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Wargame system analysis

This is the basis for the system analysis documents of the Games Nexus.

You can find the definitions of the phrases I use in the analysis documents for the wargame systems.

Players of the game The player - Player skills required - Number of players - Powers - Unit abilities - Choosing units - Deployment
Playing area Playing area needed - Playing area variety - Playing area size - Playing area openness - Playing area features - Ground scale - Heights
Playing pieces Basic unit - Playing pieces represent - Playing piece ratio - Playing piece type - Unit detail - Other pieces
Play styles Abstractness - Cooperativeness - Immersion
Rule system Randomness - Random effects - Randomness distribution - Risk management - Resource management
Turn structure  - Victory conditions


* * *

Players of the game

The player

Commander of the force: The player plays the commander of the force. He gives commands, and if the troops can hear and understand him, they try to do what they think is the best way to obey the command.

If the system has Morale rules, the player is most likely the Commander of the force.

Omniscient: Basically an abstract player. The player has command over every element of his army. They try to do as the player wishes. The player can see the playing field.

Player skills required

Dexterity: Moving pieces. Sometimes rules require to only touch pieces you intend to use.

Guessing distances: Some games require you to guess distances on the playing area. For example, for artillery, you tell a distance, then you measure it and see whether it hits.

Mathematics: Some games require you to calculate probabilities or add / subtract numbers.

Planning: You have to plan ahead your actions and try to predict the actions of your opponent, as you have control over the outcome.

In some games you only need to react, and don't have control over the events.

Number of players

1: Strictly Solo games.

1+: Games that offer Solo gameplay beside playing with other players or against opponents.

2: There are rules for two opposing players. This is the default for most wargames.

2+: There is support multi-player games.

+GM: Besides the number of normal player, there is a Gamemaster that can play against the other players or just control the random elements during games.


Same: Every player get the exact same units with the same abilities. Winning the game depends on how well do you use those abilities.

Various: There are different abilities (roles) the players can choose from. There are usually force lists in these games.

Different: Similar to Various, but one set of abilities can be chosen by only one of the players. Once it's taken, other players cannot choose that.

Different rules: Same as Different, but the players are not only different in abilities, they do not even use the same rules.

  • Cthulhu Wars

Asymmetric: The abilities of the players are not balanced against each other. There can be a player who is more poweful than the other players. Winner is often resolved by playing another game with swapped roles.

  • Several chit-based historical wargame
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : The Nexus player (the Gamemaster) has unlimited forces.

Unit abilities

Same: There is only one type of unit, that is exactly the same for every force.

  • Checkers

Various: The units of the force have various abilities. This can make them more useful in different situations.

Different: Similar to Various, but every unit has its own set of abilities, there are no two of the same.

  • Kings of War (2010-2017-) - They are different because every force have additional rules.
  • Deadzone (2014-2017-) - They are different because of the current force lists. If there would be a duplicate entry in one of the lists, it would be Various.
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-)

Symmetric: Every unit has the same powers, or balanced power levels.

  • Checkers

Asymmetric: The units have different power levels. There are units that are better than other units in every situation.

Choosing units

Fixed: Every player gets a fixed set of units.

Various: Players can choose various units to create their forces. There are 4 sub-types of this.

Choosing freely: The player can choose whatever units he wishes.

  • Warhammer 40.000 Ed7-Ed8 (2014-2017-): There are also rules for point-based and force organisation slots methods.

Point based: The player has a number of points to spend on units.

Force organisation slots: The player has a chart with unit types that can be filled.

Force organisation slots with points: The player has a number of points to spend, but he has to limit his choices to fill the forge organisation slots. This means you might have to spend points on units you don't need to get units you want in your force.


Fixed: Every player deploys their units to fixed positions.

Mostly fixed: Every player deploys their units to fixed positions, with a minimal variation. The positions are fixed, but some unit types might have some options for deployment.

Players of the game - Miscellenous rules


* * *

Playing area

Playing area needed

None: There is no need for a dedicated space for the game.

Minimal: You need space for the randomizer (dice, spinner), and maybe for a sheet to record the data. Many role-playing games can be played like this.

Tabletop: You need some space to play the game - for the board, cards, playing pieces. Most board games and card games require this much space.

Large area: You need a larger space to play the game. The players move around and they might need spaces where they can talk with others privately. Most live role-playing games require this much space.

  • Diplomacy

Playing area variety

Fixed: There is a fixed gameboard, or fixed rules of setup.

Various: The players can choose from a selection of playing areas.

