Wargame Thoughts and Commentary
The development of miniature wargames

The Development of Wargames and DF II!


La Guerre
My first rule set “La Guerre” circa 1972

I saw a recent thread on TMP about how often people want a new edition of the game. One of the largest groups of gamers stated, “Never.” They wanted the game to never change, require no future development, and to,” Just make it perfect from the beginning.”

I laughed a bit on reading that, as nothing could be farther from my own feelings on the subject. To be sure you wanted a good initial product, one that provided some fresh ideas, and with a little effort from the gamer produce a fun game, but then I thought back on my own experiences.

When I design games, I am looking for fresh ways to get at various historical issues on the table top that offer original and different approaches to history and game play. I want gamers to experience something new; something challenging; and something that is not just warmed over left-overs from past game designers and rules.

So many new sets of historical miniature rules are very, very derivative, and seem almost fossilized remnants of games from years ago. If that is what a designer wants to do, and if that’s what you as a gamer want-then, yes, you should expect a nearly perfect and unchanging set, because, in a sense, they have been written and rewritten many times before.

I must admit if I see a new set of rules and , upon glancing into them, I see a fixed turn sequence, roll a six hits, saving throws, fixed move distances, troop point values, and pages of army lists-I put them down and move on. Nothing new here! They may be perfectly good rules, and enjoyed by some gamers, they just aren’t going to provide me with anything novel or surprising. I can assume that, within their well-established patterns, they will play reasonably well, but will they lead to many new ideas? Doubtful.


IMG_0015
The many faces of Piquet. Over 20 variants, spin-offs, and descendants

All of the rules I have written in the last 20 years have had a rather different development from that. In the case of Piquet, I brought the rules out after about three years of play and testing. In their use of a variable card sequencing deck, sliding polyhedral dice (d8-D10-D-4 etc.) and the constant threat of unequal opportunity for each gamer they ere very different. So different I created a video to actually demonstrate a turn. (that didn’t prevent one player from using all the cards in one deck!!!) It raised some very strong objections to the design, and some equally strong proponents.

Moreover, it wasn’t even hot off the press before my group and many customer’s groups began to play with changing some of the rules. I encouraged this and even described the rules as a toolbox to be tinkered with and adapted to one’s own tastes and preferences.

Piquet begged to be tinkered with and embraced attempts to experiment with unusual cards, new initiative dice roll systems, and all sorts of modified ways to use the combat dice. It was this environment that lead to Piquet II a mere three years after the original publication. I sold Piquet to Brent Oman in 2000, but the experimentation and tinkering continued among a growing group of gamers, and eventually Brent’s original take in FOB and FOBII grew out of those experiments and further development. In a sense the lineage of Piquet and its development led to at least four permutations and constant growth over 20 years.

Rondel and Rules
Zouave I and II 2010 and 2011

Zouave was my first attempt after returning from a hiatus from gaming, and there too, I tried to create an original way to get at grand tactical level miniature wargaming. In that design I deliberately tried to create a large scale game for the period 1861-1871 that handled operational and divisional gaming without losing the tactical elements. It was developed over a two year period and released in 2010. But here again, the game was not a frozen formula that was forever trapped in its initial form. Within a year I had run across Rondels which quite elegantly replaced a system of coins used in Zouave to track order states. One use of the rondel resulted in such a better design that I immediately brought out Zouave II in mid- 2011. I simply could not let a superior system not become the standard for the game.

Now, I bought back all unsold Zouave from my distributors at some noticeable loss to me, and offered the previous Zouave purchasers a discount on the new edition. Those that had the initial edition still possessed a good ruleset that we had played for nearly three years prior to the Rondel change. This was an extreme case of rapid development to a second edition but I never regretted it.

DF Book
Die Fighting 2011

Die Fighting has taken an even better course. It was, as Piquet, a very different approach to the tactical miniature wargame. It incorporated variable sequencing with a number of variant sequences listed in the rules, It made almost every action on the tabletop; movement, combat, and command a variable that could not be predicted or be totally assured. It simplified the die types to a standard D6, but used them in very unique ways; the primary one being that certain dice, the red resource dice, were used up and when gone-you lost! This linked capability with combat losses and ultimately army morale with one single united device a red die! It even had a proposed scoring
system!

We played Die Fighting for over two years before its 2011publication, and now we have played an average of 9-12 games a year for the last three years. In that time, we, again, have experimented and tried several ideas and new approaches that over this period have changed the game and provided a lot of new, and better, game mechanisms.

This period has seen the introduction of an additional die, the Black Die, that allows an improved combat and battle loss effect on movement and rally. The creation of the multiple bucket concepts that allows DFII to be a great multi-player game with immense convention play possibilities. The marvelous additional dimensions given to officers and their profiles. Numerous small adjustments to the period rules and tables, and fleshing out of a few rules, and the elimination of a few that simply didn’t work as well as the new systems.

Black DiceMulti-bucketBoufflers, Berwick


Most of all the new sequencing system was the last element needed before I knew a new edition was needed. All the older systems could be used, but I have become very fond of our latest way to use time in the wargame. The time has come for a new edition!

However, I am not planning to do another print edition, nor am I planning some iPad e-book, which I looked into closely. This time I want something that gets Repiquerules into the digital age, avoids the limitations of printed edition both in size and utility, booklet storage demands, and shipping costs that increase on constant basis. I am actually going to return to my roots as a TV producer and crank out the first VIDEO historical miniature rule book. This product will be done in a very unique and different style. It will play on any DVD or computer device, and will allow a full color, full sound, professional “How-to” on how to play Die Fighting II.

Studio

Every rule will be shown step by step in a game example. All tables and a few summaries will be in full color for you to print and use.

IMG_0475

Think about all the war-games you ever played and how many of you learned to play them. You often did it by watching other gamers and being coached by them when you finally got into the game. Every possibility was pointed out to you. Every misstep was corrected by SHOWING YOU how it was done. Sure you occasionally had to review the rules, but, on the whole, you merely absorbed the game by watching and doing. It was not uncommon for only a couple of people to actually throughly read the rules, and then they taught everyone else the gaming system.

This is what DFII will do. I expect new players can be up and running within an hour of watching the video and consulting the tables. New ideas or questions can be answered by looking at an example, not trying to decipher cryptic phrases in a rule book. Remember the old party game of trying to tell a person how to unbutton and take off a raincoat? How much easier to show them how do it!

The director of the video is a professional that has produced several hundred hours of programming with a specialty in how-to instructional videos, The cameraman is an experienced free-lancer using the latest camera and lighting equipment. The editor has edited two award winning educational videos, and numerous instructional short pieces. I will be primary talent on camera, joined by a cast of long time war gamers who are familiar with the Die Fighting rules. I will write the script along with the director.

I’m still running the numbers on this project, but I think there will be some real economies for both the publisher (me) and the customers. Even better, the cost of shipping discs is considerably less than bigger and increasingly heavier print rulebooks.

DVD:CD


The package right now appears to be two disks; a DVD with the video rules, and a CD with the full color tables, summaries, cards and period rules. These can be printed by you. I will offer as deluxe add-ons top quality card versions of the QRS, Tables, and information materials and professionally done cards. Updates and new ideas will be put on the Yahoo! site as print updates, but annual Video Update Editions will be made available on DVDs as needed.

Shooting for the project is planned for late August with a September release. Anyone who purchased DF in the past six months will get a special steep discount on DFII, past website customers will get a pre-publication discount on DFII, and a special sale of my very few remaining copies of DF at a reduced price will be announced in the next week.

More information will follow as this exciting project proceeds. Please ask any questions at the Yahoo! Site. Suggestions are also welcome.