Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cavalry, Cavalry Everywhere !

Now that I have the amount of cavalry I need to simulate 2 cavalry armies opposing one another, I finally fought a battle with them (2 generic Asiatic Horde cavalry armies). I had to hone a few my rules (and markers) to handle the sheer amount of charges/counter charges so that it could make sense to the players.

Needless to say, Cavalry/Cavalry battles are much more fluid (and fast-paced) than the usual infantry-heavy army battles. What usually is a 10-12 turn game turns into a 4-6 turn game. It also is hard to recover when a mistake is made (and it is easy to counter-charge the wrong unit, fail a counter-charge roll, a morale roll, or whatever.)

Side A (which I used Mongol cavalry) had less light and skirmish cavalry than side B (which I used Huns and the other miscellaneous horse barbarians I had- Alans, Pechenegs etc), but had more heavy cavalry.

Both sides closed in and used a little archery to try to create an opening that could be exploited. However, the sheer numbers on the field (approx 8000-9000 cavalry a side) made little dent in either side, despite the flurry of feather shafts.

The Mongols finally had enough, and started charging through the thick Hunnish cavalry screen and managed to maul them pretty severely before being checked by the much less numerous Hunnish heavy cavalry. The surviving Hunnish Light Cavalry started scoring hits with its archery, and the less numerous Mongol Light Cavalry was innefectual.

The battle hung in the balance, until the Huns started failing morale checks. With their heavy cavalry starting to flee the scene, the Mongol heavy cavarly got the upper hand. From what was a stalemate just 2 turns before, the battle had turned into a Hunnish rout quickly.

Final result- the Mongols actually took more losses (approx 2400) compared to the Huns (approx 1200), but the Mongols held the field at the end. Since I stopped the battle at the moment of the rout, the Huns would've suffered even heavier losses in the pursuit if I had gone that far. But as much as that would have been a more realistic end-result, it would not be much fun for the players.

All in all, the rules held up well with the massive charging/counter-charging that occurred. It was a fun battle, that when both sides came to grips, was over pretty fast. A little more skirmishing for the Huns would've been better as it favored their light cavalry advantage, but the Mongols should try to close as soon as possible to take advantage of their heavy cavalry advantage.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A great painting service

I'd like to add a few comments on a painting service that is one of the BEST I've ever used. Now, some folks seem to think that you are some kind of wargame "wuss" if you don't paint your own figures. Shame on those elitists, because they are missing out on an excellent source for getting your figures painted ! And it sure beats the paint job I could do.

Fernando Enterprises (http://www.miniaturelovers.com/) is one of the best around in my honest opinion.

They are run out of Sri-Lanka, which seems a bit off-setting to many folks, but it really is easy. They send you all the directions you need to get your package to them (which makes it a piece of cake) , and they ensure that the returned figures are well-packed and safe.

They will paint to your specification (e.g. you know exactly what you want) or if you have no clue (e.g. I had some Pechenegs. What the heck does a Pecheneg look like anyway ?) you can refer them to a source (I use Osprey stuff- you can't go wrong). They keep in contact with email over the whole course of the order. I recieved pre-production and post- production pics for my approval. I'm sure that Anusha (the Coordinator) is sick to death of emailing me pics to approve of !

Why the subject of a painting service ? Well, today I recieved my latest order, and the figures are beauties !

Here are a few pics of the ones I chose to get into my game next (mostly Germans and some Alanic allies):

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Time scale in wargaming

I come from the 70's-early 80's miniature wargaming culture- Rules based on some of the ideas from Donald Featherstone's books (like Miniature Wargames and Advanced Wargames) and rules like Chainmail. Time scale was considered kind of as an aside, and it created fast, fun rules that I still sometimes yearn for.

I think one of the most eye-opening things I've ever read on time scale and wargaming with it is in the designer notes to Frank Chadwick's Command Decision rules. (Paraphrasing)

"A lot can happen in the time-space of 1 turn. But a lot also does not."

Just because a person can move 20 paces in 10 seconds does not mean that he will move that fast. Conditions due to enemy action, the state of a man's morale and possibly training as well as just random things happening (e.g. tripping and falling down,stopping to catch one's breath, stopping to scan the terrain around for threats etc) can prevent that person from moving the stated 20 paces in 10 sec. The best rules sublimate this stuff elegantly.

Some rules use a roll a certain amount of dice totaled for movement (e.g. The Sword and the Flame). This works, after a fashion, but I feel is a bit clunky and artificial. But is is fun though....

Why the concern about time scale ? I overheard some folks at Historicon this year (in more than one game) discussing time scale and both loudly proclaiming the rules were "unrealistic" because the fixed time scale allowed "a unit of could do all that during a game turn." I laughed whenever I heard that (and it was quite a few times). Wargamers like to kibbitz a bit, and wargaming is a social thing after all, but I thought it was highly amusing.

