Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I'm Gonna Get Medieval...

I've kicked around the idea of Medieval wargaming for a long time, but never really saw the vision all the way through. Of course, there's no guarantee that I will do that now and I have a lot of irons in the fire already. I'm just in the mood to kick the idea around again.

There are always two main considerations when I think about gaming a period: rules and figures. For Medieval wargaming, I've spent plenty of time fiddling around with both.


A long while back, I wrote a late Medieval variant for the Pig Wars Dark Age skirmish rules. They are available in the Pig Wars LMV folder in the Files section of the Pig Warriors Yahoo! group. Browsing them recently, I recall how much I liked Pig Wars and I still like some of the ideas I had for expanding them to this era. These aren't seriously in contention, though. I think I've only played them myself a couple times using Kevin Smyth's figures. My own figures are partially done and have been so since 2005, I think.

My immediate impulse for Medieval wargaming has come after browsing through a set of rules from 1977 called Gen D'Armes written by NHMGS' own Dick Larsen along with Warren Lee (of whom I know nothing) who formed a company called Tin Heroes Productions. I found my copy about five years ago at Dragonflight. I really didn't think about them much at the time, being more interested in them because they were authored by someone I knew. Looking through them now, I like a lot of the ideas and am leaning heavily in their favor.

Another possible contender is Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargaming. These rules are a curiosity. Most miniature gamers I know around here have never heard of them or of Neil Thomas. My friend Rick mentioned them to me once some years ago and I had to confess my own ignorance. However, the rules have something of a cult following and a Yahoo! group of their own, AMWGroup. The rules were published in 2007 and are one of a few rules books written by Thomas. They're pretty simple and use mechanics you'd likely be very familiar with from other systems; they're rather Featherstonian in style. The rules are pretty straightforward; much of the book being a lot of "blah blah blah." (I don't mean that to be insulting, I write "blah blah blah" reflexively—as you can tell from this post.) If you boil down to just the rules, especially if it's just the Medieval section, it's probably a few pages and some charts.

Now, the real kicker about Ancient & Medieval Wargaming is that it's out of print and the available used copies are selling for prices that eclipse the GDP of some small countries. That's just crazy. I got a Kindle version for $15.49 on Amazon.com, although the tables are much distorted. It's a problem with ePub books. These are simple tables, though, so reconstructing them wouldn't prove to be too difficult.

There are ever so many more sets of Medieval rules that are just out of contention because the systems are too elaborate. I want something that's quick to play, doesn't require thousands or even hundreds of figures, and makes the most of the figures used. (I just don't get the appeal of rules that require you to have big units with 20-40 figures, but would play just the same if your units were blocks of wood.)

At this point is comes down to one of two: Gen D'Armes or Ancient & Medieval Wargaming.

Units in Ancient & Medieval Wargaming always comprise four stands. The number of figures per stand varies depending on the unit type, but they are solely representative. The stand is what counts. This is true as well with Gen D'Armes, which uses two-figure stands for foot and single-figure stands for mounted. However, unit sizes in Gen D'Armes can vary from a maximum of 16 stands (32 figures) down to one stand (1-2 figures).

In both sets of rules, stands are removed after a specific number of hits are taken. In Ancient & Medieval Wargaming, the number of hits is always four. In Gen D'Armes, the number of hits varies from two (peasants) to six (extra heavy foot, i.e., dismounted knights).

Combat in Ancient & Medieval Wargaming uses a consistent mechanism of a number of D6 per base, which varies by unit type. Gen D'Armes uses multiple D6 for shooting (one per stand), but uses melee values per stand for combat that are summed for each unit, multiplied by the result of an average die, and compared to get a result.

Each has a few other bells and whistles. Gen D'Armes has exploding hand cannons—and for exciting game play, you can't beat that with stick. I also have a better feel that Gen D'Armes can fill the late Medieval/early Renaissance gap better than Ancient & Medieval Wargaming. Gen D'Armes has rules for the arquebus (i.e., non-exploding hand cannons) and would probably do well for small actions in the beginning part of the Italian Wars.

Gen D'Armes is also less formalized. As I mentioned, Ancient & Medieval Wargaming uses four stands per unit (except artillery, which is a single stand). Gen D'Armes has a points list for play balance, but there are no set army lists. You're allowed to figure those out on your own by doing things like reading.

I think it's pretty clear which direction I'm going for rules.


There is no debate here. I'll use Old Glory. I already have a stock of unpainted lead. I have some figures started. I have some figures that are actually painted. Old Glory makes a wide range of medieval types and they're cheap—especially if you're in the Old Glory Army.

Next Steps

The question now is "whither the project" or "wither the project." I have the rules. I have the figures. It's just a matter of painting and mounting, which I can do at a steady pace until I've got something to game with. I will not attempt painting museum pieces. These are Old Glory, after all.

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