Wargame Thoughts and Commentary
Game Mechanics

The Battle of Curasso AAR and DFII


On July 19th the usual suspects (minus Terry and John who ran off to Historicon) played a somewhat smaller Die Fighting! battle, primarily to test some final touches for DFII. We wanted to nail down the sequence details, test new officer ratios and its effect on the officer driven red resource dice generation, and test the final tweak to combat mechanics using black dice.

The battlefield was kept relatively simple with a single town, a few Class II hills and Class III forests, a few objective markers using a new method of die generation for the army that takes it, and the forces were reduced from the last game. OOBs for the two armies may be found at the Yahoo! Site in the Files section in folder labeled The Battle of Curasso.

There was a hill on the Allied Left-French Right.


A small village (Curasso) in the center.

A small hill on the French left, which they occupied in a refused flank formation, and wood on the Allied right flank that the Austrian-Prussian Allied forces deployed to the right of in a compact formation.


But before recounting the Battle, a little background on the rules used and the thinking of the commanders prior to deployment.

The Rules and the Tactical Thoughts of the Commanders.

This game was essentially used to test again several key changes and new concepts for Die Fighting II.

1. A new card phase sequencing procedure that will eliminate “card counting” (“Ahhh!” His remaining card must be the Reload, Rally, and Restore Card!&rdquoWinking and also add some tension to play.

2. Further testing of the new Officer Leadership Dice method of generating resource dice. This had been tested in our previous engagements in June, but we wanted to confirm those findings. This also involved new officer command stand ratios and limitations.

3. Further Testing of the new Black Die combat resolution procedures used in our previous two games.

4. Testing of the game resolution procedures, with some tweaks in response to a few minor issues that were raised.

All four areas were closely looked at and the general consensus was that it really brought the game together, increased tension and interest in decision making, and provided generally simpler and more dramatic outcomes that everyone enjoyed.

The new card sequencing method is very simple and easy to implement. The new phase decks will be made up of 12 potential cards for each side. The cards the numbers of each are: Specialized Actions (1 card), Officer Actions (1 Card), Cavalry Action (2 Cards), Infantry Actions (2 Cards), Artillery Action (1 Card), Rally, Restore, Reload, and Retreat (1 Card), The Creative X Factor (1 Card), Concede (1 Card), and two new cards - Brilliant Command Moment (1 Card), and Command Focus (1 Card). That is a total of 12 possible cards.

All the cards retain their same definitions from Die Fighting, except for The Rally, Restore, Reload, and Retreat card, which is used similarly, except that Retreat is added. Any unit that has a black die or dice, and is unrallied, will roll the black dice attached to that unit and retreat that distance from the enemy and toward the board edge.

The new cards will be defined in Die Fighting II.

Using just the eight basic cards-removing Creative X factor, Concede, and the two new cards- the gamers each shuffle their decks, and remove two cards which are set aside unseen. The remaining six cards are the phase deck for each side. Note that both sides decks will likely be different, not just in sequence, but in deck make-up! Your army may have double moves for infantry or Cavalry, but nothing for Artillery, Officers, or even more difficult, no RRRR card! You will never know the exact capacity for actions for your side or the enemy’s-even down to the last card!

This is an excellent change for DF, but may require one option I’ll mention in the AAR.

The use of Officer Dice as the initial generation of Resource dice for each command was adapted somewhat from the last game. We allowed each Officer to roll his Command dice twice prior to play-EXCEPT for the CinC who got a single roll. These rolls allowed a command to place the total rolled in red dice in their command’s bucket. Prior to battle the CinC could distribute his dice to any or all of his sub commander’s buckets as he chose, or he could hold onto as many as he desired.
Thereafter, the commanders would roll on the RRRR card and replenish their Resource Dice by that total. The CinC would also roll, but could only distribute the dice on an RRRR card, and by using the the same procedure as distributing command dice-hoping to roll a higher number of pips that the inches that separated him from the command stand he wished to aid. It worked flawlessly.

The black dice procedures completely replaced those in the rule book. The core concept was that if you lost a combat roll by more than 6 pips (which you could “buy down&rdquoWinking then you were forced to retreat in disorder 6” PLUS the roll of whatever Black dice were attached to that unit. You were again open to retreat on the next RRRR card. This is a very neat rule change and will be standard in DFII.

The game resolution rules were the final development of changes that started many games ago. In essence, if any command suffers a loss to one of its units that it cannot pay from its stock because it is out of Red resource dice, then all units in that command are considered disordered, and may only use whatever Green Dice they are entitled to on the Free Dice Table, and any Yellow Command dice that are sent to roll against any further combat attacks of any sort. They may not advance upon or initiate any form of combat upon the enemy. They may only defend. They may retreat using any Green dice, Command Dice, and black dice for distance. This must be directly away from the enemy and toward a board edge.

If during the turn, an RRRR card appears, they may roll for resource dice, and all units that do not have a black die are considered ordered again, and may behave as usual without any penalty.

Needless to say, this has a tendency to snowball and disabuse any commander of continuing on for much longer, and, at the very least to place the Concede card in the next turn’s Phase deck!

ALL of the new mechanics worked like a charm, and a great time was had by all, even the losers.

The Battle:

The battle was a pretty straight up one with deployments as stated above. For this game we rolled for Commander capabilities and both sides had some disappointments-the Allies Austrian Command was a dismal “Inept” with only 1 command die! (eugene had been badly wounded in a recent previous battle and was feverish from his wounds.) The ratings of units were mixed, though again the Austrians were a sorry lot for the allies and the French Left wing had some distinct problems as well. See the folder “ Battle of Curasso” in the Files section of the Yahoo! site.

We used a command ratio of about 9:1 for both forces with each side having 3 commands of about 9-10 units each and 1 CinC, of course. DFII will use a significant higher ratio for all forces, with none lower than 6:1 and most hovering around 8-10 to one. A few (Russians at Narva, Prussians in 1806) may have as many as 12-14 units to a single command stand!

On the initial Resource dice roll the lowly Austrian commander rolled a 3, which even with the CinC augmenting their supply was only a dozen or so. Likewise, the French Left wing was woefully short of dice.

I played, along with Ed Meyers, on the Allied side, and after noting our command and unit rating weaknesses decided we should play defense with the possible exception of on he left where the Dutch with superior command and good troops-especially the cavalry-offered a chance at Objective dice on the hill and some offensive gains.


We used our usual system of die rolls for deployment with the winner forcing the other side to deploy one command. We got the better of that by far and had a pretty good idea of their positioning prior to our deployments.

We noted the refused, flank on our left, which might indicate weakness. However, since the woefully weak Austrians were opposite them we had no real way to exploit that possibility.

Objective markers for 8 dice were at most road exits 4-5 dice were to be had for sections of the village and the crossroads. The hill on the Allied left/ French Right was a 6 die hill. If captured, the commander of the capturing forces was allowed to roll the number of dice stated and collect that many additional red resource dice. ( Friendly road exits and village sections closest to each force had value only for the opposing side.)

Both commanders shuffled the phase cards, as described above, and we began.

The initial moves

We had initially decided to play defense on the allied side, but two of our first three cards were cavalry move! We lost all discipline and launched a strong cavalry attack by the Dutch on the left, and I thought I would demonstrate with the Austrian Cavalry on the Right in an attempt to draw the French forces to attack in that sector.


The latter move was very wrongheaded. The French opened up with artillery which caused the Austrian horse several red die losses in addition to those spent on moving. I decided to pull the Austrians back out of harm’s way. All in all, it was an unnecessary loss of red dice, that served no purpose, and I didn’t have too much of a margin out there anyway, with less than a dozen dice in the bucket.

In the center I sent British foot and Dragoons forward to invest the village, which was matched by the French sending their center command forward to do the same. He immediately seized the part of the village closest to his forces denying bonus dice to the Allies. Likewise the Allies took the Church and denied the French bonuses as well. The only section worth anything to both side swas the blue roofed section and the crossroads itself.


On the Allied left the Dutch moved out to take the hill and attack the French left Flank. The French also advanced. It appeared that this might be the decisive front. The Dutch had the most resource dice of any command, but the French command was loaded with Maison Rouge troops such as the Gendarmes, Mousquetiers, The French and Swiss Guards and the redoubtable French Carabinier du Roi. They also were under the command of the superb Boufflers. Overkirk may not prove to be his match.

Stalemate on the Allied Right; The center starts to look dodgy, and a decisive outcome on the Left.

As the turn developed, and the Allies got a second cavalry move, the Dutch galloped forth to seize the high ground and to deal with the French Horse opposing them. The Athlone horse support by the 2nd Jyske Danish Horse rode up the hill. The commander of the Dutch was worried enough about getting to the objective first that he expended couple of command dice to accelerate his advance. This would prove costly in time.


The Athlone Horse did take the objective (a 6 die roll-netted 19 Resource dice added to the Overkirk bucket) but as they cleared the crest of the hill supported by the Danes, the saw immediately ahead the Mousquetiers du Roi and The Carabiniers du Roi. The lines crashed together in a massive cavalry battle. The Carabiniers were surprised by the Dutch advance and were still deploying from column. The edge certainly appeared to be with the Allied Horse.


However, Villars and the redoubtable Boufflers, were both nearby and through their staff and command into the fray as they saw the importance of this engagement. They had not spent any command dice prior to this massive cavalry melee. They now sent every one they had to the Mousquetiers and carabiniere-eight in all!

Overkirk threw in his command dice as well but could only muster three command dice. Marlborough was preoccupied in the center and too far from the action to lend any help. Overkirk’s horse did have the advantage in the attack dice thanks to catching the carabiniers in minor disarray, but when the crunch came the French out rolled them, Bouflers officers had whipped the carabiniers into reasonable order prior to the melee, and the fact the French horse was Elite and Guard, gave them just enough to through the Allied horse backward in retreat at a combined loss about equal to what they had gained for the objective.


In the center, the French aggressively advanced and took the sections of the village nearest to them, while the British sent Lloyd’s dragoons to take the town Church section. The remaining section was going to be a scrap(and the only section that had value for either army as the others only gave dice to their opponents if taken). The Bavarians under Maximilian led by the Royal Italians, respondent in their brown and red jackets advanced on this objective, The English sent Orkney’s First Foot forward in a race for the village.The Allies also sent Hay’s Dragoon off to secure part of the wood to their right as a precaution.

On the Allied Right the demonstration by the Austrian cavalry had proven unwise (since they lost dice to artillery fire, and they had so few) they were immediately called back and resumed their initial position on the flank. At that point the French opposite them were content to observe and evidenced no aggressive intentions.

For Want of an RRRR card.

On the last card turn for the final phase of the initial turn it became apparent that the Allies were not going to get an RRRR card in that turn. No added Resource dice, and no restoration of command dice until the second turn!!! This was ascribed to certain command confusion on the Allies part, but it had the added problem that the Allied force had used all the command dice on the left, and a few in the center-and they needed them replaced quickly!

They had lost the cavalry battle on the left, but that force was still pretty well set with Resource Dice, but without command dice it was not wise to continue the attack. They opted to wait.


In the center, the French got an infantry move and narrowly won the race to the village. From their protected position the English First foot could not maintain any long term firefight-and didn’t have enough Resource dice to risk a high loss attack. It’s only choice was to retreat out of musket range.

Maximilian got a five dice roll of 16 dice to add to his command bucket and was feeling pretty good about stepping up his attack in the center.

Farther to the right, Hay’s Dragoons made it to the woods, but the French left, given their army’s successes across the front lines, had suddenly become more active and sent Boufflers Dragoons forwards to contest the wood, and the French line on the hill, made up of Navarre, Picardie, and Tallard, stepped off in unison advancing on the Allied Right Center.


The Austrians were so bereft of Resource Dice, Command Dice, and any meaningful role in the fight, they simply hunkered down in their positions.

The English sent troops forward to stop the French advance, but they, too, were running short of Resource dice. There was going to be one chance, and that was to halt the French attack in the right center at the woods, at least momentarily until the Resource and command dice could be restored. A Massive firelight broke out in the woods and to the left of the woods.

At first, the Allies had some success as Hay’s Dragoons drove off the French Dragoons, but after this initial victory, the weight of the French attack began to tell. They artfully fired off several volleys that the English troops, outnumbered as they were, were hard pressed to equal. The last few English command dice were used by Orkney, but on the second volley the Orkney’s command ran out of Resource dice as well.


This threw his command into disorder, and left them unable to carry out any offensive moves against the French. They were now easy pickings for the advancing French. They had no choice but to fall back. Marlborough glanced along his lines. The Dutch, as best had a stand off, the center was disordered, out of dice, and had to fall back. The Austrians were so bereft of quality, command, and resource dice as to be worthless.

He began a fall back on the next infantry card, and even though the Allies did FINALLY get a RRRR card on the last card of the turn-shuffled in the Concede for the next turn, which fortunately came up first!


The battle, though smaller than some of our past engagements, still mustered nearly 30 combat units on a side, plus four officer stands ( CinC and 3 sub-commanders) per side. So 65 units of all sorts were in play. It was resolved in roughly three hours, with quite a bit of action.

The Allies should have stuck to their plan to play more defensively, but were suckered into excessive aggressiveness by the added Infantry and cavalry moves in the initial turn. Just because you can move, doesn’t mean you should! We had a force with 1/3 of its effectives under inept command and lacking Resource Dice when the battle began. We had a legitimate chance for victory with the Dutch attack, but tactically were outmaneuvered. Other than the Dragoons taking the Church, the English should have been stalwart on the defense. WE simply misplayed the “hand” we were dealt.

The French, on the other hand, played their army extremely well, aggressive on their right with great concentration of command, and exploiting the perceived weakness as it appeared in the center.

However,the absence of an RRRR card on the first turn was decidedly crippling and put our already weak forces in dire straits very quickly.

The Tested Rules

All of the new changes were very much liked, though there was concern about the severity of missing an RRRR card which has, in the basic deck, a 25% chance of occurring. On one hand some players expressed a certain appreciation of the “Piquet” nature of such an adversity, while others wondered if it might be softened somewhat. This is especially true if it were to happen more than once. The average DF game runs about 4-5 turns.

Two suggestions were offered that could be used:

1. A player could only miss the RRRR card once in a game, on every turn thereafter that card is held out and the phase cards are selected from the remaining 7 cards, with the RRRR card shuffled in. This guarantees its appearance in the following turns.

2. If you have not received the RRRR card by your last phase card of the turn, you can sacrifice the last card of whatever type and do RRRR for any ONE command (not the whole army).

Web are testing these, and they will be offered as alternatives in DFII.

Now it’s on to the taping of DFII on August 23rd. The crew has been assembled and the rules are pretty well structured out. Lights! Cameras! Action! is the motto.

Opening Graphic DFII.001

A Different Battle along the Alva River


We recently played a large battle along a fictional river line with nearly 40 units on a side and two players on each team. It was a standard deployed set-battle piece with all arms well represented set in the War of Spanish Succession Period using my ever-growing 28mm WSS figures.

It was, however, markedly different from any Die Fighting game we had played before, because many of the main rule premises had been dramatically changed in order to test several new ideas I had been thinking about.

I am, as many who know me well will attest, always trying out new ideas, and seldom letting any rule set I play, or develop, rest on its laurels and be declared finished and cast in stone! Frankly, I can’t understand why anyone would do so. The joy of gaming and game design for me is the new idea, a different twist, and pushing the envelope so as to discover whole new ways of illustrating battle on a table top.

Lately, my thoughts had become more centered on the role of officers in battles, particularly in the Horse and Musket period, and the crucial nature of their leadership, skills, and ability to inspire. I was also eager to explore some new methods of using the red resource dice in the game, and trying some radically different methods of sequencing.

I warned the game crew that this one was going to be different, and with much good humor they said, “Bring it on!”

The battle terrain was set out to provide a wide range of tests for the new ideas, and also to be fairly balanced. Here’s a view from the table end:


There was a variety of terrain ranging from a class II river, Class II and class III woods, a vineyard (III across, I along vines)some chateaux, croplands, two small villages. There were no hills, this was the river valley. Another view from the far end:


The commanders reviewed the scene and deployed their extensive armies:

IMG_0474 IMG_0477
Chris Caudill and Greg Rold (Allies) Terry Shockey and Ray Levesque (French)

Now, some background on the rule changes.

There were three major changes, and most tactical movement and combat rules remained unchanged as did the various Rules of Six.

The first major change was the turn sequencing. Instead of any of the methods covered in the rule book the sequencing was changed as follows:

1. Both commanders would roll a single D6 for which phase of the turn they would be in. If they rolled a 1, it was Specialized action, If a 3, it would be cavalry action, and a 6 would be Reload, Rally, Restore. The two commanders would be on entirely different phases.

2. Each turn still had 6 phases, and if an army rolled the same phase as before they would repeat that phase. The only phase that could not be repeated was RRR, which would be treated as a action-less phase by the army if re-rolled. AT the end of 6 phases, the RRR card would be available if rolled.

3. If both armies rolled the same phase, nether took action, though it still counted as a phase of the turn.

The result was there was no way of predicting when or if you would get a certain phase. This added a lot of suspense to the turns, but also had a few drawback that I will discuss below.

The second change was how red resource dice were generated. In a standard game you simply add up the unit worth totals, adjust by plus or minuses, and that is how many red resource dice you possess. This may then be broken down into multiple buckets using those rules, but that is how you generate the initial red dice. Resource dice can also be acquired by enemy units eliminated by catastrophic loss or retreat from the field, and by taking certain objectives.

Because of my latest thoughts on the worth of officers to an armies capability, I made radical change to the system for this game. Now each separate sub commander and the CIC would each, individually, roll their officer dice (ranging from 2 to 5) and that sum would be their initial red resource dice in their bucket. On each following RRR card they would roll again and add that sum. This use of the officer dice did not count against their use as additional dice in tactical situations, which was played as per the standard rules. (i.e. the use of the dice for RRR generation did not remove them from play. Only if used to tactically augment a unit loses a command die in a turn.)

The sub-commanders were only rolling for the units under their command and kept a separate bucket for their command that could only be applied to their troops. The CIC could allocate any dice in his bucket, in any proportion, on any turn; However, it could only be done on a RRR card.

The method of the CIC distributing his dice would be identical to the existing method of distributing Yellow Command Dice. He would roll his command dice to determine whether the assigned dice made it to his sub-commander. He had to roll a number equal to, or larger, than the distance in inches between them. If his roll failed the resource dice were lost. This made sure that better commanders had, in effect, a larger, more effective, command range, and that the CIC should try to stay reasonably close to a crisis. This was to play a large role in the test game.

This also meant that each commander had far fewer dice initially than in previous games, and even with a pre-game roll, there was a pause as the two forces built up capacity for the attacks. (More on that below)

The third major change was what happened when a commander ran out of resource Dice for his units?

