So I discovered a new wargame over the weekend, one that I actually wanted to write about on Monday but forgot completely. I've yet to actually give it a try (I get a lot of resistance from certain members of my IRC crowd whenever I suggest using Maptool to play wargames), but from reading over the rules, I'm excited as excited can be.
The game is Knights and Knaves, a free game for use with any kinds of miniatures designed by Historic Enterprises Online, which is a company owned by two fellas that make these rules. Insanely, for whatever reason, the K&K rules appear to be much more historically accurate, detailed, and clever than anything I've ever seen sold for money. These guys have a real understanding of the period and they bring that to bear in a great way.
The rules are made for skirmish play, but I suspect with a little tweaking they could also be used for grand armies and Crusading companies. They are historical, so they don't have things like orcs or magic, but again I think this could be altered by a clever fellow. Harkening back to what I said about Do-It-Yourself gaming, this is the apotheosis of that design. This was home-made and appears to be home promoted. They don't ask for a single dime (if I was working, I'd send them some money just on principle) and yet their product is so much better than what's out there that I'm blown away. Field of Glory, Warhammer Fantasy, none of them hit it quite on the head like K&K does.
If anyone does give this a download and play, let me know about it. I'm interested to hear game reports about how well the system works. I'm definitely going to be altering it for skirmish level fights in my AD&D games. I can already see some solutions to various problems; armor determines "stamina" which is a figure's hp, essentially: extra hit dice could add stamina levels to figures at a standard rate, etc. Many spells can be imported wholesale with minimal alteration.
Intensely exciting to me is the notion of the command radius. In K&K, players cannot control their units directly unless they are within shouting distance. This is a Clausewitzian notion that pleases every bone in my body; you can give your units standing orders (hold until you see enemies emerge from the village) and special orders triggered by signals (hold until I blow the trumpet). The power of this mechanic cannot be overstated, since it forces you to consider where you want to position your troops much more carefully. You are no longer simply moving men the way you want, but attempting to control something that is inherently not under your control, minimizing risk and maximizing usefulness by position.