Monday, March 28, 2022

Wargame Design- My Design Inspirations


As I launched Wars of the Republic  I got to do a whirlwind of interviews and similar features with various folks in the community.  This led to a few common questions that came up.  

1. How do you become a Wargame Designer?

2. Who were my influences as a Wargame Designer? 

The first question, I have answered here. It is by far, the most common question I get.  Thankfully, I have a pretty simple answer for it.  

The second question, it took me a bit to figure out.  The question would vary a bit between whether they wanted particular authors, or if they were asking about particular rulesets.  When I dug down deep, many times the answers to those questions were the same.  Therefore, I decided to tackle it here on the blog.  

Influential Designers
I think first, I wanted to talk about the designers that have really influenced me as a wargamer and as a designer.  Most of you will be familiar with these names and their games.  I have talked about them many times on the blog.  I will also try to list some of their games, but I may not be 100% all encompassing.   

Rick Priestley
Games: Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, Warmaster, Warmaster Ancients, Hail Ceasar, Pike and Shotte, Blackpowder, Gates of Antarres, Warlords of Erehwon, and a helping hand in so many more! 

Like many wargamers, I started my journey in the Games Workshop universe.  I stared with good old Rogue Trader.  Yes, I am old and I still have my soft cover copy of these rules.  Yes, the spine is in bad shape, and yes pages are falling out.  It was and is a well used tome! However, despite this start, I have also enjoyed seeing Rick's evolution as a game designer in his work for Warlord.  

I list Mr. Priestley as a big influence as he started me on my journey.  However, there is something really great about how he writes his rule books.  They are like an old chum inviting you over for Tea and a spot of gaming.  He has a very gentlemanly and collaborative approach to wargaming that I find invigorating.  As I read his rules, I can often envision myself playing the game with him and his mates.  It is a very welcoming approach to game design and one that I love and respect.  

This has influenced me with the Most Important Rule in all of my games.  The Most Important Rule is very simple.  Everyone must be having fun!  If everyone playing is not having fun, than the game is lost.  It is a failure.  

To me wargaming is not a competitive act, it is a collaborative act.  Both players are working together to create engaging game play, compelling narratives, and to determine the outcomes.  This is much more fulfilling of a process to me, and I think Rick Priestley and his wargame design/writing style has strongly encouraged this outlook.  

Warwick Kinrade
Games: Various Imperial Armor Books, Aeronautica Imperialis, Kampfegruppen: Normandy, Battlegroup (various titles), Soldiers of God, Soldiers of Rome. 

My first experience with Warwick was through the Imperial Armor campaign books that he wrote for Forgeworld.  These books helped bring the universe of the Warhammer 40K to life, and encouraged me to pick up and own corners of it myself.  This manifested itself into building my own campaigns, special units, warzone rules, and eventually into my first efforts and designing games.  He showed me that I could own wargaming myself, and didn't need to wait for someone else to spoon feed me content.  This led me down a path and along a journey that is still continuing.  

Mechanically, Warwick showed me a variety of tools that I keep handy in my tool box today as well.  Of course that includes, using cards in games, simple rules for deep tactics, fog of war mechanics through chit pulls, altitude bands, etc.  He may not have invented these techniques but he used them in ways that I found very compelling and they stuck with me.  You can see these tools in use in many of my games.  

Jon Tuffley
Games: Full Thrust, Stargrunt, Dirtside

Wow, was reading these rules an eye-opening experience.  It lifted me from the vale of Games Workshop and helped me realize this huge world of games out there.  The rules are classics of the sci-fi genre and extrapolate "modern" rules into a near future and beyond setting.  They used a variety of mechanics and ideas from the "real-world" but also ripped from the sci-fi screen when needed.  Jon Tuffley's work was like the tip of the spear for me on wargaming.  

Obviously, he also filled my tool box with ideas and concepts that I still use today.  Action/Reaction mechanics blew my mind!  The customization of forces that were scale and model agnostic was revelatory!  Dice shifting as a way to modify actions?!?  These are all still tools that I use and reference frequently.

Beyond that, Tuffley taught me that you can make games that are Scale and Model agnostic.  In addition, you can make games that model the "make-believe" worlds you want to bring to life onthe table top.  You just need to bring the right mechanical tool for the job.  

Daniel Mersey
Games: Battle Ravens, Dux Bellorum, Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, Pikeman's Lament, Rebels and Patriots, The Men Who Would Be King, Viking in the Sun, The Crusader States, Blam! Blam! Argh! 

