Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ancients rules - my design guidelines

I'm in the process of cobbling together rules for a game that I'm putting on in January, and thought I'd record my thoughts here as we go along. 

Due to the scenario and my own preferences, I've set myself three main guidelines to adhere to, these being that:

1) The rules must be suitable for new players.  In practice, they must be easy to explain and the concepts must be clear, easily grasped, and easily retained. 

I want players to focus on the broader aspects of command, movement, combat and morale rather than the minutiae.

- The command should be simple enough to explain in one minute and should function to limit what players can do, thereby forcing them to prioritize actions.  The command rules should not, however, limit players to the point that they become irritated.
- Movement rules should allow players to create, counter and exploit local superiority through clever manoeuvre.
- Players should not have to remember modifiers and exceptions in order to work out what the best tactics are.  Combat match ups will be clearly advantageous, disadvantageous or fair, but instead of manipulating modifiers to gain extra advantage players will have some ability to chose where and when to influence combat to benefit their cause or frustrate that of the enemy. 
- The rules must reflect the reality that the key to victory in ancient warfare was breaking the enemy's morale.

2) The rules must be suitable for a multi-player team game.  Within this structure, each player should feel that while their own individual actions impact on the game, planning and co-ordination with team-mates is required to win the entire battle.

- There should be a simple chain-of-command which governs the allotment of command resources and limits in-game communication between participants.
- Players should ideally be kept busy throughout so that they cannot pay close attention to what is going on elsewhere, but that when the chance to observe the action in other areas of the board does occur, that that action should make captivating viewing.

3) Players must feel that the choices they make in the game have a direct bearing on the success or failure of the enterprise. If they win they should be able to single out particular decisions as key; if they lose, the strength of the cause-and-effect relationship should ideally encourage them to consider what they could have done differently both individually and as a team.

- The rules must be simple and well illustrated prior to the game.
- Players must have direct influence in their own sectors but indirect influence elsewhere.
- The game should be fair, interesting, tense and thought-provoking.

So there we have it - a design prospectus. 

Now, if I manage to get half of this to come out in the rules I'll have done better than I expect!


  1. The key for both command and movement is whether you have pips or not. For example, in FoG everything can move, in other rule sets a dice determines how many units you can move and how far. Determnining which side of that argument you plump on will be a key starting point for your rules.

  2. You're right, Phil. Have got a card system I'm working on to take the place of pips - of which more later, perhaps - but may end up going back to the tried and true. We shall see...

    Cheers, and thanks for the advice!

  3. Very good to rationalise the design pphilospophy, up front.

    I went with activation dice rolls, instead of cards or pips. I like there but they are not for everyone; one of my mates detests them! They can be extremely frustrating...

    Cheers, Simon

  4. Hi Simon,

    I'm tying available command points to the number of units in the army, commander bonuses, and then maybe a dice roll as well.

    Commander in chief will allocate points (represented by cards) to various sectors of the board, and then the poor sods in local command will have to make do with what they get as best they can... :)


  5. Aaron,

    I've nominiated your blog as one of my Leibster blog awards. If you've already received one, oh well. I don;t read too many. So there you go! :D You can read about it here.


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