Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

A New Development Model for Repique


I have spent the last few months thinking about new ways to develop and distribute Repique Rules products, especially Die Fighting II, Die Marching, DFII Command Cards, and any future developments of the rules. This has led me to some changed strategies.

My first widely distributed rule set, Piquet, in 1995 pioneered the historical wargaming practice of a core rule set and multiple supplements, as it was designed to cover all periods from Ancients to WWII. The supplement strategy is a good model for a developer as it allows each add-on to be tailored to the specifics of a period, new ideas be incrementally introduced, and, at the same time, added revenues are generated as each supplement is published. It also brought in the concept of miniature wargame rules being called a tool-box (a term I grabbed from computer software terminology), which the gamer/owner may adapt and easily modify to suit his preferences.

In the last few years, as I developed DF and DFII, I have become more intrigued with the software metaphor. This has occurred as new tools for publishing, providing video support, and distributing rule sets have been provided by computers. I have even explored the use of iPods, computers and tablets in table-top war-games. DFII was delivered as a digital multimedia rules set, the first of its type, I believe. It is all very exciting.

There are still limitations for the use of computers in play, as most miniature gamers seem to prefer a more manual, hands on, approach, and the interface of the computers with the tabletop is, so far, rather clumsy and slow. Sometime in the future that will be solved.

However, one aspect of computer software I have decided to implement in Repique Rules is the idea of upgrades delivered as new ideas and development occur, as well as new files that correct errors in the initial delivery. So far, all customers have received a couple of corrected Free Dice Tables, and two updates with ideas on handicapping, proximity corrections for Red Dice, adjusted 4R card rolls both prior to and during play. The latest update offered some simplifying adjustments to the proximity rules, and a whole new set of rules for extending games beyond the "one bucket being empty-and its over" method found in the basic rules. Every purchaser of DFII has received these free by direct email. These sorts of updates will continue.

I am now adding to this approach by committing to the concept of BETA versions of new period templates, and future DFII related new rule sets. That is, any extensions of DFII into earlier or later periods will be sent as a FREE beta version to all purchasers of DFII. Most importantly Die Marching which I am now in the process of FINALLY completing, will also be sent as a free Beta Version to all customers. The operative word is free, but it will be paid for, I hope, by strong input from people that have already invested in the overall system with their purchase of DFII. I will look forward to many excellent suggestions, and proofing, by the recipients of these "Free" beta versions.

When the rules have garnered a good number of ideas and critique by the early users, I will offer a final version at a reduced price to the beta testers. The final version of Die Marching will be in the same format as DFII with a combined video and digital print file format. I may move from CDs to direct video downloads depending on the state of the computer technology at that time. I am also exploring a print booklet version of DFII and Die Marching for sale. It will use the slide show format for the rules proper-with two slides to a page. The goal will be to make it short and inexpensive.

The first extension of DFII into a new period will be a template written for Early War France 1940, a period that has always fascinated me. If that goes well, a later war template will also be done. Again, the beta version will be free and sent via email as a text file Pdf to all purchasers of DFII.

The Command Cards are also in the works for future publication, but will undoubtedly be sold using the normal channels, on a per deck basis.

At $26 dollars DFII has been a very good buy, and these add-ons will, I think, make it even more attractive. Best of all, they ask nothing more of DFII Customers, than that they try them! I've been messing around with Die Marching for over two years now, in secret, not even my usual gaming group knows what I have up my sleeve! I can't wait to try them out on the group in the next few months, and to get them out to the rest of my customers at that time.

More details as I proceed, but this is the settled course.

The Road To Metz Is Closed!

From the Citadel of Metz looking toward The distant Rhine and Approaching Prussians!

Our group's latest Die Fighting II wargame was an FPW scenario I have been working on for the last six months. We have played it twice now, once back in January, which resulted in a crushing Prussian win and two weeks ago, which ended up quite the reverse!


It is a very stylized scenario. It is played down the length of my 12 foot long wargame table, with the Prussians starting at the far wall, which represents the Rhine river, and then moving down the table with the ultimate goal being the investment of the Fortifications of Metz. The route from the Rhine requires crossing a heavily forested area with a deep stream, getting past a small village, and then crossing a ridgeline with light forests, before a final river crossing unto the plains of the Metz works. The burden is entirely upon the Prussians, which given their rating advantages, marvelous Krupps artillery, and command advantages, should be doable. The French must simply stop the progress of the Germanic host and prevent the investment of the Fort.

The fort need not be taken, merely surrounded.

The OOB for both armies forces may be found, along with all ratings in a folder in the Files section of the Yahoo! Repique Rules site. The folder also contains added folders and a reprint of special rules in play for the game.

The Prussian force is made up of 33 units consisting of infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Eight units are Crack including nearly half of their batteries. Their command is quite good with the CinC rated superior, two subcommands are Very Dependable, and one is average. They all enter at the Rhine (wall edge).

The French Force is a mixed bag of 32 units, again of all arms, but only six are crack. Their artillery is outranged and of lower quality. Their only advantage is the superb range and effect of the Chassepot compared to the Prussian Needlegun. The French Commander is Timid, and one of the commands is rated Foolhardy. The other two commands are average, and Douay has a Very Dependable force. The French start with Bazaine the CinC and De Cissy's force in Metz, and they may not leave prior to the roll of a diminishing D6 roll ( 6 on the first turn, 5-6, on the second, 4-5-6 on the third turn, etc.)

The other two commands may deploy anywhere south of the first river. (in the first play of the scenario they could not deploy beyond the hills at mid-table. Because of the decisive result of that game, this was changed. It may have been too generous).

The only other change from the first attempt at the scenario was to make the first river line much more wooded. This, too, was a reaction to the first game, and may have, again, been too generous.

The village was all Class III. The woods and river lines were class II. Hasty earthworks on the ridgeline would be rolled for as needed.

The new Proximity Rules were introduced, as was the increased die rolls for a 4 hour game as suggested in the March 20 update to customers.

The French force had a Lose Phase card added to their deck. This would be removed upon appearance if a diminishing 6 roll were made. The Prussians had a Command Brilliance card that would be a permanent part of their Phase deck.

The Game Play

The French Command Player showed a very good eye for ground and an understanding of his one good advantage, the Chassepot, and established a line EXACTLY within chassepot range of the river and wood line to their front. His deployment ran from Douay's excellent command join the open fields to the East of the village, through the village, which offered cover to some of his weaker units, and then incorporated the small hill, which gave him the Position Magnifique, of which the French were so fond. They were all deployed and ready for combat. A small force, primarily of cavalry, was kept back at the ridge line as a mobile reserve against any rupture of the line and as protection from any immediate rifle or artillery fire. DeCissy's's force, along with Bazaine, was in Metz awaiting the alarm to move.

(Top #1) French Left Douay's forces in line supported by artillery and Mittraileuse (Bottom #2 )French Right Under Colbert. Note massed guns on hill also dense woods.

The Prussian command was less focused on its approach. It was decided that the Gruenwiller command would advance directly upon the enemy, crossing the river and woods and falling upon the French toothier front. Von Stumpel with his Prussians and Baden troops would do the same to the West of the road. No attack would proceed over the bridge until the first French line had retired when the cavalry would use that route. The assumption was to lead with the artillery, and then use superior command and good troops to overrun the initial French position. This was to prove wishful thinking.

On the first turn, The French generally stood pat. They rolled to see if Bazaine and De Cissy would leave Metz, and failed. They then contented themselves in rolling for their 4R card and adding dice to their buckets. Since they could not expect to distribute the CinC's dice during the game without a considerable delay due to the separation of Bazaine from the bulk of his command, they took special efforts to distribute all of Bazaine's dice to Douay and Colbert prior to play.

The Prussians began their advance from the Rhine with both Infantry Moves and Cavalry move cards appearing, They had a 4R card early in their turn. But no Officer move or Artillery move card appeared so neither guns or command (and their dice) appeared. In an important oversight, they had not distributed their CinC dice to sub-commands prior to play as their supply of dice, at that time appeared more than sufficient. They did get a Command brilliance card in the first turn which they chose to represent an Officer move card. This allowed several commander to enter the field.

Prussian Infantry and cavalry enter the field headed for the first river line

The Second Turn

On the second turn, the French again stood pat-secure in their positions. They rolled for the Metz force to activate, but, again, failed. They rolled on a 4R card and bolstered their command dice for all units. They received a Lose Phase card, but, as they were doing nothing, caused little difference to their turn.

The Prussians again surged forward into the wood line on the near bank of the river. Again, they had both Infantry and Cavalry moves cards, a useless specialized action, and a 4R Card. NO artillery move, and NO Officer Action card! They were surging forward, but lacked sufficient command control, and the artillery was still absent! The doctrine of Guns Forward was being frustrated by some unknown delay to the rear. The wrong road taken? A mix-up in the order of march? Who knew?

The Prussian advance to the river line. Note the lack of command and Guns!

The Third Turn

Again the French stood fast in their defensive lines, but on this turn they made the roll for Metz and Bazaine and DeCissy began marching to the front in the far distance. They, again, lost a phase, but also rolled to remove the card from future use in the deck. All in all, a good turn for the French as they awaited the oncoming Prussians.

The Prussians finally got an Artillery Move, AND another Command Brilliance card which they also called an artillery move. This allowed their artillery to appear and finally get to the front. However, they were limbered, and avoiding the bridge crossing, which would expose them to crushing close range fire from the village, they were faced with transiting the wood and river line-no easy task for artillery and limbers! Still no Officer Action card, but the 4R card appeared allowing reinforcement of the Resource dice. Nevertheless, absent command and with late arriving guns, the Prussian Force continued determinedly forward!

(Top )Gruenwiller and Von Stumpel's forces invest forest line. Note guns arrived! Prussians view of the French beyond the river. Artillery has no line of fire!

Bazaine on the march from Metz!

Fourth Turn

This is where the Prussians made a number of grave errors! It took a full move to clear the woods and river, and get themselves securely in the wood line on the far bank. This was very frustrating, as had been the lack of command presence in this sector! The River and trees precluded the artillery from deploying, and blocked any LOS for fire, so the premier weapon of the Prussians was negated, as was their superiority in command! Rather than waiting to sort out the command issues, and securing some position for the artillery to support an attack., the impatient Prussian players based on their observation of past Prussian tactical superiority in troop quality and tactical prowess( use of the Zug formation) launched an immediate attack on the right of their line. Withe the appearance of another Infantry action card, The Prussian troops swept out across the plain toward the waiting French with their superior Chassepot and Mitrailleuse! The crack of the French rifles and the staccato stutter of the Mitraillese raked the Prussian attack.