Variable: There are rules for setting up the playing area according to the players choices.

Playing area size

Fixed (N x N): The size of the playing area is fixed by the rules.

  • Deadzone (2014-2017-) : The basic rules are for 8x8 zones.

Various: There is a selection of fixed sized playing areas the players can choose from.

Variable: The size of the playing area can vary due to scenarios or player agreement. There are usually recommendations for optimal playing area size.

Playing area openness

Closed: The playing area is all there is - the units cannot move out of the area.

Limited: The playing area is considered a place with borders around it. Units can move out or move in only in very special circumstances.

  • Deadzone Ed2 (2016-2017-): Some scenarios allow moving in or out in special places.
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-)

Open: The playing area shows a segment of the game area. Units can move out of the playing area, or come in from the outside.

Playing area features

None: The playing area is featureless, or the features are just cosmetic and doesn't affect gameplay.

Abstract: There are some abstract features that have rules for them, but they don't correspond to real-life features.

Realistic: There are some features on the playing area that represent real-life features.

Ground scale

How does the size of the playing area relate to the playing pieces.

1:1: The terrain is in scale with the miniatures.

1:N: The terrain is in scale with itself, but it's not in scale with the miniatures.

Abstract: Although terrain is used, it is not clearly stated how does it relate to the miniatures.

None: No terrain is used, or the terrain has no scale relation to the miniatures.


None: It is not referenced in the rules, or it's irrelevant to the game.

Abstract: There is a rule for heights, but it doesn't relate to the miniatures.

Depends on model size: The heights are related to the heights of the miniatures and scenery.

Playing area - Miscellenous rules

The effect of reality: If you cannot balance your miniature on a terrain piece, without it toppling, put your miniatures on the closest place available that you can put it on legally. It can help to run games faster, instead of finding ways to balance the miniatures.

* * *

Playing pieces

Basic unit

Individual miniature: The basic unit of the game is a single miniature. They are not grouped into squads.

Group of individual miniatures: The basic unit of the game is a group of miniatures that act together. There can be also single miniatures as characters.

Miniature group coherency: There can be a limit about the maximum distance between members of the same unit.

Unit template: The rules do not care about single miniatures, the basic unit of the game is a template with fixed size. You can use movement trays with a number of miniatures to represent your units.

Playing pieces represent

Actor: The miniature represents the unit as a real actor. The size of the miniature matters. This approach clashes with abstract systems or any game with a ground scale that is not 1:1.

Location: The miniature represents the location of the unit. The size of the miniature doesn't matter, the rules cover the size of the character.

Unit type: The base of the miniature represents the area controlled by the unit. The miniature itself is to show the unit type.

Playing piece ratio

1 / 1: The playing piece represents a single actor in the game.

1 / N: The playing piece represents N number of actors in the game. Popular ratios are 1/20, 1/60, 1/100, 1/120.

Unspecified: The playing piece represents an unknown number of actors in the game, but possibly more than one.

Playing piece type

Cardboard tokens: The units are represented by cardboard pieces.

Abstract pieces: The units are represented by plastic or wooden pieces, meeples.

Miniature figures: The units are represented by miniature figures.

1:300 scale miniature figures

  • Warhammer 40.000: Epic

1:100 scale miniature figures

1:72 scale miniature figures

  • Airfix Battles

1:56 scale miniature figures

1:50 scale miniature figures

  • Batman Miniatures Game

Unit detail

Basic detail: A group of models has one set of basic statistics. If they take damage, they become casualty. Vehicles and large units might have more than one damage.

Detailed: Every model has a set of statistics. If the model takes damage, it becomes casualty. Vehicles and large units might have more than one damage.

Very detailed: Every model has a set of statistics. They can take more than one damage, and they can be healed.

Other pieces

  • Tokens: Activation markers. Health markers. Equipment markers.

Playing pieces - Miscellenous rules


* * *

Play styles


Abstract: The game gives you a set of rules you have to follow. The game can be very realistic in its limited environment, but being realistic is not the most important for abstract games. You usually don't run into situations not covered in the rules if you follow them by the letter.

Realistic approach: The game tries to create rules that gives you realistic results. If you run into situations not covered in the rules, there are usually guidelines how to solve them. If the rules go against reality, you are usually advised to go against them.


Competitive: The players compete against each other, all of them try to win the game.

Antagonistic: The players take an active role in hindering the other players.

Semi-antagonistic: Although each player tries to be the winner, they can't hinder the others directly, or don't have to do it to achieve the victory.