In our past games, the game simply ended when one side had a sub-command out of dice, and the other still had dice. Clean and quick. This often took several turns and a few hours as both sides started with many, many more dice-literally hundreds. This was not true for this new approach. Judging just what could be expended for movement, and in combat became much more difficult. In fact, given that the losses from combat, and/or the catastrophic or retreat loss of a unit could still be many dice and a commander could be quickly embarrassed.

So the meaning of an empty bucket was changed. If a commander was out of dice, and could not “Pay” for his combat losses to an enemy, all units in his command went disorganized (giving the enemy a die advantage) and they could not advance, or engage the enemy in combat). Any combat that was forced upon them was waged as normal, except they, of course, had no red dice to contribute. This would generally mean, along with their disorganized status, a minimum loss of three dice from the usual mix-and led to almost certain defeat by the unit. The acquisition of Black Dice from losses would then accelerate the process even more.

Now, they were allowed to retreat away from the enemy using green dice, any black dice,and officer dice alone. They were allowed if good fortune struck and an RRR card came up, or the CIC got them some dice on the RRR card, to immediately lose the disordered status and again advance on the enemy. However, any black dice acquired while devoid of Resource dice remained.

We found that the added tension and decision making issues were really excellent. I am testing again as this may be the new”standard” system. It also wrapped up the game in a satisfying and even more rapid fashion than the old system. It fit in with my new ideas about the effect of officers.

These were the major changes affecting play, though a minor change of selecting officers by card draw was used and expanded. Simply put, actual historical leaders were put on a grid with each card from a suit indicating one of the officer for an army. each leader was given a three number rating on his officer dice-such as 5-5-5 or 4-3-3, or 3-2-2 or 3-3-2. a single d6 was rolled with a 5-6 giving the high “Good Day” value, a 3-4 meaning and average, and a 1-2 meaning a “bad”day for that officer. Certain other traits could be added that fit his historical personality. See the materials in the files section of the Yahoo! site for particulars. This method is an alternative to the random roll method, and not meant as a replacement. Depending on scenario either one might be more desirable. I like the card draw because it allows the actual historical character of general’s to be brought to play.


Because there was little need for dice calculation prior to play the game got off to a quick beginning and deployment was done by die rolls with each loser of a die roll required to place one command on the table. The initial deployments were very typical with a double line on each side with the Allies hugging the bank of the Alva, and the French anchoring on the villages and chateaux in their half of the battlefield. The allies had drawn a good command made up of Marlborough, Cadogan, and Eugene of Savoy. The French had the Steady Boufflers a very average Elector of Bavaria, and the excellent James, Duke of Berwick. The allies got their commanders on a good day, but the French found their command on a typical day.

The pre-turn rolls for Resource Dice left everybody feeling a bit unready for action, and their buckets looked much sparser than they were used to. Caution reigned, and only some preliminary cavalry advances, including both sides sending dragoons off into the woods were attempted.

The dragoons contest the central wood

As luck would have it the allied dragoons stumbled upon a French officer scouting the woods, the red-haired Jean de la Mumbie, and captured him almost in the opening moments. He was treated well and offered Dutch beer and mutton prepared by an English cook, but he claimed he was being tortured by the enemy!

Jean de la Mumbie captured by Hay’s and Lloyd’s dragoons

After the initial gathering of forces the Allíes took the initiative and attacked on both flanks with the Dutch-English-Danish on their left, and the Austrians under Eugene on the right.

IMG_0485 2
The Dutch-English advance on the French Bavarian Right Flank

This gave the French some concern as the Bavarian force on their right was quite weak, and even with the Clare and Royal Italien regiments using the vineyard as cover, they weren’t too sure about the command.

On the French left their Spanish cavalry and infantry under Berwick was their strongest force, but it was opposite Eugene and his Austrian veterans. Berwick immediately advanced on the attack just South of the left Flank Village, across the bridge, and possibly across the shallow Alva on the far left.

Navarre, The Spanish Guards, and the Old Yellows Advance


The Spanish Horse leads the French North of the Bridge While Conde Chevau-leger cross the bridge. The Austrian Cavalry and Infantry await. Note The Piedmont Yellow Dragoons South of the bridge. They were to be crucial.

The next turn was the point of decision. The French were feeling pretty good about their left flank attack against the Austrians, but the command deficiencies started to show. They never could never seem to roll an Officer Action (#2) card and when they did the Allies would roll the same negating the phase from the turn.

Their initial placement of the CIC (Boufflers) was too far from Berwick to risk sending Resource Dice, and Berwick was paying often and frequently to fuel the attack, and in losses, particularly from the Piedmont Dragoons across the river. Austrian Extra Heavy Artillery was also having steady and constant small effect. But, Boufflers never seemed to realize his danger and even with the players shouting at him remained motionless in the Center of the French position as No 2s were rolled, and when they did it was countered by a duplicate allied roll!

Berwick realized his danger and tried to slow the attack but the Allies then began a counter-attack. It was devastating. The Dragon Piedmonte fired a round and then saddled up and advanced on the French Navarre regiment and the Spanish infantry. They were well supported by the Austrian Alt-Daun Regiment and the Dutch Guard. Berwick’s resource dice plummeted and suddenly his bucket was empty. There was no RRR card to bolster him, and Boufflers could not assist from his distant position. The Left buckled as fire and melee against dispirited troops sent them reeling backwards from the field.

The collapse of the French Left. Louis’ Wine wagon is in peril!

The rout extended North of the Bridge as well, as Berwick’s command crumbled.

Austrian Hussars see an enemy running!!!

And, of course, once things fall apart, it can easily snowball! The Allied Dragoons took the woods. The Allied Left was closing in on the poor Bavarian troops. One look at his dissolving left and Boufflers retired his army from the action to fight another day.

Berwick Recules!

The battle lasted for about three hours with over 70 units on the table and two players per side. Greg Rold and Chris Caudill played expertly, as usual, and the French players, Terry Shockey and Ray Levesque, did the best they could given their unforeseeable command problems. The test was viewed enthusiastically by the players involved and, with adjustments, further games will be played with these concepts. Additional materials may be found in the files section of the Yahoo! site.


As it was a test game, there were many surpasses for everyone involved, and some changes of tactics were obviously to be considered. Some rules will be modified in the future tests.

1. The gamers will be allowed a double roll of their command dice prior to the first move to insure a suitable initial energy and get the units moving more quickly.

2. I felt the die rolling for phases slowed things up a bit, and certainly provided some anomalies such as the French lack of mobility with their officers. It did provide interest with double moves, and missing phases that were nice, I just think it might be done more efficiently. In the next game I’m using another approach.

There will be a double deck of six phase cards for each side ( the 6 phases twice with Concede and Creative removed) that will be shuffled and then cut in half by sight unseen discarding 6 cards. The six cards that are left are active for the turn. They are placed face down and used in order with a standard single initiative roll at the beginning of that turn determining who gets to choose to go first or second.

If that deck contains any duplicate cards, they may be used as per normal until all six cards in the deck are used in a turn. This could allow multiple of any card up to two, and it could mean certain phases are not present at all! If both sides pull the same phase they may both use it.

At any point the commanders may introduce a creative card (no duplicate) if called for by a scenario or a Concede card (no duplicate) if they wish to quit the field and cut their losses. Both cards may be acted upon if, and when, drawn.

3. I am honing the effect of running out of dice on a command, and may try a few tweaks next time, but feel like its very close. This system, when polished, should allow one command figure per player, with his command and a dice bucket. This would allow convention games of ANY size!

4. I am going to further develop the Officer Card Draw with historical personages. This may end up as a custom deck for each period that would be sold separately. Note: random officer creation will still be standard and the cards will not be required.

I wish to thank the Quebec crew of Chris Caudill, Greg Rold, Terry Shockey, and Ray Levesque ( John Mumby in absentia) for their patience and help in this game. I’m a lucky guy!

The Battle of Denain (Conclusion)


The Battle of Denain was fought to conclusion at Chez Jones this last Saturday, March 15th, between 12:30 and 4:00 PM. By the end of the battle, Over 60 units of 28mm figures had been engaged in the two part engagement. (See the Battle go Denain -Advance Guard- of April 24th, 2014 for an account of the initial clash between the two advance guards that preceded the main engagement.)

Folders with complete sets of scouting reports and telescope views, OOBs, and other materials are located in the Files Section of the Yahoo! site under The Battle of Denain.


This set up was very different from past games. After the clash of the Advance Guards in our last game, that battle gave a substantial gain of 80 dice to the French, and indicated that a number of Allied Units were eliminated in that battle. This put the allies at a starting deficit in numbers and total dice. The OOBs for both forces are found, as stated above, in the Denain Folder at the Yahoo! site. There are Folders for both the Allies and French that list the troops, their Type and Quality, their Dice contribution, elimination and black dice penalties.


I also tried to give a modest advantage in terrain to the Allies as it would be highly likely they would retreat until they found some modestly good defensive ground. The terrain set up gave them a couple of ridge lines on either flank, and some wooded ground that would break up and channel the French attack. A small shallow stream helped guard their Right Flank. The terrain gave the Allies at least some cover for their deployment, and some advantages in defense.

Overview looking South

I required the Allies to deploy first-and they could deploy the remnants of the Advance Guard and their entire first line. I then took photos of their position from table height using my iPhone camera that I sent to the French. The photos were deliberately “foggy” in an attempt to recreate the lack of resolution-even with telescope of a distant enemy line.

Hill on Right FlankLeft of Village
More Photos at Yahoo! Site

After perusing these photos, the French then deployed-just their advanced guard- and suitably vague photos were sent to the Allies of that end result.

The French had to declare prior to any further actions exactly what road entrance the First line deployment would be centered upon. I asked them for a written set of orders as to the nature of that deployment. They were placed on the table by me, and a confirming photo was sent to the French Command. This Deployment was not sent to the Allies, but they would see it on the day of the game. The French First line could not move on the first turn (they were going through their elaborate WSS deployment) , so the Allies would have an opportunity to react to this appearance.

For a complete description of this Scouting and Deployment procedure read the Battle Continuation rules in the Denain Scouting Reports Folder at the Yahoo! Site. That folder has many more examples of the telescope “views” that both sides had prior to the battle.


Many of the special rules from the earlier Advanced Guard action were also extended to this game. These special rules covering Black Dice, Battalion Guns, Howitzers, etc. are also found in the Denain Scouting reports Folder.


The Allies deployed with the former Advanced Guard on their right flank. Using the stream, woods, and the windmill hill as a compensation for their reduced numbers and losses from the previous engagement. The First line was deployed across the center facing the village of Denain that had been occupied by the French Advance Guard. This force was primarily Dutch and English and among the best troops they had available. They made sure no coup de main was possible up the center, but that left only a few units of English and Danish horse to cover their left flank, with no Infantry to stiffen their defense, and most of their guns were placed so as to limit their targets to very close ranges.


The Left flank was just dangling in air, awaiting their Austrian Allies to secure that area.

The French had deployed so that their first line was entirely opposite this exposed flank. Their horse was on the road and they had their light guns limbered and ready to advance! It appears they had stolen a march on the Allies and were going to press the matter! This was compounded by the player in command of this force was Ray Levesque who was renowned for his eagerness to close with the enemy. And close he did!



The French right flank surged forward with the Garde Francaises and Suisses infantry advancing in close step with the Dauphin Regiment availing themselves of mutual support (best roll rule for movement of the line) as they strode determinedly toward the Hill to their front. On the road the Gendarmes Ecossais and the Mousquetaires galloped forward into the unoccupied ground on the Allies Left Flank. Levesque’s movement rolls added to his reputation for the rapid attack!

The French Line Advances!

The Gendarmes turn the Flank.

The Allies immediate saw that their flank was in great danger of being collapsed. CIC-Shockey immediately wheeled the English First Foot Guard about and headed it to its left flank. The Danish horse was refused back to stop the French flanking maneuver. Cadogan’s horse took the hill to stop the French infantry attack. The first indications of the Austrian arrival bolstered the Allied spirits.

The French Gendarmes sped down the road and wheeled into formation to attack the Allied flank they were closely followed by the Mousquetaires, while the French Regiment Royal Italien and Soissonais entered the wood at the edge of the battlefield.

Gendarmes attack The Danish Horse. Note the Foot Guard flank beckoning!

The Danish horse turned to face the Gendarmes. The English Foot Guard headed in that direction, but paused, and then the commander wheeled them to face the hill not the eminent threat from the French Horse. Now their flank was exposed to the Gendarmes, only masked by the Danish horse. Several in the ranks questioned this dependence on a single horse regiment of unknown capability.

The Allies did have a few good moments on that flank, as the arriving Austrians clumsily sorted themselves out-with the Austrian Hussars and Piedmont Dragoons racing down the road to protect the village, and the Austrian line moved unto the table. The Walloons on the Austrian left wheeled to face the threat from the woods and with a good volley sent the Royal Italien regiment scurrying away. The Soissonais also retired back out of the woods.

This led to a controversial moment as the Mousquetiers du Roi opted to retire behind the Gardes rather than support their fellow horsemen, the Gendarmes! As they retired back up the road there was many a Gallic curse hurled after them by the brave Gendarmerie! (There will be brawls in the Tavern in the next few days between these units!)

But the Gendarmes were not deterred! They slammed into the Danish Horse and literally blew them away! As they rode the 2nd Jyske under, they immediately saw the exposed flank of the English Guard. On they rode!

At this exact moment the French Guard units made the crest of the ridge and volleyed into Cadogan’s Horse. The horse was sent reeling in disorder back into the mass of troops below, including into the Falkenberg cuirassiers rushing to the aid of the English Guards and Danish horse. This was not looking good for the Allies.



In the center, the French had a formidable column of cavalry led by the Carabiniers du Roi, who had performed so spectaculary in the advance Guard action, but they dare not charge the Allied line thanks to the English gun battery firing down the road toward Denain. A flank shot from artillery would inflict grevious losses.

That gun battery was now occupied in delsutory firing at the village of Denain, but with little effect on the Listerois Dragoons or the Bouffrement Dragoons that held the village. The center seemed relatively free from action as the Allied forces, including the Orkney First Foot, made no effort to advance, and the French seemed content to hold the village.

On the Allied Right, at the Southern end of the battlefield, Hay’s Dragoons advanced to the edge of the Chateau grounds, but then saw a large force approaching. It was the French second line, made up of Bavarian and Spanish troops. They began crossing the stream and surging toward the forests beyond the Chateau. Hay’s retired upon the small support force behind him.


The English error in turning to face the hill and presenting their flank to the Gendarmes now exacted a deadly price. The Gendarmes, fresh from their victory over the Danish Jyske horse, now hit the first foot guards in the Flank, and sent them reeling in full retreat (many dice were lost).

Then the French Maison Rouge Guard infantry on the with two excellent volleys pummeled Cadogan’s horse and sent them in disorder back into the milling mass of English Guard infantry. Even the Austrian Falkenberg Cuirrasisers, who were attempting to stabilize the flank were swept up in the general chaos. Trapped between the Gendarmes and the French and Swiss guards the flank totally collapsed. A second line of infantry and the Mousquetaires was close behind the Guard in support of the attack.


The Austrians were having a lot of difficulty deploying in the restricted area around the Northern village, and could not offer much help to their allies to the South.

At this point the French attack in the far South was forcing the Allied Right Flank back to to the Road entrance, and some of the troops from the reserve were beginning a general assault on the Windmill hill held by Seymour’s Marines.


Losses everywhere were heavy. Counterattack was out of the question and catastrophe threatened. The Allied commander placed the Concede Card in his deck.


The game continued through three more card phases, with additional losses to the Allies as the Falkenberg Cuirassiers were also destroyed, and the Right flank woods were abandoned by the English dragoons. Finally the Concede card came up and the Allies retired, as best they could, from the field. They hoped to regroup as they retired back toward the Dutch fortresses.


Gentlemanly Concession! (L.to R.) John Mumby, French Commander Greg Rold, Ray “ High Roller”Levesque, Ed Meyers, Allied Commander Terry Shockey, and Chris Caudill

It was a smashing victory for the French, flowing from their earlier success in the advance guard action. Marlborough was sorely missed and The Duke of Argyll was clearly not up to the task on this day.


1. The Allies should have chosen a more balanced and compact defensive formation. Expecting horse to hold an entire flank without adequate infantry support was not wise.

2. The French followed excellent tactical practice. They had a concentration of force, and a simple and direct battle plan. Turn the Allied left flank and roll up their line. It was to be done quickly before the Austrians could effect the action. The double edged attack of the French Guard Infantry and the Gendarmes was devastating (even more than expected thanks to some excellent movement and combat rolls by Ray Levesque).

3. Conservation of dice for the Allies was paramount. They started, thanks to the earlier action, with a deficit, and their horrendous losses of dice in the flank battle soon left then with an empty bucket that could not be helped by reserve dice-which were also depleted.

4. The game also brought up the necessity of very carefully siting the artillery. The Allied guns were often in a cramped and limited position with few lines of fire. There were no guns on the left flank that could be brought to bear with much effect. Since the French were in an all out attack mode-they seldom waited for their artillery and used almost none of it in forcing the battle decision.
Artillery in this period is not what it would become in the next century, but neither side used it to much effect during this game. The sole exception was the restraining effect the allied battery in the left center had on the Carabinier led French cavalry in the center by firing down the road toward Denain.


1. The game played very well. The entire game lasted from 1:00 PM to resolution at 4:30 PM. Everyone was headed home for dinner by 5:00 PM.

2, The new special rules all worked as intended and many are sure to become “Standard.”

3. The mobility of horse, and the relative weakness of artillery were both underscored by the battle play. The most telling aspect was the comparison of the cavalry ability on the attack, but its crucial weakness on the defense against infantry. You are hard pressed to hold ground with horse.

4. The French used the linear advance rule, where the contiguous line gets the best roll for distance moved by any one unit-applied to the entire line. It worked very well, and looked impressive as their lines stepped off toward the enemy.

5. The Allies, apart from horrendous dice lost to combat on the left, were not as careful as they could have been in the dice use. Too many long distance shots for no effect by artillery. A lot of movement on the right flank by the Windmill hill and the adjacent woods that had no focused purpose.

6. The Two commands were well matched with a slight advantage to the French in terms of having a good day. Oddly enough, every wood rolled for became a Class III, not one Class II!

6. NEVER, I mean NEVER, deliberately turn an infantry flank to horse-even when there is one cavalry between you and the enemy. Pursuit will occur and a flank attack by cavalry is simply devastating!

All materials concerning the game and several additional photos may be found in the Yahoo Battle of Denain Folder.

