Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Crafting A Wargame Battle

One of the keys to a great war-game battle, and the enjoyment of a set of rules, is the capacity for a rules design to allow both broad and subtle tweaks that not only model history, but add interest to game play.

Far too many rules sets are just flat obvious and predictable in their gameplay, and allow only limited means of distinguishing units within armies or between armies, command capabilities, and the effects of the battle environment on the units of either army.

Almost every rule set allows some sort of value placement on individual units by type, and a few bonus or penalize command, usually in some crude manner, and all games allow for terrain effects, and , of course, the sheer numbers to each side can influence the game play. These effects are usually pretty obvious (+1 or -1) and their interaction allows for little surprise. I have always had an admiration for the rules that were a bit more sophisticated, whether Maurice, FOB, Piquet, Command and Colors, Crossfire, The Columbia Block Games, or any of a number of Martin Wallace’s designs.

Die Fighting is my latest attempt to use simple general mechanics, but layered in a way that provides unique opportunities to craft the battle for excitement, surprise, and fun.

Here are some suggestions:

Start with the Turn sequence. In any design the sequencing of movements and the definition of “Turns” is critical to its play. I think DF may be the first design that allows for multiple sequencing options prior to play, and a seamless mechanism for changing the sequencing even during play. Though I recommend the rigid synchronous sequence (Both sides move in the same sequence)for the beginning DF player, it is solely to get the gamers accustomed to the game play, and NOT my recommended sequencing for general play.


Use the sequence as the first means of providing a game behavior for both sides. The more flexible variable asynchronous sequences-especially the command quality variant-where one army gets to stack the sequence 1-3 cards in a row should be used by a force with superior command. The Fixed Asynchronous systems where you roll for where you start in the sequence at the beginning of a turn is best for the less capably commanded armies. For Solo Games the Random Variable Asynchronous Phasing-especially in suggestion #2 is a good choice. Remember, you can mix and match the system used by EITHER army, and you can set up conditions such as stipulated levels of die loss, say at 25% Or 50%,where the sequencing changes-usually to a less flexible one. I can even see where at the same time one army’s sequencing degrades because of losses, the other army’s sequencing could actually improve and become more flexible and effective. This is a fascinating area for experimentation.

Set-up of armies is also an area for consideration. If you look at the army set-up special rules for both the Marlborough at Waterloo and the Battle of Linsford games, you will see some examples of this.

French Lines near Linswald

Most Battles fall into certain broad categories:

1. A Set Battle-Both armies have come to the battle in an ordered and planned manner, and have taken positions that will maximize their chances at success, whether in the Strategic or Grand Tactical Attacker or Defender posture. Example: Malplaquet

2. An Encounter Battle -Where both forces rather stumble into each other and fighting develops into a battle. Example: Gettysburg or Mars Le-Tour

3. A Surprise Attack- Where the attacker has “stolen a march” on the defender and has an advantage in position, terrain, or in troops over the defender. Example: Champion Hill

4. A Delaying Action- where the defender isn’t attempting a clear win, but to delay an attacker’s attack and subsequent actions to buy time for reinforcements, escape by a main body, or to wear the attacker out and dissuade him from further advance, at least temporarily. Example: Corunna

5. A Stout Defense- where the defense has placed itself in a firm position, with every advantage, and expects the Attacker to suffer for it! Example: Borodino

There are, I’m sure, other variations on the above, but these five represent battles where either the combatants come to the action as equals in number or position, or stumble into each other with neither knowing or fully appreciating any advantage, or where either the attacker or defender has some advantage.

Rather than having “March-on” battles which are VERY time consuming and rarely provide new games, one could just structure the set-up to reflect certain advantages, or disadvantages, to both parties in the defined situations.

