.
    See full detail here: Armybook design philosophy #1, Armybook design philosophy #2

    Changes for legal reasons.
    One constraint which nobody likes but we cannot escape is the necessity to base the game on sound legal grounds.
    We do not want our game, along with the thousand hours spent to develop it, to be under the threat of any legal action.
    This has forced us, in particular, to examine closely every bit of rule which could be questionable.
    This was explained at length when we moved from 1.1 to 1.2 version: Version 1.2 - Why Change From Version 1.1?
    You may wish to read as well: The Grand Summary of the legal explanations for T9A, as well as the Sinking Ship Discussion.

    The game is made for the community. Unfortunately, it is not practically possible to achieve a high quality game in open discussion forums, where anyone could try to influence the outcome. On top of this, larger groups tend to work slower. This is why most of the work is made in hidden forums, where authors are relieved from the popular pressure.
    Nevertheless, the community input is made in two ways:
    First, in multiple threads where authors are kept in touch with the community, informing the community of the developments and intentions, asking the community for its feedback and opinion. This can go a very long way. Example, in contrast to most game developing projects, we have decided to keep the public in the loop for Playtesting the Beta.
    Second, by the recruiting the authors from the community, and ensuring in T9A boards a wide diversity, geographic or representing various parts of the Hobby.

    Further developments.
    Once all factions will have their own army book, the job will not be considered completed for eternity.
    Rules may evolve for more simplicity or greater tactical finesse.
    Special named characters or units will be introduced for each army. Scenario rules will be introduced (possibly siege, naval battle…), as well as variants (most likely beginners, or skirmish game…).
    Some new armies will be introduced (very slowly, as it makes balancing more complex), some new units may be introduced to allow cool models to be played (provided that at least two companies proposed such models).
    Some existing models or units may find new roles, if they have no specific role to fulfill, or if they are no longer supported by any miniature manufacturer (in that case they would be merged with a sustained unit).
    Please find a very practical, first-hand testimony about how army books were updated to 2.0: Dispatches from the front: a Marshal's view of the 2.0 update so far

    With these explanations, I hope that you will have a greater understanding and patience with the rule creators, who have to find the best balance among these many - and contradicting - constraints and principles.

    Advisory Board

    Background Team

    Social Media Team

    - contribution: The 9th Age - Dread Elves

    21,390 times read

Comments 3

  • Geodon -

    Now this is exactly what I signed on for. Very nice change of pace from the philosophy of certain other games I've played over the years. Salute!

  • Calisson -

    Thanks for the comment!
    Whish already granted!
    The present thread is public and called "About Us".
    The blog will get a special very easy access when completed.

  • Pellegrim -

    This stuff is so clarifying. I hope this can be pasted in a public thread called "about T9A" or something. Awesomesauce