Friday 11 May 2012

Thoughts on Parum Pugna (One)

The main inspiration behind Parum Pugna came from playing boardgames. Modern European games in particular have streamlined rules that are easily taught to a groups of players in 10-15 minutes. The rules of these games attempt to integrate as much as possible. They are clear and simple. Players learn them quickly and, because they are not bogged down with clauses, sub-clauses, multiple factors, exceptions, exemptions and the like, they are free to concentrate on strategy, tactics and enjoying themselves. They are, in short, able to play the game, not the rules.

When I first began ancient wargaming I thought that - since I was using old figures - I should use old rules.I got hold of a set of WRG Ancients 3rd edition and - through a chap named Ray McGarry - "the Dover Ammendments", the clarifications and changes made to that edition by Charles Grant's wargame group. I used them twice. Next I went to the opposite extreme and bought the then freshly published Warhammer Ancient Battles. I didn't use them at all. Both sets of rules, though radically different in appearance, offer the same hefty lists of plus and minus factors for combat, the same multiple morale checks that make every charge and subsequent melee an excercise in book-keeping. I didn't want to fight battles like that. I didn't want to add, subtract and work out percentages until I had a headache. There were other things I didn't want: Units being reduced to piddling size by the removal of casualties, for example, and those tedious multiple attempts to rally shattered units before they disappeared off the table edge.

What I did want was something lucid. A set of rules that would allow me to fight large battles - with 300-500 figures per side in 4-5 hours without anybody going down with a migraine.

Around this time I came across an old article by Stuart Asquith that had appeared in Wargamers' Newsletter in the mid-1970s. The headline caught my attention: "Is Morale Necessary?" It demanded. This was a radical question and one I can't say I had ever considered before. After all morale is the key to military victory - Napoleon said so. I can't now recall the sustance of Stuart's article, but it set me thinking. And what I thought was this - when we calculate the casualties from ranged or close combat what if we not only work out the number of figures killed or wounded, but also the effect the missile or melee fighting has on the morale of its target. What if we merge the physical and mental effects of combat? What if casualties are not just individual soldiers, but the spirit of the unit as a whole?


  1. Harry,

    That pretty much mirrors my experience with my AWI games, though i've yet to find a satisfactory answer. Combining casualties and morale effects is a tempting approach (similar to the current approach of the Lardies as seen in IABSM, and perhaps not a million miles away from what Andy Callan did in his Dark Age and AWI rules?). I suspect i will keep casualty removal but ditch morale tests...i feel a combat results chart coming on....

  2. "What if we merge the physical and mental effects of combat? What if casualties are not just individual soldiers, but the spirit of the unit as a whole?"

    Wouldn't that mean you've invented DBA/DBM/DBx etc? :o))

    I agree with you though... I'm drawn to games where the morale effect is built into the shooting, and no casualty removal.... for AWI I use Will McNally's free rules for that very reason, and have done for 15 or 20 years now......

    1. It takes a while but I get there in the end. Over the next few years I'm hoping to invent an abstract wargame played with black and white pieces on a chequered board.

    2. I foresee a great future for it... :o))