Personally, I think that best time scale is somewhat variable in wargaming. I prefer "effect" based instead of "calculated" based time. If after a battle, you can run the events over in your mind that happened, and they make sense considering the scenario being played and the forces involved, the time scale really has no bearing. You fought a battle and certain things happened. Does it really matter that after 20 turns, the much vaunted "time scale" calculates out to say 1 hour ? Maybe the battle took 3-4 hours to play (real time) in miniature. You can really say that the battle occurred in 3-4 hours.

As a matter of fact, a group a couple of years ago at Historicon did exactly that- it was a 10mm wargame that was run in "real" time. It had a lot of players and as can be expected, there was a lot of "down time" getting orders in, moving the troops, rolling combat etc. From what I can recall, it worked out well, the battle taking a couple of hours as it would have in real life. As in real life, alot can happen in an hour but alot might NOT happen.

In the end, a part of a day was taken up (both in game time and real time setting up and playing the miniature game) and things happened. And after all, what more can we ask of our hobby than to happily engage us for the time required to actually do it.

Speaking of time, this is a few minutes of your life you will never get back after reading this stream of consciousness post...... :D

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Random Map Generator

I've recently received a few requests about my random map generator I created and some of its capabilities. Actually There are 2 map generators- one written in Visio VBA and another (more powerful but lacking the graphical templates at the moment) one written in VBNET.

I attempted to make them as versatile as I could. The map shapes can be scaled to a particular hex size (This one is 1.25" hexes) and any paper size (this is 36" x 24") as well as labeling the hexes and including a hex center dot if desired. As a bonus, after it is randomly generated, I can edit the various layers in Visio, adding labels and special touches to the maps.

These are example maps I generated using my VBA application. I used a different technique to create the VBNET mapgen templates, and I haven't updated them yet. In addition, the generation routines themselves I haven't ported over yet to the VBNet program.

With the VBA program, there are various parameters that can be input, such as woods density, rivers, streams, roads, houses, fields, walls, etc etc. I am only limited in the graphical templates I currently have made (These are early building icons- without the shading for example).

A random generator is a good way to lay out a basic map, which you can then edit and make better to fit whatever particular scenario you desire. It makes your life as a wargamer so much easier when you have to generate a battle for 900th time in that huge campaign game.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Magnet Ready Material

I was at a kind of impasse for my campaign game because of space restraints. I needed to be able to hang it up on a wall out of the way of the miniatures table battles it produces. After awhile of poking around and trial and error (aka SWAG) I think I've found an easy way.
I found a material that is easily cut-able that is called "magnet-ready". If looks exactly like a sheet magnet and cuts with scissors easily. This allows me to create my Vini Vidi Vici hex pieces so that I can stick them on a metal board, and allow me to also deploy magnetic counters on top of them. This allows me to hang the campaign map on the wall.

Here are the layers of what how to make this happen:
1. A 3' x 4' piece of sheet metal (or magnetic dry erase board), with a 1" hex grid in blue mounted to it (this is the encircling ocean that the templates above are placed over and spaced out with).
2. Nine templates (like those above), each printed out on my color printer. From the back of the template to the front, here are the layers of materials:
a) Magnetic sheet magnet cut to a close approximation of the hex template.
b) Magnetic ready sheet cut to fit the template (including the edges- this gives the template a heft and allows for the edges to be butted together when deployed on the sea map.)
c) The color print out of the template itself.

The templates stick to the metal sheet nice and tightly. I can now use 1/2" magnets for unit counters/markers on top of the templates. I will use 1/2" magentic strip with a color printout of the counter attached to it for this purpose.

Now I am working on the counters. I'll try to get a picture of a whole setup when I get it all together.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weather in Wargaming

Weather can add something different to a wargame. A sudden storm can slow a winning side down enough for the defense to recover and re-form. The only problem is that simplifying the conditions so that they are playable and not a nuisance to track is tricky.

I've settled on a system that is composed of two elements: Weather and Environmental Conditions. Weather is either Clear, Cloudy. Raining, or Storming. This can effect the environmental conditions. This also effects line of sight and missile fire. Environmental conditions are Fine, Wet, and Mud. These mostly effect movement.

The Weather can change up and down (from clear to cloudy, cloudy to raining, raining to storming and back in the other direction) at the start of a new turn. If the weather is raining or storming at the start of a turn, there is a chance that the environmental conditions will change from Fine to Wet or from Wet to Mud. As soon as it is storming, the weather changes to the next worse type immediately.

Unlike weather which can gravitate from stormy to clear, once Environmental Conditions change for the worse, they remain that way for the remainder of the scenario.

I'll fight a battle using this as a template and post some pics and commentary sometime soon and the chart I'm using to track the effects for the game.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Magenets are your friend.....

