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Subject: Cobbling together a fairly simple minis wargame: looking for references rss

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Michael Dorosh
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ldsdbomber wrote:
I'm starting to put together a system to use a big wodge of Axis & Allies minis with some Tide of Iron expansion geomorphic hex boards to come up with something with the toy factor of Memoir 44 but a little bit less abstracted, and with a bit more variation. Actually the A&A minis system itself is not a bad start but I don't like the large number of dice needed in some of the rolls, and would rather design something with a lookup table or that boils down to a d100 result.

What I'm looking for now is just some references, whether they be games, books, or websites that might be useful to have as reading material and reference, so I can pick out bits I like, modify and adapt them etc.

I definitely want to be able to have some kind of feel of the difference between different tanks (I want a Tiger to play differently to a Sherman), and some of the different weapon types (but not super granular, but say a MMG42 vs a M1 Garand vs a sniper rifle), but the more references and recommendations the better since most games usually do a good job of one thing but not another, or miss this or that feature out but include this one. I'd like to be able to hand pick the bits I like and mash it together


I think what you may not be aware of is that the designers of tactical wargames have generally proceeded from a clear focus of what they wanted to portray, stemming from a keen understanding of the subject, based on detailed research and understanding of the topic (rather than just 'mashing up' other games they had seen). For example, John Hill had studied some of the German Army reports of small unit actions on the Eastern Front reprinted by the U.S. Army, as well as books like Craig's "Enemy at the Gates", and noted the effects of leadership at the company level during World War II. He created the whole "design for effect" morale system in Squad Leader around the notion of morale and leadership, and decided that, for example, it really didn't matter how much better a PzKpfw IV was than a Sherman, it was a tangential to an infantry commander's decision tree. (The later modules and advanced game did away with some of his assumptions.)

Hill looked at the question of command and control, which he had ignored in Squad Leader, with Tank Leader. Again, it wasn't so much picking and choosing, but deliberate research into the subject which influenced a unique set of game mechanics (which has drawn high praise from devotees of the game).

You'd do well to pick a theme you want to study - leadership, command and control, training (Timothy-Harrison Place's boon on Training in the British Army before the Normandy invasion is fascinating, for example) or any combination of these, and I think whatever product you produced would be far superior (as Hill's was) than just "mashing something up", especially if, as your post suggests, this is a subject you don't have a grounding or knowledge of to begin with.

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Are you looking for the joy of making your own game or just want something more free form than TOI and A&A minis that's still light and quick?

If it's the later, then there's quite a few simple simulations out there which you might try, if nothing else they might be inspiration for the former.

Battlefront plays like a grown up A&A minis. It has traditional rulers and LOS without reaching the complexity of something like ASL.

Crossfire take a very different approach but results in a very playable game that is unexpectedly realistic given how simple combat is.
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p55carroll
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
The designers of tactical wargames have generally proceeded from a clear focus of what they wanted to portray, stemming from a keen understanding of the subject, based on detailed research and understanding of the topic (rather than just 'mashing up' other games they had seen).

But at the same time, stealing ideas from existing wargames and mashing them together is also a longstanding design method. Some wargame designers take pains with historical research; others are more concerned with creating a fun game and not so much with making a point about military-science theory.
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p55carroll
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ldsdbomber wrote:
I just want to have a look round some of the ideas in the simpler games, find bits I like, and tweak them into something I can mash together, nothing more sinister!

Just try not to get carried away with that, the way I did. In the early 1990s or so, I really liked Ambush! and Gunslinger and Up Front--and I started dreaming of a multi-period, multi-genre skirmish-level game that would have all the features I like best.

I wanted to use the activation system from Ambush, but I didn't like the paragraph lookups, so I wanted to make it a two-player game. I liked the "groups" concept of Up Front, but I wanted a map because I hated having to picture things in my mind. I liked a lot of things about Gunslinger, but I didn't want to be limited to Old West gunfights.

So, I started shopping for skirmish rules, thinking I'd try out each set of rules, glean the best features of each, and combine them into my dream game. Soon I had a big stack of skirmish rule books (I still have many of them). I tried one or two of the systems, but by then I was already confused. Before long, I was overwhelmed.

I finally abandoned the project, and I've never returned to it. If I were to try again, I believe I'd start by picking just one game I like and playing the heck out of it. After getting to know it like the back of my hand, I'd try tweaking it--just a little. Just make one modest change and try it out. If it worked, I'd keep it; if not, I'd try something else. And I'd go from there, repeating the process. Over time, I might develop something like my "dream game." But it would grow out of a solid, existing design rather than a set of concepts I was trying to fit together in my head.

So, if the A&A minis rules are almost good enough for you, you might consider settling for that--at least for the time being. You'll always be free to customize the game as you see fit. Hence, there's a lot of potential in most any wargame. Pete Belli has done some wonderful things with Battle Cry; and I'm sure one could do the same with Memoir '44.