Next Game: April 19, 2014 at 12:30 PM

IMP, Occam's Razor, and PBN


When we design historical war-games we are attempting to reflect some aspects of decision making and model physical actions that real commanders and troops demonstrated during battles. We read a wide variety of sources, often make notes about the events we read about, and we frequently find contradictory information, incomplete accounts, and degrees of variance in the stated outcome of events. The description of the decision of certain general can be highly subjective, and it is not uncommon to find huge gaps and omissions in the description of events. How do we weigh this information? How do we decide what or who to believe? What tools can we use to sort the wheat from the chaff, or the gold from the dross?

The two that I have found are Inherent Military Probability (IMP) and Occam’s Razor.

Inherent Military Probability was first proposed as a tool by Arthur Higgins Burne, an ex-officer in the Royal Artillery, and later, a military historian who authored several books on ancient , medieval, and early gunpowder warfare. (He co-wrote a book on the ECW with Peter Young). HIs original premise was that as you tried to decipher historical evidence and accounts you should apply a test of “What would a trained staff officer of the 20th century most likely have done?” If it wouldn’t make sense to him-it probably didn’t happen that way. If it does make sense then it had to be more strongly credited. This was later amended by some to say that it must make sense to a person in that era as some situations may not have a direct historical corollary to the modern mind.


It remains mildly controversial, and has had some singular successes and failures as an approach, but I think it is an invaluable tool when used correctly. Correct use requires really thinking a account or report through and examining it logically. Ultimately the question is “Does this make sense?” as important as the provenance of the remark, its source, or the authority of the account. It requires judgement and knowledge.

An example of my first use of this in wargaming many years ago is a series of articles I wrote in the old Courier about the use of artillery. At that time in the 70s, many gamers used “Ricochet Sticks” to denote where a ball ricocheted “Over” a unit and had no effect, and where in was low enough to have effect. I thought about this a long time and turned to elementary physics and ballistics to prove that this didn’t make sense. A ball fired from a smoothbore gun at zero elevation will NEVER rise higher than the gun muzzle, and every ricochet will be below the height of a man. If fired at a higher angle their will be fewer ricochets (remember skipping a rock on a water surface?)if any, and they will all be lower than a man, or a man on horse back. In certain extreme cases of terrain, where the target is on the backslope of a hill, or the ball hits say the top of a stone wall, it may fly over a man, but almost certainly will bury in on its next impact. In effect, the IMP of a ricochet clearing a man height is very low and ricochet sticks are representing a nonexistent factor. There was a great kerfluffle by the advocates of this equipment until General B.P. Hughes book, “Firepower” came out about a year later stating the exact same finding. Ricochet sticks disappeared from the wargame table a victim of IMP and physics!

Another such finding in my articles was that during the era of Smoothbore Artillery, heavier weight guns had more effect on a single infantry or cavalry target than lighter guns when firing ball. This was easily dispatched as nonsense when logic and physics was again applied. The size difference in diameter between 4-6-8-and 12 pound field artillery balls was not very much-less than an inch in diameter for all but the 4 lb. and only an inch and a half for that!. That is, the area of effect was nearly identical! (remember they non-explosive rounds) So all artillery hard shot should have equivalent effect on a single target. Where they varied was MASS which made the heavier guns able to penetrate through many more units before the ball’s motion was arrested. They were, for the same reason more impactful on solid objects such as walls, fortifications, etc. They also had a much higher effectiveness with their canister, and a somewhat longer theoretical range, but that was seldom of great use. What they did not have was a higher effect with roundshot on a single unit to their front. IMP-QED!

The above examples are easy manifestations using physics and math, but using an IMP based on your general military reading as to the likeliness of certain behavior bolstered by a general view of people in real life and their reaction to stress and conflict is an invaluable tool for assessing information to be used in a design.

The other tool is Occam’s Razor. This premise was set forward by William of Occam in the 14th century as a means of judging the most logical explanation for a single event. In its simplest form it merely states that, when faced with several explanations or causes for an event, always look the simplest, least involved, and uncomplicated explanation-always. One way to phrase this is when you hear hoof-beats behind you always think of horses approaching, not zebras!


Now, this does not preclude complex answers, or scientific data, but simply says the simplest explanation with the fewest assumptions is a good place to start. This is a conspiracy killer, an answer to Rube Goldberg explanations for events and long involved explanations of why Junior missed school yesterday. The use of Occam’s razor for a war gamer designing rules, or deciding the accuracy of unverifiable reports, is a very handy tool. Go for the clean and simple. Eschew obfuscation!

Finally, I’d like to comment on rule users themselves, and how they effect their own enjoyment of rules. I am open to argument on this at my Yahoo! site, but it strikes me that we have seen a lessening of experimentation and creative growth in rule users, more than in rule designers! I can’t remember a time when, when playing a set of rules I didn’t think of a better way to do something within that rule structure, or come up with a new extension of the rules, or redefine some aspect of their use. Usually I did this to better suit my idea of how things occurred in a period battle, or to make the rules more playable-FOR ME. This also led to my answering a lot of my own questions about certain points of rules that might be unclear- I seldom asked the designer, unless I was impossibly confused. If I liked the core principles of a set of rules, I was more than happy to be creative in order to make them even better for my use!

That appears to be less common among war gamers now. In effect they want their war-games to be the equivalent of oil paintings done by the number. They want to be told where to put a color. They want to be told the exact shade of that color. They want firm lines denoting exactly where the boundaries between colors are. They want to be told the exact and precise nature of the image being created. Tell me the color. Tell me the number. Show me the finished picture.

Mona Lisa

Even worse, they never even consider different shades and hues, or how to actually paint, but just want to be told what to do. They want all their answers supplied, and they want no responsibility to figure it out or experiment on their own.

What is needed for a great wargame is the gamer must be a creative painter, and throw away the numbered canvas. He must try to grasp the inherent principles of a design which are usually fairly easy to grasp after a reading or two, and a couple of times on the table, but then he should take it on himself to innovate, to try new ideas, and bend the rules to his liking. He should use a set of rules as a base for his own creativity and exploration of history. He should really try to become his own artist rather than always going to the Master for interpretation and certification.

Part of this may stem from the fantasy backgrounds of many current gamers, where there is no real world to use as a touchstone for their ideas, but only the limited universe found between the covers of a 128 page, full glossy, Codex. The gamers using these rules are looking to fit in to a group rather than to strike out creatively and as an individual. They are also constrained by the corporate game publisher’s restricting their ideas to “Official Rules” and “Official Figures.” That is fine for an adolescent, but an adult in a creative hobby should at least try to be creative and an individual and not just a passive recipient of some imaginary construct.

Historical gamers have no such excuse. They are the heirs, as I have stated before, of creative writers such as Stevenson, Wells, Pratt, and Featherstone, and their hobby begs for added entertaining narrative that may include a light hearted comment on the human condition. They are missing so much, if they don’t give up painting by the numbers, and learn to paint!

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.

The Last Battle (of 2013)-A Bridge Too Distant

We had our last game of 2013 on Friday the 27th of December at Chez Jones. It was a very different game as the scenario only required a small fraction of my WSS armies, and it wasn’t a stand up battle, but a running engagement involving cavalry, infantry, light guns, and an immense train!

The scenario was that the French train was proceeding to reinforce a siege at Douai which, if it arrived, would probably lead to the fall of the fortifications. The Allies, hearing of the report of the approaching train, dispatched a large mixed raiding force consisting of 5 infantry and 7 horse plus a light gun to intercept and either capture or destroy the train and its reinforcements. The French, aware that an attempt to attack the train was possible, followed standard practice for the era and established an escort for the train of 3 infantry and 5 cavalry with a light gun and a heavy howitzer. Additionally, the besieging forces at Douai dispatched two infantry to head back to reinforce the rain the train. The make up of both forces may be found at the Repiquerules Yahoo site in the A Bridge Too Distant folder.

In an attempt to intercept the train the allied forces were scattered over the countryside. When word came of the train’s location they approached the French forces from three different directions. The area of road that the train was traversing at this time was a hilly, wooded area with a stream running through the area that was running high from recent rains and was uncrossable, except by the designated bridges.

Bridge too distant Final2

The Allies could enter from at least two of the three entry points designated A, B or C. They could deploy in any groupings they desired, under the restrictions of the officer command rules. Each entry site had to roll higher than a certain number on a d6 before any units could enter. Point A merely needed to roll higher than 2; Point B higher than 3 and point C higher than 4. The French could deploy the so the leading edge of the Train was 24” into the table on the road. Other troops could deploy on either or both sides of the train, and two units could deploy immediately in front of the train.

The train guard of horse, foot, and guns, all moved as normal, but the train itself would move using suitable corrections for green dice, and could receive yellow dice from the train commander. The train only rolled once per move phase for the entire road group to move and all moved that distance on that turn.

To capture any element of the train, the attackers merely needed to touch it with one of their units.

Set-up conditions:

The French were allowed to deploy the train two feet down the road with two units of the escorting force ahead of the train by 12”. Other members of the escort could line up on either side of the road in any desired formation. The trailing forces would appear as the train moved. The order of march had to be stated for both the train and the escort prior to the game beginning.

Each unit of the train had a different multiplier value for points (dice) if captured with the siege guns being the highest (10X), and the small powder wagons the lowest (4X).

The Allies could designate which forces were attempting to enter at points A,B, or C.

The final pre-game procedure was the selection of officers. Rather than merely rating them, as per the standard rules, we experimented with a new method. Since all my officer stands are now designated and labeled as being a particular historical general of the period, I researched their general traits, skills, and personalities,and assigned them a certain number of Officer dice. Each officer had three numbers; one represented his command on a good day, one on an average day, and one when he was off his game, so to speak. A 1-2-3 officer would get three command dice on a very good day, usually two, and on a bad die decline to only one command die. Some officers could be verity consistent, say a 3-3-3, or, some, such as Marlborough consistently high with a 4-5-5.

Each gamer would draw three cards from a face down four card selection-10-J-Q-K and that would indicate which officer he had for his sub-command. Then he would roll a single d6; 1-2 a poor day, 3-4 and average day, and 5-6 a good day was indicated. Obviously the original selection of four officer cards would indicate that one of the officers would not be present at that battle. Both the allied and the French selection included some good, and not so good potential commanders. As it turned out this would make some difference.

The last new idea involved the placement of small wooden stars painted in one of several national colors. These stars placed on an officer stand would indicate which other nationalities the officer could command, other than the one indicated by his label. (A red labeled British officer could give orders (command dice) to any other British unit with a red label, but no one else, UNLESS he had an orange star for the Dutch, or a yellow star for the Austrians, etc. The same would apply to all officers for both sides. A French officer with Bavarian troops under his command at the battles commencement would have a sky blue star. The commander of the entire force would be indicated by a gold star, as he could command anyone in the army. This enforces some pre game thinking about force organization, and prevented ad hoc changes as circumstances changed on the battlefield.

The pre-game forces, ratings, the officer descriptions, and all other special rules may be found in the “Bridge Too Distant” Folder on the Yahoo! Repiquerules site. Please refer to them as you are reading this report.

The Game

The pre battle officer assignments did not go well for the French, as the British got William Cadogan as the leader of their force and he had excellent command skills, and rolled high so that he was having a good day. The other commanders, Overkirk and Cutts, both rolled high as well. The French, on the other hand, drew Tallard as their over all commander, and he rolled poorly. He would have a mere one die to give, and that only on the roll of a 4-5-6! The other two commanders were somewhat better, with Villeroi being average, and Compte deTesse having a good day.

The game started with the Allies deciding to use three forces with Dutch force under Overkirk and a light artillery entering at “C’. An infantry and Cavalry force under the force commander at “A”, and the strong dragoon force entering under Cutts at “B”.

The French had set up their order of march as follows:

1. The cavalry in column of route to the left of the road, between the low hill and the train. Villeroi leading.
2. The Infantry in Column of route to the right of the road. De Tesse Leading.
3. Both the Light Gun and the Howitzer led the train at the head of the column Tallard Leading train and guns.
4. The train ran from the most valuable near the head of the Column (Pontoon Train, Siege Guns, Wine Wagon) followed by Powder wagons and Supply Wagon.


There were no objective markers in the game as the objective was not to gain ground but either get the train off the two exit roads, if French, opt stoop them, if British. It is a pretty straight forward scenario.

The Unfolding of Events

The French had a number of things transpire against them from the very beginning. First was the very poor quailty of their commander, which was compounded by giving him the train. He provided little help to anyone, including no ability to help the train increase its movement much. The French had also stacked their train and guns with the guns on the road ahead of the train, which meant if the Train movement card came up before the guns, the Train could not move on that turn. It did and the Train lost one whole move! (They would have been better served to have the guns off the road-to either side, but still in the lead.) Traffic management of trains is an uncharted country!
Lastly, the Allies opted for deployment in all three locations, and rolled their entry number on the first roll! This was particularly harsh when the Dutch appeared near the alternate bridge route!

The Allies entered in column and flung themselves to the task of intercepting the train.


The main force was a good distance away, but a force of Dragoons at “B” (upper left of photo)was cutting thorough the Class III woods to occupy the village on the main route and so deny passage to the French.

Seeing this, the French galloped their dragoons forward to contest the woods, and moved the guns to secure the alternate route by opening fire on the Dutch on the far side of the swollen stream.


But the Allies were simply too well commanded, and the Dragoons under Cutts got through the Class III woods with great alacrity and swept out around the French forces intended to drive them out of the woods and away from the village.


At this point a French force sent from the distant siege at Douai, made up of the Picardie and Dauphin regiments appeared, rushing forward to drive the Dutch from the bridge area near the chateau. This gave the French some hope of opening the alternative route.

But then disaster struck in every area! The Allied Dragoons, led by Hays Dragoons, broke out of the woods and took the village, denying the route to the French without extensive fighting. The Dutch troops with an attached British battery, then dealt a further 1-2 punch, first firing on the French relief force, and halting it in its tracks with several losses, and then wheeling the light battery and knocking out the French light gun that was attempting to re-position itself into better range.


At this point, the French had both routes blocked, they had lost a gun battery, and the Allies were not only getting the best of it, but the route of escape back up the road was threatened. Even Tallard perceived that a retreat was their only option. The game was ended with the further loss of a supply wagon and a powder wagon in addition to the gun. When the relief force returned to tell the tale, the siege was lifted and the Allied forces in Douai cheered lustily at the retreating French.

The engagement had lasted exactly 2 1/2 hours of playing time, and a good time was had by all. The game day was ended with a couple of bottles of Chandon champagne shared between the victors and the chastened French.


1. The French deployment was faulty and the bad traffic management caused by the guns delaying the column cost them a full move, and a better chance at getting to the village and securing it.

2. The French needed a mixed force on both sides of the road, not pure cavalry or Infantry as they chose to do. The cavalry side had no reply to the British and Austrian foot. The Infantry side had small chance of getting to the alternate road bridge before the Dutch without the speed of cavalry.

3. The advantage that the Allies had in command showed clearly as the game wore on, they were simply the firstest with the mostest at every point. The French were particularly disadvantaged drawing Tallard and then rolling poorly, while the Allies got Cadogan and he was having a very good day! I do very much like the way the command issues are developing. The leaders make a good difference, but the engagement was lost by other decisions more than the command issue. This system actually makes commanders “units” of value, and reinforces the historical nature of period personalities. There is still much to develop, but it looks very promising.

4. The French needed better focus in their plan. They needed to race ahead with cavalry to secure the village and the bridge as a first priority. The needed to clear the road in front of the train so that it got every move without delay. It is just too slow to allow any loss of movement to be made up.

Game Considerations

1. The black die system worked like a charm. I will post the “Final” (?) rules this week.

2. As I said above, the officer characterization is here to stay. I look forward to developing it for other periods as well.

3. I might set the entry rolls for the Allies even higher. I think they were set to low, and along with the command issues, made the game too tough for the French. I think I would set the Two British at 5 or 6, and Overkirk’d Dutch at 6 only to enter. The scenario needs some honing and tweaking.

4. The British Battery, and the Dutch Commander (Overkirk-John Mumby) deserve full battle honors and promotion.

All that said, I think it was great fun in the playing. The next game is February 22, 2014 and the Allied Commander will have the services of the “General’s Carriage” in lieu of this victory. I just completed this kit which is a Blue Moon kit, but customized with draperies, a mounted trumpeter/herald, and, as usual, full harness! Note the whip on the Driver’s left. I’m very proud of this addition to my forces.

General's Carriage


What History? The Markerdom Of Tin Armies

(top to bottom; left to right: Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Jack Scruby, Don Featherstone)

Before a recent game, Brent Oman and I were talking about flags, unit identification, and wargaming. He commented that he thought gamers seldom used flags and specific unit identification or markings in games, because many gamers simply didn’t care, and treated the various combat units and figures as generic infantry and cavalry and were only interested in their value-their mathematical worth-in the game , and little else. There were a few exceptions, of course, the Imperial Guard, or, regrettably, SS units, but, on the whole they were just game pieces and nothing more.

This is a great loss for historical wargaming. Wargamers assign units specific names, but, other than a few units, the identifications have no meaning in the game or to the gamers that distinguishes it from any other unit. The units are interchangeable and each is absolutely equivalent to any other unit of its type. They are demoted from being representations of any known historical unit to being an anonymous game piece and no more. Even worse, we (and I include myself) have all been too prone to leave officers and units unnamed, or we just make them up. Once again, we sever the connection with history. In an odd sort of way, the potted histories of fantasy and sci-fi units created by GW have more “history”, albeit repetitive, derivative, and stupid “history”, than our historical units possess. Our units become mere tin markers devoid of any distinguishing traits for the gamers involved, other than a generalized type, and possibly technology differences. This may suffice for the drab anonymity of later periods, but certainly not for a period involving flags, horses, and honor.


We often hear of the great joys of the “Old School” war-games, which, one has to admit, are usually exaggerated by time and hagiographic memories, but we mistake what made them so good. It wasn’t the dully simple rules, the spring-loaded cannon, or the crude figures that made these games so memorable, but the fact that they existed in a narrative. They fought in a world where an imaginative and fun story was being told. Scruby understood this with his Mafrica games, and Don Featherstone, ever the man with a good story (which were sometimes true) exalted in the joys of a tale well told, including in the games he played. Stevenson and Wells interests in wargaming were solely a good tale. This required units to have singular personalities, and for officers and leaders to have a colorful backstory and fleshed out character. What has been lost in too many modern historical miniature wargame designs is the substitution of the quantitative, the calculated, the CRT, the deadly earnest, and the accountant mentality, for the creative, the Kiplingesque tale, the irrational, but true events of real life, the sense of a narrative.

It has been a great loss to the hobby and made for too many largely commercial, determinately simple minded, sterile, and ultimately boring war-games. No wonder so many young people have run off to fantasy and Sc-fi in the delusion that they are more imaginative, though, in truth, they are even more derivative and predictable.

