Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rules in Review - Tricolor

Tricolor - Rules for the Napoleonic Wargame by Rick Crane, 1975.
Tricolor 1975 edition
Tricolor was the first commercial wargame rules I purchased.  Before the Tricolor purchase, my Napoleonic rules had been a mixture of ideas gleaned from the pages of Wargamer's Digest.  If my distant recollection is correct, I began purchasing Wargamer's Digest from a hobby store some 30 miles from my home in mid 1974.  Often, I would cajole my dad into stopping by the shop on a business trip to see if the latest issue was in stock. I wager he stopped on most trips.  When I could transport myself, I would make the trip to pick up the magazine and a box or two of Airfix figures.  Who knew I would still be interested in the hobby forty years later?  Certainly not my parents!  Forty years later I still get the occasional question of "do you still paint figures?"

 Anyway, it was from within the pages of Wargamer's Digest that I first discovered Tricolor.  The description of the rules in the advert sounded exactly what I was searching: rules, unit organization, and national characteristics.  All of this could be mine for the princely sum of $5.00!  I hesitated not so long before stuffing a money order for $5.45 into an envelope and posting.
Advert from Wargamer's Digest, 1975
After what seemed forever, the ruleset arrived.  Excited, I began reading cover to cover.  What's this?  Page 6 was followed by Page 11 and Page 34 was followed by Page 39.  My God, I received a defective copy with missing pages!  Rather than take the sensible route and contact the supplier, I tried to piece together the missing pieces from either the Game Tables in the back or grafting rules from ideas within Wargamer's Digest.  

National Characteristics consumed a large chunk of the rules and these provided my first taste of organizing and commanding the various Napoleonic combatants.  I recall using Tricolor as a basis for many of my early Napoleonic battles on the floor using Airfix figures. 
Sample National Characteristics
Years later, I requested the missing pages and a long-time gaming acquaintance provided the missing pages.  The final piece to the puzzle was found and in place.  By that time, of course, I had moved on to other rules but I still pull Tricolor off the bookshelf to re-read.
What about the rules, themselves?  For smaller battles, the time scale is one turn about one minute, one foot equals about 150 yards, one figure equals about 20 men, and one gun represents about eight guns.  Infantry are typically mounted six figures per stand, cavalry four figures per stand, and one gun and four crew per gun stand.  all of my plastic Airfix figures were based in this manner with light companies split into two, three figure half stands.

Movement was simultaneous and troops required orders to perform most actions.  Fire was by figure for infantry using three range tables while artillery fired with varying numbers of dice dependent upon range and gun type.  Casualties were, similarly, by figure. 

Melee was conducted by summing all of the melee points for both combatants and then dividing the larger sum by the smaller sum.  This resulted in an odds ratio which was applied to both the larger and smaller forces.  Based upon the odds, a die roll determined the result.  For each participant, losses were computed as a percentage of the smaller force engaged multiplied by a die roll.  With the base loss percentage being either 5% or 10%, a participant could lose between 5-60% of the smaller force in melee.  This could be quite bloody and decisive!  Melee results also dictated an involuntary move by the loser of either 'Retreat' or 'Disorder and Retreat' with the latter being the more severe.  

Casualties may also cause involuntary moves with the same classifications as in Melee.  Morale is checked once a unit's casualties (or remaining figures actually) reaches a threshold.  Based upon Unit Type (militia, Regular, Elite, Guard) varying casualty levels produce specific effects including 'Retreat' and 'Disorder and Retreat.'

Scattered throughout the rules are various illustrations by Greg Bell.  One such illustration shown below is one of my favorites.  Classic!
Tricolor might still produce an interesting, Old School flavored game.  I think if I planned to tackle Tricolor again, I would do away with SIMO.  It might be a fun and nostalgic experiment!
   

21 comments:

  1. Incredible to think just how much have changed with the hobby the last few decades, and how much the internet have altered everything. I started in the 80's, and can relate to your feeling when discovering the missing pages, back then you were just happy with what you could get your hands on, right? It was a real treat to see this early copy, you will have to replay these rules, just for the nostalgia of it!

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    1. Very true! The internet has changed everything. Although my figures are no longer based in the manner suggested by Tricolor, with a little modification, I should be able to make it through a game. I would enjoy giving these a test just for old times' sake.

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  2. Do you *still* paint soldiers? - one of the great questions. It ranks alongside "You've ordered more soldiers? - haven't you got enough already?". If you reply, "Ah, but these are engineers…" or "These are the command figures for the last lot I bought…" a strange thing happens: the person who asked the question doesn't hear the response, or regards it as in a strange, alien language. Could it be that the question was, in fact, rhetorical, and no answer is either expected or required?

    Strangely, different rules seem to apply to other, apparently similar questions, such as, "Why do you need more shoes?". The exchange following such a question is usually, I observe, very focused indeed. I must have a think about this.

