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.

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.

A Close-up of the Units for Portable Wargame

April 13, 2017

Here is a close up shot of the Red units.  The blue units are identical only blue.

Back row: Grenadiers, Infantry, Light Infantry Front row: Artillery, Dragoons, Cavalry Center: General

There is no unit for light infantry or grenadiers in The Portable Wargame.  Dragoons fight like other light cavalry.

Light Infantry: SP 3, Range 2,  -1 in close combat in the open,  Must take the retreat option if available when fighting close combat in the open.

Grenadiers: Behaves like other Infantry units for movement and shooting.  Close combat at +1.

Cavalry get a +1 to hit in close combat.

I seem to be tweaking this game a lot.  The best part is that it is pretty hard to break when modifying the rules.

The game is Afoot!

April 13, 2017

The action from turn turn 2 through 5.

Turn 2 starts with the Blue artillery scoring hits on the Red cavalry and 1 infantry unit. Blue wins the initiative and charges. Red gives ground, Blue follows up but is then repulsed.  Blue infantry advances to the river. Red holds the cavalry back and the light infantry moves up to attack Blue cavalry and scores a hit driving them back further. Blue infantry advance onto the western bridge.

Turn 3: Artillery fires scoring another hit on the Red cavalry and one on a Red infantry. The infantry can and does retreat. The cavalry has to take the hit. Red wins the initiative. They advance over the bridge with 1 infantry and secure the bridge head on the south side. The close combat is inconclusive though Red takes a hit. Red cavalry attempts to run the Blue cavalry off the board but is repulsed. The light infantry however, scores a hit. Both cavalry now have 2 hits.

Turn 4. Artillery firs again, this time scoring no hits. Red wins initiative They slide 1 infantry to the western edge and shoot scoring 1 hit on a Blue infantry. A second infantry moves to the bridge. Though in range, I decided the Red infantry could not shoot from the bridge because it would be in a column and unable to fire. Blue slides to the west to block the Red advance and is content to shoot at the Red infantry to no effect. Blue cavalry charges the Red cavalry to no effect. The Blue infantry charges the Red cavalry in the flank scoring the needed hit to destroy the cavalry. However, the Blue infantry also takes a hit and opts to retreat.

Turn 5. Blue fires its artillery at a single Red infantry scoring 1 hit. Blue wins the initiative. Blue is content to fire at Red with its infantry. Its scores 1 hit on the Red infantry on the bridge. Blue cavalry is down to one point and does not want to chance getting hit by the Red light infantry. Blue’s infantry charges the Red light infantry and inflicts a hit but is repulsed.  Red fires with 1 infantry and scores a hit on the Blue infantry directly across from the bridge. Blue then charges with the other infantry and ends up taking 1 hit in the inconclusive close combat.

The game really moves along at a good clip.  It is also very well suited for one hour wargames.  The fight hangs in the balance.

One last modification is with regard to exhaustion points.  The rules are somewhat ambiguous but seem to suggest that exhaustion points are assessed as they happen.  I am assessing them only when a unit is defeated.  This will give some incentive for a player to not go all in and needlessly sacrifice its units.   As it stands, Red has an exhaustion level of 8 and Blue 7.  With the loss of the Red cavalry the score is Red 5 and Blue 7.

The Truly Portable Wargame in action

April 12, 2017

I’ve finished the armies and most of the terrain.  I do still need to make some barricades and perhaps a marker or two for a ford.  Below is the setup and the end of turn 1 for scenario 3, Control the River in One Hour Wargames.  Red has 4 infantry, 1 light infantry and 1 cavalry.  Blue has 3 infantry, 2 artillery and 1 cavalry.

The end of turn 1. Extra terrain bits are shown in the foreground.

For 18th century warfare I’ve made the following modifications.

  1. Artillery is can only be used if it has a line of sight.  It also is not as accurate as 19th century artillery.  No rifling and ranging tools are in their infancy during this period.  So artillery get +1 to hit and not the usual +2 for 19th century guns.  If playing WSS or GNW, artillery was towed by civilian teamsters.  So, once the guns are set, they can no longer move though they still can change facing.
  2. All infantry have smooth bore muskets.  Range is 2.
  3. The rules have a flank penalty of -1 in close combat for the unit being flanked and a bonus of +1 for the unit attacking the flank.  This may seem like a double penalty but both units fight in close combat.  To add a little variety, allow the +1 when close combating the flank as per the rules.  Only give a penalty to a unit fighting an enemy to the rear.  So being flanked is bad but being attacked from the rear is worse.

I converting One Hour Wargames scenarios, I have limited the game length to 10 turns.  This is because of the shorter board.  I’ll adjust upward if the game length is too short.

The Truly Portable Wargame Part 2

April 7, 2017

I had a long stretch of time and energy last night and was able to complete several more trees and another house.  I also drew up some rivers and roads, including intersections and bends.  I printed out a sheet of each.  I am very happy with the results.

The result of a night’s work with some newly configured infantry regiments including one prototype (right front) for comparison.

The last bit I did last night was to rearrange the infantry command stand.  I found that the flag was flying in the wrong direction.  Wherever the commander stood, there would be an open space over his head.  So I changed it so the flag fly behind him.  I then placed him in the middle of the stand.  The regiment looks much better.  Take a close look at the stand to the right front and compare it to the stand next to it.  You will see what I mean.

Left to do: cavalry, light infantry, artillery, bridge, ford, entrenchment

I have a set of grenadiers already placed together.   As I am drawing, I keep the masters white except for the skin color, common parts (muskets, swords, scabbards, pouches etc) and place them in a group front-back so they can be colored quickly.  I keep one single of each to colorized and then simply copy and paste it into position directly over the white models.

The Truly Portable Wargame

April 6, 2017

While fighting off the stomach bug and allergies, I’ve not been completely idle.  I have been slowly building up a paper miniatures layout including a board, terrain and miniatures.  Here is a sample of what I have so far.

The figures are from Junior General by C.J. Fiorito. The trees are from Microtactix. The house, several actually, are from WargamePrint and I created the boards and hills.

I used an olive color on the board and then used HSV noise to give it a speckled effect.  I then blurred the image to make it look smooth similar to a game mat.  The background on the figures are done in a similar fashion to those you can get at Paper Terrain.  My only mistake is that I cut into the commander figure a little too far.  I do also still have to texture up some bases.  I should have let the cut run across the top of his head or even kept it level with the bayonets.  I still have roads, river and maybe a bridge or two to make.  I am pretty happy with the results so far.