One of the many advantages of using metal bases on my figures and magnets on my movement trays is the ability to create markers that "stick" to the unit. Not only can I remove individual figures for casualties, I can easily mark the unit with a marker that sticks with that unit when I move it.

For example, in my rules, I need to be able to mark units as belonging to divisions on the board. I created different colored division counters and mounted them on 1/2" strip magnets. Units of the same division have the same color. Units not in their division suffer penalties. Since it behooves the player to keep his divisions together, the colored markers make it easy to keep track of this.

Here is a picture of this- I put the unit raised in the air to show how "sticky" the markers are. Now I need to make some other markers to lay alongside these, probably unit counters that give all the stats so that you don't always have to look it up on a reference card.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Excel is your friend.....

Warning ! Computer Geek Boring Post Below !

One of the most useful tools in my computer toolbox is the Microsoft Excel. The ability to make legible tables and lists is a boon to any wargamer who writes like a doctor. Of course, the Word/Powerpoint package of MSOffice work well together with it as well (Note- I'm using an earlier version of MS Office, so the newer versions look a bit different). Here are some of the uses:

1. Prototyping rules- Sometimes all I have for a rule idea is a table or two and an outline of the turn sequence. I just type them into Excel, print them out and playtest them. I take notes on the back of the page (such as changes, what works and what does not) and make the changes in Excel and repeat (playtesting for me is a process of running the game again and again ad nauseum- until I go on to another set of rules for a while for a break :D ).

2. Creating nice tables for my quick reference cards and rules- You can create nice looking tables and cut and paste them into Powerpoint (for quick reference cards) or Word (for my rules).

A word of advice though- be organized when saving the files for a ruleset. If I have a ruleset called "Micro WW2" I'll abbreviate it "DSRMW2" (Don's Stupid Rules for Micro WW2). That way the 3 files for the whole ruleset are DSRMW2.XLS (the excel tables), DSRMW2.DOC (the rules) and DSRMW2.PPT (the powerpoint quick reference charts).

3. Creating consistent points values for army lists- Some rules I create require a point basis to help determine forces. This requires a calculation of various attributes (like armor, attack, range, morale, strength, etc). For my ancient 15mm ancients Rules (DSRV), there are a lot of attributes and a lot of armies to calculate for. Instead of calculating this by hand, I created a spreadsheet that holds all the stats of the units, and used formulas to calculate the points value of that unit automatically.

First, I had to figure out how to rate units for points basis. This required multipliers that I had to play with in order to weight things well. I created a sheet that holds all the weights (for all those who don't know you can name a cell so that you don't have to reference it the formula by its long name). I colored the background yellow where the values are changeable.

Second, I created a sheet with all the army lists and all the values. Black text will be displayed, red text will be hidden (its used for calculation) and gray text is a calculation that also will be hidden. I input values in the red and black columns and the points are automatically calculated.

To create a reference sheet for the armies, I hide all the black and gray text, then cut and paste it into powerpoint.

Voila ! Now I can change the values easily and print out the final result. I can also easily add troop types and armies as needed.

Excel (and the MS Office Suite) are excellent tools for the wargamer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back from Historicon !

It was a great trip. I met some terrific folks (some of whom I only knew by name until now) and had a boatload of fun. Now, exhausted, I take stock of what I came home with, and wrestle with the problem of justifying "just a few more" lead figures !

For now, here is a picture of Miniature Wargamer Nirvana (a.k.a. the dealer room)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Off to Historicon !

Well, I'm off to Historicon with stopovers in Manassas and Gettysburg. I'm putting on a ancient naval game (I think its at Friday at 3:00 PM) called "Sea Sick Sailors". I hope to see some of you folks there !

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And now for something completely different (sort of)...

Getting a little burned out with my ancient stuff, I decided to do some mapping for my WW II skirmish game, called illustriously A__Load of Heroes. You can guess what the ___ is for- it rhymes with "Pass" :)

Why that name ? In an earlier incarnation, the game seemed to generate a lot of heroes in-game, until I tweaked the rules a bit. "Boatload of Heroes" wouldn't make sense so I went with what was said in-game by the players :D

Anyway, I created this countryside map to be geomorphic with any more that I cared to do. It is approximately 36" x 40" with a 1.25" hexes, which fits 15mm pretty well, allowing up to 3 infantry (not a good idea in-game though :D) and vehicles covering 2 hexes. The ground scale came out to about 10-12 feet per hex. The map represents about 70 yards by 90 yards or so- good for some close in skirmish fighting !

For the scenario, I had a squad of Germans (2 SMG, 6 Rifle, LMG) facing a very weak platoon of 19 Russians (4 SMG, DP LMG, 14 Rifles) over control of the farm complex in the center of the map.

