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:


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.

It’s three o’clock in the morning … and I’m thinking about wargaming

As I have mentioned before on my blog, I suffer from periodic bouts of insomnia. Over recent days my inability to sleep has been increased by chronic indigestion … which I suspect may well have been brought on by my poor sleeping pattern.

A couple of nights ago I gave up the uneven struggle of lying in bed trying to sleep, and at just before three o’clock in the morning I got up, went downstairs to the living room, and sat in my chair … and hoped that the change of location and position might just help me to doze off. It didn’t … so I began to idly list on a notepad all the things I want the next set of wargame rules I write to include … and the reasons why.

Here is that list:

  • The tabletop will be gridded. (This is now a prerequisite of my figure wargame designs.)
  • The minimum size of grid should be 8 x 8 (if a squared grid) and 9 x 8 (if a hexed grid). (This is based on the experience I gained whilst designing the PORTABLE WAR GAME.)
  • The basic units will have four infantry figures or three cavalry figures or two artillery crew plus a gun. (This will make them compatible with my existing wargame rules as well as Richard Borg‘s BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, and COMMANDS & COLORS rules. It will also enable me to store an individual unit in a single compartment in one of the hobby trays manufactured by REALLY USEFUL BOXES.)
  • The rules should be able to be used solo and for face-to-face wargames. (Although most of my wargaming is done solo, I am not completely friendless and do like to fight against other wargamers occasionally!)
  • The combat system should be applicable to both fire combat and close combat. (A single system for resolving all types of combat keeps the design simple, easy to remember, and quick to use.)
  • The dice I use should be either standard D6 dice or D6 dice with symbols on each face. (The former are easy to use but the latter usually don’t require users to have to remember the outcomes of particular number or dice score combinations.)
  • There should be some form of limit placed on how many units a commander can activate each turn, and that the limit should reflect the commander’s underlying ability to command. (This should work for both solo and face-to-face wargames, and bring an element of ‘no commander can do everything’ into the rules.)
  • A battle fought using these rules should be quick to set up, fast to fight through, and easy to pack away afterwards … and should require a small (i.e. 4′ x 3′ or smaller) tabletop area. (I have to accept that in the modern age time – and space – are at a premium, and that I may have to choose between taking part in large but very infrequent wargames and smaller, more regular ones.)

So now that I have my design parameters – none of which are particularly new or revolutionary, and all of which have featured in one way or another in my earlier designs – all I need to do is to design my next set of wargame rules around them.

As Alexandr Orlov would say … ‘Simples!’

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14 … the story continues

Although I have not mentioned it on my blog for the past few days, I have been thinking about bringing elements of OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules (and possibly BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, and MEMOIR OF BATTLE) together. In fact I sat down one day with the intention of writing this ‘new’ set of rules … and promptly hit a mental brick wall.

Modern thinking about work practices seems to be that what I should have done at that stage is just ploughed on regardless … and hope that something useful would result. (I always think of this as the monkeys and typewriters approach!) It is almost as if being seen to do unproductive work is better than producing no obvious work at all, and that spending time thinking about solving a problem is wasted time.

I have never believed in this sort of approach … which is probably why I never reached any higher on my career ladder than I did. I always preferred to mentally ‘walk away’ from a problem that I could not immediately solve in order to let my subconscious mind do the thinking for me … and I usually found that it worked.

When I woke up this morning I felt as if I was almost ready to begin putting my ideas down on paper … but not quite. Hopefully this will change as the day goes on and I do everything except sit at my computer thinking about how to start!

Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14

One of the things that struck me as I was taking part in the recent Ivangorod 1914 re-fight was the similarity between the sizes of units used in OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules … and in several other sets of rules (e.g. BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, MEMOIR OF BATTLE). All the rules seem to have gravitated towards unit that have the following number of figures:

  • Infantry: 4 figures
  • Cavalry: 3 or 4 figures
  • Artillery: 2 (or more) figures + 1 gun

With this in mind I began decided to see what sort of OP14 ‘armies’ I could field from my existing 15mm and 20mm-scale collections. The results were – to say the least – interesting.

15mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’
A Fezian Army of three Corps and a reserve Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades/Regiments – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 96 Field Guns.

A Britannic Home Service Corps. It has three Divisions – each with two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 48 Field Guns.

A Britannic Foreign Service Army of two Corps and a reserve/lines-of-communication Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 72 Field Guns.

20mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’
A German 1944 Infantry Division. It has two Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

A Russian Rifle Division. It has three Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

It would appear that I could certainly field sizeable OP14-style ‘armies’ in 15mm-scale … and that 20mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’ might make it possible to re-fight quite large battles in a small space.

If the opportunity arises, I may well take this ‘experiment’ further. The problem is that when I set out the figures to see what OP14-style ‘armies’ would look like. I was reminded that my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules still need further play-testing and that their origins lie in an idea that Archduke Piccolo had to fight grand tactical/strategic-level wargames. That said, by adopting OP14-style ‘armies’ and reducing the weapon ranges used in my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules I might just be on the verge of developing a set of rules that could be used for fighting grand tactical/strategic-level battles.

This ‘experiment’ has certainly given me plenty to think about over the next few days.

Visiting Fireman

Last night Tim Gow – a fellow member of Wargame Developments who co-organises the Conference of Wargamers [COW] with me every year – paid his (almost) annual visit to my wife and I. As happened on previous occasions, he was in London for a conference and made time to come over for a chat, something to eat, and a wargame!

We spent a very pleasant evening together, and managed to fight the Battle of Bull Run using BATTLE CRY … which he won! (The end positions for both sides can be seen in the following photograph.)

We also spent time talking about wargaming in general and the Conference of Wargamers [COW] in particular. Quite a few ideas were discussed (including a possible Plenary Game for the next Conference), as were several potential scenarios for large-scale MEGABLITZ wargames we might fight in the future.

As usual my wife and I enjoyed seeing Tim, and hopefully he will be visiting us again in the very near future.

Getting ready for Sunday

Next Sunday will be the first meeting of the Jockeys Field Irregulars since Christmas. It was originally intended to be devoted to wargames that were designed by Richard Borg (i.e. BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, and COMMANDS & COLORS) but the recent death of one of the regular members – Roger Barnes – has brought about a change in the programme.

I have been asked to take along my PORTABLE WARGAME, and this afternoon I have begun assembling everything that I need. I am planning to put on three games; two using the 19th century version of the rules and one using the 20th century one. The former will be fought out on two of my vinyl chessboards and the latter will use a green baize cloth … on which I have yet to mark a suitable square grid. The figures and the rest of the playing equipment (other than copies of the rules) have been boxed up, ready for Sunday … which gives me Friday and Saturday to make sure that I have not forgotten anything.

I am looking forward to Sunday as it will be one of the first opportunities I will have had to try the latest versions of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules out against real opponents. It will also ensure that I am well on the way to fulfilling my objective to fight at least two wargames per month during 2013.

Portable Wargame news

Whilst I have been away on my latest cruise, the PORTABLE WARGAME has continued to go from strength to strength.

Steven Page (who writes the blog ‘Adventures in Portable Wargaming‘) has been using a slightly tweaked version of the ‘Modern’ rules to refight several actions in North Africa, including:

At the same time Kaptain Kobold has not only produced a specific American Civil War version of the ’19th Century’ rules entitled MIGHTY MEAN-FOWT FIGHTS but has also used these rules to fight several battles including:

David Crook (of ‘A Wargaming Odyssey‘ fame) has also been busy and refought The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba, October 1917 as well as an after D-Day action in Northern France that he has entitled Breaking the Panzers, France 1944.

So what have I been doing whilst all this ‘action’ was taking place? The answer is simple; no wargaming BUT I have ‘converted’ my version of my existing MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA rules that cover the late nineteenth century into a similar format to that used in the PORTABLE WARGAME and renamed them the PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules.

With a bit of luck I should be able to make these ‘new’ rules available online later today.