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Board Wargame creation

I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone else out there is trying to build a wargame?

I am. North Africa 1940 - 1942.

It would be great to discuss issues with fellow researchers.

I am currently really struggling with counter creation and map creation. They both appear to be very costly in time & money.


Staff member
I have worked several board games and taught simulation design at the CGSC. As the designer you must first decide:

- What is/are the key decisions you want the player to make? This is directly connected to what you see were the things that made a leader successful/failure in the battle/campiagn you are modeling. Do you want the player to use combined arms? Airpower? Plan logistics? Use artillery? Intelligence?

- Given the decisions you want the player to make, what level/echelon does that placed him/her at? Are these tactical decisions? Operational?

- What time scale is needed for problem/requirements for decisions to manifest/occur?

- What information does the game need to generate/display for the player to make those decisions? How does a player implement their decision into the game?

Board games have limitations in the amount/type of information they can display. Also remember that a real commander had a staff and subordinates to make many of the decisions that happen in real life. In a board game, there is only the player. How is information provided to the player and how are his/her decisions implemented are challenges. For example, if units consume fuel by gallons per day, but players must make supply decisions based on forecasting for the entire theater three days in advance, who is doing the calculations?

There are two main design approaches: design for cause (DFC) and design for effect (DFE). DFC is when a player makes a specific series of decisions that is causal to the result. Deciding to fire at a certain range, using a specific type of ammo, at a specific angle is DFC. Deciding to use artillery and air, while combining two infantry units with an armor unit, when attacking an enemy unit is DFC. Creating a armored division counter with certain attributes that assume the commander is using the assets within its organization it so is strength is greater is DFE. Using air points to support an attack is mainly DFE. Using supply lines distances instead of supply points that must be moved and consumed is DFE.

These are just some initial comments.

Pista! Jeff
Its the time honoured juggling act of realism against playability and trying to find a course of action that honours both.

I try to keep the complicated time consuming maths to the design stage in creating a combat system or movement system or supply logistics system. So that the execution of same can be relatively quick and simple. It isn't easy!


"I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone else out there is trying to build a wargame?"

Obviously, by my name, I do. I previously designed a 1941-42 North Africa game and am now designing a 1940 game.

"I am currently really struggling with counter creation and map creation."

I go to office supply stores and obtain sheets of cardboard sold in various sizes, colored highlighter pens, and one very fine point black ink pen. I cut my game counters out of the cardboard sheet with a razor blade knife. To divide the cardboard sheet to the proper counter size, I use this carpenter's tool:


It will allow you to make perfectly straight lines, the exact distance apart for your counters and act as a straight edge for your razor blade.

I color my counters with the highlighters. Once dry, the fine ink pen will work for your symbols and numbers. If you want to get fancy, spray them with clear spray paint afterwards.

To make my map, I get online and find a free hexagon design that I can print out on paper in the hex size I want. I always use bigger than 1/2" (12.7 mm) hexes. My current board uses 13/16" (20.6375 mm). You can tape two or more sheets of hexagon graph paper together by applying tape to the BACKSIDE of the two sheets once properly aligned. By taping the backside, the tape does not get in the way of drawing roads, names, or applying colors to your hexes. If you want a stiff gameboard, simply tape it to a cardboard sheet.

I use internet Zoom maps with "Measure Distance" function to make the map. I never use "battlefield" maps as I find the scale and roads shown to be unreliable. On my eastern map, I placed Tobruk and El Alamein on it first, measuring both longitude and latitude. The next landmark I put on, say Sidi Baranni, I measure it's location from both Tobruk and El Alamein. The two measurements should agree on the same hex. I do this for all landmarks.

I seldom color the map board except where necessary. For example, all my water hexes along the coast are blue. Yet none of the other sea hexes are colored to save highlighter ink and a lot of time. Only the edges of the escarpments are colored, using a brown sharpie, indicating a ground unit cannot cross that line without a road.

