Thursday, January 31, 2008

Got Army Men?

Just about every boy, and probably more girls than you'd think, have played with plastic army men. I love them even though I really don't have any right now. I've had them in the past but I'm pretty hard on stuff and my boys are pretty hard on stuff too so they didn't last so long. When I look at the green (or gray or brown or whatever color) soldiers in poses of active combat I feel that there is a little world that I'm not part of that is frozen for me for just a moment. Like I am taking a brief glimpse into a miniature sized global war for your living room floor or kitchen table.

I'm always screwing around with rules mechanics and game ideas and working off the inspiration that looking up and thinking about plastic soldiers has generated within me I've written a little rules set in the spirit of these diminutive soldiers and their apparently endless waring.

I've found myself becoming more and more interested in historical wars as gaming, something I was always interested in reading about or watching about but never gaming about which is where I seem to be heading. In looking into these games I've discovered a veritible treasure trove of interesting miniatures made by a cornucopia of companies. Some are good, some are bad, but all are cool IMO and I want to share that with you.

First we have Plastic Soldier Review ( which is a totally kick ass website that gives quality reviews of plastic soldiers produced by dozens of companies and a wide range of periods. It reviews the quality of the products as well as the historical accuracy. I love reading the reviews, just love them. This was one of the big impacts on my current tastes although I don't have any of these yet. I'm talking to two local stores seeing if they can do special orders for just a kit or two at a time.

Second we have The Army Men Home Page ( which has a lot of pictures of a variety of plastic soldiers and alot of cool related information. It also has a link to a rules set called Shambattle (wonderful name, shame they beat me to it) about playing with toy soldiers with some rules. I haven't read the rules, mostly because they aren't free and I'm cheap, terrible I know but I'm sure they are fun. How can they NOT be they use toy soldiers!

Thirdly we have Michigan Toy Soldier Co. ( in case you are so spirited into love for these things as I have been that you want to buy some. The site has some great deals and a good selection and wonderful prices as far as I can tell. I just wish they would have them broken up by periods and manufacturer but really i'm just being spoiled there aren't I.

I've copied and pasted my game rules below, feel free to steal them, play with them, and change them. Please don't make any money off them and tell me afterward because I'll cry and no one likes to see a grown man cry. They aren't anything complex so don't expect that, I wrote them for my 8 year olds sons to play with me, as soon as I get some army men to play them with. Constructive criticism is welcome, but don't post useless statements thank you.

Army Wars
Art Nickles Jr.

Army Wars is a game designed for boys and girls from 7 to 12 years old that uses easy to play game rules for plastic soldiers. It is written to allow them to use these plastic soldiers to fight battles for control of the territories in their home be it a kitchen floor or a dining room table. These rules are broken down into three parts; Building an Army, Fighting Battles, and Objectives.
Each player needs only a little bit of equipment to play Army Wars. First they each must have an army of plastic soldiers, any amount will do but thirty plastic soldiers will do nicely and will provide a game that will last about half an hour to experienced players. Also, each player needs a fist full of six sided dice, like you would find in a Monopoly game, 15 to 20 each because they will be rolling a lot of them for rifle fire. Lastly they each need a standard twelve inch ruler to measure movement and check ranges.

Part One: Building an Army
Each player needs to assemble their army before they can battle. To do this they spend game points to buy units or squads of different qualities. Both players should agree on an amount of game points before they start and the first game should be 50 points to keep it simple.
The squads consists of either five models or ten models with a squad marker assigned to the unit. Squad markers are a single dice, showing where the unit is on the table and what quality the squad is. Also each squad has a squad leader in it, this is the unit's commander and the more living leaders you have the better your army will perform. The squad leader is either a soldier that is different from the othersin the squad and in other squads (except other squad leaders) or one that is marked. May toy soldier sets have models holding binoculars or pistols and these make excellent leaders but if this is too much hassle simply take a black Sharpie marker and color in the base of one soldier in each unit making him the leader.
To buy a squad with game points the player simply decides what quality of squad it is and how many are in the squad. The quality of the squad is how good they are at shooting. Quality ranges from Green, to Veteran, to Elite with each being better than the last. Green troops cost a lot less but aren't as good and Elites are very expensive but very good shots.

