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Monday, September 5, 2016

Bolt Action/Konflikt '47 - Embracing Change... Or... Why Change Is Not A Bad Thing

Last night I sat down with a mate to play another game of Konflikt ’47. I have been playing semi-regularly since the game’s release and despite this, my opponent and I found ourselves going back to the rules many times as we unpacked and worked our way through situations that arose over the course of the game. When reflecting back we discovered that we had been playing draws, in the combat resolution phase, incorrectly. This is an error that significantly changed our understanding of how the assault phase works. As we face the end of the original Bolt Action rule set, I think it is important to remember a few key things when looking at a new edition of a loved game system.

Now, some of you have clued into the fact that, I, Old Man Morin, am not actually that old (zip it Dave!). The guys on the cast, gave me this nickname not because of my actual age but because I have been actively (my wife would say obsessively) playing games since I can literally remember in the early 80’s. Because of this, I have experienced and survived, literally, countless edition changes to the games that I play and love. From Car Wars, to Battletech, to D&D, to Warhammer, to 40k… you get the idea. Updates happen and they are good things! Without updates, games become too unwieldy to easily play because you need countless FAQ’s books and magazine updates to play (First edition 40K, I am looking at you!). Worse than this, without updates, other games stagnate and die. I think we can all agree that we do not wish this fate upon our beloved Bolt Action.

Games developers face a near impossible challenge: How to rejuvenate a game without losing its essence and personality while still making passionate fans, of every persuasion, happy. It is a job that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Without fail, some fans will love the new direction that games inevitably go while others will proclaim that the world as they know it is ending. I think a level of perspective is needed here. Regardless of our opinions, we should take a step back and take a deep breath and remember that, no matter how much time, effort and money that we pour into our hobby… in the end, it is still “just a game.” We should remember how hard game designers have worked to modify and update the rules. We should trust in their ability to create a system that works, at least until we learn how the game itself works.

While we are keeping an open mind, it is really important that we take the time to examine new rule sets with fresh eyes and that we try to leave our prior conceptions about how the game works behind. This is especially true when approaching leaked rumours about upcoming edition releases. We must maintain a sense of context. I understand that many people are really apprehensive about the inclusion of templates in BA Version 2 but it is crucial that we remember that we are only seeing isolated rules, not the whole. We are then applying these individual rules to our existing understanding of the game. While our past experiences are invaluable, they colour the way we see changes and can lead to misconceptions about how new rules work, especially since we are not seeing how these rules interact with other new rule modifications. A good game system is a complex machine made up of countless interconnecting cogs. You cannot accurately judge a game by a single rule; you need to look at the sum of its interacting bits and pieces before getting a valid picture of how the system itself actually works. Though rumours are great for building hype for an upcoming release, we really should take them with a grain of salt until we have played and understood the game for ourselves.

That said, even when we have the book in our hot little hands it is important to remember that we are still looking at the game through the lens of our old system understanding. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I have played more than a few games of Konflikt ’47 and I am still getting little things wrong. Though I have read and reread the book, it is literally impossible to remember all the changes, especially in the heat of battle. Learning a new system, no matter how close it is to its predecessor, takes time and practice. You have to put boots on the table and play. This process takes months to get right. I applaud the Bolt Action Alliance’s decision to impose a 12 month moratorium on updating their season rules for Version 2. Those rules were created by asking the BA community for a consensus about changes that the game needed to play better. There cannot be accurate thoughts and reflections about V2 until the game is actually in circulation and has been played. Anything else will stunt the natural growth of the game.

Inevitably, changes mean that some units will improve and some will require new ways to play. This is a good thing because it causes us to adapt and grow as players. It keeps things interesting and fun! That said, many players will find that forces that they own will need modification, even though our army lists are not changing. Take this time to paint up some new units to breathe some life into old forces. I have been really enjoying playing older armies with a few new K’47 additional units and Konflikt’s new rules. I look forward to seeing how I can tweak and expand these forces even more with Bolt Action’s imminent 2nd edition release.

This is an exciting time of change and innovation for Bolt Action and Bolt Action related games. Embrace the excitement and try something new.

Till time...

Old Man Morin 

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