Daniel Mersey is a giant figure in my development as a game designer.  Obviously, he wrote a number of break-out games for the Osprey Wargame Series when the Blue Book series was still young.  Some could argue that his rules are what continues to carry the series to this day!  In many ways, you could argue that I am only a "Daniel Mersey Hack" and I would not argue your claim at all.  I would take it as a compliment! 

In addition to being a great rules writer, he is also an inspirational driving force in making Wargaming mainstream.  The fact that he is the wargame designer in residence at University of Edinburgh highlights his contributions to wargaming.  Wargaming has been taken seriously at places like the US Naval War College, Sandhurst, West Point, and similar political/military institutions before.  However, Mr. Mersey has moved it beyond these "functional" applications and into the realm of academia as well.  This is immensely inspirational to me, and the power of what wargaming can do.           

I learned so much from Mr. Mersey's works.  He has an amazing ability to boil down a complex period into simple archetypes.  He does this with units, armies, terrain, and even scenarios.  He doesn't add rules, he strips them down to their core essence.  He taught me that less can be more.  Simple systems can be elegant and powerful in their application.  Obviously, I still try and use these learnings today when I approach a complex period or subject.    

Robey Jenkins
Games: Horizon Wars, Zero Dark, Infinite Dark, Blood and a Black Flag

I met Roby online via various hobby forums.  He was dabbling in game design around the same time I was.  Unintentionally, I have been following in his footsteps ever since!  He published Horizon Wars via Osprey publishing and that encouraged me to try my hand at it too!  Then, he started using Wargame Vault, and again I was inspired.  Next, he was on Patreon and look who followed him!  

The way Robey has been bulldogging his way along the path as a hobbyist and wargame designer is inspirational to me.  Plus, I think his games are pretty swell too!  From Robey I learned a lot about social media, the independent wargame designers world, and how to just get out there and do it!

Maybe someday, I will be as cool as Robey?   

Influential Rulesets
Not surprisingly, many of the designers listed above, will also have been involved or influential in some of the rulesets you will see below.  I won't try to re-invent the wheel, but will try to summarize what is so influential to me about them.  In no particular order: 

Force-on-Force/Tomorrow's War
You can easily see the hand of Stargrunt in these rules, but I still find the "Round of Fire" for action/reaction to be an amazing mechanic.  It is not one that I use much in my games but it really started me down the path of considering activation as a key part of any game system.  

These rules are still the bench mark when it comes to building a good campaign system.  It covers all the basics such as income generation, injury, skills, etc.  They are fun and flavorful and create their own post-game mini-game!  

Dux Bellorum
The use of Leadership Tokens to drive special rules and advantages for your units.  This was a simple and elegant way to add command and control.  I obviously love it! 

Strange Aeons
I loved the way it added a psychology element to wargaming.  I have not fully been able to onboard these concepts in many games, but they continue to be influential in my skirmish game and survival horror efforts.  

This game system revealed to me the magic of depleting dice pools!  This is still a mechanic I use a lot today.  I recommend you track it down.  Simple and elegant. 

Other Sources of Inspiration
Of course, there are a lot of sources that have driven my design ethos and helped me to create games.  I will try to list a few of them here for your edification.  Again, in no particular order:

Free Wargame Wiki
This site opened my eyes to the vast array of wargames, genres, mechanics, etc.  Stumbling upon this site really helped drive my creativity and desire to finish games.  

Delta Vector Blog
The Evil Monkeigh has a great series on wargame design, and you should really check it out.  Thought provoking and challenging in a good way.  Some of my best ideas started from reading here.  

By Brush and Sword
Something about this simple blog keeps bringing me back.  Perhaps it is the productivity of the blogger.  I look at his games played and minis painted trackers and I get envious.  It inspired me to "do better".  

Matakishi's Teahouse
A prodigious designer, painter, and all around hobby titan.  Again, very inspiring and I learned a lot from their designs.  The place I found Krom on those years ago! 

Dakka Dakka Forums
I have been a forum goer for years, starting on the old Portent.  However, I hang out here way too much now.  They also have a helpful Wargame Design section too.  It is full of wonderful and helpful posters.

Final Thoughts
Well, I hope you found that helpful.  It is amazing to think about all the different inspirations and benchmarks you find and pass on your journey through life.  Of course, the ones listed above are only the ones that are Wargame Design specific but I have had many mentors, teachers, and inspiring individuals in my life that made me who I am today.  All of you have similar people and milestones in your lives too.  It is funny to sit down, and think about what shaped you to be who you are in the moment and then try to write it all down.             

You should try it sometime.  

