Friday, 14 October 2016

Wally Simon's Skirmish Secrets of Wargame Design

Not long ago Russ Lockwood contacted me and asked if I would like review copy of the latest in the series of books he is publishing. They are all compendiums of articles written by the late Wally Simon, and Russ has edited them into variously themed volumes. The volume that he sent me – No.6 – was entitled WALLY SIMON'S SKIRMISH SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: A TABLETOP TOOLKIT OF IDEAS, ANALYSIS, AND RULE MECHANICS.


The book costs $19.00, is published by Lockwood Projects, and is available from On Military Matters (USA and World) and Caliver Books (UK and Europe). It is soft bound with a card cover and has 44 pages.

The contents of the book are as follows:
  • Gladiators Behaving Badly: Bluffing, Buffers, and a Quick Arena Campaign
  • Goin' Command: Falklands Raid: Stealth, Detection, and Demolition
  • Victorian Colonial Skirmish Rules: Attributes, Cards, and D100s
  • Samurai Skirmish: Archery, Windage, and Melee Bands
  • Von Vorren's Machine Gun Duel: WWII East front Skirmish
  • House-to-House Modern Skirmish: Reaction Deck, Wounded, and Response Deck
  • Swath Fire: Volley Fire Variation: For Muskets Through Lasers
  • Bash and Crash Medieval Melee: Agility, Strength, and Reactions
  • Command and Control Cards: Activation with a Twist
  • Hey Pilgrim! You Forgot Your Popgun: Wild, Wild West Shootout Rules
  • Zgroshk Modern Skirmish: Clocking, Wounds, and Reserves
  • Ragnar's Viking Raid: Fast, Simple, and Chartless Rules
  • 23rd Century Urban Uprising: Dicing, reaction, and Rally Rules
  • About the Editor
Before I begin my review, I must make one thing apparent. I've never enjoyed skirmish wargames ... and so I came to this book with a jaundiced point-of-view. I was therefore more than pleasantly surprised by what I found inside ... skirmish wargames that not only made sense to me, but which were also fun! Furthermore each chapter contained different ideas and mechanisms that I felt that I could easily adapt for my own purposes. I particularly liked Von Vorren's Machine Gun Duel and Zgroshk Modern Skirmish, both of which I could see myself staging and using with friends if there was not enough time or space to set up a normal wargame.

However, the chapter that really gave me a lot of things to think about was also the shortest. Command and Control Cards: Activation with a Twist uses a standard set of playing cards to activate each unit – something that I have experimented with myself in the past – and to determine how far they can move when they are activated. The latter is something that I had never considered doing before ... but I can see it being very useful in some of the solo wargames that I fight.

As I have already stated, this is the sixth volume of Wally Simon's work that Russ Lockwood has edited. The others are:
  • WALLY SIMON's SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: A Tabletop Toolkit of Ideas, Analysis, and Rule Mechanics (Volume 1)
  • WALLY SIMON's MORE SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: A Tabletop Toolkit of Ideas, Analysis, and Rule Mechanics (Volume 2)
  • WALLY SIMON's SOLO SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: A Tabletop Toolkit of Ideas, Analysis, and Rule Mechanics (Volume 3)
  • WALLY SIMON's CAMPAIGN SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: Volume 4: A Tabletop Toolkit of Ideas, Analysis, and Rule Mechanics (Volume 4)
  • WALLY SIMON's MASTER SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: Volume 5: A Tabletop Toolkit of Ideas, Analysis, and Rule Mechanics (Volume 5)
I must admit that I am very tempted to buy copies of these books, and especially Volumes 3 and 4. Christmas is coming, and they might make a nice little present for me to buy myself!

A note about Wally Simon: Wally Simon was one of the early driving forces behind tabletop wargaming in the United States. He was a prolific writer of wargame rules, the prime mover in Potomac Wargamers, and the editor/published the POTOMAC WARGAMERS REVIEW from the 1970s until it ceased publication in August 2002. Wally was one of the founder members of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS), and its first meeting took place in his basement in 1981.

8 comments:

  1. I never cared much for skirmish gaming myself outside of the occasional gunfight in the Old West. Well, I do enjoy Chain of Command!

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    Replies
    1. Jonathan Freitag,

      I've never really enjoyed skirmish wargames, but this book includes games that have interesting mechanisms and that have certainly piqued my interest.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Oddly I am the opposite of you, I prefer to skirmish game as I rarely find rule sets for the middle levels of command (at least in the 20th C) that I like, for the highest levels I find board gamews are good enough. I'll look at picking up the book based on your review.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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    Replies
    1. Pete.,

      I certainly found things in this book that made me reconsider my aversion to skirmish wargaming.

      My higher-level wargames often owe more to board wargames than they do to 'conventional' wargames. I just prefer 3D model counters rather than piece of cardboard.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. The aesthetic of toy soldiers do usually win out for me. I do like Megablitz as it is a bridge between the two gaming genres, 5core Brigade Commander gets a pass from me due to its playability too. Any further recommendations would be appreciated.

      Cheers,

      Pete.

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    3. Pete.,

      I have tried writing my own higher-level 'modern' wargame rules, but I never seem to be able to get the balance between the different design elements quite right, and as a result I keep coming back to Megablitz.

      If I do come across anything of further interest I will certainly write a blog entry about it.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. I have to admit that I would be equally tempted to look into Volumes 3 and 4 of this set. Having said that, what you have to say indicates that although I'm not a fan of skirmish war games myself, there may well be useful tips for some of my own projects - namely my Army Men project, which, though not designed for skirmish games, has retained the potential for that sort of thing; and my American War of Independence thing, for which I have 20 or 30 BMC a side...

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    Replies
    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      These books are edited compilations of articles written by Wally Simon, and to me they are rather like reading one of Donald Featherstone's books. In other words they are full of ideas that I might not use as written but which spark off ideas of my own.

      Like you I am very tempted by volumes 3 and 4, but suspect that they may all be worth acquiring for other projects that I am working on or that I have in mind.

      All the best,

      Bob

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