Friday, 28 March 2014

Rules Archive

John Curry, he of the History of Wargaming site, discussed via the WD discussion group recently setting up an archive of published wargames rules to help rules writes and others doing research.

John's republished loads of stuff, and his personal wargames rules collection must be enormous. Certainly larger than mine. However, I was inspired to do an inventory of rules that I own.

This list is of rules that you have to buy (or had to buy) in hard copy. Downloads are just too easy to acquire and so don't imply any intention of ever using them. I've never had any feedback on the rules I post here, pretty much, so I assume no one ever plays them. Oh, and I haven't included Don Featherstone's books as they were never bought for the rules. If that makes sense. And RPGs aren't included either.

AD2222 Fighter
Much under-rated space fighters game. I quite like them, but we don't really do sci fi as a group, so not really played much.

Airfix ACW - Terry Wise
Tried to get into ACW. Hated it. Stopped playing.

Airfix Napoleonic - Bruce Quarrie
Really complicated, but thorough. Lent mine to someone and never got them back. 

AK47 Republic
Quite simply one of the best set of rules ever written. Witty, clever, inventive, original brilliant.

AK47 Republic Reloaded
Massive disappointment, although I understand those that persist with them say they give a good game.

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming
Regular readers will know how much I love these as a entry set of rules and just plain fun. Ridiculous they went out of print.

Armati / Advance Armati
Much impressed when first played, and lots of fun until we worked them out. Still good for renaissance warfare, with modifications.

Armati 2
Fixed some of the problems in the original, and left or created others. Still give a good game.

Classic Charles Grant rules. Well explained. We added to and modified these over years. Out WW2 bible when I was a secondary school.

Battle of Five Armies (GW)
Bought the GW boxed set out of curiosity and desire to paint the figures. Rules are as you might expect. 

Bayonet and Ideology
Based on PBI2 these are bit hectic and can give odd results. Still get used, however, as they fill a need in my wargaming aims.

Black Powder
Yeah. Well. Over produced and underwhelming as a set of rules. Poorly written and laid out. A triumph of production standards over common sense.

Charge! (Terry Wise reprint edition)
Much loved by many, but not my thing. Individual figures and casualties. By the time I got my own copy (as opposed to using the one in the school library) my wargaming had moved on.

Brilliantly original, if a bit difficult to play and get absolutely right.

DBA v1
Yes. I have an original copy. Don't recall where I got them from.

DBA v2.2
I have John Curry's reprint. What can you say about them. Not my favourite ever, but they work and the game's over quickly.

Doctor Who: Invasion Earth
Skirmish level game from Harlequin to support their figure range. Okay, but the figures are better.

Ed Smith Ancient Naval
Used to play these lots as they fitted into a biscuit tin and played on a small board. First wargame I took to my university club.

English Civil Wars and Thirty Years War rules by Terry Wise
Used a lot in my last year of uni as I looked for rules to handle the French Wars of Religion.

File Leader
Ground breaking set of rules from Pete Berry. His most original and successful work, defining a new level of game with appropriate mechanisms.

Flintlock and Ramrod
Napoleonic skirmish rules from the Old West team. In the end very unsatisfactory as it took so long to load a musket, then you usually missed at point blank range. I know I owned them, but I can't find my copy.

Forlorn Hope
I helped write these whilst at university. Lots of originality in design (unit strengths based on proportion of weapons) but look a bit dated now.

Gladiator rules form Paragon
The set I own is a second edition reprint. Derek & I bought a copy between us at the Military Modelling tent at the Aldershot show in the mid 70's. Both got "Biscuit Tin" arenas and took it everywhere with us.

Hammerin Iron II
Probably my second favourite RFCM set of rules. Clever and imaginative. Lots of fun. Everyone, pretty much, I introduced this too went off and bought it. Well, maybe I exaggerate, but lots did.

Hordes of the Things
Good fun. I have an army of garden gnomes.

Got them to do early renaissance games for my Henry VIIIth figures. Tried a couple of times then found they didn't do what I wanted and everyone else hated them.

Men of Company B
Like the look of them. Never got round to buying the Vietnam kit. Thought about it a lot.

Old Western Gunfight
Derek & I bought these based on write ups in "Wargamer's Newsletter". These are the Mike Blake et all set with the pink cover. Gosh we played these a lot in our teens, using Timpo 54mm figures.