  • Camel Up
  • Cthulhu Wars: There are factions in the game that can be chosen for semi-antagonistic play (every faction in the base set, except Cthulhu).

Cooperative: In these games the players try to cooperate to reach a common goal. The game is played against the environment or an enemy force controlled by AI rules or a Gamemaster. The players win if they can reach their goals.

  • Zombicide
  • Zombicide: Black Plague
  • Massive Darkness
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-)

Cooperative against Gamemaster: It is a cooperative game, where a group of players compete against the player who takes the role of a Gamemaster.

  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Doom
  • Descent
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-)


Immersive: You have control over your intentions, but not on the outcome of a situation. You can play the game as if you are a leader in the real life. You give orders to your actors, and watch what happens through the game system. You have no ability to change the results. You do not have to think outside of the mind of your actors. If there are meta elements in the game, like re-rolls, they have in-universe explanation - special training, use of equipment, or magic.

Immersive playing area: There are players who can get immersed only if the playing area looks realistic. Anything that is not a 3D terrain detracts from their exprience. 2D terrain templates are good for a game, as they allow any models to stand on them, but it destroys immersion. Tokens, counters, dice all around the playing area is also distracting.

  • Afterlife (2015-2017-): Mostly immersive.
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : For the Mercenary players.

Not immersive: You have control over the will of the units and you can use them however you wish. You play the game as a player - you might have godlike abilities in the reality of the game. You might have the ability to change game results if you don't like them. Abstract games are usually not immersive. Games that need a Gamemaster to run the game are not immersive for the Gamemaster.

Immersion - Resources

Tabletop Minions: Is Immersion Actually Necessary in Wargaming?: Video about immersion - not exactly the same definition of immersion I use, but still an interesting video.

Play styles - Miscellenous rules


* * *

Rule system


Gamist players prefer games with no randomness.

None: There are no random elements in the game. Everything happens in a constant environment, and everything happens as you intend it.

Some: There are some random elements in the game. During setup, there might be some changes to the basic environment. During games there might be slight changes too.

  • Kings of War (2010-2017-)
  • Deadzone (2014-2017-)
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : The scenarios are fixed, but it's up to the Gamemaster to decide about reinforcements, and the event cards provide some randomness.

Very random: Don't expect things to work out like you planned. Almost everything changes constantly. You have to prepare your forces with this in mind, and you have adapt to the changes during the game.

Random effects

Dice: When you need a test, you roll dice. The most popular dice are d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20.

Dice type

Standard: The dice shows numbers or dots on the faces.

Kings of War (2010-2017-) : d6

Special: A dice with special symbols, created for the game.

  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : d6 dice with faces that show blank, minor success (symbol outline), major success (full symbol) and critical success (symbol with exclamation mark).

Dice rolls

Single dice: When you roll for test, you only roll one die.

Multiple dice, but a single dice for every actor: When you roll for a test, you roll only one die for every actor. You only roll more than one dice for an actor in special cases.

Multiple dice: When you roll for a test, you roll multiple dice, even if it involves only one actor.

  • Deadzone (2014-2017-)
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : Every actor has a number of dice to use for tests.

Exploding dice: If you roll the maximum on the dice, you can roll again for added effects.

Cards: When you need a test, you draw cards. Most games use special cards, some uses traditional cards.

  • Deadzone Ed1 (2014-2016) : Only in Deadzone Ed1. Deadzone Ed2 (2016-2017-) uses command dice instead of cards.
  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : Special cards, used for random events by the Gamemaster.

Spinner: When you need a test, you spin the spinner.

Randomness distribution

Linear: Any result can happen.

Uncertain: Some games have a special distribution of results, and I'm not sure where do they belong.

  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : On dice tests, specific dice faces cancel others.

Bell curve: Some results are more likely than others. For example if you roll 2 six-sided dice, and add them up, the most likely outcome is 7.

Risk management

As gamist players prefer games with no randomness, they don't like risk management. But if they have to manage it, they prefer to have resources to spend to modify results.

None: There are none or just a few random elements in the game, everything will go as intended. The randomness might give random effectiveness, but it won't change the course of your actions.

Some: You have to consider the likeliness of your actions before you take them. If you fail your test, you cannot take the action or something bad can happen.

Heavy: You have resources to spend to modify the results of random events, usually before the testing happens. If it happens after, it's usually for taking the test again.


Resource management

Resource management type

None: There are no resources in the game.

Minimal: There are very few resources to use. For example 1-2 Health points, Luck, special equipment.

