Mortem et Gloriam

Colour Command and Combat System

Introduction … Chance Gadgets in Games

Games have been around for centuries. The two classic game gadgets are the dice and cards. Enter any casino and you will see plenty of these in action. Despite hundreds of years of game development there have been relatively few developments in the “chance” gadgets used these two remain our favourites –for good reason.

Back in the 1970s Gary Gygax invented Dungeons & Dragons and for that he pioneered multi-sided dice set – the set of d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20 expanded the cube to all sorts of other shapes. This gave gamers some new tools to vary probabilities from the 1 in 6 version of dice. Twister has a spinner, as do several basic board games. These allow a wider range of results than a d6 and are fun. Games Workshop has special dice in Bloodbowl and Warlords Games created a special dice system for their Bolt Action set. I am sure there are dozens out there I don’t even know about.

The CCC System

It has been great to see so many people enjoying Mortem et Gloriam, my first solo set of rules. It does seem to have captured the feel of 100s of different ancient armies rather well. Something I am proud of as I have never had Romans, Huns, Byzantines, Mongols, Samurai and Aztecs all feel correct in my past gaming (and I have been playing since 4th edition!).

The underlying “invention” that drives the game is a colour system: the Colour Command and Combat System or CCC for short. The Plastic Soldier Company noticed the capacity of the system to power range of wargames and we have set up a partnership to publish my rules and to create figure sets to go with them.

Colours are easy to use quickly for most of us and it’s attractive as well. I am finding it to be very adaptable to all periods of wargaming. Alasdair Harley has adapted it well to the Pike & Shotte era, and I already have WW2, Napoleonics, Sci-Fi, Fantasy working well in both battle game and skirmish form.

I like a lot of periods personally and like to move between them but holding 6+ very different sets of rules in my head is beyond me. The possibility to switch periods easily without having to learn a new rule set allows me to move periods with ease.

The system also takes a lot of brain strain out of working out the results of combats and shooting. It lets you focus your mind mainly on the job of being a commander. I want to spend most of my enjoying making decisions not working out outcomes. This what the CCC system does – it takes he brain-strain out of outcomes and focuses you on your decisions.

What is the CCC system has two parts:

  • A colour based command system to control your troops.
  • A colour based dice system to give you combat results.

Both use the same five colours: Black, White, Green, Yellow, Red. BLACK is always the worst; RED the best. Here is a bit more about why it works across all periods.

The CCC Command System

For every period, you have a set of actions from easy to difficult: say, walk directly ahead or change formation. Easy actions need BLACK; difficult ones RED. Then across the top of the action table you have different troops grades in terms of maneuver skill. In ancients, we have four: 1) Skirmisher, 2) Drilled, 3) Formed, 4) Tribal. A set move is harder for Tribal than Drilled. That’s it really. The concept works for every period, it is just that the actions and troop types are different. In WW2 we have five training grades of T1 to T5, highly trained German SS are T2, poorly trained USSR infantry are T4.

Then on the right you have what is added to that concept to give the right command & control feel for each period. It is these additions that create the unique feel of each period. Taking ancients and WW2 as examples:

  • Ancients is a lot about making moves of multiple units together in long battle lines and using generals personally in command of troops. The two additions of block moves and colour upgrades for generals who are with a move creates “ancient feel”.
  • WW2 has repeat activations by units and keeping initiative to do repeat moves and co- ordinate troops. This gives the feel of good units doing a lot per turn (which is actually what differed between the well trained elite and the raw recruit) and of better-commanded armies being able to coordinate combined arms (again a very real possibility for the late war allies but not for early war USSR). WW2 feel.

Picking the correct additions makes Ancients, Renaissance, Napoleonics, 7yrs War, Colonials, ACW, WW2 and mass skirmish games all have their own unique period feel. But the common core means that if you know one, then it is quite instinctive and easy to pick up another.

Driving the Command System Different Tools

Many people have thought that the cards were the key part of Mortem et Gloriam but that is a misunderstanding of the system. Anything can be used that will give you the mix of colours for command. We have two official versions: Cards in a deck, and Discs in a bag. Even after 3 years of play different players prefer different tools, and players are welcome to create their own (a friend of mine uses coloured cubes).

Cards are often best for beginners when you want to be looking at your colours all the time but once you are an experienced player, and need to look less often, the discs look nicer and are easily stacked with a general on the tabletop. Players can choose whichever gadget they prefer to drive the command system.

With PSCs assistance we are creating versions of these that blend into the tabletop to keep games looking magnificent. The card packs and disc sets will have their rears printed to match exactly our double-sided BattleMats – green plains on one side and brown scrub/desert on the other. This allows them to vanish on the tabletop, minimize any visual clutter and maximise the viewing spectacle of figures and terrain.

The CCC Combat System

We have the same five colours for combat (whether shooting or melee) but these are the skull dice and as you get into better and better situations you will roll better dice.

The dice have 4 symbols on them in a different mix on each colour: Skull, Cross (swords/arrows), S and blank. The Cross is damage and the Skull is serious damage. The S is for special effects for each period.

  • In ancient shooting it gives slowing effects (which gives the rules a previously missing effect of being showered in arrows); in ancient combat it gives shatters (nasty charges punching holes) and shove (phalanxes pushing).
  • In WW2 it gives suppression forcing troops to keep their heads down. It’s a simple “read the result” system. Once you know which dice to roll, this system takes a lot of brain strain out of wargaming as you read the result straight off the dice and move on. No need to work out whether you are double someone else’s score, or higher, or whether a specific condition applies, or add up a number of dice, or figure out how many 4+. The diagram below gives the symbol mix for the dice. Imagine rolling 6 black dice against 6 red dice and the effects …. in MeG 6 Black dice would be one damage marker and slowed by 1 base width; 6 x Red would be 3 bases removed, one damage marker and slowed by 3 base widths!!

Next steps

For every historical gamer there are around 10 sci-fi gamers (thanks to the success of Games Workshop). For every wargamer there about 10 modelers who are interested in military history. Beyond those are the readers of military history, fantasy and sci-fi potentially inspired to games from them. And the board game community.

My personal aim is to use the system to try to grow our hobby as much as possible. Historical wargaming is a small niche hobby, the competition circuit thereof a smaller niche still.

A step towards this is a game called Invasion Earth which is designed to give a beginner an easy and fun one-hour experience with a sci-fi/Victorian setting – thereby bridging sci-fi and historical.

It is freeware on website and all the figures and dice you need are there for £30. My 10 and 8-year-old daughters and my wife have started to play so I’ve added 3 wargamers to the population already!! Give it a try and see if you can get a non-wargamer playing.

Simon Hall