Game Of Nations – there’s something useful here

‘The Game Of Nations’ (GoN) came out onto the boardgames market in the early seventies, and for that time, was something completely different from what was generally on offer back then. Of course Monopoly was the mainstream family game, but Waddingtons, Parker Bros, Gibsons Games, Chad Valley et al were starting to drive gaming onwards into new concepts and design new formats. Not all of those produced good product. But it broke new ground and encouraged people to think there was yet more potential within game design.

GoN was unusual on several levels. No dice at all stopped many people dead in their tracks. An abstract mapboard didn’t suit the personal tastes of many. And the overall game-play left the remaining bravely curious few a little adrift in what it was trying to achieve. There was all the referencing to it being a CIA operative training aid, a familiarization tool for Middle-East policy, and a way to quickly appreciate the new ‘oil-economy’ politics. But it also didn’t help that depending on which side of the Atlantic you lived, you got different versions of the same game. I can never begin to fathom that one out – who in Production sat down one day and said “I’ve had this idea…”

Anyway, I have a copy – I believe I have two in fact – and now I’ve been able to compare UK and US rules (and aye, they do produce different games), and with 30+ years (shhh!) of gaming experience now, I think there’s something useful here.

This is because I have a games weekend planned in several weeks time, and I wondered whether there was potential in using GoN, with some additional tweaks, as a handy long-play game that runs in the background for all, while other games get rolled out and completed. This particular idea I have actually done before – and it goes like this:

Picture six, seven or eight guests are up for the weekend; and alongside the various boardgames, card games and wargames played in succession, one after the other; there’s also one single ‘diplomacy-style’ game that runs constantly in the background, on a set ‘clock’ so the players know when to submit their next orders. Of course, the classic ‘Diplomacy‘ is easily the first game you would think of for doing this. But we’ve used that game before.

So I’m thinking of using GoN instead, with some adaptation and embellishment. Maybe it can have some features included from Imperial/Imperial 2030 – like the ‘rondel’? Perhaps the Strategic options similar to those used in Twilight Imperium? Or some other intriguing gaming mechanics – I certainly want to use Secret Objectives for each player, so that all involved don’t necessarily know what their opposition is actually aiming for.

I already have some ideas down in notes, but there’s still  a bit more work to do.



Another book collection getting larger

I had posted here before about the Arnhem/Paras/WW2 mini-library I had amassed over the past 10 years. Well I have another collection that has been steadily growing larger and for longer than 10 years as well.

It was only recently I noticed a few Anglo-Zulu War books were popping up on For Sale threads on the usual forums, FB groups and online auction sites, and I started to see a few titles I wasn’t familiar with. Or some titles I wasn’t sure whether I had or not. And that got me thinking – maybe it’s time to do a library list for them too.

It can sometimes come as a surprise to find a title I own that I’m fondly familiar with, after reading them at least twice or more, that has sneakily become a ‘must-have’ collectors item for someone else.

My fascination with this particular episode of Empire didn’t just come from films like ‘Zulu‘ and ‘Zulu Dawn‘ – though it would be churlish to say there was no influence from them at all. But, I do remember an all too brief visit to a National Army Museum exhibition when I was still of schooling age, where I read information panels on certain exhibit items, and wondered what it must have been like to join the Army to flee London poverty to eventually end up in Natal – thousands of miles away in a completely different climate. Like the Sudan campaigns, especially the Gordon Relief attempts in 1884 & 1885, the hook is securely snagged and will likely never leave me.

So I’ve notched up another task on the ‘To-Do‘ list. That spare time I’ll have soon is starting to get booked up.


‘Mudd’s Martian Canals & Waterways’

‘Martian Canals & Waterways & the Native Vessels Upon Them’ – Captain William Mudd RN


There is a wondrous beauty in the straight waterlines of this red planet. As meltwater flows from the planet’s polar caps, so you see the tidal surging, high and low, of the vast broad canals carved out of the surface by long forgotten masters. To have such power to score these lines is a marvel in itself. Today these waterways are the trading lifeblood for much of the heavier cargoes between the City States, and indeed if you are not blessed with the access to the waterways, with your docks, mills, bridges, viaducts, channels, ponds, acquifiers, weirs, gantries, promenades and embankments, many of those remote cities have settled into dust.

Syrtis Major and the Colony are blessed with well-maintained canals and waterways that have seen the city flourish, even more so now that we have brought the designs and formulaes of our Imperial trade and commerce. Fortunes are to be made upon these routes, many have relocated from the Empire on Earth to develop the trade routes on Mars.

