Friday 11 September 2020

Big Little Wars: Post 1 - Gate Walker Battles

After a year that feels like living in the Bad Place, I've started to get some interest back in making models and playing games. I'm still sad to say that I have no mates to play Heavy Gear with, and therefore have little chance of teaching the casual person to play a game I don't fully know how to play.

Also, I'm still struggling still with a lot of self-doubt about my fiction writing. I've gone through a period of stagnation, and at the moment it would be stressful trying to jump back into writing full-time.

So getting back into the saddle too soon might trigger a relapse of my depressive episode.

But writing something would be good for me. So, I have decided that I might try writing a set of rules for the Gate Walker universe setting. If only because it will be easier to teach people to play a new game if I wrote rules.

I may be biased, or deluded, in holding that opinion, but I do have the previous experience of designing game rules from writing OHMU War Machine.

Given the amount of time between the last time I considering writing a set of rules for my setting, it's time to reassess my options. My previous thoughts on the rules centered around updating the command control rules, and revising the available units to reflect my Gate Walker universe.

However, I'm unconvinced that I still want a set of rules that can handle battalion and larger sized combat groups. Also I might need to consider the option of being able to play solo as well. But I do know I want to capture the feel of #RealRobo combat.

I know, I know, what does that even mean?

1. Capture the feeling of future warfare with power armor etc.

2. Detailed enough for squads with support elements to make combined arms platoons.

3. Command and control rules, so the player acts at the level of each squad commander.

The first goal is a bit like being General Haig at the start of WW1. It's like me having to face the challenge of learning how to fight a war where technology has moved the goal posts on what works and what doesn't.

Fortunately, I won't have to put real people through the grinder.

Second, what do I mean by squads?

I'm thinking two to five people or vehicles per unit. A platoon would be three to five squads, so a combined arms platoon would be between ten to 25 infantry or to six to ten vehicles.

Optional off table support will be available to represent assets available to the combined arms platoon like: satellites; artillery, air-support etc.

Finally, I want the command and control rules to be a bit like Chain-of-Command.

Players get dice to roll that generate the number of commands they can give a turn (thinking this could represent limitations from bandwidth, ECM and ECCM that battles generate). But also allow them to focus on what heroes can bring to the action.

That sounds like a reasonable set of goals, but whether I can write a set of rules that other people want to play remains unknown. And now I have to think of a name for them. Please feel free to make comments now, before I start writing.

I'm sure this blog that will make my friend Roger laugh, as he predicted I end up trying to write my own set of wargame rules.


  1. What level of minutiae are you willing to get into for power-armor damage, on a scale of Battletech to WH40K? Damage tracking on things with lots of destructable components can be a time-sink and drag if players have lots of individual machines on the tabletop.

    1. None. Let me define none.

      I want a game that tracks the combat worthiness of a unit. So enough to cover all the salient points, but not so much that players lose interest.

  2. I'll look forward to seeing you develop these.

    Best advice for writing rules- from Jim Dunnigan- is steal from everything.



  3. Every gamer is a little bit of a game designer, too. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Remember: playtest, playtest, playtest!

    1. Thank you for volunteering. Ha! Got ya.

      Seriously, yes it's true. Plus, I already have one set of rules under my belt: OHMU War Machine from 30 years ago. So, not my first rodeo, but 'geez louis' what a challenge.

  4. Most of the advice I'll give is fairly cookie cutter so I don't know how much help it'll be. I'd say start with the scale of the minis and size of the force you want to use and work the rules around that. The level of complexity in a squad to platoon based game would be cumbersome (both literally in terms of models and figuratively for the rules) in something battlion sized whereas the level of abstraction necessary in those larger forces would seem overly simplistic/boardgamey in a skirmish game. If you're doing a RAFM scale skirmish game then you might need rules for determining scales of cover whereas if you're 6mm instead the cover won't be based optimally based on a per model determination but rather a per terrain piece decision. Again, in all likelihood you already know this but I figured I'd post it anyways moreso for any future readers who may come across this.

    1. "scales of cover": That was supposed to be stages of cover.

    2. And I got ya.

      No worries. Besides that, cover is different to concealment.

      When I wrote OHMU War Machine it was all centered around 6mm models. The new rules are probably for 15mm, but may work with larger ones too (think 1/48th VOTOMS with 28mm infantry).

  5. First I wish you well both health wise and writing wise. I really enjoyed the Dog novels. I wargame many things but not giant war suits so I'll be interested what you come up with. You mention Chain of Command and I find the TFL rules sets exciting to play, and highly useable solo so perhaps some of the features of what these offer are worth a look.
    As for advice I've little but start simple, complexifie [is that a word? then try complicate] and then simplify again - rinse and repeat.
    all the best


    1. Glad you enjoyed the Dog novels. I plan to write more, have 20K+ of Two Moons just waiting for me to get back in the saddle.

      BTW: Dogs are not what I would consider giant war suits, but standing at 12 to 16 feet tall I guess I might be wrong! ;-)

      Anyway, welcome on board. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I have struggled with writing rules. I have made some super cool mechanics, but it never felt right on the table. The idea I landed on, and haven't actually tried yet, is to start by set everything up and walking through a game as if I had rules, not actually having any yet.

    Move the models around in an approximate fashion. Maybe throw some dice for effect, but they don't really mean anything yet. Take units off the board when it seems right. Kind of walk through the whole thing and figure out how you want it to feel when you play, then build the rules around that reference point.

    1. That's a neat trick, which I've now stolen and made my own. ;-)

  7. I love the idea of jumping off points from Chain of Command, love love love it.

    Infantry on group bases or individual, group has more painting per game piece, individual is more fiddly.

    Do armored pieces degrade with damage, or just blow up? How to track damage. (i have ideas if interested)

    True LOS works well at 28mm, but starts to be less practical at 15mm. The height of the base of a piece of terrain becomes significant.

    Soooo many different ways to run unit activation beyond I-Go-You-Go. Sam Mustafa's Blucher has one of the best I've seen. Infinity the game has a cool one.

    1. I want the jump off points to be part of the game. I'm thinking acting as drone recon, or something.

      As for figures, singles on sabots work for me. IMO figures need to be removable as otherwise one is not getting the full benefit from using them.

      LOS: abstracted slightly with concealment versus cover because I'm assuming advance battlespace awareness from everything being interconnected, which is why ECM and ECCM will be included.

      I like some friction in my games and adapting the CoC dice rolls should work for me.