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"Rules: Is this combat or geometry?" Topic

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AGregory13 May 2021 12:12 p.m. PST


I have been doing a lot of remote gaming, and I like to run games at the local game days and conventions. I have recently grown a little dissatisfied with some of the rules I have been using for late Medieval and Renaissance warfare. I have played DBA since its release, and also the various games which stemmed from it (DBR, etc.) I felt like Field of Glory added some good things, and that Impetus and ADLG went a step further, making games more playable.

But one thing started to bother me a lot as I ran more and more remote games: the precise positioning of single-base units on the tabletop. This is a big part of winning and losing in a lot of these systems, but it seems to me that it is not what a commander of the period would do in battle. Set the battle lines? Absolutely. But it feels often like you are surveyor making sure everything is aligned perfectly during the course of play, and to me, that isn't in any way connected to the experience of command in battle. The battle itself would be about timing and combat outcomes, and less about precise positioning.

In a regular club game, this doesn't really get in the way – players are used to it and can focus on the action. But it can be a problem for remote play – it is hard to see things completely over a web cam, and you end up spending a lot of time talking about it. In conventions, it comes with a bit of a learning curve, which detracts from the fun of the thing. I was looking for something which would avoid those issues.

The only set of rules I have played a lot which doesn't seem to do this is Might of Arms, but that isn't very popular anymore. We tried to use a simplified version of ADLG for conventions, but that starts to lose the goodness of the system. I know some people use TTS to play ADLG on line, but we use real miniatures, not virtual ones, so that was still an issue.

In the end I worked with some of my gaming buddies to produce a system which does away with the single-base-unit geometry, and makes it easier for remote players or convention players to command units in a game: a smaller number of larger units, simpler rules about geometry and combat. we tried to combine the best aspects of these systems into an easier-to-play format. We do a lot of gaming using apps, and since we were already using the computer to game remotely, it made sense to do that with these systems, too.

At a remote convention which is coming up, there will be two events run using our Italian Wars system:

They are the "Battle of Novara 1513" games, and still have some open spots for players as of this writing. The rules for that game (El Gran Capitan) and the late-Medieval version (A Bloody Dismal Fight) are available at:

Italian Wars ("El Gran Capitan"):

Late Medieval ("A Bloody Dismsal Fight"):

If you want to check them out, there is a promo code "HoldTheLine2021" which is good for a free month on the site. Both use standard basing for figures.

I am curious to know what people think of this. I am not really being critical of the popular rules, because I have played them happily for years. But I always wanted a system which was easier to use in conventions, and (now) for remote gaming.


A. Gregory

advocate13 May 2021 12:27 p.m. PST

For online gaming I like the grid based 'To the Strongest' rather than free-form games.

Martyn K13 May 2021 12:50 p.m. PST

Thanks for the post. I agree that if a set of rules can avoid detailed geometry and just let a commander command, then it will make for a better game for us non tournament players.
I would have been interested in the Novara remote convention, but we have a club games day that weekend. Perhaps next time. I will certainly take a good look at your rules over the next few weeks. When you mention an app, is it a windows based system or can it run on an iPad?

Novara, is a very interesting battle. It is often described wrongly in a lot of English texts. It actually took place at a small farming hamlet called Ariotta, a good distance from Novara. The best book I have seen on this battle is L'Ultima Battaglia del Medioevo, La Battaglia dell'Ariotta, Novara 6 Guigno 1513 by Mario Troso.

I ran this battle just before the pandemic. If you are interested, here are a couple of links to my blog. The first describes the battle set up and units that I used. The second is an after action report. We had fun fighting this one.



AGregory13 May 2021 12:54 p.m. PST


That's a great-looking game! I will send the links to the GM for the convention game. It isn't one I had played before we ran it the other night (playtesting for the con), but it makes for a great scenario.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP13 May 2021 1:27 p.m. PST

While I appreciate what you are saying I think the problem is more with the players than the rules. min/max play is always going to be slow and ahistorical, whatever the rules used.

I've played lots of DBA with people who play the army and don't try to get millimetric positioning to ensure victory.

Needless to say, I don't play in tournaments.

AGregory13 May 2021 1:33 p.m. PST


I forgot to answer your question: we use web-apps because they run on anything (tablets, iPads, even smart phones).


Martin Rapier14 May 2021 9:55 a.m. PST

We've increasingly just converted everything to grids for remote play, and accept the limitations that imposes. I do run a few ruler based games but they are often quite free form with very active umpiring.

It is well nigh impossible to do DBA style min maxing and minute geometry in a zoom session.

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