The Action was quite closely, and quickly, decided, but the Prussians ultimately were thrown back from the French Line and sent reeling back into the woods. At this time, the seemingly unlimited Prussian red dice in Gruenwiller's command were exhausted and the Prussians accepted defeat. They would try to regroup and attack on the morrow. The French were quite pleased with their tactical victory!

Tactical Notes

This outcome was a result of MANY Prussian misjudgments, and some savvy French tactical planning.

The French had maximized their strength with the placement of their troops to sweep the ground to their front with Chassepot and Mittraileuse fire and by placing their units at exactly maximum Chassepot range from the forest. This left the Prussians with the choice of either staying in the woods, or an all out charge to close. The inferiority of the Needlegun, especially in range,was accented by the French deployment. The French had also reckoned that the artiillery could be brought under concentrated fire if it tried to deploy outside the wood, and before it could fire.

The Prussians made a whole range of errors. They did not distribute any of Moltke's command dice prior to play, which they could have done freely, and could have used to bolster their eventual attack. They chose to attack before they received further dice on a 4R card in the turn of the attack. They failed to use the Command Brilliance card to advance their commanders which led to a short supply of command dice at the critical point. Instead they called it an artillery action card, which, while advancing the guns which had been tardy to the action, was of little use in the terrain of the battle. They could have used the officer dice from a nearby commander, especially Moltke! Finally, they let impatience destroy their plans. By attacking prior to figuring out a way to adequately deploy their superior artillery, and failing to get commanders forward or distribute Moltke's cache of command dice, they would have needed some extraordinary die rolls to win the action on the right. They didn't get them. To lose a battle with superior commanders, superior troops, and Krupps guns requires more than a few mistakes, and a French Commander that uses his force very well! This reminded me of the attack by the Prussian Guards at Gravelotte-St. Privat, or the Mance ravine!

Game and Scenario Notes

I have been trying to tweak this scenario over two playing sessions now, and will try a third go soon. I will remove a few of the woods on the first river line, as it proved a much too rugged barrier. I will also move the village back another foot from the bridgehead. Other than that, I think it is getting close to being well structured scenario. One more test will confirm this, I hope.

The experience of the game also led me to conclude that the Proximity Rule should be slightly amended for simplicity and game play. Instead of three zones, Over 20"-10-20"-under 10", I will be amending it to two zones-Over 20" being no red dice required and a straight substitution of green dice, and under 20" being as in normal rules requiring 1-2 red dice.

I also noted that the added Green die rule and extra initial rolls for a somewhat longer game, worked just fine.

I am also toying with an optional "extended" game rule that will allow an army to continue when a command goes "empty", but, of course, none of their actions will have any red dice added, as there are none available. (Duh!) The units in their command will be disorganized until a 4R card allows new dice to be generated or transferred from the CinC. Upon new dice being acquired any units in the command that are disorganized from dice loss will automatically become ordered, as opposed to those units that are disorganized from combat, that is, those that have a black die. The commander of any command that has lost all dice in their bucket will lose 1 command die for the remainder of the game.

All of this will be formalized in a new update emailing to customers to be sent this week.

All in all, a good game with a clean finish. As the Prussian Commander I was very embarrassed by my mistakes. I guess I just don't have a German temperament! The French Commander, Greg Rold, has been given a small chateau on the Loire for his efforts. Louis Napoleon refers to Rold as "Monsieur Je-sais tout!"

Malplaquet Redux-Still Hardfought!


On Saturday, the 30th of May, our gaming group gathered to refight the bloodiest of the Marlburian battles, Malplaquet. This battle, though technically a win for Britain and its allies, was a very near thing, with the Allied losses nearly three times that of the French. In fact, The commander of the French, Marshall Villars, wrote to Louis that one more such victory would be the end of Marlborough. The losses and minimal gains from the battle, coupled with a political change in the English government and court, soon found Marlborough back in England relieved of his command and treated with distain by his countrymen.

Marshall Villars went on to further successes, primarily in Flanders, and was viewed by the French as the finest commander of the WSS. He and his co-commander, Boufflers, were certainly of a higher caliber than the Allies had faced in the preceding battles of the Marlborough Quartet; Blenheim, Ramillies, and Oudenarde. Villars was a true fighting general, being badly wounded leading his troops from the front in this battle. Boufflers, the wise old veteran, was superb in his assumption of command late in the battle, and extricated the French Army from a tight situation, and effectively forestalled any pursuit.

As in many of the engagements Flanders against Marlborough, the French were outnumbered in men and guns on the battlefield, but VIllars had skillfully maneuvered his army into a strong position, reinforced by earthworks and redans, for a defensive stand. He anchored his flanks on the forests of Sart/Blangies on the left, and Lainieres on his right. The center was held by his best units of the Maison Rouge. The only possible mistake was in sending a considerable amount of his cavalry to guard other points along the forested front lines. He was at a disadvantage in all arms. He also deployed the cavalry in such a way as they could only be used once the infantry line was breached.

Marlborough, as was his fashion, attacked! He concentrated allied forces under Eugene, led by Schulemberg and Lottum, to take the foremost works to the right center, while he had Orkney prepared to assault the center. The Dutch under the Prince of Orange were prepared to assault the heavy works on the French right. They were to take grievous loss , but gain great honor in this attack. Meanwhile a smaller force on the extreme right of the Allied line, under General Withers, worked their way through the woods to flank the French Left. Historically, this force drew off a lot of the French reserve from the center to counter the threat. Marlborough then attacked the center strongly and followed with a determined Dutch attack on the French Right.

Throughout battle the threat to the French left drew the attention of Villars ( and was where he was wounded) and sucked in the reserve, so the center and right flank attacks were hard to stop. The French made an orderly retreat. The reports vary, but the Allies lost in excess of 20,000 troops, which was the highest of the War, while the French lost 7-10,000 troops.

The Game Setup

Terrain- I used maps from Fortescue's "History of The British Army Vol. 1," Chandlers's "Marlborough's as Military Commander", and James Falkner's "Marlborough's Wars" to set the battlefield terrain. They all varied a bit , so I "averaged" their terrain and the extent of that terrain. I judged the woods of Blangiers and Sart to be Class II woods (1s and 2s don't count for movement or combat) and the Lanieres wood to be a more dense class III. The French earthworks were mostly Class II in the advanced post in the Sart wood, and across the center, but sturdier Class III on each flank. The structures at La Folie were Class II. The streams on the left flank were Class II, against movement only. The rest of the ground was deemed open ground with little effect on movement or combat.

Troops- I positioned the troops roughly as per historical accounts with the Dutch (including the Guard te Voet) on the allied Left, Orkney and Lottum more toward the center, and the bulk of Eugene's forces to the right center with Wither's flanking force on the far right. I tried to find appropriate troops such as Prussians in Lottum's Force, The Dutch Guard on the Right and the Maison Rouge Guard Infantry in the French Center to match the historical deployment.

Command- The Allied forces were placed under Orange on the left in command of the Dutch forces, Orkney in the center command; the bulk of the British Forces, Marlborough was located with Orkney. On the Allied Right was Eugene's forces, mostly Austrian, with a few Danes and English in Wither's Force. There were two special commanders, Withers and Lottum, that could add 1 die to any unit under their command-but Withers could only add to cavalry forces in his command, and Lottum only to infantry. They were not used to generate dice on 4R cards, but were restored on every 4R card for use in movement, combat or to rally of their stipulated forces.

The French Command was of a much higher quality than in preceding battles with both Villars and Boufflers being 5s! The other two commanders were a more usual 3.

Both OOB's covering this game may be found in the File section of the Yahoo! site in the Malplaquet AAR folder.

Cards and Dice rolls and Usage-The Phase Decks were standard, as was the process of doing initiative and play. We used the new rules ( see Update "Command and Proximity Guidance,Version 1 dated March 20th 2015) for 4R Dice roll, where the CinC got three and Sub-commanders two initial rolls, prior to play, and one green free die added to rolls thereafter. We used Proximity Movement rules from the same update. We also used the Australian Variant on Command dice, where any number may be sent, but only the high die counts in the totals.

Special Rules- The two special commanders and 4R roll adjustments noted above.

We also had two very special rules tailored to actual occurrences from the actual battle:

The Withers command of horse and foot was placed on the road on the extreme right of the Allied position about a move or so from the La Folie, but it really wasn't there, and would only appear when the allies secretly rolled a 1 or 2 on a D6, when an Officer Action Card was turned. This would add a lot of tension to both sides as the French saw the figures on the table, but hesitated for two turns to advance and take La Folie because it took awhile to note that they weren't doing anything, even when they probably should've. This simulated the hesitancy of command, and the growing fear of the weakness of the exposed flank. The Allies, conversely, could not count on exactly when that threat could be maximized.

Also, on the French Right the French had a light battery that was actually on the field next to the far right redoubt, but in the real battle was not seen by the Dutch until they were almost upon it, as it was hidden by a fold of ground. It had devastating effects when it opened up on the very surprised Dutch. I replicated this by telling the French that there was a battery there which would only be seen by the enemy when they were 12" from it, or they opened fire, when it would be placed on the field. (One of the advantages of people being less versed about the WSS battles than other engagements such as waterloo or Gettysburg, is this sort of historical surprise can truly be replicated.)

Initial Deplyment from the French RightView from Allied Right

The initial Deployments from the viewpoint of the French Right Flank (Top) The initial deployments from the British Right Flank View. (Bottom)

The Player's
- It should be noted that two of the players: The French Left Flank Commander (Goesbriand) and the Player playing both Villlars, the CinC, and Boufflers, were new to the rules and inexperienced. The Allied central Commander-playing Marlborough and Orkney is our best single player.

The Game Play

No sooner did the game begin than the French Left Wing Commander (Goesbriand) began shifting his reserve made up of a mix of Infantry and cavalry to bolster the extreme left as he feared an attack through La Folie. Five battalions of Infantry and four regiments of horse and dragoons began moving from the left center behind the Salient in column to redeploy along the stream below La Folie and to secure the bridge over the stream. He poised the Royal Dragoons at the bridge where they might cross and secure La Folie. This also supported the infantry line that ran along the stream below the Sart Forest.

Rush to the Left

The Allies lost no time in attacking the salient that stuck out from the Sart Forest. Lottum's Prussians Advanced on the earthworks supported by the fire of the Prussian light battery. That forward position was held by the La Reine Regiment and the Regiment Clare (Irish). The latter was elite and crack!

The Salient
The Salient: La Reine (front) and Clare

However, The perfectly coordinated attack by the platoon firing Prussians and the accuracy of their artillery, soon resolved the issue in the Allies favor, throwing La Reine back in disorder and routing Regiment Clare with a well placed flank fire. The salient fell and left a considerable hole in the French Line-filled , for the moment by a Bavarian light battery and the Rosen-Allemande Chevau-leger, supported by the Mousquetaires du Roi, resplendent on their Gray horses. The Tallard Regiment also hastened forward to fill the gap.

