My guess as an answer to that question is that a set of wargame rules is a fairly conventional book type thing with an introduction, definitions, and some rules for battles and, maybe, some suggestions for campaigns, or some army lists or something similar at the back. Maybe there are some nice colour pictures of toy soldiers in the text, and a few photographs which try to explain some of the finer points of the rules, and so on.
I can think of few rule sets which do not conform to this sort of structure. I suppose that the one sort which do not are computerised rule sets, but they do not seem to be actually that popular. At least, I’ve never used them and I think I have only seen computer wargame rules at one show, and I cannot remember if they were on sale or used in a demonstration game.
There may be a number of reasons why rule sets are usually in a given form. The overwhelmingly like reason is that most of us do not want a computer cluttering up the wargame table alongside everything else. Certainly in the days before wafer thin lap tops, tablets computers and Smart phones, most people did not want to wheel a great big PC into the room just to calculate the results of a few dice rolls.
Speaking as someone who spends most of his days sitting in front of a computer screen, I, personally, do not wish to do so in pursuit of my hobby as well. Aside from the fact that computers go out of date faster than you can say ‘Moore’s Law’ and the fact that often, at the most critical juncture, they go wrong and refuse the calculate the effects of the advance of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo. I might work with them but I do not have to like them.
Be that as it may, I’m still not sure that computer moderated rules are terribly popular. The point is, I think, the computer moderation of the rules. I have reasons to suppose that placing wargame rules on computers, so they can be read as, say, a PDF, might be popular, but that is simply because you can then read the rules on, say, a Kindle rather than on a paper page. The medium has not changed that much; a book on a Kindle is, in all important respects, an analogue of a book. After all, that is an important aspect of the marketing of e-book readers.
The result of this trend, that of placing conventional rule books in computer formats, is that the full use of the possibilities of computers are not exploited by format. By this I mean that, for example, video or audio channels are not exploited and nor, in most cases, are ideas of, for example, having an army list calculator built into the rule set. A wargame rule set, conventionally, is a flat document which does not do an awful lot. A wargame, however, is a dynamic thing acted out in some sort of real time.
Now, I suspect that computer moderated rule sets are not terribly popular because we like to ‘see the workings’, as it were. If I am the general of a wargame army, I want to roll the dice and see the result, not tap a few numbers into the machine and get a result. I want to feel personally responsible for rolling that 6, or feel the terrible sinking feeling of the double one that sends my hussars scurrying the wrong way across the table.
So a computer moderated wargame rule set probably pushes the boundary of what we want from rule sets a little bit too far. We do not want to be confronted by a completely black box which just issues inscrutable results. Part of the reason for wargaming, I suspect, is a desire to see the logic behind outcomes, even if that logic is moderated by random dice rolls. After all, the randomness more or less balances itself out within a game or two, if not within a given game itself.
The fact is, the medium does have a role to play in determining the message. A book gives a way of receiving the message: you have such and such factors, you have this terrain effect, you have a dice roll and you look up the results of this table. The result is explicit and intelligible. This is not the case in a computer moderated rule set. Inscrutability is not what we are after, even if it can be argued that it is more accurate (whatever that might mean).
Wargaming, of course, does use computers extensively, but not for the actual game itself. You, gentle reader, are an example of this, reading a wargame related blog. But the rules are not really a part of this. One answer might be that wargamers are inherently conservative; another might be that I am completely out of touch with wargaming reality, but I suspect the answer is much more widely known than that. If we use computer wargame rules, we change the nature of what we are doing.
It is well known that, for example, a text of a story and a video of the same story give different responses in the viewer, even if the events in each are the same. The medium in which the story is delivered is a part of the story. While, of course, it is an exaggeration to declare that the medium is the message, there is a real effect. If we computerise our rules, we are doing something different from having the rule book to hand; it is not a totally different sort of event, but it is, to paraphrase Star Trek, ‘wargaming Jim, but not as we know it.’
I am probably writing from outside left field here, and do not think I have been very clear, but I would be interested to know: would you use computer moderated rules?