Saturday, 8 December 2018

Making it up as I go along

I don't know why people come to this blog. Possibly for the toy soldier pictures, possibly for my wry observations on life in general as a wargamer and perhaps because I write my own rules and talk about their development.

I've fiddled with rule sets like, forever. At primary school my mate Derek and I knocked off sets of rules for every period imaginable, based on those in Don Featherstone's "Battles with Model Soldiers", that my big brother had copied out. Every set I ever bought was treated to heavy surgery, - except the Airfix Napoleonic Rules by Bruce Quarrie. So involved trying to fiddle with them was impossible.

I don' know what set was the first I wrote completely from scratch. It would probably be at University, I would think, under the dual influence of Pete Berry and my membership of WD. I know I was writing "committee games" and one off board game type things, but the first set of table top rules I'm not sure about.

Due to the inclement weather today I had no excuses anymore for not sorting out a load of stuff in the study. My historically neat filing system for rules of my own and others had fallen apart a bit, and there were several different versions of rules masquerading as the most current, which is annoying to say the least when you get them out to run a game.

Early rules were hand written, - a challenge for a lefty like me, taught to write in the mid 1960s, but I was liberated by the purchase of a portable typewriter from Boots whilst an undergraduate. That did solid service for about 5 or so years before I bought an Amstrad PCW, which was a gigantic leap forward for writing and amending rule sets. Then PCs were introduced at work and I was into the Windows age with my first PC, a Gateway 2000(?).

Many of the early files I don't have anymore, or can't read the discs, but I still have paper copies of most things. Today's tidy up has taken me down memory lane. So here we have a list of rules wot I wrote, as far as I can tell, together with serious adaptations.

Henri IV and the League 1986 French Wars of Religion
These arose out of my obsession with Henri de Navarre I developed at University. The firing system never really worked, but it featured a sliding scale odds table for the hand to hand, which I always thought worked quite well.
Early XIVth Century Cohesion 1989 1500 -1520
Mainly developed to play Henry VIII v French. Featured a complex cohesion mechanism which counted down from 100 by unit. Too clever for its own good.
"Heat and Dust"  1990 Indian Mutiny
A Science v Pluck variant. Did a lot of work adapting this, but it never really worked satisfactorily. Bombed at COW.
Over the Plonk 1991 WW1 infantry
Platoon level infantry Trench attack. Worked quite well, with system revolving around officers motivating/activating sections.
George and the Dragon 1992 WW1 Armour
Modified from "OTP", this was a tank driving game where you had to predict where you would be in three moves, without telling the infantry player. Famously, in our group, this is the game where Paddy Griffith drove over his own troops and machine gunned them on a pill box glacis.
ERIS 1994 1500-1520
A return to Henry VIII. The "Early Renaissance Infantry Slog" had some novel mechanisms, where the frontage of theu nit represented strength, and the depth quality of unit. The Commanders' main job was to ensure enough casualties were recycled back to the fighting ranks.
Sepoy 1994 Indian Mutiny
File Leader variant. These got published. 
ERICAS 1995 1500-1520
ERIS, only with Cavalry and Artillery as well.
Take Me To Your File Leader 1997 Sci-Fi
A File Leader variant to be played with GW Space Marines. Got quite close to publishing, but had a serious computer problem and lost the files. Only have a much written over printed copy. Featured the "Groms" fighting the "Yacky-Dars". The background to the game was the best bit.
Cityfight Africa 2000 Modern Africa
A squad level AK47 Republic style game, but intended for house to house fighting. Had a novel casualty system where hit markers were placed under the figure bases secretly, with varying degrees of damage. Only know what they are when an officer/medic attends the base.
De Matricae Bellae 2004 Ancient
Tabletop matrix game rules written for the Society of Ancients, based on Chris Engle's "Politics By Other Means"
DMB Squared 2005 Ancient/
The above rules, but expanded, and put on squares.
Red Army, White Guards 2006 RCW
A Divisional Level plus game, using the Richard Brooks "Red Squares" system as a base.
Trial By Battle 2009 Wars of the Roses 
Simple combat mechanisms )based on AMW), lots of work for Commanders to do, ensuring units still have arrows and so on.
Return to the River Don 2010 RCW
Command system features coercion to over come activation fails, - but at thep otential cost of unit mutiny. The command and control process was quite intricate, and plans can fall apart quickly. Armoured cars were handled mainly in respect of their morale effect.
Send Not To Know 2011 SCW
Card driven activation sequence, where players pass initiative between each other based upon how long a suit of cards they are dealt. The firing system altered the die type base on quality, and the melee system had a forced positive outcome, - ie you could not get draws.
If You Tolerate This 2012 SCW
A square based SCW system, with alternating initiative, based on motivation failures. Hand to hand system basically taken from SNTK, but firing system has its roots in Cityfight Africa. Got a makeover in 2017.
Taiping Era 2013 Mid 19th Century China
Intended for both the 1860 "Opium" War and the Taiping Rebellion. System is entirely driven by the EDNA system. Received a significant re-write in 2015.
Rapid Raphia 2014 Ancients
A card driven, limited resource game with 12 units a side, played on a grid.
To Ur is Human 2014 Ancients
Sumerian Warfare, using a Fight/Fright/Flight mechanism. The relative status of units is key as they try to intimidate one another. The core combat system isn't special, - it's based on AMW.
Hurried Hydaspes 2015 Ancients
Like Rapid Raphia, only with elephants
It's Getting a Bit Chile 2016 1879 Pacific War
Corps level actions in South America. Easy to learn with innovative "column shift" combat system and movement linked to disorder. 
Va t'en guerre 2018 Marlborough
Bespoke rules for the WSS which reinforce historical behaviours. Keeping units fresh is key, as is rallying back your cavalry behind your infantry.

