So what are the Arquebus Rules, then, Foy?
Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you.
They are a hybrid, and an incomplete hybrid at the moment. Arquebus was my working title for the framework of a computer program I wrote last year to manage solo ECW games played under a set-of-rules-yet-to-be-defined. Initially, as you may have read here before, the idea was that the underlying rules were to be Clarence Harrison’s Victory without Quarter, which I liked the look of for a number of reasons, and which I had tried out during a visit to the Kingdom of Old John last year.
Whatever your thoughts on computers in wargames, one spin-off of automating the game management is that you soon become aware of gaps in the game logic if you try to put a set of wargames rules into a computer program. So let’s see – if the melee winners fail this morale test to control the pursuit – what happens? – oh – look at that – it doesn’t say. So what exactly do artillery do if someone charges them? – well – gosh – it doesn’t say. Etc.
One big advantage of using someone else’s rules is that they have been playtested before, and you have a good idea in advance whether they work or not. VwQ is a bit different – there are people who have played them and use them and like them, but there is also a fund of recommendations for adding the missing bits – including some from The Bold Clarence himself, who has never pretended that the rules were complete or anything other than a work in progress.
So I set about redrafting VwQ for my own purposes, to plug some gaps and fix some things I wasn’t comfortable with and then – since I’d started doing it this way – I took the opportunity to simplify a couple of fiddly bits, and amend a couple of the tables to suit my own ideas. The final straw was that I eventually replaced VwQ’s trademark, card based Activation system with something else – I discussed this in an earlier post.
At this point, though the game still employs some of the mechanisms from VwQ which I have liked from the outset, much of it is changed. The overall package is definitely not VwQ, and I decided it made more sense to make a clean break, and call my evolving rule set Arquebus, if only to keep my head straight – same as the program. I acknowledge my debt to some other games, but it is a hybrid.
Briefly, I adopted an alternative Command and Activation system which I found in some of Mr Featherstone’s recently-published rules – which may or may not have close relatives in Warhammer, Blitzkrieg Commander and Bloody Barons. It ticked a lot of boxes – intuitively, it seemed reasonable, it hung together well from a completeness point of view, and it was cute enough to borrow without shame.
Well, I’ve now tried it out, and it was tedious. Clever or not, it required extra work, and I found it to be mostly irritating – slowed the game down far more than it improved it. So I’ve replaced it with a much simpler, dice-based system which has close relatives in the Portable Wargame family, and in at least one iteration of Ross’s Hearts of Tin, and even in some earlier ideas of my own (surely not?). Since this is now Arquebus we are talking about, and thus mine own, I may well replace it yet again next week – I’ll see how I feel. I am giddy with the possibilities…
The rewritten rules for Arquebus are beginning to stabilize – I have now reached a stage where I am polishing the wording, checking that I have covered everything. Once the game works, I will continue with the computer program, but make no mistake – Arquebus first has to perform tidily as a dice-&-rulers game without a computer in sight, or I shall keep working on it until it does [famous last words]. Thus there is a latest-version rule booklet (I believe I’m on Version 0.21 – which is the first amendments to the substantially changed 2nd edition) and I was thinking that I might make it available if anyone is interested – I’m still not sure about this – it is a tweaked version of VwQ, though the tweaks now outweigh the VwQ bits, and it is not really designed to cope with anything more than the way I like to play my wargames. I’m thinking about it. The world is full of half-baked rulesets that don’t quite work – why add to the heap?
|He's what? - he's redrafted Table 3? - bloody hell...|
Once I’m comfortable that it works – at least a bit – I’m happy to provide copies to anyone who wants one. Hang on a bit. If someone feels moved to ask me why I don’t just be a sensible fellow and use Forlorn Hope or similar, please don’t – we’ve done that bit already.
Righto, Foy – so what happened to your Commands & Colors based ECW game?
Nothing – I have been using it and it works pretty well. As I mentioned before, I also need a more tactical game for small actions – where the Commanders can amuse themselves forming column of march and carrying out flank attacks and all that – this is where Arquebus should come in.
And it’s guaranteed hex-free, in case you care.