EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Spider and the Genius

This is the 5th or  6th time that I have worked on a set of "universal" horse and musket era wargame rules, all sub-periods and all sizes of game from skirmish to small battle. The topic of a universal rules structure or series of rules using the same mechanisms and scale rather than having a unique approach for each game has come up several times on this blog and can be traced back as far as my 1989 article in Wargames Illustrated 23. This current attempt is running into the same roadblock of it being more work than its worth.

According to the most common version of the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider, I should succeed on my 7th try but, on the other hand, there is Einstein's well known quip that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.

An enjoyable Hearts of Tin AWI game from 2012
While taking a break from the frustrating task of trying to distil a complex set of situations into a simple yet clear and reasonably complete set or series of wargame rules, I have been considering my current and projected collections of toy soldiers and slowing coming back to the opinion that there might be a distinct advantage to having each collection of soldiers organized to provide as different a gaming experience as possible.

And an archive shot of an enjoyable  non-Hearts of Tin AWI game from 2014
It all needs more thought but I am in final stages of preparing for a road trip to Huzzah and all is postponed until my return next week at which point I intend to post my projections  or plans for the rest of this year and beyond, amongst other things......


  1. "... a distinct advantage to having each collection of soldiers organized to provide as different a gaming experience as possible."
    That sounds a very good idea to me as a way forward for you. Your gaming experiences could therefore suit different moods,time available,opponent played v solo gaming etc.

  2. Dear Ross,

    First, have a great time at Huzzah. Maybe some year I'll actually be able to join you....

    Second, the problem with the development of any rules set is framing what you want the rules to actually do. What are the things that all troops in the period would do? They would move, certainly, shoot, fight hand-to- hand, and have a series of "gut checks" for various reasons. How they go about this rather limited range of activities is, of course, what distinguishes one rules set from another. Do we want our ACW figures to fight as brigades, regiments or even singly in skirmish? Will rules written for them fit in our MAW games or in the Crimea or even in the Austro-Prussian War? Will the weapons make a big difference?

    My thinking is that there will be some definite differences among regions but that these will be chrome. I believe that while the core fighting considerations will always be the same, there will be very major differences based on region and locality. A battle fought in India during the Sepoy Rebellion will have considerations that will make it different in the details from a battle fought in the Crimea in the same period. Even battles within a few year period in the same war might have a very different "look." Consider the way the Union handled its cavalry in 1864-65 compared to its pathetic efforts in the first year of the war. And all of these are very, very different than the drill and weaponry used in Europe or China for that matter.

    My suggestion? Determine the level on which you want to play. Develop ironclad core rules for the major considerations like movement, shooting, fighting and morale. Finally, generate the chrome rules based on your extensive research. All of that said - I hope to be able to see your latest efforts here on the blog as you apply your best thoughts to the effort.


    1. Thanks Jerry, In another year or to I expect to be able to resume making it to the occassional HMGS con. Time to load the car and hit the road.

  3. Safe travels and a good time at Huzzah, Ross. I think you're on the right track and CC's thoughts are wise.
    The mention of Robert Bruce and the spider reminded me of Nigel Tranter's handling of that story and made me regret I got rid of my copies of his three Bruce novels.

  4. These are wonderful pictures! The terrain setups of your AWI games are my favourite.
    Oh Ross, how I miss those Mac Duff (or enjoyable non-Hearts of Tin) games!

  5. I think your approach of keeping the different gaming experiences is the right one. It certainly works for me and I always look forward to the different challenges of my various period games usually with different scale miniatures. Good luck