Everyone has a few when it comes to playing RPGs or cooperative board games, but what about wargames? Should house rules be encouraged? Or discouraged? Warning, a bit of a rant in this one.
This was really just something I was thinking about because of a certain discussion in the local Planetfall group where certain people were thinking of using d10s instead of d6s to try and entice people who didn't like the exploding d6 mechanic to try and play planetfall. There was a whole debate on this regarding the probabilities of the dice and so on, but my opinion was quite frankly, "Why bother?".
I mean, disregarding the fact that I thought it was a less than intelligent notion, I felt that if people dislike the whole exploding d6 mechanic of the game, which is basically one of the MAIN mechanics of the game, then perhaps they shouldn't play Planetfall. I'm not saying this to be an elitist but considering there are so many different wargames on the market now, if you don't like the main mechanic of a game, then you're probably better off just finding another game that you don't dislike.
Their point was that if you can get more people into the game via houserules, then why not. Except, what's the point if you're just going to make up houserules to please everyone to get into the game? Houserules don't make things inclusive for people, it really just segregates them. Why do I say this? Because, if this houserule HAD drawn people into the community to play planetfall, then what about the other guys who are already fine with the d6 mechanic and want to play the rules as they're written in the book? Do they just give up and play the new d10 houserule to be able to play with the new guys? Do the new guys give up and play the d6 actual rule to play with the majority? Considering the dislike for the exploding d6 mechanic, I doubt the former would have happened. So you have a small bunch of guys who only play d10s and another who play d6s and what happens? The two rarely mix.
The whole problem with houserules is that they're basically...house rules, which means that only a small subset of people will follow them. This is fine when you're playing RPGs or boardgames because they're basically for small groups anyway. However, when you want to play wargames with houserules, then you run into a few problems. The number one being the fact that your houserules will only ever be recognised within your small 'group' and never being able to play with actual people outside of the group.
This can be both good and bad. It's great if you only want to play with the same people over and over again, but why would you want to? Hence the bad part, never being able to take part in the greater wargame community.
Then there's the issues of balance. How do you ensure the balance of your houserules for wargaming? For RPGs or cooperative board games, it's easier because it's a cooperative experience and buffing one class or nerfing one class doesn't really stand out as much because you have the rest of the party to balance you out. However, when you're playing a competitive game where someone has to 'win', then there is the issue of game balance. How do you make sure the house rule affects everyone equally?
Overall, my opinion with regards to House ruling in Wargames is "don't". If you really dislike a mechanic in the game, please just save yourself (and the community) the trouble and find another wargame to play.