Wargame Thoughts and Commentary
2010

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part IV

I have previously given my opinion on “Army Lists”-which is, to say the least, critical of such “shortcuts.” Mostly I disagree with the “Codex” approach to historical gaming, and strongly believe that games should inspire and require some historical reading on the part of gamers. The history is, after all, the primary distinction between fantasy games and the historical wargaming hobby. Historical gamers should be proud of this distinction and reinforce it. After all, their roots in wargaming go back to Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and Verdy du Vernois; not to a bunch of entrepreneurs in Nottingham.

If all a game does is provide handy little recipes, where you just add water, it adds very little to the gamer’s knowledge of a period and makes any judgement about the game strictly one of gamesmanship and little or no understanding as to whether it makes any meaningful statements about warfare in the period. At the most absurd end of the scale you get the “Three Flaming Pigs” gaming lists. Many other rules sets succumb to the temptation to require nothing of a gamer but the ability to count to twelve.

I have always chosen otherwise. Surely, a designer needs to provide suggestions and information on the armies and tactics of a period, and provide links, forums support, and suggested sources where a gamer can build a knowledge of a period. A designer needs to explain his premises, and do what he can to make the mechanics of a game clear, and indicate how they dovetail into the historical reality of a period. I see Army Lists as doing none of that, and, indeed, warp the history, and make it less relevant.

Now, if you play fantasy-great-you need lists, as there is no history. But, if you play historical games, I suggest you need something more.

That is why in Zouave, I wrote the ten page addenda for each of the three wars covered by the rules that provided typical historical constructs for the armies, and descriptions of the weaponry. It discussed the issues of command, suggested some historically realistic alternative history, and even suggested some “Unique Events.” that were rooted in the history of the period. Most of all it suggested a bibliography where a gamer could learn more about the period, which would allow him to create new elements to the game and create scenarios that had some connection to the historical record.

In short, it demands a little effort and work-some investment of intellectual capital by the gamer into the play of the game. It provides him with the skills to be a fisherman, and not just hand him some frozen fish!

So it will be with Die Fighting. Each period covered from 1700-1900 will have a “Template” (a term I actually like better than addenda-it will be changed in Zouave II) and this template will group a pair of wars. The template will provide a period specific Free Dice Table, ratings tables along with a Command Divisor number, a number of period specific rules, or rule changes, and a bibliography of easily accessible resources, mostly books, but including other media, that the gamer can use to further ground himself in a period. In essence, a gamer will receive eight different rule sets in one, with more to come on the Forum site.

The included templates are: Linear Warfare, covering the War of Spanish Succession and the Wars of Frederick (1704-1769); The Wars of Revolution (Covering the American Revolution, and The French Revolution (1775-1800); The Napoleonic Wars-divided into Early Napoleonic (1801-1809) and Late Napoleonic (1810-1815); The Wars of Transition-covering the American Civil War, The Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco Prussian War (1861-1871). An Internet posting covering Colonials will soon follow.

None of them will provide an Army List. You should consider buying books-good books-not derivative lists! Dennis at On Military Matters will be happy to oblige!

Here I stand, I can do no other! Happy

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part III

Die Fighting, unlike Piquet and Zouave, does not use cards-although that is an option. It does not use various polyhedron dice-but just the simple D6, long known to wargame buffs as THE die. It does not use a Combat Results Table or “Hit” table-just simple counter-rolls. It does this by using three different color dice in play.

The Resource Dice-as described in part one of this series, are the life’s blood of the army. Every action of movement, combat, rallying, or engineering uses these dice-they may only be used once and then are gone. The army without resource dice can do nothing and has lost the game. No equivocating at the pub-you lost!

There are two other die types, “Free” Dice, and Leadership Dice, usually distinguished by color-green for Free dice, and yellow/gold for leadership dice. The Free dice are never used up and are awarded for situational advantages in movement and combat-they may augment the resource dice rolls. Likewise the Leadership dice may also augment the rolls-in movement, combat, and rallies, but they are used up within the turn, but fully restored on the next turn. It is the skillful use of the three dice types in unison that an army succeeds, or, if done wastefully, or poorly coordinated, the army will fail. Nothing comes free in Die Fighting, and hard choices must be made.

Most of these dice are used in simple counter-rolls, additive rolls, or unique effects from doubles or triples being thrown. Simple, quick, and decisive, describes the movement and combat.

There is one theme throughout Die Fighting that recurs in many different forms-called The Rule of Six. If there is some outcome of movement, combat, rallying, or command that one wishes to know-you can bet that the number six is involved! It forms an excellent way to pull all the facets of Die Fighting together, and provides an excellent memory aid for gamers new to the rules. If there is a question-it’s likely six is the answer in some form or interpretation. The factor at issue is going to be rolling a six, moving six inches, subtracting six inches from a move, or retreating six inches before disaster strikes. It is even used when some situation occurs that the rules don’t fully cover (It can happen!) as a means of adjudicating a reasonably fair outcome.

Part IV will talk about the use of period templates to insure that each period within Die Fighting’s 200 years scope is handled in a way that provides an historically accurate and period -rich gaming experience.

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part II

One of my strongest interests in game design has been turn sequencing and phasing, or the order and procedures for taking actions in a wargame. This is primarily because it occurred to me very early on in designing wargames that the key to design isn’t some “Distance=Time X Rate” equation with great emphasis on the rate of march and other nonsense, nor was it, given the paucity of usable data, getting the percentages of hits from fire exactly right. It was how TIME is handled in the game play. Many designers thought that by quantifying the time that activities were thought to take, and then allowing that many actions in a turn would be the answer. George Jeffries was one such designer. Most people that tried this idea as he proposed it found that the paperwork, and the almost impossible synchronization problems made the design unplayable. Others simply locked into a fixed turn sequence that made time so predictable that all parties could plainly predict and foresee what was going to happen next. Time became a caged animal, when we all know from our experiences in life it is a wild beast whose next event is difficult to count upon.

My first attempt at capturing this was the “Denver Bounce” in Le Jeu de Le Guerre in 1972. This simply said you could keep the initiative in a turn as long as you could effect the enemy. When you couldn’t fire upon enemy units or contact them initiative went to the other side. It was a neat idea that several people found fun and different. A variation on this was found in Rebel Yell! in the early 1990s, which also tried to graft role-playing elements on to the tactical wargame. It was a design I never was entirely happy with though certain elements of that design-especially in morale, made its way into Piquet.

The big breakthrough was the design of Piquet that literally cut up the turn sequence and placed it on a series of cards which made up decks that could be quite different for either army. To this was added the wide variation of impetus provided by counter-rolled D20s. It was a great concept that provided for complete unpredictability of next events, no foreknowledge of who would move next or how active he could be, and allowed an excellent way to model an army of any given period or nationality. My later design, Zouave, used a heavily modified variation that actually created two decks within each army-one for command issues and the other for tactical movements and combat. This allowed some great modeling of command, quite apart from modeling regimental tactical skills.

Die Fighting is a completely different animal. Most of its mechanisms are quite different from Piquet, or any other design for that matter. Certainly, using the expenditure of dice as a unified measure of morale, command energy, and combat effects is original as I described in Part I, but the thing which also sets it apart is the turn sequencing.

A turn is made up of six phases (the number six is a recurring theme in the rules) and there are three major ways to sequence the phases. Each phase is a segment of a normal turn ranging from infantry actions to officer movement. The phases may be sequenced in a Fixed Synchronous manner, where the phases on every turn run from 1 to 6 just as many “Old Line” designs, and each army executes the phases in the same order with only an initiative roll determining which side does the phase actions first. Other than a clever exception which reverses the order of the phases on a turn for both armies, or where a phase is completely skipped over, the play is very much in the move - countermove mould of many classic wargames.

But Die Fighting offers other options! Gamers can opt for a Fixed Asynchronous sequencing of phases where each side starts and ends at a different point in the phase order, but they still perform phases concurrently - so one side may be moving infantry, while the other is moving cavalry! Again, there are exceptions that allow for reverse sequencing for either or both, and missed phases.

But there is more! Another set of phasing options is Variable Asynchronous sequencing which employs cards that allow each commander to select which phase he wishes to perform and, depending on his command skill, select the order at will, or have to lay down cards that commit him to 2 or 3 or more phases in a sequence.

Finally, the six cards may be shuffled and cards revealed randomly a la Piquet-though much simpler and cleaner in function. This allows for excellent solo play, or a way to model a particularly inept commander!

Obviously some phasing methods are better tailored to certain periods, or a specific theater of operations, so Fixed Synchronous fits Marlborough’s Wars, but Variable Asynchronous fits the French and Indian or later 19th century wars better. But the real cherry on top of the sundae is that the sequence methods can be DIFFERENT for the two armies! That’s right, Braddock’s forces may be using a Fixed Synchronous method, but his French and Indian enemies out in the woods are using a Variable Synchronous sequence! Even more interesting is the thought of the sequencing CHANGING from one turn to the next for an army depending on the tactical situation! There are many different sequencing options that the gamers can agree to use in playing Die Fighting-no other design is so flexible.

The end result is that the variety of turn phasing in Die Fighting is a tremendous tool for modeling command quality, period tactical flexibility, army quality, and adds tremendously to the drama and suspense of the game play. The Die Fighting gamer has the ability to control and experiment with the flow of time as in no other game.

Next segment- The three types of D6s and The Rule of Six!

The Mechanics of Die Fighting, Part I

Die Fighting began its development journey last May at a French restaurant here in Denver called Le Central. Timm Meyers and I were having a wonderful lunch when he told me of an idea he had about a wargame designed around the idea of expendable dice. His concept was a game on a very large strategic scale set in WWII in where each side would get a bucket of dice for movement and combat, but each die could be used only once, and then are discarded from play. When you use up all of your dice you can’t move or combat the enemy and you have lost the game. I found the idea very interesting, though my interests soon took me in a new direction with the basic concept.

I had finished Zouave,which was a great exercise for me in trying to capture elements of grand tactical decision making. The game was selling very well (and is now sold out!), but Repique needed additional products to sell and an obvious choice was a campaign game. So I began developing a Campaign system that incorporated Timm’s initial concept, but I didn’t get too far before I realized that it would be better to take the idea to the tactical level and work out all of the vagaries in that more controllable and familiar environment, and then use the lessons learned from that process to design the Strategic/campaign rules.

Even better, a “Classic” tactical level game would augment Zouave and, yet, not compete with it, and the campaign rules could then be designed to serve BOTH Die Fighting! and Zouave. I adopted that plan.

So began the design of the Die Fighting tactical rules for the Horse and Musket period from 1700-1900.

Die Fighting has been one of the most rewarding of my design projects. First, the rules are fun! Second, it brought me into contact with a group of wargamers in England, who, under the leadership of Tony Hawkins, have provided invaluable feedback and advice. Two Sheds, Watson, Grizzly, Mr. Ben, Clint, Moon Unit, and other Kett’s Men are a resource that few wargame designers have available.

Of course, the Denver Play test group, Jim Getz, and Pat McGuire have been equally important to Die Fighting’s development.

The key to Die Fighting is the use of typical six-sided dice in three distinct ways; as resource dice that a unit uses to move, fire, melee, and all other battle actions and are used up as the game progresses; as leadership dice that can selectively be used to aid units in their activities, which are also used up, but are restorable during play; and as “Free” dice, which are awarded for situations, positioning, quality, and other transient situational factors. Free dice are limitless, never used up, and are earned by the player’s decisions.

The resource dice are the key to the game, as when they have run out, an army has lost the battle. The comparison of the two army’s final die totals also give a measurable and certain determination of the degree of victory. It provides a unique and exciting game, but also one where statistics, wagers, and “scores” may be kept.

It has taken many months to hone the exact values and balance that makes Die Fighting such a compelling game, and one that demands expansion and add-ons! The final stages of development are drawing to a close and I intend to post several blog entries on the many aspects of the rules and their mechanics. One thing I wish to be clear right from the beginning is that you don’t need to actually have hundreds of dice, as several alternatives are given in the rules. I should also state, however, is many gamers will want to have lots of dice-nothing like hearing the clatter of used enemy dice being thrown in the discard bucket!

Next Time-The qualities of the dice, and many different ways the turn may be phased!

No Remounting Required!

If there is a more onerous chore in all of wargaming than remounting an army, I cannot think what it might be. A good firend of mine commented that he’s done it three times for his Napoleonic armies, and remounting over a thousand figures often took him months of work. With the average half-life of 90% of the wargame rules out there being about five years, you’d better be VERY sure that you like a set of rules before making this commitment!

What has always struck me is how completely unnecessary remounting should be in this hobby. It results from one of the continuing bad ideas in design and false perception of many gamers. That idea is that organization structures and minor tactics below the batllaion level ever really mattered in the 18th and 19th century. This sort of thinking probably originated for many people with Fred Vietmeyer’s old “Column, Line, and Square” Rules which carefully denoted the variances in number of companies and used an idealized muster for each company. It became very important to reflect these lower level organizations down to a single figure. Of course, these musters varied from army to army, and were, in themselves, idealized “averages”.

But the idea caught on, mostly, I believe, because it allowed some wargamers the pedantic joy of quibbling about the various relative company structures of all armies. That and the arcane arguments about various unit frontages splitting measurements down to the last meter of ground are caviar to quasi-scholars. What was never really proven is that it made a shred of difference in a battles outcome! It did mean that as the figure ratios changed by the scope of the game design, or the scale of the figures, each set of rules would represent these company/ stands in a slightly different manner-both in the size of the stand and the number of figures on it, and also insist that if you were going to play the game-you HAD to remount your figures to suit.

How much simpler it is to simply state that X number of stands are a unit, and use that abstracted “unit” to represent , say 500-700 men-roughly a battalion( or a regiment or a division-depending on the game’s design level and ground scale) and move on!

Now most game designs are heading that way and deliberately abstracting the company and battalion structures-simply to allow gamers to try a set of rules without going through the laborious chore of remounting. Even better, the designers seem to be moving away from the misleading and meaningless insistence on all manner of minor drill and the value of drill regulations as an integral-or even accurate and meaningful-representation of battle. Maybe there is progress in wargaming, rather than repetitious circular reasoning by people that are simply reinventing the wheel every 10-20 years!

Never remount-except for aesthetic reasons; Never play rules that insist you do! Call that Jones’ First law of War games.

Break Through Designs

I’ve been in wargaming for over 45 years, and in that time I’ve played many boardgames and table top miniature games in all periods, though mostly historical. During that time, I’ve seen hundreds of games played, and read dozens of commercial wargame rules. Just as in everything in life, most of these games have been unremarkable in their design, derivative in their mechanics, and often downright copies (and totally uncredited) of other designs.

But every once in a while a truly innovative and unusual design comes along. It often changes the paradigm for games, and offers new challenges and insights into both the history of battles, but also in the way it is portrayed in the artifice we call a wargame.

In my mind, a few stand out over the years; Cosmic Encounter by Eon that first introduced the game with different rules for each player, Quebec 1759 that introduced the “Block” game, Ace of Aces that wonderful little flip-book design of WWI combat, and Avalon Hill’s Up Front! Card game, as well as Richard Borg’s Battle Cry and its derivatives, all stand out in the board game arena.

