I’ve been telling you, possibly incessantly, for ages about our shiny toy soldier rules, ‘A Gentleman’s War’.
A few years ago my regular gaming partner, Dan Foley, bought some 42mm toy soldier castings from the UK and painted them in bright, glossy, traditional style. I had previously had a dalliance with painting 54mm recast Britain’s figures a decade or so before, enjoying the simplicity and freedom of painting figures that didn’t demand complex shading and lining. But I wasn’t about to start a new scale, a new project – – –
So I painted some buildings for Dan, because that’s not actually starting a project, is it? And then I got some ‘free money’ from the French edition of one of my novels, and, well, after due consultation with my wife (after she’d just spent $200 on hobby stuff in my presence – cunning, huh?) it was decided that orders should be sent for what I thought would be almost everything I needed for French and British armies circa 1900, and that’s how it started for me.
Thus having acquired the correct figures (by virtue of Dan sending money to Peter Johnstone at Spencer Smith, and Ian Kay at Irregular) we tried Neil Thomas’ One Hour Wargames, which are likeable but – we thought – too abstract for toy soldiers. They ought to shoot and fight as individual figures. We tried Ross MacFarlane’s ‘With McDuff to the Frontier’, but the version we had seemed to be a mix of several incarnations, occasionally contradicting one another (as rules generally do, if you read them from first draft to finished). So we just stole stuff from both, added some Larry Brom, and made up the rest. That’s how we professional rules designers do things, you know – – –
We kept things simple, as far as possible, and ‘true’ to an ethos of brave lead men and slightly dubious (but always patriotic!) nineteenth century history, rather than the sort of painstaking analysis that has no place here. Where the rules don’t cover an issue that comes up in a game, we implore players to make something up in the spirit of the game, to avoid quarrelling, and to roll a die each―highest wins―if something seems intractable. You aren’t creating a legal precedent, you are just moving the game along.
Here’s the very start of the rules, to get into the spirit of the thing:
“A Gentleman’s War is intended as a simple game involving toy soldiers of the classic style. It isn’t intended to be ‘realistic’ in any sense. Rather, it’s the friendly collaboration of two wargamers of mature years, with getting on for a century of playing with small but lethal figurines between them. It is a relaxed and relaxing game, where enough depends on the turn of a card and the roll of a handful of dice to say that our disasters are pure chance, but enough cunning decision-making to claim our victories as acts of brilliant generalship.
“There are lots of six-sided dice, saving rolls, distances in inches, and a general sense that there ought to be salmon-and-cucumber sandwiches and tea (or beer; Dan’s family owns a beer store, and I salute him for it).
“You are allowed―nay, encouraged―to alter rules as appropriate if playing in other time periods. Indeed, there are many areas where the players are expected to work out a polite and civilized solution to a question. We’re not barbarians.
“Our models are very brave, obedient, and generally do what we want them to. They fall over when ‘killed’. Players are expected to behave in a friendly manner, and conduct themselves as gentlemen (or ladies, as appropriate).
“There are no rules for ground or time scales. We’re past that.”
More in the none too distant future.
Buy the rules and cards here:
Among other places —