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Monday, March 21, 2022

On The Painting Desk: 2022 Work so Far


I started 2022 with a list of purchase and painting goals.  Most of them were focused on items to help expand and support the Blood and Spectacles brand.  This included the following key painting goals: 

1. Dark Age Irish from Wargame Atlantic for my Fury of the Northman project
2. Gripping Beast Dark Age Infantry/Cavalry for Fury of the Northman Project
3. Persians from Victrix/Wargame Atlantic for an Ionian Revolt Supplement
4. Tumbling Dice 1/600 aircraft for the Korean War to use in White Star/Red Star
5. Finish off other things I buy in 2022

So, I have gotten started on tackling this list right away.  The longer I wait, the harder it is to get finished and the longer until the booklets they go with get done.  Therefore, here I have all ready picked up the following: 

Dark Age Irish- Wargame Atlantic

Korean War Aircraft- Tumbling Dice

In addition to that, I finalized a few things and started a few things.  The first thing I finished was a Reaper Nativity scene for my folks as a present.  This was the second one I purchased and painted.  The first went to my In-laws. I purposely painted them differently.  

I also got an Orange30 Resin Printer for the Holidays.  I got it all set up, and figured out the first thing I wanted to print.  I printed some 1/1200 Greek Triremes so that I can start two forces for Poseidon's Warriors.  I tried to paint one squadron while I printed the next one to paint, as each takes between 45 to 120 minutes per squadron to print and prep.     

I'm still working on my water bases, as right now they do not look like the Triremes are moving at all.  They are good enough for now though.  

I figured the easiest things to get done would be the Tumbling Dice Korean War aircraft.  The USAF paint schemes for the time were pretty straight forward.  They were basically a silver or light grey with yellow, black, or red stripes/marks.  The USAF roundel would be the biggest challenge, as I did not find decals of the proper scale.  Therefore, I was going to try to free hand... something.   Not expecting much but at the scale of these planes, detail would not be needed.  We are looking more at impressions and the proper silhouettes.

Here you can get an idea of their size on the flying mounts I typically use on my Aeronef and Space Mecha.  Pretty small scale minis!  

A nice thing about small scale models like this, is that they paint up really fast.  Plus, Korean War aircraft paint schemes are relatively simple.  Therefore, I was able to pound out several aircraft quickly and get them ready to play.  This is enough aircraft to get me going on the table, post-production, and for battle reports.  However, I think I need to order more Litko flying bases.    

F-86 Sabres, F-84 Thunderjets, and F-80 Shooting Stars.... Oh My!

A swarm of Mig-15s

A mighty B-29 Superfortress and three A-26 Invaders

More B-29 Super Fortress and Communist TU-2 Bats in front

The North Korean Air Force, La-9 (or 11's) with the red cowlings, Yak-9 with red nose cone, and Yak-18 Maxx in front.  

I had to order some more Litko bases half way through the process, so that slowed me down a bit.  However, these 1/600 aircraft painted up nicely and quickly.  I had all of my Korean War Communists and USAF painted in less than a single month.  That was even faster than I expected!  

The last of the Communist forces: 3 more TU-2 Bats in back, and then 12 Il-10 Beasts in ground attack and night attack colors. 

The last USAF with the F-82 Twin Mustangs in back, F-51 Mustangs on the left, and a pair of A-6 Texans on the right.  

All done.  Here is a sample picture of what they will look like on the table....

Yu can find the rules on the Wargame Vault now too.   Go here for White Star/Red Star

Next, I started assembling those Dark Age Irish.  I used the typical base of a washer for all of them.  This gives the model a nice bit of weight to it.  This army will be about 60 models strong when it is complete.  It is intended for battle reports, pictures in the rule book, and for use on the blog.  

These are pretty early stages, but the goal is to have 2 units of warriors, 2 units of slingers, and 2 units of Skirmishers to face off against my Viking forces.  Once I have them painted, I will add shields to the units and models that need them.  It is early stages, but the Wargames Atlantic sculpts seem pretty clean.  However, where the sprue joins some of the models can be a pain to clear off.  

Overall, there are three distinct features that make up a Dark Age Irish army: 

Uggh.... terrible lighting 

1. Bare footed and little to no armor
2. The distinctive Shillelagh walking stick club
3. Irish Wolfhounds

The Irish Wolfhound going into battle besides the Irish forces is a staple of wargaming.  However, I am not sure how strong a grasp this common Irish army feature has in reality.  I decided to lean into it with my skirmishers being half regular troops and half Wolfhounds.  As skirmishers it seemed to make the most sense in the army.  I also did not get enough slings, so half the two slinger units are just throwing rocks.  This makes the army look considerably less professional than their Viking foes, which I have no issue with. 