In historical gaming, one looks to Empire as the first “Big” wargame, boxed and more comprehensive that any that preceded it. It set the physical form for many games that followed. I think my own Piquet was, and is, a new and inspiring design that led to many supplements covering all of military history as well as FOB and Zouave. It opened the tabletop game to the unique use of the sequence deck. Certainly Fire and Fury’s treatment of large divisional battles is another memorable design that has also led to many derivative rule sets in other periods, both earlier and later than F&F’s Civil War focus. The skirmish approach of Crossfire is, to this day, a real testament to creative design.

The telling characteristic of all of these designs is originality of mechanics, fun and enjoyment by the players, and unique insights into combat and the how and why of armed conflict. They were all originals, fresh ideas, quite apart from the ”norm” of their day. Several invoked controversy and strong reactions. All were financially successful for the publisher.

But the most telling impact was on the designs that followed. In a sense, all of these unique designs were offered that most sincere of compliments-being copied in part or whole by later game designs. In some cases the lineage was openly recognized, but all too often attribution of ideas, and honest accreditation were woefully absent.

It is a curious quirk of wargaming that its history is so sketchy and full of myth and low on fact. If ever a hobby was in need of a scholarly history it’s wargaming. Because it is lacking, we have unchallenged regional biases as to that history: great designers, such as the man who designed that fine WWI air game, Sopwith, who go largely unknown and uncredited, and many a bad design whose sole attribute seems to be a large number of people that play it. Rule critiques often not only lack any historical perspective, but any intellectual rigor, honesty, and, more than is openly admitted, are rife with self-interest and undisclosed relationships.

So, we muddle on in a sea of banality and “latest” fads in rules. Thank heavens for that occasional break-through wargame, that illustrates everything that is missing in wargame design, comes along and, against all odds, injects new life into the hobby of wargaming.

The Zouave Skype Podcast (#4)

Here is the latest edition (4th) of the Zouave Skype Podcast. This session covers some Zouave questions, and an extensive preview of the latest game in development from Repique-Die Fighting.

Die fighting is a tactical horse and musket rules set that introduces some very different and fun mechanics. It is playtest and at two locations here in the US. The planned publication is in December, 2010.

Other subjects include eReaders and Piquet/Die Fighting development comparisons.

The session runs 31:30. Enjoy!

(Click on the podcast link)


Podcast

Boomers and Post-Millennials Unite!

I was just reading over on the Piquet site that Eric Burgess, one of the early Piqueteers, and the long time leader of the Charlotte Garrison wargames group was disbanding the group due to lack of attendance at many of the scheduled games. Now Eric organizes and produces games and campaigns of the highest order. Each game has plentiful figures, spectacular terrain, and a well thought out scenario. He has been doing this for may years and recently commented that he has hosted over 600 games in the last 20 years!

But, it appears that family obligations and work are taking their toll on regular participation in his games by many of the Charlotte Garrison’s players and he is going to concentrate on one on one gaming and small games in the immediate future. A sad coda to a wonderful group of gamers.

But in thinking about this event it came to me that there is something positive to be garnered from it.

All of us remember our early years in wargaming, usually starting in the high school and college, when we would play games for an entire weekend, and campaigns would be played that stretched over months with games every week, some extending until midnight or later! We were either not married, or only had very young children. Our jobs were at the beginning of careers, the demands of the work were narrower, and less demanding of our time “away from the job.” All of this was to change, of course, as children grew up, the job became more rewarding, and required far more than just eight hours of our time.

The mid-life pressures on a person make his “free” time diminish and, in some cases, disappear. Priorities must be set and who can fault those that choose their families and their livelihood over other uses of their time?

But life moves on, and those children grow up and leave to lead their own lives and create their own families, and the day comes when you hang up the spikes on the career you spend 40 or more years pursuing. There you are, still vital, still full of creativity, and with wide ranging interests and experiences. You have more time than you have had in years to do what you want to do, not what the corporation needs done. You generally have a few rooms in the house that are suddenly available as the kids leave for their own adventures. You, hopefully, have the time and money for hobbies and great tech gear. You remember the fun of those early wargame years, and now you have nothing to stop you from getting going again! The good news is that many of your former wargame opponents are in the same place in life.

Now there will be fewer games lasting until midnight, but there’s nothing to stop you from playing any day of the week-all day on the weekends, and if you want to do some travel based on your historical interests-there is nothing but your own planning to stop you!

We have heard for years about the graying of the hobby as if it were some doom, but, in a very real sense, it may be the wargame hobby’s salvation!

It also sets up a strange alliance of the High School/College players and the Retirement Players as the core of the hobby. The young can bring their energy and enthusiasm-and a lot of tech savvy to the hobby and the gray hairs bring their extensive reading, experience, and a life-time of skills to the gaming table. They BOTH have the time to devote that the 30-60 crowd finds in short supply. It is a funny sense is the mirroring of the social relationships that occur in many families, especially in Europe, where the grandparents and the young find a lot of mutual rewards in time spent together.

So, Eric, you and your Charlotte Gamers group are really only taking a break in your wargaming pursuits, and are actually moving toward a return to the golden days you remember so well of your younger days. Keep the figures dusted, mull occasionally the grandiose plans for the big campaign, or that new set of rules you always wanted to write, and know that a few years from now the group will be ready to assemble again!

The Soul of a Game

The last 10 days has been a blur of writing on my new ruleset-Die Fighting! The words have literally jumped unto the page, and though they will undoubtedly be adjusted, tweaked, and modified by the play tests, it has surprised me more than anyone at how quickly this has come together. The core ideas for Piquet were very quickly captured on paper, but not as fast as Die Fighting! has leapt to mind.

Why are some rules months or years in their creation, and others just “happen?”

As with many things, I have a theory.

It all is driven by the key central concept of a set of rules. If that concept is clever, is a good game mechanic, and delivers a new game experience-great! But if that concept also, unifies, integrates, and forms a basis for all the other peripheral rules-it becomes a creative force and its own editor.

It edits the rest of the rule structure because the many ideas that occur to the designer either fit, or don’t fit the central concept. It makes decisions on where to take a set of rules easy!

The whole development of Piquet in terms of supplements, how adjustments were made by period, even down to the titles of every supplement were laid out from the very beginning as anyone can see by simply looking at the fly page. That concept of transferring the game sequence to the random fall of cards, and powering it with widely variable impetus, immediately allowed the complete rule structure to be fleshed out very quickly. Some of the supplements, such as Cartouche and Band of Brothers were written in their basic forms over a holiday vacation.

Surely, other people could come along and tweak, as well as adding new creative ideas and directions to those core rules, but the rules had a central idea and internal consistency-with all the game mechanics very integrated with each other.

Zouave, which I am very proud of, is very different. It was more of an aggregated rule set. There was a central idea of splitting the command and Action, but making them dependent on each other, that drove the rule writing, but Zouave was more like designing two games that played simultaneously on the same table! This was a VERY demanding design to make work. It is a very demanding design to play well.

Many people, without the prompting of a fixed sequence, or cards that literally tell you, as Piquet does, “This is what you’re going to Move now!” may find themselves not setting priorities, or seeing the big picture-especially when new to the game. Zouave uses many of the ideas of Piquet but takes away the organizing structure provided by the unit delimited cards. Just as Piquet took away the surety of the fixed turn, so Zouave takes away the decision-making crutch that demands that the gamer consider his infantry, or cavalry to the exclusion of all else.

Getting the correct interaction in Zouave was very difficult. I also think Zouave gets better, like a good wine, with time and play. It is also very focused on the mid-19th century, and is not intended to expand much further that the period 1840-1895. Both designs are about decision making-more than just combat resolution where most rules tend to concentrate most of their action.

Die Fighting! brings back a more structured phased turn-with a twist. It also puts immediate pressure on the gamer to achieve his goals since his ability to take actions and command his troops diminishes as the battle goes on. It uses NO cards-none. I guess you could say it is a “Dice Driven” game design. It is incredibly simple to play-all you have to do is count to 4 and add dice totals. But it is wicked mean.

It is also a design that could very easily be adapted to Tournaments and (Heaven Forbid!) WAGERING (Among friends, of course)! Actual firm, comparative scores may be kept! It is historical, covering the period 1700-1900, but the mechanisms could easily be adapted to SF or fantasy. It can be learned in 10 minutes, but will demand some really astute decision making and prioritizing.

It is very much in the tradition of Charge! and Featherstone, but is a very demanding game to play and has a sure winner. No arguing later at the pub or bar about who “would have” won, or quibbling about the degree of victory. It will have a score as firm as baseball. In fact, stats may be kept!

But best of all, it is almost writing itself! I suspect the ghosts of Stevenson and Wells are lurking about, and maybe the Cincinnati Kid!

The Soul of Die Fighting!

"Forward to the Past"

This last month has been a lost month in terms of my writing, and rule publishing. A combination of extensive renovations at the house that went on for several weeks, and now a visit from my daughter, who lives in Europe, has thrown my schedule of writing, gaming, and blogging into a cocked hat.

However, it has not been entirely unfruitful. During the month I developed the campaign rules further, and got inspired with the single best game design mechanic I’ve had since I designed Piquet back in the 90s! The rules are just spilling on to the page the idea is so good!

The new design’s goals are very different from Zoauve, which was designed primarily with 10s and 15s in mind, was concentrated on a single period, and was aimed at replicating some of the characteristics of the big battles and their command issues. The new concept, which is being developed under the title, “Die Fighting” is the flip-side of Zouave’s goals. Die Fighting is aimed at the old” classic” wargame style with 28mm and larger-maybe even 40s and 54s! It is very much a battalion level tactical action design. In breaking with past designs, it uses NO cards. It only uses D6s for all of its mechanics-and, yet, it is very unique in how all these mechanics are tied together. It promises to be a great game design and will, in its earliest release cover the period 1700-1900 with specific information for each major period included in the rules. There will be NO addenda or supplements. All of this and the rules will not exceed 35 pages including all period information!

Die Fighting is very much in the Charge!, Shambattle, Wells, Featherstone tradition and will be throughly tested both in the US and in England prior to publication. Price remains to be set, but I hope to make it very affordable. It will be initially available in a numbered and signed 300 copy edition. I hope to have it all complete and up for sale for the Christmas season.

This will NOT delay (any further) several other projects including the 1866 addenda, 1859 addenda, and the Zouave Campaign rules.. Now that the family and renovation pressures are off, I intend to go into overdrive on all of these projects and get them done as rapidly as possible. The two addenda will be offered on-line at the forum for no charge.

The Zouave Campaign Rules will be developed concurrently with Die Fighting-as they share a few new mechanisms, but will probably appear after the Zouave second edition and Die Fighting. These campaign rules will be usable, by the way, with ANY wargame rule set.

Die Fighting is a real return to my wargaming roots, and I must thank Mike Siggins for putting me on to Phil Olley’s new publication, The Classic Wargamer’s Journal. This is a real throwback to the Scruby, Featherstone, Hal Thinglum publications and game style. It took just a few pages of reading and the new rule design idea clicked in my head. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this fine initial effort. I’m sure you’ll want to subscribe. Check it out at http://classicwargaming.blogspot.com.



In the meantime, I will keep you apprised of the progress on all these projects at the forum and on this blog. Now, back to the writing...!

The Vision of Battle

A long discussion on the Repique Rules Yahoo! Forum started me reflecting on one of the curious aspects of wargaming-the mind’s eye. We all agree that a historical wargame should in some way, in addition to being a fun game, provide an observation of what happened in battles. It should provide a satisfactory “illusion” to the gamers of observing a battle. We are all together on that concept, except, having said that, we have a wide range of opinions about the nature of battle in a given period, and one man’s mind’s eye sees a far different picture with different hues, focus, and perspectives. I dare say if we put a dozen Napoleonic or ACW wargamers in a room that the range of what they think of as “historically correct” would provide twelve different views of the battle. To be sure several would overlap, but the range of divergence would be pretty wide!

I think this is counter-balanced by a certain tendency for groups of gamers to come to a “consensus” view of battle that they all generally agree is accurate, and then they want the rules they play to look like their vision. Great, except what if that vision is more consensus than history?

One of the great truisms of the ACW is that the commanders on both sides tried to fight in the Napoleonic style, only to find out that it was a pretty deadly way to conduct war. The changes in weaponry made the Napoleonic tactics pretty inefficient and the battlefield very lethal. The war is a history of troops unofficially dispersing from their rigid formations, earthworks and trenches being thrown up, and terrain cover becoming the soldier’s best friend. By late 1863 the Napoleonic tactics were pretty firmly discredited, but many troops-especially the green ones and the new commanders probably fell back on the “Book.” until their first battle when they more closely observed the actions of their more veteran compatriots.

I think wargamers have done the same! The tactics encouraged by many ACW wargame rules owe more to Napoleonic forms, Currier and Ives prints of glorious attacks, and movie romanticizations of ACW combat than to the more lethal reality that forced the real commanders back into dispersed tactics and trenches. Rules allow the “fiction” of the gallant upright attack in firm lines leading to the melee that allows the victor to stream through the enemy line. In short, the rules play to the romantic fantasy of ACW battle that wargamers really want to believe in. This sort of nonsense is especially favored by the Confederate gamers and their alter-ego reenactors who desperately want to invest this terrible war with some form of honor and glory. I think reenactors are equally guilty of really WANTING their little pageants to look like the Harper’s Weekly woodcuts with their pretty little lines of troops, and not look too closely at why frontal attacks were usually bloodily repulsed; why the column gave way to the line, and then to the loose line and finally to the dispersed line, the virtual disappearance of effective cavalry charges and pursuit, and why the trench and hasty earthwork eventually came to dominate the ACW battlefield.

After the battle, I’m sure the description of “gallant” actions and trim lines advancing was a common one, but few soldiers tell the whole truth about their behaviors, and we keep seeing indirect references to going to ground, troops lying prone in the sun for hours not daring to lift their heads, and advancing lines being described as skirmishers, when maybe they were just a line that was reflexively dispersing in order to survive.

The typical wargame and many wargamers are as stuck with as false an understanding of ACW combat as their historical counterparts, and equally incapable of giving up the Napoleonic vision. One of my goals with Zouave is to correct that image and reward actions that mimicked what I believe the troops actually ended up doing given the pragmatic realities of the battlefield, and not the Napoleonic vision and going “by the book.”

Reality bites. Pickett found that out, can wargamers?



Why Do We Fight?

I write this on Historicon weekend, as a substantial number of our wargaming community are off fighting battles in every imaginable period of history. As I looked back on my many trips to Historicon, and the games I held at my house, or observed over 50 years of wargaming, i realized what is a central “problem” with our hobby.

Our battles never have and reasons behind them, they have no consequences to our armies or commanders that affect later battles, in short, they have no history!

Each battle is a little snippet from time, that exists quite apart from any decisions that got the two armies to that point, or any consequences beyond a tactical victory or defeat in the battle itself. True, some scenarios may be very inventive and a fun “puzzle,” or they may be based on an actual battle in history, but the fact remains that the gamers involved had no input or responsibility for getting the forces to the engagement, little choice in terrain, and in all cases no long term consequences to consider. Too many battles are hot house flowers that can only exist in that one moment.

This is the central reason that many wargames leave all parties with a rather unfulfilled sense of completion. Too often the loser and winner are left wanting more. Many a “big” battle is more fun in the planning, than in the doing, simply because the game is too “balanced” and too scripted, and the results in outcome, as well as degree of victory, are meaningless. It’s like a single baseball game without a season, or even a world series, deciding who is the best team.

We lack a history preceding the game and following it. We lack a campaign!

