MWAN 101: Gaming with 6th Graders

October 12, 2017 was looking through a PDF copy of MWAN 101 which includes a great article by John Stafford on gaming with 6th graders.  There is an introductory piece which includes a brief description of how he devised the game and a battle report describing how the game went.  At the end of the article is the rules used for this game.  It is based mostly on the On to Richmond rules from back in the early 80s.  The game uses a pair of 6 sided dice for all mechanics.  The rules fit on about 3 pages really.   From what I gathered from both the article and the rules sheets, the game is scaled at about 700 men per stand and each unit is about 1 division.  Confederate divisions are quite large compared to their Union counterparts.  If running this, I would arbitrarily make confederate divisions 2 roughly equal units which together total the entire strength of that division.  The other thing I would add is a penalty for under strength units at -1 per stand less than 6.  I would also allow a second shot with a unit that has more than 6 stands at the appropriate penalty.  Thus, an 8 stand unit would get 1 shot at full strength and a second shot with a 2 strength (ie -4) to the die roll.  This is a brilliantly simple set of rules and is well worth the price of the magazine.  I am looking forward to giving these rules a try with my son.


Back from Southern Front

October 9, 2017

For those that don’t know, Southern Front is a small convention held every fall in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The conventrion has a usual attendance of just under 100 people.  There are usually a half dozen games going on at any one time and there are usually several dealers for you to spend your money on.  If you are within a few hours, I highly recommend this convention, if only for the nice ladies and gentlemen who attend.  Below is a selection of games that were played this weekend.

Arab Slavers attack some cultists who are trying to use the heroin as a sacrifice. Yeah. Everyone has their faults. Don’t judge! The game played was Astounding tales by Howard Whitehouse. Highly recommended!

Another view. Chinese underground and Chicago Mafia being ambushed by various denizens.

A racing game. Note how far I was ahead before I spun out. I could have won this one by downshifting to 4th gear but I kept my promise to run the whole race in 5th gear. And I would have made it too if wit weren’t for

Snake Oiler came within a car length of winning and besting his rival Speed Racer but it was Speed managed second place while Speed Buggy took the checkered flag.

Tron themed game. This one was very clever. Perhaps a little slow playing but quite fun never the less. It was programs vs the computer. We didn’t make it to the central processing unit.

A grand view of the desert town. The GMs left this setup all weekend. The racing game, an El Cid game and a Conan game, a Zombiecyde game and a Conan game were all played on this board. The GM used kabob skewers to help denote the movement zones.

Here are some pictures of other games played that I did not participate in or know little about.  Very nice terrain setups.

A WW I game

I did play in this one! Faction based objectives. Great fun!

Le feu Sacre I think.

The purchases for the weekend. A friend gave me 7 Reveresco “28mm” knights. They are absolutely closer to 1/72 scale.

Foreign Legion battle.

Going Medieval This appeared to be a Norman v Saxon fight..

Harlequins on bikes?

Pointe du Hoc. Note the nice looking card model Higgins boats. This was a pretty nice looking game.

Another Medieval or Ancients game.  I took the shot for the layout but the battle looks quite nice!

Traffic was bit slow going both ways from home to the con and back.  I had a great time but was happy to be home when it was all done.  Looking forward to next year.


For King or Empress: A Quick Overview

September 13, 2017

I’d been eyeing up For King or Empress by First Command Wargames for some time now.  There is a relative dearth of information on this game.  I finally got the bug and decided to take a chance on the PDF version of the game.  FKoE is a relatively short rule book, at least by today’s standards, weighing in at just 44 pages.  About half the rule book is devoted to all aspects of the game.  FKoE uses a card activation system.  When a General’s card is pulled, the owning player makes a move with all units under that General’s command.

before units are moved, a die is rolled.  If it is greater than the command number for that general, all units under his command may move freely up to their movement rate.  If they fail the command roll (usually by rolling a 1 or a 2) the units under his command move at half speed.

Units move at double speed when they are outside of 8″ from any enemy unit.  Within 8″, units move at normal speed.  This is a simple way to have units fight deployed without having to fiddle with actual formation changes.  There are simple rules for wheeling.

If hits are sustained, morale checks are made.  The more hits you take, the worse the penalty for failing a morale check.  No unit can take more than 4 hits before automatically routing.  A failed check on 3 hits, for example will cause the unit to take another hit and route.  I noted that morale also goes down by 1 for each hit.  So you are double penalized for taking hits on units.  I am not really sure how I feel about this.  After a couple of plays, I will have a better feeling.

Shooting and melee are handled in the same manner.  Each unit (a single element representing a battalion) gets 1 die.  If you roll the units combat rating or less, you score 1 hit on the enemy.  If your chance to hit is 6 or more, you automatically score a hit.  For numbers greater than 6, there is a chance you can score a second hit.  Also, combat hits in melee are modified based on the situation.  Horse, for instance, takes an extra hit when meleeing infantry from the front.

There are rules for setting up the battlefield and a few quick suggestions for campaigns.  Most of the rest of the book is concerned with army lists.  There are set piece lists for small armies which are assumed to be for battles against the advanced guards and more extensive lists for full armies and big battles.

There are some minor errors in the book but no show stoppers.  The game lists the equipment needed at the beginning of the book.  Among the dice needed are D12s and D6s.  However, when we get to the morale section, the call is for a D20.  The call is repeated in the QRS which tells me that D12s were once used for morale but have fallen out of favor for D20s.  Not such a big deal since everything related to morale seems to be geared for D20s throughout book.

So, yes.  The rules junky fell off the wagon and got another wargame.  This one is on my list of games to play in the near future.  The upshot: I have two Baccus 6mm starter armies.  I’ve been vacillating back and forth how I should base them.  I think I have my answer now.  The rule book calls for 4cm frontage and 3cm depth for infantry.  So 3 ranks fills that out nicely.  Ill probably leave a 1cm space to the rear of the base for placing hit markers…which I also have.

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

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.”