Good Historical war-games should always tell stories, not be some mathematical equation, and risk-free assessment based on some old Avalon-Hill CRT (3-1 or nothing!). They should entertain on the basis of events and the drama that unfolds, not some sterile all-too-certain calculation. History, at its best, is facts told as instructive stories. History, in itself, is a cracking good story!

That was my initial premise in Piquet all these years ago, and remains the same in Die Fighting to this very day. I am heartened by the recent directions that Sam Mustafa has taken in developing new aspects of the narrative game, and Brent Oman’s FOB developments. Both are using cards, as I did in Piquet, to create true narratives and games that ring of drama, and echo what we read in the historical accounts. Richard Borg has had great success with some aspects of this idea, as has Richard Clarke at TooFatlardies.

The way out for historical wargaming is through the door created by Stevenson, Wells, Scruby, and Featherstone that stresses the narrative over the mathematical, and the experience of the story over some meaningless”Victory”. This does not mean the rules cannot be sophisticated, but it may mean historical gamers might be well served to look in different directions, the pieces on the table must be more than mere tin markers. Our gaming is vastly improved by giving them personalty and individual traits.


This led to my epiphany, after labeling each of my units and, more importantly, my officers, as I described in may last Blog entry “Crafting Special Units.” I have decided to try to reintroduce history, and historical appreciation, of units and their abilities during a given war in a far more specific way than in the past. I also want the units and the commanding officers to have distinctive and continually developing traits, personalities, and quirks. I plan to overlay this on my preference for creating fictional battles for the armies to fight as opposed to simply refighting historical actions. Not that these changes will preclude refighting some historical engagement, but that they will reinforce history in the fictional scenarios that are created.

The first step in this process is clearly labeling every unit, and giving an actual historical name to every command stand figure in the game. At the very least the gamers should be made familiar with the names of the units and the real names of significant leaders in a given period.

Next, I plan to institute a new process for commanders and units ratings in games. Instead of just random rolls determining a unit’s worth, only corrected by a generalized national plus or minus correction from the Period Template, I intend to create a list with unit by unit corrections from historical reports. If a unit is mentioned positively, it will get a plus 1-2, if pejoratively, a minus 1 or 2. If the unit is either not mentioned or has a mixed record, there is no correction and a straight roll on the template is made. In some periods this will be the vast majority of units. This rating shall be done from scratch for each of my WSS, and, eventually, Great Northern Wars, and FPW armies.

Once created, this is the unit’s value in the game and every future game. It can only be altered by bad performance, or superior performance in a given battle. If the unit is wiped out, it can be reformed and re-rated with a suitable note made to its record. This status will require an assessment after every game/battle. Units that did nothing of note will be unchanged, others will be rewarded or punished as the history warrants. Each unit will have a card on a simple database, where a record is kept. Post-game evaluations will incorporate the feelings of the players, as well as the umpire’s assessment. There will be a slight variation for good day, bad day. A roll of 1-2 is a bad day -1 on rating die roll; 3-4 an average day no corrections; 5-6, an extraordinary day, add 1 more to the rating roll!

Over time, this will give real personalities and a wargame history to each unit ranging from unremarkable to admirable and even to scorn. I think this could add great fun over time to game play.


The officers are another change I am experimenting with. My idea is to give an actual historical title and name to each officer/command stand in the game. They will then be given a rating that only varies by a set range depending on historical assessment. My present concept is to make it a simple 3 number range as described above.. Each officer will be rated by rolling a single 6 sided die. 1-2 equals a low rating, 3-4 a middling rating, and 5-6 a high rating, BUT each officer shall have different ranges that are based on history.

A Marlborough would be a 4 (low)-4(average)-5(High)in terms of DF’s command dice. Even on his worst day he’s pretty good. A Tallard would be a 1-2-3, even on his best day he’s average. General Cadogan may be a 3-4-4, pretty good, and average on his worst day. Some may rate out at 1-1-2! The best, which I cannot see ever granting, would be 5-5-5, and the worst a 1-1-1 , which may well happen. A “poor” roll of 1-2 will also trigger a second roll that will determine additional weaknesses, quirks, or problems with that commander’s actions; all based on historical texts. Therefore, a Charles XII could still be a 4 in command dice, but his aggressiveness as a leader might be prompted into rashness or foolhardy behavior. A Tallard rolling poorly could bring out his timid and lacksadaisical nature to a greater degree!


Now, I can see the thought occurring to gamers, “Why would I ever take some miserable general, and not opt for my best available officer?” The answer is that you don’t get the choice! Either the King, Parliament, or the various national councils will choose who to command in a campaign or particular battle. My method for doing that will be making up the equivalent of baseball cards for each commander of any given army. The card will list their title, name, seniority, notable historical battles, and a short history of their actual career. It will also have their command dice range as described above, and any possible historical quirks, attributes, flaws, and unusual abilities. The Baseball card deck will be shuffled for each side and a draw for commanders and subordinate officers will be made. Each officer shall have a seniority number based on his reputation, and/or on his date of commission. The highest ranked is the commanding officer. The subordinates may be assigned to command the various brigades. Some officers will only be used as subordinates, other will always be commanding the entire army. Note this is by army in the WSS, as each nation had its own commander, that though subservient in battle field command, led the troops of his own nation. That is, English command English, French, French, and Austrians, Dutch, and Bavarians likewise. After each is assigned his role, the rating for the day of battle will be rolled to determine if they are on their game, or having a rough patch in their career.

Certain officers may have multiple cards in the command deck, increasing their chances of being chosen, or the scenario can stipulate a commander, and only the subordinates are chosen. Each army will have a range of commanders in their deck that ranges from “Oh, my God!” to “Hurrah!”. In lesser known armies (such as the Russian Army of the GNW) I may still have to create some fictional names, but that will be a last resort.

There will also be, in some decks, a few special commanders whose command will be limited to only certain areas of command. One I have in mind is Holcroft Blood of the British Army. He will not have an actual command, per se, but will allow some benefits to artillery he is near, in the form of extra dice. He may also allow the artillery some privileges during the initial deployment and even later movement! There are other commanders of horse, or specialized arms such as engineers, that may appear in the deck as they show up in my readings, or for a particular period. These will not count as a draw against the drawing army, but be a free addition to their army’s capability. I am open to other’s discoveries and additions to these officer’s “personalities.”

My goal with all of these experiments is to introduce more history in a narrative way to the game and strive to increase personality and historical fun and defeat the markerdom of our tin armies. When one reads Lloyd Osbournes’ description of Robert Louis Stevenson’s attic game in the winter of 1878 in Davos, one would begin to get the idea of my eventual goal. It is no accident that the first true recreational war gamers were writers by trade-Stevenson and Wells, they were the progenitors of the narrative wargame, because that’s what they did for a living, create narrative stories! After my experience at Getzcon this last September (see the September Blog posting) I am much encouraged that with Mustafa, Oman, Getz and myself all experimenting in Narrative Wargames that a true renaissance of the Stevenson, Wells traditions may be underway!


Strassen Stream-A Black Die Test

On the 16th of November we fought a large WSS battle on a relatively flat terrain marked by only a small stream, light forest, a small village, Strassen, and two rough (class III) hills. The primary purpose was to test the black die concepts, as well as introduce hussars, howitzers, and a new Officer Action Card definition to play. We also tried a variant on the Multiple Bucket, die allocation, methods. The game was played by three gamers on a side`and treated as a meeting engagement. All units and officer ratings were strictly by the published rules. The Allied Army was made up of 14 Infantry battalions, 6 cavalry and 3 Dragoon units, 5 artillery-4 heavy, 1 light, and a 3 unit train, plus 5 command stands; A total of 332 figures over 36 units. The French had 15 infantry 7 Cavalry plus 2 dragoons, 6 guns including 5 heavy, and 1 howitzer, a 3 unit train plus 5 command groups; a total of 353 figures over 38 units. There were nearly 700, 28mm figures in 74 units on the table! For all that, the game was conceded after 3 hours of play.

Here is a battlefield map:

The Battle of STrassen 3
(Trains not indicated on battle map, but were located near the road exit for the French, and behind the British position.)

The initial set up of the terrain was intended to be simple with only a few necessary variables, as the primary purpose was to test the new black die rules, plus a few new changes to Officer Actions. We also introduced Howitzers, and Hussars to the scenario. Objective markers were kept to a minimum, with each road exit being worth 10x, the hills each at 8x, The bridge at Strassen stream at 8 and the three structures of Strassen village valued at 6x each. As it was a meeting engagement, it was decided that both armies would draw their phase cards from a randomly shuffled deck. The two sides rolled for the deployment of each arm, with high man having the choice of deploying or forcing the other side to do so.

In all cases, the winner chose to have the other side deploy so they could take advantage of noting his initial positions. The order of deployment was placement of artillery first, then infantry, followed by cavalry, and then, lastly the placement of command stands. The French won all rolls, except for the last for command. Units could be deployed 16” onto their side, which left 16”, or roughly 800 yards between the armies. This was somewhat farther in than the usual 12”, but I was anxious to get into action for the purposes of the Black Die Test as soon as possible..

The two armies had been rated the night before, and the results may be found on the Yahoo! Site in the Files section under Battle of Strasssen Steam. http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Repiquerules/files

We also used a new method of dice allocation for a multi-bucket game. We assigned dice values and quality corrections as per the standard rules, but we did not simply total all the dice into one pool and divide it into equal buckets of the sum of the players on a side plus two ( one “share” for each player, plus two shares for the CinC, one of which he distributes to any or all of the players as he sees fit prior to the game beginning, and one he can give to any ONE player on the RRR card after the first turn) Instead, each command was determined (primarily by nationality) and its total was entirely its own. From each 15 dice were contributed to the CinC’s single bucket, that he could then give in any number he liked, on any RRR card phase, to any player’s force he chose.

If any one player runs out of dice the game is over and his side loses, unless on the same turn, the enemy also suffers a player running out of dice. At that point, the battle may rage on, but it is usually called a draw in our group. I am writing an article on the Multi-Bucket concept that is more inclusive and complete than the one posted here a few weeks back.

Ratings and initial dice numbers are found on the yahoo site at the Battle of Strassen Stream folder in the Files section mentioned above. The number in parentheses after the total is the roll over number. We only issue half the total in the initial bucket, but then when it is used up, we flip it over for the other half of the dice-when it’s empty again the player is out of dice, and his troops are able to do nothing but retreat. To facilitate this we usually have two dice buckets per player one for the active dice and one for the “used” dice.

The Black dice rules in effect, and the new rules for Officer Action card, Howitzers and Hussars are all in the Strassen folder.

The Battle:

Left-Front to back-John Mumby (Montpellier and Philip), Chris Caudil ( Villars and Conde fils), Brent Oman (Durant);
Right- Front to back- Ed Meyers (napping Van Voort), Terry Shockey (Eugene and Kronprinz Carl), Greg Rold ( Marlborough and Cadogan)

The Battle kicked off with a strong French attack on their right using the combined cavalry of the Spanish and the French Cavalry Reserve under Montpellier. This was hardly a surprise as Mssr. M. had an established reputation as being a hothead and rather foolhardy with his cavalry. It was a glorious advance-full moves straight ahead at the enemy flank cavalry.

French RW Cavalry Attack

At the same time, the Spanish infantry advanced upon the hill and its objective, while from the opposite side the Dutch Infantry, including the Dutch Guard, moved on the same objective. On the left flank of this action the Spanish artillery opened fire on the limbered Dutch Artillery which was attempting to gain a flank on the enemy units on the hill. That fire led to the civilian limber crew immediately depositing the artillery piece jus beyond the stream. The crew manned the gun, as best they could< as the limber gang fled the field!


It was hard fought on this flank and many troops( and dice) were lost as the two sides fought furiously for the hill. Eventually, the Dutch Guard prevailed and their morale (and dice) were improved by a good roll for the objective. The Salisch regiment also caught the charging French/Spanish cavalry with a flank fire that destroyed the Conde Regiment, and sent the Curassiers du Roi back with grave losses. The tide had turned on the Allied left as there had been extreme losses of French troops and morale, for little gain by the Franco-Spanish force.
The Commnder of the French Forces, elected to cease any further efforts in this area, and the Franco/Spanish commander was down to less than a dozen dice! Other than an very high mortality among the Dutch Standard bearers, caused by some clumsy tactical moves by Van Voort, the Dutch had weathered the attack and had a firm grasp of the hill.

However, the Allies had already begun a flanking attack on their Right with their best troops and under the command of the CIC, Marlborough,himself! IN conjunction with the entire British command under Cadogan, the Allied mixed force of Cavalry, Hussars, and Dragoons has swept around, and through, the woods on the French Left with little resistance. To prevent the allies from strongly responding to this threat, the British infantry Led by Seymour’s Marines, And Orkney’s Royal Scots rushed the hill to the left of the woods, and through back a token effort by an on experienced commander to seize the objective with the Royal Italian regiment.

Allied Flanking attack on the Right

In the center, The French were also on the attack with a strong force advancing in the plain and a supporting force to its right storming through the village of Strassen made up of the Regiment Picardy supported by the Garde Suisse and Garde Francais.

The center attack was stopped cold by British artillery and superior fire discipline. As you can see in the photo below, both the Lyonnais Regiment and the Soissonais Regiment had acquired some black dice, and their advance was slowing and looking very precarious. This black dice were taking their toll, and rally was becoming difficult as command (yellow) dice were being diverted to the action on the hill to their left, and to counter the flanking maneuver by the British mounted forces.

Center attack fails

It was no better around Strassen. Though the French had taken the bridge and the town by a coup de main by the Regiment Picardie storming up the road, over the Bridge, and into the main part of Strassen, they were effectively bottled up by a large allied force of Prussians and Austrian Walloons, just outside Strassen arrayed in firing lines and just waiting for them to emerge from the cover of the village. Even the support sent by Conde of the Garde Suisse viewed any further advance (especially since their artillery was totally masked) as very chancy. Villars pondered his next move.


Unfortunately for Villars, the situation was deteriorating rapidly. Some Piedmont Drogoons had infiltrated the wood to villas right and were peppering his second line, and making it impossible for them to advance without exposing their flank to short ranged fire which is deadly in DF. A Prussian Light Battery also took position between the Austro-Prussian firing line and the Dragoon infested wood and was also opening up on the French just across the Strassen stream. At that point the Garde Suiss took some hits and a black die. Word from his right of the impending collapse of the Spanish, and from his left of the Marlborough and Cadogan led flanking attack were very unsettling.

French Left Threatened

At that crucial moment, Durant was shot from the saddle, just as Cadogan’s Horse, supported by the Esterhazy Hussars, and Hay’s and Lloyd’s Dragoons emerged from the woods on the French Left. The only force to contest with them was a Bavarian Cuirassier unit (Weikel) and the Bouffremont Dragoons. The only uncommitted reserve for the whole army was the Maison Rouge Cavalry of Gendarmes Eccossais and Bourguingnon, and the Mousquetaires du Roi. Villars ordered them along with a few casualty free units to cover the retreat of the army as he conceded the field. The battle had lasted two and one-half hours of play and about 45 minutes of pre-battle chatter; three hours and a half by the time all had departed.

The Gendarmes Ecossais cover the French retreat as night falls.


The French committed a cardinal sin of warfare and DF, they attacked essentially on the whole front with no single focus for their effort. DF punishes these general attacks very harshly as they waste a great deal of resources and energy (Red Dice) by dissipating it over a wide front that the enemy can meet in a piecemeal fashion, defeating each in turn.

This was exacerbated by one commander (Montpellier) being characterized as Foolhardy, which meant that any charge launched by him was going to be a go-for-broke effort. It did and it was. On the other flank, the player was new to DF, and opposed to a skilled and experienced Allied commander that concentrated the Allies’ major attack on that flank. All of the other sections of the allied line were on the defense and punished the separate French Attacks.

The French center in troops and leadership (especially the Superior Conde fils) was the best single faction of the French force, but never really got untracked. It might have been the best place for a concentrated French attack. Their artillery was masked for much of the battle, and the village was a very disruptive factor in their advance.

Great applause must go to Marlborough for his very personal leadership and determined, concentrated, enveloping maneuver, which, along with the serious losses caused the French by the Allied forces in the center and on the Allied left, won the battle.

Game Mechanics:

1. The black die rules were generally viewed favorably. They play very simply, and instill a slowing and retrograde unit behavior without a ton of rules or tables. I love it.

2. We are thinking that a slight initial devaluation of unit die values, particularly for very large games such as this one, would accelerate the decision point. It is suggested that all units be lowered by two die points for games with more than 20 units on a side. I.e., A regular would be worth 10 dice instead of 12, Guards 14 instead of 16, etc.

3. We used a random card play of the six phase cards, and rather enjoyed it, especially for meeting engagements.

4. The new Officer Action Rule that allows rally attempts on that phase as well as during RRR was very much liked. It also instills some increased conflicts in the gamer’s mind about whether to use command dice for rally or for combat actions.

5. Neither the Howitzer rules or the Hussar rules were tested at all! The howitzer never had line of sight, and the Hussars were rear support for Cadogan’s horse and never really in combat. Next game.

6. Train rules were in effect, but the train of both armies was never threatened. Each train was given a commander with 2 command dice which could ONLY be used to augment the normal 1 die movement of the train. I have yet to pay up the bottle of Beaujolais for the capture of the Wine Wagon.

Black Dice- A Final Touch


In the last few months I have been exploring a wide range of ideas as I wrestle Die Marching and Die Fighting into agreement and shared systems. I have initiated the multiple bucket concept into our Die Fighting games to a degree that that is the way we now play the rules on every occasion. I have flirted with ideas involving Black Dice, which essentially function as a negative die roll, the earliest ones of which I posted in the Files section of the repiquerules Yahoo! site. I also added them as a new tool in the Colonial Wargames Template that I posted over a month ago. As time has passed, however, I have become even more enamored with extensions of the Black Die concept, and am thinking about making them standard rules for Die Fighting. I am looking at a few additional tests to just make sure everything is covered and there will be no surprises.

What is the black die and how does it function? As I said above it functions as a negative roll. In any roll for movement or combat it is subtracted from the total of any unit that is burdened with a black die. It slows down units and makes them more vulnerable in combat, but its effect is not some fixed “minus one or two” but a variable. This maintains the lack of sure predictability I prefer in all my designs. In Rally rolls it eliminates any resource, Free, or command die it matches. So if a duplicate 4 was thrown, but the black die was a 4, then that eliminates that duplicate. That’s it-simple and straightforward, adding no extra tables or time to movement, combat, or morale actions being rested.

When I initially used it, I simply made it an extra negative effect on a unit that had performed badly in a given game. It was a “Badge of Dishonor” for a unit that had spectacularly failed in its actions against the enemy. It really had no effect until the next game. and , even then, was confined to a very few units-no more than 1 or 2 on a side. It seldom had any great effect, though it could make long range fire by a dishonored, black die burdened, artillery piece rather ineffective.