It's not a bad list, - there appear to be some fallow years, but looking at my files these were filled mostly with  the development of Participation and After Dinner Games (I'll post a list of those in the near future, too). There's also a period around the turn of the century when I was doing a lot of Matrix Gaming, which culminated in the publication of DMB. I was also obsessing a bit over "AK47 Republic", and running the "Brixcon" tournament. I was also doing a lot on the release of Armati 2, so with all the other stuff I didn't seem to have the time to develop anything serious for myself. In 2007/8 I was doing a lot with AMW, including running demo games for the SoA on their shows stand, so that's a bit blank as well.

Having said this, it looks like a good run since 2009, with some opportunities for revisions. I might go back and revisit the RCW sometime soon.


  1. Have a copy of 'Sepoy' and have played it in the past !

    1. Excellent! They could do with being revisited at some time, to streamline them, - especially the melee system.

  2. Always interesting, thanks. Are you intending to publish the WSS rules?

    1. They've been re-printed in WD's Nugget a month or so back. Will add them to the downloads at some point.

  3. Your rules writing resume is a deal more varied and extensive than mine. Mine have a strong tendency to 'Old School' anyway.

    The first rule set I ever wrote was for ACW, in which I 'invented' a unique combat system. Turns out I didn't invent it at all, but somehow a residual forgotten memory of Charles Grant's 'War Game' shooting mechanics must have informed the approach I took.

    A few years ago, when a gut showed up at the Club with an Imaginary World Army Men project, I devised a quick and simple rule set based very loosely (VERY loosely) on 'Panzer Marsch!' For that I came up with an artillery device that gave point of aim, direction of fire, deviation and beaten zone, all on the same card or transparency.

    I once wrote a simple 30YW set, and then went and lost them. Aaarrgghhh.


    1. I don't believe in "Old School". It normally just means rules I like. As for inventing something other people have produced, - I am a great believer in parallel development. If you were not aware I invented the GANTT Chart in my first month in full time work only to be told that someone else got there first. There's only so many ways to skin the proverbial animal.

  4. Not just good but I would say Epic work!

    1. Thanks. I should really stick at a set for a year or two and perfect them, but there's always so much new stuff to do.

  5. Having some experience of many 'Commercial' Rules Sets - I've found greater satisfaction with writing my own Rules- I tend to be entirely satisfied with my one page or two page Rules..presently working on a 2 page Sci-Fi Space Ship Battle set for my own SOLO Games. Do like your Blog and what you write about. Cheers. KEV.

    1. I try to get down to one or two pages, but play testing always seems to throw up things that need dealing with. In practice most of the mechanisms get on a two sided play sheet, and the rest of the text is just to remind me what i meant when I wrote the rules in the first place.

      And thanks for the kind comments.

    2. Trebian,
      Yes, one to two pages is adequate for the Core Rules...I find that the Battles throw up all sorts of contingencies during the game that need an on the spot house rule to be decided upon...playing Solo certainly allows for remembering these added on rules- though I'm awfully tempted to write down the key rules that were employed. Cheers. KEV.

    3. I tend to start with a couple of sides, as I said. I make pencil notes on the print outs as we play, then update as I blog the game. What lengthens mine is I include organisation and base sizes and scales which as they are just for private use I could probably do without.

    4. In my years as a computer programmer and systems analyst (long, long ago...) I found that 90% of effort went into 10% of cases. Writing rule sets seems to contain the same phenomenon. Getting the 'standard' bits is easy - but then you have to deal with the rare, odd situation that will arise maybe once during the a game.

    5. Yes. The initial design is usually really straight forward (after the obligatory false start). Finalising the fiddly bits takes forever.