Monday, October 18, 2021

Wars of the Republic: Wargame Design- All About That Base

I have been playing wargames for a long time.  Since 1984 or so?  One thing that always gets my goat is basing!  Nothing irritates me more than painting up a really nice group of models but not being able to use them in a given system drives me nuts!  I hate ripping off old bases and putting on new ones.  Even building modular bases and movement trays is a challenge for me.  

Therefore, when I started writing games for myself I was pre-occupied with basing and how to approach the topic.  One of my primary design goals is always to create something that is scale and model agnostic.  I want players to bring what they want to the table and then get to use it! Wars of the Republic is no different in this regard.  

As I approached Wars of the Republic I held this idea close to my heart.  I surveyed a variety of other ancient wargames to try and get the lay of the land.  I also reviewed the various model lines out there and took a look at what companies were creating as pre-made bases.  There were a lot of different base conventions and pre-made bases out there.  The question was how to make them all work inside the parameters of the game.    

Thankfully, I was able to look back at a few of my favorite Osprey Wargame Series books in order to find some solutions.  There are three major ways that allowed me to make Wars of the Republic as scale and base agnostic system.

  1. Measurement Units
  2. Focal Points
  3. Unit vs Unit
Measurement Units

This game does not have a set ground or time scale.  Instead, it uses generic Measurement Units instead of specific units like centimeters or inches.  The size of a Measurement Unit should be based on a few factors; the size of your minis, the size of your play space, and what you think looks good!  

For example, I have an 8ft. by 4 ft. table and I use single based 28mm models.  Based on my table size, model size, and what I find visually pleasing I choose 1 Measurement Unit to be 1 inch.  However, if you use 6mm on 40mm x 40mm bases on a 3ft x 3ft table, maybe you want to use 1 Centimeter as a Measurement unit.  Your choice really!  

The entire game is written using Measurement Units. Therefore, it can accommodate various scales and table sizes with ease. 

Focal Points

Each unit has a leader (or Focal Point) that is where all key measurements are made from.  This allows you to measure movement, shooting, and other line-of-sight issues.  This is standardized in the rules and the footprints of the units will not impact the way the game is played.  No matter what basing you use, you can always find this "middle point" of the front of the base and use that as the Focal Point of the unit.  

For example, I use 10-15 man units of 28mm models single based.  It is easy to put a leader front and center and use that as the Focal Point of the unit.  Another player may have 4 15mm models on a base, and each unit is 3 bases.  The focal point for that unit would be the front center of the middle unit.   It is easy to use this point for all measurements in game.  

Unit versus Unit

The game revolves around Unit vs Unit actions.  Therefore, you do not need to worry about removing casualties, changing unit footprints, and other factors.  You are not calculating action resolution based on unit size.  Units all move, fight, and shoot in a group.  Individual models do not matter except as being part of their unit. 

As you can see, Wars of the Republic is a scale and base agnostic system per the design goals.  Now, let's talk about different types of basing, and how they can be used in in game.

Single Based Models

As I have mentioned, I tend to use single based 28mm models for my own games and armies.  28mm is what I cut my teeth on as a young wargamer, and despite playing games at different scales this one just appeals to me.    

To create a unit in Wars of the Republic , the easiest way and the method I use is to simply get 10 single based models together.  I put the leader model in the front rank, put two mooks on each side of the leader.  I then fill in a second line of 5 models.  Ta-da!   For some units like Pike Blocks, I use three ranks as  a personal preference.  In reality, you can make your units as big as you and your opponent want.  I have seen units of 40 models! 

In addition, you can use any size base you want, and it can be round or square with no game impact.  I like to use washers to add some heft to my plastic models but any size will do.  The rules generally have suggestions about how to organize the different formations using 10 models of 28mm models single based.   

Multi-Based Models  

Multi-basing is a very popular option in wargaming as it makes moving units much easier!  Many people like to put four 28mm models on a single base, and then but three to four of such bases together for a unit of 12 to 16 models.  I have also seen folks do something similar in 15mm, and with various figure count to base ratios.  Some rulesets even specify model to base ratios.  

The rules share some tips on how to run multi-based units that I will paraphrase here.  Multi-based units use the center of the front of their central base as the Focal Point of the unit.  This can be indicated with a model or a small mark on the base.  Then, you can move them into a visually approximate version of the formation.  Things like Phalanx and Legion should be easy, while Open Order, Wedge, Rhombus, etc may require a bit of creativity.  If all else fails, a small token or marker should be sufficient for any formations that are not obvious for the unit.  

Multi-Models on Single Bases

I have a pretty large Successor army of 6mm models.  They are all on 60mm x 60mm bases.  Those are chunky units!  However, they work just fine for Wars of the Republic  too.  In fact, they were very helpful to playtest how scale and model agnostic the system really was!  Plus, the units look nice and beefy at this scale!  

You can run these just the same as the Multi-based Models for the most part.  The front center is the focal point of the unit.  The default is there most "effective" formation.  I.e. Greek Hoplites will be Phalanx, Romans would be Legion, Macedonian Heavy Cavalry is wedge, Skirmishers in Open Order etc.  If they change to an alternate formation, a simple token or marker was sufficient to remind me and my opponent they were in a different formation.  Easy. 


As long as both armies are on similar basing, you should be fine using any locally popular basing convention.  In fact, I am confident that even armies of different scales but similar basing can play games against each other.  The rules can cope with the most popular basing conventions in the industry so you and your opponents should have no reason to re-base anything to bring your armies and play games of Wars of the Republic .  

I started off by stating that re-basing to play games really gets my goat, so it seems appropriate to leave you with an image of my goat..... 

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  1. Love the goat! And also the idea. I too dislike re-basing. What a pain in the neck.

    How have you dealt with issues such as figuring out how to make a unit with a focal point still block line of sight to other units? Or the potential abusability of players hiding the focal point behind line-of-sight-blocking terrain despite 40% or more of the unit being visible, or maneuvering the unit such that its focal point isn't in an area of difficult terrain despite 40% or more of the unit's base area being in it?

    Or are these issues not relevant to the types of games to which you apply the concept of the focal point? I've found that it works fine in naval wargames for example, where these concepts aren't an issue. I have had difficulty applying the concept to my land-based wargame ( where I am exploring adopting it for the next release.

    1. WELCOME PointedStick, and good questions.

      The key thing to recall is that this is a unit vs unit game, so individual models do not matter, instead the footprint of the unit is what counts. Therefore, if a Focal Points' LOS goes across any point of a unit, it is blocked.

      The terrain interaction are also very simple and abstract. If a unit's foot print touches terrain, the entire unit is considered in that terrain. If your focal points LOS touches terrain, than the LOS is impacted by the terrain; often blocking it.

      Wars of the Republic puts the focus on close quarters infantry combat, so tends to emphasize it. Shooting is purposely reduced in effectiveness to emphasize the Shock Infantry tactics of the period and sources.

      The approach I took here, is not appropriate for all games, especially ones where you want to emphasize missile firepower!