As good as our game is, we do realize that there are some problems. We will address them here and let you decide if we made the right decisions. If you've got any comments on any of this, we want to hear them.
The Intimidation Factor: Ridiculously Detailed
One of the most annoying criticisms we have ever received was the complaint of our game being "ridiculously detailed."
We had our game displayed as usual, the large boards and the game laid out over every square inch of table space we could acquire. While we were instructing a new player on the basic combat rules, a person walks by and stares at the board for about two minutes and then leaves shaking his head. We tried talking to him, tried to hand him a pamphlet, tried to make eye contact... he just walked off. Roughly two hours later, just after the battle he had been staring at was completed, we see him walk by again, this time with a friend in tow. He was walking past all the tables giving his friend little "critiques" of the games being played. (Which actually frustrated me a bit, because I had not seen him playing ANY of the games in question.) As they passed our table he uttered, "This game here is ridiculously detailed."
Frankly I was annoyed because he hadn't even tried the game, and his "expert opinion" was gleamed from looking at our board, realizing that we were playing with factual, not abstract, representations of historical equipment, and deciding on his own that it was too much... for him. Little did he realize the battle he was staring at of 17 units, took 1 hour and 20 minutes to play!
I sat there and brooded about it for a few seconds then realized... Yes we are more detailed than all the rest, even "ridiculously" so, and we still play in less time! I then cheered up and got ready for the next game. Whoever you are out there, thanks. Twain said he could live for two weeks on a compliment. I can live a month on those kinds of complaints.
The sad part is, that if we had not placed this much detail into the record sheets the game may just be too fast! If you had played the game once you would know what we mean. Imagine only having four items in the manifest, it would barely be worth playing.
The "wandering critic" does address one thing about our game: To the uninitiated Shellshock does look a bit overwhelming. Tons of small print, on small margined paper, with numbers and descriptions plastered over nearly every square inch. When other wargames take hours to play just a couple units against each other, and we display 8-14 to a side, maybe even more just for demonstration purposes, I can see why many may be intimidated.
We have heard dozens of times, "Seems complicated." Ask that same person what they think after one turn, and they say, "Nope not complicated at all."
Sure we may be intimidating, but just play Shellshock, enjoy, and smile when you show up at a convention to demo the game and you intimidate everyone else!
Holy Infinitesimal Batman: The Small Fonts
Well, this criticism is one we can't really avoid. Unfortunately we do have a great deal of information that needs to be on the record sheet, and for it all to fit we need to use small fonts. One of the main premises of the game is that a player should never have to look at a separate chart. We always hated the time spent looking up and consulting charts in the games we played. We want everything you need to be right there on the record sheet.
There is some good news though. Depending on which options you wish to use during play, you may not have to look into many of the small font pitched areas. Read the Tips and Tricks and you can see how with the different styles of play, especially the ones designed to speed up play, concentrate on the areas that are fairly easy to read.
Finally, we may try a two-sided record sheet for those of you who need one. If there is a demand for it...
The Magic Bullet: Internal Damage Inconsistency
I agree this is one drawback of our system. In general there is little complaint but usually once or twice each game there is a piece of equipment that just should not have been hit from a certain angle. While this is a numerical insignificance considering how much stuff blows up in Shellshock, we, being the perfectionists we are, at least want to address it. Justin and I started off this creating this game saying to ourselves, "We want to be as fast and as realistic as possible." If it ever came down to an even decision of speed over realism, we would choose speed. Surprisingly, on very few fronts did we ever have to sacrifice reality. However, the internals damage charts are one exception. This is probably the biggest bane that I have for Shellshock.
However, every other internal damage system we came up with significantly slowed down game play. This was the fastest and least cumbersome system we could come up with. And while it's not perfect, what is? For those who just can't handle an Abrams getting hit in the front and having only the engine get damaged, remember, this is war. Freaky things happen in war. Maybe that sabot round really did miss everything important and not hit any crew members until it hit the engine. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No. One could even argue the possibility of it happening makes our system more realistic.
But, I admit, the statistical probability of it happening in the game is certainly much higher than real life. And therein lies the error, and the realism that was sacrificed for playing speed.
More to come...