Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Frere Jacques...Frere Jacques

OK-so what’s a rondel you ask? The word, as you may have guessed means a circle, and is at the root of words such as ronde ( a song with a circular refrain such as Frere Jacques), certain poems of circular pattern called rondeaus, or even in rondele cheeses (a segmented round cheese such as the Laughing Cow cheeses).

In gaming, the Rondel has been used by a number of games-and a game designer, Mac Gerdts, is often given credit for introducing it into a wide range of boardgames such as Antike, Hambergum, Navegador, and Imperial. Other, more limited, forms of the rondel have appeared in games such as El Grande.

In its core design, it is a simple segmented wheel, with each segment allowing only one task to be done. Each player has a marker that moves around the wheel segments, stopping at some points and spending the currency of the game-money, pips, stored supplies, etc. to take actions.

There is also a cost to cross each segment. This may be a fixed price, a variable price, or a progressive price costing more the further one wishes to move. The first segment may be free and the following segments an increasing price. There may be rules concerning the interaction of various players on the rondel. It is a very flexible tool.

The rondel has an amazing capacity to structure the process of a turn, while still allowing a wide degree of variability, and REQUIRING decisions to be made. It is a new way to vary a turn sequence, which may, or may not, include dice or cards.

Interesting and pertinent decisions and the ability to make them is at the core of a truly rewarding, interesting, and challenging games. The rondel adds that.

The rondel, however, is uniquely capable of illustrating “drag” in an army’s responsiveness to command. I suspect it has an even wider range of potential uses in wargame design, all largely unexplored.

The rondel is simple, does not slow gameplay (it may even speed things up!), and is, in my mind, an excellent way to introduce the interplay between command and tactical action in Zouave II. My fascination with the possibilities of this device was so great that Zouave II simply had to be written.

In the meantime, get a copy of Imperial or any of the games above and begin to appreciate a new game tool. When I first introduced the unique way of using cards and dice in Piquet-it was the beginning of a tremendous shift in miniature wargame design that has been copied and imitated in many sets that followed. The rondel will be, ultimately, the same sort of sea-change. The beneficiaries are all the miniature gamers that want a better way to game, that combines fun, decision making, and historicity in play.

Uses of the rondel in Die Fighting! as an additional sequencing structure, will soon be posted by Pat McGuire, and Die Marching will also include this tool. All three uses will be quite different, but will, collectively, illustrate the power, and variety of uses, of this device in game design.

It’s a winner!

Command Rondel Forum