Clare running from the salient while Prussian Volleys ring out behind them.

The French noted that Withers flanking force was not advancing. This seemed strange. But in a leap of courage the Royal Dragoons galloped forward and seized La Folie. The town was very run down and the well was dry, and no other beverages were to be found, somewhat deflating their enthusiasm over the capture. ( The village was a 4 dice objective, but the total roll was an incredibly low 9 resource dice gained!) Still no response from Wither's command! This was very odd and worrying to Goesbriand. He moved even more troops to the left.

Royal Dragoons take La Folie
The Dragoons du Roi take La Folie!

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the field, Orkney's British stepped off to the attack, supporting the initial advances of Lottum to their right. They looked impressive in their serried lines of red and colorful banners!

The British and Prussian force begins its AttackThe British Center Attack advances on the Frenc  lines

The pressure of this attack, was immense upon the French, and so a die burning to-and-fro began on the French left flank. Troops that had been headed to bolster the flank were turned about and rerouted to the developing crisis below the salient. The command stand for this flank began moving back toward the center as well. Goesbriand was burning a lot of dice and should have started requesting additional resources from Villars. He did not. Likewise, Villars should've been more involved with BOTH the Left flank and Boufflers in the center, but, he, too seemed overwhelmed with the extent of the attack and made a brief attempt to head to the left to get closer to the action, But then the Dutch assailed the French right under D'Artagnan.

The Dutch Advance!

The Dutch attack was very deliberate and slow, but with the Dutch Guards leading, very threatening. This was added to by a flanking maneuver by a force of Bothmer's Dragoons through the Lanieres woods. This was checkmated by D'Artagnan with his Listerois Dragoons who met the enemy at the stream in the woods and the rest of the battle was spent by both forces taking pot-shots from the brush, but no one venturing to cross the stream under fire. D'Artagnan seemed unflustered by this attack and felt sure he could hold them off, especially when the unseen gun arrived!

The Standoff in the Langieres Wood

The French left was also coming under increased pressure. British Dragoons has filtered through the wood, supported by some Austrian Line units, and were taking pot-shots at the French earthworks as well.

Pepper's Dragoons Advance on the Royal Italians!
Pepper's and Hay's Dragoons moving forward to fire on the Royal Italiens

To add insult to injury, it was at this moment that Wither's force finally arrived. He immediately invested La Folie with the Dragoons du Roi trapped inside, and spread his force out along the river to fire upon and engage the Bavarians on the left.


The center was heating again with the Dutch overrunning two batteries, and confronting the Garde Francaises in their works! The British closed in a beautiful sweep of infantry. Again, Villars seemed mesmerized by the attack, and, even the veteran commander of the Center, Boufllers, did little more than respond unit by unit to the enemy's attacks. No one was looking at the big picture or trying to form a concerted plan of defense! (No dice had been sent by Villars from his Command bucket for two 4R cards! Goesbriand was desperately low on dice, but said nothing to Villars. Both were very far apart even for Villars, a 5 rated commander, so sending dice was problematical)

The Center Attack Comes Home
The British-Dutch center attack strikes home!

At that moment the word rang out from the left flank that that command was out of Dice!!! The French inserted a Concede card in their deck and retired, but , as in the real battle, the British were in no mood to pursue as their attacks had cost more than a few dice as well!

Tactical Analysis

The French had earthworks, two 5 rated commanders, and due to the layout of objective markers being predominately on the French side, the allies were forced to attack. True they were outnumbered, but most of that was in horse and guns which the terrain and deployments greatly reduced in usefulness. The horse couldn't be brought to bear until the infantry battle was won, and guns are far more useful on defense than offense in this period because of their limited mobility.

The French lost because of two factors:

1. The key players on their side were inexperienced and didn't keep tabs on their resource dice. Goesbriand needed to more forcefully apprise his commander of his lack of dice, which he lost rapidly once Withers got untracked, and he began dancing back and forth between fighting on the left and plugging the breach created by the Prussians. His vacillations spent dice to no good purpose.

2. The inexperienced player manning both Villars and Boufflers was totally distracted and swamped by the task of prioritizing his commitments. He never decided firmly where Villars was to be, and never assigned his command dice over the last two 4R cards! Boufflers did an admirable job with the simple task of defending works, but the Villars player never seemed to understand that it was his job to get command resources to his subordinates and form and stick to a plan.

By way of information: At the games end, Goesbriand had no dice (precipitating the Concede loss), Boufflers had 23, and D'Artagnan had 31. Villars had 70 Dice! In the Allied Forces, Eugene/Withers had 35, Orkney/Lottum, in the center, had 65, and Orange and his Dutch, had a mere 17 (accounting for their hesitant advance). Marlborough, as CinC, had 25 in his bucket at game's end.

It is worth noting that the French with one bucket empty, had only 18 fewer dice, BUT 70 of their dice were of no use to the fighting forces or sub-commands! They were undistributed in the CinC's bucket!

To paraphrase Olivier's filmed Hamlet, " This was a tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind!"

The ultimate rule of command. DO something! Make a decision! Worse than a bad decision is none at all!


The game played smoothly and well, with six players playing a total of over 52 units with over 550 28mm foot figures, 152 mounted figures, 10 guns with over 50 crew-not to mention powder wagons, General's Carriages, and Louis XIVs Wine wagon! From beginning to end just about 4 hrs. Everyone agreed this was a great scenario.

Rules and Play critique.

The added rules were:

'Australian Rules' for using Yellow Dice-Worked very well.
Proximity Rules for red Dice expenditure- was a great success and will be standard.
The new 4R card rules from the March 20th email- These worked just as expected in all ways.
The "Hidden" gun-worked well. It is an example of added creative rules that DFII accepts so readily. This can allow conformance to historical accounts in a very original fashion.
The rules for "special" commanders was another seamless and easy way to reflect history. In this case, Lottum's expert handling of his attack on the salient, and Withers well executed flanking maneuver.
Wither's threat without "Truly Being There" and the delayed arrival, added suspense for both sides, and it took the French a bit figure out that the figures really weren't there yet, thus delaying their capture of La Folie.


I am really growing fond of recreating historical battles and plan to do Oudenarde next, and I'm intending a whole series smaller Spanish battles using my less used Spanish figures, and my new Portuguese. I'll be adding some Catalan Hapsburg Spanish as well. Can't wait to get Berwick in command! For those new to this Blog, Ramillies was done earlier this year in March, and the AAR may be found here in the 2015 archive. There is also a battle report on Waterloo as if fought 100 years earlier by Marlborough in the 2013 archive.

Building Armies: A Fifty Year Perspective


There are few great advantages to growing older, but one of them is experience, and recognizing mistakes-and being wise enough to not repeat them. As long as one avoids being too much of a "I told you so!" critic of people as you see them repeating many of your earlier mistakes, and have the grace to allow them to make their own choices, one can share one's experiences and perhaps save some few people the pain and cost of certain recurring bad decisions.

One of the things that acts as a restraint on the growth of the wargaming hobby is the cost of entry. Whether a historical wargamer's attempt to create a napoleonic army fit for the Emperor, or building a fantasy army, those figures, their stands, banners, and terrain, cost money, and then they have to be painted-which is going to take a bit of time, or cost additional sums to have painted. This is not a hobby for instant gratification! No matter how you cut it, your entry into the hobby will cost several hundred dollars and weeks, perhaps months of time. The cost and the time is further multiplied by bad decisions that many a hobbyist has made as they plan and assemble their armies. More than a few would-be wargamers end up having spent their hundreds of dollars, and spent months of time, only to have a useless force that they are no longer interested in, and a LOT of unpainted figures that they will try to sell to recoup much of their investment. Even long term gamers often have more of their investment OFF the table in their original bags than on the table in play!

The first mistake is not settling on a FEW periods and, instead, trying to have something in each period. Even worse is following the next "trendy" period or strange off-shoot every time they show up rather than finishing periods you have already started. There is an argument for having forces in a few watershed periods-say early and late Horse and Musket; Some form of modern, and maybe some well provided for era of the ancient or medieval/renaissance wars. But trying for every period is only going to lead to one of two results: A smattering of half-finished armies, or a number of miniature armies that are too small to illustrate a true army and have too many figures to use in skirmish rules. These small armies also don't allow for much variety as there's not much you can cover in 12-16 units that is very representative of the 50,000 plus armies of most periods.

This attitude also leads to a "next shiny thing" syndrome where the gamer paints a little of this and a little of that and it doesn't add up. Sure, you have the Guard Grenadiers, and the flashy Carabiniers or Mousquetiers, but come up short in the line units, and everything ends up in the wrong proportions. This not helped much by army lists or historical orgs, as the gamer's priorities are seldom on the ordinary and somehow the showy, special units always get painted first. If the gamer is also building armies in several periods, this is even more magnified as he distributes his attentions over the periods-and never does get back to finishing the "ordinary" units.

Trust me, limit your attentions to a very few periods, but flesh them out in detail and completeness. Build LARGE armies that reflect the make-up and appearance of their armies, not only in proportions, but numbers. When you get them reasonably developed, you'll really have something of value, not only to yourself but others, instead of a mish-mosh of fragments. It also offers the opportunity to create the support elements and diorama vignettes that can add so much to the tables appearance. You actually have time to add little done units to the tabletop beyond just the usual suspects that appear on every tabletop in the hobby. The unique, unusual and one-of-a-kind detail piece is the icing on the cake of a complete, and large, army. This may be a carriage, some form of wagon or engineering equipment, a HQ scene, or a Siege Train. They may not have a direct role on the game action, but their presence will add a LOT to the color of the game, and along with the terrain, add much to the diorama and illusion of the game.


I might also suggest that you don't make the mistake of joining a certain period because it's so popular in your area, or among your current group of friends. You must care about your area of concentration and be motivated by your strong interest. Just doing Napoleonics or ACW because the other guys are doing it is not a good enough reason or motivation. If your interest is the Franco-Prussian, War of Spanish Succession, or AWI, then do that. Generally, you can always sit in on a game using other gamer's figures, while you build in your particular area of interest. Trust me, the world will not run out of Napoleonic , WWII,or ACW wargamers, and by setting off in a new direction you will add to the hobby's variety and local gaming options.

There is one caveat, if you strike off in a period apart from the local group; You must build both sides. This may cost more, and take a bit more time to get to critical mass, but it will, in the long run, be the better answer. People move, groups break up, you may move to another city, state, or country. The only way to insure that your investment in figures and gaming is protected is to be independent of other's whims, and the twists and turns of local game groups.