Once Upon a Time in the West
Written by Ian Beck & friends from Halifax, the definitive cowboy rules. Comprehensive and incomprehensible, alas.

Once upon a Time in the West Country
Disappointed by these ECW skirmish rules from Pete Berry. Expected something original after File Leader, but nothing here to excite me.

Patrols in the Sudan
Clever, and fun. Bit confusing at times, but an interesting take on the subject.

Not perfect, but interesting. The more recent PBI filled in some holes and seem to be popular. I never needed them to change.

Pieces of Eight (original version)
Completely mad set from RFCM. 15mm scale pirate ships and crew. Never quite worked, but a great try. 

Polemous SPQR
Given a copy to review (see blog post). Original, but sometimes baffling. Can see why they have a big following, but don't do anything that makes we want to change from the other rules I use.

Pony Wars
Ian Beck's Plains indians v US Cavalry rules, intended for shows only. Brilliant game. Good to see it back at shows in 10mm. Mechanisms still worthy of interest today.

Represent a typical type of skirmish game from the time they were written. Never found them that interesting or sufficiently enticing to try them again.

The Chariot Rules! Awesome.

Science vs Pluck
Classic, classic rules. Brilliant approach to asymmetric warfare.

Written by me, based on File Leader. I'd change a few things now, but I reckon they still stand up okay.

Slim Mumford's Medieval rules
We used them for a campaign. I never liked them much.

Square Bashing
Quite liked them at first, but too much fiddling about in the end.

Square Bashing 2013
Jury is still out, but I'm warming to them.

How confusing were these?

Under the Lily Banner
They looked nice, and I wanted some Marlborough period rules. The read through didn't convince me they were worth too much effort.

Warfare in the Age of Marlborough
Mid - late 70's set of rules. Completely incomprehensible and unplayable. 

Wizards and Warfare
Can't find these now, but I bought them when I was doing Lords of the Rings games with converted Airfix figures. Modified and improved over a few years. Abandoned at Uni when I discovered no one took fantasy wargames seriously no matter how much effort you put in.

That's 46 sets of rules. Bear in mind these are rules I have owned, - not borrowed and never given back.

There are some notable omissions from my collection. Very light on WRG & I don't own FoG either. That's not to say I haven't played them, - it's just I don't own them or have never owned them.

There's a lot there I've looked at and never really played. Perhaps it's time to remedy that.


  1. When I have some time I will have to do a similar list. I expect I have a similar number or perhaps a few more

    1. I have 10 of your 46 by the way, my favourites being Forlorn Hope and Retinue

    2. I never really got into Retinue, although I keep meaning too (I have a load of Crusaders & Turks half painted). Forlorn Hope are just terrific, however.

      Let me know when you put your list up.

    3. Will do

      Retinue can seem a bit clunky and old fashioned now with more record keeping than modern rules. Shooting, loading, aiming is broken down into quarter periods. One tip is to do all shooting in the first half of the move before moving and all in the second half after.

      If you give them a go I would suggest a dozen figures a side to start with - with practice 30ish is quite possible.

      I take some time to gat my head around Forlorn Hope if I haven't played for a bit but it is a set I would like to play more of.

    4. Will look at Retinue again.

      My comments on FH were intended to be about File Leader, although FH is a good set of rules. Whoops.

  2. Well sir I did not realise you were the gentleman who wrote 'Sepoy' - an excellent set of rules used by me a lot in the past

    1. There's a blog about Sepoy somewhere in the archive. Have a look for the "Sepoy" label on the right.

      Good to hear that some one played them, even with the page missing.

    2. One of the sample scenarios in the back of the book has some paragrpahs missing due to the way the pagination was done. I was trying to do DTP on an early 90's version of Word.


    My list - the formatting is awful but I can't seem to change it

  4. That's how I like reviews - Pithy!

    1. Hopefully to the point as well as pithy. Looking back at the comments I hope I'm not being too unfair to some of the authors who'll have put in a lot of effort to get their work into print,

  5. Interesting list- I have more than a few of the historical sets- none of the Fantasy Am a fan of Forlorn hope- nothing yet better for the ECW. Retinue is well fiddly as hell and echo your remarks on BP though there is a good 10 quid set of rules in there. Somewhere ...
    Shall have to have a look at Sepy though- first I've heard of them

    1. Good to hear that someone is still playing Forlorn Hope. If I'd had another year in Sheffield I'd have had joint authorship on the cover I reckon. Ben W only really got involved once I'd left.

