Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

The Black Die (Current Status)


The introduction of the Black Die has made for some very nice improvements and subtle considerations in Die Fighting. In a very real sense it was the final touch needed for the system to really blossom into a simple system that had a number of subtle and complex decision points. It allowed even better modeling of units and combat than the original system.

The Black Die ideas developed over a couple of years of play and over a dozen games. When first introduced, it was simply a negative effect on the performance of a very few units that had performed noticeably badly in a prior game. It was a badge of dishonor, so to speak. That use proved interesting and quite limiting to the unit involved. The usual result was that that unit was detailed off to a very safe, or inconsequential area of the battlefield and was, in effect, quarantined!

The effect of the die was nevertheless quite interesting to me. I experimented it in a different aspect with the Colonial Template that I published in the Files Section of the Yahoo! site. In that sub-set of rules I applied the Black Die to units, especially natives, with every hit, and its effect was solely against movement. This created a very realistic slowing of Zulu or Dervish charges, and found them behaving exactly as described in historical accounts where they slowed, came to a stop, and went to ground. This opened my eyes to a more general and effective use of the Black die in all periods. My last Black Die posting in November of 2013 covered this extended use of the Black dice, which we have used, and slowly developed further since.

I find it adds greater versimilitude to game play in many, if not all, periods. It makes retreats and rallies more central to game play. It actually allows greater decisiveness in combat than the original system with its sometimes rapid retreats. It adds little or no complexity to play, and is consistent with the general dice accretion and rolling system of Die Fighting.

Current Rues For Black Dice

1. On any combat where the defender rolls higher than the attacker in either melee or fire, there is no effect. It is a miss.

2. On any combat hit of 6 or less, a unit may “buy down” the loss by discarding red dice of the same number. The unit remains in good order, fully capable of movement, melee, or fire. The only loss is the red dice.

3. On any combat hit of 7 or more, the unit loses the identical number of red dice to the discard bucket. If the difference is 9, 9 dice are lost; if 15, fifteen dice are lost. If the immediate loss is greater than the initial dice worth of the unit (Example: Line regular units are worth 12) then the unit suffers a catastrophic loss and is removed from the table-obviously unralliable. If the number is less than the initial value, then a single black die is rolled to determine the retreat distance of the affected unit. That Black Die shall then remain with the unit until a successful rally removes it. That Black die is rolled on every action thereafter taken and is subtracted from the totals of the other dice rolled by that unit until it is removed by a rally. If unrallied and another hit of 7 or more occurs, the unit follows the same procedures, but adds an additional Black Die and uses their combined totals as the black dice effect. This continues for any subsequent hits to any number, though 3 black dice generally guarantee the unit is lost from the game.

It affects any fire, melee combat, forward movement, or rally attempt as follows:

a. Fire-simply deducted from the total of other dice.
b. Melee-simply deducted from the total of other dice.
c. Movement-simply deducted from the total of other dice when moving forward toward the enemy. Added to the total when voluntarily retreating from the enemy. It is the distance moved (no other dice added) on any combat-caused involuntary retreat. Any roll of combined Black Dice of 7 or more and the unit is then considered routed, and will involuntarily retreat to the rear. It cannot initiate any combat. It will continue doing this until rallied or it exits the field of battle.

Total is 16 (Y-R-G) minus 4 (B)= 12

d. Rally- A rally can occur on any Reload, Rally, Restore Card or (New Rule) Officer Action card. The goal as in the regular rules is doubles of a certain number or higher in a roll made up of Red Dice, Yellow Command Dice, and any Green dice allowed. However, the Black die or dice eliminate any doubles of the number rolled on that black die or dice. Example: If a roll of doubles of 4 or higher was required for a rally, and the rallying unit threw a double 5, but a black die of 5 was rolled, then that rally was not counted! One added rally rule is that any triple rolled eliminates ALL black dice, and Black dice do not eliminate that roll!
e. If the total of Black Dice rolled by any unit exceeds the total on the red dice rolled, Command-yellow dice- are NOT counted in the totals for that unit’s attempted action.

Yellow Die doesn’t count! Total is 13(Green and Red)-11(Black)= 2

That’s it-simple and sweet! Note the change in allowing Rallies under Officer actions as well as under the R-R-R card, and the wonderful effect of triples on a rallying unit. The Black Die exceeding the Red Die eliminating Command dice is also to be closely observed.

Other Ideas for Black Dice

I’m still open to units starting the game with a black die if they preformed badly enough that it was agreed they require further redemption! This should be rare.

For aesthetic reasons I’m planning on substituting casualty figures, painted in the uniform color of the affected unit and mounted on Oval terrained bases, rather than leaving a black die on the unit. DF leaves very few dice on the field of battle as red dice are discarded immediately, green dice are kept at the table edge and returned there after use, as are the yellow dice. I like that and didn’t want Black dice to be an exception.


I’m also thinking of experimenting with all commanders acquiring black dice as well! Before sending any dice to a unit the black die would be subtracted from the distance roll. Black dice would be acquired by officers anytime a unit under their command loses a combat. They would be lost every time a unit wins a combat. An added thought is that anytime an affected unit throws a 1 on any roll of a black die, his immediate commander is considered either wounded( minus 1 yellow die for remainder of the game) or killed ( removed and replaced with a newly rated commander). The nature of the hit would be a simple die roll 1-2 is killed; 3-6 is wounded.

We’ll try it in the next game.