Campaign rules are the great undiscovered country of wargaming, and in all my 50 plus years of wargaming they are the one creative challenge that has not been successfully conquered by wargame designers. We’ve had hundreds of Napoleonic rule sets, mostly tactical in nature; we’ve had a number of game “generators” that have offered formulas for creating a one-off battle, we’ve had point systems of suspect value, we’ve had rule sets, such as Piquet, that offered multi-period wargaming, but the list of successful campaign rules is close to zero-no, it is zero!

So, of course, I’ve got to give it a go! I’m working right now on a set of campaign rules that would have multi-period applicability, and a minimum of rules and record keeping(no one wants to be a bean counter in logistics!). They will allow historical or fantasy pretexts. The system creates its own maps, a simple, but effective, rationale for the reasons for and effects of battles, and allows for the interconnection of a number of wargame engagements over a campaign season-which could be an annual or bi-annual events to be renewed every January or September by a group or club. It will also have a strong web component for support, discussion, and development.

I am now writing the initial draft which will be play tested both in the US and in England-hopefully as early as August of this year. I hope to take it to publication in September. It is very different, but something, I think, that Tony Bath would have greatly enjoyed.

It will be the second publication of the planned Zouave Trilogy. I plan to use the formula I mentioned in my last blog of 2-300 numbered and signed “Limited Edition” copies in print, and a follow-up of ePub editions after that initial release. The game itself will not require any devices beyond paper, dice, and cards. It will be integrated with Zouave, but not dependent on any given rule set for tabletop actions-any system will work.

More information to follow

A New Model For Rule Publication

For the last few months, I have been puzzling out a new model for wargame rule publication, specifically for the miniature wargame rules that Repique publishes. As I stated on the last Skype Conference, I don’t believe the present model of print, or even the PDF model, has any long-term viability. The present model has excessive per unit costs to the publisher and, therefore, to the customer, very limited distribution channels, and imposes limitations on the product and its design which result in reduced quality and utility. Even when PDFs are introduced, a few issues are resolved, but the grave fault of effectively losing control of one’s intellectual property is a killer for any designer or publisher. All of these problems are negatives for the growth of the niche publication market where wargame rules are firmly lodged.

There are now coming on the scene various new technologies and means of publishing and distributing ideas and limited run documents. At the forefront is the wave of new readers and tablets led by the iPad, The Kindle, The Nook, and the Sony eReader. More will soon make their appearance, and the prices on all, especially the one-purpose eReaders, will rapidly decline. This will occur at the same time they all become even more capable and user friendly. I am convinced they are the new path for niche publications.

Not only will widespread use of these devices allow cost savings for the consumer, reversing the inflating pricing that leads to $30-$50 rulebooks, but the quality of the product in terms of layout, interactivity, referencing of topics, as well as yet to be discovered gaming capabilities, will be drastically improved. Someone has to jump into the deep end of the pool and try a new model.

So I am committing to the following model for Repique Publications, starting with Zouave, and continuing with our future release of Zouave Campaign:

1. There will be an initial numbered “Limited Edition” print run of each new release. All will be signed by the author.
2. Once sold there will NOT be an additional print run. There will be an ePub run always available for sale, that will work with any eReader.
3. All support materials, Player aid cards, POD decks, scenarios, and addenda for the rules will be published as PDFs on the forum.
4. All publications will be actively supported with a website blog, monthly Zouave Podcast, email response and forum discussion and Files, Links, etc.

The price points for the Print copies will be typical and competitive with current market pricing of $25-$35, while the ePub copies will be sold at current market pricing also-roughly $12-$15.

Over a few year’s time, I expect step one to be phased out and ALL publication to be in ePub format.

Zouave was published prior to my settling on this longer term strategy, and I am now within a very few copies of selling the initial run out. Though I will not be able to offer the numbered or signed copies, I will do so on “Zouave: Campaign” targeted for late Summer-early Fall. I am undecided about another print run of Zouave to meet this model, or just proceed to the ePub publication. It appears that Zouave will be OOP within a few weeks. I will then decide upon printing additional copies or simply moving it to ePub.

I will also appreciate any feedback and reaction from the assembled throng. Discussion on the forum is also encouraged. I am open to several issues, including the nature of the initial print run-by subscription? First come, first sold? The size of the initial Print run is also TBD-though Zouave’s sales seem to indicate several hundred initial copies are warranted. I suspect that the 300-500 range is where it will settle. Over time that initial print run will decline and at about 150 copies ceases to be a viable option and Repique products will be solely ePub.



The Suave Zouave Podcast

Here is the June 19th conversation on the Zouave Rules, Wargaming, and the business of wargame publication. It features Jim Getz, co-author of Empire from Columbus, Ohio, Tim Couper, from just north of London UK, Adolfo Laurentis, from Chicago, Illinois, Mike Siggins, noted wargames critic for Battlegames Magazine and columnist on all forms of gaming, from The Fens, UK. It ran about 58 minutes and covered a wide range of topics including the mechanics of the Zouave Rules, the future of electronic publishing, issues on abstraction in wargame design, and general commentary on the hobby. I hope you enjoy it. Just click on the podcast button and enjoy!


Podcast


The Holy Grail

The next major project for Repique Rules is going to be a campaign system and battle generator that will work with the Zouave rules, and be adaptable to any other set of grand tactical or tactical rules. The core idea for this system came to me about three weeks ago, and I have been sketching in the basic system ever since. It has become rather consuming of my time and attention as I think it is as original in its own way as Piquet was when it first appeared nearly 15 years ago.

Campaign rules and battle generators have long been the holy grail of wargaming, with the search starting with such early examples as Don Featherstone’s novel matchstick boxes to Sam Mustafa’s latest very creative treatment for competitive gaming in Lasalle. Many campaign approaches have foundered on the twin rocks of too much detail, or the one loss and you’re out problem.

The too much detail problem is very common as the campaign designers attempt to include everything possible in their “realistic” strategic design, often failing to consider even simple abstractions. I remember well a naval campaign set up in Denver many years ago in which one team member on each side worried about nothing but counting oil barrels and logistic supplies! The game got through two turns before the “staff” quit, complaining that they were doing all the work while the CIC was having all the fun!

Even worse is the common failure of many campaigns that base their system solely on army sizes and counting losses. All too often these campaigns end up with all forces collecting on a single point for a huge battle where the victor so thoroughly thrashes the loser that the campaign is effectively over! There is no recovery from this early defeat and no reason to continue. Weeks of planning are over and only one battle has been generated.

One can then opt for a series of set piece battles where a score is kept, rather like a chess match. Nothing much connects the outcomes of the individual battles, nor does each victory set up the conditions of the next battle, and each battle is worth exactly the same - 1 point. The problem with this approach is that it is rather colorless, and lacks any sense of strategy.

Yet another problem of many campaigns is that they are based so closely of history, and a very specific campaign map, that there are few surprises, little strategic options beyond those that were historically followed, and they end up being rather unexciting repetitions of the original campaign. No challenges to either command, but their role becomes closer to a cook following an old, and established, recipe with the result being an all - too - familiar dish.

Campaign rules remain a huge challenge in design and often great disappointments to the gamers involved. In all my years of gaming the only campaign game that I thought escaped these limits was The Sun Never Sets by Dave Waxtel. This was a clever design, but it required 6-8 gamers to really get off the ground and it was very dependent on the Colonial/Imperialist setting. It is being republished by TVAG and I recommend it to every large group of Colonial gamers.

The Zouave Campaign rules shall be very different from anything that has come before using some very unique and fun mechanisms. The rule set will be quite simple and straight-forward and will use commonly available materials. It will be applicable to a wide range of Horse and Musket periods. It will be usable with many other sets of rules. I hope to have it in publication at the end of the summer or early autumn. More details will be available as the development allows. I will try to keep people informed on the Repique Rules Forum and on the Zouave Blog.

Skype Redux

This coming Saturday, June 19th, 2010, is the scheduled date for the Zouave Skype Conference Call. I have several people who have RSVP’d as being in attendance, including me, Jim Getz, Tim Couper, Mike Siggins, Myron Shipp, and possibly Peter Anderson, and Adolfo Laurenti.

If anyone else would like to join in, the call will be at 2:30 PM (MDT)-4:30 PM EDT-9:30 PM in London, 10:30 PM Paris, and 6:30 AM (the 20th) in Australia. Please email me and I will set you up with all the info you need. You will need a computer with broadband, Skype Software (free) and an inexpensive USB mic. The call will last 45 minutes or so. You can leave the call at any point.

Even if you can’t attend, please let me know if there are any Zouave questions, issues, confusing text, or general wargaming topics you would like discussed. I will be making up an agenda and will try to include as many items as I can given the time allotted and good taste and programming allow.

The call will be posted as an audio podcast immediately following the call’s conclusion.

We had a good initial effort in May (which is still available on the blog-check the May archives) and I look forward to our next episode of the Suave Zouave!

Imaginary Combat Actions

I have been wargaming for over 50 years. I have played boardgames and miniature games in all periods, and in all environments air, sea and land. I have read hundreds of history books over those years, and parts of a few hundred more. I’ve played a wide range of wargame rules and can’t help noticing the similarities often outweigh the differences, especially in what is granted to be a given, an accepted fact, an unchallengeable truth. But as I read accounts told by participants in history’s events, and read the tales told in many a battle account, I began to wonder if some things are true, or at least, is what is being illustrated in the wargame on the table exactly what the wargamer thinks it is? Here are a few to chew on:

1. Were “real” ranges ever as long as found on wargame fire tables? Did cannister actually shoot farther than generally allowed in Wargames? Our wargame tables look like billiard tables more often than not and in no way show the undulations that are so typical of open ground that are large enough to conceal whole regiments , if not divisions. from fire. Walk any battlefield and note the 6-12 foot undulations. Add to this trees, structures, and plateaus and the theoretical ranges of most weaponry was seldom, if ever, used. I think it could be halved and not do history any harm. As weaponry improved trajectories grew flatter, rate of fire went up,and independent fire became more the norm, all of which made weaponry more deadly, but range improvement as a big factor-not so much for infantry.

Even Artillery, without any sort of spotters or the communications to support them, never could use most of its range. In fact, it wasn’t until the explosive charge in the shell was no longer black powder, but cordite or better that artillery could use its long range bombardment to great effect, and then only as area fire until communications and spotting were possible. The later black powder rifled artillery actually lost some effect as its cannister round grew smaller and therefore less effective.

Cannister was the killer and often used out to 600 yards or more, but it was limited in supply and discouraged at longer ranges, not because of a lesser effect, but to encourage the use of round shot! By the later Horse and Musket period the effect of shell and shrapnel and an increased ability to fire those ammunitions from a rifled gun finally eliminated the true cannister round.

2. Did Melees ever occur except in darkness, foul weather, or by accident? Of course, one can find examples where troops supposedly went hand to hand, but the occasions were rare and usually had some unique aspect. The general course of action was that one side simply started to retire under the attack, and possibly broke and ran. Bayonet and pistol deaths were so rare that they are an asterisk on the statistics in Bodart. The vast majority of deaths were from musketry. The safest place in most armies in battle was the cavalry, and sword deaths were always a surprise. Are wargames really illustrating very short range fire and threat followed by one side retiring or routing, and not actual contact?

3. Did an Emergency Square ever actually exist? Of course not! You either made it or you didn’t. The only reason “Emergency Squares” exist is to get around the restrictions imposed by the IGO-UGO turn construct, and illustrate nothing that actually existed in the real world.

4. Did cavalry ever melee with infantry? I ask this for several reasons. Firstly, horse will not willingly run into, jump into, or even step on human beings immediately to their front-let alone if these people are firing weapons at them! In the 18th Century, the professional infantry of that period could often repel cavalry in line, simply because they wouldn’t run and the cavalry that did survive their musketry would not contact them, but retire under fire. Now, to be sure, if the infantry broke, then in pursuit the horse could get among them and wreak havoc, but that is hardly a frontal charge! But the infantry has to break before contact, as badly drilled and poor morale infantry may well do. The increased use of the square against cavalry in the Napoleonic period had more to do with not leaving the infantry a clear direction to run while in square, and the cavalry, therefore, since their horses would not contact the infantry, had nothing to do but go around or retire.

5. Did columns move faster than line-or were they both theoretically moving at the same rate, except dress and order slowed the line down? This is a conceptual problem. Most games start by stipulating some rate of movement in line as the “base move” and then award some generic form of the column of divisions, battalions, etc a movement bonus of say 1.25-1.5X. Is it not more accurate to say that all formations and drill were done at the same stated rate for an army and were identical-EXCEPT that a line was slowed down by the needs of dress and order-especially in anything but drill ground terrain? That is, the line was a poor movement formation, not that the column was a great one-just less prone to disruption and delay by even modest terrain, structures, etc. Some of the delay in the rougher terrains by troops deployed in line would also be caused by repeated deployments and redeployments to avoid certain terrain obstacles.

6. Other than the night before, and perhaps at the commencement of battle ,were written orders the exception rather than the rule, and were they seldom tactical orders? This one is my pet hobby-horse! Many a wargame has written orders, often of a highly tactical nature, on a turn by turn basis. Was that common or even typical? I can find little evidence that generals during battle ever did more than a few terse, and usually quite encompassing, written orders, and that the bulk of orders given were oral, often passed down by a chain of aides, and, even, there not usually a tactical order, but an operational one. “ Advance on X”, “Launch your attack!” “ I need reinforcements!” Etc. How that was done and the tactical use of particular regiments was strictly at the discretion of the sub-commander. In few cases, even up to the Franco-Prussian War was the written order during battle the common means of command-it often was a repeated oral command, at best accompanied by a brief few sentences on paper. They were also, after the commencement of the battle, few and far between.

7. Is a general advance as often seen in most wargames a truly ahistorical event-other than at the end of battle as a pursuit? Many wargames see the advance of the entire front-from board edge to board edge on one and possibly both sides. Did this ever really happen? Surely a victorious army could launch a general pursuit as Wellington did at Waterloo, but even this was rare. In no case do we see many occasions when during battle a whole army did a general advance. Typically one focal point was the site of the day’s fighting, with a few designated divisions or a corp charged with the role of attacking while others awaited that outcome. Choosing the exact location of that attack was the chore of the commanding general. The bulk of any army on attack or defense was in a waiting mode with little activity or fire occurring. Look at the Battle of Gettysburg, Waterloo, or Gravelotte for confirmation. The day or days of battle of battle can be broken up into phases that each feature a specific attack at a discrete point on the enemy position and the defense of that point. Even when multiple attacks were attempted-such as the series of rebel attacks on the second day at Gettysburg, they were seldom simultaneous, usually separated by several hours of time at a minimum.

And, yet, in the interest in “getting everybody involved,” many a wargame, especially at conventions, encourage this general attack to occur. It may be the most unrealistic recurring trait in many wargames.

So, what do you think, were these common wargame perceptions and rule effects-real or just widely accepted balderdash?

Introvert or Extrovert? Both!

Every wargame designer, or writer needs two personalties. He must accept the isolation and solitary rewards of research and writing, which demands the discipline to sit alone with a LCD monitor staring at you as you write for hours on end. This is followed by edits and re-edits until you think you have it right. This is the part of rule design that no one sees. It is unglamorous, demanding, tiring, and requires persistence and a dogged determination to complete the project. Many gamers do not have these qualities and that is why there are infinitely more rule sets that are going to be written than those that are written. The advantage of these unwritten rules is that they are always better than any written set. They are without blemish, fault, or error as they only exist as a perfect object in a single imagination.