In the Colonial Template, it was used to gradually add “drag” to attacking natives, and make European fire more effective than just simple loss and push back. It made natives behave as natives did in attacking the overwhelming firepower of modern troops. It was limited in application and not linked to the basic rules.

But its possibilities continued to intrigue me. So much so that I began doing private tests of integrating it into the combat system for Die Fighting.

I am changing the effect of combat loss from the original method found in the rules for an upcoming WSS DF game to be held on the 16th of November, and using that game as a test bed using the Repique Rules Crack Playtest Group. If it passes muster, I will do a longer article here.

For those of you that would like to experiment with the concept on your own, here’s the Rules as I sent them out to the Test Group:

New Combat Method-
A. Hits of 6 or less may be bought down as per original rules. No Change!

B. Hits of 7 or more are changed.

  • 1. You still owe the difference in red dice lost at 7+. No Change
  • 2. However, in combat, the distance retreated is determined by a single black die, which is then added to the unit. That die is rolled, thereafter, on ANY move or combat roll and is subtracted from the roll of all other dice. In movement a negative roll indicates no forward movement.

The Black Die makes this a roll of 12 not 16!

  • 3. Upon a second hit of 7+ The losing player owes the difference in red dice lost, and an additional black die is added to the unit. If another black die is already on the unit, the unit will retreat the total of both black dice rolled. The two dice are thereafter rolled on any combat or movement roll and subtracted from the other dice totals. Any negative movement roll requires the unit to halt, even without immediate cause from enemy actions.
Ooops! Black dice more than Red-Yellows don’t count! Total is 2!
  • 4. Upon a third or more hits the procedure is as above, with the three or more black dice total being subtracted.
Yellows don’t count! Total is a measly 7.
  • 5. There is no limit to black dice acquired, but after two black dice, item 6 becomes increasingly likely.
  • 6. If on any action the total of the black dice exceed the roll of the red dice used, no Command Dice may be added to the total, Free Dice still count.
  • 7. Any unrallied, routing, unit, will be forced to retreat, straight back, along a line of least resistance from terrain the total distance of its black dice ADDED to two red dice, on each subsequent card phase of any type until it is either rallied or exits the table. A rallied unit will retain any black dice, other than the one removed for rallying. That is, a rallied unit may still have black dice after rallying. A unit is deemed routed if it rolls a retreat on any black dice total greater than 6 (7+).
  • 8. Catastrophic loss, where a unit suffers a loss of dice of more than its unit value plus 6 in a single combat resolution, shall still be as originally stated. The unit is removed from the table, being considered destroyed as a fighting unit.
  • 9. Black dice may be removed from a unit in two ways.
    • a. If the unit wins any combat roll for fire or melee, one black die is removed.
    • b. On a Reload, Rally, Restore Card phase, a rally roll attempt may be made using the usual procedures. Any successful roll eliminates one black die. Rally attempts by more than one officer, the immediate brigade officer and then the commander in chief, for instance, may be made, each time using new dice. However, any number thrown on an existing black die negates any one rally die rolled of that same number. Any triple that qualifies as a rally roll removes ALL Black dice regardless of number.

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&#39;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!

The Battle of Linswald-DF AAR

The Battle of Linswald-July 20, 1703

Being an account of the recent engagement between the forces of the Sun-King, Louis XIV, and his Bourbon kinsman, Phillip of Spain, and the Elector of Bavaria versus the assembled forces of the Allies led by the English General, John Churchill, and including the Dutch Republic. The Hapsburg Empire, and The Prussian forces of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

The Battle of Linswald attacks10

The forces arrayed. The Town of Linswald in the center, and the Linswald Forest on the right. On the left rear is the Moulin du Mougin sitting on a low ridge, and on the far left is the Chateau Miasme-a decrepit ruin of a once proud estate. In the distant left is a small farm and a low unnamed ridge.

The French (In White)have arrayed dragoons near the Linswald Forest-French Infantry spanning the stream north of the ford, a large mass of cavalry, including the Cuirassiers du Roi, The Royal Carabiniers, and Chevau-legere Regiment Conde to the east of the village. South of the village are a force of two Bavarian Regiments and Regiment Clare (Irish). The left is made up of a Bavarian Artillery battery on the plain. The Mougin ridgeline is held by a Spanish “Old Yellows” regiment fronted by some Spanish Dragoons, East of the Moulin, and a French Gun Battery West of it. Just West of the ridge is a cavalry group made up of Bavarian Cuirassiers and the Mousquetaires du Roi, and two regiments of the Maison Rouge-the French Guard Francaise and the Garde Suisse.

The Allies (in Red) deployed with the English to the right-the 1st Dragoons opposite the Linswald Firest, and a string of Austrian foot From the bridge to the gun batteries. They were backed by Prussian Ansbach cavalry and Austrian Cuirassiers. A Large “Grande Battery” of a Prussian, and two British batteries stationed themselves just South of the road and East of Linswald. Directly North of the town are the Anhalt-Dessau and Kronprinz Prussian Regiments. The British foot was on the Right, primarily around the small farm, which was fronted by a great troop of cavalry made up of Hannoverian horse, Dutch Nassau horse, Cadogan’s Horse, Lloyd’s Dragoons, and Danish Horse. The farmstead hosted a light Britih artilelry battery. The Allied Far Right was anchored by the Dutch with the Welderen regiment and the Dutch Guards assaulting the Chateau, and the Salish regiment linking the chateau with the Dutch battery on the ridge line.

Here’s a Oil painting showing the initial view prior to battle by our artist, Reggie Percy-Smyth Painted from notes drawn from a perch in a tall tree in the Linswald Forest:

WSS Battle July 20

And from the top of the ridge line on the allied Right Flank an opposing view of the initial positions drawn from memory in pencil by Willem von Loon of the Dutch Army Staff:

The Allied horse

A Full listing of the the troops involved on both sides may be found at the Yahoo! Site in the File Section ( http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Repiquerules/files/Battle%20of%20Linswald/ ), as well as a page of “special” rules that were applied to this battle only. You should look them over before reading on as they provide a lot of information that makes the battle report even more understandable.

The Battle:

The French had deployed intending to take the Chateau Miasme, contest the Village of Linswald, and possibly steal a victory by a thrust by Dragoon through the Linswald Forest to capture the Allied line of communications at the bridge and road exit. They secured their train (the defending army gets the train) behind their French Line on the road.

The Allies saw themselves as defensive on their left, with only a light force holding the far left behind the Linswald Forest, but contesting the Village with the Prussians, and the Chateau with a token Dutch Force, but the main attack was a combined attack by the allied horse meant to sunder the French line West of Linswald.

The French Plan unraveled a bit when the Commander of the French Cavalry near Linswald, General Victor-Baptiste-Pierre-Raymonde Levesque, declared after the first round of artillery fire from the distant British and Prussian Guns “Merde!” and, “Il y a Votre artillerie!!” and launched a gallant and jaw dropping charge toward the Allied line!

The Battle of Linswald attacks4

This was to be the main French attack in the battle. If successful, it would sunder the Allied line, isolate Linswald, and open up flanking actions as well as exposing the Allied line of communications (and several lucrative objective markers).

Levesques’ attack was made up of three cavalry regiments, the Cuirassiers du Roi, The Conde Chevau-legeres,and the Royal Carabiniers. They were arrayed in a narrow column with the ranks closed up tight one behind the other.

The three opposing batteries opened up with hard shot that tore through the ranks, causing effect on all three units with bounce through. Leveque had to use a number of command dice, right from the beginning to keep the troops in order on the advance. This was going to be a near run thing!

Elsewhere on the battle front, The dragoons were advancing through the woods on foot, albeit slowly. The French were loathe to spend too many resource dice on this advance until they assessed the cost and the degree of victory of Leveques’ cavalry charge.

French slowly advance in the Linswald forest

The Bavarians and the Clare regiment advanced on the village from the South, while the Prussians entered the village from the North. This was to be a grinding, house to house affair with all the units being committed and locked into the village fighting. The only unit still outside the village was the Bavarian Mercy Regiment, and a supporting Bavarian heavy battery to its immediate left.

Fighting at Linswald

Both armies were also contesting the Chateau Miasme. This was pressed by the French Garde Francaise and the Garde Suisse. To oppose them the were the Dutch Allies, including the vaunted Salish Regiment. The Garde Suisse was to take part of the chateau, while the other half was invested by the Dutch. Both armies were surprised at the deplorable condition of the decaying chateau and its very low objective values. It appeared it was a waste of troops, especially for the French.

Chateau Miasme

Meanwhile, the Allied horse was strangely quiet.

The Dutch, British an Hannoverian Horse

But, these were but sideshows to the thundering French Charge in the center. Round after round tore through the tightly packed cavalry, but on it came! The brave horse men closed with the guns as they switched to desperate rounds of cannister.

The charge strikes home!

But at this crucial moment the French cavalry, rolled a 19 total on 6 dice! This included four 1’s even after all re-rolls! Sacre Bleu!

Bad Dice

There was a wavering , one artillery crew was driven off, but then the shattered remnants of three regiments of horse began to recoil back to the French lines, pursued by the Ansbach Cavalry, which had waited for their opportunity. The French Carabiniers valiantly tried to cover the retreat of their fellow cavalrymen, but then they too were swept away by the retreating mass and the determined Ansbach pursuit. Many, many men (and dice)were lost.

Ansbach Pursuit

As this grand attack was crumbling, the Allies then launched their cavalry force against the French line just West of Linswald.

The Battle of Linswald attacks9

The French were outnumbered the center infantry was firmly lodged into Linswald. All that confronted them was a Bavarian Battery, and some Spanish Horse and infantry on the Moulin Ridge. The guard infantry and the French Mousquetaires and Bavarian Cuirassiers were far to the West and unable to help.

The Allied cavalry rode forward. There was an attempt by the Spanish Horse to disrupt the charge, but it was summarily brushed aside by the Hanoverians, while the Dutch Nassau-Friedland Horse rode over the Bavarian Battery. The center was pierced! The only uncommitted Bavarians were flanked! and the Spanish on the ridge were about to be overwhelmed.


The Linswald village was rapidly falling into Allied possession along with a number of Objective dice, the center objectives and the Train (incuding Louis’ wine) were exposed. The French had lost a sizable amount of their dice. Nothing could be done to rescue the center. The French generals conceded as the Train began its race to the rear.

The battle was over. The French would have to wait for another day.

The train races from the field copy

A graphic portrayal of the battle:The Battle of Linswald attacks11

Lessons learned by the French

  • Cavalry must charge on a broad front, and when confronted by guns, be spaced by 6” inches to avoid the bounce through devastation and die loss.
  • It is silly to station you best troops on your far left-taking the guard infantry and the best cavalry out of the main action. This was exacerbated by the low objective values of the Chateau Miasme.
  • You simply cannot hold a section of line of over 400 yards with two infantry, a horse and a single gun. This thinning of the line was partially the result of the set-up restrictions, but mostly was the commander’s fault (me). This is the second game in a row where I have stationed the best troops too far from the decisive area-and well away from a position where they could aid units in the crucial center, and also left an inviting line of attack in the center.
  • When you are inferior in units, outnumbered in guns, and have inferior numbers of command dice-you are foolish to attack. Let the other guy prove the point.

General Lessons:

  • Objective values, while low for the Chateau Miasme, were too high in other areas. the general consensus was to lower (yet again) the base values to 4-6-8-10-12 from the present 6-8-10-12-16. See the revised Objective value article in the files section posted today.
  • A concentrated battery of three guns is not to be trifled with without close infantry support.
  • We used the multiple buckets rules gain and it worked VERY well. It will probably be the pattern for all future games.
  • The Asynchronous Sequencing using both a rolled fixed method and allowing the Allies the flexibility of plus or minus one (see the Special rules document in this folder) worked very well and will be used again by scenario.

General Comments:

This was a delightful game. for many reasons including the genial and fun presence of Ray Levesque, who has the true spirit of a French Cavalryman! The Allied commander Greg Rold had a masterful plan-and a sure knowledge of the rules. His second in command, Chris Caudil carried out the Coup de Gras with expert timing and deadly precision. The game was completed in just over 3 hours-even including a reshuffling of the dice buckets from three to two a side prior to play.

Wargame Terrain Part II

WSS Battle July 20
In Part I on war-game terrain, I touched on the physical representation of terrain, and its creation and storage, Part II shall be about what it does and how it functions in Die Fighting and Zouave II.

Terrain in most war-games has a number of different effects on the game. It may restrict or slow movement. It may provide cover from firepower weapons and/or diminish their effect. It may increase the advantages of a defender in hand to hand combat. It may obstruct line of sight preventing any fire at all, and, in some rules, limiting the reaction of units to each other. It may increase the effectiveness of certain weapons in certain situations. It may, in itself, be an objective or goal of play, and constitute part of the conditions of victory. It may have an aesthetic effect increasing the appeal of the game and its sense of time and place for players and observers.

Here are some examples of each use or effect of terrain:

Restrict or slow movement: The most obvious and common use in war-games. Streams or rivers that cannot be crossed; woods that slow or prevent certain combat types from entering (i.e Artillery not entering woods); rough ground or hills that slow the rate of advance of units. Conversely, roads my either simply free units on them from the effects of surrounding terrain, or, increase the rate of movement by some units.

Cover: Woods, wall, structures usually diminish the effect of fire by either subtracting from the firer’s effect, or adding to the defense’s resistance to fire (saving rolls, etc.)

Defense increased: Another common effect is to increase the hand-to-hand effectiveness of the defender of a wall, structure, redoubt, hill-top, etc.

LOS obstruction: Probably the most contentious aspect of terrain in many rules. Usually some minimum exposure of the unit to the view of the potential firer is required for fire to take place. this may be stated as a percentage of the unit, X number of stands, or, in terms of geometric qualifications (ie. does a straight line from the attacker to defender pass through some point, such as a command stand). Some rules also restrict a unit’s reaction where Force A cannot advance on Force B unless they are in view prior to the start of Force A’s movement.

Increasing Effectiveness: Often rules give a firer or defender on a hill, or higher, ground than its adversary, advantages. The most common is that artillery in the Horse and Musket period shoots farther and with better effect from slight elevations. Downhill charges are often given advantage.

Objective or goal for victory: Surely, the most common war-game objectives are “Take that hill!”, or Take that town!” This was often the case in history as well, where taking certain topographic features were instrumental to winning a battle. Most often they were an element that facilitated victory.

Aesthetic Effects: Simply put, attractive and well done terrain is like a stage set for a play-it can set the mood, add to the sense of “reality”and be pleasing to the eye. It can add, if only indirectly, to the enjoyment of the game-particularly for those not actually playing the game, but observing.

All of these effects, with the exception of the last, must be clearly specified in a rule set, or if not, they must be agreed to, either by the player’s having a long standing agreement on such things, or a firm pre-game stipulation on any possible points of contention-especially LOS.

LOS-no matter the rules-will require some gentlemanly behavior-pulling out a theodolite during play can spoil the enjoyment of ANY war-game. Rules lawyering the last MM of a stand’s exposure is decidedly not fun. One of the reasons I included the “Unusual Actions Unforeseen by the Rules” (page 27) is to allow a mechanism to escape such game killing behavior.

WSS Allies

On the other aspects of terrain, I have the following thoughts and opinions, which are evidenced in both Die Fighting and Zouave II:

Any restriction on movement effects by terrain should be a variable, not a fixed deduction. This is easily handled if the movement system is already a variable roll, as it is in both of the Repique publications, but even in fixed movement games, it seems to me that terrain’s effect should not be predictable, and have wide variation. The occasions in history of terrain causing the unexpected delay or failure are simply too prevalent to ignore. The angst caused by entering woods or forests to commanders is rooted in the unknown effects that ensue-this should be a factor in the war-game. In periods such as the WSS, and even up through the Napoleonic wars, units that enter structures or villages and occupy them-should not find it easy to leave. We often stipulate that once they occupy they are there for the duration.

Cover from fire is relatively straight forward, regardless of the rule set, but the trick is finding a sensible proportion of such terrain on the tabletop, and not understating the effect of the low end of the terrain cover, and overstating the high end. The all-too-frequent mistake is to have too much covering terrain on the table. Let’s face it, generals did not often choose, especially in the horse and musket era, to fight in the badlands of the Dakotas, or the middle of the alps! The armies and weaponry of that period did not need much adversity to lessen their efficiency.

Even a cursory look at typical battle fields in Europe, and to some extent, also in the Americas, shows that a third to a half of most battlefields was open ground, another third was usually a mix between low rolling hills and copses of woods, broken occasionally by very minor streams that were a messy but crossable obstruction. A VERY small percentage was rougher than that, and that was often man-made structures of a village. Chasms, vertical hills, raging rivers, woods of fairytale density were certainly possible, but damn rare. In fact, terrain of high density obstruction-could happen, such as The Wilderness, the Mance Ravine, or the Bocage, but they were the exception, and noted as such, and not the rule. On the whole, keep the terrain severity and density down, otherwise I recommend playing Warhammer 40K, not historicals.

One should also look at the way cover diminishes effect. It’s not always a simple minus one and a neat even-stepped progression from one level to another. In most rules it’s a simple progressive subtraction from the fire effect, minus one, minus two, etc. In many games this will suffice.

In both Zouave II and Die Fighting I looked at different mechanics. Zouave II just looked for a net advantage in fire or melee to one side or the other, this allowed various opportunities to re-roll for a better roll, and, if extreme up one die type (from a D8 to a D10, for instance). This made the tactical advantages of terrain, less linear or progressive-and, other than the obvious advantages of having an advantage vis-a-vis re-rolls and die improvement-far less predictable.

Die fighting, took these concepts even farther-with the addition of more dice to a roll providing a higher potential low and high roll by either the attacker or defender. Because of the Die Fighting addition of die total mechanics, I had to take a counter-intuitive step in subtracting all ones, and multiple 1 re-rolls, from a Class I terrain attacker’s roll, all 1’s and 2’s from a Class II terrain, and all 1, 2, and 3’s from a Class II terrain. This preserved the potential, however slight, of the attacker scoring hits on the defender in class V terrain, as he could still roll 6’s-but he was going to need a bunch to compensate for 84% of his dice not counting. Class IV and V terrain in Die Fighting is pretty tough-much tougher than in other rules. Even class three which occurs relatively frequently as village structures, dense woods, or steep or rough hills is a bear, with 50% of potential die rolls not counting. I love the system for its simplicity, and for the easy mnemonic of the excluded die rolls matching the terrain grade. That the mechanic is essentially identical, though with different factors, for both fire and melee, greatly simplifies play.

