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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Song of Drum and Shako

Along the lines of a previous blog entry to "own the rules you buy" rather than relying on the author for answers, here are some changes (i.e. "house rules") for Song of Drums and Shakos:

  • Leaders are not required to be Officers.
  • Leaders are not required.
  • Neither Leaders nor NCOs are required.
  • Leadership role reversal.
  • Fix the group order Fire and Reload
Leaders are not Required to be Officers

When considering that the game is played at the (low) skirmish level, you should not assume that an Officer is always present. There is no reason to assume that a non-commissioned officer cannot possess the qualities of a leader, especially outside of the supervision of a Officer. Of course, in game terms, the Leader attribute must still be paid for, no matter who possesses it.

If you decide, for scenario or character reasons, to make the Leader a lesser rank than other higher ranking figures you should give those latter figures the Individualistic attribute, so they cannot be given orders by the lesser-ranking individual.

Leaders are not Required

Just as above, Officers did not always get ensnared in what would typically be a (low) skirmish scenario. If, however, the non-commissioned officer in charge is not a sufficient leader, they might be rated with only the NCO attribute. If this is done, however, the figure does not automatically get upgraded to a Leader for free; the group must live with the leadership ability indicated for NCO.

Note that it is also not necessary for the figure with the NCO attribute to be a non-commissioned officer, but could be a rather charismatic Private, especially in the case of, say, a group of deserters.

Neither Leaders nor NCOs are Required

This is probably a rarer occurrence, as Privates usually are not running around with some sort of supervision (to ensure they don't desert or slack), but in some scenarios it might be desirable not to have a figure with either the Leader or NCO attribute, such as when surprised by the enemy attack or when dealing with a group of deserters.

If you take this route no figure may claim the bonus for taking the Individualistic attribute.

Leadership Role Reversal

An interesting variant, and one that is very "Hollywood", is to have the veteran non-commissioned officer as the "true leader" of the unit, with the Officer very much the second in command. In game terms this would be handled by giving the Sergeant the Leader attribute and the Officer the Second-in-Command and Individualist attributes (and possibly even Green). Only with the loss of the Sergeant would the Privates be forced to acknowledge the leadership of the Officer.

Fix the Group Order Fire and Reload

This group order is currently broken in that it requires both ranks to be loaded, but the intent is that, for two actions, the front rank fires while the rear rank reloads. The group gains the advantage of not having to pay for the action of exchanging muskets between ranks, but is penalized by the front rank not getting to aim for its two actions spent firing.

But, if you execute this order once, one rank is unloaded, so it must reload before the group becomes eligible to receive the order again. This completely blows the whole reason for the group order in the first place.

The fix is simple: in order to issue the group order, 1/2 of the figures in the group must have loaded muskets.

It is these sort of group orders - where the figures act in unison - that make more sense than the generic Group Action order, where everyone can do whatever they wish with their actions.


The Song of engine is very interesting, but it has its problems scaling. I like the basic idea of trying to "push" having a consequence, but I still think that the consequence - the rest of the unit being penalized - is too great. In this regard, and like the Warmaster series, I think its command and control rules need a bit more refinement. I look forward to exploring the ways and means, and posting the results here.

1 comment:

  1. We have worked on a lot of upgrades to the rules. We have to test some things again. The tournaments gave to the rules a new dimension, it was a huge playtest with a lot of competitive people. Maybe the next year you could see something new...


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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").