But the designer who must write the rules in some passable form of English, knows when he starts the project that, other than the playtesting with friends, he is consigning himself to hours of solitary confinement. Even the playtesting is not really gaming and a real interaction, since the designer must keep himself apart from the gamers and observe the game being played, and the playtester’s body language and actions, as objectively and dispassionately as possible. He is, even in these brief social moments, apart from the group.

But this is only half the equation. For the minute the rules are published a whole different set of skills are required. As introverted and solitary as the creation is, the marketing and interaction with customers is just the reverse! It is highly social and requires ample amounts of flamboyance, patience, a love of people, and not a little bit of show biz and calculation. You literally jump from the monk’s cell to the middle of a boisterous party where you are expected to be a cheery, benevolent, funny, friendly, and a good imitation of a frat brother. It can be shocking!

This is made all the more demanding as each person you meet treats his interaction with you on the basis of that moment, and he’s totally unaware of your tiredness, the often long string of the same, identical, questions that get asked, or even of the truly ridiculous statements that are made to you. No, you are in the sales mode and the smile must never leave your lips! The little easily misunderstood ironic remark or flash of warranted cynicism? Not Allowed!

Rule writing and publishing demands you be BOTH the guy that toils alone in the Ivory Tower, and the hale fellow well met at the basement party! That’s a tough task. Some designers have chosen to shun the social side, and NEVER go to conventions or appear much on their websites or forums. Some can’t stand the solitary part and therefore don’t write much, or fool themselves into thinking rule design is a group project to be created by collaboration. Some form working relationships where they ally with someone with the “missing” skill; A reserved designer allies with a great marketer or public face, or a designer with great concepts that really like the public to and fro, allies with a reserved copywriter that can execute his ideas in written form. Just as in musical partnerships such as Rodgers and Hart or the Gershwin brothers, such linking of the introvert/extrovert skills can be very productive, but they are rare and seldom last long.

But most rules designers are a mix, and how that mix influences what they choose to create, and the nature of the games they design, can be a fascinating reflection on the hobby and the people in it. When you look at the rules created by Sam Mustafa, Jim Getz, Frank Chadwick, Brent Oman, Arty Conliffe, Rich Hasenauer, Rick Priestly, or me, or especially when you meet them, you see this mix of introversion and extroversion, of the two personalities every designer must balance, but each is unique in his fulcrum point, and this is reflected in the way the rules they write are written, the way the rules play, and what mechanics they choose to use. There is a rich variety of approaches that parallels literature. Who’s a Hemingway? Who’s a J.D. Sallinger? In any case, the result gives wargamers some fascinating choices.

Zouave Skype Call

Well, we got together a rump caucus to test the Skype Conference software and do the first Zouave Conference. Present were Jim Getz in Ohio, and from outside London, Tim Couper. I can report that it worked very well. It was all audio, no video, but the Skype system was very easy to use, the audio was clear throughout, and the software indicated quite clearly which person was talking which leads me to believe that we can go larger than six participants, when the need arises. The software will handle up to 24!

The experience was delightful! I had not met Tim before, and called him ahead of the conference so we could both view video and chat. Video does not work on the conference, so you needn’t worry about appearances. Anyway, the half hour Zouave chat was a good beginning, I think. I encourage you to give it a listen, and remember that the participants were half a world apart, and that the call was absolutely free for all of us.

It is an opportunity to meet people beyond the text on the forum and have a bit of a social moment that goes beyond just information and Q&A. I intend to try it again on June 19th, again a Saturday. The time will be moved to 2:30 PM MDT, which is 8:30 PM in London, 4:30 PM in New York, 1:30 PM in San Francisco and 6:30 AM in Melbourne. I will build an Agenda this week and am open to specific sections of the rules, topics, or ideas you would like to discuss. There will be an opportunity for spontaneous questions at the end of each session. Just email me at the bob@repiquerules.com (or click on the contact link below)with your intention to join us, and any area you specifically would like to see discussed, or a question you’d like answered.

It will be first come, first seated, and I think we can do six people in a session that lasts 30 minutes, and up to twelve, if you’d like to go an hour. You may participate without speaking up if you’d like to just lurk, or make the occasional comment.

This could be a VERY interesting and effective form of rule support for Zouave, but it needs you! To enjoy this 30 minute Skype discussion click on the Podcast link (in orange) below.




Podcast

Odds and Ends

Well, Last night I hosted a champagne and caviar publication party for Zouave with the assembled group of playtesters. We had quite a spread including a triple-creme Brie, and some excellent pickled herring-quite good. Equally good was the conversation and joking that three bottles of champagne can encourage! The event also allowed me to premier my new 12 foot wargame table (Big Battles, remember!) and the new wargame room decor. I enclose photos of the crew, the table and room, and, as long as I’m posting odds and ends, some shots of the Dial Dude’s gear with 10 mm. units including a comparison of the old green 25mm and the new 20mm dials. I really like the smaller size for the burden markers. I will retain the 25mm for tracking stored command pips.

A great evening, and we scheduled some games in the upcoming weeks, including an evening with my old friend Pat McGuire on the 12th of June, who will be visiting from back East.





Here’s the Playetest braintrust joyfully celebrating their presentation copies of Zouave. (Left to Right) Bottle of Moet &Chandon, Ed Meyers, Terry Shockey, John Mumby, Chris Caudill, and Greg Cornell.



Here’s the new Wargame room and the magnificent 12 foot wargame table! Part of the Bob Jones Military Library may be glimpsed to the right.

Three regiments of Prussian Dragoons with a large 25mm. command pip dial and a comparison of the small 20mm and larger 25mm burden dials showing red!


Here’s a French Division (albeit light on artillery) with a command pip dial, and two small burden dials, one showing green, and one black. I am writing an extended blog posting on suggested ways of using the markers for added fog-of-war in game play for posting next week.

Learning A New Set Of Rules (Ugh!)

Jim Getz and I used to joke about the fact that we hated learning new rules so much that we preferred to design our own! I plead guilty. Almost all miniature wargames I have played since I’ve been in wargaming-which is -OH MY GOSH!-45 years!- have been rules that I have written. The joke is that having written them doesn’t mean you remember them during the game, as I am often reminded by a well experienced gamer what the rule is that I wrote and forgot! There is also the problem of having had several versions of rules that are amended and sometimes replaced, it is very easy to forget which one you finally kept! It is almost better, I would think, to only see the finished product.

Even so, I am always greatly heartened and pleased that many gamers are willing to grind through that first tentative game, re-read that key paragraph to wrinkle out the author’s intent, and to basically learn a new language and vocabulary in order to play the “new” set of rules. Thank heavens that so many will do it, otherwise we’d all still be playing H.G. Well’s rules, though the sales of spring-loaded cannon and the fiscal resources of Wm Britain’s might have been improved .

I marvel at the dedication of many gamers that allows them to do all this hard work in the hopes that the resulting game will reward their efforts with a few hours of entertainment now and then. It makes me feel very responsible to all my customers and committed to investing an equal amount of effort to insure that they are given a treat at the end of the learning task.

Writing rules is more difficult than many gamers, who are always “going to write down my own perfect set,” are willing to admit. These people are often akin to those who are going to write their own novels, their own hit song, or win the lottery, better at the dreaming than the doing, better critics than creators. But equally difficult is discerning from a rule writer’s text what in the hell you are supposed to do! Every rule writer attempts to be clear, but just as one often does not see the flaws in one’s favorite child, so one can become blind to a confusing description or a glaring omission in a set of rules. You become so close to the mechanics of the game that what seems obvious to you can be far less so to the gamer trying to understand your creation. You strive for clarity and completeness, but a rule writer starts his task knowing that imperfect clarity,and the typo not seen until printing is done, are always going to await him.

So, in a very real sense that few rule writers or publishers will publicly admit, but ALL know is true, that first brave band of gamers that adopt a new system are the final playtesters. They are the ones that catch the little gremlins that hide in the dark corners of every rule set, and ferret out the less than perfect sentence structure. For that, every wargame designer owes them a debt of thanks and appreciation. That is one reason I always offer a small discount to those that purchase early, or wish to buy a second edition that often has benefitted by their comments on the first edition. In a very real way, the early adopters are very much a part of the wargame design team, and should be recognized as such.

This has been particularly true in another way for my designs. I have always tried to do different things, try new approaches, and introduce different ways to address the portrayal of battles in my game designs. In Le jeu de La Guerre in 1972, I tried a new interactive time sequencing with the “Denver initiative”; Rebel Yell! tried to graft the RPG game master techniques onto a miniature wargame, and Piquet, in its many manifestations, was a really different approach to illustrating time in a tabletop game. Many of these techniques were so “different” that they provoked some pretty strong responses at their introduction from those that either didn’t get it, or didn’t like the new patterns of play. This led to some spirited exchanges, for which I say great! I’d rather be hanged for being a wolf than some comfortably pedestrian sheep!

I know that I have always demanded more of the players than some designers, and that some aspects of playing my designs well requires a reframing of perception and a willingness to break with more established and accepted mechanics. For that, I am always grateful to all those gamers over the years that have been willing to try my designs. I hope that Zouave is a game that provides you with many hours of entertainment and fun. I know it will be a better game in a year because of your input and added ideas. In advance, I thank you all.

Big Table; Small Figures!

OK, I admit I have a subjective reason behind my decision, and that it flies in the face of common judgement (which has never been a big deal for me!), but I just sent an order to the Terrain Guy, who is having a pretty good sale on game mats right now, for a 4 foot by 12 foot green wargame table mat. Yup! I’’m building a twelve foot long wargame table in my basement! My current table is 4 by 8 feet and I have used it for damn near 16 years, but after all these years I think I have found one of the secrets of wargaming.

Many people have tried small tables with big figures ala Games Workshop.
Many people have tried big tables with big figures starting with H.G. Wells and Fred Vietmeyer.
Some have tried small tables with small figures such as many an apartment dweller or a person with extreme financial restrictions.

I’ll not gainsay any of them if they had a good time and it fit their perception of a good wargame.

HOWEVER, I’ve seen one too many GW battlefield with monster tanks and figures crammed stand to stand from one end to the other on a table top. How many trucks does it take to move boxes and boxes about of historical 28s only to have a unit density on the tabletop that makes the Japanese subway look spacious? “I’m sorry, Your grace, but we can’t fit the Hannoverians into the battle line!” (???) Do you really get the best diorama from a bunch of 6mm figures on a 4 by 6 table??? Really?

I’ve already committed to 10s in my gaming for many other reasons; cost, portability, mass look, ease of painting, storage demands, and sufficient detail to be attractive. The conversion to “Tens” led me to look at wargame design differently and led directly to a number of new approaches I’m taking in Zouave, and my 4 X 8 table allowed good maneuver space even with 4 or 5 divisions, two or more corps in play, but I wanted to have even bigger battles, and even more room for maneuver without the “Chorus Line” (1-2-3 kick) look of so many wargame deployments. That naturally led to the idea of even a bigger table. One seldom needs more depth to a wargame table since the primary interest is at the point of contact and not the logistical tail of an army. There are also mechanical difficulties with play once the width exceeds about 5 feet. What you want is more flanks, more frontage, more space to the right or left.

So I decided to go to a 4 by 12 foot standard table for which I will build an optional 4 foot extension to allow 16 feet! Hello, flanks! I mean FLANKS! Coupling this with a typical unit in Zouave occupying 6” when deployed in line and then put thirty 10 mm figures on those stands and you get some idea of the diorama and the sense of space that this will allow. In the Zouave main scale of 1”=50 meters (yards) and the twelve foot table gives you over 3 and 1/2 miles of frontage! Now if you keep the forces at typical levels for games the sense of not being able to occupy or block every enemy option and the pressure to control certain areas indirectly or with fewer troops will begin to grow.

Maybe this decision reflects in some distant way why Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells played on the floor with their miniatures armies instead of the limitations of the typical table. Bruce Weigle, the Dean of FPW gamers, has always used HUGE tables with his 6mm armies, though I think their depth often made play difficult, and not many people would have the patience and/or skill to custom make his beautiful terrained one-off tables.

I wish to stress this is my private hobby-horse. It is not at all required to make Zouave a good wargame evening, but someone has to try it! I’ll follow up on the forum with a report on our first BIG table
small figures game. Photos will be taken, of course! One other change I may try in our games is more cowbell!

Zouave is on Its way to you!

Well, folks, the Zouave Rules have been mailed to each person who-preordered, all reviewers, and some people I just happen to like, as of 2:00 PM MDT today! US customers should receive the rules this Saturday or next Monday at the latest. European and Pacific customers will probably see theirs late next week. Now the fun begins!

Because Repique is now heading into a new stage of its development, I have made a few changes to the website. The pricing and availability page has been removed as it is now moot given the rules being readily available. “What’s in the rulesbook?” has been modified to eliminate the reference to the pre-order discount, but any Charter members have been noted and will get a $2.50 reduction in purchasing the next Repique product. As of June 1, 2010 the Blog archive will be changed to archive by the month rather than the week. Frankly, this is a housekeeping issue, required because of the growing number of blog entries. I have had to adjust my postal rates I’m afraid, as the books are a tad heavier than I thought they would be. That’s good for you in that there’s a lot of content, but I am raising international mail charges to $10.00 ( it costs $9.00 in postage alone!). The Canadian rate will be lowered to the same as domestic US (Those Canadians are such NICE people!) and the Domestic rate for the US will be unchanged at $2.50. The store cart now reflects the new rates.

Zouave is having a release party for the play testers on the 14th of May where champagne, caviar, French and Italian cheeses, and pickled herring will be served while Josh Bell plays his violin. Pictures will be posted on the photo section! It is, of course, a formal affair!

I will be posting a scenario complete with troop lists, rating info, and a map in the next few days. It will be adaptable for either ACW or FPW, and was a scenario well tested during the rule playtesting earlier this year. You can see the table layout in the photo section. St. Croix (FPW) AKA Crossfield (ACW) is its title. The 1866 free PDF will be released in late May.

We’re off to a great start, and It’s going to be a great year!

Thanks, again, to everyone who has supported this effort,

Bob Jones
Repique Rules
Denver, CO

The Fog of War

Wargames have always been pretty good at finding ways to assign a quantitative value to weaponry, and even to unit quality. They have been less certain when it came to some intangibles such as unit morale or the impact of command on a particular battle, especially its inefficiencies and inadequacies, But one area has been the bane of many rule sets and that is the fog of war. This term, often attributed to Von Clausewitz, encapsulates all the unknowns, the effects of friction, the failure of communication and military intelligence, the limitations of not knowing key facts about the enemy, but even about one’s own troops. Gamers would worry some little factoid about drill steps per minute to death, and then blithely ignore what EVERY military thinker since Clausewitz concedes is the single most important aspect of war and individual battles, the Fog of War.

Some gamers, worn down in their daily work by limited achievements, or no achievements at all, are loathe to play games in their imaginary wargame world that present them with unknown and uncontrollable ways to fail yet again. Others simply want to have things go unfailingly according to plan, and to succeed or fail strictly on the merits of their strategy, and not because something untoward spoiled everything; They want to be Napoleon at Waterloo, but without those damned Prussians showing up late in the day! Many gamers don’t want the added rule considerations that are required to even attempt to inject the Fog of War into a wargame, just roll a die and a six hits! Your troops will unfailingly show up right on schedule, and do precisely hat you want them to! A perfect world where rationality and predictability reign!