LOS issues have always frankly bored me, as many gamers make them labyrinthine and very complex issues in their design. What’s at stake is simple; Can the unit see and fire at another unit? I HATE the quibbling over millimeters and using protractors to argue the finest point. Keep it simple! If 1/2 of the unit is exposed to at least half of the firing or attacking unit, case closed. If that issue is generating a quibble just roll the damn dice-high man gets his way. There is enough vagaries in war that attempting to find surety on this issue is absolutely silly! Use the rule on page 27 of DF, declare the older man correct, flip a coin! But please, don’t write 5 pages of LOS rules, most of which never are applied, and for which there is always an exception, or an extremely unusual case. One combat in a table top battle that involves dozens of units and hours of gaming will seldom, if ever, makes a crucial difference.

Terrain increasing effectiveness is a common effect. It is usually confined to giving an advantage to a unit attacking from a higher terrain than the defender, or artillery firing from a height. Fair enough, but keep an eye out for including all considerations in your estimation of the advantages. Guns from a height gain range, often have a clear view of the target, and the fire effect upon it, but ball from heights, especially against soft soil following a rain, or plowed ground, often buries in having less effect upon the unit, and bounce through is sometimes eliminated by the more acute angle of incidence of the ball with the ground.

Terrain as an objective or goal, is, in my estimation, far more important a mechanic than many rule sets give to it. It is also something that, by design, Die fighting does especially well by linking certain terrain features to the gain of resource dice, which allows the army to continue its attack and absorb the higher losses that an attacker generally absorbs. The fact is most battles do have grand tactical and strategic reasons for attacks being made in certain sectors or against certain parts of the enemy’s position, BUT those goals and aims are usually achieved tactically by the taking of certain, specific, terrain. A key bridge, ridge line, village, cross-roads, or the enemy’s escape route and lines of communications. In tactical war-games it makes great sense to reward the capture of certain identifiable terrain points as a measure of an army’s potential success in winning the battle.

It should not be a single point in most cases, but a collection of points that incrementally augment the chances of success. They shouldn’t, in my opinion, be of a fixed value, but a variable one that is weighted depending on the generally perceived “potential” value of that terrain point to the battle. The reward for this in easily implemented in DF by the award of additional dice, but other games could use a variety of point systems that relate to the games mechanics. The key for DF is that the addition of dice is simple, quick, and pretty inclusive of measuring army morale, as well as the military objective’s value.
Finally, one last word on aesthetics. It only takes a bit of care to create a visually appealing game, and the terrain will be a good part of that artistic effect. Make the game a performance event for you and your fellow gamers, as well as interested onlookers. It can be elaborate, but needn’t be. Minimalist treatments can be stunning, and in many ways,, MORE beautiful than something too over the top. Just think about the appearance and layout of the terrain. Give it as much thought at the scenario and the painting of the figures. It can add immensely to everyone’s enjoyment when it looks planned, finished, elegant, and beautiful.

A Question of Scale: Initial Ideas


In the development of Die Fighting there were several issues that came up that interested me, one of which is game scale. Not the ground scale, or figure scale, or figure to troop ratio, but the size of the game in units, players, and dice.

Truth be told, I am not a great fan of the “Monster” games with multiple players, multiple umpires, and a table that stretches more than 12 feet in length. My gaming background and preference is always for a more intimate game of 1 or 2 players on a side and maybe 16-20 units total per side. However, I have the privilege of a private war-game room, and little need to “travel” for my games. Many people who lack a venue often find their only choice is a club or shop locale which generally tries to maximize the number of players and usually ends up with at least three, and often more, players per side in a game.

My complaint about such games is that they, by necessity, often require “convention” style game rules that are dead simple, not very complex, and where everybody gets to “do” something. This rather flies in the face of the rules I tend to write, and also, I believe, history. Rare, indeed, is the battle where every commander was actively defending or attacking, as the attacks were generally focused in one area of the battlefield at any given time. In most of my designs, focus, and a single line of attack, using a very simple plan, are rewarded. In fact, general, all across the front, attacks are often punished, as they often were in history. The usual complaint from unmodified multi-player Piquet games, or Die Fighting Games, at conventions is “I didn’t get to do anything!” That is, the action was elsewhere, and consuming the available energy in the game. Rather the equivalent of being on Little Round Top during Pickett’s attack.

But, a designer must also serve his audience and customers, so means are found to accommodate the monster game without doing too much damage to the ruleset’s conceptual underpinnings. This is usually done by breaking the battle front up into discrete, quasi-independent, separate games being played side-by-side. In Piquet ,this means that separate decks are used in each discrete segment, certain “special rules” are created for any actions that cross-over into adjoining sections, and combat and movement systems are simplified and made fairer by using special dice,and rules requiring a leveling of impetus available to both sides-often creating nearly equal “chances” to move and fire. It works. People enjoy it. Some games, such as Maurice, are, by design, not scalable, and restricted to their delimited size of 12-16 units, but most games can make some concession to scaling up. Few games are very scalable downward from the initial design-say playing Empire on a quasi-3-4 unit scale, for instance.

Similar scale problems exist with Die Fighting, though of a different nature-since movement is generally a bit more flexible, and the card phasing is also less rigid in its application, both sides always get a chance to move and take action. The best approach for very large games remains breaking down the battle front into several sections, with a different gamer having control within each area, and being opposed by another section commander across the way. In effect, each side is a number of concurrent games being played with the outcome in each section affecting the army as a whole.

The problem of scale that needs to be addressed in Die Fighting is related to two things, the application of the sequence deck, and the allocation of dice and dice buckets. Essentially, do the sequence cards apply to the whole army on one side, or just to each individual segment, and how are the dice buckets created and affected in each section, and what effect do they have on the whole army?

Here are some ideas:

1. If there are more than three gamers on a side, break up the game into sections. Each section uses the core rules as written. Within each section the “local” commander has complete discretion as to movement and combat. Each section may have more than one command stand, but those command dice may only be applied to troops in that section. The one exception is the Commander and Chief figure who may assign command dice, subject, to the usual distance limited die roll, to any unit on his side.

2. The number of dice available (and thereby units) to a commander in a given section should be limited to between 150 and 250 dice. (Once an army has more than 300 dice on a side, gamers should consider doing this even with games with fewer gamers but lots of troops.) The very large dice buckets otherwise delay the effect of dice expenditure when spread over an entire army when they exceed 250 per side. The game works, but the crisis and resolution are slowed down making for longer games. (One on one games of 200-250 per side are perfect!) Each has their own discrete bucket of dice, which when depleted, prevents them from taking any action but retreat.

My recommendation is to calculate the over-all army dice total and divide it into the number of players plus 2. If you have 5 players per side you’d divide the total dice by 7. If you have 4 players per side you divide it by 6. If you have 6 players per side ( and a lot of troops and a huge dice total), you’d divide by 8, etc. Each player gets one bucket, but the Commander in Chief gets two equal “Virtual Buckets”! He may assign the contents of one bucket in whole or part to any of his player/commanders at the table prior to play, thereby adding to their dice count. His other bucket is the “reserve” that he may assign on any Rally, Restore, Reload action card to any section-but must use the desired commander for a measured die roll to transfer the dice. The contents of the reserve may not be broken down, but must be assigned to one commander and section. The reserve may be a number of troops equal to the new dice, that enter the field in a section, along with their dice, or the commander may deploy these units as part of the initial deployment, and add only their dice at a later time-to ANY section-not just to the one they are in. The starting dice buckets of the various section commanders are hidden, so neither side can be sure as to the support a section has in dice available, or exactly what troops, if any, are not on the table.

3. When any army gets a one section advantage on the other army at the end of a six-phase turn. That is, one or more sections of one side have failed and run out of dice, and the enemy has either all sections functional, or one fewer “failed” section, the game has ended and the victor is declared. Point totals of remaining dice may be done for both sides and compared to measure the degree of loss.

4. For reasons of clarity and speed of play-use one deck for each army with the active phase card affecting alls actions on one side. One might experiment with separate decks for each section, but I feel the single deck gives a better game, and allows the Commander in Chief a more focused role.

This method does several interesting things. It keeps the pressure of dice expenditure immediate regardless of the size of the battle. It cleverly enforces the orders of the commander in chief, by restricting certain actions in their actions and enabling others. This is done without written orders , but has a similar, and enforced, effect. It adds suspense to the game since no section commander can be quite sure of the enemy section commander’s capabilities (i.e. dice) or, for that matter, his ultimate number of units.

It also imposes a distinct difference between the allocation or dice (ersatz orders) prior to battle, allowing a commander to sub-divide and tweak the starting totals of each sub-commander, but enforcing a strict one section, concentrated, commitment of the reserve later in the game. It does this while also disguising the ultimate intentions of the commander and also the option to disguise the ultimate total number of units available. It should be noted that the movements of the CInC figure may be indicative of the reserve’s ultimate commitment, but, given the 4 dice range of movement (24&rdquoWinking could be disguised to some extent by both movement of command units and their ocation near a section dividing line.


This idea needs testing and development, but, I think underlines the amazingly flexible, subtle, and historically valid mechanisms that Die Fighting’s Dice allocation, acquisition, and expenditure concepts will allow scenario designers and campaign moderators.

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

Circumspection as a Tactic

One of the things I try to do with all of my designs is to provide indirect benefits to certain gameplay decisions. Most rules state quite directly that you get some form of plus or minus and the gamer is, in effect, given direct instructions on what the best tactic in any situation will be. “Do X and you will be rewarded!” is the command. Life is seldom like that in either the clarity of what will be rewarded, or the certainty of outcome. Battles and warfare is even less certain than most of life’s affairs.

Admittedly, some factors should be upfront and reasonably certain-such as rough terrain slowing a unit, or point blanc fire being better than shots from extreme range, but some things that matter may not even be expressed as a rule, but more subtly placed in the realm of rule interactions.

My design philosophy has always had a problem-solving, unraveling a puzzle, and finding “keys” to best play, aspect to it. In Piquet, it involved knowing how to best use impetus and the wisdom of racing through a deck to get to the “right” card versus maximizing your movement and combat on every individual card. It also involved discovering the “key” use of the Impetus Buy-down rule, which allowed you to ameliorate heavy impetus runs in the game. The gamers that came to understand these factors and employ them did well at Piquet and often came to love the game. Many of those that awaited “orders” in the form of proscriptive rules to tell them what to do and never thought about these indirect approaches to play-often complained that they were not in control and hated Piquet. In short, some people “get-it” and some don’t-just as in the real world. There were many articles written by Piquet afficianados extolling these, and other, aspects of play-but some people don’t want to think about such things-they just want to roll a six!

Die Fighting, for all of its apparent simplicity, has several of these indirect aspects of decision making as well. I would prefer that gamers discover them for themselves-but here are some to think about:

The rules state that one may use one or two resource dice on any roll for combat, movement, morale, etc. They also state that you must use at least one resource die in order to use any free dice awarded for the current situation. Leadership dice have no such restriction.

All of these conditions of use are plainly stated-but have gamers thought about their implications? Since resource dice are the Coin of the Realm, it is advisable to make prudent use of them, and yet, I have seldom seen a gamer use less than two of them on
every roll-regardless of the situation-unless they are nearing the end of their bucket, when it is often too late to have any great effect.

If you are in column of route, unless it is a race to some threatened terrain point or position-what reason to you have to use both resource dice? You already have 2 Free dice for column to which you may add one resource die-giving you an average move of 10.5” By using the other resource die you get an average of 3.5” added to that move. If your goal is only 8” away-why roll two resource dice? Likewise, in combat, if you have a close range “first” shot at a flank by an elite unit and the target is disordered-you get four free dice plus one resource die-or 5 dice! Will 1 more resource die make much difference? Sometimes, yes, but on many occasions-no.

The truth is that over a game, the player that chooses to be more circumspect in his use of resource dice will garner many advantages-not the least of which is that he will have resource dice when he needs them.

Another thought-as Leadership dice may be used even without any Resource dice expenditure-there may be some rally rolls that, depending on when the Rally, Restore, Reload phase will occur and the quality of the commanding officer, where the rally may be made solely with Leadership dice!

Look for the indirect advantages as well as the obvious ones in all areas of Die Fighting.

It Ain't Over, 'Til It's Over!

Die Fighting! is designed to deliver a definitive winner in a quantifiable way. It does this by declaring a game over when one party runs out of dice. Simple, direct, definitive.

However, as one of the longtime crusaders against rules writ in stone, and by way on encouraging creative alternatives-I must comment that players may easily change even that!

There is absolutely no reason why a form of “Double-down” mechanism couldn't be instituted, where the gamer that has hit zero is allowed to request another 50 to 100 dice and fight on! He is essentially going into a deficit mode and his dice totals will then head into the negative category, but the game could go on.

In scoring terms, when he goes through that extra 100 the game is over-but any dice he has used, unless by some miracle he gains dice, are ADDED to the victors dice score! That is, if at the end of the extra 100 dice the victor has a raw dice score, before terrain, officers killed, etc. of 125 he is actually credited with 125 PLUS the dice used from that 100 extra that the loser requested.

Why would a losing army ask for extra dice? For several reasons:

1. The advantage in dice by the winner at the end of regulation is very narrow and the possible loser thinks he can reverse the outcome in a few additional moves.


2. The losing party thinks they can narrow the winner's scoring advantage because of terrain advantages, or the ability to retreat units off the table voluntarily (which do not count on the winner's totals). He believes he can lessen the degree of loss with a few additional turns.


3. The game is lost, but the situation is interesting and both parties want to continue, or in a solo game where these conditions leave the solo gamer wishing to "game it out."

An easy add on is that the 50-100 dice are added to both parties equally. The add on dice for the two parties could alternatively be calculated on a multiple of the remaining units' worth in dice, say 50% of the remaining unit's worth. Or it could be a gamble where each side rolls all of its Leadership dice and multiplies that dice total by 10! The "Winning" player may have to agree or not agree to the "New" dice depending on how the rule is written.

This "extended" game possibility is worth looking into, and would have some nice uses in a campaign application. I particularly like the idea of the extended game die roll based on the Leadership dice!

Building Skills and the Issue of "Stickiness!"

As I read the incoming emails over on the Repique Rules Yahoo! Forum, I am truly enjoying the obvious interest the game is generating. Most of all I’m delighting in seeing the intellectual engagement of many gamers as they grapple with these admittedly “different” rule constructs. It is great to be able to respond almost immediately to their questions, and to also see that they are quickly delving into the ramifications of these rules, and wrestling with how to play them well.

One of the aspects of Die Fighting! that I think will give it “legs” over time as a design, is that while the play is really quite simple, the use of the mechanisms to play well is, well...worthy of some real considered thought. Things are NOT as simple as they seem when it comes to playing the game well. You really have to play the game and get experience with the ramifications of these “simple” rules to truly see your best course of action in a clear manner. Often new players fall into a state of stasis in the tactical game since they have not yet discovered the best deployments, the proper use of Leadership Dice, and the curious way the phasing sequence affects play-especially when using the asynchronous phasing either fixed or variable. It is a design that I think truly rewards experience, thought, and focused planning.

It is also a design the BEGS to be experimented with. Heaven knows the play testers and I did in the play testing and writing of the rules, but I believe we have just scratched the surface, both in the periods provided and the opportunities in new periods. The rule set is, to a greater degree than any I have done, a toolbox that asks the gamer and scenario writer to be inventive and clever in the application of phasing, but also in the scenario design, the weighting of terrain values, and in “variants” of the rules both within the periods covered in the current templates, and in new ones yet to be developed.

Die Fighting! at this stage is a foundation upon which much can be built using the wit and insight of many additional builders-the wargamers who play the game.

One area I’m looking at with some interest is the zone in which units may pay dice in lieu of retreating and being in disorder. After many games we settle at 6” or less as the optimal number over many periods. In essence it meant that you had to at least meet an average roll (3.5 is the average on 1 die) on a two dice advantage difference to have effect. This means that if your effect is less than 7 the target can, if it chooses to spend dice, “Stick around” in good order and paste you back. This works rather well over all periods. However, if one wants to increase the “stickiness” you can up that number to 9” or 12”, which will increase extended firefights and limit retreats from the line. It will also extend the period before a decision point for that combat and the total game. This may be advantageous in later periods-such as WWI and WWII-and might even have good application in specific scenarios in earlier periods. It deserves to be experimented with, and some gamers may actually prefer added “stickiness.”

Add this to experimentations with phase sequencing, command divisors, and even campaign specific “scoring” permutations, and you have some really intriguing “Variations on a Theme by Jones.” One of my favorite music forms is Jazz where musicians improvise, do their own riffs, but all, at the same time, play in concert with each other. I would like Die Fighting! to be like that, involving a wide range of gamers in playing around a common theme, but each with a distinctive riff that can be shared by all of us through the Repique Rules forum.

And like really great Jazz, remember to listen to the melody, not just the lyrics, and feel the time!

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part IV

I have previously given my opinion on “Army Lists”-which is, to say the least, critical of such “shortcuts.” Mostly I disagree with the “Codex” approach to historical gaming, and strongly believe that games should inspire and require some historical reading on the part of gamers. The history is, after all, the primary distinction between fantasy games and the historical wargaming hobby. Historical gamers should be proud of this distinction and reinforce it. After all, their roots in wargaming go back to Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and Verdy du Vernois; not to a bunch of entrepreneurs in Nottingham.

If all a game does is provide handy little recipes, where you just add water, it adds very little to the gamer’s knowledge of a period and makes any judgement about the game strictly one of gamesmanship and little or no understanding as to whether it makes any meaningful statements about warfare in the period. At the most absurd end of the scale you get the “Three Flaming Pigs” gaming lists. Many other rules sets succumb to the temptation to require nothing of a gamer but the ability to count to twelve.

I have always chosen otherwise. Surely, a designer needs to provide suggestions and information on the armies and tactics of a period, and provide links, forums support, and suggested sources where a gamer can build a knowledge of a period. A designer needs to explain his premises, and do what he can to make the mechanics of a game clear, and indicate how they dovetail into the historical reality of a period. I see Army Lists as doing none of that, and, indeed, warp the history, and make it less relevant.

Now, if you play fantasy-great-you need lists, as there is no history. But, if you play historical games, I suggest you need something more.

That is why in Zouave, I wrote the ten page addenda for each of the three wars covered by the rules that provided typical historical constructs for the armies, and descriptions of the weaponry. It discussed the issues of command, suggested some historically realistic alternative history, and even suggested some “Unique Events.” that were rooted in the history of the period. Most of all it suggested a bibliography where a gamer could learn more about the period, which would allow him to create new elements to the game and create scenarios that had some connection to the historical record.

In short, it demands a little effort and work-some investment of intellectual capital by the gamer into the play of the game. It provides him with the skills to be a fisherman, and not just hand him some frozen fish!

