Tuesday, 27 August 2013

More thoughts on miniatures rules and the future

Yesterday´s post was about some favourite miniature rule sets, but later that night I also had a discussion about rule sets at the birthday of Michel with Hans and Ed.

Hans is working on a fantasy rule set (For Reign or Ruin, see him testing it here) and very interested in what happens before the battle and how that affects the battle. Delays in the arrival of troops or in their deployment would offer their enemies opportunities for pre-emptive attacks or send an battle plan into disarray. Pre-battle speeches could lift the hearts of the troops.

Ed is thinking not so much of a rule set, but more a scenario generator because he feels that in many rule sets there is no context to the battle and organising and above all keeping campaigns going is hard work.

Maurice, by Sam Mustafa
This made me think of Maurice, the 18th century European battles rule set by Sam Mustafa. It works with a card deck for special personalities, national characteristics and special events before and during the battle. Obviously, Maurice is in the direction of what Ed looks for, but not the final answer.

Another example of a new direction in wargaming is Dux Britanniarum, another Too Fat Lardies set about the struggle between Arthurian British and Anglo-Saxon invaders. The rules focus on the main characters in the war band as it raids or defends the frontier over several years. With rudimentary character generation like in an RPG and with opportunities to rise through the hierarchy and expand your force, the simple campaign rules offer a structure to each battle.

Dux Britanniarum by Too Fat Lardies
What I have noticed is, that as with other great games (like boardgames War of the Ring and Battlestar Galactica), immersion is so strong that the game generates and unprecedented literary effort as players write their battle reports as first-person stories in a long saga or even medieval ballads. I think that speak volumes of the appeal of this rule set.

What I like about the rules is that they are aimed on a small period of time (you know, just a century or two) and move away from the generic setting so common in ancient and medieval wargaming (why is there no rule set just for the Pelopponesian War?). The other side of the coin is that it offers only a relatively small sales volume at reasonably low costs for the designer.

I think there are opportunities for new products by combining card decks a la Maurice with limited ancients/medieval settings like Dux Britanniarum. The card sets build a mini campaign or act as a scenario builder, compatible with whatever rules people use to fight their battles. You could link it to new miniatures ranges, but I think there are also advantages in offering players new ways to use armies that they already have.

The upside is that creating a deck is not expensive. You can sell the decks themselves or offer them via print on demand services. It requires some research to include the kind of events and characters and the dynamics of a particular conflict or campaign. There are a lot of ancient and medieval wars and campaigns so this adds up.

A possible solution to that challenge is to provide a much larger set of cards that players can use to build decks for particular campaigns or wars themselves. It is a good way to engage players with the product.  If you allow them to publish their decks on a forum it will build a community or when they publish in magazines they advertise for you.

What do you think? Is this something you are looking for? Do you think it is viable?


  1. Sometimes I want a straight up battle while at other times I want something more with a meaning behind it and so far my needs are being met so I don't find myself wanting.

    The two set of rules you just mentioned have given me immense fun and really do immerse one in the period. I'm hoping Longstreet has the same effect.


    1. Hi Christopher,

      of course, horses for courses, and this is the kind of rules I'm drawn to. There will always be a group of players who wantto play competitively, but it's hard to say what the trends will be there.

      FoW made a big splash, but I can't immediately see what would be next. It's probably hard to predict because it involves an unstable cocktail of latent interest in a period and a ruleset that appeals at the same time that people are looking out for the Next Thing.

    2. Hmm I would say SAGA has made a very big splash and will likely be around for a long time. I personally don't care for it all that much as it feels more like a board game then a miniatures game and so I much prefer Dux B. However, I'm not saying I don't play SAGA which I do because like FOW it's easy to find somebody who does.;-)


    3. Although I like the army specific traits and the dice mechanics, the scenarios do not look as strong as in Muskets & Tomahawks. But I still have to play SAGA.

  2. Funny thing is, I like and own both sets! It depends on the mood and the time available.

    1. Hi JW,

      Of course, these two rulesets are only recent examples, there are more out there than I know of. But the question of mood rarely plays a part for me. I can't see myself switching between rulesets that easily as I don't have the time or inclination to learn that many

  3. Ideas are strange. We were following the discussions about Longstreet and last week I came up with the idea of buildable decks - basic game cards plus expansions - or miniatures meets CCGs or even deckbuilders. And here you are with the same concept. Yes, I think it could work in some form.

    The Dux B character system is not really new. There are definitely similar concepts in games dating after D&D. Squad Leader (1976?) had a leader development system from day one.

    There are lots of other rules with pre-battle sequences. Peter Pig's rules often have them (AK47 as one example), as do Realtime. I pretty much insist on them nowadays to give the game some spice, rather than context.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Great! That's how innovation works. A few developments are in the air and it shouldn't surprise that more than one person ties them together in the same way. The guys at TFL must have sensed that there was room for Dux Britanniarum.

      As you say, the character system is not really new. But what I found refreshing about Dux B is that it doesn't try to cover all warfare from the Dawn of Man to the Renaissance. This self restriction allows for more period specific rules and thus better 'feel' of the game.

      Imagine what could have happened if WRG had developed period specific variants of DBA? So not generic 'light cavalry' but Stradiots, Koursores or Reiter.

      And of course added a campaign system to reflect the periods as well.

    2. Maybe these things go in cycles - didn't Dungeons and Dragons start as a way of adding personality, character development and out of combat options for skirmish wargame Chainmail, and Traveller came likewise from personalising the crew from a sci fi ship to ship combat system. There's plenty of crossover between wargame and RPG possible - Jim Wallman's Starship Marine campaigns have worked like that.

    3. For it to be a cycle, you'd expect wargames to develop from RPGs. This may have happened, but I don't know enough about RPGs to know that. I haven't seen wargames that were advertised as developed from RPGs.

      As far as I know, role play and wargames have been separate roads of development for most of the time. That's why I like to see them come together.

      This is already happening a bit in boardgames, where some there are some examples of crossover, like Mansions of Madness and the new Pathfinder game (see my post of August 29th).

      This cross pollination has been very fruitful for euro and Ameritrash board games and wargames, so I hope it will do the same for wargames and RPGs.

  4. I'm very late to this post but it's so near and dear to my heart! I'm knee deep in Maurice and this system is so much fun that it dragged a bunch of us ancients players into the Age of Gentlemen. Tomorrow, 6 of us Maurice players will meet to try Longstreet for the 1st time. There's something in the card aspect that just makes Maurice AND DB shine. For me, the campaign games are the icing on the cake, giving us a "story" built with our individual games. I'm in a 2 player DB campaign too.

    I can't wait to try TFL CoC one day but my plate is full of Maurice, DB, Longtreet and a few games of FoG. These are the days!

    Lastly, I greatly enjoy your blog and I'll be following from here out.

    1. Hi Monty,

      thanks for the compliments. Much appreciated! I haven't had a chance to try Maurice, but the elements you mention are the ones that caught my attention.


I appreciate comments. Let me know what you think!