Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sudan game - comments & updates re. rules...

...the post on the "Fighting Patrol to Meerkut" (post before the last one) prompted a few comments and questions, so rather than respond separately I thought I'd reply here, by way of a post...

..a number of people asked if I could share the rules that I use - these are 'home grown', but as is the way with most "amateur" wargamers (and not many are more amateur than myself!) they are basically a polyglot collection of other peoples mechanisms and methods, my input is purely to apply a little editing, and some joined up thinking so that they kind of fit together..

...the biggest source for these rules were the articles that the late Peter Gilder wrote for "Wargamers World". These documented his Sudan project, and by careful reading, unpicking, and summarising, a basic framework for the rules was discernible - but the rules themselves were not published. I put a copy of my research in the files section of the Old School Wargaming group - just the rules specific elements of the articles if you click here you'll be taken to them (you may need to join the group to access the file, but sometimes life just presents you with an unexpected "win win" situation! J) the core of his rules was a proposition that basically the natives/Dervish were driven automatically by a complex reaction table - the umpire managed the Dervish, but the players played only the Imperial side..

..further discussion with some of the guys on the Old School Wargaming group who are also pursuing this approach (Alte Fritz, Bill (Protz) and Mike Taylor) has identified that a copy of Peter's rules do still exist, and in fact I have a copy of them, but unfortunately the reaction table is basically a straight lift from a commercially available set of rules called "Pony Wars"..

...and therein lies my dilemma - as I've mentioned before, I'm not a great fan of ripping off other peoples hard work, so I don't really want to publish my rules as firstly, the Pony Wars rules are still in print, and secondly, they are an imaginative set of rules well worth a fiver of anyones money (and among other places you can get them from here in the UK - I have my copy!)

..having said that - the rest of my rules are based on a set written, and made freely available by Will McNally. A long time ago I discovered Will's American War of Independence/American Revolution rules and it was one of those immediate "like" situations, I now use his rules for both that period and also Marlburian and although I have applied a few modifiers to make them more period specific (the Marlburian rules are based on his SYW rules for example) the underlying mechanic is much the same - a very elegant way of handling shooting and the morale effect all in one mechanism (try them and you'll see what I mean!) - the AWI rules are available from Will's blog... both sets are available from the excellent freewargames rules site in summary - my Sudan rules feature the following:

  • umpire driven/automated Dervish as per Gilders original concept, using the reaction table from "Pony Wars" with a few changes to reaction, and a couple of new tests added from the Gilder rules that Bill and Alte are using..
  • Scales/organisations/time period are as per the Gilder articles in "Wargamers World" - so single base Dervish foot representing a 100 men, Imperial manoeuvre unit is the "company" - usually two smaller bases....
  • Movement/morale/shooting/melee is basically from the Will McNally rules (I think I used my WWII variant as they already had rules for machine guns etc.)
  • Few additional bolt-ons to cover Gatlings jamming etc. I also used the "Pony Wars" ammunition rules as it appeared to me from my reading that this was a key feature of combat in the period.

...having said that - there's plenty still to learn - I'm up to version 3 of my rules (as a result of the Meerkut game), and it looks like I need to make some further changes as I wasn't aware of the rule about all Dervish units (albeit in sight) charging, when one of them gets a charge order (thanks for that Bill!)


  1. Steve, thanks for the mention, my Zulu rules and their derivative "Desaix in the desert" have the same origin in "Pony Wars" and I recommend anyone interested in (solo) games mechanisms to invest in a copy. The key part is getting the balance right between the "Oh god, there are thousands of them" and beating them off, so play testing is the only answer. You can't imagine how many times you can roll under a reducing target until it happens.


  2. Steve,

    After reading the account on Der Alte Fritz's blog, I picked up a copy of "Pony Wars" (although I've not yet had a chance to read it).

    My copy (copyright 1980) has a light green cover . . . yours looks like it is yellow. Does yours have a "2nd edition" label or anything like that?

    It could be just different printings, I don't know (the artworks looks to be the same).

    -- Jeff

  3. Hi Jeff - guessing it's a different print run - no mention of 2nd edition or anything... copyrighted September 1980