      Agree on BP, - there may well be a good cheap set of rules hidden in there, but they're buried deep.

      I think "fiddly as hell" is kind in respect of Retinue.

      Seek out Sepoy if you like File Leader. I think, modestly, that they're still the only set of rules that does the IM at the right level of resolution.

    2. I've studied the Mutiny off and on for years and I'm still not sure about any set of rules I have so far tried- Most have tended to be very Skirmishy- in other words just another western gunfight. Both sides used largely regular trained troops- the mutineers largely failing on higher command functions- less so at Battalion level..
      As for FH- I've tried a good number of ECW sets 1644- utter twaddle- Gush- not rubbish but fiddly Age of Discovery - had its points but ...WHAB ECW - a game for kiddies and very laborious . There are others I've forgotten... FH still the only game in town

    3. Sepoy are based on File leader, so work at one stand of six figures to a company. That means it is perfect for the small British forces. Caliver books have still got a set or two, so have a look next time you're at a show. Skirmish rules just aren't right for most actions.

      The ECW is not well served, - over supplied by rules that don't deliver. FH are good for flavour, I'd agree. We get on well with Armati, using Phil's modifications, and for simple games using 15mm figures in blocks Victory Without Squares (see top right) give a good game.

      But your descriptin of 1644 & WHAB ECW gets the thumbs up from us.You'll note a distinct absence of glossy rules in my listing.

  6. I highly recommend Ed Smith's Ancient Naval rules for a fast and fun set of rules that also manage to give a realistic outcome (a combo that's not all that usual with many more modern rules!)

    1. I should go back and play those Ancient Naval rules again. They were fun.

  7. I have a similar collection in the loft. Looking at some of the rules we played with 30+ years ago, I'm staggered by their complexity. Mind you, we were students. . .

    1. I think in those days they had to be complicated to try to prove to people that it was a proper hobby for grown up people, and was to be taken seriously.

      And we did have more time on our hands.

  8. I keep thinking of doing a list of rules but I think I would have about 100 based on your criteria (hardcopy and bought for the rules only). I have only ever got rid of one set of rules and that was Lance (it is on your list). Not that they were bad, but I knew I would never ever play them and would use some other WRG derived rules instead. I am slowly working through playing the ones I have not played (there are a lot!) including decent ones acquired as a PDF. If the author took the time to write them and get them published, and then I paid money for them, I am willing to give them a go, if only once.

    1. 100 is a good number. You should do the list. it's a great way of reminding yourself what you do and don't like in rule sets.

      Perhaps once I retire for good I'll work through the whole list. The problem is that often one game isn't enough. You spend the first game blundering around trying to work out what's going on. After three or four games you understand them properly. However, I find once you've played them a lot of times the games get formulaic, especially with the more complex rules, and you can end up with rules based tactics coming to the fore.

    2. I may do the list - I have other project things to do but this sounds very interesting. I do find I stumble my way through the game the first time.
      That first game does go a long way to whether it is the sort of game I would enjoy playing and should invest more time in. I do like seeing how authors use their mechanisms to recreate history so I keep playing new rules. It does not stop me returning to favourites though (like Armati).

    3. I did most of my list from memory during a number of lunch breaks. I did it in Excel at first, so I could sort it into order after i'd finished.

      The first gamei s often critical, as you say. Especially in a group. if someone takes a dislike to them (and it could be for a non-rules relatede reason) you'll never get them back on the table.

      I like looking at new rules and trting them out so I can pinch all the best ideas.

      We have some favourites we fall back on to game some periods. Armarti would be one of those.

  9. Just caught up with your list of rules, with some I recognise (Forlorn Hope, if only I could find my copy) and others that could prove interesting to track down. I think Ancient and Medieval Warfare is still very much in print, at least if you don't mind it on a Kindle, Kobo etc. It's cheaper too!

    1. AMW is only available electronically. My well-thumbed copy has lots of bookmarks and odd bits of paper sticking out of it. I have a Kindle, but it simply isn't the same!