Morale in Twilight of the Sunk King

July 13, 2017

Twilight of the Sun King is a rules set taking a minimalist approach to game mechanics. The core of the system is the morale check. If a unit fails a morale check, a hit is scored. Most units can take 2 or 3 hits before being removed from the game. Oddly, the game designers chose the sum of 2 average dice for the random element in a morale check. I suspect they wanted a limited range of outcomes yet they wanted the middle results to be most common. Given that there are only 3 results (Pass, Fail or Destroyed), it seems to me that this could have been done in a better way.


If a morale check total is 8 or more, the unit passes. If the morale check is 7-5, the unit takes 1 hit. If the morale check is 4 or less, the unit is immediately removed from the game.

2 Average dice graph. Left column is the individual chance of each occurrence while the right is the sum in ascending order.

With the sum of 2 average dice, a 5 or 6 will come up 1/3 of the time. Similarly a 8 or 9 comes up 1/3 of the time. A 7 will come up about 27.78 percent of the time. The outliers (4 and 10) each come up 2.78 percent of the time. Thus, a unit passed a straight up morale check 36.11 percent (slightly ore than 1/3) of the time. They fail 63.89 (slightly less than 2/3) of the time. 2.78 percent is an automatic removal of the unit. Rolling 2D6 would be an obvious solution but there is a problem. The spread from pass to destruction (8 to 4) is only 4. If you roll 2D6 you would either have a spread of 6, which throws off the modifiers to morale checks, or you would have automatic destruction occur many more often that intended. A ‘4’ would occur 16.67 percent of the time which is 6 times more than intended.

The Change

Ignoring the outliers, we can generalize and say that a unit passes 1/3 of the time and fails 1/3 of the time. That neatly works on a single D6. A unit passes on a 5+ and fails on a 4-. We could say that a unit is destroyed on a 1 but that would also occur 6 times more than intended. My solution is to make a result of 0 an automatic destruction. So, using a single D6, a 5+ is a pass, a 1-4 is a fail and a 0 or less is a destruction. The observant will not that a unit will pass 2.78 percent less than before. But you should also note that a unit that has 0 or more positive modifiers cannot be automatically destroyed. That’s probably a fair trade. Also, while the spread for pass to destruction is 5 instead of 4, it will still likely not break the system.


It is clear to me that the designers of the game wanted units to fail morale checks often with only a small chance of a catastrophic failure. However, 2 average dice are not necessary for morale checks in the game. You can yield similar results with a single D6, which I hope most gamers can appreciate.

Seven Steps to Freedom

May 25, 2017

Charlie Wesencraft has published several books on wargaming.  His first, “Practical Wargaming”, covers several periods from ancients through the late horse and musket period.  His second, “With Pike and Musket”,  covers the English Civil War.  What is remarkable about the latter is that it is also an extensive scenario book covering more than 20 battles.  His third, “Seven Steps to Freedom”, covers 29 battles in French and Indian war and American Revolution.  It was rejected by his publisher and was almost never published until John Curry accepted it for his History of Wargaming project.  It was finally published in January 2015.

The Book 

There are 188 pages of text, diagrams and maps in the book.  All of the graphics are black and white line drawings.  There are 29 scenarios in the book, grouped in 7 phases (steps) in chronological order starting with the French and Indian War and ending at Yorktown.  The former has only 4 scenarios.  The balance deal specifically with the American revolution.  There is also a set of rules to play out the scenarios.  These rules are similar to those found in his previous book, “With Pike and Musket.”  The scenario information has enough detail so that you could adopt them to whatever game and basing system you like.  This alone makes the book a real value for anyone wanting to game this period.

The Rules

I’ve seen in other reviews and even from the author(!) that these rules are dated and gaming has moved on.  I strongly disagree.  They are rather unique by today’s standards, but these rules have a lot going for them.

Units are formed of anywhere between 10-20 miniatures.  British regiments, for example are approximately 12 figures.  Cavalry regiments are somewhat smaller.  There is an efficiency rating of 1-4 points which will determine how well the unit obeys orders or fights.  Efficiency is determined randomly at the beginning of the game and then raises or drops based on results of combat when the unit fights.

