Sunday, 25 April 2010

Rules and dice

Something different this week; the role of rule sets and dice on our pastime. It is interesting when visiting shows or talking to fellow wargamers, to see how different gamers approach a project for a new wargaming period. For some, the initial impetus comes from seeing a new range of figures. The figures are purchased, painted and then a set of rules are sought to use with the new armies. In other cases, a display game is seen at a show. Conversations with the club/individuals putting on the display will usually revolve around the selection of figures and rule mechanisms.

One feature not covered tends to be the question of scale, ie are the rules for the equivalent of army, corps, division or brigade. Some rules tend to be used with large numbers of figures and therefore may not be suitable for someone who is starting in that period and therefore has only a few units. 'Shako' for instance works well with scenarios where there are 3 or 4 divisions, say 40 units or upwards, of 500 figures per army. The relative fragility of units means that scenarios for fewer than 10 units would be over fairly quickly. This is due in large part to the resolution of melees by a simple dice off. D6 are used and it is not unusual for a unit to be 'broken' (ie removed from play) in one round of melee.

Rule sets which use count casualties in figures, rather than strength points as in Shako would favour smaller scale actions and thus the gamer starting off in a new period, but I am sure that everyone can see the resulting problems. As your forces grow do you abandon the rules you are familiar with and learn a new set. If you do, can your current basing system translate into the new set? If you carry on with your existing rules are they as satisfactory with more figures and units. Do your games tend to end inconclusively as the end of your wargaming session draws nigh? Who amongst us has not had plans to fight the 'signature' historical battle, Zama, Agincourt, Nordlingen, Blenheim, Leuthen, etc. To do any of them justice large numbers of figures are needed and also a relatively 'fast play' set of rules.

Then of course there are those 'devil's toys' dice. Some rule sets use buckets of the things, others only a few. One of the interesting side issues is, does using more dice to resolve a firefight ot melee produce a 'better' result. I have already mentioned the single die role used in Shako. In a recent Warhammer ECW battle a cavalry melee was taking place where one side had 8 d6 and the other 6 d6. Both sides had a 50% chance of inflicting a hit and a 50% chance of those hits being translated into a potential casualty. The opponent then had a 50% chance of 'saving' the figure. On average (oh, how I wish I could achieve average results !) those 8 men should have been able to remove one enemy per round. In fact, on one occasion their 8 die achieved 8 hits, but inflicted no losses. To achieve a result using the Warhammer rules took 6 rounds of melee, ie 3 full turns. Now the whole battle lasted only 8 turns. Was that realistic? Would using different dice (average, d8 or d10) have made a difference. Using d10s does increase the range of scores but does it materially effect the outcome? Our latest battle was set in the Sudan using Sword and the Flame . This again uses lots of dice and has a relatively small number of units.

Is this something we should look for when assessing rulesets, after all a set of rules can set you back a significant amount of cash.
Fewer units, more dice,

More units, fewer dice,

I would be interested in your comments.

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