Wednesday 28 June 2017

Idea for a Future Wargame

NOTE: I have updated the text of the original post. The additions are indicated in italics.

A few months ago I stumbled across an image of an old board game, I think from about the time of the Boer War by the look of it, titled “Called to Arms: A New Military Game For 2 or More Players”. It consists of a board with 100 steps and starting at 1 you roll a die and move your counters. On step four you miss a turn; step 8 “promoted to corporal”; step 18 “made Sergeant”; step 24 “Awarded Victoria Cross”; step 26 “Untidy return to corporal”…and so it goes on until as Commander in Chief you end the game at the Governor’s palace. It is a rather quaint “Snakes and Ladders” type of thing.

I printed out a copy onto a large sheet of paper and laminated it, thinking of using it as simple little evening game that could be played over a few beers.


But the concept of incorporating some of the game mechanisms into a table wargame as a means of determining where and when troops would arrive began to intrigue me. Often in our games we will say that a reinforcing column can come on the table on turn three, or if you roll a 4,5,6, but what if the player has a chance to influence the arrivals? What if he could march to a flank? Or even to march into the enemy’s rear?  What if, instead of a single route to a point of contact there were several routes to several points on a wargames table, in exactly the way that there are usually multiple approach roads to a real battlefield? What if those routes started pretty much at the same point, but bent and forked as real roads do so that some routes are longer and some shorter? And what if there were interruptions along the route, such as broken bridges, wrong turns, etc?


I quickly got out pen and paper and drew up some ideas. In a very short space of time I had a rough plan that was drawn up on the PC. In this simple version I have just put some “Miss a Turn” and “Go Back (or forward) 3 Spaces” instead of some nice descriptions like “River in flood miss one turn” or “Scout loses way and you have to retrace steps, go back 3 hexes” or even “Scout finds shortcut, go forward 3 hexes”. Maybe be later if the system proves useful I will add things like that and make it a bit more graphical.


Next I put some rules around the system that are as follow:


The Rules


Each side has a number of counters representing units or groups of units (brigades or divisions) in play. For every four real counters they may have one false counter.

Each commander allocates counters to a an approach path, that starts with the hexes numbered 1, 2 or 3 on the appropriate side of the playing board. One counter is ruled the advanced guard for each approach path and is placed in the numbered hex, any additional counters on that approach patch are placed in the coloured box behind the numbered hex.

Players must declare the intended destination for the advanced guard, but do not have to de-clare the destinations of any counters in the coloured box.

The Turn

Each turn each player rolls 1xD6 for each of his counters. The die score indicates the number of hexes that the command may move with the following restrictions:

•  All units MUST roll every turn and MUST move the number of hexes indicated by the die score, with the following exceptions and variations:

-  Counters with a declared destination MUST make for that point and cannot deviate unless the destination is blocked by an enemy force (see Deployment)

-  If the unit landed on a Miss a Turn hex last turn it will not move in the turn that follows.

-  Apart from entering the table, counters may not occupy the same location as another counter

-  No more than one counter can occupy a hex at any one time so if another counter is occupying the hex that they are about to move into, they will occupy the next unoccupied hex back in the direction of their advance.

-  Counters may not jump over another counter, friendly or enemy. If their path is blocked by another counter they will stop one hex behind it or join the tail of the queue.

- If a counter ends its turn of an arrow with a “3” on it, it must move immediately three hexes in the direction indicated. In this case it may jump over intervening counters and if another counter is located on the hex to which it is directed, it will force that counter and any other counters following back one hex.

• Counters that start in the coloured boxes do not have to declare their intended line of match and are free to move in any direction they wish, including towards the enemy rear if a route is available.


When one or more counters from opposing sides appear on the playing area contact is made and the wargame proper begins.

At the beginning of each player turn in the wargame, the units which are still marching roll their dice to march as normal and if they roll enough to bring them onto the playing area, they may march onto the table during the normal movement phase of their side’s game turn.

When counters appear in the playing area the number and type of units are declared and the wargames units are deployed.

Where counters meet outside the playing area dummy counters must be declared and immediately removed  from play. If after removing dummy counters one side has real units still in play and the other side does not, the type an number of real units does not have to be declared and the real units can resume their march.

If there are still two groups of real units facing each other both sides declare the type and number of units present. If one side outnumbers the other by three to one or greater, the smaller force is ruled swept aside and eliminated from the game. The larger force will  take a Miss a Turn result for the next turn and then move normally. If the difference is less than three to one, both forces are deemed to be engaged off table and will not arrive on the playing area.


Units are deployed on the wargames table from arrival points that are the termination points of approach paths. Unless otherwise specified in the game rules, units are deployed by marching onto the table from any point along the table edge within 300mm of the arrival point.  

An arriving unit will always try to march onto the table outside of an enemy unit’s charge range, or outside small arms range. If this is not possible they have the choice of taking the risk of marching on or marching away and to a different arrival point. 

•  If one side has a unit or units on the table unopposed for at least one turn, that unit or units may be deployed as far forward as the centre line of the table, but still no further than 300mm either side of the entry point.

• If one side has a unit or units on the table unopposed for at least one turn, that unit or units may be deployed as far forward as the centre line of the table,  but still no further than 300mm either side of the entry point and may have constructed hasty field fortifications.

•  All other units will march onto the table from the table edge.


I haven’t put a huge amount of thought into the rules, so there may be some gaps.


I think I will try this with the next game I set up. If anyone decides to try this, I would be interested in hearing the outcome.


  1. A wonderful idea that wraps a mini campaign around the tabletop game.

    1. It just seemed to be a simple mechanism for adding a bit of uncertainty to arrival times.

  2. I really like this idea. Would you consider allowing screening units such as light cavalry to move faster than 1d6? I was thinking of their ability to get to the enemy approach lanes and block.

    1. Yes indeed. Maybe light cavalry roll 2xd6. The beautiful thing is that a game organiser could introduce any number of house rules.

  3. One thing you could do Mark is have two maps, so the opposing sides do their approach marches out of sight of each other, so they wont know what the other side is doing at all - not a simple thing to do on a 2 hour Friday night game but on a whole day epic, it would work ok....?

    1. Yes you could do that or increase uncertainty by using more dummy counters. Imagine you have ten counters and four of them are dummies and you mass them against one flank. Does your opponent gamble that it is false and ignore it, or does he commit against it? It could be an option for a Tarawera game.

  4. An interesting and clever mechanism for off table maneuvers; I like it!

    1. Thanks Jonathan. I added a couple of paragraphs this morning to cover when units collide off table. I can't wait to try this - I can just imagine the howls of despair when someone who is waiting for reinforcements gets a "go back three spaces" result or the air punching elation when they get a "advance three spaces". It could introduce a new dimention to a game.

    2. I agree! I was thinking along those sames lines. Sounds like great fun to me!

  5. Very cool idea. Just found my way here following a recommendation by Caliban on his Somewhen blog.