You may have trouble getting your combat rules for 1941-42 to also work for 1940. My 1941-42 game was accurate to approximately 5% casualties for reproducing any historical battle which is very high precision. Yet when I added 1940, nothing worked. It was not even close to working. The Italians of 1940 used different training from 1941. They had mountain training and their top generals were told to use the untested "War of Rapid Decision" which does not work. Add in the Italians are on foot and they are completely different from 1941, requiring completely different attack factor calculations and a different combat results table.

Ask if you have questions.
Wow! Thanks. Can you show me some photos of your counters, or even of the stages of the counter creation? They sound really good.
I have tried buying coloured card and cutting out the counters but they never come out quite square or exactly the same size. Also the pen ink always smudges as the card colour seems to have a slightly glossy finish.


I have tried buying coloured card and cutting out the counters but they never come out quite square or exactly the same size. Also the pen ink always smudges as the card colour seems to have a slightly glossy finish.
You'll need to buy white cardboard with a tan backside. As you have discovered, you cannot write on a gloss surface. So you'll have to start with white, then color it with a highlighter. Here is what I mean by a highlighter:


Highlighters have a fat, flat point that color a large area fast. I generally use blue for German, orange for Italian, and red for British. In my other games I use green for US and yellow for Japan. Your black pen (sometimes called an "Indian ink" pen) has to be really FINE. The office supply store I use let's me try them out before buying. It should write in the thickness of a human hair. My current pen is a Precise V5:


This precision is a MUST because, for an army ground unit counter, you must create/draw the rectangle that designates the type of unit it is (parachute, infantry, armour, artillery) but also include above it if it is a battalion (ll), regiment (lll), brigade (x), division (xx) or corps (xxx). If it is motorized artillery or infantry, you'll also need to include two dots (for wheels) below your rectangle.

You can stop there if you play the game with dry hands but, if your fingers are ever moist, you'll smudge the ink on the counter. This is prevented by spray painting clear paint on the counters. Now they'll never smudge. Of course, make sure the ink is dry before spray painting.

In my own games I do not use the oval armor symbol on my counters. I draw a tank. It's way more self explanatory. Also, all my tank pieces are battalion size so I can skip the "ll" designation. It makes for a much better looking game piece. Likewise, I draw a parachute with three lines intersecting down at an angle for parachutists as that too is far more obvious. Again, I make parachutists all battalion size.

I do not use regiments in my games but brigades as every regiment is assigned its own artillery. So why make two pieces when they operate as one? I only separate them into two counters when using 1,000 yard hexes and then the infantry regiments become individual battalions. So no matter what, I never use regiments.

Avoid using 1/2" (12.7mm) sized ANYTHING. It's too small. Yet ANYTHING bigger works just fine. Don't ask me why. It just does. Here's where I got my free hexagon map paper:


It's the third one down in red. It will print out in black, virus free. It's also saved to your computer should you ever need it again. I use this same grid for naval games as well. Let me know if you're using ships and I'll explain how that works so you're not trying to move a huge stack of ships on the same hex.

You will have to get that carpenter's tool in order to make your counters all square and the same size. Let me know when you have it. It must have a measuring ruler on it. That measures your game piece size.

No never give up, at least not this side of the grave! Just an enforced hiatus. I am still in full time employment and have many other commitments and hobbies. I had never considered area move ment or point to point. Do you think either are suitable for a battalion level game?
Yes, I too prefer larger counters.
That was a good link.
I have had no success with counter production so far, but maybe with those software you list, i might try again sometime soon.

Thank you for your input.
Best wishes.
Hello again.

I am not at all familiar with either area move or point to point, do you know how they work?
Not keen on chits or Igo Ugo, but there always has to be a measure of compromise in game design to get that realism/playability balance work.