However, War is not at all like that. Armies, even the best of them, have a high capacity for snafu. The enemy generally doesn’t want to please you by being predictable. The battlefield is unfailingly a confusing place with fewer “Knowns” than wargames would lead one to suspect. Most actionable information is deduced from incompletely known facts, and is more a guestimate than a sure thing. Even in battle we often can observe the behavior of enemy troops in a sketchy way, but seldom have a sure idea as to the reasons why. Were those Union guns withdrawing prior to Pickett’s Charge, or was that wishful thinking? Did their artillery fire slacken from damage from the Rebel barrage, or simply to conserve ammunition? Seen through the stress of battle and the black powder smoke, the fog of war allowed an estimation, but not a firm calculation.

Several early attempts to address this issue were made in wargaming; The blanket down the middle of the table during set-up, the command being in two different separate rooms from the Wargame table, and only written notes going back and forth, but they were clumsy, inelegant, and generally more trouble than they were worth. They failed miserably to provide an efficient portrayal of the Fog of War and are now seldom used.

Later methods, some of which are still used, involved boxes placed over troops and/or various markers with a certain share of them being “Dummies”. Somewhat better than earlier methods, but still fairly clumsy, and dummy or not, there are few “surprises” emerging from the Fog.

Piquet tried to do this conceptually, by basically stating that the tabletop “Lied” and that the positions on the table may, or may not, portray the accurate situation. This offered a concurrent explanation for units moving an extreme distance, or not moving at all, and also meant that the player had to allow for things not being what he expected at any given moment-an element of the Fog of War. Surprises were many, and occasionally could change the momentum in a battle. Both the randomness of the Sequence Deck and the impetus roll constantly challenged players to deal with difficult situations with no “Sure” solution. I also liked the fact that this conceptual approach required no added devices on the table, it was free of clutter. It did prove difficult for some gamers to get their head around the idea, and to accept a very different metaphor for time and movement than the fixed turn.

Zouave is taking a different approach, where the randomness is more constrained, using a card deck with its perfectly balanced suit values in a deck for impetus, but dividing impetus or initiative into two separate but concurrent uses-Command and Combat. It also uses ratings of individual units that are hidden until revealed by combat to disguise the value of the forces engaged. Lastly the amount of command “will” and where it is focused, and for what purpose will be imperfectly known. This can be increased by using the Dial Dude’s Zouave Dials, but inverting them during play so that the amount of command pips stored is totally hidden-until used. The last thing that Zouave does is take the length of moves made and makes them highly variable and unpredictable to BOTH sides. The degree that a gamer is willing to “risk” certain moves-if it makes his army disjointed and exposed as a consequence, and not being able to predict either his other units movement distance, or when it will occur-and, even worse, if the enemy can respond before he can consolidate his formations-will be a measure of his decision making and judgement. No guarantees-just the courage to pierce the fog of war!







State of the State

Just a reminder that today is the last day you can get Zouave with a $5.00 discount for $24.95. The sale will end at Midnight tonight. At $25 a copy
Zouave is a VERY good deal as it provides innovative rules for three different periods with more to come by FREE PDFs.

For those of you waiting for reviews, they will be appearing soon after Zouave is mailed in Vae Victus, Scott Mingus' Cannonball Blog dedicated to ACW topics,
and also in Battlegames magazine from England.

I am announcing today that Dennis Sweet's On Military Matters will be distributing the game at conventions throughout the East Coast, and OMM will be
Zouave's international distributor. Dennis is a long-time bookseller that specializes in military titles and stocks a wide range of magazines and
rule sets. His stand is a must stop at all conventions. His shop has been my primary source for many a French language title. He is one of the good guys in
wargaming.

Speaking of good guys, I very much appreciate the great response from many on this list, as the Zouave rules will be in the black having paid all costs of
printing prior to being released! That is a vote of confidence in the rules that I very much appreciate, and that support will fuel my determination to
support these rules with added addenda and future expansion rule sets. I will work hard to justify your investment in Repique and Zouave.

After spending some time on the phone yesterday with the Printer, I should have the rules in hand by next Tuesday, and be able to mail on the 5th as promised. We have databased all purchases, run the labels, and have the envelopes ready! Cinco de Mayo is going to be one-packing and mailing flurry at the Worldwide Repique Rules Headquarters!

My schedule is to provide some early support materials including a beginner's scenario, the 1866 Addenda, and the 1859 Addenda (for Giuseppe and Federico!). I have already started on a campaign idea that will integrate with Zouave with a working title of" Zouave Campaign." Very creative, no? I continue the WWI air development as well.

Again, I thank all of you here on the forum, and, especially, those of you that played $25.00 "on the come," for your support, kind words in notes you have
sent, and your resurgent wish for a wargame that does the big battles and is simple to understand, but challenging to play well.


Bob Jones

How Rules Grow Up!

As I launch Zouave out into the world of wargaming, I have the same feelings as when I took my small daughters to their first day at Kindergarten. There is trepidation, a sense of losing total control, and, yet, the hope for a bright future. All rule sets start as a young child, full of promise, and with few blemishes, but they soon begin to grow up and mature. This process is a natural one as more and more people are exposed to the ideas in a set of rules-new ideas spring up, unseen weaknesses in the rule effects, or explanations, are exposed and corrected, and new ideas are generated that lead to amendments, house rules, and new directions within the rules set. There will be glowing praise, and, inevitably, damning criticism from some. It is a time for a game designer that is thrilling and not a little apprehensive!

But it is the course of every rule set, and must be embraced. I created the concept of the toolbox when I wrote Piquet all those years ago. The idea was that a rule set must be open to change, and to the input and desires of the wargame customers. The rules must be robust enough to be tinkered with and crafted into the set that each individual gamer wants. The customer has a role in shaping the rules he plays and is not a passive receptacle of some guru rule designer’s dictates. I think Zouave shares this ability to be experimented with as long as certain core concepts are not too roughly twisted. I encourage each of you to play the game “straight” a few times, ask questions, and feel certain that you understand some of the basic relationships between the various forms of movement and combat elements, before you do too much tinkering. But once you feel you are grounded in the rules, feel free to to do improvisational “riffs” just as a jazz musician might do with a well known musical standard.

And keep in mind , no game designer descends from the mountain with stone tablets on which are engraved the one true word. All sets of rules will be cussed and discussed as people bring separate and unique perceptions to their idea of what a wargame should be. It was often said that my previous design, Piquet, was either loved or hated with no middle ground., to which I say, “GREAT!” It is evidence that it really caught the imagination of some, and was not just one more simple-move and shoot repetition of hundreds of wargame designs that proceeded it. It must have said something unique to garner such strong, and opposite, reactions. One size does not fit all and designs that attempt to do that are like the person you know that never offends and never comes up with a new idea-not a bad person, but, well, not the most interesting person either!

I have no expectations that Zouave will be loved by all, nor do I expect to see it being a preferred convention game. It will be new, offer subtle and creative ways to address the portrayal of large battles and command and control issues. It will deliver an exciting and interesting game. It will challenge gamers to manage variables and not just calculate the optimum outcomes from fixed givens ( the all-too-common characteristic of many wargames). It will reward ( and frustrate) the gamers who play it. It requires judgement, not rote memorization of rules or using protractors to get just the “right” angle.

But I hope, as would any parent, that it is given an opportunity for a good long life, and grows up to be a mature and well respected game design. Starting next week, Zouave will begin its life’s journey!

Some Pre-Release Guidance

The Printer’s proofs are back and approved, and now it’s just a matter of a week or so until the Zouave books may be in my hands. For some of you that are among the early adopters, I thought I’d offer you a few suggestions to think about.

If any of you are planning to use 10mm figures to play Zouave, I recommend Pendraken very highly. They are superb figures for the ACW and for all of the Armies of the mid-19th century. But, there is more! The Pendraken “Army” bag which has a special price of £19 is almost a perfect match for a Zouave Division! Likewise a bag of infantry or cavalry, will be a perfect FPW regiment, or in the ACW a perfect brigade! In some cases a few HQ figures will need to be added, but an HQ bag generally is enough for a division or more of infantry! The artillery is bagged so two bags make three batteries in Zouave. It makes it very easy to order from Pendraken. All of these numbers are in reference to the mounting system for 10s shown in the rules. Different numbers per stand are always a gamer’s option. You can fit your aesthetic taste and/or your budget, and that’s no problem in Zouave!

If you decide to use the Dial Dudes magnetic dials, a good recommended buy is 6 Command dials per army and a total of 18 “burden dials” will get you started. When your armies get larger you can get more, and by that time you’ll have a good feeling as to what you need to get. Again, they are not needed as the method described in the rules that uses pennies and paper punched “confetti”markers is quite serviceable, and what we have been doing prior to seeing the Dial Dude’s products.

I will be posting the 1866 Addenda early in May as a free downloadable PDF in the Files section of the RepiqueRules Yahoo! Forum. In addition, I will post a scenario for people new to the rules to play that will fit either the ACW or FPW. It will give you an idea of a tested scenario, so you can see the information that is needed for writing them. There will be a constant flow of such PDF materials in the coming months by me, and, I hope, some new Zouave players!

In the Zouave rule set will be inserted four heavy card Player Aids. They will be two-sided with the following information summarized, listed, or in table format:

1. (Side A) Pre-game rating tables and a summary and definition of dice progressions. Side (B) The Regimental Variable Movement table and the Weapons Table covering the common weapons of the 1861-1871 period.

2. (Side A) The Attacker’s Advantage Table; (Side B) The Defender’s Advantage Table. These are used for ALL combat.

3. (Side A) The Net Advantage Table and a Summary of the effects of burdens-These are initially very useful to gamers, but will soon become memorized; (Side B) the Move Characteristics Table that summarizes the Divisional and Regimental move process and the rules concerning interpenetration of units and the passage of lines.

4. (Side A) The Army Quality Record (AQR) this is a sheet which shows the, initially hidden from the enemy, qualities(Defense Die) of the Army’s combat units, and its individual Divisional and Corps Commander’s quality ratings. It may be freely photocopied. (Side B) This is a summary of the game process, and a listing of special rules for REALLY large games of multi-corps and multi-player size.

It won’t be long now, guys! I will ship early, if I get the books back early. I have already databased the names and run the labels for all the pre-orders, including requested copies to reviewers. The envelopes are ready. Come on, Zouave books!

The Dial Dude Supports Zouave!

Steve, “the Dial Dude,” is now supporting the Zouave rules with two new dials. One to track command pips, and the other to track “Burdens.” They can replace the pennies and paper markers used in the rules, and are not required, but look pretty neat! Check his site for more information about these nifty magnetic game markers!

High Tech; High Reward

t’s not uncommon for some in wargaming to bemoan each new bit of technology that comes along as a change they don’t want to deal with. However, it is amazing how technology has changed wargaming, and almost always for the better.

Compared to when I started in wargaming, this is the golden age of miniature wargaming, and almost all of it is attributable to sweeping changes in how things are done, brought on by high tech. Here’s my list of the good things:

1. High tech spin-casters and new metallurgy have allowed for much finer castings with better proportions than the old days of individual plaster or vulcanized molds. The old figures were lucky to have even one undercut.
2. Laser cut parts have allowed for a vastly expanded line of highly detailed buildings and structures being offered for terrain pieces. Laser mold cutting has also provided improved figures, terrain, and even dice!
3. Desktop publishing tools have allowed a much higher quality of publications and rulesets to be produced by many more people and sold at competitive prices.
4. The internet has allowed the world-wide group of wargamers, who are thin on the ground compared to many hobbies, to establish contact and share ideas and information.
5. New high tech production techniques have allowed mass production of many wargame models in tanks, airplanes, and ships- all delivered PAINTED and at very low prices!
6. World-wide on-line stores selling a wide range of products have flourished offering much more variety at lower prices. It has also led to the smarter brick-and-mortar stores to become more specialized, focused, and service oriented to maintain their business.
7. Reprints of rare, and formerly hard to find references, are far more available thanks to high-tech limited run presses.
8. New high tech gaming tools are just around the corner, including embedded sound devices for the table-top, cheap laser measuring tools, and digital troop rosters.
9. The iPad and other tablet/readers, will change gaming as much or more than all of the above combined. Rules will be delivered to customers on this device requiring no printing costs. The DRM will protect the digital rights of the authors, and its bluetooth component will allow interactive rosters, and results tables. It will be no more difficult to use than a book and actually be interactive and far more useful. New designs using these tools will combine computer gaming and miniature gaming in a way that will surprise many miniature gamers. It will be the best of both worlds.
10. The age of live video distribution of wargames being played and conventions by podcasts and youtube is already here-it just hasn’t yet been fully utilized.

Technology is delivering the goods and the ideas-and we’re all the beneficiaries! The geeks in T-shirts at wargame conventions owe a lot to the geeks in jeans in San Jose!

Read more…

The Site is Live!

Good Morning! The Repique Rules website is now open for business. PayPal payment is preferred and is available on the store page. Credit card reports will carry “Highwiremedia,” Repique’s incorporated name, on all credit card reports. The payment uses PayPal’s excellent security system and consumer protections.

Alternatively, you may pay by check or money order by using the Direct Order page. After sending your information on the Direct Order form you will receive an email with information as to payment. Any retail or commercial orders should also use this form. The return Email will contain retailer information and terms to any such firms.

Pre-Release Orders on the 16th!

With the help of Jim Getz, I have tested our new store and I think we are now ready to open for business on the 16th of April for the pre-release orders. I remind everyone that I will not be receiving the books until May 4th or 5th as they are shipping on April 30th from back East. Once they are in hand, I will mail them out within 48 hours to all people that have pre-ordered. After the May 5th date all orders will be shipped within 48 hours of receipt.

As many of you know, I have created the website and the Yahoo! forum on my own , and I am quite proud of the amount of material and information that is available there. This will be expanded over the next few months. One of the problems with being a one man band is that all the issues associated with Repique depend on one man-me! The website store has been a fairly involved problem to resolve and has required me to, for now, use two different pages for sales. There is a fairly sophisticated PayPal Store that is on the Repique Store page. It is set up for both domestic and international sales with different rates for postage. It also presently indicates the $5.00 reduction in price Repique Rules is offering for a pre-publication incentive. That will end at midnight of April 30th, 2010, and the price will revert to the usual retail price of $29.95. I expect that this will be the method that most of you will choose as it is easy, fast and secure. It also allows for the use of any credit card, as well as any monies in any PayPal account that you may have.

If you wish to pay by check or money order, please use the Direct Sales Page, which is a simple form for you to fill in. Upon sending it, you will receive a return e-mail with all address and payment information that you will need to pay for the order. Zouave will be sent IMMEDIATELY upon Repique Rules receiving the payment, as we will already have your address and particulars.

Retail and commercial purchasers buying 6 copies or more, should also use this form, and inquire as to commercial rates-which are offered-by checking the appropriate box. The retail terms will be included in the return email. Otherwise the process is exactly as above.

I don’t know if I’ve solved every perturbation of the HTML on the site, and hope you will bear with me if there any problems. I believe we are OK for take-off!

Again, the Store and Direct Sales pages may be previewed, but will not be fully active, until 8:00 AM MDT April 16, 2010.

I thank everyone for the many kind wishes and encouraging e-mails that I have received, and look forward to further developing this system in many creative and unique ways.

Expert Opinion?