It may not be true of you, but part of my problem was that I wanted to create something "original"; I felt that if I used Gunslinger as a basis, I'd always be playing a Richard Hamblen design, not a game of my own creation. But actually, everybody borrows stuff; there's nothing new under the sun anyway. And if you're having fun playing a game, it doesn't really matter who designed it.
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p55carroll
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If you can find 'em, you might have a look at the old Don Featherstone books. One series includes Tank battles in miniature 1, which could be just what you're looking for.

Four other volumes:
Tank Battles in Miniature 2: A wargamers' guide to the Russian Campaign 1941-1945
Tank Battles in Miniature 3
Tank Battles in Miniature 4: A wargamers' guide to the Mediterranean Campaigns 1943-1945
Tank Battles in Miniature 5: A wargamers' guide to the Arab-Israeli Wars since 1948
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Michael Dorosh
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
The designers of tactical wargames have generally proceeded from a clear focus of what they wanted to portray, stemming from a keen understanding of the subject, based on detailed research and understanding of the topic (rather than just 'mashing up' other games they had seen).

But at the same time, stealing ideas from existing wargames and mashing them together is also a longstanding design method. Some wargame designers take pains with historical research; others are more concerned with creating a fun game and not so much with making a point about military-science theory.


That's not the point. The point is that designers usually have an idea of a basic theme, whether it is inspired by research or, as you suggest, "stuff" from other games. In Hill's case, it was research.

Worth pointing out, Hill was a miniatures designer and SL was heavily influenced by miniatures rules.

Your follow-up post about being unable to design or publish anything pretty much illustrates perfectly what I attempted to get across. Without a theme, there is no point in just raiding other games.

That's like writing a book by deciding you like certain writing styles and quotes, but not figuring out what the plot will be.
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Warren Bruhn
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Lee, I think the first question that needs to be answered is what you want the miniatures to represent. Do you want individual infantry figures to represent individual men, and tanks to represent individual tanks (true skirmish scale)? Do you want a stand of infantry figures to represent a squad? ...a company? ...a battalion? Do you want a tank to represent an individual tank, a platoon, a company, or a battalion?

I thought Squad Leader with the Cross of Iron expansion was brilliant, and just the right complexity level. Whole system became too much work for me after that. But for larger scale actions there is Panzer Blitz, MMP's Grand Tactical System, and others.

Plenty of simple skirmish level miniatures rules exist now, including Arc of Fire, Triumph & Tragedy, Disposable Heroes (& Coffin for Seven Brothers), Nuts!, Flames of War, and Crossfire. I would suggest going to the WW2 forums at The Miniatures Page and Lead Adventures Forums to find posts about these different miniatures rules. You might find something that works for you.
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T. Dauphin
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
Lee, I think the first question that needs to be answered is what you want the miniatures to represent. Do you want individual infantry figures to represent individual men, and tanks to represent individual tanks (true skirmish scale)? Do you want a stand of infantry figures to represent a squad? ...a company? ...a battalion? Do you want a tank to represent an individual tank, a platoon, a company, or a battalion?

I thought Squad Leader with the Cross of Iron expansion was brilliant, and just the right complexity level. Whole system became too much work for me after that. But for larger scale actions there is Panzer Blitz, MMP's Grand Tactical System, and others.

Plenty of simple skirmish level miniatures rules exist now, including Arc of Fire, Triumph & Tragedy, Disposable Heroes (& Coffin for Seven Brothers), Nuts!, Flames of War, and Crossfire. I would suggest going to the WW2 forums at The Miniatures Page and Lead Adventures Forums to find posts about these different miniatures rules. You might find something that works for you.


I have to agree with Warren.
Decide on the level. It will make a difference in the way you handle things.
I've been doing just what you're talking about, for a few years now. I started out being disgusted by how pathetic A&A's rules were, but we also needed to fill in a lot of holes. My local group has recently been playing A&A Europe, and fighting out the battles (yes, all of them) using the minis. This has required significant changes and enhancements to the original 'system', and my primary resource had been Squad Leader and ASL. Largely because I respect it so much, but also because I've played few others in the genre enough to appreciate their rules.
What we've put together does just what we want it to, but, of course, we continue tweeking it.
One of the advantages of SL is the data it has on the various units. Quite a useful reference. Periodically I've gone to books for pieces of info I needed but couldn't get elsewhere, but I've never been stressed about making everything terribly accurate. The main focus has remained playability.
Good luck with that.
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Christian Sperling
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I love to "cannibalize" rulesets and create new games myself.

A very good address for doing this would be freewargamerules.
Here you'll find tons of rules, mostly tabletop miniature rules, but easy to adapt to some sort of grid (hex or square).

Some are already modified rules from excisting games like GEV-WWII (Ogre/GEV WW2 variant) or the "Dirtside II for WWII" variant.

Have a look at generic rules also. Some have cool and innovative concepts.
Here I like the Warengine (WW2 stats available) or FigWars.

Another favourite of mine for "cannibalizing" is Warzone (1st ed.).
You can find it here.

But I think the best place for references is simply google.
Just type something like this "ww2 wargame rules filetype:pdf" and you'll get a ton of results.
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