Overall, not a bad start to my 2021 painting goals and objectives.  The next step is to get some of more bases for my Korean War aircraft.  Then, I need to get them fancy photos for the White Star/Red Star rulebook.  The sooner I get the Irish painted, the sooner I can get some playtest games of Fury of the Northman on the table too.  2021 is going to be a great year if I keep this pace up!   

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You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page or Instagram for more fun! 

Check out the latest publications and contact me at our Blood and Spectacles website

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Battle Report: Castles in the Sky- Jeune Ecole vs. Mahan


The Jeune Ecole was a school of Naval strategy that was pioneered by the French in 19th Century, perhaps as early as 1820s.  The idea came in vogue as more powerful guns, torpedoes, and similar weaponry became available.  The theory was that smaller, faster, ships armed with higher power weapons could be used to off-set the power of slower, heavily armored battleships.  In addition, the Jeune Ecole advocated for commerce raiding as an effective use of sea power.  France was a leading advocate of this strategy to off-set the British advantage in battleships.    

When the Air Screw was developed and the British launched the HMS Warrior; the first flying warship; the game changed.  Conventional Sea Power was replaced by Air Power by these new developments.  All countries scrambled to acquire the technology for themselves.  However, the British started with an advantage and soon capitalized on it with an early lead in the Air Naval Arms race.  

The British strategy did not change.  They were following the Mahan Doctrine of a large fleet in being with the biggest, most heavily armed ships to act as a defense of the homeland.  They would find, fix, and sink any enemy combatants through superior cannon fire.  The French and L'Aire Nationale were content to continue their strategy of the Jeune Ecole and apply it to their Air Navy.  After all, the British all ready had the lead in flying warship development.  

The French put more time and resources into Air Torpedoes as a weapon system than any other nation.  In addition, their design ethos was less about big battleships and more aligned with cruisers, destroyers, and other Air Torpedo armed escorts to counter the British cannon heavy fleets. 

As tensions rose in 1914, the French and British agreed to an informal thawing of relations.  Part of this effort included a more unified effort in the military sphere to potentially counter growing German and Austro-Hungarian efforts on the continent.  The Air Navy commands of both nations were less than thrilled with the decisions of their respective leaders.  However, they did organize a series of "Joint Wargames" to take place off the coast of Spain in the Atlantic.  These were to test each fleets readiness to engage in their preferred combat doctrine and measure their efforts.    

You can pre-order these rules from Amazon here


Despite this being a "Joint Training" mission, their is no love lost between these two nation's forces.  The event is being refereed by the United States and Japan in order to enforce the results.  New, complex computational systems called Babbages are being utilized to help monitor and calculate the results of mock shooting to simulate actual damage and combat conditions, which will then be relayed to the participants using Marconi wireless devices to inform officers aboard ship of any potential results or judge rulings.  

The two nation's agreed to a series of engagements and scenarios.  Today's mission will be a standard fleet action between the British and the French to test the Jeune Ecole approach vs. the Mahan theory in the heat of combat.  

The game will last 8 turns and take place on a 72MU by 48MU board.  The fleet with the highest remaining armor points is the winner.  


The Royal Navy

HMS Valiant
Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship 
Admiral Jellicoe- Command 3

HMS Benbow
Iron Duke Class Battleship
Captain Sturdee - Command 3

HMS Invincible
Invincible Class Battle Cruiser
Captain Rickards - Command 4

HMS Shannon
Minotaur Class Armored Cruiser
Captain Smythe - Command 3

HMS Dart
Bull Finch Class Destroyer - Torpedoes
Commander Bond - Command 4

L'Aire Nationale

Gloire Class Cruiser
Commodore Aubrey - Command 4

D'Iberville Class Cruiser
Captain Robierre - Command 2

D'Iberville Class Cruiser
Captain Montauge - Command 3

Foudre Class Cruiser
Captain Bedout - Command 2

Chasseur Class Destroyer- Air Mines
Captain Emeric - Command 1

Voltigeur Class Destroyer - Torpedoes
Captain Allemand - Command 4

Voltigeur Class Destroyer- Torpedoes
Captain Hubert - Command 1


This battle is taking place off the coast of Spain in neutral territory over the Atlantic.  We used the terrain generator for each of the 6 grid spaces of the board using the rules in the book.  

