Sunday, 6 June 2010

Hamlet, the Jester and the Dwarf's Axe

I wrote last month about how I struggle to write completely original wargames rules, but I do a pretty good adaptation of other people's work (the blog's called Hamlet & the Jester if you're new here).

Any how, as you may remember last Friday we were playing a quickly knocked off adaptation of RFCM's "Civil War Battles" to do Russian Civil War. Although I missed most of it the players liked it quite a bit, so I plugged a few of the gaps and we had another go this week. It went pretty well, although I'm not sure the balance is quite there yet. I'm a bit short of pictures as my camera seemed to be set to the video setting for half the evening.

There's a downside to being a Grown Up right there, - you can't work technology after your kids have borrowed it. Still, here's one of the Whites deploying their artillery to cover the bridge into the village as a Brigade of the Konarmy thunders towards it (off picture). This is a real classic, old school photo complete with wargamer's hands and a steel tape measure.

The game featured some notable pieces of action, - in particular the annihilation of some Kuban cossacks when a Red Austin Putilov Armoured Car managed to enfilade them launching a charge. As a group of players we had a long discussion about this, but I think I'm comfortable with the idea of units caught in the open by Heavy Machine Guns having a short shelf life.

As some of the players had an early start the following day to do Games Expo in Birmingham we didn't play to a conclusion. However, we got enough out of it for the players to suggest some changes and to admit they'd happily play some more games over the rest of the summer. Plus Phil S has nearly finished the scratchbuilt Garford-Putilov's, and they look really nice so we need an excuse to use them.

So we're going to revisit the motivation and turn sequence and also look at the combat effectiveness. Some of my recent reading means I want to put in quite a bit more detail around the use of armoured cars, and the card driven damage/event system for armour is working pretty well.

The infantry melee/overrun rules look to need an overhaul, but I've got some ideas for that, and the morale table/sequence will be tweaked a bit more as well.

Which brings me to the dwarf's axe. This comes from one of Terry Pratchett's novels in which ancestral weapons are discussed. Dwarves carry weapons handed down to them by their ancestors. They may replace the handle or the axe head from time to time, but it's still the same axe. Now clearly that isn't the case, and I'm sort of like feeling the same way about these rules. At what point, when I've replaced various bits do they become an original set of rules written by me? Most sets of rules share common features, - measuring distances on a tape measure, hit rolls & saving rolls, and there was a time when EVERY set had one of those figures v factore cross reference tables. How many bits of the rules have to be original for me to claim them for my own?

I'm not there yet, but I'm getting close. I may take this game to CoW, not just to play it, but to have the discussion.

As a postscript here's a picture of Turing's "Bombe" from Bletchley Park. It was taken by young Miss Trebian on a field trip to Blechley Park with the rest of her graduate maths group. I can't help feeling how lucky we all are. In another age some of her group could have been there trying to win the war. Bletchley Park safly is in a bad way, and we should all be doing what we can to help preserve it. Take a visit.


  1. >At what point, when I've replaced various bits do they become an original set of rules written by me?
    >How many bits of the rules have to be original for me to claim them for my own?

    The activation system is very recognisably RFCM. The game will be better when you have replaced it. At that point the game will no longer be a variant of CWB, I think.

    This is partly because it is one of the few survivors from your starting point, partly because *Command and Control* is a very characteristic feature in any contemporary wargame (there is much more commonality within combat mechanisms, movement systems and the like). CWB's (I think unsatisfactory) motivations system is as characteristic to it as is, say, Pips to DBA/DBx, or *playing cards in squares* to the various WD inspired games.


  2. I agree it is very recognisably RFCM. I was musing on was whether the approach had become sufficiently generic to be accepted as a common game mechanism.

  3. ..oh, and I want to keep a random element to the command system so I can have failures & coercion.

  4. Yes. I can see 'fail but get another go' is a conscious design feature. Funny - we haven't had anyone mutiny yet or shoot their political officers!

    I think if you change how the officers move about (and/or how their command range/function is measured) it will have morphed into the generic. Last version we rolled three dice to move officers before starting motivations. That is RFCM. But it doesn't work very well, so I'm sure will be gone from the final version.

  5. No Mutinies as we don't play enough turns! I had a brainwave or two over lunch today and I've got a new "Motivation" and "Action Point" approach for Friday's game.

    There's less and less of the RFCM framework in place, so I've offered the game for CoW.