Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Butterflies, Beavers and Salmon

What does this mini-bestiary have to do with wargaming?

The Wargame Butterfly is of course well known and any lingering doubt that I belong in that classification was probably dispelled by my recent pause from work on my 25mm Persians, 20mm RCW & ACW and various 40mm 19thC collections to organize four 25mm HOTT armies.

Beavers are well known for their steady, focused work on building projects, if interrupted, they shake themselves and get back to it, not stopping till the damn and lodge are built or repaired. This is like the Wargamer who sticks to his main project and beavers away at building up the collection. Periodically I find myself thinking I ought to be more beaverish, especially when looking at the polyglot of standby figures on makeshift trial bases and scratched together scenery.

What about the Salmon? Well, on the one hand, salmon are compelled by nature to swim upstream, against the current, and many die in the process, exhausted by the effort without ever achieving their goal. On the other hand they are covered in Scales and scale is the nub of many of my issues. In order to stage even a medium sized historical battle as a wargame on a small table, one needs to either use small figures, very abstract units (eg 4 men on a base is a battalion or brigade)  or you have to fudge it and turn the game into a scenario "inspired by", compressing the terrain onto the table and scaling back the armies and using the usual rules and units while ignoring the distortion compared to the historical battle.

I found myself contemplating ultimate planned butterflying this week, a plan to convert to mini-projects, each the equivalent of a portable wargame or DBA army, a dozen or so stands of figures, custom battle mat for that game........ BUT I am Canadian and the Beaver is our national animal so I'm back on track. I also came across the simple 3/4 page set of rules Dick Larsen used at that Britain vs Egypt game.  Thinking about that, the Portable Wargame2, the original MacDuff Meets Morschauser and the latest Hearts of Tin/MacDuff I quickly put together a stripped down version of my rules, beefed the units up to 16 figures each, am ignoring the grid and am re-playing Palo Alto.


  1. Units are 16 infantry, 8 cavalry, 1 gun and 4 crew.
  2. Initiative: At the start of each turn, each side rolls 1 die. The side with the highest score chooses whether to go first or 2nd for that turn. In case of a tie repeat the previous turn’s sequence. Active player moves OR shoots with units then resolve all melees.
  3.  Movement:
Infantry: 8” line, 12” column, skirmisher, retreat.
Cavalry: 18”
Artillery: Foot 12”, Horse 18”
Difficult terrain ½ speed or impassable
x2 in column on road
Change facing/formation before moving. Move in any direction unless charging.
  1. Charges: Target must be in front of unit at start of move. If in target front at start, must charge front. Move into contact.
  2. Shooting: 1 die per 4 infantry or 1 gunner.
Muskets: 6” 5,6
Rifles: 12” 4,5,6
Artillery: 12” 3,4,5,6   36” 5,6
-1 if target has partial cover or is skirmishers, cavalry or artillery in open
-3 if target is fortified.
+1 if artillery shooting at column, square or enfilading.
  1. Melee. 1 die per 4 infantry, 2 cavalry, 1 gunner in contact with enemy to front.
    Infantry & artillery being charged from the front roll their dice first and remove casualties, all other rolls are simultaneous.
4,5,6 hits.
+1 Elite,
-1 Militia
-1 enemy defending hill, obstacle or in cover.
Any unit which suffers more hits than it inflicts will become shaken and immediately fall back 1 move except square fighting cavalry.
  1. Morale.  A unit becomes shaken if defeated in melee or if understrength and takes a hit. A unit is under strength if having lost: 50% if Regular, 75% if Elite, 25% if Militia.
    A unit which becomes shaken immediately retreats and must retreat every turn unless rallied.
  1. Rally.  Roll 4,5,6 to rally. +1 if joined by general.


  1. A nice, concise set of simple rules, sir.

    Of course I immediately see changes I want to make for MY gaming . . . *grin* . . . just like a typical wargamer, eh?

    I must remember the adage "if it ain't broke; don't fix it".

    -- Jeff

  2. Ross Mac,

    An interesting set of analogies. I think that I am a beaver with butterfly tendancies ... or is that a butterfly with beaver tendencies?

    The rules are even more stripped down the the ones that I started with. I am looking forward to reading how they work.

    All the best,


  3. Ross - I like it. I was surprised with the salmon, though it's spot-on - I was expecting something given to dramatic leaps, though now I come to think of it salmon leaps are part of what you describe.

    I think, on balance, I turned into a wargaming beaver, though I would have been depressed if I'd foreseen this in 1970-whatever.

    I was looking at your cut-down rules - simple to the point of elegance, but I suspect you will run into the edges and have to add frills. I was reading through, thinking if it was me I'd reduce the line march rate to 6", make 1 hex = 6" and put the cells back in. And I think I'd toy with the idea of re-introducing some activation dice to cut down the amount of traffic, and then....

    And then, of course, I'd have to cut the rules down again.


  4. Thanks you gentlemen. I perhaps should have noted that these are not presented as a complete and finished set. Just wondering if all the little frills and the bits to make it "more realistic" are needed or indeed if some are counter productive.

    Tony, I wish I'd thought of dramatic leaps.

  5. Hi Ross,

    Butterflies, Beavers and Salmon - I would really struggle to find a better description of that most odd of creatures: Vir Bellator Venatus.

    I would have to agree with Bob C although I probably have a sprinkling of Salmon thrown in for good measure.

    The rules look entertaining and darn it if that is not the main reason for doing what we do!

    All the best,