Thanks again


Sorry for my delay. No notification of your reply was sent. As to two of your points, you described your game units not coming out exactly the same size. This is the tool I use to measure out my pieces. It's very precise:

They come in metric or US inches. Once you draw your lines (1/2" minimum, 5/8" best), you can run your razor blade down the edge of the tool, the same as you did with your ink pen. Do not run the blade all the way through, or you will have to cut the second side by hand and that's when mistakes occur. Reverse the tool and cut halfway through the other side. Your razor blade now has its own cut guide to follow to finish all the way through for all side of the game piece.

However, even with mistakes, you'll get 4 of 5 right and just throw away the 5th. Highlight it in the color you want, wait until dry, ink in your symbols, and you're now ready to spray paint if you want. Use clear enamel with the paint can held over a foot away. Too close and it will run. Spray about 12 game pieces at a time for 3 seconds. Stop. You're done. Don't try for a glossy smooth finish. A mist is all you need for protection. If you can see wet paint, you probably have a mistake going. Your cardboard will treat wet paint the same as water.

Next IGO UGO is extremely accurate in ground games if you use a measured time interval between turns. The time interval is the sum of 1) the time for the enemy to spot your move plus 2) the time for the enemy to respond to your move. This can be quite long. For divisional units, response time was 3-4 days. I'm not sure about battalion response time but probably a day and a company likely four hours. It's much, much slower than you think. When the enemy doesn't respond, that's IGO. When they do respond, that's UGO. While you may think your IGO turn is still going, no. It's not. The enemy is advancing into your path to stop you, and it's your turn to react. Even if they're retreating you must still react), or it's night. Whenever you have to react with a new order ends your turn.

Simultaneous army movement would be very inaccurate.

IGO UGO is not used in naval games. Moves and combat are simultaneous.

I do not use "point to point" but hexes. My 1941-42 game is 95% accurate for all combats. My 1940 game is 90% accurate.

Your next question probably relates to hex size. Once again, hex sizes do not work the way you might think. The smaller your hex size is in distance, the more inaccurate your game. There are several reasons for this. First, it's hard to make a small scale map that accurately reflects terrain and visibility plus weapons range. Battalion weapon range will limit you to 650 yards (or less) and the chances of you accurately recreating terrain for defense, movement, and visibility for a 650 yard/meter hex game map is poor. So the more accurate you try and make your game, the more inaccurate it becomes. But wait! It gets worse. To use 650 yard/meter hexes, you need historical combat results on a 650 yard/meter scale against which to test your game accuracy. Otherwise, you're just guessing. Such combat comparisons are rare. About the closest you'll come is the 800 yard/meter distances between the posts at Tobruk and Bardia and those results may not make for a very interesting or accurate game when the effect of terrain change is unknown.
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Lots of really good stuff there, I will re-read and inwardly digest.

I use IGO UGO, as found nothing better.

I tried a hex size of 1Km, then 1.2Km but have settled for 1.5Km.


1.5 km is probably a good choice as a compromise. But you should be aware of what you're compromising. An Italian infantry battalion could defend about a 1,000 meter front or a 1.0 Km hex, the size you started with. Yet the combat range of such a battalion was about 450 meters (As evidenced by the 45mm mortar and the range of 7X military binoculars.). About the only infantry battalion weapon that exceeded this range was the 81mm mortar and with which, on level ground, you cannot spot your hits. So while your hex was correct for battalion size it was off by 50% for battalion range plus the terrain errors that come with such a small scale.

By increasing your hex size, you decrease you terrain error but now increase your range error. I would solve this problem by giving an Italian infantry battalion a combat range of ZERO. It has defensive firepower only. Technically, we're describing a WW1 army. In WW1 the attackers charged the other's defensive trenches and machineguns. That was the only way to get close enough to fight. Back then, the opposing trenches were about 1 Km apart and, without the charge, neither side could hit the other, giving each side a combat range of ZERO using 1 Km hexes. In WW1, not many made it to the enemy to actually apply their defensive firepower (They had left their machineguns behind.).