  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : For the players, 4-5 Health points, Experience points, special equipment. For the Gamemaster, 1-2 Health points for each figure, reinforcement points, event cards.

Heavy: There are many resource types to use, and many counters to keep track of them.

Resource management openness

Open: If a player spends a resource, they have to do it openly, often stating it loud. If the other players ask about the resources, the player often has to show them.

  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : Open for the players when played against a Gamemaster. Open for both sides when played in solo mode.

Half-open: Although the expenditure of resources is not secret, the player don't have to state it loud or make it clear for the others what happened. The player can't hide the resources, but he often do not have to tell the others the exact numbers.

  • Mech Command RTS (2016): The players don't have time or line of sight to see each other.

Secret: Every resource movement is done secretly, hidden from the others.

  • Star Saga (2017.11.30-) : Secret for the Gamemaster, when players playe against a Gamemaster. Open for both sides when played in solo mode.

Rules of the game - Miscellenous rules

Testing the units: When a unit attacks, there is usually a test involved.

Testing the unit as a whole: There is only one test for the entire unit.

  • Kings of War (2010-2019-): Partially true. Although the units are tested as a whole, you roll multiple dice, as if you'd test the individual models.

Testing the individual models: You have to do a test for each model in the unit.

  • Kings of War (2010-2019-): Partially true. While you roll many dice, the number of dice doesn't change by the number of models in the unit.

Automatic success / failure: Some outcomes are lucky or unlucky, no matter the odds.

  • Kings of War (2010-2019-): Roll of 1 when you Attack is a miss. A roll of 1 when you try to damage is a failure.

* * *

Turn structure

Player activation sequence

Players are activated one after the other

Active players are selected randomly

Player activation

Taking turns: When a player gets a turn, he takes actions until he has to give up his turn to the next player.

Real-time: All players act at once. When they affect another player they state it so the other player can react to that.

Duration of a turn

Fixed duration: The duration of the turn is a fixed time in the reality of the game.

Variable duration: The duration of the turn is a variable time in the reality of the game, but an approximation is given.

Abstract: There is no rule about the duration.

Actions by the player

Not based on dexterity: The player is not pressured to act so fast it would need dexterity. If the player does something by accident, he can retract that move if he wishes.

Partly based on dexterity: Even if there is a time limit, there are usually rules to have a chance to compensate for errors. (Like in chess if you touch a figure by mistake, you have to move with it, but your move is not final until you take your hands off the figure.)

Dexterity based: The player has to play fast, needs good hand-eye coordination. These games are not suited for players with disabilities.

  • Mech Command RTS (2016) during action phase

Taking actions

Taking action with the whole force: The active player takes actions with his whole army, before he gives the turn to the next player.

Taking action with a single unit: The active player takes an action with a single unit.

  • Chess
  • Deadzone (2014-2017-) : Taking action with a single miniature.

Taking actions with single units, as long as he is succesful: The actove player takes an action with a single unit. If it is succesful in its action, he can take action with another unit. If an action is not succesful, he has to give the turn to the next player.

Crossfire (1996)

Time for actions

No time limit: The player can take his time to complete his actions.

Fixed time gameplay: The active player must measure the time he spent. Every player has a fixed time to use in the whole game. After their time runs out, they cannot act.

Fixed time turns: The active player can only spend a fixed amount of time to take actions. If the time runs out, he has to cancel what he is doing and give the turn to the next player. Some rules allow the player to finish the action he has already started.

Unit activation

You can use any one unit in a game turn

You can use every unit once in a game turn

You can only use a selected amount of units in a game turn


The number of units generates the number of time you to activate any unit (even the same one multiple times)

  • Infinity (2005-2019-) for irregular units

Available actions

You can use any actions available to the unit

You can only use selected actions for the unit

Victory conditions

Removing every enemy piece.

Removing every enemy piece, except for the leader.

Forcing the enemy in a position that it cannot take any actions. Or in a position that it can only repeat the same action forever.

Getting in a position that enemy leader can be attacked, but that king cannot attack back.

Playing time:

30-90 min, depending on the size of the game, 

Turn structure - Miscellenous rules

* * *


Fixed setup: Every player has a fixed way to set up his pieces.

Starting place: Every player has his pieces on the same space.

  • Monopoly

Same: Every player has to set up his pieces in the same way.

  • Checkers
  • Ludo

Various: There are rules for each player how to set up his pieces in a different way.

Similar: The rules allow some sort of choice during setup, but it doesn't make a real difference.