So it will be with Die Fighting. Each period covered from 1700-1900 will have a “Template” (a term I actually like better than addenda-it will be changed in Zouave II) and this template will group a pair of wars. The template will provide a period specific Free Dice Table, ratings tables along with a Command Divisor number, a number of period specific rules, or rule changes, and a bibliography of easily accessible resources, mostly books, but including other media, that the gamer can use to further ground himself in a period. In essence, a gamer will receive eight different rule sets in one, with more to come on the Forum site.

The included templates are: Linear Warfare, covering the War of Spanish Succession and the Wars of Frederick (1704-1769); The Wars of Revolution (Covering the American Revolution, and The French Revolution (1775-1800); The Napoleonic Wars-divided into Early Napoleonic (1801-1809) and Late Napoleonic (1810-1815); The Wars of Transition-covering the American Civil War, The Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco Prussian War (1861-1871). An Internet posting covering Colonials will soon follow.

None of them will provide an Army List. You should consider buying books-good books-not derivative lists! Dennis at On Military Matters will be happy to oblige!

Here I stand, I can do no other! Happy

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part III

Die Fighting, unlike Piquet and Zouave, does not use cards-although that is an option. It does not use various polyhedron dice-but just the simple D6, long known to wargame buffs as THE die. It does not use a Combat Results Table or “Hit” table-just simple counter-rolls. It does this by using three different color dice in play.

The Resource Dice-as described in part one of this series, are the life’s blood of the army. Every action of movement, combat, rallying, or engineering uses these dice-they may only be used once and then are gone. The army without resource dice can do nothing and has lost the game. No equivocating at the pub-you lost!

There are two other die types, “Free” Dice, and Leadership Dice, usually distinguished by color-green for Free dice, and yellow/gold for leadership dice. The Free dice are never used up and are awarded for situational advantages in movement and combat-they may augment the resource dice rolls. Likewise the Leadership dice may also augment the rolls-in movement, combat, and rallies, but they are used up within the turn, but fully restored on the next turn. It is the skillful use of the three dice types in unison that an army succeeds, or, if done wastefully, or poorly coordinated, the army will fail. Nothing comes free in Die Fighting, and hard choices must be made.

Most of these dice are used in simple counter-rolls, additive rolls, or unique effects from doubles or triples being thrown. Simple, quick, and decisive, describes the movement and combat.

There is one theme throughout Die Fighting that recurs in many different forms-called The Rule of Six. If there is some outcome of movement, combat, rallying, or command that one wishes to know-you can bet that the number six is involved! It forms an excellent way to pull all the facets of Die Fighting together, and provides an excellent memory aid for gamers new to the rules. If there is a question-it’s likely six is the answer in some form or interpretation. The factor at issue is going to be rolling a six, moving six inches, subtracting six inches from a move, or retreating six inches before disaster strikes. It is even used when some situation occurs that the rules don’t fully cover (It can happen!) as a means of adjudicating a reasonably fair outcome.

Part IV will talk about the use of period templates to insure that each period within Die Fighting’s 200 years scope is handled in a way that provides an historically accurate and period -rich gaming experience.

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part II

One of my strongest interests in game design has been turn sequencing and phasing, or the order and procedures for taking actions in a wargame. This is primarily because it occurred to me very early on in designing wargames that the key to design isn’t some “Distance=Time X Rate” equation with great emphasis on the rate of march and other nonsense, nor was it, given the paucity of usable data, getting the percentages of hits from fire exactly right. It was how TIME is handled in the game play. Many designers thought that by quantifying the time that activities were thought to take, and then allowing that many actions in a turn would be the answer. George Jeffries was one such designer. Most people that tried this idea as he proposed it found that the paperwork, and the almost impossible synchronization problems made the design unplayable. Others simply locked into a fixed turn sequence that made time so predictable that all parties could plainly predict and foresee what was going to happen next. Time became a caged animal, when we all know from our experiences in life it is a wild beast whose next event is difficult to count upon.

My first attempt at capturing this was the “Denver Bounce” in Le Jeu de Le Guerre in 1972. This simply said you could keep the initiative in a turn as long as you could effect the enemy. When you couldn’t fire upon enemy units or contact them initiative went to the other side. It was a neat idea that several people found fun and different. A variation on this was found in Rebel Yell! in the early 1990s, which also tried to graft role-playing elements on to the tactical wargame. It was a design I never was entirely happy with though certain elements of that design-especially in morale, made its way into Piquet.

The big breakthrough was the design of Piquet that literally cut up the turn sequence and placed it on a series of cards which made up decks that could be quite different for either army. To this was added the wide variation of impetus provided by counter-rolled D20s. It was a great concept that provided for complete unpredictability of next events, no foreknowledge of who would move next or how active he could be, and allowed an excellent way to model an army of any given period or nationality. My later design, Zouave, used a heavily modified variation that actually created two decks within each army-one for command issues and the other for tactical movements and combat. This allowed some great modeling of command, quite apart from modeling regimental tactical skills.

Die Fighting is a completely different animal. Most of its mechanisms are quite different from Piquet, or any other design for that matter. Certainly, using the expenditure of dice as a unified measure of morale, command energy, and combat effects is original as I described in Part I, but the thing which also sets it apart is the turn sequencing.

A turn is made up of six phases (the number six is a recurring theme in the rules) and there are three major ways to sequence the phases. Each phase is a segment of a normal turn ranging from infantry actions to officer movement. The phases may be sequenced in a Fixed Synchronous manner, where the phases on every turn run from 1 to 6 just as many “Old Line” designs, and each army executes the phases in the same order with only an initiative roll determining which side does the phase actions first. Other than a clever exception which reverses the order of the phases on a turn for both armies, or where a phase is completely skipped over, the play is very much in the move - countermove mould of many classic wargames.

But Die Fighting offers other options! Gamers can opt for a Fixed Asynchronous sequencing of phases where each side starts and ends at a different point in the phase order, but they still perform phases concurrently - so one side may be moving infantry, while the other is moving cavalry! Again, there are exceptions that allow for reverse sequencing for either or both, and missed phases.

But there is more! Another set of phasing options is Variable Asynchronous sequencing which employs cards that allow each commander to select which phase he wishes to perform and, depending on his command skill, select the order at will, or have to lay down cards that commit him to 2 or 3 or more phases in a sequence.

Finally, the six cards may be shuffled and cards revealed randomly a la Piquet-though much simpler and cleaner in function. This allows for excellent solo play, or a way to model a particularly inept commander!

Obviously some phasing methods are better tailored to certain periods, or a specific theater of operations, so Fixed Synchronous fits Marlborough’s Wars, but Variable Asynchronous fits the French and Indian or later 19th century wars better. But the real cherry on top of the sundae is that the sequence methods can be DIFFERENT for the two armies! That’s right, Braddock’s forces may be using a Fixed Synchronous method, but his French and Indian enemies out in the woods are using a Variable Synchronous sequence! Even more interesting is the thought of the sequencing CHANGING from one turn to the next for an army depending on the tactical situation! There are many different sequencing options that the gamers can agree to use in playing Die Fighting-no other design is so flexible.

The end result is that the variety of turn phasing in Die Fighting is a tremendous tool for modeling command quality, period tactical flexibility, army quality, and adds tremendously to the drama and suspense of the game play. The Die Fighting gamer has the ability to control and experiment with the flow of time as in no other game.

Next segment- The three types of D6s and The Rule of Six!

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!

The Holy Grail

The next major project for Repique Rules is going to be a campaign system and battle generator that will work with the Zouave rules, and be adaptable to any other set of grand tactical or tactical rules. The core idea for this system came to me about three weeks ago, and I have been sketching in the basic system ever since. It has become rather consuming of my time and attention as I think it is as original in its own way as Piquet was when it first appeared nearly 15 years ago.

Campaign rules and battle generators have long been the holy grail of wargaming, with the search starting with such early examples as Don Featherstone’s novel matchstick boxes to Sam Mustafa’s latest very creative treatment for competitive gaming in Lasalle. Many campaign approaches have foundered on the twin rocks of too much detail, or the one loss and you’re out problem.

The too much detail problem is very common as the campaign designers attempt to include everything possible in their “realistic” strategic design, often failing to consider even simple abstractions. I remember well a naval campaign set up in Denver many years ago in which one team member on each side worried about nothing but counting oil barrels and logistic supplies! The game got through two turns before the “staff” quit, complaining that they were doing all the work while the CIC was having all the fun!

Even worse is the common failure of many campaigns that base their system solely on army sizes and counting losses. All too often these campaigns end up with all forces collecting on a single point for a huge battle where the victor so thoroughly thrashes the loser that the campaign is effectively over! There is no recovery from this early defeat and no reason to continue. Weeks of planning are over and only one battle has been generated.

One can then opt for a series of set piece battles where a score is kept, rather like a chess match. Nothing much connects the outcomes of the individual battles, nor does each victory set up the conditions of the next battle, and each battle is worth exactly the same - 1 point. The problem with this approach is that it is rather colorless, and lacks any sense of strategy.

Yet another problem of many campaigns is that they are based so closely of history, and a very specific campaign map, that there are few surprises, little strategic options beyond those that were historically followed, and they end up being rather unexciting repetitions of the original campaign. No challenges to either command, but their role becomes closer to a cook following an old, and established, recipe with the result being an all - too - familiar dish.

Campaign rules remain a huge challenge in design and often great disappointments to the gamers involved. In all my years of gaming the only campaign game that I thought escaped these limits was The Sun Never Sets by Dave Waxtel. This was a clever design, but it required 6-8 gamers to really get off the ground and it was very dependent on the Colonial/Imperialist setting. It is being republished by TVAG and I recommend it to every large group of Colonial gamers.

The Zouave Campaign rules shall be very different from anything that has come before using some very unique and fun mechanisms. The rule set will be quite simple and straight-forward and will use commonly available materials. It will be applicable to a wide range of Horse and Musket periods. It will be usable with many other sets of rules. I hope to have it in publication at the end of the summer or early autumn. More details will be available as the development allows. I will try to keep people informed on the Repique Rules Forum and on the Zouave Blog.

Imaginary Combat Actions

I have been wargaming for over 50 years. I have played boardgames and miniature games in all periods, and in all environments air, sea and land. I have read hundreds of history books over those years, and parts of a few hundred more. I’ve played a wide range of wargame rules and can’t help noticing the similarities often outweigh the differences, especially in what is granted to be a given, an accepted fact, an unchallengeable truth. But as I read accounts told by participants in history’s events, and read the tales told in many a battle account, I began to wonder if some things are true, or at least, is what is being illustrated in the wargame on the table exactly what the wargamer thinks it is? Here are a few to chew on:

1. Were “real” ranges ever as long as found on wargame fire tables? Did cannister actually shoot farther than generally allowed in Wargames? Our wargame tables look like billiard tables more often than not and in no way show the undulations that are so typical of open ground that are large enough to conceal whole regiments , if not divisions. from fire. Walk any battlefield and note the 6-12 foot undulations. Add to this trees, structures, and plateaus and the theoretical ranges of most weaponry was seldom, if ever, used. I think it could be halved and not do history any harm. As weaponry improved trajectories grew flatter, rate of fire went up,and independent fire became more the norm, all of which made weaponry more deadly, but range improvement as a big factor-not so much for infantry.

Even Artillery, without any sort of spotters or the communications to support them, never could use most of its range. In fact, it wasn’t until the explosive charge in the shell was no longer black powder, but cordite or better that artillery could use its long range bombardment to great effect, and then only as area fire until communications and spotting were possible. The later black powder rifled artillery actually lost some effect as its cannister round grew smaller and therefore less effective.

Cannister was the killer and often used out to 600 yards or more, but it was limited in supply and discouraged at longer ranges, not because of a lesser effect, but to encourage the use of round shot! By the later Horse and Musket period the effect of shell and shrapnel and an increased ability to fire those ammunitions from a rifled gun finally eliminated the true cannister round.

2. Did Melees ever occur except in darkness, foul weather, or by accident? Of course, one can find examples where troops supposedly went hand to hand, but the occasions were rare and usually had some unique aspect. The general course of action was that one side simply started to retire under the attack, and possibly broke and ran. Bayonet and pistol deaths were so rare that they are an asterisk on the statistics in Bodart. The vast majority of deaths were from musketry. The safest place in most armies in battle was the cavalry, and sword deaths were always a surprise. Are wargames really illustrating very short range fire and threat followed by one side retiring or routing, and not actual contact?

3. Did an Emergency Square ever actually exist? Of course not! You either made it or you didn’t. The only reason “Emergency Squares” exist is to get around the restrictions imposed by the IGO-UGO turn construct, and illustrate nothing that actually existed in the real world.

4. Did cavalry ever melee with infantry? I ask this for several reasons. Firstly, horse will not willingly run into, jump into, or even step on human beings immediately to their front-let alone if these people are firing weapons at them! In the 18th Century, the professional infantry of that period could often repel cavalry in line, simply because they wouldn’t run and the cavalry that did survive their musketry would not contact them, but retire under fire. Now, to be sure, if the infantry broke, then in pursuit the horse could get among them and wreak havoc, but that is hardly a frontal charge! But the infantry has to break before contact, as badly drilled and poor morale infantry may well do. The increased use of the square against cavalry in the Napoleonic period had more to do with not leaving the infantry a clear direction to run while in square, and the cavalry, therefore, since their horses would not contact the infantry, had nothing to do but go around or retire.

5. Did columns move faster than line-or were they both theoretically moving at the same rate, except dress and order slowed the line down? This is a conceptual problem. Most games start by stipulating some rate of movement in line as the “base move” and then award some generic form of the column of divisions, battalions, etc a movement bonus of say 1.25-1.5X. Is it not more accurate to say that all formations and drill were done at the same stated rate for an army and were identical-EXCEPT that a line was slowed down by the needs of dress and order-especially in anything but drill ground terrain? That is, the line was a poor movement formation, not that the column was a great one-just less prone to disruption and delay by even modest terrain, structures, etc. Some of the delay in the rougher terrains by troops deployed in line would also be caused by repeated deployments and redeployments to avoid certain terrain obstacles.

6. Other than the night before, and perhaps at the commencement of battle ,were written orders the exception rather than the rule, and were they seldom tactical orders? This one is my pet hobby-horse! Many a wargame has written orders, often of a highly tactical nature, on a turn by turn basis. Was that common or even typical? I can find little evidence that generals during battle ever did more than a few terse, and usually quite encompassing, written orders, and that the bulk of orders given were oral, often passed down by a chain of aides, and, even, there not usually a tactical order, but an operational one. “ Advance on X”, “Launch your attack!” “ I need reinforcements!” Etc. How that was done and the tactical use of particular regiments was strictly at the discretion of the sub-commander. In few cases, even up to the Franco-Prussian War was the written order during battle the common means of command-it often was a repeated oral command, at best accompanied by a brief few sentences on paper. They were also, after the commencement of the battle, few and far between.

7. Is a general advance as often seen in most wargames a truly ahistorical event-other than at the end of battle as a pursuit? Many wargames see the advance of the entire front-from board edge to board edge on one and possibly both sides. Did this ever really happen? Surely a victorious army could launch a general pursuit as Wellington did at Waterloo, but even this was rare. In no case do we see many occasions when during battle a whole army did a general advance. Typically one focal point was the site of the day’s fighting, with a few designated divisions or a corp charged with the role of attacking while others awaited that outcome. Choosing the exact location of that attack was the chore of the commanding general. The bulk of any army on attack or defense was in a waiting mode with little activity or fire occurring. Look at the Battle of Gettysburg, Waterloo, or Gravelotte for confirmation. The day or days of battle of battle can be broken up into phases that each feature a specific attack at a discrete point on the enemy position and the defense of that point. Even when multiple attacks were attempted-such as the series of rebel attacks on the second day at Gettysburg, they were seldom simultaneous, usually separated by several hours of time at a minimum.

And, yet, in the interest in “getting everybody involved,” many a wargame, especially at conventions, encourage this general attack to occur. It may be the most unrealistic recurring trait in many wargames.

So, what do you think, were these common wargame perceptions and rule effects-real or just widely accepted balderdash?

Zouave Skype Call

Well, we got together a rump caucus to test the Skype Conference software and do the first Zouave Conference. Present were Jim Getz in Ohio, and from outside London, Tim Couper. I can report that it worked very well. It was all audio, no video, but the Skype system was very easy to use, the audio was clear throughout, and the software indicated quite clearly which person was talking which leads me to believe that we can go larger than six participants, when the need arises. The software will handle up to 24!

The experience was delightful! I had not met Tim before, and called him ahead of the conference so we could both view video and chat. Video does not work on the conference, so you needn’t worry about appearances. Anyway, the half hour Zouave chat was a good beginning, I think. I encourage you to give it a listen, and remember that the participants were half a world apart, and that the call was absolutely free for all of us.

It is an opportunity to meet people beyond the text on the forum and have a bit of a social moment that goes beyond just information and Q&A. I intend to try it again on June 19th, again a Saturday. The time will be moved to 2:30 PM MDT, which is 8:30 PM in London, 4:30 PM in New York, 1:30 PM in San Francisco and 6:30 AM in Melbourne. I will build an Agenda this week and am open to specific sections of the rules, topics, or ideas you would like to discuss. There will be an opportunity for spontaneous questions at the end of each session. Just email me at the bob@repiquerules.com (or click on the contact link below)with your intention to join us, and any area you specifically would like to see discussed, or a question you’d like answered.

It will be first come, first seated, and I think we can do six people in a session that lasts 30 minutes, and up to twelve, if you’d like to go an hour. You may participate without speaking up if you’d like to just lurk, or make the occasional comment.

This could be a VERY interesting and effective form of rule support for Zouave, but it needs you! To enjoy this 30 minute Skype discussion click on the Podcast link (in orange) below.


Some Pre-Release Guidance

The Printer’s proofs are back and approved, and now it’s just a matter of a week or so until the Zouave books may be in my hands. For some of you that are among the early adopters, I thought I’d offer you a few suggestions to think about.

If any of you are planning to use 10mm figures to play Zouave, I recommend Pendraken very highly. They are superb figures for the ACW and for all of the Armies of the mid-19th century. But, there is more! The Pendraken “Army” bag which has a special price of £19 is almost a perfect match for a Zouave Division! Likewise a bag of infantry or cavalry, will be a perfect FPW regiment, or in the ACW a perfect brigade! In some cases a few HQ figures will need to be added, but an HQ bag generally is enough for a division or more of infantry! The artillery is bagged so two bags make three batteries in Zouave. It makes it very easy to order from Pendraken. All of these numbers are in reference to the mounting system for 10s shown in the rules. Different numbers per stand are always a gamer’s option. You can fit your aesthetic taste and/or your budget, and that’s no problem in Zouave!

If you decide to use the Dial Dudes magnetic dials, a good recommended buy is 6 Command dials per army and a total of 18 “burden dials” will get you started. When your armies get larger you can get more, and by that time you’ll have a good feeling as to what you need to get. Again, they are not needed as the method described in the rules that uses pennies and paper punched “confetti”markers is quite serviceable, and what we have been doing prior to seeing the Dial Dude’s products.