  1. No impacting terrain
  2. No impacting terrain
  3. 1 Alt Hill
  4. 1 Alt Hill
  5. 1 Alt Hill
  6. No impacting terrain
It looks like their are a few rocky, uninhabited islands in the combat zone.  They stretch up into altitude 1.  

The British take the side of grid 1-3, and the French the opposite side.  The British form up in line-a-stern steaming onto the board at an angle in section 1, at Speed 4 and altitude 4.  

The French, form up into smaller battle groups, and start on the opposite corner.  The Conde, Algierre, and Bouclier are at the center of the formation at S4, A5 through 7.  They are followed at a distance by the Foudre and Desaix at Altitude 3, and Speed 4.  The Epee and Flouret are far in advance at speed 6 and altitude 7.  They are scattered across section 4 and 5.   

Turn 1: 
The French score 5 commands to the British 4.  The French opt to go second. 

The British stay in formation and steam ahead steadily, confident in their firepower.  The Dart tries to stay on station with the valiant for additional Point Defense.  

The French begin to split up, with the Foudre and her battlegroup speeding up.  They split off towards the larger islands, while the Conde and her group turn and go parallel to the British path.  The pair of  Destroyers speed up and maneuver around an island.   



Turn 2: 
The French and British both score 2 commands, and the French win Initiative for having more command dice. 

AS the British battle line plows ahead, they slowly increase speed.  They stay in formation.  Meanwhile, the French Foudre moves ahead, cutting across the head of the British formation at a distance.  The Conde group speeds up as well, and turns towards the British line.  The Destoryer pair also dashed to intercept.  

The Foudre launches a pair of aeroplanes towards the British, a Fighter and a Bomber.  

End: The Aeroplanes move towards the targets. 

Turn 3:
The French score 4 commands to the British 3. French decide to move second.  

The British stay on course, speed, and altitude.  

The French try to give All Ahead Full commands to the Conde and her escorts, but only the Algierre succeeds and speeds up to max speed.  However, they shy away from the big Battleships guns.  Meanwhile, the Destroyer pair turn in and charge towards the flanks of the British formation.  The Foudre and her escort drop to minimum altitude of 2, and turn to engage.  The aeroplanes have the British in sight and prepare to attack. 

The aeroplanes dive in to the target, the fighters desperately trying to suppress the enemy point defense, but the Dart is close enough to lend covering fire.  The aeroplanes are easily scattered and swatted away for 2 Friction markers.  

The Friction is easily removed later in the phase. 

Turn 4: 
The British win with 4 to 3 commands.  They opt to go first.  

The Valiant signals for the turn, and begins to turn on her move.  The Algiere slows down 1 speed, and turns to cross above the island.  The Benbow follows in the wake of the Valiant, while the two French Destroyers speed up to full speed and move to cut the British line.  The Dart races up to stay in position with the Valiant.  The Bouclier speeds up to max speed, and tucks in with the Algierre. The Shannon stays in formation, while the Conde ends up tailing her escorts.  The Foudre and her escort the Desaix turn in to fire a torpedo barrage at the turning British next turn.  

The battle is joined as the Benbow fires its Light Batteries at the oncoming French Destroyers.  However, a malfunction causes the guns to fall silent after missing and failing their ammo roll.  The French opt not to fire back with their destroyers, focusing on their attack run. However, the Foudre does prep another set of aeroplanes for launch.        

The Valiant targets the Conde with a long range blast of her heavy batteries, and manages to land three friction as shells ping off the French Heavy Cruiser's armor.  Her light batteries open fire on the Epee, and manage to cause a damaging hit!  

The Shannon and Invincible also fire on the Destroyers.  The Battle Cruiser's light battery manages to cause 1 Friction to the Epee.  Meanwhile, the Shannon's Medium batteries manage two damaging hits at close range.  

The Epee's rudder is jammed from the shelling, and she loses 1 armor.  Meanwhile, the Flouret's mine launchers are damaged, and her screw fouled in addition to the armor losses! 

The engineers onboard manage to fix the Epee's rudder, but the Flouret is still critically damaged.  The Benbow's crew manages to get her Light Battery repaired. 

All friction in these opening salvoes is removed. 

Turn 5:
French win with both sides scoring 4 Commands.  They choose to go first.  

The damaged Destroyers move to harass the British battle line.  For the British, they continue their formation turn, while the French battlegroups all turn into attack the Valiant with air torpedoes.  

The Epee launches her payload of Sky Mines at the Invincible, who's point defense guns fail to find their marks.  However, the mines also do not attack or detonate on the Battle Cruiser yet!  The British ship's light battery does manage to find and cause Friction on the Flouret though.  