And dear reader, think not of Birmingham canals with their tidy towpaths. These waterways are often two, three or even four or five miles wide.

The Martian watercraft, of which there is a breath-taking variety and number, are quaint contraptions from a bygone age back on Earth. Many are sail-craft, very much akin to the ‘dhows’ and ‘junks’ you would encounter from the Gulf of Aden eastwards to the South China Seas. Some are trading boats, fishermen, luggers, haulers, and some are even family residences. Many have some form of defensive armament, ranging from ballistae and catapults to small lightweight muzzle-loading cannon. All manner of cargo are carried from city to city, and to all the settlements along the well-irrigated and planted banks between the great residences.

Often you see the mightiest Martian vessels, the nobility’s own craft, quite literally you could call these vessels floating palaces. Some of these great rafts and barges will cruise for months upon end, touring the canals on some great parade, to demonstrate the wealth and rank of their owning clans and families. Some of these are transport hulks too, great freighters gliding silent in the Martian breezes, laden with goods of all forms and descriptions. While the skies still have much of the fast traffic, unfettered by the flow and direction of canals, the waterways still carry much of the everyday common trade.

The Martians have substantial naval vessels on the waterways as well. Many follow the similar design principles found on their aerial vessels. So that wind power from sails is still used for many boats, but so too will you find that the ‘handcrank’ has been connected to short stubby paddles. Great reserves of manpower from the lower Martian classes of the City dwellers provide the muscle needed. And of course, those same crew can easily be armed with all manner of weaponry. Frighteningly fierce boarding actions can erupt between hostile opposing clans. The Martian warships are an imposing presence in sight and sound, and thankfully the accounts of blatant piracy involving these vessels are very few.

Generally the Martian watercraft are simple straightforward designs, often locally built and fashioned from the wood resources not used for aerial vessels. Some are competently designed and built, some look more patched-up and ramshackle. Many of the smaller vessels are quite old, twenty to fifty years of service being a steady average life. With a minimal amount of marine life to worry about to degrade the vessels, much of the hazards to contend with are windstorms and tidal surges.

It is still most convenient to refer to the sections and components of any vessel – our own or the Martians – in the best terminology we have employed for the last few centuries.

While more humans employ and explore the benefits of the aerial ways, the canals and waterways will continue to prove to be the crucial arteries of this planet. For it is still Nature’s way that water – the life-giving liquid for humanity and Martiankind alike – remains the single most important asset in these lands.


‘Taken from an early issue of the renowned Parhoon Gazette, this copy of Captain Mudd’s article is available from the library of the Traveller’s Club, Parhoon.’

This is a sample of some of the background material I have drafted for our Space 1889 campaigns. It means the players can collect an informative folder of details and extras, always useful for future reference. I have a lot scribbled down in notebooks that either needs scanning or transcribing. Another set of tasks for the ‘to-do‘ list.



Space 1889 Game Notes & Basic Information – Part 1


1.0 Attributes, Skills and Tasks

1.1 Attributes still range from 1 (low) to 6 (high) as in the original rules. It’s also important to remember that no Skill linked to a specific Attribute can ever exceed the Attribute score. It can however equal it.

E.g., With Strength 4, then Fisticuffs, Throwing, and any Close Combat or Trimsman skill cannot exceed 4.

1.2 Skills are always linked to a governing Attribute. No Skill exists on its own, outside of the Attribute format. For any Task test the Skill used takes precedence, with the Attribute providing just a simple bonus to the Skills dice score.

1.3 Tasks range in increasing Difficulty levels, and remain exactly as they are listed in the original Space 1889 rules. The target number for the Difficulty rating has to be equalled or exceeded in any Task test. Referee will state the Difficulty level for the Task, characters then make their attempts.

Task Difficulty Levels
Difficulty Rating Target Level
Easy Target 4
Moderate Target 8
Difficult Target 12
Formidable Target 16
Impossible Target 20


2.0 Task Attempts Method

2.1 This does differ from the original rules. Once a Referee announces what sort of Task is at hand, characters can attempt to achieve that Task with the pertinent skills, backed up by their Attributes. If the character has no relevant skill, there may be an opportunity to use the Attribute alone, depending on circumstance and the Referee’s discretion.

2.2 Once the Task Difficulty is announced, the character has a number of D6 equal to their current score in that skill.

E.g., for a Swimming Task, and the character has Swimming 2, then use 2d6.

Then the governing Attribute is included too, but only as a positive bonus modifier to apply to the total score achieved on the skill dice.

