VIRTUAL SONG OF DRUMS AND SHAKOS
One of the intrinsic characteristics of a skirmish wargame, like Song of Drums and Shakos (SDS),
is the small number of miniature models put on the table during a game. Two enemy squads, around 20 or 25 men in total,
fight in a reduced area, being close firing and hand-to-hand combats the keys to victory. Individual
models are used and the aesthetic appeal of the resulting game table is much reduced when compared to the habitual tactical or
grand-tactical games, where the long lines and the small columns make a pleasant view for themselves.
If you combine these reasons with a lack of spare time, the only answer to play a SDS lies on a virtual battlefield. This a somewhat grandiloquent description of the use of common computer tools as an aid to play wargames. The tools were few and very easy to use: a presentation graphics program instead a game table, a word processor instead pen and paper and a spreadsheet instead the dice. All those of you belonging to the 'anti-Microsoft' please forgive me, for identifying the programs with Powerpoint, Excel and Word, but feel free to use any of the open-software tools lying around. The following is a brief description of the use of these computer tools to play SDS.
The table. A basic slide can be drawn depicting all the scenic features of the Scenario in a single object used as background. The miniature models were colored circles (dark blue for French and gray for the Allied) that are moved upon the background (i.e. the table) according the ebb and flow of the game. Game significant events - shots, moves, fights, wounds, deaths and so - can be marked with standard drawing symbols. A new slide is generated in every new turn by the simple expedient of duplicating the last one. At last, you finish with a full presentation depicting all the game events.
The game report. The report is written during the game on a normal word proccesor document regularly saved (a wise method!). Some windows, with the e-rulebook, the Scenario rules and the Roster, would be always open side to side for an easy access during the virtual gaming. All the game events (dice throws, moves, combats, shots....) must be carefully recorded, giving a turn by turn report of the game. As above, when the game is finished you can write an After Action report (AAR) in a very easy way, just following the report and adding the necessary explanations and narrative.
The dice. I used the RANDBETWEEN and IF functions available in EXCEL (weel really their Spanish equivalents) to design a simple worksheet implementing D6 dice and the Doghi solo rules for activation (see below). You can use the equivalent functions in your spreadsheet program. Every die you can imagine can be simulated, including the physically impossible D3!
You can see below one slide generated during the Wethau Bridge Scenario. It shows an Austrian Jaeger instantly killing (a fortune shot!) one of the French Voltigeurs with the dead shown as black spots.
Dogui's Rules for Solo SDS
The only randomized mechanism I used in the Wethau Bridge scenario was the Doghi’s mechanism for Activation that is the hearth of the SDS motor. To activate a model in SDS (or in any of the ’Song of Blades and Heroes’ family of games) you roll one, two or three dice, at your choosing, against the model’s Quality. If at least one dice is equal or higher than the Q value of the model, this becomes activated. However, two dice failures imply that your turn immediately finishes with the initiative passing to the other side, so finding the equilibrium between activation and loss of the initiative is the crux of the game.
The Doghi’s system uses a D3 die that indicates the number of dice to be rolled in each case. The system is elegant and easy to implement in a spreadsheet.