Friday 10 April 2015

Fire and Steel

Yesterday I was very pleased to receive the following rule set via eBay. "Fire and Steel". I was very disappointed at the first reading as I thought they were a dedicated colonial skirmish rule set. And on first reading they covered Seven years war, American Civil war and wild west gunfight. I happen to like rules that are specific to each period and not ones that try to do everything as then tend to end up doing nothing.

But my mind was changed on the second reading. They will still cover all imaginable periods. But I do not have or intend to use them for all periods.

Physically they are a little bigger than A5 with a card cover stapled on. 31 printed pages (32 pages in all but the least one is blank) printed in black and white with a few drawings and diagrams. To my mind this is so much nicer than a bigger tome that has been puffed out with pretty pictures but that don't add anything to the rules. There is no "How to paint figures" or "How to build terrain" or even pages of background history that any fool with 30mins and internet access could discover. No the rules are just that a basic set of rules in an old fashioned format and so much better for it. I have been a wargamer for a few years and so I already know a little about painting figures and making terrain. It is even conceivable that I might know a teeny tiny bit of history already for a set of rules  for which I have an interest.  So I really do thank the publishers "Keep Wargaming" for not patronising me.

The rules are pretty simple, but I can see that they would work and fill the booklet from page 4-12. After which there are some suggestions on troop types  for various campaigns, some notes on characterisations and 2 appendices on Explosions and on Machine guns. From Page 19 onwards it gives a brief note on scenario design (1 Page) and 5 scenarios. And that fill the book. It is a light easy read although  a rules "Numty" like me has had to check a few things by flipping back a page or two, just to make sure you understand and not because I am "thick and useless", which I may be as well.

The scenarios are quite varied in both scale and time period with anything up to 5 players taking part . For club games I think this will work fine I really do. Generally you are looking for 1 player controlling 5-10 figures , the rules suggest 8 but that should depend on the players. So if you want to change period a lot the expense is not too high. There are no points system in the rules, this is deliberate as the design philosophy is not ALWAYS looking for balanced scenarios. Sometimes rather than having things equal it is better to have objective based scenarios. And Objective based scenarios are really not about having an "Equal" Battle but are about achieving a set objective. So with a little thought and imagination players will be able devise completely balanced scenarios where troop equality is not the issue.

Given that the rules have a picture of Afghanis shooting in the Hindu Kush on the front cover This is what I was expecting the rules to be all about. Instead I found a very versatile set of generic rules with a couple of good ideas that one can build a very good scenario based game at club level for. I can see me using these rules at the club and even for show games as they are straight forward and easy to follow. The only issue I have with them is the need for different markers on the wargames table. M Morale markers, R reload markers (each figure may require 6 of those is fining something that takes a long while to reload, T tap load markers if the musket boys want to reload very fast. I am sure I can come up with a way round this but counters on the table do tend to detract from a games look.

Overall I really do like these rules. They are simple to use and to understand and by tailoring the weapons and forces scenarios can be created with a little thought. Will I ever use them? Yes I think I will. They may not be perfect and may require me to think as bit to set up decent situations and scenarios but that is not an unpleasant task. They are a change from the glossy rulesets I have been using but I prefer them for taking this approach. There is no "Guff" just back to basic rules.

What will I use them for? That is a whole different question. I bought them thinking "Northwest Frontier" because of the picture on the front. But now I am not sure I will use them for that as they may be better suited to French Indian wars or Boxer Rebellion.

Thanks for reading today. I have been far too busy to paint much these last few days, but with luck I should have something finished for Sunday's blog post. So take care and see you soon.


  1. They sound like a set of rules I'd be happy with too.

    1. The rules are simple, and I think after a play through would be well known to all involved. So I am happy with them. Thank you Roy.

    2. It had me thinking about that Blog Con gamesday thingy. If there was a generic and easy to learn set of rules that would allow players to choose their own forces and number of figures, paint them and turn up for the game with them. Then it would make it easier for the organiser of such a game, as all they'd have to provide would be the scenario and any role play characters.
      Maybe these rules aren't what would be used, but something along the lines of Donnybrook (that Ray Russell's collecting for) could be something to look at for the organiser (okay, me).

    3. Doonbrook might be a good choice with say a 4-6 point limit. But even at 4 points that "could" be 52 figures if you took recruits. But as an Idea not a bad one and a lot less hassle than taking a whole game across the country. Worth thinking about anyway.
      Cheers Roy.

  2. A very decent review- nice to see my views on Wargaming rules echoed exactly in your third paragraph. Not a set I've played but it will be a set I pick up next time I see it for sale.



    1. Thanks Pete. I picked these up (on eBay for 3.70 Inc postage) And I think that was a good price but I would not have gone much higher. They really are a set of rules that you read and dismiss in the first instance but then feel the need to re-read. That's when the ideas start to flow. There are lots of things missed out so not very good for competitive play but if you like the emphasis on game and not war they may suit you. It is all personal choice at the end of the day.

  3. Yes the rules were published in 1996 so as you say 20 years ago. I must be getting old the time has just flown. And I am forced to agree much of the "glossy fluff" in rules has come since that time and I should have considered that when I wrote about the rules. But just maybe some current rules writers or publishers may accept this comment from grass roots wargamers and consider it in the future. .

    But given the rules are of such an age I still find them pretty current and will be very happy to play them. And I hope you agree and will try them if you have not already. If you have played them I would be delighted to hear how they went.

  4. I bought these at least 10 years ago, they have stayed set up on a shelf ever since! Perhaps I should give them another read?? Or perhaps not???

    1. Well it is your choice entirely. I will no doubt tell you what I am thinking on the journey to Salute. Personally I do not see them as being any better or worse than "Donnybrook" they are just not as period specific and they lack any kind of points system. But when have generals EVER used a points system to fight a battle.

      Thanks Ray.


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