E.g., for the Swimming example above, the character has Endurance of 3 (Endurance being the governing Attribute for Swimming).

This then creates the necessary details for the Task Attempt and its Target Level. (The character’s abilities are especially useful to then enter into the Rolz online dice-resolution system.)

E.g., Continuing with the Swimming Task Attempt – it is a Moderate Task (Target = 8) – the character has Swimming 2 under Endurance 3, providing a 2d6 +3 for the Task Attempt.

2.3 Dice are rolled and the score is modified by the Attribute, to then see whether the final result means the Task Attempt has been successful or not.

E.g., the 2d6 are rolled, scoring ‘2’ and ‘3’, for a total dice score of ‘5’. With the Attribute of ‘+3’ then added on the final result is ‘8’ – the character has just passed the Swimming Task.

2.4 Any dice roll that scores all ‘1’s is an automatic failure, and the Referee has the discretion to apply additional penalties or problems. In contrast to that, if all the dice rolled score ‘6’s, then this is an overwhelming success, and the Referee may decide to reward the character, there or later on.

Link for the Rolz site:

Kill Zone Rules – a futuristic blast from the past

Nick Lund’s Kill Zone – well, to properly give it’s full title as ‘Future Warriors: Kill Zone‘ – were a nifty set of simple rules from Grenadier UK, that we used in many a multi-player game. It provided a robust, no-frills quick-play combat session where you added the chrome yourself. No imposed codex, no approved figure range – although the 28mm figures you could get (and still available today) suited perfectly. The system was so easy to work with, I used the basic framework to ‘mod’ them into other genres.

A short while back, on one of the rare weekend meet-ups I managed to make, one of the chaps decided to run a few skirmishes with them. I luckily remembered I had a few items archived in the back-ups, and printed some stuff off. It was so quick, to get back into the game-play, you were left wondering why it was we moved away from these rules. Granted, there was no fluff or detailed theme, so you had to construct that yourself, but that was never beyond my abilities, or indeed for some of the others. Perhaps we were swayed to try something else, now long forgotten about?

In an age where sometimes the more recent rules are over-produced with gorgeous ‘eye-candy’ photos and quite often, minimal amount of explanatory text or useful examples of play, the basic simplicity of the ‘Kill Zone’ content was a refreshing change. It’s probably my age – or impatience. Probably why I have enjoyed some of the recent Osprey Gaming releases, like ‘Dragon Rampant‘ and TMWWBK. Despite now being in a better domestic situation where the games I want to play can be set-up, left in situ, returned to when I want too, I still find I enjoy those games that require less set-up time and prep work. On that note, if I’m ever to return to large-scale Napoleonics, then I need to re-discover that old attraction of pre-game design and preparation.

So, Kill Zone was a fun nostalgic re-visit. I even re-discovered a VSF version of a Kill Zone QRS I one made up for Space:1889 when I got home. I’ve attached the PDF here in case anyone would appreciate seeing it.


Mostly Dice, needs more Quills

I note that while I’ve popped up a few items of writing from some of my saved material, most of the content so far has been to do with gaming. I’ve been more focussed on that admittedly, but I did find in my writing archive one story line, with several elements, that I had been wondering whether it should see the light-of-day again. I don’t consider it worthless, I was just unsure whether I should pick up on it again.

It came about from ideas I had after reading a friend’s latest acquisition, an RPG system with a lot of transhuman aspect, that sort of hooked my interest. So I set about writing some short segments, and I found it quite fascinating to set a story along those lines within a contemporary environment. A sort of ‘dark-deeds-done-today’ I suppose.

Shall I post up some of it? We shall see. Perhaps by doing that, I will get the nudge to write more, either to continue that vein, or to move on to some other ideas I have. I do need to get creative, get thinking again.

Raid on St. Nazaire

This solitaire wargame by Avalon Hill has been on my radar and ‘wants’ list for some time.


Throughout autumn, I had another overhaul of the games collection – a serious ‘purge’ of the stuff I’ve never really played to full potential, and/or are unlikely to ever change that. I find it helps me focus back on the gaming projects, but it also means I re-establish some funds to invest back into the projects I am working on. And of course, there are opportunities to do straightforward trades too – simple exchanges where the only cost is the postage.

So, ‘St Nazaire’ acquired, extra material saved too as game accessories, and a plan to put this on the tabletop at some point. And no doubt, some books to re-read as well, just to set the scene and grab some suitable inspiration to ram a dock gate with an old ex-US lend-lease destroyer.