Movement is basic with the standard rules for turning and changing formation which cost you a portion of movement.  The striking difference is that he uses an activation roll to actually move, charge and stand firm against an enemy.  This roll is modified by the unit’s current efficiency rating.  The player must usually roll a 5 or more with sometimes a 6 or more to escape the ill effects of the situation.  For a standard move or charge, the ill effects usually mean the unit just stands in place.  Standing firm or from taking casualties, the unit may flee.  Efficiency is added to the roll making it more likely that the unit will pass the check.

Combat is chart based.  there is a simple casualty chart that determines how many casualties a unit delivers based on half the number of figures fighting.  This number is modified by a die roll. 1-2 is -1 casualty.  5-6 is +1 casualty.  Simple and effective.

There is a weather gauge that determines the status of the battlefield weather.  Again this is diced for with 2 dice at the beginning of the game.  Weather is then checked for at the beginning of each turn to see if it changes by 1 step.  You might start the battle with clear weather and then a storm may blow in half way through.  It is a simple method.  I’ve seen it used in GDW’s “Fire and Steel” game.


The author writes in a very easy to read narrative style.  The battles are interesting to read about and the author gives some analysis about each battle’s historical conclusion.   As a simple history book, it made for fun, light reading.


This book can be many things to many people.  It is a fine history book on its own.  It has a very playable set of wargame rules and scenarios to provide hours of fun at a fairly low cost.  I highly recommend this book.

“Seven Steps to Freedom” By Charlie Wesencraft

A New Thing to Occupy my Time.

May 25, 2017

I’ve been frequenting The Wargames Website over the past few days.  I quite like what I see.  The site appears to be built off of canned software.  There is a news feed as well as a post role so you can see the latest posts in the various message boards.  The boards in the forum are logically divided and are easy to use.  Some board seem to nest below a parent board for organization purposes.  The site has a small but relatively active community.  While there is a “general” set of boards, these seem to stick to topics that are at least tangentially related to gaming.  I’ve noticed a few familiar faces who are expats from TMP.  Folks seem to be well mannered and friendly.  In short, the editor of the site has produced a nice product.  I hope the community grows in time to provide a vibrant gaming forum experience that I once knew.

Some things you just can’t ignore…

May 22, 2017

There is the latest in the summertime dust-ups at The Miniatures Page (TMP).  I’ve largely insulated myself from such events by not activating the TMP Talk and TMP Poll Suggestions.  I was blissfully unaware of this latest event until long time TMP’r Phil Dutre gave his fare-thee-well post on the site.   Mostly it is standard fare with the usual posts of support and regret of the person leaving and several who voiced their displeasure with TMP.  What is striking about this post is the number of deletions.  I doubt this was done by the posters themselves but seems to be a bit of censorship on the part of the editor.  I’ve read the thread before the deletions and can tell you that the posts in question were NOT offensive.  4 of the members are supporting members.  I find this action crosses the line, for me anyway.  To censor such benign posts simply because you don’t agree with them is both a pointless exercise and is simply wrong on many levels.  This revelation makes me wonder if I should continue being a supporting member.  I’ve been a TMP member since December of 2000.  I’ve been a supporting member since 2001.  While the site has had it’s ups and downs, it has provided a service in the past.  It has become more and more convoluted over the years.  There are too many boards and TMP tries to cover way too many subjects.    Far too much granularity in the subjects it is supposed to cover.

I will miss Phil, Weasel and others who have recently departed the forum.  I think the behavior on the Editors [art serves nobody well, himself and his business included.  Far too much drama.

I’ve had a Lead Adventures Forum account for a while now but have only posted a couple of times.  Seems to be a decent group of folks there.  I may try them on for size.

Throw me a 6 Horse and Musket

May 22, 2017

I’ve been musing for a while now about how to bring TMA6 into the horse and musket era.  I’ll focus initially on the early part where linear tactics prevail and worry about the the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period later.

