Sunday, 5 March 2017

My two new books out at the end of March

The first two of my new wargamer's guides are due to publish at the end of March 2017:

A Wargamer's Guide to 1066 and the Norman Conquest
A Wargamer's Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War

These are the first two titles in a new series by Pen & Sword. I have two more titles publishing later this year, and I believe others are on the way.

They're available from the usual online retailers and hopefully from real bookshops near you, too. These books aren't sets of rules, but as the titles suggest, contain history, gaming suggestions, scenarios, and points to consider when playing that period.

I'd say they're really useful for newcomers to the periods, but I'd also hope that they contain a few useful little snippets for veterans too. Why not buy them and see if you agree :-)

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A little bit about Command & Control in my games

I've had a few questions about the progression of command mechanisms through the 'Rampant' games, and there seems to have been a few forum discussions about this too. On one usually very affable forum, someone made a - let me be polite and call it an ill-informed and incorrect - statement that the changes in command mechanisms over the different rules are due to a lack of playtesting with the earlier 'Rampant' games. How kind... and also how completely wrong.

Thankfully, most other people discussing this are a more polite and open-minded. So here's an answer for them:

The short answer is that, no, the mechanisms I use are not evolving from one mechanical source (or being 'fixed', as the less pleasant comments seem to imagine) they're being developed as similar standalones based on my understanding of a period or what I wish to reflect in that particular game.

If you've played Lion (or Dragon) Rampant, The Pikeman's Lament, or The Men Who Would Be Kings, you'll probably already know that there are levels of similarity between the gameplay of all three, but also some differences. TMWWBK is rather more different, as I've explained in various design notes, to better reflect that period of warfare. The development of every game I write is based on a list of my research and thoughts about the period's key aspects of warfare - what will give the game the correct 'flavour' I'm after. For example, if you've read my Dark Ages wargame, Dux Bellorum, you'll already know that the way command works within those rules is very different to the aforementioned games.

As you might imagine, command and control usually features strongly in this list. Different periods, in my opinion, benefit from different approaches to how troops are handled on the tabletop, based on our understanding of how the real-life battles were fought.

Therefore, for Lion Rampant, I favoured a generally chaotic approach. You get to activate some of your units - all if you are lucky and allocate your resources correctly - but my take on leadership in the medieval period is that most nobles leading a small force were not very adept at small-scale warfare, and that skirmish-level encounters lacked tactical finesse. And therefore, so should medieval skirmish wargames - keep things simple in terms of your goals and you'll do well, but try to do too much and you'll achieve none of it. Others may disagree with this approach, but that the reason why players' turns can be very stop-start in LR. I intended that to be the case to reflect what I perceive to be a relatively chaotic era of warfare.

(Otherwise, I'd have used different activation scores...)

The Pikeman's Lament, developed with my co-author Michael Leck, offers an 'improved' chance of getting your units to do as you wish, but is still based on the Lion Rampant system. This is because we perceive some growth in training and tactics in the pike and shot period, making it more likely that your troops are better drilled and more aware of what they should be doing in battle, and the scope for officers to be better schooled in their approach to combat or at least 'professional' soldiers (not true of all of them, of course!).

Incidentally, Michael's idea of adding a campaign storyline for officers seems to have gone down very well with players, and that can be retrofitted to LR too.

And thus onto The Men Who Would Be Kings. Now, the command system is a very different kettle of fish in this game. With better-trained soldiers and (mostly) well-motivated natives in the nineteenth century, each with better developed battle plans and tactics or at least more reason to stay active (and alive) on the firearm-age battlefield, it's more likely that units can achieve something in any given turn. There's more chance of getting things done, not because skirmishes on the colonial battlefield could be any less chaotic than earlier warfare, but because the accounts I've read generally show that there was 'always something going on' at a smart, trippy pace and the pressure to stay un-shot mentioned above. The mechanisms reflect this, offering all units the chance to do something 'simple' or the chance to do something more daring based on their training and leadership. The activation rules were also made to work differently because of the relationship between shooting and movement - which I think is the key to making a colonial-era game flow well, and is something that requires fairly precise regulation rather than too much luck-of-the-dice.

