Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part I

Die Fighting began its development journey last May at a French restaurant here in Denver called Le Central. Timm Meyers and I were having a wonderful lunch when he told me of an idea he had about a wargame designed around the idea of expendable dice. His concept was a game on a very large strategic scale set in WWII in where each side would get a bucket of dice for movement and combat, but each die could be used only once, and then are discarded from play. When you use up all of your dice you can’t move or combat the enemy and you have lost the game. I found the idea very interesting, though my interests soon took me in a new direction with the basic concept.

I had finished Zouave,which was a great exercise for me in trying to capture elements of grand tactical decision making. The game was selling very well (and is now sold out!), but Repique needed additional products to sell and an obvious choice was a campaign game. So I began developing a Campaign system that incorporated Timm’s initial concept, but I didn’t get too far before I realized that it would be better to take the idea to the tactical level and work out all of the vagaries in that more controllable and familiar environment, and then use the lessons learned from that process to design the Strategic/campaign rules.

Even better, a “Classic” tactical level game would augment Zouave and, yet, not compete with it, and the campaign rules could then be designed to serve BOTH Die Fighting! and Zouave. I adopted that plan.

So began the design of the Die Fighting tactical rules for the Horse and Musket period from 1700-1900.

Die Fighting has been one of the most rewarding of my design projects. First, the rules are fun! Second, it brought me into contact with a group of wargamers in England, who, under the leadership of Tony Hawkins, have provided invaluable feedback and advice. Two Sheds, Watson, Grizzly, Mr. Ben, Clint, Moon Unit, and other Kett’s Men are a resource that few wargame designers have available.

Of course, the Denver Play test group, Jim Getz, and Pat McGuire have been equally important to Die Fighting’s development.

The key to Die Fighting is the use of typical six-sided dice in three distinct ways; as resource dice that a unit uses to move, fire, melee, and all other battle actions and are used up as the game progresses; as leadership dice that can selectively be used to aid units in their activities, which are also used up, but are restorable during play; and as “Free” dice, which are awarded for situations, positioning, quality, and other transient situational factors. Free dice are limitless, never used up, and are earned by the player’s decisions.

The resource dice are the key to the game, as when they have run out, an army has lost the battle. The comparison of the two army’s final die totals also give a measurable and certain determination of the degree of victory. It provides a unique and exciting game, but also one where statistics, wagers, and “scores” may be kept.

It has taken many months to hone the exact values and balance that makes Die Fighting such a compelling game, and one that demands expansion and add-ons! The final stages of development are drawing to a close and I intend to post several blog entries on the many aspects of the rules and their mechanics. One thing I wish to be clear right from the beginning is that you don’t need to actually have hundreds of dice, as several alternatives are given in the rules. I should also state, however, is many gamers will want to have lots of dice-nothing like hearing the clatter of used enemy dice being thrown in the discard bucket!

Next Time-The qualities of the dice, and many different ways the turn may be phased!