Variable setup: The rules allow the players to set up his pieces in many ways.

Different: Two players cannot set up their pieces on the same place.

  • Catan

Random setup: The player chooses his units, and they are set up using the random setup rules.


* * *

Measuring distances:

You don't need to measure distances: The distance of pieces doesn't matter in the game.

You can count the distance: The game uses a grid. You can count the distance between models without measuring.

You can measure distances any time: You can get your ruler and measure any distances any time during the game. In some game systems you need to decide about actions before you are allowed to measure distances, so you need very good guessing abilities in those. Pre-measuring takes away from the reality of a game if you play army commanders who don't know the exact distances. For abstract games it's a fitting rule and also speeds up play.

You can only measure distances after you declared an action: You can only measure a distance after you've activated an action. Before you decide, you need to guess the distance. If the target is not in range, you've wasted your action.


Point-to-point movement: Every location shows the other locations that can be reached. Most of the time you can come up with an equivalent irregular movement grid to provide the same possibilities.

  •  Risk - Ocean movement (1959-2017-)

Movement grid (square / hexagonal): There is a grid to be used for movement. Square has a problem with diagonal movement.

The exact location of the miniature in the grid doesn't matter:

  • Chess
  • Space Crusade
  • Space Hulk

The exact location of the miniature in the grid matters:

Area based movement: Irregular movement grid used for movement.

  • Risk - land movement (1959-2017-)
  • Axis & Allies (1981)
  • Cthulhu Wars

Scenery / terrain feature / landmark based movement: Area (irregular grid) based movement, where the area borders are defined by terrain features.

The exact location of the miniature matters:

  • Crossfire (1996)
  • Alkony Wargame

Set distances: The playing area is open, the miniatures can move anywhere. The exact location of the miniature matters.


Line of Sight:

Drawing a line between models: There is a Line of Sight (LoS) if you can draw a line between the two models.

Viewing model:

LoS template: Targeting template is used, showing an area that can be used as a viewing point. It's usually a cube or a cone, based on the stand of miniature.

  • Alkony Wargame

LoS from eye: The LoS is drawn from the eye of the viewing model.

LoS from figure: The LoS is drawn from any part of the viewing model.

LoS from miniature: The LoS is drawn from any part of the viewing model, including the base of the model.

Target model:

Target template: Target template is used, showing what parts of the target type can be seen. You put the template in place of the miniature. This way the miniature can be in any pose, the template will handle the targeting.

  • Infinity
  • Alkony Wargame

Target body: Only the main body of the target model counts, not the cloak or accessories. The pose of the model matters in the game.

Target figure: Every part of the target model counts. The pose of the model matters in the game.

Target miniature: Every part of the target model counts, including the base of the model. The pose of the model and the base itself matters in the game.

Line of Sight blocking:

Friendly models in the viewer's unit do not block line of sight.


Types of cover

Cover pieces: If there is a scenery piece that can be used as cover, it is considered to give cover.

Cover area: Terrain features give cover in their area.

Cover piece determines cover area: If there is a cover piece in the area, the whole area is considered to give cover.

Who gets the effect of cover

Individual models who are in the area of cover

Units that have every model in the area of cover

Charging units cannot benefit from the effect of cover

Effect of cover

Adds modifier to defense or armour



* * *



Effect allocation

When the target is affected by the attack, it might be allocated to separate models.

Allocating player: Who is allowed to choose the affected models

The attacking player

The defending player

Effect allocation priorities: Who gets the effects first from the eligible targets.

First the already damaged multi-wound models.

First the already damaged multi-wound models. Then the ones not in cover.


Effect allocation priorities for melee attacks: Who gets the effects first in close combat.

Anyone in the target unit

First the ones in the rear row

First the ones in base contact


Effect allocation priorities for ranged attacks: Who gets the effects first when they get shot.

Anyone in the target unit

First the ones in the rear row

First the ones in line of sight

* * *



There are Morale tests to see if a unit is brave enough to attack or to continue fighting

 Morale is part of combat, the system doesn't distinguish physical damage and routing

  • Crossfire

Morale tests

Roll for the highest Morale value in the unit

When do you test for Morale

When you unit takes casualties

When nearby unit is destroyed

When nearby unit is broken

When a friendly unit flees through the unit

At the end of the turn, if your unit has casualties

Missed Morale tests

Missed Morale tests add casualties to the unit


* * *


Combat: The game represents armies fighting each other.

Language dependency:

Rulebook, army lists, cards






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