A stand-up, orderly and even battle of Type 1, could do a set-up where after an initiative roll, possibly using both CinC;’s command dice and thus advantaging the better commander, or giving the nod to the attacking force (the larger force in most cases) the winner chooses whether to place forces first or second in the following sequence:

1. Artillery
2. Infantry
3. Cavalry
4. Command stands

n an encounter battle, the sequence could be thus:

1. Attacker Cavalry
2. Defender Cavalry
3. Defender Infantry
4. Attacker Command
5. Attacker infantry
6. Defender Command
7. Attacker Artillery
8. Defender Artillery
1. All Cavalry-Initiative winner’s choice of first or last.
2. All Command-Initiative winner’s choice.
3. Initiative winner’s artillery
4. Initiative loser’s infantry
5. Initiative winner’s infantry
6. Initiative Loser’s artillery

This sort of chaotic battle is PERFECT for a random Asymmetrical sequencing

In a Surprise attack:

All units of the surprised army are place, except cavalry and command
All Units of the unexpected attacking army are placed, except cavalry and command
Initiative roll for who places cavalry first, then…
Surprised army places command
Attacking Army places its command
Surprising army should get the initiative, and or several cards it can choose in advance as to the sequence. Perhaps the surprised army should have a random asymmetrical sequencing for the first turn?

In a delaying action (it is expected the delaying force will be at least 33% less dice in size):

Attacker (pursuing Force) must place all infantry
Defender (delaying force) must place artillery
Attacker must place artillery
Defender must place infantry
Attacker must place cavalry
Defender places cavalry
Attacker places his command
Defender places his command

Standard Asymmetrical Variable sequencing rolls. Delaying force units of any type may retreat (move toward a defined rear exit or board edge) on ANY card except for Specialized Action or Rally, Reload, Restore. The game should have a stipulated limit of turns, or losses to the enemy that the delaying force must meet.

Stout Defense would, perhaps, sequence like this:

Defender places all units on the table, except cavalry and command.
Attacker places all units on the table, except cavalry and command.
Defender places cavalry
Attacker places cavalry
Attacker places command
Defender places command

Attacker should have some force advantage. Defender is allowed good terrain, and some stipulated strong points such as gun emplacements, buildings, or rugged terrain. Sequencing can be any of the standard sequences, but either guaranteed initiative wins, or selection of cards 2-3 in a row, should be allowed the attacker for at least the first turn.

Sequence variations and set-up restrictions are excellent ways to craft a battle. I am hopeful that other Die Fighting gamers will suggest there variations and favorites.


There is an article in the files section’s Die Fighting Folder on Terrain Objective Values ( http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Repiquerules/files/ ). Read it. By the intelligent, and clever, placement of objectives and the setting of their values from the low end of possibilities to the highest values, is an excellent way to affect the battle, and to affect the player’s behavior as they see the values in their zone and the neutral zone.


Allied Command

The number of officer stands allotted and their die count is critical to an army. This is an area to experiment with. The tables are quite generous with command stands in order to encourage gamers new to the game, but experienced gamers, and a GM wishing to pose new challenges to his commanders may limit their number, perhaps lowering either or both sides by 25-33% of their command stands. Alternatively, curving the quality of commanders, or simply assigning their “personality” rather than rolling for it, is another excellent way to affect army performance in order to match historical peculiarities of a given battle, or a particular, fictional, scenario.


As with MANY other game designs, the quality ratings of the combat units, and the force ratios of the two sides may be used to craft a good game. This is standard fare, and needs little elaboration here, but Die Fighting has two other means of battle crafting to consider. One is the use of the Black Dice Rules found in the file section to lower the performance of certain units prior to battle. The other is simply an arbitrary bonus of extra resource dice to one side or the other, or, conversely, and arbitrary deduction of resource dice. This should have some narrative explanation-such as logistical problems, discontent in the troops, disease, etc.

Now that's dice!

So you can see there are a myriad ways to mold, shape, and craft a battle or scenario to enhance the experience of the gamers and make it more fun for all concerned. DO NOT HESITATE TO EXPERIMENT WITH THESE TOOLS, AND INVENT OTHERS OF YOU OWN!

Good Wargaming!