The Germans were set up as follows:

The Russians were set up as follows:

Here is the map at the start of the game. North is to the left.

While I'm at it, I'll throw in a quick word about the rules I'm using- they require very small six sided dice (D6s in wargame parlance) to be thrown for all the figures and placed in their hexes- this marks how much initiaitive they have. A turn is composed of 6 impulses. Both sides alternate one hex at a time, activating units that have the same initiative dice as the impulse (e.g. only units with "1" can activate in impulse one). This seems to leave a bit of "fog of war" in the game, as you never really know just what order things are going to happen (as will be seen in the game-replay that follows).

I actually based the units on magnets that I trimmed to their base size- this allows them to stand up (the weight of the magnet seems to help a lot) and it lets me mark the units by placing washers under them. The Germans in the above picture, for example, are marked green and are moving (which effects their firing attempts, how far they can move next time, and their target class if fired on).

I use markers to indicate a unit is currently moving (green), firing (red), pinned (white) or doing nothing (no marker at all). This effects the targeting of the enemy and also helps negate the helecopter effect a little bit. When firing, one has to take the closest enemy target in that class (Moving, Firing, or Doing nothing) as its main focal point for the attack (automatic weapons do have a hex spread though- so they can actually hit more than one hex).

But enough with the esoteric stuff. On to the game !

Turn 1- The Russians sent most of their SMG guys to the trees on their right flank, in order to interdict the road leading to the farmhouse complex the Germans were on. The DP set up at the base of the road to provide fire support, and the remainder made for the farm buildings on by taking the left side of the road. The Germans split their forces so as to get to the farm buildings nearest them first.

Turn 2- The Russians began to enter the woods on their right flank, while the rest made as quickly as possible to the closest farm building. The Germans, rolling badly for the initiative, were forced to set up their LMG in the field, so as to get shots at the advancing Russian horde. A lone SMG guy ran up the road to sieze the farmhouse that was furthest to the north. Half of the rest fanned out across the field, while 2 troopers went in to sieze the barn (building "C" - the biggest building).

Turn 3- The Germans rolled badly on the initiative dice, and as a result, the LMG in the field was cut down by long range Russian DP LMG fire. A bad loss of firepower, but on the plus side they managed to capture the barn and get into firing positions behind the trees.

Turn 4 & 5- The Germans, now in good firing positions, begin taking their toll of the advancing Russians (hence they are marked with red "fired" markers). The Russian DP LMG becomes a casualty, weakening their firepower. The Russian attempts to suppress this fire fails miserably. The Russians running pell-mell to the farmhouse arrive and begin to enter it, as well as lay fire on the Germans in the barn.

Turn 6 & 7- After an ineffectual grenade attack (they all bounced off the windows and fell into the yard harmlessly) the Russians rush the barn, and are met with a hail of gunfire, driving the initial attackers back and killing a few. The German SMG guy in the small farmouse at the top of the picture picked off some attackers creeping up on the far side of the barn. On the flank, the Russian SMGs begin taking their toll and supressing the outnumbered Germans by the field. Despite this, the Germans are holding their own, but barely.

And then... it happens ! The German SMG guy just south of the barn heroizes and begins taking out the Russian SMG guys in the woods with some great shots. With their flank secure, now they can concentrate all their attention on the groups rushing the Barn. "That ought to earn me an Iron Cross, ay ?" is overheard. Unfortunately the picture came out a little blurry, so I think he would be denied. Of course, he would have to survive the game :D

Turn 8 & 9- The Russians get a lucky kill on the SMG guy in the house and enter the barn. The few Germans coming from the field to the south for support are too late to save the day and are caught between the field and the barn. When the last German SMG guy goes down, the game is over. The Russians have won !

The game took 1.5 hours to play, and simulated about 5 1/2 minutes of real time. It had enough drama in it to want me to write an after action report. I didn't use wounds (I treated all hits as fatal), which would've lengthened the game a little bit, but it would've added even more drama.

Time to start getting things ready for Historicon, coming up in about a week.....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Making Unit Counters

Since I have all these nicely painted figures, it would be a good thing to be able to make unit counters (for the campaign map and even as reference for the tactical game) instead of generic counters. I'm making 1/2" counters here for use in the Vidi Vini Vici campaign game. Click on the picure for a better view of the draft print.

For graphics, I took some good high-res pictures of the figures that were going to be used.

I had to doctor the figure pictures so that there colors are more contrasting (when you shrink them down to fit on 1/2 inch counters, they lose a bit of resolution, so this helps compensate for that) and remove the background white, creating a transparent mask (so I can make counters of different countries different colors- see picture at the bottom).

These *.PNGs I import into my drawing program (Visio). I add the counter info, counter outlines then paste the PNGs into them. I use layers to organize and help me with editing, as it can get pretty messy when you have to say, change the color of 1 stat so that it appears better on the counter when you have a page full of counters.