I will be posting the 1866 Addenda early in May as a free downloadable PDF in the Files section of the RepiqueRules Yahoo! Forum. In addition, I will post a scenario for people new to the rules to play that will fit either the ACW or FPW. It will give you an idea of a tested scenario, so you can see the information that is needed for writing them. There will be a constant flow of such PDF materials in the coming months by me, and, I hope, some new Zouave players!

In the Zouave rule set will be inserted four heavy card Player Aids. They will be two-sided with the following information summarized, listed, or in table format:

1. (Side A) Pre-game rating tables and a summary and definition of dice progressions. Side (B) The Regimental Variable Movement table and the Weapons Table covering the common weapons of the 1861-1871 period.

2. (Side A) The Attacker’s Advantage Table; (Side B) The Defender’s Advantage Table. These are used for ALL combat.

3. (Side A) The Net Advantage Table and a Summary of the effects of burdens-These are initially very useful to gamers, but will soon become memorized; (Side B) the Move Characteristics Table that summarizes the Divisional and Regimental move process and the rules concerning interpenetration of units and the passage of lines.

4. (Side A) The Army Quality Record (AQR) this is a sheet which shows the, initially hidden from the enemy, qualities(Defense Die) of the Army’s combat units, and its individual Divisional and Corps Commander’s quality ratings. It may be freely photocopied. (Side B) This is a summary of the game process, and a listing of special rules for REALLY large games of multi-corps and multi-player size.

It won’t be long now, guys! I will ship early, if I get the books back early. I have already databased the names and run the labels for all the pre-orders, including requested copies to reviewers. The envelopes are ready. Come on, Zouave books!

The Wonderous D12!

We were well into game testing when Greg Cornell, one of the Zouave playtesters raised the issue of move lengths. He remembered a game designed by a prominent designer that had 4” moves for a pike block advancing on a gun. The gun had a range of 48 inches. He soon calculated that, at best, it wold take him 12 moves to get to the guns-who hit with a 5 or 6 on a six-sided dice. At that rate, there was no way he was going to make it to the guns! The low movement rates guaranteed it! The game also played with all the excitement of watching paint dry!

Wargame rules are far too often too limited by the rules in establishing move distances-figuring that if you make the moves too long and too predictable, as in a fixed distance, move counter move or in many phased systems, the typical commander will just rocket up and paste you! What was needed was a way to make movement unpredictable, both as to when and exactly how far, but still capable of being anticipated. You never know how long it will take old Uncle John to get to the drug store and back-it varies, but generally speaking you can guess-you know when to start worrying, and occasionally he’ll surprise you!

At the time of Greg’s comment, Zouave was playing OK, but movement was slow and the game took too long to develop. Then, thanks to his comment, it came to me...D12 variable roll, variable number of dice, variable ways to treat the rolls. The mathematics of the dice instills a level of predictability, but the potential extremes argue for caution. Especially if all units are not traveling at EXACTLY the same rate. By going to one die type it made any confusion between die types in use a non-issue.

So now we have a move progression for regimental moves only (Divisional moves are more dependent on the commander’s quality) of 3xD12; 2XD12;2xD12-take the best; D12; 2xD12 take the worst; 2XD12 subtract lower from higher; 2XD12 (Light die subtracted from darker die); and 2xD12(Light from dark/halved). Any negative number is no move at all. Units on roads, can, at their discretion very occasionally move great distances, but with great risk of being too far ahead of their supports. Units in very tough rocky, hilly terrain, or extremely dense woods and undergrowth, can often find themselves not moving at all. The D12 distribution is a bell-curve, but of vastly greater amplitude than a D6s and yet not chaotic. Because of its introduction, Zouave moves quickly to decision, and yet the inherent risk of taking the full distance, and the concurrent risk of supports falling short-leads to relatively conservative and modest choices most of the time-BUT the threat of a fast striking move leads to real tough decision making for both the active and passive player.

I am now in love with the mighty D12! Can’t get enough of them! 12 has always been a mystical, and flexible number- as the Assyrians and Arabs pointed out to us westerners. D12s are the perfect die. I guess that makes me a Dude-cohedron. I will abide!

Initial Thoughts; Part 3 (Final)

In this final section, I will discuss the combat concepts and cotton balls...

Combat in Piquet was essentially a counter-die roll using multi-sided dice and the determination of winning, and the degree of the victory, was simply whose die roll was higher. It incorporated two concepts that were original; The “sliding dice” combat tables that were a step up from the plus or minus 1 or 2 “shopping lists” that many rules used; The infamous firing procedure- where firing once was “free” but you couldn’t fire again without a “reload” card-which rather stood the premise of having a fire phase on its head, but worked well even when it was the source a many complaints-mostly by people that had never seen or played the game that invented “Fire” cards that never existed. It had a separate morale roll that was instigated by the enemy, which I always loved as a very efficient way of making sure morale tests occurred at the moment an attacker or defender was most vulnerable. It worked well on the tactical level. Cotton puffballs were used as indicators that a unit had fired and needed to “reload’ before it could fire again. Fire effectiveness and melee, or close combat, used different initial numbers and varied by unit. Initial ratings could be a lengthy process, though I found it fun.

I determined that this granularity would not work on the higher level that Zouave was intended to cover. All were fun processes and worked pretty well, but several steps were required both pre-game and during play that would be too lengthy once you moved from a few battalions and squadrons to sixty or more regiments in a game. The process had to be simplified. I did, however, want to make it even more interactive between the opposing players than just a die roll. I also wanted to change, by more than just the simple act of renaming, the fire once-puffball-reload pattern.

The Repique system operates off two numbers-the die to be used by the attacker which is fixed by weapon type in firepower situations, and the unit quality die which is variable according to type, training, and a die roll variable, which determines the unit’s ability to maintain cohesion under fire, and its capability in close actions and melee. That quality die roll is the only single roll used to rate individual troops prior to play, and is directly related to the make-up of the sequence deck.

When a unit, usually a regiment or a battery, fires upon another unit it makes a single die roll against the opposing unit’s quality die and that determines the effect of combat. The various effects of terrain, range, relative position, and the cohesion of the firing and target unit are done on two tables one for the attacker, and one for the defender. They are not the “sliding dice tables” but a listing of advantages that each party may uniquely possess-such as high ground, or a flanking position that are quickly added up and the net difference determines what happens next. If neither party has an advantage on the other, the outcome is determined by a straight die roll. If an advantage does exist for either party, they may progressively choose to re-roll their die, force the other player to re-roll, or both! At the extremes of actions, one party may be allowed a bigger die type and re-rolls!

The rules allow a player to fire and keep firing until his firepower loses effectiveness from the smoke, losses, chaos and the stress of battle. Regaining the effectiveness of early battle is hard for units which have been heavily engaged. Every puffball fire marker not only denotes a fire, but as units acquire multiples their fire loses its sting.

Close combat is still just two counter-rolls determined by the engaged units quality, but it is DEADLY. Like a bullfight in a corrida-it is immediately and finally fought to conclusion. This may take several sequential rolls, but, once entered into, close combat will usually leave one party in possession of the ground or pursuing, and one party crushed and routing to the rear. No equivocation or “on-going” melees though there is a small chance that both sides may end up so exhausted that both the “Winner” and the “loser”are just staring at each other over a sliver of ground! Whether a routed unit is ralliable at all isn’t known immediately, but run they will!

The combat tables take into consideration over 40 different factors and their degree, but because of their unique design are easily memorized and require a minimum of time to adjust and use. The process is very interactive and the decisions on whether to initially fire or fire again is very tough-especially since the defender is NOT totally passive and may actually have an damaging effect on you during your own fire!

Firepower comes in several flavors; a harassing fire that
might cause damage, but mostly makes life, movement, and advancing a trying moment for the targeted unit; Effective fire, that can be deadly; intense fire that is often costly for BOTH sides, and ,finally, what is called close combat, but really models extremely short ranged combat-some by fire, some by sword, some by fists and bayonet.

Morale is incorporated into the fire effects, and the rally potential of units, so no separate rolls or steps are taken during combat, though rallying by officers can occur during part of the command cards usage.

The system is easy, quick, decisive, and damn interactive-both combatants are involved-none of this visiting the dealer’s area while the other guy is moving and firing!

Well, folks, that completes the broadest of outlines of the Repique: Zouave system. Of course, the niceties of the use of the sequence deck and the novel aspects of the Divisional/Regimental D12 movement procedures await your discovery in the published rules.

The rules are written in a new FAQ structure which I also think will be a fresh and effective approach to learning the rules-and, of course, easily adapted to the eventual epublication methods that have been discussed on the forum. The original set will be printed in booklet form with heavy card player aids. Support files and add-ons will appear regularly on the Repique Rules Forum in PDF form.

Initial Thoughts Part 2

In part 2 of this initial description of Zouave, I’ll discuss the turn sequencing, and the key concepts of command treatment.

I have always had a strong interest in the treatment of time in wargames. I think it is the key to a game that truly offers a hint of the experience of war that is the most commonly discussed by those that have been in battle, and is the most ignored aspect by many a wargame design-the fear of the unknown and the inability to clearly see what is going to happen next. From a commander’s point of view, this feeling of not perfectly knowing the future is only slightly less true of his own troops, let alone the enemy. Alas,the vast majority of wargames have a fixed turn sequence that let’s both sides know EXACTLY what is happening next and plans are made and rule “gotchas” are set on the basis of this completely fanatastical foreknowledge. Clauswitz in his great thesis “Vom Krieg” addressed the unpredictable nature of battle quite thoroughly in his examination of “friction” in battle, which always makes the extent of action achieved variable, but also in his wonderful description of the play of events as being “most like a game of cards.”

These concepts are what prompted my key design features in Piquet. Piquet was quite different from what came before in that it didn’t just determine the sequencing of units, or their activation, but actually carved up the game sequence-in effect, made the flow of time and events unpredictable. This was unsettling to many gamers because it substituted a whole new range of artifices for illustrating the behavior of units on the table and created new game situations that were quite unlike the equally artificial constructs of the fixed sequence game. The difference was gamers had accepted the obvious absurdities of Artillery always firing before the infantry moved, or all units moving exactly the same distance, at the same point of the move, and their troops being able to predictably deploy before your cavalry could charge. They had not the same familiarity with the constructs of Piquet and that led, initially, to some ding-dong flame wars at the end of the 90s.

In the last 10 years the acceptance, and copying, of the Piquet concepts has been so thorough that many a game has bits of the Piquet DNA in their fabric.

The key to Piquet was the card deck which added this ability to break up an army’s move by type, terrain inhabited, and seamlessly inserted command failures, heroic moments, and, my favorite, “Dress lines” which was a lull in battle where nothing happened. A zen moment that was so seldom possible in other games. The cards also, in concert with the original impetus method, made the management of time and opportunity so focused, and impetus was so dear, that wargame armies began to mimic the same overall behavior of real armies-A good general concentrated on one area of the battlefield and made his move there, and not as so many wargames do, where the entire army advances and every sector is active. It provided a unique way of modeling different armies within a period. Piquet was, and is, a great game with unique and insightful portrayals of battle.

Piquet, however, was a highly tactical game. At most, both armies were a large division in numbers and size and not much more. This never hurt the game with wargamers since it did fit another widely accepted convention of the miniature tabletop wargame-the mini-division size. Twelve to sixteen units, a mixture of all arms, a historically low artillery battery count, and command and control at a single point( often the wargamer playing the troops). Most derivative designs from Piquet have continued this mini-division size and limitation. 90% of all wargames share this construct. Surely, the game was simplified by some, made more amenable to the convention scene, and the impetus swings were squeezed down to a near move-counter-move behavior, but the core strength of the design was sufficient to still yield a good game. It remained, essentially, a tactical, mini-division, single command level design.

When I began Zouave, I wanted to break out of the limitations of the original Piquet design and start to portray at least a hint of the revolution in warfare that came with the Army-Corps-Division implementation. This had been tried in the past, but led to rulebooks the size of phone books, tediously long turns, and, oddly enough, amorphous and unchallenging command decisions. Often these games either totally lost any sense of tactical color and combat, or instituted such laborious and convoluted tactical resolution (“See rule that one felt more like an accountant or a parent assembling a Christmas toy using Chinese instructions! They were often bad, bad games. The counter-reaction to these designs led to the blossoming of so many simple skirmish games, the mini-division designs, and GW style bucket of dice wargames. They were straightforward, with a limited number of units, simple die rolls, and were very conventional using almost identical game mechanics-you didn’t have to read the rules, even! Army lists made sure you didn’t have to read much history. As a group of historical designs they were only a bare notch above fantasy games such as GW, and often had only a thin veneer of history. The “big” games above the divisional size were decidedly out of fashion.

So, I had to find a way to say something about the role of army structure, use relatively large forces, and still have a good game, and tactical color. Though the rules would not be a single page, I had to avoid the telephone book syndrome. There’s a challenge! I certainly wanted to use the sequence card deck concept I introduced in Piquet, but it had to be less tactical and restrictive. I also wanted to avoid the need for gamers to buy anything beyond the rules, including cards, markers, etc. Using commonly available “tools” would make both the gamer’s life and mine-much easier and less costly. I wanted to retain Piquet’s lack of tables, but add some zest to the combat resolution. I also wanted to require a high level of hard decision making on all levels from command to Corps, to Division to regiment in the tactical battle. I decided that one of the best decades to base the game in is the 1861-1871 transition in warfare. The evolution of technology and the role of command are dramatically illustrated in these conflicts.

Zouave uses a standard 54 card playing deck with jokers. It uses standard multi-sided dice, with an emphasis on the D12 in movement. THe rule book minus the addenda, but with over 24 pictures, four illustrations, and four tables are only 32 pages long in manuscript. They cover four periods and a decade in which hundreds of battles were fought and was the transition from Napoleonic war to modern war.

Each army draws from a common shuffled deck. The two red suits are for army “A”, The two Black suits are used by Army “B.” In the red suits, the Diamonds allow commanders to act, execute divisional movement, and the movement of “independent” units. They allow rallies and facilitate the actions of the divisions. The hearts are impetus as it is used in many games for tactical units, which in Zouave allows regimental actions, the establishment of fire discipline, and engineering activities. Likewise, the other army uses Spades for command and clubs for lower level tactical action. Both decks can be crafted to model the strengths and weaknesses of either army in either the command functions army-corps-division, or the tactical combat area-regimental-battalion-battery. The available initiatives for both armies varies separately in the command and tactical areas, but is constrained by the nature of standard card decks to be roughly equivalent-thus removing the “It ain’t equal!” complaint. The player can use these initiatives anywhere he cares to, it is HIS choice which divisions and regiments are ordered to the attack, just as it was Lee’s choice that Picket’s division would be the one that charged. Both players may fire anytime they wish and may fire as often as they like-but with ever decreasing effectiveness-until the regimental command reestablishes fire discipline.

The pennies? Ah,yes! They are simply cheap, readily available markers, that track the flow of orders, information, and guidance down through the command chain from the commander to the divisions and on to the regiments. They are visible metaphors for command control and capability. They meet my criteria of being readily available, cheap, and easy to use. A gamer may, of course, substitute elaborate markers such as the magnet dials now appearing on the scene, or he may wish to craft a more dioramic treatment of the markers, but bottom line-he needn’t.

Later this week, I will comment on the puff-balls, fire discipline, and the unique treatment of firepower and close combat in Zouave. I will also give some hints on the introduction of the unanticipated into the game through the use of the Aces, the Jokers, and the optional POD deck.

Now back to editing the text and creating some additional graphics...

Initial Thoughts

Milton Soong asked me on the Repique yahoo Site about what it is Zouave does. Well, first of all its a good game, which like any good game, has multiple strategies, many decisions, some luck, and fun processes. Zouave does all that, I think. But it is more than just a good game-it is, after all, a wargame.

Zouave may be played with any scale of figure, and any number of figures on a stand. There are a fixed number of stands in a combat unit-but even that can be adjusted as long as both armies are reasonably consistent with each other. the game was designed and tested using primarily 10mm. figures.

A wargame needs a distinct point of view and creative approach to its view of history. It also needs to focus on a theme, just as we find in many creative works whether paintings, literature, or film. The designer needs to state these as succinctly as possible in his designer notes. Like the old magician instructions ,“Tell ‘em what you’re going to do. Do it. Then tell them you have done it!”

Zouave’s theme is the role of upper levels of command in limiting the options of the formations below them on the hierarchy, and, conversely, the outcomes on the line of battle and how that limits the options of upper command. It is a symbiotic relationship which can lead to great victories or miserable defeats.

Zouave is like playing two different games simultaneously. There is the game of command whose units are officer command stands and who direct movements of Corps and Divisions over huge distances, and there is a game of combat, where the units are the typical units of wargames, the cavalry regiments, The infantry regiments, and the artillery battleries. These units are more limited in their movement, and as they lose cohesion-destroy the options of the commander game above. One can have great success at the command game, but find your units dissolve at the front and rob you of opportunity and capability to continue. You can be victorious at the point of contact with the enemy, but so badly led that your troops are incapable of doing anything with their “victory”, and find themselves outmaneuvered and outfoxed.

Zouave is about managing variables, not fixed “givens.” There are NO fixed aspects of Zouave, other than the historically based army structure and weaponry characteristics-none.

All movement in Zouave is variable-completely variable. A unit may go three feet down a road, or 2”. Zouave uses a new D12 movement system that is unique. The variability is potentially great, but in effect, becomes manageable if you plan on the typical, but war has a way of reminding us just how atypical “typical” can become. Movement into rough terrain can become a true adventure-but often an unwelcome one! This is most frustrating for the distant commander when we find that due to delay and incompetence units don’t move at all!

Combat is wickedly variable-with one of the most interactive combat procedures found in any wargame. There are some keen decisions to be made and the soul of a gambler serves a gamer well. Among other things you can fire whenever you want, and with certain limits, as often as you like. However, frivolous fire discipline will haunt you for a long time in this game. Judgement is required! It may be the first combat system where if you don’t like your opponents die roll, or your own-you can, sometimes, demand a re-roll! Multi-sided dice are used which greatly minimizes the need for tables and charts. Combat exists in several forms: harassing fire, effective fire, intense fire, and close combat. There is no figure removal.

You never know exactly when a unit will run, or rout, or how far-until they do, and rallying is another hard set of command decisions beset by conflicting demands and no sure result.

And , finally, when the game begins no one knows for sure his Army’s over all morale. Yes, you can have a pretty good estimate, but some real shock can come when “the cup is lifted”.

You can see that it may have great appeal to people who enjoy decision making, excitement, and big battles.

Today we talked about Dice in Zouave, tomorrow the cards. Yes, the game has cards! and pennies! and Cotton balls!