This, in my mind also applies to issues of figure scale. If you are building both sides you may select the scale you feel best suits your period and personal tastes. I chose 10mm for my Franco Prussian as I want to have the impression of large armies fighting on the corps level. Even with my 4X12 foot table, I felt the number of units I wanted in play required 10mm figures. The Prussians are generally pretty monochrome-even with a touch of Bavarians and hussars- so not much in the uniform area there, but in smaller scales the French Imperial outfits really don't show to their best, but 10mm (or 15mm) does allow for some detail. If I were doing skirmish or even battalion level actions, I would certainly go to 28s. To the contrary, ACW and later wars, including WWII, offer few arguments for anything much larger than 10s or 15s-unless you are really caught up in detailing armor.

For my favorite period, the WSS, I can't imagine anything smaller than 28s. The uniforms of the WSS, SYW, AWI, and Napoleonic period are simply too striking and colorful to not want to capture it in a good sized figure. I would also maintain that the intrinsic value of an army done in 28s will always be worth more in later resale (if only by your widow) than any other scale. Aesthetically, 28s are, in the horse and musket era, always more desirable and easier to sell. In fact, even non-gamers will appreciate these larger figures in a way that they would never react to 15s,10s, or smaller. Along the way I've sold several armies and the 28s always sold more quickly, and brought a better price (and a higher percentage of initial investment) than smaller scales.


It should also be noted that, in most cases, the investment in figures in all scales does not vary much. The usual course of action by gamers in 15s, 10s, or 6s is to simply put more figures into a unit-capitalizing on their cost savings by adding mass. So instead of 12-18 28s, the 15s are units of 16-24, and the 10s are 30 or more to a unit. It is not uncommon for armies made in smaller scales to have more units to boot. The gamer feels he saving a lot more than he truly is in the smaller scales.

There are exceptions, If you are doing very large scale actions with many units that need to fit on a reasonably sized table, or if you only have access to small 4x6 foot gaming spaces, or intend to maintain the per figure savings by organizing units with the same number of figures as larger scales, or live in circumstances where space and money are strongly delimited-then smaller scales or skirmish rules will be the answer, and all other considerations are moot.

However, all things being equal-you'll never lose by choosing 28s as your scale. I would also encourage you, if you lack the skill or time, to get the figures painted to the highest quality you can afford. You will find, just as in many other products such as jewels, cars, and art, that you'll always get more back out of an investment in quality than if you settle for just OK. You'll also have the enjoyment of using really elegant materials while you own them. If you are going to pay for quality figures, it makes no sense to paint them in a crude and slap-dash manner. This also argues to avoid the occasional "group projects" where everyone paints dozens of figures in a rush to meet a deadline game at some show. The game is often a disappointment, and looking at the pathetically painted figures afterwards will only remind you of that fact.

Br. Howitzer

Always buy the best castings available. You are only going to buy them once so why pay for anything less than the best? Better figures always paint up better, and are more impressive when finished. Do your research and seek out the best figures for your purposes. Now, you can have an aesthetic goal for an old-time look and decide that certain figures suit your plan even though they are less detailed, or not as well animated as more modern castings-I think of Willies, Spencer Smith, or even (gasp) Scruby's in this regard, but other than some design purpose such as this, go for the best you can. Always be on the look-out for lines that have unique posing, unusual special figures, or an unusual variety of posing within a type that allow your army units be each have their own personality and unique look-even when the uniforms are identical.


Flag your units in all periods where this is correct. They add a great deal of color and distinctiveness. Detail them out as much as possible with ferrules, cravats, and tassels. Flag Dude, Maverick, and Flags of War have great selections of standards in all periods. If possible, and historically correct, use more than one standard. Two Standards really make for a impressive visual impact. Mu infantry units generally have the King's Color and the Colonel's. I also decided to use a heroic style in my standards, opting, in many cases for a slightly larger than scale standard (10-15%) in the interest of really making them pop-out on the table.


Finally, Pay a bit of attention to mounting the units with a proper amount of terraining. Make sure the bases are thick enough that the units may be handled using the bases rather than constantly handling the figures. Label the units on the HQ stand so that they have a visible, but not obtrusive, identity and are not treated as some generic unit, but one with a history and traditions! Let them add to their history in your games!

For examples of much of the above, please use the button on this website to go to the Yahoo! site and click on the photos section under albums for WSS troops over 116 photos of my admittedly large WSS forces are shown, as well as photos of my FPW 10s in another album .

Remember, these are just my opinions, but they are the result of 50 years of being in this hobby, which doesn't make them right, but does mean they have a firm and extensive basis!

Ramillies Reversed!


Most of our war-games are fictitious battles with terrain and OOBs created out of whole cloth, but, as a change of pace, I thought we would try to refight an historical battle from the War of Spanish Succession; Ramillies. This battle which took place in 1706 was at a crucial moment in the long fought war. After some catastrophic losses to the Allies under Marlborough, in particular, Blenheim, the French had had a string of victories by Vendome at Cacinato, in April, followed in May by a French force under Marsin and Villars forcing Louis of Baden back across the Rhine, Louis the XIV was looking for a another victory, preferably in Flanders against Marlborough's forces, at which point Louis felt he could negotiate a favorable piece that maintain much of his holdings and secured the Spanish Throne for Philip II. The force was placed under Marshall Villeroi, and was described by Marlborough, after Ramllies, as the finest army he had yet engaged during the war.

The forces met at Ramillies in late May. The area was very marshy and wet with several shallow streams and rivers that divided the field, especial on the Allied Right and the Mehanne River on the left. The Allied left and French right was a relatively dry open expanse of ground that was perfect for cavalry, and both forces concentrated their cavalry there. the Allies had superior numbers in troops, guns, but only parity in horse.

Here is the field as laid out for the game:


The River Mehanne with the small village of Tahiers is in the foreground. The open plain, with
both armies' concentration of horse, immediately above that. In the center of the table one can see
the Town of Ramillies, invested by the French. At the far end of the table is the broken ground, the Little Geete
stream and low river line tree breaks around Autre-Eglise. Marsh is indicated by scattered lichen pieces .

The Objective markers were a four and then six for recapture on Tahiers which was a class II structure. The bridge was a six. The hill beyond the bridge was a six for Allies only. All French Road exits were a 16(!) for the Allies only. The Allied Road Exits were 10 for the French only. There were three six and then eight point double objectives in Ramillies, which were all Class III structures. The Mehanne and Little Geete were both class II streams, all marshy ground was Class I movement only (no effect on fire). The river tree lines were class I, but obstructive to line of sight. At the far end of the table the small village of Autre-eglise was a class II structure with a four point objective which increased to a six upon recapture. All of these objective values were hidden from the opposing commanders if in the third of the table closest to them, and to both parties in the central third. the exception being Ramifies which was occupied by the French prior to the battle.

The troops used may all be found on the OOB in a new folder in the files section of the Yahoo! site. The commanders and their potential ratings are found on the same sheet. Two of the command figures listed there, Colonel Holcroft Blood and the Austrian Count de Mercy. were "special commanders." Blood had two command dice that he could add to any British artillery battery and to no other unit. Mercy also had two command dice that he could add to any non-British cavalry unit. These command dice were used as per the rules and replaced on the 4R card, just as other commander's dice. However, they were not rolled for any red dice on the 4R card. They did not roll for quality as their special effect was predetermined. This was an experiment that turned out well, but the Allied potential here was largely squandered as we shall see.

On the OOB's one can see that the Allied command had a much higher potential, plus the two "special" commanders. A it turned out, the rolls (using the "card" method) resulted in a typically mediocre French command quality 3s, especially on the left around Autre-Eglise with a lowly 2 die commander, but the Allied rolls were atypically low. Except for Marlborough, who is guaranteed a 5, all of the Allied command was 3s-unexpectedly low.

Troop rolls on both sides, using the period correction, resulted in a weaker overall French army with the exception of the Maison Rouge cavalry, which was excellent on the whole. You see these factors on the OOB sheets in the folder section.

In most cases, if I had the unit in my war-games army, I tried to locate it in the same general area on the battlefield, Lumley and the British cavalry on the Allied Right, the French Clare regiment in Ramillies, and the Allied cavalry, and the French cavalry including the Maison Rouge Mousquetaires and Gendarmes on the open ground to the South of Ramillies.

The armies were pre-rated and located on the tabletop, but prior to beginning each side could change the formation of any unit on the table, and, after rating, place their commanders anywhere they pleased.


Most of the players in this game have only a passing familiarity with the WSS as I am the "maven" on the topic, so they had no idea what the sequence of events was in the actual battle, it then became of added interest to me just how they would play the hand that Marlborough had. As it turned out, they largely mirrored the initial strategy, except on two crucial points, and, because of a series of tactical blunders, along with the skill and knowledge of the French commander/player, the results would have made the Sun King VERY happy!


Just as in the real battle( and unprompted by me), the Allies charged up to take Tahiers, and drive the French dragoons from the village by fire and melee. The Danish GrenadierKorps performed well, supported by the Danish Prince George regiment. Somewhat delayed was the light battery which belatedly started to trundle forward. This secured the armies left flank and provided that command with some extra dice. The French suffered minor losses on the retreat.

On the Allied right the British forces began their advance toward the Little Geete, just as in the actual battle, There were obstacles, to be sure, but at Class I and II, hardly enough to stop a generally well-rated English command. They were determined to make a strong feint and draw some of the French units to that sector. This, too, was exactly historical!

Attack along the Little Geete

In the Center, The Allies began a bombardment using their Heavy artillery and the heavy howitzer, which was being assisted by the incomparable Holcroft Blood! They immediate scored hits, including a hit on a village section that, though failing to start a fire, dropped the defense value to a Class II. It did not take much imagination to see that the Allied artillery, eventually supported by their infantry could greatly threaten the French hold on the town and cause great pressure on the French red die reserve.

Ramillies Bombardment
Note the puff ball on the left village section denoting a howitzer hit!

This, too, was beginning to look exactly like the actual battle! Marlborough in the actual battle launched the flank attack to concern the French, and began preparing for the direct attack on Ramillies. He held his horse in abayence until these attacks developed, only launching it later to crush the French Right.

Not so, in this Ramillies!

I should comment that the French commander/player in this battle is, without question, the best player in our group. He has actually read and thought about the rules, and gets the interaction and interrelation of the various rules and dice combinations. It makes him deadly in game play. About the time that the center and flank were looking promising for the Allies, he made a simple , but tell-tale, move of commanders/staff. He slid his best commander, Villeroi-the army CinC- over to join De Tesse on the right flank with the French cavalry. Then both command stands were advanced a typical cavalry move in advance of this line of horse. He had prior to the game, and also on his first 4R card, shifted a number of red dice to that flank. He had set a trap, and was just waiting to spring it. His cavalry did not move. He patiently awaited the next moves.

