Friday, November 4, 2016

Steve's Tenets of (Gaming) Warfare

I recently got back on my kick about Horse & Musket rules.  As time continues to be whittled away by "real life" (not at all a bad thing by the way) I am finding myself more and more driven towards finding rules sets that I am comfortable and happy with, and, more importantly, I can start actually gaming with.
This rekindled the old "search for the holy grail" of rules but really to a lesser extent.  I fully realize the grail is a fool's errand and probably mythological (talking about wargame rules here), but there are plenty of excellent rules sets out there that are perfectly adequate for my simple tastes.
I've always been envious of some of the guys I game with, who seem to have really found their footing when it comes to rules they want to play, which seems to make everything else fall perfectly in line (collecting, painting, basing).  I finally asked Brian about it, and Brian re-introduced me to his "triad," which are aspects of his games that he does not want to compromise on. 
"Find your mission statement" he said "and everything else will fall into place."
Brian's rules should meet the criteria for what he wants out of his games.  Simply put, Brian's triad, or as I call them, "Brians Tenets of Warfare" go somewhat like this:
  • Games need to be playable in 3 hours from start to finish.
  • Games  have a clear outcome (an obvious winner and loser).
  • I should be able to use all my figures.
This was brilliant logic.  I had never thought about these projects over the years quite like that.  Some executive leadership and strategic vision for my gaming projects and endeavors would add a clear focus to my search for rules.  Pretty obvious when you read it, but, do you really think that way when ordering stuff?  Not everyone does.  I certainly didn't, which would explain perfectly why I stared at my shelves full of rules, seemingly not satisfied with any of them.
Armed with Brian's logic, and accepting that no one rules set is really and truly "perfect" I re-engineered my search according to the things that I find uncompromising and I feel as if I have something of a winner for me and my particular tastes:
  • Games should work equally well with a few units or with many units on the table.
  • Game is uncomplicated
  • Game is basing agnostic
These are the factors that I find uncompromising in my games and it took a lot of coffee and pondering on this subject this morning to find the "over-arching" features I want in my rules.
I found that these factors are not "wants" driven but actually driven out of necessity given that I am extremely short on time, and in many cases simply do not have thousands of figures painted up, and have  my figures based as universally as possible to work with many different rules.
I was getting too "down in the weeds" so I separated those things that some would call "chrome" into a different category of "nice to have" but not necessarily uncompromising:
  • Command elements are important and useful in games.
  • Lots of D6
  • delivers period flavor
  • historically similar forces can deliver historically similar results (but they don't have to)
 So....with "Steve's Tenets of Warfare" in your grasp, what rules set would be good for Horse & Musket?  I'm thinking the following:
  • Black Powder
  • Rank & File
  • Shako
Any rules sets you think I should try?  I'm all ears on this thoughtful Friday!


  1. Will McNally's (free) AWI and SYW rules - been playing them for years now, and I have no need to look anywhere else.. I like them so much I'm thinking of adapting them for my new ECW project...

    1. Steve, i left a comment about them on his AWI blog about his thoughts on their suitability for Napoleonics as he has some very good concepts in them. He never did write me back unfortunately.

      I guess i should actually play them first myself :)

    2. Definitely - for preference I like the look of the units in the SYW set, but to be honest they are basing agnostic providing both sides are based the same.. what they are is a tooblox that you can play with to introduce period feel..

    3. I must give them a try. Thanks for reminding me about them, Steve.

  2. Also, what about your fubar variant? Still want to see what happens with that.

    1. I did try it but failed to blog about it. I ran into a problem with them the first time around. Various orders for battalions didn't work quite right and I couldn't figure out if units should shoot with multiple D6 or a single D6.

      More playtesting needed!! The activation system worked very well though - where you roll a D6 for all your units and assign those that "passed" to units you want to move. That worked particularly well.

      Just need to figure out shooting and unit attrition.

    2. actually thinking instead of orders that order a unit to do something specific, I'll just say an "order" allows it to move and shoot.

  3. Excellent post mate.
    Aside from breaking your d6 requirement, 'Snappy Nappy' has some real period flavour, though I think the orders system might need some work.

    I echo the Will McNally point. I need to try his AWI rules...

    It appeals to me because it has some scaling elements that we see in V&B, but without the time commitment.

    1. Thank you Darren. I'm getting really tired of looking for the right set of rules but as it turns out I never really sat down and determined just what I "want" out of any given game.

      What do you want out of your games? What are the things you do not want to compromise in a game? Have to answer those questions first.

