< Two-Page Skirmish >

 

I've mentioned these rules more than once on this site, and since then people have been asking for them. Being basically obsequious and eager to please, here they are.

They used to be One-Page Skirmish rules, but in 10 years I've added enough things to them that they have mushroomed out of all control and now fill nearly two whole pages. (Bear in mind that what fits into two pages on my printer may turn out longer or shorter on your printer.) The html version is considerably longer than two pages because of the way html spaces things.

A few introductory notes are in order. The rules were written to give a very fast, simple game in which each player would control only one to four figures. Most of the personalized skirmish games I'd seen when I wrote these rules (which was sometime around 1990) were detailed, complex, and slow. I wanted a game that would play really fast, not a time-and-motion analysis.

1PS was created originally for 30 Years War skirmish games. I still get a perverse kick out of staging skirmish games set during a time when soldiers carried the worst skirmishing weapons imaginable. This version, however, is tailored specifically for colonial era games. That means it contains weapons ranging from medieval to late Victorian, so you can easily adapt it to just about any period (I've used it for ancients, 30 Years War/ECW, colonials, and World War 2).

The rules have two unusual features.

The first is the use of the action card. You'll need an action card for each figure in the game. This is a simple, square piece of card; mine are 2 by 2 inches. The possible actions that a character can perform are on the card. At the start of each turn, players rotate the cards to show which action the figure is performing. You could just as effectively have a roster sheet and write the actions on it, or place chits on the table, but I really like the cards because they don't clutter the table and they're easy and fun to use. If you put an ID notation in the center of each card, players won't get confused about which card goes with which figure. I have also experimented with using only one card per squad, on the idea that the card represents the leader's order and everyone acts in unison on that order. It works OK for the British, less well for the natives. But these rules are flexible enough to accommodate a lot of that sort of modification.

The second unusual feature is the way close, hand-to-hand fighting works. In most games, figures are paired off one-on-one as much as possible and then they only fight each other, no matter how many other figures are battling around them. I wanted to create the feeling of a real, chaotic, swirling melee, where the unlucky get ganged up on and the unwary get speared in the back. So each figure rolls its die and compares it to every enemy figure within striking distance. Get a bad roll and you could be stabbed from two, three, or more directions at once. Get a good roll and you could cut down two or three enemies at once.

This system encourages figures to stay in tight formations, because when things loosen up the enemy can get in amongst you and the situation turns very bloody very quickly. And it really does convey a sense of kill-or-be-killed opportunism.

To reduce confusion in a big melee, I place each figure's die right behind it. When all the dice are rolled and placed, then I start calling out who got hit and how many times.

If you really want to speed things up, try this: get a set of dice (you'll need at least a half-dozen each of d8s, d10s, and d12s) colored by type. I use all green d8s, all blue d10s, and all red d12s. I paint a dot or a stripe on each figure's base matching the color of the die it should use. Then during the battle, no one needs to check a roster to see which die is the right one, they just look at the figure and grab the same color. I have a little pile of blue and green pipe cleaner sections for marking wounded figures; slip the marker between the wounded figure's legs, and the color of the pipe cleaner indicates the new die to use.

As an added bonus, Mac Walker tried these rules and then sent me two Adobe Acrobat files. One has the rules re-formatted so they're much prettier than mine. The other has lots of order chits on 20mm squares that you can print, fold, glue, cut out, and be ready to play. These are smaller than the ones I use but they look good and should work nicely. Because they're small you could place them right on the table behind the figures.

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Download the PDF Order Chits

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