Sunday, 12 February 2012

So you wanted, to take a break...

I suppose I ought to explain why I'm looking at alternate rules to get my Victoriana/VSF fix.  After all, I've long been a strong advocate of GASLIGHT, to the point of having written the roleplaying supplement to it.  But lately I've been growing a little dissatisfied with the game it gives.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great set of rules, and I still plan to use it for any multiplayer "events" like the Big Birthday Bash or the March Madness Melee. GASLIGHT handles that sort of game better than any other ruleset I know.  It's just that for a day-to-day working ruleset it doesn't quite give me the sort of game I'd like.  There's little or no real feel of Victorian warfare (which is the flipside of its strength - that it can be easily adapted for Weird War II, Zombies or even Buck Rogers) and no real tactical feel - most games I've played feel like slogging matches without much scope for clever manoeuvring.

My regular players also feel that GASLIGHT struggles with larger numbers of troops on the table, though I personally don't entirely agree with them, their opinion presents an obstacle to playing the scale of games that I'd like to be playing.

Finally, GASLIGHT's wonderful, elegant morale mechanism (essentially roll D20, halve it, score less than number of men remaining in unit to pass) does strongly encourage if not rigidly enforce the 10 man units for everything.  The Compendium includes the common-sense rules for different unit sizes (change the number you divide 20 by) but unless your unit size is a factor of 20 (2, 4, 5, 10 or 20) the arithmetic gets a little wonky.  This is particularly annoying when buying cavalry - many manufacturers sell in packs of 3 or 4 cavalry, which means equipping a 10 man unit always forces you to buy more figures than you need.  The morale rules also treat vehicles as a group of crewmen rather than as a single discrete entity, which means there's little chance of a morale failure unless the vehicle has actually taken crew casualties.

So GASLIGHT, I think it's time we took a break, saw other wargames rules.  It's not you, it's me.

'Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's Green and Pleasant Land
I've setup my 4'  table (the largest I have that can be left up) with terrain based on CS Grant's Table Top Teaser #3 Advance Guard Action, although I'm not planning on using the reinforcements that scenario suggests.  As you'll notice, I've cluttered up the terrain a little more than in the Teaser's map, to better reflect the sort of terrain I tend to play my Invasion England games on. Both sides will have 3 units of 20 infantry each, one unit of 10 cavalry and two field guns, quite a lot of troops for a small table.  I'm going to try to play this same scenario five times in the coming week, once with each of the rules I mentioned in yesterdays post.  No VSF elements just yet, I'm looking to see how well the game plays solitaire with so many figures on the table and how much of a game I can cram into a single afternoon's play.

One thing that concerns me.  I'm playing this at my father's house, and all my period-appropriate hats are at my flat.  In addition, even if they were here I'm not sure whether wearing pickelhaube or pith helmet would impact my solitaire impartiality.  So against both custom and better judgement, I shall be conducting these test games without the benefit of a Silly Hat.  How much this will impact the game's enjoyment factor remains to be seen.

I has my terrain.  I has my tape measure.  I has my dice.  Time to get the little lead heroes onto the table and into action.  First up will be Ross Mac's "With MacDuff To The Frontier".


  1. I've yet to play a game of GASLIGHT, but I understand "rules fatigue." I'd recommend Sharpe Practice rules by the Too Fat Lardies. Although written with Napoleonic gaming in mind, they adapt quite well to Victorian-era colonial.

    As for silly hats, I quite agree on the necessity of wearing them. My pith helmet is ready and waiting for me to don it for the next game in Daftest Africa.

  2. I have three of the rules sets (TSATF, and actually have played that in days gone by, Gaslight, and Colonial Adventures), and will be watching your reports with interest. Another set I've tried recently is the Pith Helmet rules, which I quite enjoyed. You can read more about that game on my blog at and I definitely recommend reading Kelroy Was Here's blog posts for more and better coverage of the rules.