One of the greatest things about game design and publishing is meeting some new people with fresh ideas. Every game I’ve ever published has introduced me to someone new that has added some fun and fresh ideas to my wargaming. I first met Jim Getz after publishing La Guerre in the early 70s. That has been a life-long friendship with as many laughs as good ideas. Each following set brought new people with good ideas into my life. Piquet was especially fruitful, in that regard, with Brent Oman, Greg Pruitt, Jeff Valent, Eric Burgess, Jeff Grein and Freddy Avner-and especially the famed opera librettists, Peter Anderson and Adolfo Laurenti -and many more-Chris, Rob, Jimmy, and the Ilkey Lads; The, yet unmet in person, Sam Mustafa-and many, many more. All are great company and have made my life more interesting.

That’s what makes the writing and the work of publication all worth it.

But there is a darker side to the hobby, too, and no published designer can escape it-the lonely people seeking some sort of approval who offer exaggerated complaints, demands for attention, and almost stalker-like behavior on the boards. Sam offered a perfect parody of this character-that rings all too true to all game publisher/designers- in the first week of the Repiquerules forum. It’s a funny read, check it out! But it was also predictive, as at least a couple of people did a pretty good imitation of Sam’s “reviewer” on the TMP boards this week. It comes with the territory-which is why some designers just don’t go to conventions-or at least keep a very low profile. It isn’t the good people that they wish to avoid, but the few that just can’t seem to sense that their inner Emily Latella is running amok.

The most hilarious examples are often found blissfully unaware of their faux pas de deux with some authors, as one character on the “Repique publishes Zoauave” thread, who took it upon himself to offer advice on advertising, PR, game publication, customer relations, expert playtesting skills and interpersonal relations, which is fine-until you ask the question-who are you to be offering advice???? Ever written a set of published rules? Nope, never heard of him! Ever run a rule or history publishing business? Nope, not any that I’ve seen advertised. Background in advertising or PR? Not that I know of. Interpersonal skills? Well, if obsessing about other people’s character and approaches to the wargame biz( such as it is) is an interpersonal skill, rather than what some people might call it, I guess you might give him that.

There are critics and people genuinely seeking information about a design who perform an important role in the hobby, and then there are the people that just want attention, and the opportunity to play the expert. One can humor them, if one can spare the time, but most people that are actually doing something, whether successfully or not, are too busy creating something to tell other people how to run their business.

Ultimately, that’s how it all sorts out in life. Doers and talkers. Talkers are the ones that want respect, Doers are the ones that earn respect. The important thing is that they have to actually do something-not talk about how they’re fixin’ to do something. Or have we come to a point in the age of the internet where people are not only entitled to their own facts, but to have their untested opinions called expertise?

When Is Wargaming At Its Best?

In reflecting back on a lifetime of wargaming, I began to muse upon when did I most enjoy the gaming? What characterized the best of the best when it came to fun, interest, and play? I determined very quickly that enjoyment was never related to the size of the game. In fact, I doubt if any gamers would classify those huge multi-table 10,000 figure extravaganzas as their favorite wargame. Sure, the planning leading up to those monsters could be involving, but they were often all wind-up and no pitch! I’ve never seen a more bored group as a group of gamers on day two of a three day game! Inevitably the promise of these games is not met and everybody walks away thinking what a colossal waste of time they just went through and desperately seeking either food or a restroom!

The hobby shop is also not my idea of being conducive to a good game. The distractions are many, you get some people playing that not only don’t know the rules, but are often lacking basic social skills-especially when they are losing. It is a venue for the very young or those without any other option for a playing venue.

Convention games are equally prone to the poor loser, rules lawyer, loud mouth, and no one has any investment in the social group around the table. The truly bad sport could care less about his behavior when among strangers and people he may never see again. Convention games also seem to tailor their complexity and challenge to the simplest form and most obvious of strategies. That makes sense because of the need to be accessible to anyone who wanders up, but it leads to VERY ordinary games, or those that play fast with loads of dice and no thought. That’s why I never go to conventions to wargame. I go, instead, to mix with friends, shop for new goodies, discuss rule concepts with other designers, and to gather a group up for a good meal, non-wargaming conversation, and drinks later in the day. That’s the best of conventions, in my mind. I can play wargames at home, why travel 2000 miles to play an unchallenging game with complete strangers?

Club games can often work well. People do know each other. Most are conversant with whatever rules are being played, and even within a club, sub-groups are created that enjoy the same period, type of rules, or certain personalities. Like can find like and games can be as simple or complex as the sub-group desires.

But the best-the very best-is a small group of 4-6 people that get together regularly in someone’s private home and play a set of rules over a length of time. They learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses; learn to enjoy the little quirks that each person brings to the game table, and everyone understands every little nuance of the rules being played. This leads to games full of subtlety and challenge. The group generally has the best of good humor, because these people gather because they genuinely enjoy each other as people. Most of all such small, private, groups acquire a history! There are tales to tell, funny moments to recall and laugh over. There are silly reputations that grow up around the group. “Don’t ever give the cavalry to Ed-he’ll ride them off a cliff!” “Good old, Mumbasa, hunkered down in the woods as usual!” The rewards and the affection grows within the group when you can throw in an annual back-yard cook-out, or a summer Scopa Tournament. The best of wargames is only found when a great group of people, play a good set of rules, with good humor and mutual regard over a number of years. That’s the best-believe me!

Why Army Lists Suck!

Army Lists are more recent to rules than most people are aware of. They only really came into being with the advent of DBM style rules, and later manifestations as fantasy rules became popular with younger gamers. They are an easy way for a gamer to go to his favorite miniature provider and follow a recipe without either much knowledge of history, or understanding organization and structures of armies of a given period-he just fills the order, so to speak.

They are also complete and total balderdash!

Now, I have no argument with fantasy gamers using army lists-after all how many elves do make up a band? Who knows what dwarf armies had in the way of artillery? It makes sense that the author of the rules needs to tell you what his imaginary armies were like. Likewise, I have no problem with the tournament ancient gamer who plays DBM or the like, as long as they recognize that their needs are based on the fact that such games are about the tournament and the needs of the game balance, and have little to do with history. In a sense, such games jumped the shark when they went across periods, and huge geographical distances, to pose armies against each other that could never meet in the real world. They are, again, a form of fantasy. A fantasy sheep in history wolves’ clothing, so to speak.

Through most of military history prior to the late 1600s or early 1700s, the armies were largely made up of whoever showed up, and that could vary widely from battle to battle, and circumstance to circumstance. Many of the battles in all periods could be wildly unbalanced in the real world in either quality or numbers. Not so, with the Army List world. In most cases, army lists are not even a good average representation of armies of a period, but, rather, the aggregated average of only 2-3 of the major battles of a given army with a little fudge factor by the designer. Again, in the medieval and even Renaissance periods armies were pretty amorphous in size and make-up, and so some sort of argument might be made that the only way to do even in -period, historical, opponents in battle would be to agree on some mythical “typical” army after examining a few major engagements. So be it. I understand that that is one way to deal with gaming in a period in which standardization was not typical-just impose standardization upon the armies! That is-make it up! Just like Elven archers!

This becomes less defensible when you get to the Horse and Musket period, or later. These armies did have a structure that may be studied. There is no need to posit fantastical opponents from another time and place, they have many historical adversaries and great numbers of battles to study. None of the army structures are terribly hard to find out about or understand. One book on a period that covers the action on a tactical level and you’ve got it! Actual relatively accurate numbers in various units, at various battles, on certain dates can be found in 10 minutes. If you want a generic average of these formations, it is EASY to find and apply. There is NO need for an an extensive body of army lists! None!

Then why do they exist? There are several reasons that suggest themselves. First of all, too many wargames are not based in their design on true army structures-or even armies! They are division sized cock-ups of a few typical troops (usually those with the best uniforms) that fill a 4x6 to 4X8 table. They usually represent all three arms, but even then the army lists strangely over-represent cavalry and under-represent artillery. They are an artificial recipe that is more about working with the rules as written, than matching any historical mix. They have no true connection to historical structures-even abstracted ones. They have “command groups” that fit the rules and the table instead. They are a very effective mechanism for making some people think they are battling with armies, when the forces engaged aren’t even a minimum rear guard.

They also exist for forms of convention play, for the same reason as the ancient tournaments have them-and they are just as ahistorical-maybe more so, since the historical information is more readily available.

They are also a way for Historical Gamers to avoid reading or thinking about history-it can be put in a can and sold to people that have no real interest in history. They are really fantasy gamers that like their troops in historical uniforms. Just buy one bag of grenadiers, three of line infantry and a half bag of lights! Voila! An Army-just add water based paint! No history required-just eat your prepared meal and never think about whether it’s Soylent Green!

Now army lists are VERY popular with rule publishers because it can get you to that magic number of minimum pages, or fill out 30-50 pages with fluff that allows a price increase, but that requires no real creative effort. Writing rules is hard-any ass with enough time and a pocket calculator can do army lists-it’s just tedious. When a rule set gets to 150 pages and the majority of it is army lists-beware! When a rule set is 12 pages of rules, 30 pages of pretty pictures, and 100 pages of army lists-you’ve got a situation where you are paying a lot for stuff that isn’t used beyond the first look at the book, and actually gets in the way of the rules being used at the table. If a set of rules costs $30-50 dollars, divide that price by the number of pages of actual rules-not the army lists and other marginally useful material-and that’s what you are paying for ideas-which is supposedly what is being sold in a rule set. That makes any set with dozens of army lists (usually one to a page) a pretty expensive set of rules, and a very inefficient use of your purchasing dollar.

Now, I am NOT saying that suggested starter armies aren’t a consumer friendly thing, especially for the new gamer, the unread youngster, or the marginally educated, but when army lists become a requirement, the hobby has, yet again, committed to the Lowest Common Denominator in design, gaming, and historical inquiry. It’s a hobby that’s supposed to be about history and encourage thought while entertaining gamers and their friends-isn’t it?

Nor am I against giving a reasonable description of the make-up of armies in a period-just don’t tell me that the cliff notes for Huckleberry Finn are necessary to reading and understanding the book! Cliff notes are a thinly disguised cheat by those that don’t really want to do the work. There is some requirement for reading history in historical wargaming isn’t there? Not only the designer, but the gamer should have some basis for judgment beyond the contents of a rule book shouldn’t they? Is it too much to expect historical wargamers to have some grounding in history? So then let’s treat Army Lists for what they are, the equivalent of Lite beer, microwave dinners, fast food, and movies with “Awesome” explosions. They destroy the distinctions between fantasy gaming and historical wargaming. They also severely limit the historical miniature hobby in its creative development. Every game played becomes crammed into the preconceptions of the list-and the list has no reality-even an abstracted one. As they say of Los Angeles-there is no “there,” there.

On publishing wargames

I suppose that every wargamer at some time or another has mentioned writing his own rules and publishing them. Rules writing has been my primary enjoyment in wargaming. I was never too hooked on the modeling aspects, painting, or terrain building. Generally speaking, I let others do that-while I worked on creating rules. I have rarely played any commercial sets that are available, though I do read most of the just to keep in touch with what other designers are doing.

Historical wargame rules are more like literature than technical writing for many reasons. Though based on history and factual parameters, they are subjective interpretations and not either scientific analysis, or strict simulations. The tastes in rules vary widely and so does the appreciation of certain authors, and the criticism of others. The interest in many rules usually starts with a burst of chatter about the “latest” set and then after a few months quiets down to a murmur, often accompanied by the required and VERY predictable counterforce of criticism, which leaves you wondering how the rules were so widely touted in the first place. In short, wargame rules behave identically to the fiction entertainment business whether it’s a book, a movie, or the latest catchy tune. To be sure, some rules survive to be come classics and played over many years. The Sword and The Flame, Napoleon’s Battles, Piquet come to mind, but they are the exceptions not the rule. Most wargame rules are made of the same ephemeral material as the latest mystery novel, The DaVinci Code, and whatever is the latest 3D money with explosions playing at the local cineplex.

Wargames are entertainments. They are intended to amuse and provide a bit of fun for each of us and our friends.

But that does not make them easy to write and publish. The Two happiest days for a rules writer are the day he begins a new set and the day he finishes it! The writing task is a very lonely one and one that demands a wide range of skills. There is no way to write a set of rules other than to closet yourself with a computer and spend many long hours writing, editing, and re-writing. The playtesting may be a group activity, and the most fun part of rules creation, but the writing is NOT a group activity. If you are not a reasonably competent writer, you will never complete the task. But even more necessary is a wide range of computer skills. The margins in rule publishing are so narrow that unless you can do layout yourself, have some passing acquaintance with Word, InDesign, Photoshop, and basic drawing programs-you will lose money if you need to hire those skills.

Even more necessary is the ability to create and build a website. It is the modern broadside, newsletter, and advertising tool. Hobby publications are less of a force today in wargaming than ever before. A majority of people below the age of 30 in the US have not read a book in the last year! Only one in 10 reads a newspaper! All of the hobby publications are having a hard time of it, especially in “fringe” interests such as wargaming. In the historical wargaming segment this is even more pronounced, there are no MWAN’s, Table Top Talks, or Wargamer’s Digests-they are tools of the past. A few glossies continue overseas where publishing costs are lower-England’s Miniatures Wargames, or France’s Vae Victus are good examples, but they more driven by the visual content than ideas. The web is the best advertising and marketing tool available for our niche hobby. It is a necessary tool for a wargame designer/publisher. Again, Wargame publishers should not farm it out!

The wargame designer/publisher’s work only truly begins with the writing. One has to explore printing options, learn the language and needs of the various forms of printing ranging from POD to Short Run Presses. You have to research exactly who can give you the best product at the lowest dollar. That takes time and effort. Maintaining website and a forum-such as the one Repique has established on Yahoo! takes a lot of effort and time, especially as a start-up where you are building a location where you want to encourage people to visit by having fresh material and ideas constantly appearing. Writing a blog successfully isn’t a case of sporadically making an entry every 3-4 weeks; It requires constant new materials.

Finally, there is customer relations. This comes in two forms. First, is fulfillment-getting product to the customer quickly. As I learned from past experience, do that yourself too! One of the worst aspects of the initial Piquet release was the terrible fulfillment and response. I learned a good lesson there and will always make sure that aspect is also under my direct control in all future publications.

And then there is the issue of meeting the customer at shows and conventions. I am very divided in mind about that. I think if you’re a figure seller, a book seller, a figure painting service, a terrain maker, etc. It makes a lot of sense to meet and greet at the shows-it is the best opportunity to show off a tangible, touchable, product. Rules, I think are quite different. Very few wargamer designers attend the conventions as dealers. Arty Conliffe seldom makes an appearance, Bowden, Getz, Mustafa, etc. all keep a relatively low profile. After 10 years of going to every show in the 90s, I think I know why. Wargame designers deal in ideas, the intangible, and the subjective-they are often introspective and, by nature, analytics. Wargamers at a convention are quite different, and often more interested in proving their own expertise and offering critiques than any meaningful conversation. To be sure there are some genuinely brilliant and insightful people at conventions-but most rule writers will see the peopel they really find interesting at a pre-arranged dinner.

My idea of hell is a wargamer in front of me demanding to know why there are no emergency squares in the rules, or accosting you when you are exhausted after a day doing game demos or talking at the booth, and being upset that you don’t seem to want to jabber on for another hour about the use of light infantry. I think I might return to Historicon to meet with friends, but I am not eager to jump back into the convention scene, which was one of the reasons I burned out on the hobby ten years ago. Most rule writers seem to agree with me that less is better when it comes to the convention scene. This is doubly true when the largest such convention has very clumsily moved from a bad hotel in a rural backwater to an aging convention complex in an urban backwater. Better to spend your money of advertising and publishing costs than the cost of travel and lodging. Maybe go once every 3-5 years just to see friends-unless, of course, it’s in Philadelphia!