So each system has been designed based on the specific type of warfare I wanted to model.

To wrap up, of course it is fine to change the target numbers to get the game YOU want to play, or introduce other ideas to dress up my core rules - one of my main beliefs as a game designer is that I offer you the game as I personally wish to play it, on the understanding that you are free to make the changes you need for you to get the most possible fun from it too. But it's also worth remembering that I developed the games as I did for a reason - to reflect the style of play that I wanted to have on the tabletop - rather than evolving my ideas about what constitutes good play over time.

If the rules had published in reverse order - TPL, then TMWWBK, then LR - the command mechanisms would still have been written as they are in the published books, as they best reflect the way I've chosen to style warfare in that given period.

This is an over-long post and it delves into game design at a level I rarely decide to cover on my blog. I hope this answers a few questions for the politely curious, and helps at least one ill-informed person to understand that I might actually intend the consequences created by my rules!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Gaming With History: My talk in Edinburgh

As I've mentioned previously, Wargames Illustrated asked to publish the general talk about gaming I gave to a mixed audience for Edinburgh University last October. It was published in the February 2017 issue of the magazine.

However, WI have also published the article online and made it readable for everyone, not just subscribers. Kind fellows.

You can read the article HERE.

Breaking news: I am responsible for tabletop wargaming sinking to an all-time low!

That is the opinion of an Amazon reviewer, anyhow. It's quite some burden, and I must therefore apologise to you all.

In all seriousness, it is a shame when people try my games and don't enjoy them, but I also know that our hobby is so diverse that not everyone is going to like what I do. Luckily, most other Amazon reviews, and reviewers in general, are much more positive about my games!

If you've played any of my games, whether you like them or not, please do post reviews if you have time. What's helpful - even in this scathing review - is when reviewers take the time to say why they do or don't like the rules. That's why this one is worth mentioning - "Pete" doesn't like my design choices, so I'm glad he wrote why that's the case and explained what he didn't like, rather just saying "the game is rubbish", or "I don't like it". I'm fairly certain that we wouldn't have much in common with regard to the games we play, as it sounds as if "Pete" is looking for something different from his hobby to me.

The most frustrating reviews, which a couple of my books have had in the past, are one-star reviews based on Kindle rendering, or the quality of the delivery service, which aren't really reviews of the product but of things beyond my own control.

Then again, I'm also aware that "Pete" crowns me with that "all-time low" accolade!

If you can, please get yourself into Amazon, or any other review websites, and spend a few minutes writing a review of my games or those of other designers. But please don't accuse anyone else of producing an all-time low in the hobby, as that's my claim to fame and I'm not sharing it with anyone.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Yet more army lists for The Pikeman's Lament

Top man that he is, Michael has been beavering away on some ever more exotic sample armies for The Pikeman's Lament. You can find them over at his blog, HERE.

Now, as I've explained before, I bow to Michael's knowledge of the pike and shot period, being no more than a dabbler in the military history of the period (political history of the ECW, on the other hand... fascinating!). Therefore you may not be surprised to find out that I'd not heard of some of these conflicts and had to scurry away to find out the basics - Michael is not only a great adapter of my rules, but a top-class educator too!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Video review of Dragon Rampant at Boardgamegeek

Over on Boardgamegeek - one of my favourite homes online - I discovered a new(ish) video review about Dragon Rampant, my fantasy wargame rules.

I thought this was a decent review, and worth sharing. You can watch it HERE.

I especially liked that the reviewer has picked up on the idea of being able to use just a handful of models and designating each of them as a unit in their own right with 12 or 6 'hit points', making a true skirmish game (in miniatures gaming terms). I've not seen this mentioned too often, but I play in this way fairly frequently.

*edit* Whoops! I realise now that I have shared this before! In my defence, it's recently popped up on BGG as a 'new' video. Still worth watching though.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

New army lists for The Pikeman's Lament ... and 'army lists' for my rules in general

Michael and I have had a few queries about additional army lists for The Pikeman's Lament. Most of these have been requests for scaled down versions of 'national armies'.