The Flouret manages to target the HMS Dart with her light battery and cause 3 Friction and 1 hit!  The HMS Shannon's Medium batteries find the Flouret and cause her 2 hits and friction!  

The Bouclier fires on the Valiant with her air torpdoes.  However, the Battleship and the Dart's point defense make short work of the incoming attack for 3 Friction.  The Valiant weathers the storm of 4 ships and their air torpedo attacks over the course of the turn, leaving her with 16 friction markers, but undamaged! 

The Valiant's bow heavy batteries fired on the Algierre but failed to find the mark.  Plus, they failed an ammo check and jammed! However, the HMS Benbow's heavy battery manages to land two friction on the Algiere, while the light battery manages to damage the Flouret once again.  

In addition to armor loss bringing her down to 1 left, the Flouret has also lost her light battery.  The HMS Dart has her rudder jammed. 

The Foudre's bombers get through the point defense and deliver another pair of friction markers for a total of 18 on the Valiant! 

Somehow, the Flouret passed her Strike Your Colors test. 

No repair rolls can be made due to Friction.  

The board has 28 Friction markers.  After clearing the friction, the Valiant still has 9 Friction on her.  That will cause her to stall as her speed will be reduced below 0.  

Turn 6:
French win with 5 to 2.  They choose to move first.  

The Flouret turns and tries to bug out at full, damaged screw speed. The Valiant activates next, but due to friction stalls and drops 1 altitude and speed.  The Epee reloads her ordinance, and moves in front of the Valiant to drop sky mines on her.  

The Benbow has to go up one and turn to make sure she stays clear of the stalled Valiant.  This sends her face first into the French.  They move to bypass the British ship at higher altitudes.  The Algiere reloads her torps, but the Buclier fails to do so.    

The Invincible tries to blast its way free of the mines, but triggers two that cause friction and slow her down.  The Desaix moves to try and blast the Valiant in the starboard side, and reloads ordinance.  The Foudre breaks away and also reloads her tubes and aeroplane decks.  

The HMS Shannon has to change course to avoid the Sky Mines and heads towards the French ships.         

The Epee begins by dropping Sky Mines on the Valiant and Dart.  Point Defense takes out most, but one sets detonates and damages the Valiant.  The HMS Dart returns fire on the Epee and causes 1 more hit and three friction with guns and torpedoes. 

The British Benbow locks onto the Conde with her guns, and opens fire.  The Conde braces. One shell sinks home.  The return fire is less impressive, causing 1 friction.  

The Invincible finds the Algierre in her broadside but up high.  Still, her Heavy Battery finds a way and causes 3 damaging hits and 3 Friction!  

The Desaix has a beam shot on the Dart and fires with 6 air torpedoes.  Two are intercepted and 1 hits the Dart, while three others attack the Valiant with 1 intercepted, and 2 hitting the battleship. The British destroyer is damaged, while the battleship takes them in the armored belt.  

Aeroplanes from the Foudre also swarm the HMS Dart but fail to hit her.  

A barrage of torps from the Algiere is largely ineffective against the Invincible, only causing some friction.  However, medium battery shots from the HMS Shannon pound back on the French cruiser.  

The Epee loses 1 more armor plate.  
The HMS Dart catches on fire!
The Valiant loses 1 armor.
The Conde loses her Point Defenses and armor    
The Algiere has her screw fouled, has her rudder jammed, and loses 4 armor, 

During the Repair phase, the following happens: 
The Valiant unjams her heavy battery
The Dart puts out her fire
The Algiere fixes her rudder

There is 34 friction on the table.  The French get the Friction off all their ships, and the British manage to clear the Valiant and Benbow.  However, the Dart has 3 and the Invincible has 4.  

Turn 7:
The French win 4 vs 2.  They choose to go first. 

The Algiere tries to go higher to avoid enemy fire.  Meanwhile, the Valiant restarts her engines and tries to gain some altitude!  The Flouret also tries to flee from the fighting.  

The HMS Shannon aims for the Conde and tries to gain some height.  The Epee cuts across the British front.  Meanwhile, the Conde tries to battle through the British ships.  The Bucleir tries to get around an snipe the Dart. 

The Foudre stays on the edge of the battle.  The Desaix tries to go after the Invincible for revenge for the Algiere.  

The Desaix fails to reload her ordinance!  The Invincible decides to fire fore effect and fires her bow heavy guns at the French torpedo cruiser, and sinks 2 shell into her.  Her Stern batteries fire on the Conde causing 3 hits on her as well!  

