Working towards a set of ‘universal’ wargames rules

Whilst I was on my recent cruise I had time to give quite a lot of thought to the rules I have been using in the Zubia-based mini-campaigns I have fought since Christmas … and have come to the conclusion that I am on the verge of putting together a set of simple, fast-play wargames rules that will be adaptable to a variety of different historical periods.

The ‘universal’ wargames rules that are evolving are based upon the work I had previously done when I wrote the following:

  • THE PORTABLE WARGAME
  • MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB)
  • MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOBAT)
  • ITCHY & SCRATCHY

They also draw heavily upon the work of Joseph Morschauser and Richard Borg.

In a nutshell the rules can be summarised as follows:

  • Units have initial strength values of 4 (infantry), 3 (cavalry), and 2 (artillery);
  • Units retain an undiminished ability to fight (i.e. they throw the same number of combat dice) until they are destroyed (i.e. their strength value is reduced to 0);
  • When one side’s remaining strength value is reduced to 50% of the combined strength value they began the battle with, they cannot continue to advance from their existing positions, although they may withdraw and continue to defend themselves; when both sides are reduced to 50% of the combined strength value they began the battle with, the battle ends;
  • A card-driven unit activation system is used;
  • Unit movement is restricted by the terrain the unit is moving through and whether or not it is engaging in combat during its current activation;
  • One combat resolution system for both fire and close combat;
  • The combat resolution system uses standard D6 dice, with the number of dice thrown depending upon the range at which the combat is taking place;
  • The combat resolution system uses pairs of dice to determine ‘hits’ on enemy units (i.e. 1 + 1 = ‘hit’ on an enemy artillery unit; 2 + 2 or 3 + 3 = ‘hit’ on an enemy cavalry unit; 4 + 4 or 5 + 5 or 6 + 6 = ‘hit’ on an enemy infantry unit; enemy units in cover require these scores plus an additional pair to be ‘hit’)

I had initially decided to use special D6 dice similar to those used in Richard Borg’s BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR ’44 rules, but I found that my attempts to do so were flawed (i.e. the dice seemed to end up unbalanced) so I reverted to a simpler system based on the one used in my ITCHY & SCRATCHY rules. (The original idea for this combat resolution system came from Archduke Piccolo [see my blog entry of 14th September 2013 and his blog entry of 13th September 2013].)

These rules have now been set down on paper, but require some more play-testing before I make them more widely available. In the meantime I want to complete varnishing and basing my collection of Del Prado pre-painted 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic figures before the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo in June.

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10 Comments on “Working towards a set of ‘universal’ wargames rules”

  1. I've been thinking/experimenting with Ross's rules based on those by Joe Morschauser by varying the strength points of units- some detail but not too much.I am going to try it with fantasy too.
    I look forward to reading more as the rules develop.
    Alan

  2. kd2 says:

    Hi,

    I've been reading your development of this project with some interest over the past few years.

    I enjoy the way you have adopted some of Richard Borg's ideas with your own. Richard is a fascinating rules writer and I like the way he has managed to develop seemingly simple mechanisms into a thought provoking whole, such as the way he depicts the effect of unit morale in the C&C series. Though his games can look a little odd with units able to fight at full strength right up until it is completely removed from the board I understand that his view is that the losses required to force a unit to break are pretty small (to be decimated is to reduced by 10%) so that up until that point the actual fighting ability of the unit remains fairly constant. However, though he doesn't provide any separate unit morale rules the use of unit removal as a means of determining the army breaking point/victory means that the players will tend to 'protect' weakened units to avoid removal, thus reflecting those units' shaken status.

    Utilising unit strength loss rather than unit removal to determine the army's breaking point would mean that all strength points are equally meaningful to the players. Does this mean that separate unit morale rules are required?

    Just trying to gain an insight to your thought process.

    Cheers

    Kevin

  3. David Crook says:

    Hi Bob,

    I had a feeling that at some point you would be looking to amalgamate the best bits from these rule sets into a 'universal' set. The big advantage of doing this is of course that you will be able to focus on your various campaign based ideas without having to worry about the rules.