In WW2, the Germans solved the problem of charging infantry with a combat range of zero by charging with tanks followed by infantry. Yet the infantry still had a combat range of ZERO until they reached the enemy. The previous 1 Km is now 0 Km. Now their defensive firepower can be applied to the enemy. The attacker brought their previously defensive weapons with them (motorized machineguns plus tank artillery guns) with them to the enemy line and the effect was dramatic.

Yet in WW2 the Italians were still living in WW1. An L3/33 tank could be shot to pieces by armor piercing bullets and an M13/40 taken out by anti-tank guns of which the British had no shortage. Unable to reach the British line, the Italians' firepower remained defensive only. When the Italians attacked Sidi Barrani in September 1940, they inflicted only 60 casualties, an attack factor of virtually ZERO. Why only 60? Because no motorized artillery or machineguns reached the British defenders. They had only rifles with an effective range of 250 meters. The British inflicted 500 casualties. Why? Because they could fire with full defensive fire power.

How do you cover this with your rules? Very simply. DEFENSE FIRES FIRST. So the British fired first at Sollom/Halfaya Pass with artillery and machineguns, inflicting 500 casualties. Now the surviving Italians fire second but only get 60 British with almost zero attack factors.

By WW2, rifles were useful only for defending machinegun emplacements. A battalion of them might produce 10 British casualties.

This is when we have to consider turn duration. Again, the enemy's turn begins as soon as it can give, and carry out, an order. In this case, the British made the decision to retreat. So the "IGO" turn began with the Italian attack and UGO began with the British retreat. The British had three possible orders. They could counterattack, retreat, or maintain their position. Had they counter attacked, they become the attackers, the Italians the defenders, and DEFENSE FIRES FIRST. The result is way more British casualties as the Italians are bringing up motorized artillery, mortars, and LMG's. The British wisely decided not to do that. They could have maintained their position but their troops at Sollom would be cut off if the Italians took Halfaya Pass. So Sollom had to retreat. If they decided to stay and and fight without counterattacking, they would remain the defenders and the Italians the attackers and, once again, DEFENSE FIRES FIRST. That would have been ugly for Italy with another 500 casualties.

When the British retreated, their UGO turn ended when they reached Azziziya on September 15, a turn of three days. The Italians did not frontally attack the British here but moved south of them on a dirt road in two columns with nothing between them and Sidi Baranni (11th Hussars was keeping the road to Maktilla open.). The Italians reached Maktilla on their second turn (September 17). The Italians used five days in two turns or 2.5 days per turn, or basically the same three day turn as the British (The Italians would have used six days if they had gone further than Maktilla, stopping on September 18, but elected not to.). The British also carried three day's ammunition, another reason to use three days. However, three days was the response time for 5,000 men and not 750-1100.

So when you use 1.5 Km hexes, adjacent enemy units do not have to fight. There is a "no man's land" between them. One side has to elect to attack (charge), meaning he's trying to enter the other hex, and then the other side fires first. If the defender retreats, the attacker automatically takes, and moves into, the vacated hex (Also, tanks never defend.).

This will solve the problem of where your scale in defense does not match your scale in offense. Once you calculate a turn duration, your results should be very accurate. I'd be interested in learning the turn time you come up with for battalions.

If you want to know how the Italians can win under these rules, ask.
Excellent post with some great ideas, thank you!

"So when you use 1.5 Km hexes, adjacent enemy units do not have to fight. There is a "no man's land" between them. One side has to elect to attack (charge), meaning he's trying to enter the other hex, and then the other side fires first. If the defender retreats, the attacker automatically takes, and moves into, the vacated hex " I do this!

I have an idea about turn time, but need to alpha test it (along with about a hundred other things!)


I do this!