At that moment the Allies got their second cavalry card on the turn, and decided to advance on the French cavalry! They had had an opportunity to move their command prior but had passed. They had not moved them, meaning they were moving beyond the ability of commanders to assist them. They had yet to fully secure the flank by having the Genadierkorps remove their fire marker, or even more importantly, move up the light gun to enfilade, or at the very least, support their cavalry in an attack! If the French got a cavalry move in their next two phase cards, this could be trouble. I broke my neutrality to begin to warn the Dutch/allied player, but immediately got a stern look from the French commander and fell quiet.

The Allied Charge of Death!
It is glorious, but is it war?
Note the French command out front, and Allied command nowhere in sight!
This is the full extent of their move, so the chances are high they will receive the charge,and not deliver it!

This is the EXACT situation the French Player had been waiting for! His cavalry would be charging from beyond 9" and would contact with command immediately available. He could hope for extra dice for doubles, and would get another die for his Guard status. If he won the initial melee, he would get a free move to contact the next line! The Allies on the other hand, were galloping AWAY from command-so far that their effect was nearly impossible! As luck usually follows a good commander, the next card was a French cavalry move! He rolled at least two multiples is the following charge move adding dice to both initial melees, and took full advantage of his charge bonus and extra pursuit move to move into the second line. Command contributed to every melee. We were using Australian rules where only the high die counted and only one die could be contributed at a time by a command stand, but both stands were close enough to each contribute one die to the melees!

Allied line decimated!
With the Allied line decimated, the French move up added cavalry reserves.
Note the vastly reduced numbers of Allied horse as several melees were catastrophic victories (13+).
The Allies had not had a 4R card yet on this turn and so red dice became an issue!

The Allied horse was destroyed and sent reeling by the French Mousquetaires and Gendarmes of the Maison Roi! Many Allied horse were removed to the eliminated table. The red die loss was horrific!

The Lost Horsemen of Ramillies

This was watched from afar by the Allied command, still very far from the action!

Cowardly Command

Look at the distant command stands with many unusable command dice.
The "unloaded" GrenadierKorps that could offer no support on the flank with fire,
And the distant, and still undeployed, artillery battery at the bottom edge of the photo,
that also could offer no added support to the allied cavalry.

This was exacerbated by the absence of Marlborough from the sector where-prior to battle the Allied command had agreed would be the deciding area-as he was deployed in the center and NEVER moved. This lack of command attention would bring about the defeat. The fact that the Allies had kept all of their command dice in the command bucket, and NEVER, either before or after the game began, moved red dice to their left flank, would prove decisive!

Marlborough, with all five command dice, far, far from the cavalry action
That would decide the game!

At this point, the allied right flank Red dice bucket went empty and the wing was disorganized. The last card of the turn was not a 4R, and even a modified 4R cannot save a fallen flank. The Allies put a concede card in their deck and with a bit of luck that came too late, it was the first card drawn on the next turn. This Ramillies was a decisive victory for the French. The WSS was settled by negotiation and Louis threw a fete at Versailles!


The game followed the main course of the historical action quite closely, other than the final outcome. This was a colossal failure of command! In the real battle, Marlborough made very sure that the French were well stuck in and offered a real possibility of gains on the right around Autre-Eglise; He had begun to pressure Ramillies with a full attack that drew off a lot of troops and French "Red Dice", BEFORE he began any action with the cavalry on the left. The Allied cavalry attack was unprepared and far too disorganized and early in the game.
Their cavalry could have had cover from Tahiers, if they had waited for a 4R card! The light artillery battery could have been positioned and ready to fire from just next to Tahiers with devastating effect on cavalry either in attack or defense. If they were to attack on the Left with their cavalry they simply had to wait until their Commander Overkirk, their added cavalry officer, Mercy, and, most importantly, Marlborough, were moved over to support the cavalry. Between them, even with Overkirk rolling a bad day for his dice, they would have had 3 command stands with 10 command dice to 2 command stands with a total of 6 command dice! In the actual battle of Ramillies, Marlborough was right in the thick of the action on the left, almost being captured or killed at one point!

Even more telling they did not distribute the CinCs red dice to the all important left flank, so that when did go badly they were out of dice and disorganized. The lack of a 4R at the end of this was not the reason for a loss, but simply the coup de gras. The scenario had allowed an extra roll of dice for both the commander in Chief and Sub-commanders, meaning the initial supply was larger than usual. ( I did this to compensate for the very large force and difficult ground. I also made the Objective values high especially on the French exits for the same reason).

This game was completed in just 90 minutes!!!

Things to be especially considered:

1. You must plan your actions using all aspects of the mechanics. This not a game for the "just move lead and roll dice" crowd. The various arms and command stands must work in concert, as the French did in this game. You must allocate red dice with a plan. The red dice do many things, but their allocation forces a plan and not willy-nilly changing it or going off on a whim. In effect, they enforce discipline on an army to focus and maintain a plan and not be changing "orders" at will. They do this indirectly and not some written order mechanic.

2. Mistakes are punished, and can be punished severely. If you do fail to really think your way through the battle, you will lose, and it can snowball FAST. Most rules have a variety of ways of softening the blow of bad plans and tactics. DFII does not! You will be thoroughly embarrassed if you don't think about your choices. Look across the field and think about the enemy's actions. The movement of the French Command was a strong indicator of his plan to set a trap, which the allies then just walked into! That doesn't work. There was no need for the allies to advance their cavalry when they did. In fact, it was a singularly bad time to do so.

3. Which brings up another central consideration of DFII: Timing is everything. You don't launch cavalry attacks if you only have two cards left, haven't had a 4R card in the turn, and you've already used your other cavalry move card! IT WILL NOT COME TO ANY GOOD END! Always be aware of where you are in a turn, what actions have or have not been taken by the enemy, and your forces, and what phases have already occurred. It was obvious that the French had BOTH cavalry cards still potentially in play. With two cards left the odds of one cavalry move card occurring, thereby allowing them to charge, was, at about a 75% chance-as they only needed one!

4. Command! Command! Command! Think about every command location,its value, remaining dice, and whether you need to move it where it is most needed. An army without its head will lose regardless of other strengths.

5. The brittleness of cavalry. I stress again that cavalry can be a battle winner, but it takes planning and timing as the French commander evidenced in this game. Cavalry is also a force that can lose ground and dice rapidly. They are great on the attack, but can be a source of grief on defense. Most gamers are well advised to not try to pull off a spur of the moment Beau Saber style attack in DFII, contrary to other games, this can quickly prove to be a real liability. Learn to use them in DFII, which is a different puzzle than most rules.

Other Thoughts:

1. The Australian Command dice rules were interesting, but ultimately made little difference in the outcome as the Allies couldn't use them anyway! We will continue to experiment with this idea.

2. The "special"commanders is a slick idea and adds more color to play, but, again, the advantage of an extra cavalry commander was not used by the Allies in this game. Holcroft Blood did improve the Howitzer fire, however, as the town was about to be pummeled!

3. We experimented with adjusted first round red dice rolls, and will do so some more. I'm writing up a special article on this aspect which may allow gamers to tailor red dice supply to the size of forces and the time they wish to play, or even as a handicap for inexperienced players. it will be in table form and a Beta version will be available later this week.

Being Crafty


Most of my postings on the Repique Blog have been on rules concepts, game design, and wargame history, with a generous supply of AARs and Information on the rules that I have written and sell. I have hardly ever written on the hobby craft side of the hobby, as I have never thought of myself as much of a modeler.

However, late in my wargaming experiences, I have become more and more interested in the modeling aspects of the hobby. I think some of this has been my return to the 28mm figure that, along with the terrain, impedimenta of battle, and conversion possibilities has rekindled my interest in that area of the hobby. I've also found out that I seem to have a pinch of ability at modeling, and it is a very nice respite from the writing, reading, and gaming aspects of the hobby.

I've discovered a few things about modeling, that I'd like to share. If any of this is old hat to you, please excuse my new found enthusiasm, and eagerness to share what may be, to some of you, nothing new.

Foremost is the advice to take one's time at the projects. The big projects, such as the siege train model, and the general's carriage each took over a week to complete; Even the smaller powder wagons and limbers took a few hours each. I would also take frequent breaks and come back refreshed every time maintaining my concentration and precision much better than if I tried to rush through.

Always buy the best figures and models you can. Don't waste your time with less expensive "bargains". In many cases you're only going to do this unit or equipment once, so get the best figures. This applies to paints and brushes as well. I use a mix of Windsor and Newton and the Imex Brushes with the big triangular handles that allow such precise manipulation of the brush. My latest great addition is a 12 slot wooden laboratory test tube holder, which I bought for $6 on Ebay. It makes a perfect holder of my 3/8" dowels that I fasten my figures to for convenience when I paint.


The paints I use are increasingly Vallejo paints, which come is a wide range of colors shades and some very nice washes. I especially like their bottles which keep paints usable for extended periods of time, as many of my painting sessions are widely separated. I also mix in a number of paints used by model railroaders such as Polly S and Scale Coat-especially for my stand colors, where I use Penn Tuscan, and Red Oxide (Box Car red) for that deep red brown ground color.


Many of my figures are painted in Sri Lanka by Fernando. I have been very pleased over the years with their work, and recommend them highly. I usually send 10-12 units at a time, as the postage to and from Sri Lanka is expensive-and larger orders are more efficient. Each shipment includes the figures bagged by unit with and identifying label listing the exact contents by type (Officer, Regular, Sergeant, Ensign, Musician) and number. I enclose a grid with the exact colors for the unit's uniforms, and a color artwork of that unit. The more organized and specific the provided information, the higher the likelihood you will be pleased with the final painting.

My guard units, both foot and mounted, are usually painted to showcase level, as are my command stand personality figures. These are often beautifully done, and , other than mounting on bases and stands, require little additional attention. At most I may add a touch go satin gloss to horse haunches, and some minor touch-ups

My line units of foot, horse, and artillery are done to the collector's standard, which is usually above the typical wargame army quality, but I take the time to "improve" the job by adding some dry-brushed highlighting, and darker washes in cloth folds, etc. Just a light touch and a few minutes time can really make the unit visually pop. It also allows a chance to do any minor repairs for damage in shipment, or to correct any errors. Occasionally some figures are damaged in shipment either to Sri Lanka, or on the return. I usually do the replacement figure myself-carefully matching the colors and "style" of the original. In my last shipment two horses had been damaged in shipment to Sri Lanka ( My instructions are to not paint a damaged figure, but return the unpainted original). I ordered the replacement casting from EBOR and painted the mounts to complete the units.