Moving should be pretty simple.  I think a simple formation system will be in order.  The only formations needed will be road column and line.  Perhaps 6″ in line, 9″ in column and 12″ in column if traveling the entire distance on a road.   Most of the other maneuver rules can remain the same.

Shooting was my bigger hangup.  How much is too much in terms of firepower?  I have to consider the two firing systems.  There is rank fire which, while relatively steady, can be cumbersome when the formation is taking fire.  The platoon fire system probably yields similar results when the formation is moving but should have an advantage when the formation is not moving.  In general, there is about a 4:3 relationship between a 3 rank and 4 rank formation.    I settled on a unit being able to fire with 3 dice which is about a 42% chance of causing at least 1 hit.  Platoon fire infantry that do not move may add 1 die to the total for about a 51% chance of causing at least 1 hit.  Each hit on the unit reduces it’s firepower and melee power by 1.  3 hits (3 stands lost) results in the unit routing.   Units should be represented by 5 stands.  4 will do but with 5, you can place the flag in the center which makes the unit look great!

Melee should be similar to the Ancients version.  The loser retreats a variable amount of inches while the attacker can pursue up to a half move.   Base melee power should be set at 3 as melee by this time is a combination of shooting and hand to hand fighting.  If an infantry unit chooses not to charge another unit, it may issue fire first.  A hit results in the opposing unit to halt short and it may then return fire.  2 hits breaks the attacker and the unit retreats in a similar fashion to melee.  The defender (winner) may not pursue if they win through firepower.

I have not thought about cavalry yet but being that they are mostly melee troops, there will be armored and unarmored heavy horse and light horse.  They should all function similar to the TMA6 ancients rules.

Portable Hereclea

May 9, 2017

Kicking the new rules around play-test style, I decided to try a Rome vs Pyrrhus battle.  Hereclea is always a good test battle since it can be played on a flat, featureless plane.  I made the opening moves that the Roman commander did along with the response as Pyrrhus heard word that Roman cavalry had crossed the river.

At the end of turn 1. Rome has the only unit on the board. They move the cavalry forward at top speed. Pyrrhic cavalry enter at the bottom of turn 1.

At the end of turn 2. Rome wins the initiative and enters the board with the rest of their army. They wisely hold back their cavalry. Pyrrhus follows suit.

End of turn 4. There was a small amount of skirmishing. The Epiriot light infantry takes a hit as it has no room to escape. The Roman left flank is turned. Fighting in the middle is inconclusive.

Turn 5-6. The Epiriots easily wrap around the Roman left with their light cavalry. Only luck allows the Roman allied unit to survive as long as they do. Center continues to sway to and fro.

Turn 7-9 The Epiriots drive back the Romans in the center. They realize that that Pyrrhus can slide right and engage again pinning the Roman legionaire against the Epiriot light cavalry. This turned into a fatal mistake. The Roman commander had Pyrrhus pinned against his own unit. It was hit twice and was eliminated. In the ensuing At the bottom on turn 9, the Epiriots manage to kill the Roman Legionaire. Both armies pass exhaustion at this point and the battle is over.

Rome wins 9-8 in a close struggle.  This battle could have gone either way.  The Epiriots made a fatal mistake with their general and one unit blocking their own retreat.  The battle really felt like an Ancient battle as described in some of the primary sources.   Lots of scrumming in the middle with some maneuvering on the flanks.

Ugly But Effective

May 8, 2017

Here are a couple of pictures of my Portable Wargame kit box.  It is about 7.5″ square and is 5″ tall (I think).

The box all closed up. The multi-colored look is NOT to attractive.

It gets better. What it looks like inside when all packed up.

The flat stuff stays on the bottom while the tray can be easily removed so you can get the pieces setup quickly.

For better or worse, most of the hard parts are done.  I will probably add 2 more boards so I can have a 2X3 battle.  I don’t think I will have to add any terrain.  The only other possibility is, perhaps, more armies for different time periods.  Whatever I decide, there is plenty of head space for adding more stuff.  I’ll probably have to switch to a different format.  Maybe small boxes to fit inside the large box so as to be able to stack the armies “safely.”