Green Squads:

5 soldiers = 5 points
10 soldiers = 10 points

Veteran Squads:

5 soldiers = 15 points
10 soldiers = 30 points

Elite Squads:

5 soldiers = 25 points
10 soldiers = 50 points

When a player puts a squad onto the battle field he should place the squad marker showing the quality of the squad. The dice should show a '6' for Green, a '5' for Veteran, or a '4' for Elites. If a player or a referee catches another player changing a squad marker then the squad is immediately eliminated if it is his own and if it is another player's then his largest and best quality squad is eliminated instead. In some cases using dice as squad makers is too difficult and in these instances it is best to instead cut out carboard counters an inch square that read; GREEN, VETERAN, or ELITE so all players can see the squads quality clearly.

So a player with 50 game points might buy an army like this;
1 Elite five soldier squad for 25 points.
1 Veteran five soldier squad for 15 points.
1 Green ten soldier squad for 10 points.
This totals up to 50 points and gives the player an army of 3 squads that makes an army of twenty soldier models.

Deploying the Army: after you have built your army and have the battle field decided you have to deploy them. This is easy, each player rolls one dice and the highest roller selects a place where his army will enter the battlefield by placing the ruler along the edge of the battlefield. That is the deployment zone for his army. The player to his left does the same but his must be at least 24 inches (two ruler lengths) from any other deployment zone. You continue to do this until everyone has a deployment zone. Next roll the dice again and the lowest roller has to place his entire army on the field by putting their squad markers anywhere within one ruler length of the deployment zone. Players continue to place their armies until they are all placed.

Part Two: Fighting Battles
This part is all the rules for moving, shooting, and the order of playing.

Order of a Game Turn: every battle consists of game turns and each battle should be limited to a only so many game turns. Very rarely do battles continue until only one side is left standing, eventually someone realizes it's not going their way and pulls out before any more troops are lost. The normal game should be played for 4 turns but players can play to any agreed number of turns.

The first thing to determine in a game turn is Initiative which is defined as who gets to go first. To determine Initiative both players roll one dice for each squad leader they still have in the battle and add together the results of the dice. The player with the highest total has the initiative and selects one of their units, may move it if they wish, and may shoot with it at an enemy squad. After this has happened the player to that player's left goes next and so on until it comes back around to the player with initiative. They then select and move another squad and this continues until each player has moved three squads, then the turn is over.
A player may move the same unit over and over if they wish but this unit is going to need support if they get too far ahead of the rest of the army so players should be careful in moving the same squad too often.

Moving a Squad: this is done by telling all the other players if the squad is Running or Walking and then using the ruler to measure the movement of the squad.
If the squad is Running you can move it the entire length of the ruler (twelve inches) but they don't get to shoot at any one, they are too busy running.
If the squad is Walking they only move half the ruler's length (six inches) but they get to shoot at an enemy if they want too.
When you move a squad you don't have to measure for each model, only measure for the squad marker then place the soldiers around it. Every soldier has to be within half a ruler of the squad marker, which is six inches, or they may get lost. If another player thinks a soldier isn't close enough to the squad marker they can call it out and it has to be measured. Any soldier that isn't is removed and lost.
Placing the soldiers how ever you want around the squad maker means you can put them in places where it will be harder to see them, and that means they are harder to shoot at so be careful how to place your soldiers, do your best to protect them!

Shooting: this is the fun part. After a unit Walks it can shoot at another unit, as long as it isn't a friendly unit. To do this you tell the other players which unit is attacking which unit, you should also point it out. After you do this place the ruler on your unit's squad marker and measure to the targets squad marker. If the target squad is within one ruler's length then you will have an easier time hitting them. If the target isn't the player you're attacking has to put down their ruler also touching yours. If the target squad's marker is now within the length of both rulers you can still shoot, but it will be harder. If they are further away than that you can't shoot at all. Basically this means a squad can shoot up to 12 inches away easily or up to 24 inches away with a lot of luck.
To shoot you roll a number of dice equal to the number of soldiers in the squad that is attacking. The dice must score a number equal to or higher than the quality of the soldiers to be a hit. So a Green unit, which has a quality of 6, needs to roll sixes to hit with their rifle shots and a Veteran unit will need to roll fives and Elite needs to roll fours. If the enemy is two rulers away then the dice roll is one more harder, but can't be harder than a six. So both Green and Veteran quality will need to roll a six and Elites will need to roll a five.
For each dice that rolls the needed roll then one of the enemy is eliminated. Which models are taken out is up to the player who owns the unit with the exception of the squad leader. Every time the unit takes at least three casualties you have to roll a dice, if you roll a 6 then the squad leader is one of the casualties.