The Conde fires on the HMS Invincible with everything she has and causing 1 hit and 6 friction.  The HMS Shannon also fires on the Conde with her broadsides.  This causes 7 friction and 1 hit. 

The Epee launches a barrage of Sky Mines into the Valiant.  The point defenses take out 1, 2 miss, and the last one detonates and damages the battleship.  

Bombers from the Foudre cause 1 friction on the Invincible.  

Finally, the Benbow fires her stern guns on the Conde, and her light batteries at the Flouret.  The Heavy batteries miss.  The light battery reduces the Flouret to 0 armor.  

The Desaix's magazine was hit and explodes with a 1 MU radius.  No other ships are close enough.  

The Invincible Rudder is jammed.
The Valiant loses some armor
The Conde loses 4 armor and starts on fire! 

 The Flouret strikes her colors, but the Conde does not. 

The Conde puts out her fire, and the Invincible fixes her rudder. 

There is 25 friction,  the two admirals get just enough to clear it all out.  

Turn 8- Final Turn
French still have the initiative and decide to go first.  

For the most part, both sides move to disengage cleanly.  The French sped up and tried to gain altitude away.  The Valiant blasts away the sky mines around it.   


The Invincible fires her stern batteries at the Conde, and hits once for a point of damage.  The Conde's guns jam in return.  

The Parting shot manages to cripple the Conde!  

The French lost 19 Armor points, 2 ships lost, and 1 crippled versus the British 5 armor lost and no ships lost.  Decisive win for the British and Mahan's theories.  

The American and Japanese judges watched the read-outs from the computing machines and nodded sagely.  The British had won the engagement decisively.  The French officers put on the best Gallic airs they could, but the results were in black and white in front of them.  The British looked on smugly, feeling vindicated and gave stiff upper-lipped congratulations to their combat officers.  The Royal Navy had proved their dominance in the air yet again.  

So, what happened here!  Why did the French take such a pounding.  On the surface, it may look like the British Battleships were just too hard.  I mean, the HMS Valiant tanked something like 12+ air torpedo hits and didn't even dent the armor!  However, that was not why the outcome was so lop-sided. 

The British had a clear plan of attack.  They were going to flying in line astern, and make a timed fleet turn in the center of the board.  In response, the French had to determine a way to either break their formation or convince them to try and breakup their own formation.  Since their were no objectives to draw the British out of formation, the French opted to draw them out with Sky Mines and Air Torpedoes.  The French strategy eventually worked as the HMS Valiant stalled and the formation started to break up, but it was too little too late.  By then the British had managed to bring the French under their guns.  The key to the British success was in their formation and not necessarily their ships. 

The British formation allowed the heaviest ships to take the brunt of the early fighting.  Then, the timed fleet turn allowed them to bring their guns to bear in layers.  This also brought the French Conde element into close range, and negated their long-range stand-off advantage.  The HMS Dart's point defense envelope helped neutralize the French's best weapons for breaking up the British formation, too.  It was a great lesson in combined fleet tactics, and my opponent pulled off the Naval Turn I have tried and failed to do in the past.  Kudos to them! 

In effect, the French and I failed because we did not enter the game with a clear strategy.  I intended to use my Destroyers to break up the enemy formation, but that was a great risk sending them ahead.  They paid a heavy price.  The Desaix and Foudre managed to stay away barrage the British at range, until a Heavy hit took out the Desaix.  My problem was choice of target more than anything else.  I attacked the head of the column, to try and disrupt it, but I would have been better served to attack the rear and force a straggler that I could have isolated and overwhelmed.  

Oh well.  Better luck next time!  It was a fun game with lot's of moving parts and thinking.  I think it is time for a small campaign so I can get plenty of games played before the book launches in July.  You can pre-order the book from Amazon here.           

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Monday, March 7, 2022

Wargame Design: Alternate Ways to Play Men of Bronze/Wars of the Republic


As I travel the internet, I am very excited to see all the different ways people are playing and adapting Men of Bronze and Wars of the Republic.  I figured it would be a good idea to share some of my favorite mods and adaptions so others can see and decide if it would be a modification they would like to try out. 

You may recall that Page 5 of both rulebooks encourages you to use your own house rules.  After all, you own the rules now so I encouraged you to use them as you wish.  Below are some House Rules I saw in use.  Feel free to adopt these as you wish.  