I am hoping that internet services such as Skype, podcasting, and other forms of electronic conferencing, along with fast e-mail responses on the forum and personal e-mails, might prove as effective in the long run in interacting with customers as spending four days in Valley Forge. (Remember, even Washington only went there when there was no other alternative!) Winking

Read more…

The Game's Afoot!

I have posted several changes to the website this morning. Both the “What’s in the Rulebook?” and the “Pricing and Availability” page have a number of new bits of information. The summary version of most of this is that Zouave will ship to the printer this afternoon, and that pre-orders will be possible starting April 15th, 2010. The price has been set at $29.95 for a great set of rules, but any pre-orders after the 15th and prior to May 1st will get a $5.00 discount.

The Austro-Prussian 1866 addenda will be posted as a free PDF on the Repique Rules forum on May 1st, 2010. I plan to follow with free addenda also posted to the forum for the Crimea, 1859, and 1864 S-H war. This will be done at irregular intervals over the next year. I am also very open to any of you, after you get familiar with the rules, posting your version of such rule extensions.

I’m looking at three new ideas after Zouave is firmly launched - a set of WWI air rules incorporating a campaign for ultimate victory conditions; a campaign rule set for Zouave utilizing some new approaches that integrate closely with the Grand tactical rules, and, finally, a project that I’m Calling “Graustark and Ruritania” which will be very off-beat and based on late 19th century fiction. It will also integrate with the Repique: Zouave system.

My personal goals will be to vastly expand my ACW and Maximilian Armies over the coming summer. This will be a busy year! I hope all of you “Earlies” will join me on this little voyage! Thank you for your attention to this point.

Best,

Bob Jones
Denver April 1, 2010

(No-this is not an April Fool’s!)

Wargamers I Have Met

Over the years I have enjoyed the advantages of being able to travel extensively, and this has allowed me to meet a number of people who have provided the foundation for the hobby of wargaming. They have all been interesting and often entertaining company. In fact, their good humor and bonhomie seems to be a cornerstone of their personalities.

I first met Jack Scruby, as most of the old timers did, through the annals of Wargames Digest or Table Top Talk, which used to be the two main means of spreading news about the hobby, and the source of many a fine early article about history, uniforms, and wargame rule creation. He was always open to off-beat ideas and experimental games. He always had a new rule idea he wanted to try. Jack was also the primary source for figures using his printing business as a source for lead and a front for his wargaming! He brought many of the early wargamers together. If you ordered figures from jack, you were almost certain to get a call or letter from someone who lived within 50 miles of you who had done likewise and jack had passed on your contact information.

I drove with my wife to the West Coast in 1966 to see him at the old Visalia factory. He was a big man, a tad overweight, and a cigarette was always dangling from his lip, but his loud laugh and smile coupled with a boyish enthusiasm for anything new in the hobby was infectious and you soon forgot the smoke-thick air. At the time I met him he had a large garage-like store room with walls lined with casting molds (the OLD kind of plaster or vulcanized rubber-no spin cast!). Dave Rusk was his manager and the only person that seemed to know where everything was located. In the center of the room was his table, that many a game from Mafrica and other mythical places had been fought.

For quite a while, at least into the mid 70s, Jack was the primary supplier of figures, published rules, and the monthly newsletter, Originally Table Top Talk, and later W.argame Digest. It’s hard to believe in this age of the internet, but his publications were the only means, other than Featherstone’s Wargamer’s Newsletter, for gamers to share ideas and suggest new ideas for many years. Jack was the main supplier of not only figures but information and motivation to try new periods. Scruby’s came in 30mm, 25 mm, 1 inch, and “N” scale-he was open to any scale as long as it fit his latest inspiration. This openness to new ideas and new devices was his hallmark, and one that many present gamers could well adopt. The period that Jack was in business was the last period in which the main thrust of the hobby in the US was Western based. It was a very creative period for everyone involved as a lot of the core concepts of gaming that exist to this very day can be found in jack’s rules and magazines. I wrote several articles for him and never failed to receive a note and encouragement from the Father of US Wargaming! jack died in 1988 but is remembered by the Scruby Award given by the HMGS East chapter.

I met Don Featherstone in 1969 at his big home in Southampton, I was making my first trip to Europe immediately after leaving the Navy. My wife and I got a B&B near his home and I got to spend my first of many meetings with Don. His Wargamer’s Newsletter-published in mimeograph was always chatty, informative, always showed his good humor. In person, this humor showed all the more. He was a natural diplomat and could show the patience of Job with a mob of wargamers clamoring for his attention. When I first met him in 1969 until just a few years ago (we last had a long chat in 1999 or 2000 at Historicon during his last visit to the States) it was as if he possessed the keys to a time-machine-he never aged! He was amazingly fit throughout his life, and I can remember running with him in 1969 for a good half mile at a demanding pace to get to the local pub before it closed. I was a competitive runner my whole life and he had no problem pressing the pace with me!

Just as Jack Scruby was an important US source of information, so was Don’s Wargamer’s Newsletter the voice of UK gaming for many years, and let all of us in the states know about the latest figures and rules from across the pond. He, too, was open to ALL ideas and systems, and saw all approaches as not only valid, but necessary to a growing hobby. His one credo that was heartfelt was that the game should be a friendly one with good natured ribbing, and when it came down to it-“Just roll the dice.” At our last visit, he was having trouble hearing, and was feeling the limitations of his age more than he would like, but his energy and good humor shown through in his every word and that wicked twinkle in his eye was not diminished. Don is a treasure to this hobby and deserves every accolade that comes his way. His books remain a delight to read and I am thrilled that they are being republished by John Curry. Read them, and rediscover the core reasons that we enjoy this hobby! And if you ever meet Don ask him about his twin brother, Larry, who, unknown to most gamers, co-wrote most of Don’s works as a silent partner. If you get a chance to talk to Don, look at his left hand. If it has a rose colored birthmark-you’re actually talking to Larry! Don’t tell the Featherstone twins that I spilled the beans! They’ve been pulling this scam for 50 years!

(I’ll continue these little notes about the interesting people I have met in this hobby in future Blog postings.)

Combat In Wargames

Repique and Piquet have both stressed different methods of treating time in the play of a miniature wargame-using cards to make the flow of time unpredictable, and, in Repique, adding variability in the extent of movement within any move time frame as well. These mechanics bring back suspense, and the need for the gamer to deal with some level of risk in sending troops forward into battle. They nicely mimic some of the angst of command in battle, and require some level of courage in decision making by lowering the unrealistic levels of “Knowns” in many wargames of EXACTLY when, and how far, a unit may may move.

But movement is only part of the factors of battle that a wargame must address, there is also combat. Most wargames fail miserably in this area as well, and for much the same reason, they simply make too much known to the gamer, make the decisions of battle too controllable, and allow gamers to make decisions where the outcome is depressingly predictable. The worst extreme of this was that staple of boardgames often brought over to the miniature wargame the classic CRT with the 3-1 arbiter of near sure success-allowing gamers to control the factors of a combat down to the last combat factor. In how many board games have the counters been carefully nudged to get that “Sure” victory? Or who has not seen some miniature wargames where the combatants use pocket calculators to get down to the last digit of the factors at play, where command becomes a skill not unlike being an accountant, not a general.

This “Comptroller Accountant” attitude in many wargamers robs their games of not only accurate perceptions of history, but most of its fun and gameplay enjoyment. It is a curse on the hobby far greater than the “rules Lawyers,” though there is possibly much overlap in those two groups!

Instead of counting hits in terms of Prussian musketry tables on a drill ground against a bed-sheet, we MUST become more interested in the behavior effects combat has on units and what they do in combat situations. It really doesn’t matter on a bullet by bullet basis-it is the aggregated effect and the response of the target unit. Does it continue advancing? Does it Hold its ground? Does it retreat or rout? Does it counter charge, or respond with a surprising counter-volley?

These results may be modeled to take into account various advantages of one side over another, their inherent qualities and strengths may be compared, but we do not need to model the particularities of combat on a level below the unit-just the result on the unit’s battlefield behavior. This allows many innovative and fun mechanics once we are freed from slavishly enumerating the steps of arms drill, the bullet by bullet accounting of spurious musketry accuracy tests on a drill field, and the concentration on process over results. It is the result that matters, and the sooner a game design gets rid of this anal-retentive fascination with misleading and uninformative details and moves on to treating only factors that are easily deduced from the historical record, and the resulting effects-results-consequences on the behavior of units, the sooner miniature wargames will be fun and more informative than many games are today. Get out of the trees, start looking back at the forest!

This change will bring more positive effects to the table-top as did the reframing of time through the use of sequence cards. Zouave will be a sure example of a design that that uses new approaches in both areas.

Canoeing in the Historical Archipelago

Historical Wargaming has always appeared to me to be a bunch of small islands separated by blue water. On each island is a dominant tribe that dictates what the tribe rules will be. They seldom mix, because only a few have a canoe that allows them to cross from island to island. Certain beliefs about what are the best rules, or what kind of totems should be used are generally agreed upon by each tribe. In the past, these tribes were so scattered and small that they knew little about what the other tribes were doing, or even if there were other tribes.

That all changed when the inter-island drum signals were created. The drum beats that echoed over the waters began to tie the various tribes together in some of their rituals, but it also was strangely impersonal as you could seldom see the drummer, and often led to strife and contention about what the drum beats meant. Even worse, there were many tribes that had no drum, and others that were determined to stop the evil influences of random canoers that brought new rules to the island. Some tribes, because they were bigger and more powerful, would hold large tribal councils but made very sure that any canoers that arrived were never allowed to lead the tribe. They never listened to the canoers ideas, and always said that their council was ONLY for that tribe-even though they allowed others to attend.

There were many islands that wanted nothing to do with whatever was occurring on the other islands, and wanted both the canoes and the drums banned from their tribe. They were particularly suspicious of some new canoes with sails and funny hull shapes, often used by people that also had very different tribal rules.

This all became a crisis when the huge cruise liner, USS Syfie Fantasy, came to the islands with tons of very oddly dressed tourists who thought the islanders very quaint, and after buying a few totems began to change the islands. Some islanders even began to mimic the tourists and dress like them. Now the tribes are much smaller, and have become even more intent upon stopping anyone visiting their islands. They hide the councils on small islands that no one wants to visit-often far from civilization, and they become even more fixed in their rituals and rules. Anthropologists are concerned for their survival unless the tribes become more open to change and different rules. In the meantime, many of the young islanders have moved away and only come back as tourists on the cruise ship.

The Wonderous D12!

We were well into game testing when Greg Cornell, one of the Zouave playtesters raised the issue of move lengths. He remembered a game designed by a prominent designer that had 4” moves for a pike block advancing on a gun. The gun had a range of 48 inches. He soon calculated that, at best, it wold take him 12 moves to get to the guns-who hit with a 5 or 6 on a six-sided dice. At that rate, there was no way he was going to make it to the guns! The low movement rates guaranteed it! The game also played with all the excitement of watching paint dry!

Wargame rules are far too often too limited by the rules in establishing move distances-figuring that if you make the moves too long and too predictable, as in a fixed distance, move counter move or in many phased systems, the typical commander will just rocket up and paste you! What was needed was a way to make movement unpredictable, both as to when and exactly how far, but still capable of being anticipated. You never know how long it will take old Uncle John to get to the drug store and back-it varies, but generally speaking you can guess-you know when to start worrying, and occasionally he’ll surprise you!

At the time of Greg’s comment, Zouave was playing OK, but movement was slow and the game took too long to develop. Then, thanks to his comment, it came to me...D12 variable roll, variable number of dice, variable ways to treat the rolls. The mathematics of the dice instills a level of predictability, but the potential extremes argue for caution. Especially if all units are not traveling at EXACTLY the same rate. By going to one die type it made any confusion between die types in use a non-issue.

So now we have a move progression for regimental moves only (Divisional moves are more dependent on the commander’s quality) of 3xD12; 2XD12;2xD12-take the best; D12; 2xD12 take the worst; 2XD12 subtract lower from higher; 2XD12 (Light die subtracted from darker die); and 2xD12(Light from dark/halved). Any negative number is no move at all. Units on roads, can, at their discretion very occasionally move great distances, but with great risk of being too far ahead of their supports. Units in very tough rocky, hilly terrain, or extremely dense woods and undergrowth, can often find themselves not moving at all. The D12 distribution is a bell-curve, but of vastly greater amplitude than a D6s and yet not chaotic. Because of its introduction, Zouave moves quickly to decision, and yet the inherent risk of taking the full distance, and the concurrent risk of supports falling short-leads to relatively conservative and modest choices most of the time-BUT the threat of a fast striking move leads to real tough decision making for both the active and passive player.

I am now in love with the mighty D12! Can’t get enough of them! 12 has always been a mystical, and flexible number- as the Assyrians and Arabs pointed out to us westerners. D12s are the perfect die. I guess that makes me a Dude-cohedron. I will abide!

Gaming Metaphors

Wargames are games. That simple statement is often argued about or stentoriously repeated as a statement of great wisdom on all wargame forums at some time or another. It is a truism. It does point to one fact of wargaming that gets overlooked by many people: Wargames are artifice. They are NOT simulations, since they are not testable, nor is their purpose to exactly illustrate any action or process of battle. They are entertainments. They are a relatively harmless and simple diversion, a way to socialize and pass time, not unlike Monopoly, Chess, or a game of cards. Surely, they are based on history, and the designer’s understanding of that history, along with his purpose, theme, or hypothesis about that combat as he lays out the rules of the game. But, bottom line, wargames are games with rules. They are a creative mix of fact and fun, not unlike a historical novel-such as the Flashman or O’Brien’s Aubrey novels. This is coupled with rules-which are just as in Scrabble, Poker, or Yahtze shows how the gamers will interact; what is fair, and what is foul.

Wargame rules attempt to set up metaphors-subtitutes of one process by another process that serves to represent the real process through an artifice. To illustrate the effect of musketry on a battalion, for instance, we don’t actually go out and shoot somebody-we substitute a die roll with certain effects flowing from its result. The die roll is used as a metaphor for a round of musketry. Most wargamers accept this metaphor, as it has been around for over a hundred years. They see nothing strange or awkward about it.

However, metaphors must be learned and accepted. When I first wrote Piquet there was a howl from many people who suddenly started talking about “Card Driven” games, and their loss of control over armies! The Piquet card sequence deck was a new metaphor, when introduced, for the flow of time. Gamers had grown so used to a fixed and predictable game sequence that they saw the card deck as chaotic, and ‘Unrealistic.” No matter that the fixed sequence games had many of its own artificialities, and its metaphor for time-the fixed sequence turn-was no more or less susceptible to oddities, such as the artillery ALWAYS firing before the infantry, or the cavalry always moving first or last. It was simply that one gaming metaphor for time collided with another-and out of familiarity the fixed turn was deemed “realistic” and the card sequenced turn was deemed chaotic! Now, after 15 years the number of games using the sequence deck, or its equivalent, has become so common that the metaphor has become more “realistic!” Nothing really changed but the mindset of gamers and their acceptance of this different metaphor.

