Monday 15 September 2014

Wargames Rules

I have always written my own wargames rules. This started way back in the early days of my obsession and was forged by necessity. You see my first set of wargames rules was "Charge! or How to Play Wargames" by Brigadier Young and Colonel Lawford and the problem was that those rules were for the Seven Years War, but my interest was in American Civil War, so adaption was the necessity.

I did use some commercial rules back in the early 1980s - mainly the WRG Horse and Musket rules - so that I would have some opponents in club games. But ever since my involvement in club gaming diminished in the mid-1980s, self-written rules have been the norm.

Like all sets of rules mine are pieced from many sources and ideas, but nearly always they can trace their roots back to the days of Featherstone, Grant, Young or Gilder. My rules concepts have pretty much settled now and involve a couple of key modules that can be modified to suit the period. I have used a version of the activation table that has a faint similarity to the original Fire and Fury, I have used a hit and save method for all types of combat - both firing and close combat - and a very simple army morale.

Anyone who has ever gamed with me will probably tell you that my ideas change like the weather, which is probably true, because I am rarely satisfied with the way things work out. But then again my rules are not for publication.

I make my living in the aviation publishing sector and have realised that certain key elements in this medium can be applied to wargames rules. In aviation we use two publications to fly airplanes. One is the operating manual, that contains all of the normal procedures together with descriptions of all the aircraft systems. The other is the Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) that contains all the non-normal procedures. Pilots rarely use the operations manual in flight but nearly always use the QRH because it contains everything they need to know for general operations in one place as a series of checklists.

So I have applied this QRH concept to my rules. For most periods of play I operate eight standard checklists The checklists are:

• Initiative
• Leaders
• Activation
• Movement
• Firing
• Close Combat
• Leader Casualties 
• Army Morale.

By following the logic of the checklists, the player is led easily through the game turn, providing all of the basic information required. These two examples from the Crimean War QRH are the checklists for activation and firing.

I have found that with a few minor tweaks the rules can easily be adapted for almost any period of play between the English Civil War the Franco-Prussian War. With even greater adaption they can be used for 20th Century gaming, and we have successfully used then for WWI and Russo-Japanese War.


  1. I really like the way these are set out in a scientific manner. Most rules are really hard to find your way round. Yours seem to use technical writing skills to ensure you have the right info in the right place at the right time. I'd be interested in seeing these in more detail ... Cheers, Roly (Arteis)

    1. Thanks Roly. I agree that the logic flow approach seems to work well. You can make sure that every step is completed in the right order. It works really well in our group where we play a broad range of periods and always multi player games. It means that it is less work for the umpire because if the logic is correct, it is pretty difficult for the player to get it wrong.