Every unit has a standard or flag; usually infantry two, the national or regimental, and the Colonel's, and the cavalry one, the regimental. I love The Flag Dude's products, but he has quasi-disappeared of late, and I am using Maverick out of England, and a few from Flags of War in the UK. I use flag tops from Front Rank for all but the Flag Dude, which comes with Cravats and Tassels. You can find them on the Front Rank site under "equipment".


Several units, especially units of the train, headquarters scenes, limbers, and artillery pieces and, now, crews, I do myself. My main objection to painting scads of figures for units is the time required, and the delay, in getting armies to the tabletop. I also have never been fond of painting the same figure-over and over. Given that I am also doing a lot of writing and wish to have a life apart from wargaming, I must plan my time use.

This combination method of pro-painted and personal painting allows me to assemble a large force over a limited period. My WSS army is planned to include 24 foot, 16 horse and dragoons, and eight guns, plus 12-16 command stands in both the French/Spanish/Bavarian and the English/Dutch/Austrian/ Allied armies. That's a total of 48-16 man foot units; 32- eight figure horse units, 16 artillery pieces with five crew each, and roughly 24 command stands or a total of 1128 figures! I have personally painted an additional number of units including a Siege Train, Louis XIV Wine Wagon (scratch built), a general's carriage, a large and small powder wagon, and a pontoon wagon, plus nine battalion guns with a one man crew, 18 casualty figures, four artillery batteries and crew, and three of the seven limbers, adding an additional 60 figures, 4 oxen, and 14 horse to the army. All of this has been assembled over the last 4 years, which would have been impossible in any other way. It also allows me to enjoy, for the first time in my wargaming experience the joys of LARGE games with many figures.

My approach in mounting the figures is straight forward. I use Litko 3mm thick plywood stands. They are absolutely excellent. They absorb paint well, are very rigid, and will not warp. Their thickness allows them to be moved and picked up with a minimum of handling the figures. This is important for long-term preservation of the figures. Thin stands are simply not either as protective, or, I think, as attractive. Litko offers a wide range of sizes and shapes. I have grown found of using 2" squares for Cavalry and infantry HQ stands, 2"x1" stand with three foot per stand for infantry, and a 3" hex for Artillery. My command stands are all 2 1/2" circles which I customize. Each stand shape denotes a certain unit type.

I paint the stands, as I noted above, in a deep red brown. This insures that anywhere not fully covered by the terraining, or then is revealed by some terrain materials being lost during play is revealed as deep, loam colored earth.

The figures are attached by using a substance called "GOO". This stuff is simply wonderful. You put a small dab on the figure base and stick in on the painted stand, and leave it overnight and the figure is very attached! Goo is waterproof, and takes terrain well. The best part is, if you ever want to remove the figure a simple Exacto knife-edge under the edge of the figure base, and pop! it comes off with no damage to the stand or figure! This stuff is what you want to use.


The terraining materials I use are primarily Woodland Scenics that I get at the local model railroad store. Again these are first rate products. I have two approaches, the most common is to brush on Woodland Scenics spray on liquid white glue, which dries clear, and then sprinkle on one or two contrasting textures of ballast, or grass in either summer or burnt grass tones. A touch up with some added liquid glue, and when dry spraying the whole stand with Dull coat, usually fixes the stuff rather well. Sometimes I add some larger stones, or twigs with Scenic Cement, which is a thicker adhesive. I go for some dramatic contrasts of texture and color, and often use static grass, which, when correctly applied, can look great!

Lately, I have moved to using thick scenic cement over the stand, and then a thicker application of fine ballast. After it dries I applied a thinner layer of grass or static grass using the thinner liquid fixative. This is then slightly touched up with some ochre or brown dry-brushed paint. The main thin I'm trying to avoid is the "muddy" overdone look that some terraining methods produce. I like a lighter and brighter coloration that highlights the figures, rather than the dark somber and "thick" terraining I see on many figure stands.

I am now working on some sapper and engineer bases and am planning to use Shaper Sheet and Shaper Plaster to create the trench and circumvalation line scene. This is new from Woodland Scenics and allows you to create and shape a terrain quickly and permanently , once you are pleased with it. I'll let you know how I do with it.


These little scenes such as the Siege train, Wine Wagon, and General's Carriage add a lot of color to the game, and I'm working hard at house rules for their use, but even without a real role in the game I love seeing them on the table. One of the details I love adding to the various train elements is all of the harnessing. It really makes the models stand apart from the average, and is not at all difficult (though some patience wis required). I use .10 flat metal wire-again from the model RR shop- and hold it in place with superglue, paint it in leather tones and you're done, and the model looks much more impressive. Adding curtains, mounted trumpeters/heralds, Marlborough's runners, or Cadogan's dog to his stand also adds a lot of character to a model. It takes a few minutes more, and add a great deal to the visual appeal.


But, one of the key things I do for every unit is to provide the HQ stand with an identifying placard as to the unit's nationality/name/type. Very early in my wargaming with the regular group, it became obvious that they had no idea what each unit was, and that was maddening during play. I decided to label every unit. I looked at how this was being done by other gamers and decided that I would take a different approach. I wanted the labels to be readily readable from a distance, but to not intrude too much on the aesthetic of the game. I wanted all the key information to be conveyed in as few words as possible. I wanted the end result to be attractive and integral to the HQ base or the command stand base.

Too many words make for a crowded looking label, and smaller type that does not read well. A vertical label at the back of the stand is tough to read by a standing player, and projects upwards above the stand too obtrusively. Too many labels just look "stuck on" to the base, and those that are on the top of the base are again obtrusive. I wanted the label to be a part of the base, and not a jarring addition. It also had to fit the existing bases securely and not do the existing basing any damage or require extensive repair.


My solution was to create a label base from standard balsa and bass wood shapes and strips. Using a triangular strip of 5/16th Balsa and a matching strip of 3/16th square strip as abase and a 2/16th by half inch bass wood strip for the face of the attachment. I used a very nifty tool called The Chopper II to cut identical 3" length pieces which were glued together using Sig Glue ( a form of Ambroid). The reinforcing strip was glued to the triangular body using a 3mm square as a jig to get proper spacing. It was then faced with the bases wood strip as the base for the label. The entire assembly was left to dry and then painted the same tuscan red as the stand. Later, the facing surface was given a coat of gloss varnish. It was then glued to the back of the HQ stand using Sig glue with the wedge and 2/16th strip forming the attachment surface. It was a firm connection with support on two different axis. The HQ stand, with four mounted foot, or two horse could be picked up using the label as a handle!

The label was created in Word using the table function and then printed on 4x6" GLOSS photo paper. Each label was then cut out and glued to the label holder surface.


Each label designated the nationality by the color of the label and text. The British were bright red with gold, The French a maroon red with gold, the Dutch orange with white text. etc. Each label named the unit. Under the regiment name in smaller text and italics was a statement of unit type and arm-guard, elite, line, along with unit type of infantry, cavalry-light or heavy, dragoons. Artillery would list a battery designation and gun weight. Command stands would list the commander's title and his given name. The command stands were somewhat differently constructed. More details may be found at the blog entry "Crafting Special Units" of December 5th, 2013 and in blog entry "In Hospital", of 1/27/14.

I added these labels to my units well after many were already built with no problems, though it initially took a bit of time. Now it is just part of the basing Process. Note that the 45 degree angle of the label makes it easy to read, the color immediately indicates nationality, and the low profile may barely be seen from the front.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful, and I am now doing some projects, such as the sapping stands that I will report upon when they are finished.

General Sherlock Holmes


One of the aspects of war-games that I personally enjoy, but is rarely commented upon, is the joy of solving the puzzle. People are used to solving many other forms of puzzle games, such as the solution of a crossword puzzle, the deciphering of a code or rebus, the final pieces placed in a jigsaw puzzle, or figuring out the best play of a card in almost any multiplayer card game-poker, cribbage, or whist.

War-games, especially the best of them in my opinion, have some aspects of solving a puzzle. You look at the field of play, note the terrain, the pieces in play, estimate the motives and nature of your opponent, and form a plan to win a battle. Many aspects of the puzzle are unknown and must be, to use Sherlockian terminology, deduced. What is that enemy unit worth? What is the best line of attack? How do I best utilize the rules of the game to my advantage? The evidence (clues) are assembled, and the solution to the puzzle is winning the wargame. Some people do this better than others.

In war, that is exactly the skill of the best generals. They seldom know the location, type, or capabilities of every piece in play, particularly the enemy pieces. They sometimes, particularly in transitional periods of warfare, don't really know all the "rules", which is why bad generals are often accused of fighting the last war-the one whose rules they do know! What they are required to do is discover the best ways to use their units, given the terrain, and the rules that ARE in play. They must SOLVE the puzzle.

This is frequently not required in war-games. In fact, some rules writers go to great lengths to avoid asking this of players. Everything is transparent. Most factors are completely known. Terrain effect is extremely predictable. Turn sequence is fixed. Morale breakpoints are known to all. Not to ask too much of the gamers, the writers then give them plentiful hints on play, often to the extent of providing an extensive play-through of the rules, with strong suggestions on play. This is the equivalent of giving a general a drones-eye view of the battle field, a 100% accurate OOB for all forces, including the enemy, and a trip into the future to see how the current "rules of war" should be best played.

In truth, this is probably good business, as it makes even the dullest gamer "smarter." No surprises. No need to think about things, its all quite self evident, and VERY obvious. The only thing left to account for is the plain dumb luck of dice rolls. A loss is then easily ascribed to bad fortune, not bad planning.

However, it takes the gamer and the game much farther from any passing similarities to actual command in war. Why do certain generals win and others lose? Education? Nope, intelligence has a role, but many a military school graduate has been outshone by some precocious leader from outside the system. Luck? Certainly that plays a role, but there is some truth that good generals make their own luck. Technology? Certainly, though through much of the horse and musket period the technology was essentially identical. Doctrine? Yes, though if any war lasted for more than a couple of years the doctrinal difference generally soon disappeared as the loser began to copy the winning pattern of "play." No, it all too often boils down to which general was a better puzzle or problem solver. Which leader or leaders saw the situation more clearly and formulated a solution to the battle before them, better, faster, and more cleverly than their opponent.

Marlborough, Villars, Maurice, Washington, Napoleon, Wellington, Grant all share this amazing capacity for solving the puzzle strategically, operationally, and tactically.

In our own group, there is one player that absolutely gets the interactions and hardly ever loses. (That isn't me!) There are a couple of players whose luck always seems to be bad, and defeat is a common outcome. They play the game, but haven't yet seen the answers. One of our gamers seems to have a reasonable grasp on the WSS solution, but was absolutely crushed in a recent FPW game when he tried the same solutions with very different problems. He failed to see that it was not the same puzzle.

