The Last Kingdom starts tonight on BBC2. I'm pretty excited, being mid-way through the books and having just finished watching series 3 of Vikings.
Bernard Cornwell writes fantastic battle scenes. I loved his 'King Arthur' trilogy and its brutal descriptions of warfare in the Dark Ages. But whenever I think about Cornwell's books I am reminded that my mother loves his books too, and she pretty much skims, if not skips, the fight scenes. She also enjoys Joe Abercrombie, another writer of wonderfully brutal combat, and again... Again, what my mother wants to know is who has won, and what were the consequences of that victory (or defeat).
So while Cornwell's books make me think that I want to play an RPG with a crunchy, 'realistic' combat system (RuneQuest 6 with Mythic Britain* comes to mind) my mother's tastes remind me of what I actually enjoy at the table, with the players I game with. A while back I wrote 'Thoughts on boring systems...', arguing that simple (combat) systems maximise player choices with minimal demand for system mastery. Sure, if I'm playing 'Saxon Britain: the RPG', I will want a combat system that produces brutal, visceral results - the consequences of player choices regarding engaging in combat - but I don't need a system that has a process that simulates the brutal, visceral nature of combat. Not only do those systems tend to require system mastery, which is rarely attained by my players, but simple systems tend to produce rapid resolutions, allowing players to move and make more consequential choices in a session. Which is pretty important when you're squeezing gaming into the gap between kids' bedtimes and heavy-lidded brainlessness.
So, by all means, I love games that have combat that has the PCs risk bloody wounds and hacked limbs, but for my players, which sometimes includes my mother, I need to skip to those consequences.
*RQ6 is a beautiful system that, despite the above, I would love to properly play sometime. I have Mythic Britain on order, but it might get cannibalized as the setting for a more rules-lite game, depending on which players I can bring to the table. I