Monday, 26 August 2013

The best miniature wargame rules (according to a non-representative selection of wargamers)

A couple of weeks ago I met Jasper and Jan-Willem and we discussed our favourite and not-so favourite miniature rule sets. This set me thinking.

G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. by Buck Surdu and 
De Bellis Multitudinis by Wargames Research Group

Jan-Willems favourite ruleset is G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. It is straightforward and fast. The game allows for storytelling and is easily adaptable for different settings, something Jan-Willem has done for several participation games.

But he really dislikes De Bellis Multitudinis, often known as DBM. It was a totally regressive development of the ancients ruleset De Bellis Antiquitatis, which was quite innovative. It introduced the now widely accepted PIPs and defined only a dozen troop types based on their role on the battlefield, assuming that weaponry and armour were less important. DBM however, recomplicated the game and reintroduced differences in armour etc, thus negating much that was good about DBA. It also did so in an excruciatingly bad writing style but most of all it was a bad ruleset and no fun.

Note; also check out the excellent fantasy rules Hordes of the Things, which keeps the spirit of DBA and in my humble opinion, makes it even better!

Black Powder by Warlord Games

The newish Black Powder ruleset is Jasper´s favourite. It fast and simple. Rather than focussed on tournament battles it aims at scenarios. Jasper likes that it works well as a toolbox for more specific supplements, thus reflecting the character of the period.

 Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign by Real Time Wargames 

My favourite is Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The rules for battles are really simple but try to reflect the main elements of American Civil War combat. But the brilliance of this set is the campaign system in which all players are Union commanders fighting againt the brilliant Jackson. In fact their main objective is not to win battles but to gain the most political capital out of the campaign which can be done by sending off troops to other armies, politicking in Washington and and avoiding being attacked by Jackson. Just reading the rules brings a smile to your face.

Bag the Hun and Algernon Pulls it Off by Too Fat Lardies

Another favourite ruleset of mine is Bag the Hun / Algernon Pulls It Off, Too Fat Lardies' WW2 and WW1 Staffel level air combat rules. Lots of focus on experience of pilots, maneouvres and formations, not so much on the technical aspects of the planes. As you play with named pilots, seeing them shot down doesn't feel well. Too bad they added more rules in later editions.

Muskets & Tomahawks by Studio Tomahawk

Jasper and I are also impressed with Muskets & Tomahawks. These are 18th century skirmish rules for North America with the emphasis on scenarios and storytelling. The rules are fast and simple (yes, you're spotting a pattern here).

We all agreed that we liked rule sets which paid more attention to the game and historical feel than historical detail and complexity. Easy to pick up and hard to master, but more importantly: fun and with room for story. There are of course people with other preferences, like tournament players and historical buffs who would probably come up with other favourites.

So what are your favourites?  And why? Did we miss something? Or do you think these rules actually suck?


  1. Only 1 set of rules I have tried in that list but I did enjoy them. But given the number of rules on the market it would be hard to try them all. But at least I have a few more to look at and wonder about.

    1. Hi Clint,

      just curious which set you tried and liked.

    2. Sorry for the delay it has been one of THOSE weeks! The set I tried were Black powder and I must say I was prejudiced against them because hard back glossy rules tend to be full of bumph and more about making money that creating a good game. I was wrong they did play a good game.

      I have just picked up Gaslight from eBay but I can't see myself playing them because I have a lot of other choices for skirmish games and there just seems to be something that does not grab me with them.

    3. Good to hear you say positive things about Bolt Action. I might be trying them out next month.

      By the way, we were just wondering elsewhere wether this is your blog

    4. Yep "Anything but a one" is me! There are not too many Clint's in the wargames world.

      Not tried "Bolt Action" So hope you are meaning "Black Powder"
      Again sorry for the delay, I just check blogs occasionally, unless I know to expect a prompt reply!

      All the best Clint

    5. Next time I expect a prompt reply, I'll send you a subpoena ;-)

  2. Fine post, Jur! Sets of wargames rules are very personal things. I've played a lot over the years, but my Holy Grail are the set of rules which (i) have simple mechanics; (ii) can be tweaked and expanded easily, as a "toolbox", to fit a specific action, or a time and a place; and (iii) are enjoyable to read and re-read in their own right - particularly where they give additional background information.

    These requirements seem similar to yours. Perhaps for this reason I also liked, in no particular order: "DBA" (which were revolutionary when they came out), "1644" (which has a wonderful campaign system), "Charlie Don't Surf" and "Koenig Kreig" (which had a number of very clever, simple rules which helped re-create mid-18th century warfare).

    I didn't enjoy "DBM" or "DBR", "Tercio", WRG 6th Edition Ancients or WRG 2nd Edition Renaissance (oh, the wasted hours tweaking army lists for those last two rulesets!!)

    But thanks for introducing me to "Real Time Wargames" - they look really interesting and I can't believe I've not come across them before. I'm going to have a look through the site and get a copy as I love my games to be set in a campaign context - however large or small that campaign is.

    Thanks again!

    1. Oh yes, 1644! Got that somewhere in a stack as well. Never played but liked the campaign system.

      Charlie don´t Surf gets play at my club but I´m not into Vietnam War in miniatures (too much already). Koenig Krieg is one I will have to check out, then

  3. New follower, like the blog. I agree with your assessment of DBM, not a good system. I have probably played 1000 games of DBA/HoTT; great fun.
    My favorites are Volley and Bayonet; this is a very innovative, simple, yet elegant system for playing large Horse and Musket games. You can play all three days of Gettysburg or all of Borodino in eight hours. A second favorite is Command Decision; Test of Battle. These are not quite so simple, but once learned can be very enjoyable. Movement is large in both V&B and CD. You can have a reserve and commit it at the right time in both.
    I also very much like Red Actions by the Perfect Captain for the Russian Civil War. These are free on the internet, but are very good.
    I run games that are based on an historical battle with 2-5 players per side. In a game that size, whether you encourage role playing or not, it happens.

    1. HI Mike,

      Welcome! Good to see you have found your way here.

      You are right that in multiplayer games, a bit of rolepaying always happens. That's why I like big battles and megagames. Would you argue that inserting story elements into a game is only or most necessary in two player games?

      Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, I like V&B a lot as well. They have managed to do away with a lot of the fiddly stuff of Napoleonic warfare by abstracting the tactical level.

      I have no experience with CD myself because I never got into WWII and modern warfare. My psychiatrist might have something to say about that

      I'll check out the RCW set. Free is not a bad thing. Jim Wallman's stuff is free, and I like it better than many glossy rules.


I appreciate comments. Let me know what you think!