In one of my latest blog postings, "E=MC2+DFII", I quoted a list from Einstein for solving problems-Number 10 was especially meaningful to me. " Learn the rules, and then play better!"
It is a dicta that I strongly encourage for new DFII players to explore. DFII is not a game where things are self-evident. Oh, it's a very simple game in terms of mechanics, but the interaction of those rules, and the implications of play are not obvious. The game rewards repeat plays and growing experience and perception of the best way to solve the DFII "puzzle." This requires a bit of patience and not assuming that your initial effort reflects the game, when it is well played. You must solve the puzzle. It is worth the effort, I guarantee you!

You must also grasp that the solution may be indirect and not simply discovering a sure pattern. On that note, I leave you with my favorite exchange between Holmes and Col. Ross from "The Mystery of the Silver Blaze':

" Is there any other point to which you wold wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

" The dog did nothing in the night-time."

" That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Have fun, think about puzzle-solving, and I recommend reading Sherlock Holmes very highly. He would have been a very good general.

Setting Up a DFII Game: Step by Step


After reading a few initial attempts at setting up a DFII game, it occurred to me that a little experienced advice on that process might be of use to new players-especially GMs. DFII is not difficult in any way, but it is unique and different enough from many other designs that perhaps a few pointers might be helpful.

The first step in setting up a DFII game is the choice and arrangement of the battlefield. DFII is designed to reward the smart use of terrain and what was historically called the Coup d'oeil, an eye for the ground. A good battlefield for DFII is not a flat plain without any variance-a literal billiard table without hills, forests, rivers, hedges, farms, or streams, but a field that has a wide variety of terrain to consider. Look to real battles for guidance. Since terrain is also the place where the very important objective markers are placed it also provides reasons for tactical choices and allows dice replenishment other than just the 4R card.

Here's a typical battlefield set up by me for a DFII game:

Note the use of woods, a number hills, farmer's fields, Roads and road exits,
and the central village. This not a barren field!

Unlike many wargames, DFII is quite comfortable with additional terrain, for several reasons; it provides for variance of sight lines, movement, and combat situations, and, of course, provides a rationale for the placement of objectives. The most obvious means of replenishment of red dice in DFII is, of course, the 4R card, where the potential is delimited by the command quality of the force, but another method of replenishment is the taking of objectives which may provide a greatly variable amount of dice dependent on the perception of its tactical value by the Game Master, and a variable roll by the capturing commander. A 6 dice objective would yield an average of 21 dice, but could range from 6 to 36!

These objectives give a reason for tactical choices in the line of attack, and which commands may be given the responsibility for taking them. They allow the game master to shape the battle, and reward the gamer that when observing the field of battle can see where the key objectives are and the best route for attack. They add immense interest and decision making opportunities to the initial set-up and the priority of moves. If its nothing but a flat ground, then the most likely outcome is two lines advancing without much more reasons for doing so than that's the only thing to be done. It produces a low interest game-more dependent on die rolls than any other factor. This is true of any rule set, by the way.

When I plan a DFII battle, I usually start by setting out the terrain well in advance of the day-either by placing the terrain pieces if it's a "home" game, to having a small sketch map for an "Away" game that allows quick terraining of the battlefield.

Here are the steps for setting up a good battle field:

1. Think of the battle field in terms of sectors either right, center or left, or a sector for each probable player/command. Think of the three depth Zones ,or thirds, of the field as described in the objective slides 24 and 25 as being friendly, neutral, and enemy.

2. First, lay out a few hills. Try to distribute them in a meaningful way. They may be clumped into any sector (right, left, or center) or zone (Friendly, Neutral, Enemy) on the able top or laid out across the sectors. Some may be in one army's zone, but at least a few in the neutral ground.

3. Then lay out forests in the same manner. Few battlefields in Europe or America lack a few forested areas. Most of my games have forests as they provide interesting restrictions on movement and line of sight that provoke thought and planning for movement.

4. If a stream or river is to be placed, they are now put on the field avoiding, obviously, hills and high ground, and most forested areas. I don't over do this as streams and especially rivers can really divide a battlefield and make some of it useless for play. For these reasons, I usually use low level, crossable streams, rather than raging rivers, and they generally run from one short end to a long side of the table, seldom straight across or along the length of a table.

5. Then place the roads. They will naturally conform to the terrain, though they may run through a forest, cross a hill, or a stream. I usually provide a crossroads or two for interest, but that is not required. At least one or two roads-especially on a long table, should run from one side to the other-though seldom directly. Bridges are placed on water crossings, unless the stream is very shallow and a ford is simply declared.

6. Finally, structures are placed. Cross roads and road exits are excellent for villages of two or three houses or a church. Villages are also common at bridges and fords. One or two generally suffice. Additional placement of independent farm houses and adjoining fields are then considered. This may include a wind or watermill. Any earthworks, or walls are the final touch.

That crossroad objective is probably at least an 8, as is the church.
The houses may be 6's. Village combat is hard fought and costly, but
the reward in red dice may be high!

Your objective as a game master is to provide, a fairly balanced field, with a variety of advantages and disadvantages to either side. This is then enhanced by you by assigning objectives and their values. There is no fixed number of objectives or their value, but I generally like to provide at least one in each sector and zone. Certainly hills, road exits, cross roads and any structures, whether bridges, farmhouses, or village houses demand an objective value. Some may even get two, as the rules allow a value for the original taker, and a value, usually higher, if they are retaken.

The key thought is that the expense of moving and fighting for these objectives are paid for by acquiring dice for successfully taking the objective. Remember, you only get dice for objectives taken in the neutral zone, or in the enemy's zone. Road exits are usually rated quite high (10 or more!) , Hills vary from 6 to 8, Structures may vary from a 4 point shack to an 8 point stone church, to a double digit fortification. A bridge may be a rickety 4 point wooden bridge to a 6 point stone bridge. Values may be taken up or down by where they are on the battlefield-a road exit in neutral ground on a flank may be lower than the exit which is the enemy's primary line of retreat. Judgement is required here. Some surprises for reasons of the scenario, that are concealed from the players, are certainly possible and encouraged.

Please note that woods or river lines are rarely an objective, but usually a hindrance to getting to objectives. The same is true of walls and hedges, etc. They are obstructive to fire and movement, but not truly objectives.

Of course, Historical battlefields may be used. My greatest fun was setting out a Marlborough at Waterloo scenario for the guys, without telling them what the battlefield was. The AAR is here on the blog and other materials in the files section of this site. The key is scaling it , or a part of it, to your tabletop, and assigning objective markers and values. Hougoumont, The English high ground, La Haye Sainte, Plancenoit, the various road exits, and, of course, La Belle Alliance, must all be given a value.

Creating and Using The Armies

This is actually pretty straightforward, much more so than the challenge and fun of setting out the battlefield.

The process should be:

1. Either assign commands and their make-up by scenario, or use the tables to roll for command sizes, and then rate the commanders, including the CinC. There is absolutely no reason, with a little experience that you cannot assign the commander's rating to suit the scenario needs or history. The rating systems are there solely as a convenience. I have come to prefer using the historical commanders/card draw method. It allows greater input from historical descriptions of commanders and game master control. Either method is fine, but I would put a proviso on first games by inexperienced gamers and game masters. In your first games use average commanders and avoid inept commanders, and for that matter Superior commanders until you see the mechanisms at work. Having the other personalities are just fine, as it adds a lot of color to the game, but a CinC or Sub-commander rolling just 2 dice on a 4R card, or another with the advantages of a Superior commander is better done when one has a firm understanding of the effects of these rare, but disruptive, leaders. I would also allow an extra roll on the pre-game rolls. This allows for "stupid" mistakes and rule misunderstandings causing a very quick end to play.

2. Roll for unit ratings. Remember units stay within their commands, and under their assigned commanders. You may end up with great troops under a less than sterling lead, and vice versa. This just adds to play, and forces new players to begin to understand the phrase about using the right tool for a job!

3. Historical deployments are pretty much set, but in non-historical engagements use the step by step deployment. In DFII deployment is VERY important. It is difficult to compensate for a very bad initial deployment. Look at the ground before you, as you become aware of the enemy deployment, make sure to consider your next placement carefully.

The initial placement of officers is crucial, especially where on the field the CinC is located. You must USE command! Command in DFII is not some passive, well painted, diorama stand, it is an integral part of your army's capability. In many wargames they might have some role in rally, or troops that get too far from them may have some restrictions on movement, but in DFII they are crucial to every aspect of an army's actions, from movement to attacking-especially for melee, as well as rally. They also directly dictate the command "energy" and willingness (capability) to advance on the enemy and fight, as expressed in the red dice.

The troops do the fighting and their ratings, type, and deployment, strongly influence combat outcomes as in any game, but it is important to realize that DFII is much more of a command game than many wargamers are used to.

As a special aside, try to use discretion in launching cavalry attacks willy-nilly about the table. As in most of the Horse and Musket period, cavalry is literally a double-edged sword. Yes, it moves rapidly. Certainly, it can mix up very soon in a battle-especially against other cavalry. But it is amazingly brittle! It can burn up a ton of command and red dice in a twinkling of an eye. Holding ground with it against infantry is very hard as the infantry firepower can be telling. It is far too tempting to be wasteful of resource dice, and lose a critical amount of them to no good purpose. In pursuit later in a battle, they can be crushing, but as the point of the attack-be very, very careful. I've seen too many games lost by players who got their horse and guns too far in advance of the infantry, and too early in the battle.

4. DO NOT DO GENERAL ATTACKS! This is especially true in early turns as they simply burn up too many dice, the potential for dice loss from combat overwhelms certain commands that are not suited by command or quality of troops for the aggressive attack, and it just won't work. Seek to attack with one command, or a part of one command,at a perceived weak spot in the enemy deployment or their selected ground. When ,and if,that has succeeded in achieving the effect of damaging the enemy, and providing you with dice from their retreat and captured objectives, THEN other commands may exploit the enemy's sad situation and add their weight to the victory.

Think of Gettysburg or Waterloo, Each day of Gettysburg had a separate specific attack, ending with Pickett's Charge on the last day. General attacks along the whole Union line did not occur. Surely there were feints and threats, but the energy invested in battle on each day was focused. At Waterloo there are separate, distinct attacks. First the wasteful attacks at Hougoumont, the French attack on the British Line, The British foolishly overextended counter attack with cavalry, The struggle for La Haye Sainte, and the crucial Prussian attack from mid-battle on at Plancenoit, until the final assault on the British ridge by the Guard, and the final collapse. Neither side attacked everywhere, all at once, no general advance by the British occurred until the French collapse occurred in the dusky twilight.

