My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Rules Review - Toy Soldiers

Malcolm McCallum wrote some rules called Toy Soldiers that can be found on his web site. I found out about them in a TMP thread asking: "Are there any Napoleonic Rules out there that are scaled to 'real time'. Where each volley is resolved individually, turns are about one minute each, and the actual time needed to complete a maneuver is built into the rules?"

The rules everyone else suggested were Chef de Battailon, which I have played solo and take a real commitment, and Bruce Quarries Napoleonic rules that were published in the (orange) Airfix Guide magazine (and which I have been looking for a copy of - I keep missing it on eBay). However, Malcom's response was: "If you are interested in the game of chicken aspect, you might find some value in looking at the incomplete (and tentatively abandoned) rules that I was writing where the game focussed [sic] exactly on that, making the closing of battalions in battle like a wagering system where players would have to gauge the courage of their men and the courage of their opponents, with hidden dice results. Again, not a wholly successful attempt but you might find soem fun tinkering with them."

The "game of chicken aspect sounded intriguing, especially as I had no idea what it really meant, so I bit and downloaded the rules. Since then I've written Malcom once for clarification and as I will likely have a game using them soon, will be asking for more. I will try them with my 15mm American War of Independence figures (the singly-based ones).

So, what did I like about the rules enough to give them a read, a review, and a spot in the gaming queue?
  • Although he uses dice to represent disorder levels and stress (hits), in addition to base removal, these factors give you a rice granularity in representing the deterioration of a unit. Generally I do not like markers, especially using dice where the number is key. Dice are designed to roll from face to face, so I expect using them as markers will cause errors as they are knocked about, left behind after a move and so on. Not sure how to fix that...
  • The command and control system gauges how difficult it is to command given the level of chaos surrounding the commander. This again is reflected as a number from 1 to 6 (and therefore uses a die as a marker), but it provides an easy counting mechanism that takes out the luck of the PIP roll or the Command roll.
  • Force selection is interesting in that it allows a unit to "trade" units for terrain. Put simply, each scenario played calls for each side being allowed a certain number of selections. The selection list includes units, terrain, game modifiers, and unit modifiers. I have never seen this idea before and, if the weights of the choices are balanced, could provide for some interesting pick-up scenarios. I look forward to play-testing it out.
  • A stand destroyed is not necessarily out of the game; it is only an indication that it is currently ineffective. A commander can return stands to the game (zombie grenadiers, anyone?) in lieu of spending his attention elsewhere.
  • Much of what a player will be doing is recovering from disorder and stress, much like the rules Loose Files and American Scramble are described as playing. This means after a disorder move through terrain or after a firefight a unit will have to recover its order, dress ranks, bring up the stragglers, etc. This may be a bookkeeping nightmare, something I will find out when I try it, but it sounds like "it ought to be".
  • "Threat" from the enemy can cause as many problems as enemy action, much like the rules Huzzah!, but less abstract, so outmaneuvering your opponent's position has multiple benefits. Ultimately, that means the game should be one of maneuver, or at least where maneuver is rewarded, and not simply a die-rolling contest where one only maneuvers until you are at the point where you can throw as many dice as possible and then stop maneuvering.
  • Firing is interesting, as it is a multi-step process, but not in the same way as Warhammer-based rules. You roll to see if your volley is effective. If so, it has a minor effect (adds disorder) but also forces the target to save against a greater effect (stress/hits). What is also different is that the roll to "hit" is largely unmodified, so inflicting disorder is a common result. It is the "save" that is modified, which is different from many games (as the author is quick to point out).
  • The charge is where the "game of chicken" reference comes in. As many of us have read, the bayonet did not generally inflict wounds in this period, but inflict terror (i.e. cause morale checks). The chicken is where the charging unit sees if it can break the morale of the defenders before their own morale breaks. The author refers to hidden die rolls and such, but I think that is an unnecessary mechanic, but I will have to verify. Needless to say, the charge mechanics are the very core reason why the rules were developed, I think, as the most work went into this section. I look forward to trying them out.
  • Skirmishers are not abstracted away. These are a part of the parent unit that are deployed, recalled, and recovered. In this regard, they feel Napoleonic. I may have to adjust for the AWI.
I look forward to doing a game and finding out which of these "features" are actually a benefit and which are a pain.

As I've received three other sets of books with wargaming rules recently, I may have more reviews. I purchased Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Wargaming, Donald Featherstone's War Games, and Joe Morschauser's How to Play War Games in Miniature. I also have Peter Pig's Poor Bloody Infantry and Washington's Army on the way, along with Warhammer Ancient Battles.

Being a rules junkie is a hard life.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").