I have been wargaming for almost fifty years, and for most of that time have searched for that Holy Grail of Wargaming – the perfect wargame rules. Eleven years ago I found them. Or at least I found my version of them.
For the first thirty years or so I worked my way through a series of wargame rules, all of them the best, or at least most popular, of their time. “Charge, or how to play wargames” was the first, it was also my introduction to wargaming. WRG “Wargames Rules 1685-1845” came next and lasted about ten years. Then came “In The Grand Manner” which lasted another ten or fifteen years, though there were a lot of “house rules” to tide them over. My last commercial rules were “Le Feu Sacre”. I have dabbled with others, but they were the main influence.
I have always gone through the same sequence with rules. First they are hard to master, then they are fun to use, finally they disappoint when the flaws become obvious through a lot of play. My solution had always been to write “house rules”, but they often produced more unexpected problems than they solved.
So for our new project I would write my own rules. Jan and I decided that we would restrict our wargaming to just the two of us so the rules did not have to be comprehensive. In fact they need only be a series of prompt sheets.
I was reasonably happy with our current rules, which were “Le Feu Sacre”. However they were designed for single corps or division sized games with infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons. They also had 12 figure battalions as the basic formation, which did not fit with the figures I had on my shelves. And they used a lot more artillery units than I had available. And, of course, I wanted to fight multi corps battles with brigades. However I liked a lot of the game systems in “Le Feu Sacre” and would keep them in my new wargames rules which I would write myself.
I wanted a set of rules that would be easy to use and would provide a fast and fun wargame.
I wanted all nationalities to have an equal chance of winning a battle. No point in using all of my armies if one or more were destined to lose every game. The Spanish might have a poor field army, but they would have a lot of guerrilla bands who would cause attrition casualties.
I wanted the rules to rely to a large extent on luck. Casualties would be hard to inflict (need a good dice throw) but would have an immediate, long lasting and critical effect on morale and combat effectiveness.
Most important the rules would have to fit well with the new campaign. It was important that each game should last 12 moves, so that each move would be one campaign hour.
It was also important that the table movement rates would cover the same distance on the table as the campaign movement rates did on the map.
The campaign included all of the major participants in the Napoleonic Wars, so it was important that the wargame rules would allow some sort of national strengths and weakeness. I wanted a French corps to “feel” French, and a Spanish corps to “feel” Spanish.
Finally it was important that wargame casualties would transfer to the campaign.
In short the wargame rules must support campaign rules. They were not designed to destroy the other side in one battle. My campaigns were designed to last for three to five battles, consequently the wargame rules must allow the defeated side the abiliy to recover to fight again, even if it might take two or three campaign days to do so.
The rules have now stood the test of time. We have used them three or four times a week over the past ten years. I have amended them in the light of game play. This has proved effective because I fully understand the consequences of each rule change. Special rules, for example guerrillas, have changed drastically. But the basic rules have remained the same.
You could use any commercial rules with this comprehensive wargames system, but I would strongly recommend writing your own wargame rules. It is the only way that you can get exactly the type of game you enjoy playing. There are no compromises to make them acceptable to the majority. Most important because you have written them you can easily change them as necessary.
If interested you will find my wargame rules here
Next time we will have a look at how the rules are designed to meet the requirements of the campaign and also to provide the type of wargames we like to play.