Ne Plus Ultra – homemade wargames rules for Marlburians

I’ve been playing around with some simple one brain-cell rules for Marlburians for a few weeks now.  Originally I had planned for them to cover the whole horse and musket era, but changed my mind after my first playtest and concentrated on the War of Spanish Succession.  I’ve borrowed some newer ideas – Black Powder’s morale saves for instance – and added some very old-fashioned mechanics borrowed from the likes of Featherstone, Grant and Neil Thomas.  The result I have christened Ne Plus Ultra, although I am vaguely aware that that name may have been used already for a game in this era.  As a I have absolutely no commercial ambitions, however, I don’t think that it matters.

The whole game is driven by cards. Each general is assigned a brigade, and when his card is played he may declare charges and then move his units.  The end turn card (I use a joker) finishes this phase and all shooting and melee are resolved.  If I want to speed things up, sometimes I allocate a commander two cards.  The end result is that depending on where the joker turns up, some units may not get the chance to declare charges or move.  It works great for solo play, and this is what I tested today with a small Marlburian battle of 6 infantry, 2 guns and 3 cavalry a side.

Above is the centre of the table mid-way through the game.  Each element can take three casualties.  Once this number has been reached, an element is removed.  If half the unit is removed then the next casualty sees the unit removed from the table.  The break-point of the brigades is recorded alongside the general.  There are two ways that a brigade breaks: if over 50% of its units are broken; and every time a unit is pushed back in combat or is broken, then it is recorded on a dice beside the general.  If the dice reaches 6 then the brigade is broken.  This means that extra-large brigades do not last indefinitely.  As can be seen below, the Anglo-Prussian centre was actually broken when the die reached 6.

Overall I am quite happy with the final product.  I made a few tweaks in-game, like increasing the power of artillery and adding a disordered rule, which have balanced it up quite a bit.  Units last a decent amount of time, elite units perform well, exposing your flank is a bad thing and supporting units with friendlies to their rear is worthwhile.  Command and control is sometimes frustrating, but the game does seem to roll along at a good pace.

The next phase of the plan is to try a Charles Grant scenario and see how it fights out.  A PDF copy is here for those that are interested.

Nate

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4 comments on “Ne Plus Ultra – homemade wargames rules for Marlburians

  1. I’ve edited this post to provide a link to the uploaded PDF. I’ve also created a house rules category in the side menu, with a link. There is nothing fancy, no unit sizes or rationales or anything. Just the bare essentials. Any questions, let me know. Enjoy.

  2. Nice rules; good combination of different sets.
    Will try them. Explain use of joker card please.
    Total number of cards is equal to brigades + joker?Can joker card be in the middle of brigades?

    Is it correct that not only melee but also firing is done at the same time by both players?

    Is moving + firing possible? no deduction?
    Thanks.
    Lex

    • The joker is the ‘wild card’ end of turn. It can be anywhere in the pack, so a turn could be one brigade having an action and then the joker comes up and all shooting and melee is resolved again. If the joker is the first card off the deck, then there is no movement at all, but another round of firing and melee is automaticaly begun. If you want to decrease the number of times this is likely to stop all Brigades from moving in a turn, or you want to simulate a particularly competent Brigade commander, you can put in two cards from different suits (eg Brigade 1 moves on an Ace of clubs or Spades). If you haven’t played a card driven game before this might seem quite odd, but it gives you a good fog of war for unpredicatability, and as I do game solo at times, this is quite useful.

      When the joker comes up, all firing and melee by both sides is caried out simultaneously. There are no penalties for movement. Both sides may have moved, or neither side, but it is assumed that the two sides are drawn up in order realtively easily unless they have crossed difficult terrain.

      I’d be interested to know how you find they play.

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