This line of thinking started when Mike pointed me to the Simple Game System, which I had somehow not heard of before. I was prepared to be skeptical, as most minimalist systems leave me cold,* but I like that dice mechanic.
* What I mean by that is that minimalist systems almost always sound appealing at first, but seem to fall flat in actual play. It turns out that what I most often want is a Fat Game from which I can pick and choose which bits I actually want to use. I don’t know that I have ever played a pen-and-paper RPG exactly as written – I always strip out that which strikes me as stupid and bolt on that which strikes me as awesome. After a while I realized that this is what everyone does, and I stopped worrying about it.
That gave me a realization about BattleTech vs the X-Wing Miniatures game. Since London and I got into X-Wing minis last fall I’ve been pretty hot on that game and pretty cool toward rusty old B-Tech, which always takes forever. But one of the appealing things about BT is that it’s a box of parts that you can play with – there are rules for making up new mechs and tanks and they allow people to do things that the game’s designers never anticipated. Whereas X-Wing is very, very lean and balanced and playtested to within an inch of its life, but it doesn’t invite experimentation – in fact, it discourages it, at least for me, because tinkering with the stats or the rules is probably going to break the game.
Also, I’ve been thinking lately about how interesting it is when the playstyle of a game mimics the content. Like, the lean rules and quick play of X-Wing really do make it feel more like a dogfight. It’s all desperation and snap decisions and trying to out-guess your opponent on the fly. By comparison, BattleTech is massive and clunky and takes forever. It’s the opposite of lean. But in a way this is good – sometimes you really want to get down in the mud with some clanking, brutal 75-ton monster and stomp someone’s ass in exquisite and excruciating detail. Or at least I do.