Sunday 24 November 2013

In Praise of House Rules

A recent post on TMP suggesting that it would be good idea to write a set of Napoleonic wargame rules by allowing everyone to suggest a rule, then vote on whether it be accepted or not.   It seemed to me a most unusual approach to rule writing, and one almost certain to fail.  

However it made me consider my own experience of wargame rules over a period of almost 50 years, and how I eventually solved the problem

When I read the posts on TMP about the latest commercial wargame rules I am reminded of teenagers and sex.   It’s as if they have discovered something new which no one else had experienced before.   But of course sex, like Napoleonic wargame rules, has been around for a long time.  

I can well understand this view, because I can well remember my own first experience of wargame rules.    My first experience was “Charge or how to play wargames”.   Then WRG horse and musket (I forget the full title).   This was followed by In “The Grand Manner” and finally “LFS”.   All excellent rules.   All very different in design.    All eventually discarded.

My own experience, though I am sure I am not alone, is that the more I play a commercial set of rules the more I become disillusioned with them.   This is not the fault of the rule writer, it is that I want something different from the rules than they are designed to provide.   I believe that this is the reason there has never been a “universal” set of Napoleonic wargame rules, accepted across the hobby.

Over the years I tried to adapt each of my current favourite commercial rules.   It never worked for long.   When I changed a rule because I disliked the outcome it often led to further unexpected problems.

My solution was to go back to basics and write my own rules to provide the sort of game I like to play.   The result has stood the test of time, and been used in countless wargames, for the past six years.   It will not suit everyone; indeed it may not suit anyone else.   The more personalised the rules are the less then are likely to be appeal to anyone else.

I am fortunate to have a permanent wargames table, and a wife who also likes to wargame.   We are both retired and wargaming is an important part of our life.   We game most days, at least five days a week.   We prefer to game for an hour or two, rather than game a whole battle in one go.   All of my wargames are driven by a PBEM campaign, and last for 12 moves (each move being one hour in the campaign”.

As part of an overall reorganisation of my wargaming prior to retirement I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and listed what I wanted to achieve.   Obviously anyone else attempting this exercise will have a different list.  So there is not much point in my telling you my particular list.

The important aspects to me were they must reflect Napoleonic warfare as I understand it.   They must be short and simple to remember.   They must have an element of chance.   They must be fun to play.

This has worked for me.   We have played hundreds of wargames since I wrote the rules.   We still enjoy the games.   We still feel that the rules work well.   We have tried countless, complicated battles provided by the campaign and all of them have worked.

We do make minor adjustments to the rules from time to time.  We will often simply roll the dice again rather than change the rules.      But I now fully understand the consequences of making a change, and what the knock on effect is likely to be.

This is not an advert for my rules, but if you would like to read them you will find them here

To write your own rules you need to have a good understanding of the period, and what you want to get out of the wargame experience.  So it is not likely to be attractive to new players.   But it does not take long to discover what you want from a wargame.   Once you have done so I strongly recommend you to write your own.

It would be interesting to hear from other wargamers who have tried, and perhaps failed.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Construction Boom

I mentioned in September that we were working on the building s for our campaign.

We already have a mass of buildings, both commercial and homemade.   Most of the commercial ones are too large for the town footprint we use for the campaign battles.   We use squares of felt to represent the size of the town.   One square for a village, two for a town and three or four for a city.

Most of the commercial buildings are 25mm, and only one can fit on each square.   So it looks like isolated buildings rather than a village or town.

All of the previous buildings which Jan made were either to match the commercial 25mm buildings, or our 15mm model soldiers.  

The only suitable commercial buildings we had were Hovels medieval buildings.   I cannot remember whether they are 25mm or 15mm.  I think they were 25mm, but smaller than the rest of our collection.   So I asked Jan to make some buildings to match them.   The result is the town above.

I am very pleased with the result, and have now asked for a couple of farms.  The idea is to have a farm house and a couple of outbuildings plus a connecting wall.  Something similar to La Haye Sainte.   I would like sufficient for two farms, but all inter changeable.

Now that winter is approaching we will be spending less time out and about, and will have more time for the construction task.   I will post photographs when they are finished.

Sunday 10 November 2013

More Uneven Battles

Back in July I wrote about the subject of uneven battles.

Since then I have listened to many points of view, and eventually set on a formula for resolving them without having to fight a wargame.

My preferred option would be to have the weaker side simply retreat.  This is what I always did when the campaign was solo.  It has the advantage that the larger side takes the objective without having to fight.  

For a solo campaign this is fine, because I only have myself to satisfy.   In the PBEM it continues to draw comments, particularly from newer commanders.   They seem to feel that it robs them of the opportunity to destroy the smaller side and win the campaign.

I recently posted on TMP for to fill a command vacancy.   I didn’t get a commander, but I did get some comments from a previous, disgruntled, commander on this very subject.   He only lasted a week or two on the campaign, obviously not his “cup of tea”.  

Since then he has twice commented about my handling of uneven battles.   He obviously believes that it should be quite possible for a smaller force to defeat a stronger one.   I am not at all sure that there are many historical instances of this happening.  I suspect that a corps commander placed in such a position would try to avoid battle.   Only when this was not possible would he fight.

My, temporary, solution to the problem is to resolve it by a dice throw.   It represents the weaker side retreating, but having to fight a rear guard action against the stronger side.   As always it is a simple procedure.  The campaign is complicated enough without making it even more so.

I throw one D6 with the following results

1          larger side 1 casualty smaller side 1 casualty
2          larger side 1 casualty smaller side 2 casualty
3          larger side 1 casualty smaller side 2 casualty
4          larger side 1 casualty smaller side 3 casualty
5          larger side 1 casualty smaller side 3 casualty
6          larger side 1 casualty smaller side 4 casualty

I have only used it once, and have not had any feedback yet.

Sunday 3 November 2013

3 November 2013 – Visit to Seville

We spent most of last week on a coach trip to Cordoba and Seville, so not much time for things Wargaming.

We live in a small village near the town of Denia on the Costa Blanca.  This was our third visit to Andalusia, and the 426 mile road journey to Seville made me realise what a large country Spain is – at least for those of us from the UK.   I suspect that is no great distance to readers in the USA.

It took us 11 hours in our comfortable air conditioned coach.   A long journey, but it pales into insignificance when you consider how long it would have taken a French infantryman during the Peninsular War.  

I would guess that 18 miles a day in the heat and poor road conditions would have been pretty good going.   At that rate it would have taken 28 days to march from Denia to Seville.

From Cordoba to Seville is 85 miles by road, so our foot weary infantryman would have taken almost 6 days. 

It was our first visit to Cordoba, and our second to Seville.   So we were aware that there is not a lot of Napoleonic interest in either city.  Or if there is it is not very easy to find.   The guides concentrate on the Moorish invasion in 711, and the final victory of the Christian King Ferdinand in 1236.

The only item of Napoleonic interest was found in the impressive Plaza de Espana in Seville.   The square was built as part of the Exposition of 1929.   Around the square are tiled “Province Alcoves” for each of the Provinces of Spain.   Our favourite was Jaen, which had the Battle of Baylen as its showpiece.

Both are beautiful cities, and both are very well worth a visit – even without any obvious monuments to the Peninsular War.