DFII is designed to reflect this pattern. Many wargames do not punish everybody (on both sides!) for simply advancing to the attack like the two gangs in the movie of Gangs of New York; Die Fighting II does…harshly!

5. You want to win your early tactical battles as they will deprive the enemy of dice, and possibly gain you a number. Not always, but often, these wins can start a snowball effect against the enemy with objectives and routed units strengthening your army in a growing and ever more dominant manner. Pick your initial fights carefully. These are not casual decisions. Certainly, added reserves, an unexpected bad card, especially a missing 4R card, can reverse a situation rapidly, and a counter-attack against an overconfident attacker can shift things in a striking manner, but each firefight and melee, each movement, is to be done with a purpose. Unlike most wargames, each move does have a cost! What is its reward?

I hope these bits of guidance will ease the way for newbies into what I believe to be a unique and very rewarding game design. It is different, in a very good way!

Die Fighting 2
A recent WSS game: Note the objective markers and the proximity of the command.

E=MC2 + DF2 Happy


Well, after a month or more of DVD mailings, rule discussions on the Yahoo! Forum, and working on new directions for DFII, I finally realized that January was coming to a close, and I had not posted a blog entry in the month! I am very proud of my record now of 20 months of at least one posting, and most months two or three postings, on rule design, hobby crafting, history, and Repique Rule publication. So here's January's posting, and I hope to post several in February.

Albert Einstein contributed more to Physics than anyone since Newton, and fundamentally changed how science sees and describes the universe, but he failed in attempting his last great life's goal and that was the Unified Field Theory that linked all of his observations about Relativity, Time and electromagnetism into one unified and elegant theory. This unified Theory of Everything (now a movie title about Steven Hawking) has remained the goal of every great physicist and mathematician and has led to many discoveries, new theories of matter and a galaxy of new terms, such as the Higgs-Boson, String Theory, and the pervasive Dark Matter. However, no unified theory has yet been proposed-though the search for it has yielded much new knowledge and inspired modern science.

When it is discovered it will undoubtedly be what scientists and mathematicians call an elegant solution. What is an elegant solution? See: http://www.quora.com/What-makes-a-mathematical-proof-elegant


This search for some elegance is one of the central things I was seeking in the design of Die Fighting and Die Fighting II. I attempted to do this by unifying procedures and concepts throughout the game. It was the source of making ALL procedures, whether movement, fire combat, melee combat, and to a great degree rally all use the same process centered on the Free Dice Table to decide outcomes. It allows all the variables for actions to be placed on a single page table that uses a common cross-referencing of added dice or re-rolls vs. specific factors that influence that given action, whether moving, being the attacker or defender, or attempting to rally. Unlike many games which propose a different mechanic for moving a unit, and then different mechanics and tables for fire and melee, and yet another for rallies; DFII uses one mechanic and one table.

This concept is extended to the effect of terrain on movement and combat, where a simple common process of simply treating any die rolls of the terrain class or lower as not counting toward the total (No 1s,2s. or 3s count for movement or combat in a Class II wood, for instance). If you know the class of a terrain, then you know exactly how to deal with its effect on moving or any form of combat-no need to check a table or rules. Its always consistent and the same for all processes.

Instead of stipulating a different procedure for a lot of deployment procedures, maneuvers, or certain disrupting activities such as mounting or dismounting mounted units, entering or leaving a structure, voluntary retreats, or interpenetrating a unit, I opted to group them under The Rules of Six, again, a unifying concept that is consistent and easily remembered. No tables, no endless varieties of process, just a simple unifying concept.


All of this works because of an underlying commonality of dice usage for all procedures, which provides the variable outcomes. There are those that will maintain that they can calculate the exact time that events took in battle, and a system such as DFII cannot connect to these "real" times. This I believe may be the MOST unrealistic view on war and battles that can be held. Certainly one finds little support for this in Clausewitz, or in the battle narratives from participants, or from historians from Fortescue to Keegan. If there is one fact about battle that is paramount is that, other than in the broadest ranges, no event was as surely predictable, as certain in duration, or as firmly calculable in result, as many war-games and wargamers seem to want them to be. Nor can the people who follow this conceptual course prove their case, as exceptions, variability, and the unforeseen result, lurk throughout warfare. Far better to simply admit the obvious and deal with it as a firm factor in war-games. DFII does.


This search for consistency, elegance, and unifying processes also forms the basis for the stipulated victory conditions in DFII. They are clearly stated. Have two commands go empty at any time during play and you have been routed! If one command goes empty and remains so at the end of a turn, you have been decisively defeated, and if you disengage by using the Concede card you have suffered a narrow defeat. The last by either point values or in campaigns can allow the player to fight another day and with honor. No quibbling, debates after the game, or equivocal endings. There is even the case of the agreed upon draw that may be set by scenario design by the game master.

My goal is to continue to explore this whole concept of a unified design with consistent and integrated mechanics further with DFII as I play more over time and receive more reports from gamers playing the game elsewhere. The same similar approach in mechanics and rule integration will be pursued in Die Marching, and I hope the two sets together will magnify, extend, and improve the nature and outcome of battles on the table-top. A campaign certainly will make concessions and refusals of battle a more effective strategy and one that most war-games seldom consider. I am also intent on exploring many new ways to deal with rule books and rule writing as I have done with DFII with video and slideshows and topic specific PDFs, replacing the weighty rule book. I promise that I will not incorporate any Einstenian Physics into the rules, nor will I think them more than they are a simple diversion and fun way to play with history.

But, above all, a search for elegance , simplicity, and playability is the best of possible goals. I also recommend rule #10 below,to all gamers learning a new rule set, as well as life:


And Now For a REALLY BIG Battle!


Since the release of Die Fighting II and some very thought provoking exchanges with Gary Barr, I have begun to think through the process of scaling up DF2 for truly large, mega-games.

I mentioned in the designer notes to DFII, found on the DVD, the fact that DFII is very scalable-simply extend the table, each player/commander brings his "Division" of 12 or so units to the game and away you go. However, I've got a few additional thoughts on the matter for those that would like to attempt such a project.

First, gamers should be encouraged to build their twelve unit commands for both sides in a period, so, just as in reenactments, they can fill in on whatever side is needed. It wouldn't be much of a game without both sides being represented, and in competitive numbers.

Second, I see a natural way to build corps, and armies in this system. If a player/command is roughly a "divisional sized" force, then a game with 3-4 commands on a side at one table is really a corps sized action on the table, and, if there were three such tables, you would have, roughly speaking, an army sized action.

This would require a few adjustments. What we now designate as a CIC for 2-3 commands, should, in these larger actions, be a corps commander, and there could be another figure/role/person above these three corps commanders , who would then be an army commander.

In game terms the rules for a given table would remain unchanged. Each command stand would generate and send dice to his command, and the Corps command (ex-CIC) would be able to send command dice to any unit on his table, or his 4R card generated red resource dice to any of his sub commanders at that table. However, there would be an added Army Commander (CIC) figure, which could be placed at any table who could send his command dice to any unit he can reach with his command radius, and his Red Resource dice to any corps commander within his command reach , who could then add it to his generated dice and pass them on to his divisions commanders (the players) and their command troops.

Allied Command

Using the core rules for a table, where each command rolls twice at the beginning of the game for red dice and the Corps commander (Ex-CIC) once, and then all roll once on each 4R card there after, we would add a roll for the Army Commander where he would roll three times before the game, and freely pass those dice to any corps commander he chooses, and twice thereafter on a 4R card that occurs at the table where he is located. He is free, of course, to move to another table using standard movement rules as he sees fit. The three tables would be thought of as contiguous, and could be designated the Left, Center,and Right Flanks.

Victory conditions would be the same as the standard game at any table, but the degree of victory would be judged by the mix of wins over the three tables. If a table has a command out of dice at the end of the turn, that is , as before, a decisive victory. If two go empty at any time during a turn, it's a rout. A concede is a narrow loss. All of this is standard.

But the battle would be judged by the outcome at the three tables.

If, at any time two tables rout on one side-that it an Austerlitz style victory for the winners.

If two tables on one side lose decisively that is, of course, a decisive victory ala Gettysburg!

if two tables concede, Its a narrow victory-with the "Bragging rights" winner being judged by total units eliminated-so the victory could be a Pyrrhic one.

On any mix of results which are "equal", i.e. one side loses a table decisively, and so does the other, and the third table is a concede, it is a draw, with the same check for Phyrric victory measurement. The same would be true of one table routing, on each side, with the third being a concede.

Any battle where all turn out to be a concede, with both sides having at least one concede, is an absolute draw. In campaigns, the side that wins the Pyrrhic count or has the fewest concedes holds the field.

Any battle where there is a mix of Concedes, Decisive losses, and Routs on both sides, a simple point system with 1 point for a conceded victory, 2 points for a decisive victory, and 3 points for a rout is applied with the point winner being the victor of the battle. Tie points is a draw. a 1 point edge is a narrow victory, 2 points a decisive victory, and 3 points a Glorious and Wonderful Victory!

Example: Side A-Wins on Table 1 by a decisive victory, Side B- wins on table two by routing the opposition. Side B Concedes on table three. This would leave Side A with 3 points, but side B would have 3 points, hence a draw!

This could provide for a really fascinating convention gaming experience. Three such tables would easily handle six players (three on a side), plus two Corps commanders at each table, for a total of 24 players, plus two Army Commanders, one for each side, for a grand total of 26 players involved in one battle!

The command would be tiered, with the command dice and resource dice flowing through the command structure in a pretty good metaphor for command and control, as well as command focus and will!

This is all just my immediate thoughts, but it would be a lot of fun organizing this event. Terrain at each table could either be identical, ala duplicate bridge tourneys, or each could be set up to reflect a real historical battle by sections, or just randomly generated. It should be available to both sides prior to the battle. Ratings and rolls for command size ( you bring your full complement of 12 units, BUT you may only use 7-11 of them). would be done at the game. Since the game resolution will be unaffected at any table-the entire battle will be resolved in 4 hours or so-so one could simply switch sides, or armies and refight it!

This is just my immediate thoughts and needs some fleshing out and testing of premises, but I see no immediate reason it could not work. It places no greater demand on any player than the creation of his 12 unit command. Again, the players on one side could consult and create large vavalry commands or Grande Batteries, in any one command, as long as the total army percentages were reasonable. It could make large battle playable, and allow for team victories that would be great pub conversations, and undoubtedly lead to commemorative T-shirts, cups, and trophies.

Die Fighting II and its inherent scalability should handle this easily. I would appreciate any comments from the readers on this idea over at the Yahoo! Repique Rules forum. (Hit the button in this left hand column of this page).