Reduced Arete/Commander's Gaze Tokens
Some folks felt like they were getting too many Commander's Gaze tokens to use to bid for initiative, declare charges, or trigger other special rules.  Normally, you get 1 token per unit and 2 for your Commander's unit.  Therefore, an army with 7 units, would have 8 Arete Points.  

In this variant, instead of 1 token per unit you get one for every two units.  You essentially add up your normal total and divide by 2 and round up.  For example, if you have 6 units and a Commander, you would normally have 7 Arete Points.  Using the variant, you would have 4 instead.  

(# of Units + 1 for the Commander)/2 = Command Tokens

This would give you a good formula for determining your Command Tokens.  

Reduced Charge Ranges
This one relates more to Men of BronzeCurrently, charge ranges are double the normal movement rates.  However, this means a Hoplite unit can charge 12 MU, which can be a large part of a 48 MU board!  

Wars of the Republic uses a Movement and a half charge range, rounding up.  This could easily be adapted to Men of Bronze as well.  Therefore, a Hoplite unit with 6 MU would have a charge range of 9 MU instead.  That allows more space on the table to maneuver, and gives a boost to the Evade/Pursue special rules.  

Remove/Add the Melee Phase
With this option, you either remove the Melee phase from Wars of the Republic or add the Melee Phase to Men of Bronze.   In Men of Bronze, combat occurs as it happens, while in Wars of the Republic combat occurs after movement has been resolved so it can happen all at once.  The advantage of the Men of Bronze option is that the order you engage becomes a tactical decision and can influence your interrupt strategy.  However, in Wars of the Republic, who is supporting who and determining combat bonus is much easier and cleaner.  

Therefore, I could see a group of players either adding or removing this element from either game.  Both methods have an inherent advantage to their process.  

Make Legion the Inverse of Phalanx
Currently, a Phalanx allows +2 Fight Dice, and +1 Armor bonus.  Legion units add +2 Armor but no Fight bonus.  This option would make the Legion the opposite of Phalanx by giving them a +2 Armor AND +1 Fight.  

Legion- The Legion formation provides a +2 Armor and +1 Fight   

This was not initially put in, as the +2 Armor bonus makes Legions very tough to crack open.  Therefore, I wanted to make their fighting style much more "grind" focused so that a Legion unit could be tied up meaningfully in combat, even if it could not be killed off.  This seemed to suit the Roman combat style based on my reading.  

Unit Size
Both sets of these rules are designed to be scale and model agnostic.  The rules recommend using 10 28mm scale models in groups of 10.  That included archers, peltasts, light infantry, skirmishers, cavalry etc.  Of course, these are guidelines only, and the game really deals in unit vs unit footprints.  As long as both sides are organized the same, the unit size does not matter.  

Online, I have seen various unit sizes being used.  One of my favorites was Happy Wanderer on the Grabbag of Games blog using Phalanx units of 40 models each!  Those are some big units!  I have also seen that smaller units are popular as well, including cavalry units of 5-6 models each, and light infantry units being 6 or so models each.  

Since this is a base and mode agnostic game, as long as both sides are using the same conventions then it will have no impact on game play.  Change and use any unit size you wish!  

Measurement Units and Base Widths
Men of Bronze uses a base width, while Wars of the Republic uses Measurement Units.  Despite the naming conventions, the idea is that both of these measurements are whatever your table or unit size needs.  Therefore, it was intentionally kept vague.  For 28mm on a 4 x 6 foot table, I tend to use 1 MU = 1 inch.    

However, here is a good "rule of thumb" for determining the proper size of a BW/MU based solely on your table size.  

MU= (Width of table/8=X)/6= 1 MU

Of course, the scale of your models such as 20mm, 15mm, 54mm, etc may also lead you to adjusting your MU scale. 

Final Thoughts
It is so exciting to see people using and adapting these games for their own tables.  They were always intended as a place to start, and a tool box.  After all, what works for my table does not necessarily work for your groups preferences, your gaming table size, your terrain collection, your figure collection, etc.  The variables are endless.  Therefore, it is only logical to players to adapt!  Page 5 encourages these House Rules to make them work for you.  

Above, I highlighted some of the more common flavors I have seen online.  I would love to hear about the mods and House Rules you use.  Feel free to leave them in comments, on the Message Board, or contact me at the Blood and Spectacles website, or become a Patron for ultimate access to future   

Become a Patron and get access to all the cool stuff, a peak behind the curtain of Blood and Spectacles, and early-access to playtest games!  

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page or Instagram for more fun! 

Check out the latest publications and contact me at our Blood and Spectacles website

Or purchase all out games at the Blood and Spectacles Publishing Wargames Vault Page!