Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Square Brigadier with a Heart of Tin

I've said it before, "ya gotta" have a catchy name for a set of rules. If I pursue a gridded Horse and Musket game, its going to need a name and I kinda like the Square Brigadier so that is now the working title.

However, since I don't believe that there is any point in maintaining 2 sets of rules for the same kind of game, I am at the point where I need to decide.  Since I don't really want to drop either game completely, there are 2 options that I am willing to consider:

1. Limit the Square Brigadier to a small chess board game for garden games or kitchen table at the like and keep it as close as possible to the 20thC game, possibly even raising 20mm or 15mm forces and shrinking the board to 2" squares.  Keep Hearts of Tin as my main rules in more or less their current format.

2. Merge the 2 games. Take what I like best from both of them and fuse them.

Both games have their roots in Morshauser so there is common ground. Leaving aside the grid, the effectiveness of some of the choices Bob has made in his adaptation have surprised me by their effectiveness. It seems to me, that I have wandered farther and farther from what initially attracted me to Morschauser, partly through clinging to old habits . The games this last week have given me pause for thought.  

I do like the way the grid facilitates play and helps players focus on the game rather than fiddling with quarter inches. I also like the ease of scalability that it allows. With HofT one can measure in cm instead of inches or use 1/2 inches etc but the ease of just changing the size of the grid is better. It also achieves easily what I have struggled to achieve: making base size and the number of figures per base/unit irrelevant apart from looks.

It is in my mind that it should be possible to design the game in such a way that it can be played either without a grid, with a square grid or with a hexagonal grid. This would essentially mean defining a basic unit of measurement then ensuring that everything is always in even increments. This basic unit would be 1 hex or 1 square or a given number of inches on the table (another old technique, a base width is a common unit of measuremnt). The rules would then just have to define arcs of fire and front, flank, rear zones and maneuver rules, The game would not be precisely the same on each of the 3 possible surfaces but they would have the same core engine, be close and would be internally  consistent.    

This would be a tricky and would take the game farther away from what Bob has written (This is a down side since I have been very much enjoying the collaboration) but is potentially very worthwhile project.and I could still steal good ideas from Bob and incorporate them :).

I have some tabletop time planned for tomorrow, perhaps a battle of the rules is in order.


  1. Ross Mac,

    I am taking a short break for NSS, and reading you blog entry has done much to restore my flagging spirits.

    I have had a similar dilemma in the past. I have written several sets of war-games rules that I am still very happy with (such as 'When Empires Clashed') but I think that my current rules have potential to be better than them. So what to do? The answer seems to me to be to 'borrow' from my other rules any mechanisms that I think will improve my new rules. So I would advocate thatvyou choose option 2 ... because that is what I would do.

    As to the type of grid you use ... well I have a lot of hex terrain, and would love to use it with my rules at some time in the future. Hexes do have advantages over squares, but squares also have advantages over hexes. Another dilemma to be solved ... but not today!

    By the way, I have also been trying to come up with a name for my rules, but as yet I have not been able to improve upon 'The Portable Wargame'. A better name will present itself in time, and when it does, I will let everyone know.

    I like the idea of a 'core' of mechanisms that will work with or without a gridded battlefield and form the basis of a set of rules.

    It is now time for me to return to the NSS.

    All the best,


  2. Ross,

    I do like the name, Square Brigadier . . . but I know that I am not about to add "squares" to my table top. I don't think that many people will either.

    Bob's original idea was for an easily portable game to travel with . . . which I see as a reasonable goal.

    Yes, the square board (or other grid) can make for a good game . . . but is it truly as flexible as a more traditional approach? I don't think so.

    So, Ross, I would keep them separate . . . sure, draw on each to help improve the other, but keep in mind the ultimate reason behind each.

    I would urge you to select your first option.

    -- Jeff

  3. I have been reading your thoughts for the last few days with great interest. I'm afraid I wasn't able to marshal my thoughts sufficiently to make any sort of intelligent observation.

    I think the squared games is a fantastic idea, but then again I've been playing that sort of game (in the shape of the Command&Colours franchise) for the last six years and it's been great. It may not be to everyones taste.

    What I can say for definite is that since switching to that kind of game, the amount of gaming and sheer variety of play I've managed in that time has dwarfed my previous experience.

    As for raising forces in 20mm - while it is one of my favourite scales, I think you should probably make your game work for what you've got at present.

  4. My preference would be option 1. I fear that a merger would be a curate's egg.

    I'm probably just being resistant to change, so take my reaction with a pinch of salt :-)

  5. I think The Square Brigadier is an excellent title that sums up this concept nicley.

    I am sold on squares for 'old style' Horse and Musket games. Whilst I say squares, I may try to use Hotz Mats felt European Fields game mat instead, with the different coloured fields becoming 'virtual' squares.

    As an side, I wonder if Eric would print square overlays instead of hexagonal if asked?


  6. Bob, I rather like The Portable Wargame (or if intended for play at the pub, the Potable Wargame).

    In the past I have noticed that whenever I find a concept that works without being period specific, it tends to migrate from 1 set to another. In the long run, using common structures makes the rules not only easier to maintain but makes it easier to switch back and forth between periods.

  7. A wise recommendation Conrad, but of course I am already in the middle of building up my 20mm ACW army. These things do accumulate over the years.

  8. Steve, you've been following my rules over the years and know how resistant I am to change :) Perhaps time for a cold of the morning after reflection.

  9. Mark, Eric does offer square gridded battlemats with up to 4" grid.

  10. Ross Mac,

    I am taking a short break from NSS, and have read these comments with great interest.

    What I had not realised until now is that portable has two meanings: portable in the sense of being capable of being physically carried about and portable in the sense of it's basic structure being capable of being moved between historical periods.

    So for the moment I will continue to call them The Portable Wargame Rules.

    All the best,