I wanted these as double-side counters with a weaker strength and ID on the back, so I divided the page in half, where the 1st half (the color PNGs in the picture) is mirrored by the second half (the gray PNGs in the picture). This way when I cut the page in 2 halves and mount the 1st half on cardboard, I can turn the cardboard around and mount the 2nd half and it will line up reasonably well. Note that I use 1/2" boxes around the counters on the 1st half of the page, but make them transparent on the 2nd half. You use the boxed side of the counter sheet to cut them out. That way, if your alignment is not perfect, you still get reasonable looking counters.

A word of advice, be sure that second half of the page is a mirror of the 1st or your counter backsides will be wrong ! In this case it did not matter, as each horizontal row was composed of the same counters. It becomes important if you have say an ID on the front you want to match with the one on the back.

I printed this sheet out on an 8 1/2" x 11" full label sheet (Avery Laserjet Labels).All I had to do was cut the page in two halves, peel and stick the halves on some thick-ish cardboard (being careful to line them up as well as possible). In no time I had some decent counters. With a few clicks, I could create army counters in various colors, such as the Red army counter below

I can't wait to get more of my troops re-based (especially the cavalry)- I'll be able to expand my troop types and army possibilities.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Map and Terrain Generation

I do have 3" hexes and other terrain I can use, but they are too heavy to haul around. So I generated and printed a 3" grass hex map that is the battlefield for my campaign game battles. It wound up to be a 40" x 48" map when I printed it. Click on the picture to get a better view of the hex grain.

For my terrain, I printed 20 woods and 20 hill templates on clear acetate that can be randomly generated by the players for the terrain setup of the battlefield. I also created two template card decks for the woods and hills templates so that they can be selected when that terrain appears on the map.

To standardize the setup of terrain and forces, I segmented the map into zones for the attacker and defender, as well as marked where the possible terrain points on the map are. In the picture, the setup zones are denoted by the yellow blocks. The green blocks are where woods can appear, and the gray blocks where hills can appear.

For randomizing the terrain, there are two terrain pools of markers- woods and hills. The composition of those terrain pools is a mixture of blanks and non-blanks that depends on the terrain in the strategic map battle hex. There are 8 woods points on the board and 8 hill points on board. Each side chooses 4 woods markers and 4 hill markers randomly from the appropriate pools.

They get to look at their markers and decide where to place them, alternating one at a time at the points on the board. If the marker is not a blank the player randomly picks a template card, then places the template on the card in on that map point in any way they desire, as long as the template ID printed on the template covers the terrain point on the board. A plus with using clear acetate is that the template can be turned over on its back and used, creating even more variety than otherwise possible.

Here is a picture of a randomly generated map using the above system. I've denoted the start areas for clarity (the defender is at bottom of the picture). It takes about 5 min to setup and create.

Here is a setup for this particular battle and how it looks with the templates and flocked figures. The white tower in the bottom left is a space holder for the defender's camp- I don't have any yet, but
I'm working on it !

Here is what the map looks like if I want to add my trees and 3D terrain hexes into the mix.

All in all, I am pleased with the results. I can easily and quickly generate terrain boards to handle the many, many battles Vini Vidi Vici will generate.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A word on logistics

"Armchair generals talk tactics. Real generals talk logistics"

The logistics I'm talking about here are the storage and transport miniature armies. It does no good to have a large collection of figures, rules, and terrain if I can't get it to the players who want to play the game ! What I've found out (from others as well as trial and error- emphasis on the "error") is described below.

I finished rebasing the Romans and most of the Carthaginians on individual metal flocked bases. Here is a picture of 3 of the 5 trays I had done. Needless to say, it is a lot of troops (over 700 at last count) and I still have many, many more to go.

After all that work, there is a problem that crops up- where do I put all these figures for storage and transport ?

Ideally, I need a storage medium that is flexible to handle the various size of armies I have, be pretty tough and stackable for transport and storage, and keep the figures from getting banged up.

I use those cheap plastic tackle boxes (these figure fit into 5 of them) with strong 1" magnetic strips glued onto the bottom. I had magnetic strips that had an adhesive on the backside, but some of the boxes I had did not have flat enough trays for the thick strips to take hold (so I had to glue them as well). In the future I will look for trays that have the flatest bottom possible !

Since my figures are on small metal bases they adhere to the magnets quite well. A word of caution- be sure that the base of the figure is lying flat on the magnet. When I fill a box, I shake it gently and see if any figure moves around- that one is not seated properly ! That one figure that is loose can cause damage to others and have a terrible pinball effect on the others in that row. An ugly sight with bent spears, swords, unbased figures all tumbled together......

