Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Initial Thoughts

Milton Soong asked me on the Repique yahoo Site about what it is Zouave does. Well, first of all its a good game, which like any good game, has multiple strategies, many decisions, some luck, and fun processes. Zouave does all that, I think. But it is more than just a good game-it is, after all, a wargame.

Zouave may be played with any scale of figure, and any number of figures on a stand. There are a fixed number of stands in a combat unit-but even that can be adjusted as long as both armies are reasonably consistent with each other. the game was designed and tested using primarily 10mm. figures.

A wargame needs a distinct point of view and creative approach to its view of history. It also needs to focus on a theme, just as we find in many creative works whether paintings, literature, or film. The designer needs to state these as succinctly as possible in his designer notes. Like the old magician instructions ,“Tell ‘em what you’re going to do. Do it. Then tell them you have done it!”

Zouave’s theme is the role of upper levels of command in limiting the options of the formations below them on the hierarchy, and, conversely, the outcomes on the line of battle and how that limits the options of upper command. It is a symbiotic relationship which can lead to great victories or miserable defeats.

Zouave is like playing two different games simultaneously. There is the game of command whose units are officer command stands and who direct movements of Corps and Divisions over huge distances, and there is a game of combat, where the units are the typical units of wargames, the cavalry regiments, The infantry regiments, and the artillery battleries. These units are more limited in their movement, and as they lose cohesion-destroy the options of the commander game above. One can have great success at the command game, but find your units dissolve at the front and rob you of opportunity and capability to continue. You can be victorious at the point of contact with the enemy, but so badly led that your troops are incapable of doing anything with their “victory”, and find themselves outmaneuvered and outfoxed.

Zouave is about managing variables, not fixed “givens.” There are NO fixed aspects of Zouave, other than the historically based army structure and weaponry characteristics-none.

All movement in Zouave is variable-completely variable. A unit may go three feet down a road, or 2”. Zouave uses a new D12 movement system that is unique. The variability is potentially great, but in effect, becomes manageable if you plan on the typical, but war has a way of reminding us just how atypical “typical” can become. Movement into rough terrain can become a true adventure-but often an unwelcome one! This is most frustrating for the distant commander when we find that due to delay and incompetence units don’t move at all!

Combat is wickedly variable-with one of the most interactive combat procedures found in any wargame. There are some keen decisions to be made and the soul of a gambler serves a gamer well. Among other things you can fire whenever you want, and with certain limits, as often as you like. However, frivolous fire discipline will haunt you for a long time in this game. Judgement is required! It may be the first combat system where if you don’t like your opponents die roll, or your own-you can, sometimes, demand a re-roll! Multi-sided dice are used which greatly minimizes the need for tables and charts. Combat exists in several forms: harassing fire, effective fire, intense fire, and close combat. There is no figure removal.

You never know exactly when a unit will run, or rout, or how far-until they do, and rallying is another hard set of command decisions beset by conflicting demands and no sure result.

And , finally, when the game begins no one knows for sure his Army’s over all morale. Yes, you can have a pretty good estimate, but some real shock can come when “the cup is lifted”.

You can see that it may have great appeal to people who enjoy decision making, excitement, and big battles.

Today we talked about Dice in Zouave, tomorrow the cards. Yes, the game has cards! and pennies! and Cotton balls!