Writing a First World War Wargame

In recent posts on the WWI theme, I've alluded to my plan to write a First World War game based on the trench raids on the Western Front.  With my Russians finished and my Germans underway, and Headologist with French and Austrians in the post, we have all the troops we need for a good clash.

Now we just need some rules.

Writing wargames is difficult.  Motivation is the toughest, since there are thousands of games out there covering every conceivable period, duplicating someone else's work is inevitable.  And it isn't easy - it might seem fun at first, writing your own special rules and lovely dice charts, but as anyone who has tried it knows, there's nothing like the sinking feeling that comes when one of your playtesters says, "well, can I do this?", and you realise there's no rule for it.  And you can't think of a way to represent their desired action.  It's a difficult job.

But, on the plus side it allows you to create and tailor-make every aspect of the game you like. After reading great First World War books such as The First Hundred Thousand by 2Lt (later Maj Gen) Ian Hey Beith, and Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger, I decided to create a game based around Trench Raids.

Eventually, I plan to have the rules up on the blog for free download - they're still in the testing stage at the moment - but let me share a few key concepts and see what you think.

  • It's a skirmish game, with the attacker controlling about eight trench raiders, and the defender (GM or NPC) in command of the sentries in the trench under attack.
  • There is a whole system for stealth with randomised sentry behaviour, inspired by the WH40K Kill Team rules.
  • The game is heavily focused on realism, with devastating grenades, very easy wound rolls, and centred around the effective use of cover.
  • Everything revolves around actions and 'activation' - your team only gets D3 activations per turn, with each turn representing only a few seconds.
  • This makes the whole game about one or two minutes of real-time combat, leading to ruthless, synchronised, fast-paced and cinematic battles.
Me and Kieran may have a pretty big terrain project lined up for all this later on, but in the meantime I'd like to give a shout out to the Modular Trench System from RPG Now.  This is a .zip file, costing $7.95, which contains multiple 6x6 tiles depicting trenchworks.  The level of customisation is astounding; there are over 30 different squares, and each one can be set to have different entrance/exit points, with several versions of each tile (some with muddy pools of water, others with duckboards etc etc) so that the possible permutations are nearly endless.  I ended up printing over 100 squares and getting them all laminated (thankfully by convincing the reprographics department at work that this was, in fact, work-related, so for free).

So there we are!  On and off, I'm going to be updating this into a series of posts where I'll talk about specific mechanics and ask for advice.  All helpers will be credited in the final version and receive a state-of-the-art email copy absolutely free!  

Speaking of generous freebies, my good pal Dai of LDS fame has been kind enough to pop some IG Regimental Advisers and a new liaison officer in the post for me.  I'm in two minds - a diorama, or standard advisers for the new OC of the Palladian Guard company?

Thanks for reading, everyone.



  1. Replies
    1. ... is that a mysterious contraction I've never heard of?

  2. And excellent they are so far I might add, my minor contriobutions notwithstanding. I think you've tackled the key issue which is decide exactly what it is you're trying to represent, especially with warfare like this and "trench raiding" being a rather nebulous term. Look forward to seeing the Germans

    1. Danke schön, I think that was the hardest part as the original plan was to just make a generic WWI game, but with Into No Man's Land (which, everyone, is H's own game) that's not necessary. A but of narrowing of focus helped.

    2. Exactly so, and you've absolutley nailed it methinks. Whereas the original INML was written as an introduction to historicals for 40k players, that's obviously changed now. And where you can cover detail, particularly in terms of equipment, where I don't think INML should I can represent national character/approahces/training in more detail (I hope) so I think we'll have two very complimentary games.

  3. Stick in a solo play option too? 2-Hour-Wargames has a fun system that allows for simple flowing games with reactions that are rather believable.


    Otherwise, I like the sound of this. And it'll be weird to see a WWI game but Skirmish rules, as all other games from this period that I've seen have been rather large affairs.

    I'm crap at rules writing though, but will offer what I can if I happen to think of it before someone else. :)

    1. Gah! You've stolen my surprise for the next post ;) yes, solo play is an option certainly. The random sentry action is fine for stealth missions, just need to come up with a decent 'AI' for the loud parts of the mission.

  4. Good luck with your project. There are never enough WW1 rules out there representing the feel of the period.

    1. Thanks mate, updates to follow shorty. The rules are almost written, so there should be a batrep soon.

  5. Looking forward to seeing the rules once they are posted. Keep us informed :D

  6. I missed this post first time around through being on holiday! Unforgiveable, particularly as this looks fantastic and something I've really enjoyed gaming at my local club over the past few years. I think you've set the scale for the game perfectly - and the memoirs and literature of the period just teems with examples of patrols, raids, missions and engagements in No Man's Land. Good luck Colonel - I'll be following with great interest.

    1. And apologies, I only just noticed it in my 'pending comments' section. Thanks for the kind words... and you should have some interesting email soon...


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