    I will be very interested to see what you have in mins and shall look forward to seeing some games fought with the evolving set.

    All the best,

    DC

  4. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

    It is interesting that Ross Mac and I have both decided to try to develop our own sets of 'universal' wargame rules … and that they shared a certain degree of commonality. This is hardly surprising considering that we have both been influenced by the work of Joseph Morschauser and Richard Borg.

    Once the draft of my rules is ready, I hope to send them out to various people to play-test and/or comment on them.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. Kd2 (Kevin),

    To be absolutely truthful, I could happily use Richard Borg's rules for almost all my wargaming … but being a typical wargamer I cannot resist tinkering and/or changing the rules that I use to suit my particular ideas.

    I think that unit morale rules aren't necessary because I see the loss of strength value as reflecting the degradation of the unit's ability to fight and not just casualties. By using an Exhaustion Point to determine when a side's ability to continue to take aggressive action has been reached, it is possible for a side not to have lost a single unit and yet to have lost sufficient strength value across its units to have reached that Point.

    I hope that this makes my thinking a bit clearer.

    All the best,

    Bob

  6. David Crook,

    As you know, I have been thinking about doing this for some time, and my recent cruise provided me with the time and opportunity to actually sit down and do it.

    Once I am happy with the draft, I will send a copy to you to play-test and/or comment on them.

    All the best,

    Bob

  7. Thank for the acknowledgement!

    I've been taking an interest in your rules projects, as well as Ross Mac's and Tim Gow's. Having limited war games space I am looking to any methos whereby I can get a game with a small playing surface. My own BB4ST Napoleonic set (which project will resume shortly, I hope) is a move in that direction.

    On the other hand, I tend towards different rule sets for different periods. My reasoning – probably not very rational – here is that I don't want to find myself playing the same game whatever the period! But I might yet be persuaded to a different view.

    Cheers,
    Ion

  8. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    Credit where credit is due, old chap! Your idea was inspired, and has meant that I could use normal D6s to achieve the same end as I would have achieved using specially made dice.

    Restricted time and space is a much more common problem in the hobby than a lot of wargamers realise. Not everyone has the ‘luxury’ of even a 6’ x 4’ tabletop to fight their battles on, hence the popularity of DBA/HOTT.

    I may have been a little misleading when I referred to what I am doing as working towards a set of ‘universal’ wargame rules; the reality is that I want to create a set of core mechanisms and a structure/design architecture that can be adapted – without too much trouble and effort – for use with a range of historical periods.

    All the best,

    Bob

  9. Your 'core' mechanics approach makes a lot of sense to me, and I believe it is the approach taken by Sam Mustafa and Col Gray and others. I hadn't really thought about it, but my own appraoches to my games from 30YW to ACW take a similar 'core' line.

    I forgot to mention, by the way, that the difference in effect between the use of ordinary D6s vs symbols, is the insistence on actual doubles, or pairings, of the pips (4-4, 5-5, 6-6; but not 4-5, 5-6 or 6-4, etc). This tends to reduce the numbers of hits to something manageable. There are 9 permutations of number pairs 4 to 6, but only 3 (permutations of) doubles.

  10. Archduke Piccolo,

    The concept of a 'core' structure with 'plug in' modules that can be era-specific developed as a result of my work teaching IT and simple computer programming. Most computer programs have an architecture/structure that is made up of a number of sub-routines. The sub-routines can be separated tested and – if need be – removed and replaced by other sub-routines designed to meet similar but different requirements.

    By applying this to the design of wargames rules, it is possible to have a common core structure that is adaptable to a wide variety of different historical periods.

    Your point about the need for doubles is well made, and is one of the attractions of the mechanism. It is still possible to have a situation where more than one casualty is caused when a group of dice is thrown … but such a situation will be exceptional rather than the norm.

    All the best,

    Bob


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