Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

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.