Now, The Pikeman's Lament is really intended as a large skirmish game ('grand skirmish' as some describe it, although putting 'grand' in front of anything just makes me think of coffee shops), so there's no real need for 'national armies'. But as I've found with my other rules, a lot of gamers like to use them, so as Michael has said, 'Who are we to say no?'

So over on Michael's blog, you will find a number of suggested army lists.

Check them out HERE on the Dalauppror blog.

As always, I'm keen for gamers to pick and choose what they use from my rules. The army lists are not set in stone, and may be tweaked or ignored as you wish. I'm a great believer in collecting an army based on your own research or whim, rather than optimising your list for maximum 'winningness'.

I'm told there's someone who hangs out at The Miniatures Page never missing the opportunity to point out that the Lion Rampant sample army for the Scots doesn't work for the skirmishes he fights ... which is rather missing the point that you build your own retinue based on your research rather than ruining your own game by using the SAMPLE lists I provided. I suspect he has missed the text that says, 'There are no ‘official army lists’ in Lion Rampant, and Section 3 includes suggestions for further reading to research your own retinue in detail.' But hey ho.

The (rambling) moral of this post is: Do as much or as little research into the army you are collecting as you wish, but above all else, please have fun collecting an army and playing the game!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A new record for me: two articles in one magazine (Wargames Illustrated 352)

A little belated news, as I've had very little hobby time recently...

Wargames Illustrated 352 (February 2017) sees a new milestone for me: two articles in one issue. Anyone would think I had a lot to say for myself!

The two articles in question are:

Wargaming went all educational last year when Dan Mersey was invited to Edinburgh to speak on this topic. Professor Gianlucca Raccagni, the organizer, tells us all about the concept.

Dan Mersey takes a look at both the historical and Shakespearean versions of Macbeth, one of the most intriguing characters from Scottish history.

The first article is a transcript of a talk I gave in Edinburgh (previously mentioned on this blog), and the second is a fuller account of the Macbeth Lion/Dragon Rampant army I've previously detailed here. If you've read them, I hope they were of interest to you.

Elsewhere in the issue, Henry Hyde makes mention of two of my upcoming Pen & Sword wargaming books (1066 and the Anglo-Zulu War), there's mention of using The Men Who Would be Kings for a colonial scenario, and there are two adverts for The Pikeman's Lament (one from Osprey one from North Star). All in all, that's a lot of me in one issue.

Some people would say too much of me. Especially the photos of me in the Edinburgh article.

Friday, 27 January 2017

First (independent) review of The Pikeman's Lament that I've found online...

And it comes from David Sullivan at the wonderfully named 'I live with cats' blog. It's a good breakdown of what the rules are about and how you can use the different troop types.

Please check it out HERE.

Incidentally, the cat in the blog's header looks just like our fine old chap who passed away last year and is much missed.

Thanks for the review David!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Pikeman's Lament officially publishes today

Rejoice! Today is the official publication date of The Pikeman's Lament, the pike & shot adaptation of Lion Rampant written by Michael Leck and myself.

It's available in all good bookshops and hobby shops - and some bad ones too - and via your favourite online hobby and book stores.

Here's what Osprey has to say about the book:

Recreate the action and drama of 17th Century warfare on your tabletop with The Pikeman's Lament. Start by creating your Officer - is he a natural leader raised from the ranks, the youngest son of a noble family, or an old veteran who has seen too many battles? As you campaign, your Officer will win honour and gain promotion, acquiring traits that may help lead his men to victory. Before each skirmish, your Officer must raise his Company from a wide range of unit options - should he lean towards hard-hitting heavy cavalry or favour solid, defensively minded infantry? Companies are typically formed from 6-8 units, each made up of either 6 or 12 figures, and quick, decisive, and dramatic games are the order of the day. With core mechanics based on Daniel Mersey's popular Lion Rampant rules, The Pikeman's Lament captures the military flavour of the 17th Century, and allows you to recreate skirmishes and raids from conflicts such as the Thirty Years' War, the English Civil Wars, and the Great Northern War.