It turns out that I can fit about 60 per row, or about 200 per box (less if cavalry- they take up about 2.5 times as much space). This means my 1st Roman army takes up 2 boxes, the Carthaginians 3 boxes. They are stackable and not too hard to transport.

All in all I'm pleased with the results. Now I have to repeat this process of basing-> flocking -> storage with my other armies (2nd Roman army, Germanic Barbarians, Asiatic Horde Cavarly and that is not even starting on the medievals). A lot of work still left to do

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Taking a tangent (sort of).....

I worked out the basic set of skirmish rules over the weekend, and they seem pretty decent (trials with friends went well). However, I still had to resolve how to be able to play my skirmish game and my Vini Vidi Vici miniatures game with the same figures. The skirmish game requires individual figures, the Vini Vidi Vici units of figures grouped together.

Foresight (e.g. plain dumb luck) led me to mount all my figures on individual metal bases, colored to that side (Romans = red, Carthaginians tan, etc).

By happenstance (e.g. plain dumb luck) nature provided an answer to my problem: Strong Magnets. I found some strong magnetic rolls (not the simple ones you find in the craft store- these are .06 inches thick and are very strong). The idea is to group the figures on the magnetic stands when I play Vini Vidi Vici and use them individually for the skirmish game (as a bonus instead of using casualty rings in the Vini Vidi Vici game, I could actually remove the figures).

As you can see, I decided to flock the magnets with the finest grain turf I could find (Woodland Scenics). One side is a yellow grass color, the other a soil color. This also allowed me to flock the individual figures with a blended grass color- which I think looks better than the colored bases I was using before. That is also the reason you have to get the strongest magnets you can find ! That extra layer between the metal and the magnet reduces the binding by a lot.

The bases are used for movement in the Vini Vidi Vici game. The magnets are strong enough to keep the figures from falling off and the color makes it easy to differentiate which side a unit is (especially when both sides close into a general melee). I also mounted the magnets on some thick-ish cardboard (the rolls I bought where sticky on one side) so that they could be picked up by the bases.

Another bonus to doing this is that I can use my markers (I used small washers to indicate hits, morale status, etc that I would lay on the figures). Now the washer can lay on the base without having to place it on the figure. I can also make small markers (cheap craft magnet counters) to indicate what a unit is for novices who may not have a handle on all the troop types etc.

All in all, I'm pleased with the results. It provides a terrific flexability in use of figures and rule sets. I've created different size bases depending on the unit and its current size. It also allows me to use troops that would normally be on one side only (e.g. Roman) and use the same troops on the other side (perfect for that Roman Civil War stuff).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Velitatio Proelium

My latest idea my fevered mind has come up with is to be able to do skirmish wargaming using the same figures as I use for my tactical game. I've decided to call the rule set DSR Velitatio Proelium (roughly "Skirmish Battle" in Latin) or DSRVP for short.

I need to rebase my figures on smaller, one on one metal bases (5/8 inch long and 3/8). Using the magnetic movement bases, I can still compose the larger tactical units or debase them for my skirmish ruleset.

I'll still use the 3" hexes for the skirmish game, with combat occurring in the hex itself instead of with adjacent hexes. I can even make smaller "unit" bases for the Romans and other trained troops so that they can fight with an advantage, until that formation is broken.

Cavalry will be individually mounted as well, as will leaders/banners/musicians. I'll try to give it a try this weekend with a few of the rebased troops and possibly post any pictures sometime thereafter if the idea seems to work.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why can't a Roman Civil War be civil ?

So I've now got the rules for tactical battles written up as well as a system for campaigns (Vini Vidi Vici). I need a way to integrate the boardgame with the miniatures game.

As the picture of the 9 width hex at the left shows, the terrain on the Vini Vidi Vici map is pretty simple- Clear and woods. Rivers and rough terrain are handled on the hex edges instead of the hex itself. How hilly a piece of terrain is determined by how many hexsides have a ridgeline or mountain next to it.

For example, if you look at hex E0608 (the hex with the "Thes" in Thessaly), you will see that the hex is clear terrain with 2 ridgelines. This would equate level 2 rough hex, which effects the density of the hills that can be generated on the tactical map, just as woods terrain would effect the density of woods on the tactical map.

The next step is to figure out how this all equates with the tactical board. I settled on a board that was 17 hexes wide (which gives 9 hexes at each of the 6 edges). This fits almost totally on my 4x4 board space I currently have (there is a little overhang on 1.5 hexes, but that is not too much of a problem).

The hex configuration allows me to randomly determine the set up halves of the board once all the terrain is generated. There are 3 possible axes that result, allowing me to actually use that terrain more than once if desired without having to take the time to regenerate it.

To test the whole tactical battle board out, I created some random charts to create forces of somewhat similiar size and composition, with a little randomness thrown in. The forces that fight will be about the average to small size that would fight in the real game.

