Friday, 9 January 2015

Railways in wargames: Some simple rules

As my wargame railway project seems to be moving towards a conclusion, I decided that it was about time that I did some thinking about some simple railway-related rules. In actual fact I wrote some years ago, and they are included in my HEROES OF VICTORIA'S EMPIRE (HoVE) rules.

Locomotive towing capacity
Different types of locomotive have different towing capacities. This depends upon the number of driving and non-driving wheels a locomotive has.
  • An unarmoured locomotive can tow a piece of 4-wheeled rolling stock for every pair of driving wheels.
  • An armoured locomotive can tow a piece of 4-wheeled rolling stock for every three driving wheels.
  • Unarmoured locomotives may only tow unarmoured rolling stock and armoured locomotives may only tow armoured rolling stock.
Examples of locomotive towing capacity
  • An unarmoured 0-4-0 locomotive can tow two pieces of 4-wheeled unarmoured rolling stock (4 divided by 2 = 2).
  • An unarmoured 0-6-0 locomotive can tow three pieces of 4-wheeled unarmoured rolling stock (6 divided by 2 = 3).
  • An armoured 0-4-0 locomotive can tow one piece of 4-wheeled armoured rolling stock (4 divided by 3 = 1).
  • An armoured 0-6-0 locomotive can tow two pieces of 4-wheeled armoured rolling stock (6 divided by 3 = 2).
When an unarmoured train is activated it can:
  • Move
  • Load or unload
When an armoured train is activated it can:
  • Move
  • Fire
  • Move and then fire or fire and then move
  • Load or unload
Loading and unloading trains
It takes a complete turn to load or unload a stationary train. Any unit or units being loaded onto a train must be next to the train at the time of loading. Any unit or units being unloaded from a train must be placed next to the train at the time of unloading and may not move until they are activated.

Only the weapons carried by an armoured gun wagon may fire.
Each of an armoured gun wagon’s weapons is deemed to be crewed by 2 gunners.

These seem to be a good starting point for any new rules that I might write, although my gut feeling that I could use them pretty well 'as is' now.


  1. Indeed, simple, to the point and effective. What is their movement rate?

  2. Simple and straightforward. What could be better?

  3. Ross Mac,

    As you know, smple is always the best course as far as wargame rules are concerned.

    Unarmoured trains moved 4D6cm and armoured trains moved 3D6cm.

    All the best,


  4. Conrad Kinch,

    That sums up my approach exactly!

    All the best,


  5. Bob,
    Based on exhaustive rearch into military railways - watching Kenneth More in North West Frontier, Buster Keaton in The General, Thomas the Tank Engine (I actually had the pleasure of meeting the Rev. Awdry when I was about 12) and numerous Westerns in which outlaws attack trains - I presume to offer the following observations:

    Your proposed movement rates seem far too random, ranging from 3cm to 18cm for an armoured train - so that a train might increase its speed by a factor of 6 between consecutive turns.

    I suggest that the speed of a steam locomotive along a track is mainly is mainly determined by:

    a) the locomotive's size/power
    b) the length/mass of the train it is pulling
    c) the quality of the track, to include the construction, gradient and whether the train is on a curve or straight
    d) the throttle setting (intended speed) and the time spent accelerating from stationary or braking from speed

    and that the overall effect of the combination of these factors is pretty predictable - thus the bandits know to attack a moving train when it is on a bend and/or ascending a gradient because it will be going much slower than on straight, level track.

    I would suggest two 'norms' for normal speed and high speed for each type of locomotive, with reductions for pulling each additional piece of rolling stock, ascending a gradient and going round bends. These could be modified by the difference between 2d6, thereby creating a bell-curve range of speeds/distances moved.

    I would also suggest limiting the change in speed per turn when accelerating or braking, so that - subject to the time represented by each turn - it would take a train more than one turn to reach normal speed from stationary, or to come to a halt from speed - rather like the way cavalry in some rules cannot go from halt to charge in one turn, but must trot and then canter first.

    I appreciate this may be a degree of complexity you may prefer to avoid...

    Best wishes,
    Arthur the Small Controller

  6. Arthur1815,

    I only added to movement rates from HoVE because Ross Mac requested that information; I would certainly not use them now for the reasons that you outline so well. They were far too random ... but all the movement rates in HoVE were, so it made sense at the time.

    What you suggest as an alternative makes sense, but currently I want to just have a standard movement rate for trains, and that movement will be expressed in grid areas. It would make sense to have a 'full speed' and a 'stopping and starting speed' for trains ... and I will certainly be looking at that when I write the rules.

    All the best,


    PS. I cannot get out of my mind the image of you dressed in Morning Dress and Top Hat as the 'Small Controller'. It has kept me amused all afternoon!

  7. Youth rules seem to put what I have learned from Thomas The Tank Engine in the bin. Of course my children are watching the program, and while I enjoy it, I find myself always questioning the physics of the newer shows and movies. ;) I do appreciate the tactical reasons to attack on a curve or steep grade.

  8. Marc Pavone,

    Thomas the Tank Engine was always one of my favourite TV programmes ... and so realistic too!

    All the best,