AN INTRODUCTION TO
One of the common experiences in my years of wargaming has been the extent to which I have been, by turns, baffled and annoyed by complicated 'realistic' sets of wargame rules. This not, I hasten to add, because the rules themselves are at fault, but rather that I lack the necessary patience and numbers of brain cells to get the best from them.
Rather than give up on wargames and wargaming, I wondered whether there is some other way of devising rules that I could play, and perhaps actually enjoy - without feeling that I was hopelessly overwhelmed by the game system.
Enjoyment is, of course, a highly subjective thing. For me, enjoyment in a wargame comes from taking part in a simulation of historical events. In other words I quite like the events of my game to mirror some historical prototype. This is the aim of, I think, most wargame rules writers - but can you write rules that are both easy to play and historically satisfying?
Well, several sets of rules have now appeared that are easy to play, but it is still, I think, worthwhile examining the principles behind a simple approach to wargame rules requiring only a single brain cell to operate and play; the eponymous One Brain Cell Rules.
The idea for One Brain Cell Rules was first devised some time ago as an alternative to the then mainstream of table top figure wargames, to find, through a different approach a radically faster method for calculating the results of inter- unit combats.
The Six Step Model
To explain the One Brain Cell approach we should perhaps look first in some detail at how figure game rules have been constructed in the past. For my example I will examine what has become a 'classic' of figure wargaming, the so-called 'Horse & Musket' period of the 18th and early 19th century. In many sets of rules for figure battles the more common method for calculating the result of combat might follow this sequence;
i. Move the unit within firing range.
Now, this sequence does not always appear in exactly this form in every set of wargame rules, but it is an indication of the way in which many sets adopt a common basic approach to the combat resolution problem for 18th and 19th century battles.
Making It Easier
It seemed to me that if these steps could be made simpler then the game
would obviously be much faster. But, there would also come a point when
each step would reach a state of 'minimum simplicity', beyond which it
ceases to be an independent step at all and have little or no value in
the structure of the game rules.
Before answering these questions, let us look at what the 'Six Step Model'
means in terms of time and motion of the game itself rather than the events
it attempts to portray.
The solution a lot of players and clubs find for this is to have a large
number of experienced players using well known and rigid legalistically
- defined set of rules and accepting the shortcomings of the rules as
a necessary sacrifice in order to fight a historically realistic size
A New Design
In approaching the design, I redefined the problem by looking at it from
the other end.
i. Who won?
ii. What were the casualties?
iii. What were the changes in the relative positions of the units involved (i.e. who ran away?)?
The answers to the questions are, of course, a reflection of the sort of game I like to play. It might not appeal to everyone. Many wargamers I know actually enjoy the ritual of resolving combats in a long-winded step by step fashion. The advantage of gaming each step is that the outcome of each step can be 'read' like part of a war history. However, as I have discussed above, the price of this anecdotal approach to combat resolution is that you don't get much of a battle done in a normal gaming session of only a few hours.
A Different System
So here is the start of a system which is a little different. On the one hand we should be able to input the combat situation (strength, size of unit, troop quality, morale, tactical positions etc) and at the end we have the three key pieces of information required. This is no different in aim from the traditional Six-Step Model, but the calculation of the results need not be sequential in quite the same way.
It has often struck me - and many other people too, I am sure - that the crucial thing in a close combat or a firefight is the state of the participant's morale. Historically, some units were beaten before they started, and some units' effectiveness depended upon their reputation among their enemies. An assumption in the normal wargame is that the calculation of the results of combat should follow a rigid cause and effect progression - that is, a unit will run away because it has taken heavy casualties and therefore has low morale.
In the system I am about to suggest these calculations need not necessarily be carried out in that order.
Using this 'One Brain Cell' approach, the close combat resolution would
determine the winner first, and the detail of casualties etc would be
determined afterwards. This might seem strange at first, but it does have
In these examples, we are actually better placed to assess casualties quickly if we know who won the action before we go on to working out losses.
This could be determined primarily by the morale status of the units, with factors for states of disorganisation, casualties taken so far etc.
The results of combat can be arrived at by reference to a single combat results table giving who won, how decisively they won, and the likelihood that casualties were inflicted, in one fell swoop. This should meet the objectives outlined above, in that we have moved from a Six Step Model to (hopefully) a One Step Model - or to give them their more correct (and now generally accepted) title:
One Brain Cell Rules