One of the new metaphors in Zouave is the one for “orders”. In the past, some wargames used the most obvious of metaphors-the single courier figure with a handwritten note under his base saying something like “ Take that hill and then turn left.” Some still use this method. It is blazingly simple, not very imaginative, and, as generations of gamers have discovered, very open to all sorts of abuse in interpretation. It also creates a metaphor for something that may have been quite a bit more rare in actual battle, the written order with a high degree of specificity (rather like those given to a car driver attempting to find a gas station). Some use order chips placed by each unit-usually freely on a turn by turn basis-making orders mere ephemeral things that last only a turn and then are changed at will to meet unexpected events. Other designers have tried other metaphors, or ignored the issue altogether, allowing everybody to do just what they want to do,, and when they want to do it. This leads to that most unrealistic of all wargame events-the general advance by all units in an army.

When one looks at battles it is pretty clear that much of the order process was a combination of a pre-battle conference, initial formal orders, informal and often sketchy battle notes, and very frequently, verbal communications that were responding to the current situation as it developed. It is also apparent that the reason one promoted divisional and corps leaders to their position is that you expected some level of local initiative and response, if the situation warranted it. The written order or order chip metaphor isn’t very effective in portraying much of this.

In Zouave, I have created a new metaphor for orders. They are simply pennies, each of which denotes a bit of command energy, a metaphor for ordered intentions, that are acquired both before the battle and after it begins in a manner that is very dependent on the quality of the Commander, who can try to distribute them to his divisional commanders. This distribution is pretty free prior to the battle, but during the battle the process is muddied by the the abilities of the Commander in Chief, the quality of the recipient commander, the distance that separates the two commands, the conflicting needs of the various divisional commanders, the status of the various division’s troops, and, lastly, the actions of the enemy. These pennies represent the command will, the initial formal orders, the flow of information, the verbal orders, and the ability of lower commands to act. This is done simply and clearly. It enforces ruthlessly the need to focus an attack, and the humiliation of being outfoxed. If a gamer wanted to, he could easily substitute the new magnetic markers that have come on the market, but the pennies work just fine.

It is a different metaphor. I think it’s very effective, and fairly innovative. But, I’m sure some gamers will have to learn how to be comfortable with a new “Chaotic”metaphor. I look forward to the reaction of the wargame community.

Here’s a photo of a Divisional commander with a great deal of information, Command will, and orders to execute!:





RSS Feed is Available!

This is to inform you that the Zouave Blog is available as an RSS feed. We are still troubleshooting a few points, but it should be fully operational soon. Check the subscription button on this blog page. If you are experiencing any problems please let us know using the contact button or contact page, as we need to confirm all is well. Thank you.

Initial Thoughts; Part 3 (Final)

In this final section, I will discuss the combat concepts and cotton balls...

Combat in Piquet was essentially a counter-die roll using multi-sided dice and the determination of winning, and the degree of the victory, was simply whose die roll was higher. It incorporated two concepts that were original; The “sliding dice” combat tables that were a step up from the plus or minus 1 or 2 “shopping lists” that many rules used; The infamous firing procedure- where firing once was “free” but you couldn’t fire again without a “reload” card-which rather stood the premise of having a fire phase on its head, but worked well even when it was the source a many complaints-mostly by people that had never seen or played the game that invented “Fire” cards that never existed. It had a separate morale roll that was instigated by the enemy, which I always loved as a very efficient way of making sure morale tests occurred at the moment an attacker or defender was most vulnerable. It worked well on the tactical level. Cotton puffballs were used as indicators that a unit had fired and needed to “reload’ before it could fire again. Fire effectiveness and melee, or close combat, used different initial numbers and varied by unit. Initial ratings could be a lengthy process, though I found it fun.

I determined that this granularity would not work on the higher level that Zouave was intended to cover. All were fun processes and worked pretty well, but several steps were required both pre-game and during play that would be too lengthy once you moved from a few battalions and squadrons to sixty or more regiments in a game. The process had to be simplified. I did, however, want to make it even more interactive between the opposing players than just a die roll. I also wanted to change, by more than just the simple act of renaming, the fire once-puffball-reload pattern.

The Repique system operates off two numbers-the die to be used by the attacker which is fixed by weapon type in firepower situations, and the unit quality die which is variable according to type, training, and a die roll variable, which determines the unit’s ability to maintain cohesion under fire, and its capability in close actions and melee. That quality die roll is the only single roll used to rate individual troops prior to play, and is directly related to the make-up of the sequence deck.

When a unit, usually a regiment or a battery, fires upon another unit it makes a single die roll against the opposing unit’s quality die and that determines the effect of combat. The various effects of terrain, range, relative position, and the cohesion of the firing and target unit are done on two tables one for the attacker, and one for the defender. They are not the “sliding dice tables” but a listing of advantages that each party may uniquely possess-such as high ground, or a flanking position that are quickly added up and the net difference determines what happens next. If neither party has an advantage on the other, the outcome is determined by a straight die roll. If an advantage does exist for either party, they may progressively choose to re-roll their die, force the other player to re-roll, or both! At the extremes of actions, one party may be allowed a bigger die type and re-rolls!

The rules allow a player to fire and keep firing until his firepower loses effectiveness from the smoke, losses, chaos and the stress of battle. Regaining the effectiveness of early battle is hard for units which have been heavily engaged. Every puffball fire marker not only denotes a fire, but as units acquire multiples their fire loses its sting.

Close combat is still just two counter-rolls determined by the engaged units quality, but it is DEADLY. Like a bullfight in a corrida-it is immediately and finally fought to conclusion. This may take several sequential rolls, but, once entered into, close combat will usually leave one party in possession of the ground or pursuing, and one party crushed and routing to the rear. No equivocation or “on-going” melees though there is a small chance that both sides may end up so exhausted that both the “Winner” and the “loser”are just staring at each other over a sliver of ground! Whether a routed unit is ralliable at all isn’t known immediately, but run they will!

The combat tables take into consideration over 40 different factors and their degree, but because of their unique design are easily memorized and require a minimum of time to adjust and use. The process is very interactive and the decisions on whether to initially fire or fire again is very tough-especially since the defender is NOT totally passive and may actually have an damaging effect on you during your own fire!

Firepower comes in several flavors; a harassing fire that
might cause damage, but mostly makes life, movement, and advancing a trying moment for the targeted unit; Effective fire, that can be deadly; intense fire that is often costly for BOTH sides, and ,finally, what is called close combat, but really models extremely short ranged combat-some by fire, some by sword, some by fists and bayonet.

Morale is incorporated into the fire effects, and the rally potential of units, so no separate rolls or steps are taken during combat, though rallying by officers can occur during part of the command cards usage.

The system is easy, quick, decisive, and damn interactive-both combatants are involved-none of this visiting the dealer’s area while the other guy is moving and firing!


Well, folks, that completes the broadest of outlines of the Repique: Zouave system. Of course, the niceties of the use of the sequence deck and the novel aspects of the Divisional/Regimental D12 movement procedures await your discovery in the published rules.

The rules are written in a new FAQ structure which I also think will be a fresh and effective approach to learning the rules-and, of course, easily adapted to the eventual epublication methods that have been discussed on the forum. The original set will be printed in booklet form with heavy card player aids. Support files and add-ons will appear regularly on the Repique Rules Forum in PDF form.







Initial Thoughts Part 2

In part 2 of this initial description of Zouave, I’ll discuss the turn sequencing, and the key concepts of command treatment.

I have always had a strong interest in the treatment of time in wargames. I think it is the key to a game that truly offers a hint of the experience of war that is the most commonly discussed by those that have been in battle, and is the most ignored aspect by many a wargame design-the fear of the unknown and the inability to clearly see what is going to happen next. From a commander’s point of view, this feeling of not perfectly knowing the future is only slightly less true of his own troops, let alone the enemy. Alas,the vast majority of wargames have a fixed turn sequence that let’s both sides know EXACTLY what is happening next and plans are made and rule “gotchas” are set on the basis of this completely fanatastical foreknowledge. Clauswitz in his great thesis “Vom Krieg” addressed the unpredictable nature of battle quite thoroughly in his examination of “friction” in battle, which always makes the extent of action achieved variable, but also in his wonderful description of the play of events as being “most like a game of cards.”

These concepts are what prompted my key design features in Piquet. Piquet was quite different from what came before in that it didn’t just determine the sequencing of units, or their activation, but actually carved up the game sequence-in effect, made the flow of time and events unpredictable. This was unsettling to many gamers because it substituted a whole new range of artifices for illustrating the behavior of units on the table and created new game situations that were quite unlike the equally artificial constructs of the fixed sequence game. The difference was gamers had accepted the obvious absurdities of Artillery always firing before the infantry moved, or all units moving exactly the same distance, at the same point of the move, and their troops being able to predictably deploy before your cavalry could charge. They had not the same familiarity with the constructs of Piquet and that led, initially, to some ding-dong flame wars at the end of the 90s.

In the last 10 years the acceptance, and copying, of the Piquet concepts has been so thorough that many a game has bits of the Piquet DNA in their fabric.

The key to Piquet was the card deck which added this ability to break up an army’s move by type, terrain inhabited, and seamlessly inserted command failures, heroic moments, and, my favorite, “Dress lines” which was a lull in battle where nothing happened. A zen moment that was so seldom possible in other games. The cards also, in concert with the original impetus method, made the management of time and opportunity so focused, and impetus was so dear, that wargame armies began to mimic the same overall behavior of real armies-A good general concentrated on one area of the battlefield and made his move there, and not as so many wargames do, where the entire army advances and every sector is active. It provided a unique way of modeling different armies within a period. Piquet was, and is, a great game with unique and insightful portrayals of battle.

Piquet, however, was a highly tactical game. At most, both armies were a large division in numbers and size and not much more. This never hurt the game with wargamers since it did fit another widely accepted convention of the miniature tabletop wargame-the mini-division size. Twelve to sixteen units, a mixture of all arms, a historically low artillery battery count, and command and control at a single point( often the wargamer playing the troops). Most derivative designs from Piquet have continued this mini-division size and limitation. 90% of all wargames share this construct. Surely, the game was simplified by some, made more amenable to the convention scene, and the impetus swings were squeezed down to a near move-counter-move behavior, but the core strength of the design was sufficient to still yield a good game. It remained, essentially, a tactical, mini-division, single command level design.

When I began Zouave, I wanted to break out of the limitations of the original Piquet design and start to portray at least a hint of the revolution in warfare that came with the Army-Corps-Division implementation. This had been tried in the past, but led to rulebooks the size of phone books, tediously long turns, and, oddly enough, amorphous and unchallenging command decisions. Often these games either totally lost any sense of tactical color and combat, or instituted such laborious and convoluted tactical resolution (“See rule 12.3.2.5b&rdquoWinking that one felt more like an accountant or a parent assembling a Christmas toy using Chinese instructions! They were often bad, bad games. The counter-reaction to these designs led to the blossoming of so many simple skirmish games, the mini-division designs, and GW style bucket of dice wargames. They were straightforward, with a limited number of units, simple die rolls, and were very conventional using almost identical game mechanics-you didn’t have to read the rules, even! Army lists made sure you didn’t have to read much history. As a group of historical designs they were only a bare notch above fantasy games such as GW, and often had only a thin veneer of history. The “big” games above the divisional size were decidedly out of fashion.

So, I had to find a way to say something about the role of army structure, use relatively large forces, and still have a good game, and tactical color. Though the rules would not be a single page, I had to avoid the telephone book syndrome. There’s a challenge! I certainly wanted to use the sequence card deck concept I introduced in Piquet, but it had to be less tactical and restrictive. I also wanted to avoid the need for gamers to buy anything beyond the rules, including cards, markers, etc. Using commonly available “tools” would make both the gamer’s life and mine-much easier and less costly. I wanted to retain Piquet’s lack of tables, but add some zest to the combat resolution. I also wanted to require a high level of hard decision making on all levels from command to Corps, to Division to regiment in the tactical battle. I decided that one of the best decades to base the game in is the 1861-1871 transition in warfare. The evolution of technology and the role of command are dramatically illustrated in these conflicts.

Zouave uses a standard 54 card playing deck with jokers. It uses standard multi-sided dice, with an emphasis on the D12 in movement. THe rule book minus the addenda, but with over 24 pictures, four illustrations, and four tables are only 32 pages long in manuscript. They cover four periods and a decade in which hundreds of battles were fought and was the transition from Napoleonic war to modern war.

Each army draws from a common shuffled deck. The two red suits are for army “A”, The two Black suits are used by Army “B.” In the red suits, the Diamonds allow commanders to act, execute divisional movement, and the movement of “independent” units. They allow rallies and facilitate the actions of the divisions. The hearts are impetus as it is used in many games for tactical units, which in Zouave allows regimental actions, the establishment of fire discipline, and engineering activities. Likewise, the other army uses Spades for command and clubs for lower level tactical action. Both decks can be crafted to model the strengths and weaknesses of either army in either the command functions army-corps-division, or the tactical combat area-regimental-battalion-battery. The available initiatives for both armies varies separately in the command and tactical areas, but is constrained by the nature of standard card decks to be roughly equivalent-thus removing the “It ain’t equal!” complaint. The player can use these initiatives anywhere he cares to, it is HIS choice which divisions and regiments are ordered to the attack, just as it was Lee’s choice that Picket’s division would be the one that charged. Both players may fire anytime they wish and may fire as often as they like-but with ever decreasing effectiveness-until the regimental command reestablishes fire discipline.

The pennies? Ah,yes! They are simply cheap, readily available markers, that track the flow of orders, information, and guidance down through the command chain from the commander to the divisions and on to the regiments. They are visible metaphors for command control and capability. They meet my criteria of being readily available, cheap, and easy to use. A gamer may, of course, substitute elaborate markers such as the magnet dials now appearing on the scene, or he may wish to craft a more dioramic treatment of the markers, but bottom line-he needn’t.

Later this week, I will comment on the puff-balls, fire discipline, and the unique treatment of firepower and close combat in Zouave. I will also give some hints on the introduction of the unanticipated into the game through the use of the Aces, the Jokers, and the optional POD deck.

Now back to editing the text and creating some additional graphics...



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!

Zouave has been three years in development!

How it all began and goals for the design

Zouave was begun at the urging of my friend of nearly 50 years Ed Meyers. After my 5 year sabbatical from gaming he encouraged me to try creating a new system for table top wargames.

I had not gamed much for several years, but soon he got me started again. The creation of Zouave has allowed me to restablish old relationships with Terry Shockey, John Mumby and Greg Cornell, as well as to meet new gamers such as Tony Fryer and Chris Caudill. I have also used the suggestions of experienced wargamers Jim Getz and Pat McGuire. In Pat’s case his professional editing skills have been invaluable. It’s been great fun working with all of these guys and, In that sense, the rules have already been a success.

I determined I wanted to do several new things with the Repique System. I wanted to go to a larger ground scale, and reach above the Divisional level to Corps and Army level command; I wanted to explore the wonders of 10mm, but not preclude other scales being used, and I wanted to better use a few key concepts of Piquet in original ways that tackled the command issues in a more complete fashion. In addition, I wanted to use common gaming tools and not create the need for special cards.

Most of all I wanted to swim upstream against the trend to “Convention-nize” wargames and make them so simple that all subtlety, all substance, and cleverness of play was subsumed in trying for some lowest common denominator understanding and very basic mechanics. I guess I feel that gamers, or at least some gamers, are capable of more demanding play, and that the “Big” game with a gentle ascending slope of a learning curve was about due for a renaissance.

Is Zouave a convention game? No! Is Zouave a difficult game to learn? No! It is fun? Yes!

(More to come)