Monday, 16 April 2012

Polemos: Some thoughts

Recently John Curry sent me a scan of a copy of the second edition of the POLEMOS rules. Although the quality of the scan was not particularly good in places, it was good enough for me to form some ideas about how the rules work and the equipment needed to use them.

The game was played on a cloth that was marked with a 44 square x 22 square grid, with each square representing an area of 400 yards x 400 yards (i.e. the cloth represented an area of countryside that was 10 miles x 5 miles). As the cloth was designed to be used on a dining table, it must be assumed that each square must have been approximately 2" x 2", thus giving a table-scale of 1:7200-scale.

The playing cloth has two roads marked on it, and it is along these roads that units enter the battlefield. There are rules governing the number and types of units that can enter along each road each turn.

The playing pieces represent regiments of infantry, cavalry, and artillery (although it also states that artillery 'regiments' represent batteries of six guns) as well as one that is called 'The Staff'. Destroying or capturing the latter is one of the objectives of the wargame. With the exception of artillery – which occupy two squares – each regiment is mounted on a movement tray that fills a square. The rules have an interesting mechanism by which the strength of regiments is concealed from one's opponent. (I do not intend to give any details of this mechanism as I understand that John Curry hopes to include the full text of these rules in a forthcoming book about early wargames.)

Each game turn represents 15 minutes of real time, and it states in the rules that players should have a restricted amount of time – ten minutes – in which to move their regiments. The rules suggest that the time should be measured using a pair of sand-glasses.

Regiments move at pre-set movement rates:
  • Infantry: 3 squares
  • Cavalry: 6 squares
  • Artillery: 6 squares
  • Staff: 5 squares
This represents how far each type of regiment would move in 15 minutes. There are rules that govern movement in different tactical formations.

The basic combat rules – which John Curry's published version will cover in full – are essentially quite simple, with standard numbers of casualties being caused by each type of regiment at a given range, depending upon the tactical situation. There are specific rules for cavalry, artillery and staff and these are mainly concerned with charging and firing.

My overall impression is that these rules should be easy for most wargamers and non-wargamers to understand and use fairly quickly, and I look forward to trying them out in due course. Of particular interest to me was they way in which the designers of the rules have dealt with some of the problems that arise when devising rules that use a gridded playing surface, and it is interesting to compare their solutions with my own.


  1. Seconded!

    Although the Polemos rules appear to portray late 19th century warfare, I'm sure I can adapt them to my favourite black-powder periods.


  2. Hi Bob,

    Really looking forward to these and the news that JC will be publishing them in due course means that another early wargame will be available.

    All the best,


  3. Jim Duncan,

    You may have to wait a few months, as John Curry already has several other projects on the go at the moment.

    I can assure you that I think that the wait will be worth it.

    All the best,


  4. Arthur1815,

    Having read them, I suspect that they will translate into a set of black powder rules quite easily.

    All the best,


  5. David Crook,

    All of the work that John Curry is doing is adding so much to our knowledge of early recreational wargaming.

    This is just one - but I think vital - piece of that work.

    All the best,