Force A (the defender which we'll call the rebels) is composed of 3 regular cohorts, 2 archer auxilia, 3 javelin Auxilia, 1 trained auxilia, 2 levy auxilia, 1 heavy cavalry unit and of course the grizzled army general. The cohorts and the heavy cavalry are the best heavy units, of course, followed by the trained auxilia and the unenthusiastic levy auxilia. All the Roman regulars and the cavalry are treated as drilled (this allows them a little more maneuverability on the battlefield). The trained auxilia is decent, but the levy auxilia will be prone to run away if things get tough.

Force B (we'll call them the "loyalists") is the attacker. It is composed of 2 Veteran cohorts, 2 Levy cohorts, 2 Levy auxilia, 4 Light auxilia, 2 archer auxilia and the loyalist general.

Here is the terrain I generated on the tactical board (I assumed open terrain with no modifiers for hills). The Rebels set up on the left, Loyalists on the right. This is the picture after the 1st move for both sides.

The loyalists had to break the rebel army in about 12 turns (the end is randomized, it could be 12 turns, it could be up to 20 to keep both sides guessing) or they would be the loser and have to retreat from the strategic mapboard.

The Rebels had the advantage of a heavy cavalry unit, while the Loyalists had nothing to counter it with than their more veteran legionaries. The best bet for the Loyalists was to pepper the Rebels with missile fire, waiting for some part of the line to waiver before sending in the heavier troops. The Rebels, however were not going to play that game, being inferior in missile troops and in general quality level. They were going to take the offensive.

The Rebel heavy cavalry (in the lower left corner) charged out and attacked the Loyalist Veteran cohort nearest it, Taking casualities from missile fire but keeping on coming. The veterans broke, and the heavy cavalry looked poised to run over some lighter troops and take the rest of the Roman line in the flank while it was engaging the main Rebel force.

But the stalwart archers kept inflicting losses upon the cavalry, halting their charge and driving them back. In the process they became heroized (a fate condition that allowed them to re-roll 1 failed morale check). The threat was averted !

This is the poor cavalry unit that almost caused so much havoc. I use magnetic movement bases (I base my figures on metal) so that I can lay the my marker washers on the base, instead of on the figure (it helps prevent some wear and tear). It also serves as an easy way to organize and move the figures around the board. As a side bonus, the magnetic bases are color coded (hard to see from this angle, but readily apparent to the players) red and green, so that it is easy to tell which side is which when things get jammed up in melee.

But back to the battle ! At the time of the cavalry charge, the Rebel's main line contacted the Loyalist's main line and a fierce melee ensued. On the Loyalist's right flank (upper left of the picture) the levy infantry chased the Rebel light infantry into the woods and became entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Against all odds, the Royalist center broke and, despite the setback on the flank (a victory there would've probably won the day for the Rebels), they still seemed poised to win the day.

But again, luck was not with them. The under-appreciated light and archer auxilia held the main thrust up at the cost of blood until the Royalist center could recover. The battle started to turn against them...

The beginning of the end came when 2 Rebel cohorts rolled morale checks of "12" (fate in a bad way in my rules), which meant that they had enough and fled the field. This left 1 cohort with the army general surrounded in the middle of the field. The rebel army was broken- Long live the Royalists !

The game took about 1.5 hours to play and 10 min to set up. It lasted exactly 12 turns before the surrender.

Now to take the result and apply it to the campaign game.

The Loyalists lost about half of a veteran cohort and a levy cohort, as well as 2 light infantry. The archers were beaten up, but survived in a reduced state. Since they won the battle, they could recover some of those losses. I'd flip and remove the appropriate counters from the strategic board and place this army in the hex it has won.

The Rebels lost 2 cohorts, all their levy and most of their light infantry. The cavalry unit survived in reduced form. I'd flip and remove the appropriate counters on the strategic board. Since they lost the battle, they could not recover any of their losses and would have to retreat to an adjacent hex. This will be a much reduced army that would need reinforcements during the next campaign turn.

The side with more cavalry would be able to gain some pursuit bonus (if it won) or possibly recover some of its losses (if it lost). If supply status of the army had to be taken into account, that would affect the general morale levels of the army. A campaign has so many things to take into account, but the meaning of each battle is much richer taken in the context of a well-laid out campaign game.

Here is the one page of charts for my rules, written up as I spoke of in the previous post. The rules are 8 pages long. The Vini Vidi Vici rules are about as long and have a few tables as well.

In conclusion, I think I have the basis for a very easy to control, dynamic campaign game. Now I have to find the players with the time and the desire to give it a try....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A quick word about rule writing

I thought I'd like to write a few things about rule writing that I've learned over the years through painful experience. I've never found a set of rules for any period that I liked all the way through. So, like a mad Dr Frankenstein, I'd take the parts I liked and made up the rest myself (sometimes also taken from other rule sets).