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    1. Ah, I am not alone! All questions I have heard as have you, I bet! Playing the card of debating the marginal utility (MU) of one more battalion against one more pair of shoes is a losing trick. A play the experienced or at least battle-hardened are hesitant to make!

      The difference lies in the fact that each participant in the debate has a different marginal utility curve. As a wargamer, my MU for one more battalion is much greater than for one more pair of shoes. My wife, on the other hand, is quite opposite!


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    2. Well said. For no obvious reason, I am reminded about an old joke which concerns a philosophy professor who challenged his students to come up with questions to which the answers "Yes" or "No" were inappropriate. The best question they produced was, "So tell me, do you still beat your wife?"

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    3. Yep. No good answer for that one!

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  3. "do you still paint figures?"

    LoL! I get that too from time to time. Should be interesting trying them again.

    Christopher

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    1. We likely all get those comments, don't we?

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  4. Interesting bit of time travel!

    I'd like to get my hands on some old classics and see what they look like, 40 years on. We were big on Scotty Bowden's ACW Stars and Bars and also his Napoleonics rules (that I can no longer remember). I do recall 20 sided dice. I do miss those!

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    1. These old rules appear on eBay with regularity although some at hefty asking prices. What are you looking to pick up?

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  5. I still own lots of rules from the 70's and 80's. Including a set of "modern" wargames rules that "expired" over 25 years ago. Still fun to read and yes who can forget the 20 sided dice!

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    1. "Modern" rules that expired over 25 years ago? That is classic! World War II that wasn't.

      I enjoy re-reading the old rules and magazines. I even enjoy looking at the old ads! 20 sided die? Well, I never cared much for those. I guess I am a D6 (and sometimes D10) man.

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  6. I still have a copy of Tricolor somewhere myself as well, but never played them. Morschauer's book was what got me started but never played his rules (must rectify that some day soon). My firts rules were Jack Scruby's "Fire and Charge", but they were only used for solo play. Once I developed some local opponents, Ray Johnson's Frappe! were the basis of our games for at least 10 years.

    When I developed my interest in Wargaming, my Dad took me a trip to nearby NY City, and we visited Polk's Hobbies, FAO Schwartz, and The Soldier Shop. Some of my souvenirs of that trip are plates of Marshal Davout at Auerstadt, and the uniforms of the Gardes de Paris.

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    1. Morschauser is definitely a classic and one I enjoy reading often. I always wanted to read Frappe but never found a copy at my price point.

      Nice that your dad indulged your hobby interest. Mine had no interest in miniatures, gaming, or history, really but he did accommodate my interests.

      I say, give Morshauser a try!

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    2. My dad had no real interest in miniatures, but both he and my mom did love history. He stayed active in the US Army Corps of Engineers in the Reserves, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. He brought me back some great maps and manuals from the US Army War College when he attended, showing how the professionals did it.

      He and my Mom taught me to play Contract Bridge when I was about 7 years old, which I loved and still like, and my Dad taught me to play chess when I was about 9. He won the first game... and that was the last one he ever won against me, LOL! That was about it for games for him, though.

      I definitely owe Joe Morschauser a spin with his rules. I still have his book, and I also still love to read it. He wasn't the editor of one of the major magazines at the time (? Life) for nothing! Joe evidently lived in Scarsdale NY, at the time, and thus less than 20 minutes drive away from where I grew up!

      The small convention in Danielson, CT this November might be a good place to run a Morschauser game, or HAVOC in Shrewsbury, MA this Spring. Hmmm.

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    3. Great story!

      Morschauser had several rules in his book, "How to Play Wargames in Miniature." Which rules and period would you consider? Gridded or non-gridded?

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    4. I'd use a gridded table and rules based upon his Ancient set, which i think is the most interesting. Actually, Ross MacFarlane has done a nice adaptation of Joe';s reules for the 16th century, "Rough Wooing" (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6Vtpy0fz6kBNTkyMmNhMTktMWZmYy00NmIxLThlZDYtOWUxODY1ODA2YWI5/edit)

      and I'd probably use them for inspiration and ideas on a somewhat more modern take on the Morschauser rules..

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    5. Thanks for Ross' rules' link. I am familiar with some of Ross' games but had not seen this one. I'll give it a look. Be very interested in your interpretation for ancients too!

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  7. Always great to go back to old rules isn't it? Even if merely to extinguish those nostalgic remembrances and confine them to one's fondly remembered beginnings in the hobby! These sound like an early version of 'fast-play' with those devastating melee rules!

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    1. James you are exactly right wrt nostalgia. How our recollections about events forty years in the past are not the same as the actual events! Sometimes, you re-examine these old rules and think, "what did I find enjoyable about this?"

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    2. True, part of it is a nostalgia for the time, things and people associated with them!

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