    2. Yes, you've certainly made me think about this.
      Yes, the time (say 3 hours is important), but for those periods where I think I'm an 'expert' (LOL), I also want to feel that they're representative of the period. Probably a load of rubbish as we are 'simulating' at best, and 'gaming' at worst, though the rules should echo the real tactics/leaderhsip as far as possible.

      The best example I can think of is Maurice, where your resources are stretched, and you feel that you are in command because you have to make the tough decisions with regard to where on the battlefield you can do something - and this may be forced to be in response to enemy moves.

      What I disliked about Black Powder was that the decision was entirely arbitrary and decided by a dice roll - as to whether you could move that brigade or not. If you were lucky, you got to move everything, while in Maurice, you have to focus your command. (I guess FUBAR has similar mechanisms, though they seem to work better in that case).

      To me, that's a little more representative of the period - even though Maurice gets knocked a little for being more 'gamey'. I think the problem for people is that it's less traditional. You will have seen a difference with Blucher, though it's subtly different from the BP approach, with the opponent counting down the pips.

      But yeah, I just need a ww2/ww3 version of Maurice now LOL.

    3. I think the important thing to bear in mind, and possibly what i did not get across adequately, is that these things you need in a rules set are driven by circumstances and necessity.

      For me, in many cases, i dont have a huge stable of units painted up so i need to be able to play a rules set that can still deliver a satisfying game with only a handful of units. Thats a must have for me. The time factor isnt quite as important to me but universal basing and uncomplicated are things i personally want in a rules set.

      Those are driven by my circumstances almost as much by taste.

      I think if a given rules set fits into your own personal requirements, then that set becomes "the one" or close to it that at least not force you to compromise thise things you feel you must have.

      I agree with you that Black Powder is definitely not a perfect game but for me at least i can get some if the things i want with it.

      Rank and File is another set im looking at that delivers most on my "must haves"

      It sounds line youve got a winner with Maurice!

      Its funny that spending more than a few years staring at my bookshelves never able to decide on what i wanted to play, i never thought about what i wanted to get out of my games which really is the first step towards finding "your" rules.

  4. Oh yes, and I forgot about your FUBAR variant. Something you should develop for Horse and Musket I think :)

  5. Nice points Steve! You made me think about it.
    Point one for me is flavour. There needs to be something there that gives me that period feel by bringing out its crucial elements.

    Point two is Not too many steps! For example rules that require 3 or more steps to reach shooting results are out. You need one throw for hits and another for results allowing for cover or what ever. Only one step? even better!

    Rules provide a good game with 4 units a side or 40 depending on the scenario! I want to play Wagon Escort or Bull Run.

    1. Glad i got you thinking about it David. Interesting regarding steps in a turn. Your choices would lend themselves to a fast game it seems.
      Im totally with you on all esoecially your last point. I want a rules set that gives me an interesting game with 4 units but can handle a large fight as well. Wagon escort or Bull Run summarizes it perfectly!

      Now...what are your horse and musket rules that meet your criteria??

  6. I was away with the 1:1 army and missed this interesting post.

    Will McNally's rules are gone from the free web rules wiki. They are however posted in his blog, but in pieces. I like what I've read so far.

    I'm a more difficult person than Steve, I think - I've more criteria to fulfill! Some quick thoughts:

    - Must be able to play a full game to a clear, decisive conclusion in an hour, without paging through rules constantly or even referencing a chart, yet, must be able to scale up to a much larger game with many people; related thought, must be easily explained to newbies and have them playing quickly, and experienced gamers should master the rules in just a couple of go's.
    - related thought, must present the gamer with clear decisions to choose between that will decide the outcome of the game.
    - basing by frontage only [sorta basing agnostic] with little to no fiddling about with gaming markers, base alignment, etc, that just drags the game.
    - no figure or stand removal, or lots of dice counting and math.
    - must reward skilled play and discourage playing the rules or creating special rules, except ones for unusual events in a scenario.
    - MUST focus on significant differences, not lots of little differentiations that create large charts.
    - Should ooze period flavor and reflect a reasonable understanding of both the historical record and present understanding of battle psychology, etc.

    I'll probably think of some more...I'll have to make my own post over at my blog!

  7. This post came about as a result of me staring endlessly and fruitlessly at my shelf of rules and not being able to find a set I could live with.

    I think having an objective or "mission statement" about what you want to get out of your rules makes a huge difference. It really drives the search and when you can answer that question, things with rules fall into place.

    I always have a hard time figuring out what it is that I want. Looking at your criteria, doesn't seem as if you have that same problem!