Although it is nice to bring to life a period you have an interest in, sometimes the creation can be a bit of a monster- especially when you have to get back to a set of home-brew rules after a period of time away from them. So I've developed a system (of sorts) to aid me. The key is to be organized.

First, you need to be able to type the rules up so you can print them out. I use Microsoft Word. I have a directory off my documents directory that is called "rulesets" which I also subdivide into eras (e.g. Ancients, Napoleonic, WW 2) then the directory that is the name of the ruleset. In each directory for that ruleset, there will be a Word Document (the rules), a PowerPoint Document (the charts), and an Excel Document (where I create the charts) as well as any other sundry things (pictures, etc).

I do my rules using the bullets and numbering set to outline mode. This way each section has a number and any rules under that the corresponding numbers.

My intro is usually an overview of what the ruleset is, as well as its scale.

My 1st section is always the turn sequence, in as much detail as is necessary for me to follow down it during a game (usually it becomes second nature again after a turn or two, depending on how long I've been away from that particular game).

The 2nd section contains a section that contains definitions. This is an important part of the document, that you will be adding/subtracting from as you refine your ruleset. Standard terminology is a great boon to good rule writing. For example, if I use the term "Good Order Unit" in my rules, I know that it means "A unit that is not marked as fatigued, disordered, or routed". In the long run it tends to create more concise rules that are more consistent.

The 3rd section is used to point out any special procedures needed to play the game (e.g. For a particular ruleset I use wooden blocks set next to units in order to keep track of actions that a unit has done for that turn. If the unit has attacked, the block is placed standing up. If the unit is finished, the block is placed lying down.)

From the 4th section on, tend to follow the turn sequence, each new numbered section detailing a new part of the turn sequence.

The last section(s) are special rules, "chrome" and anything not already covered above.

Do not forget to create the header/footer for the document. I use the name of the ruleset as the header, and for the footer I use "Page # of #" along with a date. This is very important when you wind up with several versions of rules and the pages get all mixed up.

For charts, I use Excel to create the tables I need, then cut and paste them to PowerPoint (giving them a nifty shadow under them) for printing. I try to keep the tables to one sheet of paper, although sometimes its not possible. Clarity is the key !

After you print the rules and tables out, playtest, playtest, playtest. Keep notes of what works and any inconsistencies that crop up. Note potential solutions. The key is to follow the text you've written- if it doesn't work- rewrite it so that it does.

Eventually you will tire of that period and ruleset and move on to another- don't worry ! When you decide to come back to that set again, you will have all the material needed to get it up and running again with a minimal of head-scratching. Enjoy !

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Parlay ?

The Romans decided to confront the barbarians at the stream side in order to bloody them as much as possible before falling back to the hill to hopefully finish the job. The Barbarians were going to just try to get across the stream as fast as possible with as much as possible in order to hopefully not get entangled in the stream.

The Romans were a bit slow getting to the stream, and could not keep all the barbarian troops from crossing. A wild melee at the stream occurred, which the Romans got the worst of thanks to good Barbarian rolls and atrocious Roman morale rolls. The Barbarians flooded across. On the verge of being overwhelmed, Claudius yells "ALAMO ! ALAMO ! ALAMO !" (yeah, I know its from the wrong age, but what the hell) and started the fighting withdrawal to the hill. One Roman cohort was almost surrounded and cut off, and things looked bleak for the guys speaking the dead language.

The Barbarians were pressing hard on the struggling Romans, when one of the leaders leading the main thrust took an arrow in the eye. The units around him fell back in shock, allowing the Romans to extricate themselves as the pressure lessened as the Barbarians regrouped.

The fighting withdrawal to the hill took longer than expected, as some units kept failing to disengage. However, the constant drain of losses inflicted on the Barbarians was thinning them out for the final engagement on the hill. There were constant pin-pricks from the Barbarian slingers and archers weakening the cohorts, but not enough to create gaps that were exploitable. On the other hand, Barbarian units started rolling bad MCs, weakening their attacks.

When the Romans got to the hill, the Barbarians had enough troops left for one concerted push. The last Babarian leader (they started with 2) lead an assault that cost him his life when he was struck down. The Barbarian hordes broke and ran, leaving the Romans with the field !

Below are the pictures of the battle at certain points:

Shall we gather at the River.. er I mean stream....

The Romans give way, allowing the Barbarian hordes to get across , fortunately for the Barbarians the stream wasn't choked with their dead. Cladius starts thinking maybe he should've called for "Parlay".

The fighting withdrawal to the hill.

The Romans finally get to the hill, after bloodying the Barbarians.

The final stand. The Barbarian attack runs out of steam (and manpower) against the thinned Roman line.