Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Rushing slowly

Over the past few days I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about my MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) wargames rules. They work perfectly well 'as is'. This has been shown by the recent play-tests I have undertaken. But in the back of my mind I have had the feeling that they could be just that little bit better, and so I have been trying to put together some ideas and concepts that I think will improve upon the existing rules ... and progress can best be described as rushing slowly.

I did consider just re-writing my existing MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) rules but I think that a better course of action is to start with a clean slate. This does not mean that I will not borrow heavily from the MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) rules when I actually put the 'new' rules together ... but it may mean that some of the existing mechanisms will be reworked or even replaced.

This is not a new phenomenon for me. Past experience of wargame design (and my 'training' as an IT lecturer) has shown me that successful designs require several distinct stages of development. These are:
  • Identify the main objectives
  • Analyse the design parameters
  • Design the game’s structure and select and/or design the necessary game mechanisms
  • Implementation of the games structure and game mechanisms
  • Testing and Evaluation of the games structure and game mechanisms
It was relatively easy to complete the Identify stage of the process, and the Analyse stage followed without too much difficulty. This should – in turn – inform the work I do during the Design stage (the stage I have now reached) and if I get this stage right, the Implementation stage should be quite simple to undertake … I hope!

So where am I now?

The objectives I have set myself are:
  • To create a framework for wargames rules that can be used – with minor changes – for historical conflicts fought between 1850 and 1920.
  • That the rules must be capable of being used to fight both face-to-face and solo tabletop battles.
(They may appear to be quite simple objectives but it will be quite a tall order to achieve them … but I have high hopes that I will be able to produce a satisfactory result.)

The design parameters are:
  • The rules must be designed for use with a gridded tabletop (preferably a hexed grid that utilises hexes that are 10cm wide when measured from side-to-side [i.e. the size of Hexon II hexed terrain]).
  • The rules must be usable with either figures mounted on single and/or multi-figure bases or suitably coloured and/or labelled wooden blocks.
  • The mechanisms used must be simple to use, easy to remember, and produce acceptable results.
  • The rules must have a user-friendly layout with a readable-font (i.e. no less than 9pt) and preferably they should fit on no more than two sides of A4-sized paper.
  • The tabletop should be as free from non-essential clutter as possible (i.e. whilst this does not preclude the use of markers, playing cards etc., their use is to be avoided if it is at all possible).
  • Players should feel that they command an army – albeit a small one – on the tabletop battlefield.
  • The rules should encourage players to use the correct historical tactics in order to win, and that no single weapon type should be omnipotent on the tabletop battlefield.
What comes next?

I must now begin to make some decisions about the game’s basic structure (i.e. what will happen during each turn?) and the game mechanisms that I intend to use. I already know that:
  • I want to use turn sequence that allows a degree of action/reaction to take place, and this will mean a move away from the traditional IGOUGO turn sequence used in MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB).
  • I want to keep the existing Morschauser-inspired separation between Artillery and non-Artillery fire combat wherever and whenever this makes tactical sense.
  • I want to have a single combat system for resolving non-Artillery fire combat and Close Combat.
  • I want to use a combat resolution system that uses D6 dice. This does not exclude either the use of specially marked or conventionally marked D6 dice.
  • I want to have a non paper-based method of recording a Unit's combat status. This will probably involve the use of multiple numbers of bases (or wooden blocks) to represent each Unit, with the number of bases representing its fighting strength and willingness to fight.
(Some of these points might appear to belong in the Analyse stage, but it is sometimes difficult to disassociate how you want to achieve something from the mechanisms you use to achieve them.)

It may appear to the casual blog reader that I have achieved most of this already, and that all I have done is to write the design brief for MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB), but the truth of the matter is that MEMOIR OF BATTLE (MOB) evolved in a rather unstructured way, and by going back and designing a set of rules from scratch the resulting rules should be better.

We shall see!


  1. If you end up, through your design process, with he same set of rules, then you know you got them right ;)

    When I did my software engineering course way back in the 1980s, one of my lecturers was (and still is) a wargamer, and he applied software design processes to rules writing.

  2. Hi Bob,

    "To create a framework for wargames rules that can be used "with minor changes" for historical conflicts fought between 1950 and 1920."

    Did you really mean 1950 - 1920? Or is it 1850 - 1920?

    We curious lurkers are, well, curious.


  3. Hi Bob,

    That sounds like a plan and after a cursory reading of the 'mission statement' I would say that considering your apparently 'unstructured approach' to MoB originally they turned out pretty darned well!

    Using a structured approach should cover all the bases in a methodical fashion. I see the biggest challenge being the establishment of an interactive game turn and I must say that Kaptain K's idea of a unit's activation followed by needing a successful dice roll for the next unit seems a novel and workable idea.

    This will be a great project to undertake so very good luck with it and on a personal note I was very pleased to see mention of 'wooden blocks' as units - it somehow adds a degree of respectability to my own efforts!

    All the best,


  4. Kaptain Kobold,

    I suspect that the end result will be very similar ... but not quite the same!

    The process of writing wargames rules and computer programs (or – for that matter – designing any type of system that requires inputs, processes and outcomes) is not that dissimilar, and it is no surprise to me that a lot of wargames designers have a background in that area of expertise (e.g. Phil Barker was a methods engineer at British Leyland).

    All the best,


  5. Jim Wright,

    Thanks for spotting that mistake. You are right, it should read 1850 to 1920 ... and now does!

    All the best,


  6. David Crook,

    In many ways MEMOIR OF BATTLE's development was a bit like Topsy ('I s'pect I growed. Don't think nobody never made me).

    At present I have yet to choose the mechanism I will use to enable a degree of action/reaction to take place during the turn sequence. Kaptain Kobold's suggestion has considerable merit, as do several of the others. It may be that I will eventually include one mechanism within the rules and offer an alternative for those who prefer something different. We shall see.

    All the best,


    PS. The wooden blocks were included especially for you ... but also for anyone else who wants to follow in your footsteps.