Sunday, 30 April 2017

A Wargamer's Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War publishes today

Publishing today and available from your favourite online bookstore - and if you're lucky, a real-life bookshop close to where you live!

If you do buy this book, I hope you enjoy it! It's written as a guide to playing games set in Zululand, and focusses on gameplay, rules, scenarios, and how best to represent the battles on the tabletop more than the history (although there's a bit of that included too).

EDIT: The pub date has moved around a bit in the past couple of weeks. I have no idea why that is. Anyhow, it seems that the book published on 5 April without me knowing!

Friday, 21 April 2017

If you're off to Salute tomorrow...

Keep your eyes peeled for the University of Edinburgh game of Lion Rampant!

Friday, 14 April 2017

A little bit about +Strongsword+

For quite some time, I've been working quietly in background with Kawe from Westfalia Miniatures to flesh out some of his ideas for fantasy games. In May, he's putting the first of these into his next Kickstarter...

+Strongsword+ is a slightly quirky but simple-to-learn set of rules designed for playing tabletop fantasy wargames, written by me and published by Westfalia Miniatures. 

Many fantasy wargames place in your command of a huge army divided into tactical units or just a handful of models acting independently of one another. +Strongsword+ places you at the head of a mob of ferocious frothing fighters, be that a large or small mob of them! 

The style of play is quite straightforward, but the real challenge is working out how to use the simple rules to command your warriors in battle as effectively as possible. This is because, although all of your models act independently from one another, your whole force is guided by the single tactic or ‘Battle Stance’ you set each turn.

Your Battle Stance is a simple order that’s either shouted by leaders over the tumult of battle, indicated by flag waving, horn blowing, or similar battlefield communication. It tells each of your warriors how to act this turn – maybe they’ll be ordered to be defensive, or aggressive, stand back to catch their breath, or go completely nutty and charge at the nearest living enemy. 

The key focus of commanding your warband in this arena of mob warfare is that you must choose the single Battle Stance that strengthens to your current situation – you can’t go giving differing, complex orders to different warriors under your command because you’re too busy fighting and simply don’t have that luxury of time. Instead, shout your commands as loudly as you’re able to and let your warriors do their best!

Combat and morale is kept pretty simple, as are the spells you can cast. This means that the game is driven by your Battle Stance choices, which I hope presents players with the feeling of really commanding a smallish group of warriors on a low-tech battlefield.

The rules are written with Westfalia's excellent little Halfmen and their new Kobolds in mind, but you'll be able to field pretty much any type of models you desire with a little bit of tinkering of the army lists included in the book.

Monday, 10 April 2017

+Strongsword+ ... my fantasy rules for Westfalia

More news coming soon...

A Fantasy Skirmish Wargame
By Daniel Mersey for Westfalia Wargames

Monday, 3 April 2017

Dragon Rampant: Dwarves of the Gleaming Hills Warband

Here they hide heroically behind a wall
Many moons ago, I posted a sample Dwarf warband for Dragon Rampant, to demonstrate how you could build a Dragon Rampant force with very few models.

I included a few other suggested options there, too. You can read that HERE.

Well, I have a nice collection of old Grenadier Dwarves, which I've thought have just the right look since I first got some in the late 1980s or early 1990s (at a guess), and so I have built a variety of Dragon Rampant warbands using them.

However, here's my current favourite line up for these short-legged little fellows:

The Dwarves of The Gleaming Hills

Jarl: Elite Foot, Leader, Fear @ 8 pts 
6 models - the Jarl himself plus musicians, banner men, and a champion.

Huscarls: Offensive Heavy Foot @ 6 pts
12 models

2 x Thanes: Heavy Foot @ 4 pts each
24 models in total

Thralls: Scouts @ 2pts
6 models

And here they poke the eye sockets of some skeletons
For larger points battles than the standard 24-pointer, the Huscarls can be broken down into two Elite Foot units (6 models each, at a cost of 6pts per unit).

There's nothing pretty about the tactics of the Dwarves of the Gleaming Hills. They waddle forward into close contact and hit things as hard as they are able to.

The Thralls provide a limited amount of missile support - against more mobile enemies they are placed fairly centrally in my battle line to give them good all-round range. The Jarl isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in - along with the Huscarls, he's the main threat in this force.

Of course, whether they are successful or not depends on so much more than this fine yet theoretical tactical explanation!

They have an Anglo-Danish feel to them, certainly in terms of unit names, but I think this suits the sculpts too. As there's little difference between the models used as Thanes and Huscarls, I distinguish them by kitting the Huscarls out in gold-plated armour and brightly coloured helmets (as does the Jarl and his bodyguards, who like a bit of shiny metal!).

Thursday, 30 March 2017

What are my favourite games of all time?

Apropos of nothing, here's a little widget from Boardgamegeek that shares my top 10 games (at the time of writing). Recognise any of them?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

My games as rated on Boardgamegeek

The website Boardgamegeek is an excellent resource for gamers. Although mostly focused on 'true' boardgames, there's plenty of crossover with miniatures gaming and some RPG stuff too.

One of the best features is the rating system, allowing gamers to numerically assess the various games they've played. Once ratings start rolling in, you can build up a good idea of a game's relative value: a handful of ratings means little (and unfortunately, some of my games have very few ratings, but there's probably because few people have played them), but once you're over around 30 votes I think you can form a fairly clear idea about the majority decision.

I thought it was interesting to take a snapshot of my games as listed on BGG (a bit earlier in March, when I made the screen grabs) and share the ratings (the Average Rating is the one to look at), and relative popularity based on copies owned/games played.

I think it's fair to say that my most popular rules - in terms of ratings and copies owned - are Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant. Dux Bellorum is second highest with regard to copies owned, but that's been out so much longer. A couple of old magazine articles have been added somewhere along the line, but I'm not sure either really warrant being counted as 'games' (well, Beowulf maybe).

Head over to Boardgamegeek to explore more. Click on the images below to see larger versions.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A couple of mounted units to take on the Zulus

A couple of reinforcement units have turned up from Matt at Glenbrook Games.

These are more of my old Ral Partha figures, gradually being painted up for my The Men Who Would Be Kings colonial rules. I use 8-model units, but using a couple more or couple less models makes little difference unless you're a real stickler for points values.

Perhaps even more than the redcoats and Zulu regiments, the irregular cavalry units of the Zulu War really appeal to me for both gaming and their uniforms... I was sorely tempted to ask Matt to paint some of these in the light blue uniform of Zulu Dawn (which, so far as I can work out, is based on a poorly coloured Osprey plate).

By happy coincidence, my new Wargamer's Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War should be dropping through letter boxes very soon for those of you kind enough to have ordered a copy!

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!