Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Laws of Wargaming

As I'm sure you all know, humans need laws in order to 1) deter damaging and/or anti-social behaviour {I almost wrote "criminal", but without law there can be no crime since crime is the breaking of a law. I know that tortes are "legal, civil wrongs" that are not necessarily actionable as crime, but I digress.} and 2) to delineate what a society might consider "right." This gobbledee-gook is one way of considering law. There are also scientific laws like "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." or "A body in motion tends to remain in motion, unless acted upon by some outside force." We humans love our laws. Did you know it's illegal to walk whistle while walking backwards during the showing of a movie in one small town? Did you know it is illegal to be homeless in Columbia, South Carolina, USA? {Again I digress.}

All of us who play wargames know that there are laws governing the playing of the games that have NOTHING to do with the actual rules of the games. I'm taking it upon my self to draft an incomplete list of such laws and I request that my reader add to the list. Most if not all of these "laws" are corollaries of Finagle's or Murphy's First Law: "ANYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG, WILL." Here goes, starting with my favourite:

  • A newly painted unit will always rout/be destroyed/surrender in it's first time on the table.
  • You opponent will attempt to place the figures out of your reach in the place "that will be to your best advantage."
  • A important and distinctive item/unit/general in your force -one you can not do without- will serve as an "missile-attractor" i.e. The Ark of the Covenant in an Israelite Ancients army will draw the bow-fire of EVERY enemy bowman in range... and out of range... and on other tables... in other time zones... and periods. The USS Enterprise will be the target of the entire Klingon fleet. 
  • Your elites aren't.
  • Fast troops will not move and always at the most inopportune time.
  • Your artillery will usually be masked when most needed.
  • Dice are perverse... at best.
  • Your best-painted troops will lose in melee to your opponent's badly-painted/barely-primed/unpainted figures mounted on hacked cereal box stands. 
  • Tying up your opponent's guard or elite troops with some sort of irregular light cavalry or scum skirmish infantry will lead to recriminations and strained tempers.
  • Reinforcements will arrive at the farthest possible point to be of any help to you and will be late.
  • Gaming will go better if there's beer.
  • Good gamers learn from their defeats; mediocre gamers learn SLOWLY from multiple defeats; poor gamers learn to whine about their defeats.
  • Lefebvre's Law or Hohn's Law: Any day you get to throw dice and push figures is a good day.
Here's a few visual versions of these and other laws. Please feel free to add more as comments.

A crater is a crater, no matter where it came from.

Fanatics aren't.

Compared to the "real world", our arguments are laughable.

"Able Fox Five to Able Fox. I got a target but ya gotta be patient."
Timing is everything.


  1. Theories for which there has been a lot of supporting empirical evidence over the years:
    1. The odds of winning a fifty-call are about 6-to-1 against.
    2. The odds of rolling a 1 on a D6 when that is the only number that will hurt you, start at 50-50, and get shorter in direct proportion to the magnitude of the hurt.
    2A. The odds of rolling a 1 on a D6 when that roll will lose you the game at once is so nearly certain I wouldn't want to live on the difference.
    3. Bad rolls come in strings. The probability, having rolled a 1 on your last throw, that the next will also be a 1, is 50-50.

    There are 2 possible outcomes of a die roll. These are '1' and 'not-1'. Not-1 is defined as any number that does not equal 1.

    As these are the only two possible results, the probability of rollin a 1 or a Not-1 is certainty, mathematically = 1
    As the are just two possible results, each must be ascrided an equal probability. So P(1) = 1/2 and P(Not-1) = 1/2. A probability equal to 1/2 is often called 50-50.

    Hence, P(1) - the probability of rolling a 1 is 50-50.

    However, this is not a constant, as the odds will be affected adversely or otherwise depending upon the disastrous '1' roll.

    4. A combat upon which you are reliant for the winning of the game has a winning probability of zero.

    5.Routed elite troops, at 83% odds of recovering, will require at least two moves more to rally than a militia unit at 50% odds.

    6.Your opponents, simply by being your opponents, suddenly acquire Midas like powers over the dice. Everything they touch turns to gold. You, simply because you're you, have permanent Sidam like powers (Midas in reverse) in which everything you touch turns into --- well, something you don't want to touch, let's say.

    No doubt I'll think of more...

    1. Oy! With mathematical proofs yet!
      Good ones all! Thanks!

  2. I must say I wholeheartedly agree with everything on this list! Especially the new unit/freshly painted rule... Also I find as an ex-Spacemarine player in 40k, rolling Terminator armour saves is the cruelest experiences I've ever gone through. They might as well be wearing t-shirts when I'm rolling the dice