Fighting Up Close: it is rare, but it is possible for one squad to run up to and attack another squad in hand to hand combat. This is tricky and mostly based on luck over skill. If after a squad moves it's squad marker is touching another squad marker then the two squads will duke it out. To do this each player rolls a number of dice equal to the number of soldiers in the unit and compares the highest scores, any ties result in no loss but any where one is higher than the other the looser takes away a soldier. If there are more soldiers on one side than the other extra soldiers aren't lost, they just have a better chance to get more good scores and not use their bad scores. This is just like using the dice rules for Risk, but with more dice. Every turn from that point on the two squads will fight at the start of the turn, using up one of the squads you can use on your turn even, until they are done fighting and only one squad is left standing.

Examples of Combat;

Chris has a five soldier Veteran squad shooting at Matthew's seven soldier Green squad. Chris lays down his ruler and the target squad's squad marker is within one ruler length so he rolls five dice, one for each soldier, and rolls these scores: 5, 4, 4, 2, 1. This means 1 of the five dice hit, as the Veteran soldiers have a quality of 5. Matthew removes one of his soldiers and then it's his turn, so he has the unit that just took a hit fire back without moving. He has six soldiers left now and they are Green so he rolls six dice and needs to roll 6's. His scores are: 6, 6, 3, 3, 3, 2 so he scores two hits, Christian takes away two of his soldiers. Now Matthew's unit has six soldiers left and Chris' has three soldiers left.

Chris takes his next turn to rush into combat with the enemy soldiers of Matthew's army. He moves his squad marker up to the enemy squad marker so they are touching then both players roll a number of dice equal to the number of soldiers they have, Chris has three and Matthew has six.
Chris' scores are: 6, 4, and 2.
Matthew's scores are: 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1.
Comparing the highest dice first; a 6 to a 5 shows that Chris' '6' is higher so Matthew loses a soldier. The next highest dice are 4 and 5, so this time Matthew's '5' wins and Chris looses a soldier. The next highest dice are compared which is a 2 and a 3, again Matthew wins and Chris looses a soldier. The remaining three dice of Matthew's roll aren't important as Chris has no dice left, but you can see they were really bad rolls so it's good he had so many soldiers to fight with. At the end of the fight Chris has 1 soldier left and Matthew has 5, this isn't looking good for Chris, but Matthew can't move the unit until that last soldier is lost and as long as Chris can roll a six on during the fight he can hold them off.

Part Three: Battle Field Objectives
Rarely in war do soldiers fight each other just to fight, they almost always fight over something or to do something. In Army Wars we call these things Objectives, which means something you want to get to control. Objectives are used to see who wins the game and determine how the game is won. The objectives that are used are determined by where the battle is taking place known as a Battle field.
The battle field is where the players decide to fight it out. This can be anywhere that the players all can see how the battle field is formed and where it ends and that has things in it to fight over and fight from. A good example is a typical dinning table with odds and ends after a day of school. There may be some cups of water, books, a center piece, or anything else. These items become the terrain on the battle field that will help create the excitement.
Some terrain will be large enough to make it hard to see the enemy. When one of your squads shoots at another squad you have to look over the shoulders of your men and see how many of the enemy you can see. Any soldier model you can't see at least half of you can't shoot and they can't be lost in battle. This is good to keep your forces hidden as well so they have a better chance of surviving the battle.
Objectives are things that the armies are fighting over. There are two types of objectives; places and things.
Places are items that the army men can climb up onto or go into. Maybe a book or a model building. As long as one player has more soldiers on or in the objective than their enemy then they control it and get points for it.
Things are small items that the squad could carry, if they would move around life like and do it. These items can be moved by the unit and having it puts the unit in control and will give them points for it at the end of the game. To take a 'thing' you just move your squad marker onto it, then it stays with your unit as they move. If all the soldiers in a unit are lost then the objective drops to where the squad was last.
Every objective needs to have a points value, to do this roll one dice after you decide what the objective is and write down that score. That is how many points it's worth at the end of the game. Objectives worth more points will undoubtedly be fought for more fiercely but that is just more fun!
Victory: after the agreed upon number of turns is played through the players count up their objective points to see who wins. A player scores points for each objective one of his squads controls, either because they have the most soldiers on or in the objective or because the object is carried by the unit. The player with the most objective points wins the game.

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