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"Any good books on wargame design?" Topic

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The Angry Piper15 Oct 2019 8:14 a.m. PST

Well? Any suggestions?

I'm looking to develop some quick and easy skirmish rules for very few miniatures. I think I have a pretty good idea for a system, but I can always use some help.


Bob the Temple Builder15 Oct 2019 9:55 a.m. PST

Most books about wargame design probably won't be of great use to you as they tend deal more with design theory than practical examples. I seem to remember that Wally Simon did write several books that might be of assistance, but I don't have them to hand at present.

coopman15 Oct 2019 12:40 p.m. PST

What era are you talking about? Chances are that there are already some pretty good choices available.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Oct 2019 2:13 p.m. PST

Not for what you want – most are highly technical.

Just write out a few ideas and get playing. It;s not that hard!

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2019 3:34 p.m. PST

I'm looking to develop some quick and easy skirmish rules for very few miniatures. I think I have a pretty good idea for a system, but I can always use some help.

It all depends on how deep you want to go. It doesn't sound like any technical study is the goal, but rather trouble-shooting a simple set of rules.

My suggest is the same as Extra C: Get it down on paper, play it and THEN if you are having problems, then come back and we would have 1. a better idea of who you might reference and even find those on this list would have ideas.

Just throwing out books and articles shotgun isn't going to get you anywhere.

And of course, the best way to learn something about game design, like writing, to just do it…

Zephyr115 Oct 2019 9:16 p.m. PST

Start with the scale you want, figure out movement rates, then just start writing the rules YOU want to use. From there it's just adding more rules/tweaking them to work (tips: Simplify! Explain with examples of play!) Your two pages of rules will soon swell to 100… ;-)

coopman16 Oct 2019 5:21 a.m. PST

Click on "message boards" on the left side of the TMP home page. Do a search for "skirmish rules". You will find lots of info and suggestions. Maybe some links to some free skirmish rules by gamers that have been down this road ahead of you.

Sgt Slag16 Oct 2019 7:21 a.m. PST

It really depends upon what you want to do with your written rules. Do you want to publish them for free, or for profit? Are they just for you, and your circle of family and friends?

I self-published a set of skirmish rules for playing with plastic Army Men, back in 1998. I sold my game for profit, mail order. I printed copies at OfficeMax, assembled the rulebooks at home, then mailed them to my customers. I also taught Community Education classes on wargaming, using my rules as a demo game for the students to play, to experience the hobby. My classes sold out, each year, and I was asked to run 2-3 additional classes, to meet the demand (mostly kids, but I ran a few classes for adults, as well).

I had zero Dollars for advertising. Print-on-demand services did not exist back then. The Internet was my friend, but marketing was difficult, with no money, to say the least. Still, I managed to sell around 150 copies, total. I live in the USA, but I managed to sell copies internationally (Canada) and overseas (Great Britain and Australia), without any advertising costs. I ran my business for eight years, before I shut it down.

Let me know if you have additional questions: plasticwars [at] G-m-a-i-l [dot] C-O-M. Cheers!

khanscom16 Oct 2019 6:27 p.m. PST

"Serious Games" by Clark C. Abt and "Simulation Games in Action" by Colin J. Marsh are two that I've read, but I doubt that these are really what you're looking for. I'd second McLaddie.

UshCha17 Oct 2019 1:48 a.m. PST

I have to agree, there are lots of rules out tehre. The only books I am aware of tend to just generate a set similar to stuff rthat is out there. If that is the case get your current favorite and then re-write and play test. The most work even on our set, which is quite unique in some ways, was sorting it out so there were no inconsistancies and it got the answer you wanted. You need to think up the wierdest situations and then make sure the rules cope.

onmilitarymatters Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Oct 2019 11:33 a.m. PST

We carry all eight volumes of Secrets of Wargame Design series, which offers a wide variety of mechanics across a variety of periods.

Vol. 1: SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN: A Tabletop Toolkit of Ideas, Analysis, and Rule Mechanics








For a list of articles within each volume ($19 each plus shipping):

* Go to
* Type in SECRETS OF WARGAME DESIGN within the search window at the top left of the home page (under logo)
* Click on the Search button
* Scroll down

Hope this may help. Volume 6 seems appropriate to your description, but other volumes include skirmish mechanics and rules.

Any questions? E-mail

The Angry Piper17 Oct 2019 12:03 p.m. PST

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and help. I probably will just try out what I've got already. I was mainly looking for a reference on things I should consider that maybe I haven't thought of. But perhaps the best way is to simply playtest until I'm happy.

Rather than worry about what I haven't thought of beforehand, I should probably just find out what I haven't thought of through trial and error and lots of playtesting.

Thanks again, guys!

Wolfhag17 Oct 2019 12:21 p.m. PST

The intro to this book is a good read, starting page 6:

YouTube link


Zephyr117 Oct 2019 2:23 p.m. PST

I will warn you that creating (good) vehicle rules will be challenging… ;-)

UshCha18 Oct 2019 1:07 a.m. PST

I would suggest you are taking the right approach. In engineering and wqwrgame desighn its important that you know what you are desighning for "A good Game" is not a specification its a dream. You can't plan for a dream it becomnes a nightmare.

By "play testing" you will better understand what it is you want the answeres to be, and where you can cut doen and do less and still get the answeres. Then you can look in detail about writing the rules.

Vehicle rules yes its diffrent but a few folk have done it. Vehickles reall only work correctly at about 15mm and smaller.

At larger scales the vehicles generally are too close to function effectively or the ground scale is so out of wack or even massively distorted, that they become game pices with little or no connection to reality. But hey fantasy is a big seller.

The Angry Piper18 Oct 2019 8:07 a.m. PST

Lucky for me, vehicles aren't really a necessary component of the game I want to create.

Thanks again to all.

Andy ONeill19 Oct 2019 12:32 p.m. PST

I suggest you approach design top down.
What are the important things you want to model?
Which might seem kind of obvious, but it can be easy to forget things and it's easy to over or under emphasise something.

Once you know what you want to model you can start thinking about how you do that.

The simplest safest route is to look at other rule sets and see how they do the things you want. Borrow rules and get opinions. Once you have a pile of mechanisms then you can sort through them and see how you feel about them. You can think about em for a while but you will probably quickly need practical basic experiments. Not full games but put objects on a table and think about what happens. Compare alternatives and take notes. Iterate – re factor your code (oops) I mean design. Then repeat.
You want as simple a set of mechanisms as does the job.
Heath Robinson is a lot more obvious to an outside observer.
Get opinions and listen to them.
It's a natural tendency to defend the child of your labours. At least some part of your time should be spent "trying to break it". This is far easier to do with someone else's work so peer testing is very important. Then external testing ( ask people here ).

Analsim21 Oct 2019 4:30 a.m. PST

The Angry Piper,

My advice is for you to make a statement that describes the 'end state' you are after and then go about backward engineering the game design/system/mechanics from there.

You already made a good start in your initial post which states you want to develop a: "quick and easy skirmish rules for very few miniatures."

All you have to do is frame the rest of the military factors in respect to:
- the Organization size (i.e. Squad, Platoon or Company).
- Time and Space
- The Scope, does it include other combat support elements, such as tanks, artillery, aircraft, minefields and engineers?

Finally, and most important, state what you are trying to portray. Examples. A Squad taking a single building (i.e. at the individual soldier level), a platoon (i.e. Squads) assaulting a bunker or a Company (i.e. Platoons) taking a hill.

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