And here I thought I invented that. :)

On the subject of battalion turn times, if you can find maps or battle descriptions that show the daily positions of the German and British battalions during the Battle for Crete, you should be able to determine the time for the British to react. For example, say the British don't move in the first 24 hours. That would mean the German first turn ran 24 hours. The British turn is next, also 24 hours. The next turn (day 3) is German. If you hit the right number of hours for a turn (24 was just an example) your game should be pretty accurate. Do not be surprised at how just how long a turn is. I did a battalion sized game for the WW2 Battle of Okinawa (1,000 yard hexes) and the turn time still came to three days. That’s because, at the time, for every day of combat (even in an ongoing offensive) there were two days spent wasted. On day one, HQ decided what to do and passed the order down, and on day two those that received the orders had to organize their troops and supplies accordingly to obey the order. So nothing really happened until day three when the decision of day one was finally implemented. When I did Crete, I ended up with four day turns. The German’s turn would be May 20-23 or four days. The British turn would be from May 24-27, and the German’s turn again on May 28-31, Their attack on May 28 resulted in a British retreat. The British would take their next turn from June 1-4 when they evacuated the island. I could have also used three day turns as I did with my Okinawa game but I found four days worked better for including naval movement.


Correction: British troops carried four days of ammunition, another reason I used four day turns. Again, I did find many instances of three days. The British defense of Sollom and Halfaya Pass against the Italian invasion of September 13, 1940 which was conducted by three British battalions, had the British withdraw to Buq Buq by September 15, a period of three days for their turn (13, 14, and 15 equals three days). Here, they were down to one day of ammunition supply. My rules allowed them to be resupplied from Sidi Barrani on September 16 but the British declined to make a stand at Buq Buq due to the lack of ammunition. When they retreated to resupply, 2nd Libyan followed by 1st Blackshirt moved to outflank them to their south. Thus, when the British took their turn on September 16 it was to retreat.

You might be wondering how the British at Sollom on September 13 were at Buq Buq on September 15 if the Italian turn was September 13-15 (using three day turns). After all, the British turn isn't until September 16, yet they've already moved.

How did that happen? Either side, be it British or Italian, can retreat on the turn it is attacked. The British were attacked on September 13 and my rules allow them to retreat, in this case to Buq Buq. The same thing happened to the British 7th and 8th Hussars at Sidi Suleiman when Italian Ba.65 aircraft destroyed 10 tanks during the same invasion (The losses were attributed to 1st Royal Tank Regiment.). The Hussars retreated to Bir Enba as the air attack is treated the same as a ground attack. Thus, the British were again moving when it wasn't their turn.

The Italians entered Sidi Baranni on September 16. How did they do that? The British turn was September 16-18, the Italians shouldn't enter until September 19 (their next turn). By my rules though, the attacker can pursue a retreating unit during the turn of the retreating unit. Thus, on September 16 when the British used their turn to retreat, the Italians could follow, entering Sidi Baranni on September 16 for 100% accuracy.

Had I tried to use one day turns, I would not have had this accuracy. I found 3 days for battalions and 4 days for divisions proved the most accurate. For example, "Operation Compass", a division scale attack, had the entire British turn occur between December 9, 1940 and December 12, a period of 4 days. The battle of Bardia? January 3-5 or three days. Fall of Tobruk? Two days. Battle of Derna? Six days (two turns). Michili (fought by battalions only) two days. Same for Beda Fomm. Operation Battle Axe? Thee days. Brevity? Three days. The two day battles are accounted for by rapid defeat. They couldn't last three.

By no means am I the last word on the subject of turn times which is why I'm interested in what you come up with. Crete is probably a good start. Short campaigns provide the most historical movement/turn detail.
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As an aside, in a game that was essentially Corps level, but had some Brigade and divisional level units, what would be your chosen turn time?


In the Battle of the Bulge, the German turn began December 16. Two American divisions moved on December 19 (101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne). If the US turn is December 19, a turn is 3 days (The US turn would end December 21 with 84th Infantry division moving on that day.). December 22-24 is the Germans turn and they surrounded Bastogne. December 25-27 is the US turn, and they broke through at Bastogne on December 27. So, again, a turn is three days.