Game Overview  

Brink of Battle is a skirmish wargame designed for use with historical miniatures. It is played on a tabletop between two or more players. Each player controls his ‘battle force’ of between 3 and 20 individual models representative of actual soldiers from a predetermined historical period.

Each model soldier represents a single member of the battle force to which he belongs. Each battle force represents a select grouping of troops put together to fight against an enemy in a small skirmish action or commando raid.

Historical Revision

The game is designed to allow players to pick a single year from history and build their forces around the real soldiers of that time and location. For example, players could choose the year 480 BC and fight with ancient Greek or Persian forces. They could pick 1525 and fight battles during the Italian Wars of the Renaissance. Or, they could choose 1943 and recreate skirmish engagements on Sicily during Operation Husky.

As you can see, the whole of human history is at your fingertips! Now you just gather the guts, grunts, and gear needed to tip the scales of conflict in your favor.

History Divided

Brink of Battle looks at history a bit differently than other historical wargames. Instead of limiting players to a single period of conflict or particular war, BoB divides human history into three broad bands or Periods. Players pick a Period, then a specific year within that Period to use as the setting for their games.

These Periods are defined by the way in which the majority of armed conflicts were resolved. In other words, in ancient times, hitting another guy with a hand held weapon worked just as often as it did in the middle ages. Since close quarters fighting settled most disputes in those times, they are grouped together in the same Period. As the use of firearms became more prevalent, the nature of warfare changed again; and so we have a Period for that type of fighting as well. This line of thinking continues to the present day period of contemporary weapons and tactics.

Period 1 – Ancient/Medieval
  Period 1 covers the span of history between somewhere around 3000 BC through 1450 AD. Most conflicts during these years are solved with weapons and armor that are very similar to each other. A Spartan soldier in full kit fighting with his spear and shield is only truly different from a medieval English spearman in his training, experience, and fighting ability. Shock assaults supported by bow or crossbow fire define this period best.
Period 2 – Early Modern

As the medieval era began to transform with the widespread use of gunpowder weapons, so does this game. After around 1450 AD black powder firearms began to change the way armies engaged on the battlefield. Though appearing earlier, the prevalence of black powder weapons truly made an impact toward the latter half of the century. Black powder weapons dominated warfare for the next 400 years with nominal development until the advent of smokeless powder and widespread use of metallic cartridges in the latter half of the 1800’s.

As a result, Period 2 is called the Early Modern period and goes from 1450 to 1880 AD.

Period 3 – Modern

The third and final historical era picks up with the widespread use of smokeless gunpowder and metallic cartridge ammunition. This is Period 3, the Modern period.

With the advent of these changes to firearms, the very nature of warfare accelerated dramatically. This period sees the development of serious firepower and economy of force.

Period 3 starts in 1880 and goes through to the present day.

The Game Turn

Brink of Battle attempts to capture the chaotic nature of small skirmish battles. In doing so, it uses a game system of alternating actions between opponents. It is easy to learn, yet difficult to master because no two games will pose the same tactical and strategic challenges.

Unlike many wargames with alternating turns, where one player does all of his movement and combat, then the next player does the same, BoB engages both players at every step of the action.

The Turn Sequence

In BoB each ‘Turn’ of the game will encompass certain Phases that help keep the game going in an orderly fashion. Both players participate in each Phase, but at different times.

The three Phases in order of sequence are SitRep, Orders, and Action. Both players work through each phase completely before moving on to the next. Once all three phases have been completed, the Turn ends and another Turn will begin. The players then repeat the process until a clear winner has been determined.

As the game progresses, players will engage each others’ models in combat. Casualties will occur and eventually, one or both players will need to check each Turn to see if their forces withdraw from the field handing victory to the other player, or if they both leave the field resulting in a draw.

The Phases of a Turn

It is important to understand the basics of each Phase and what goes on during that point of each Turn.

The SitRep Phase (short for Situation Report) is the first phase of the Turn. The SitRep is used to start the Turn and determine the effects of certain game elements such as the movement of troops that are fleeing the table top, or smoke marker removal. It is also when a player must test to see if his force loses a battle when the casualties pile too high, and when all soldiers recover from light injuries. Once the SitRep is completed, players move to the Orders Phase.

The Orders Phase is where the players generate their Tactical Pools and order Actions to their models. It is also where they make their Strategy Check to determine which player has the Edge and which the Break. These will be described in greater detail later.

Finally, the Action Phase is the last phase of the Turn. In the Action Phase players alternate removing Action tokens from their models and executing various movement or combat maneuvers as they choose. Once all Actions have been executed this Phase ends, and the Turn ends with it as well.

Players then begin a new Turn starting with the SitRep Phase. This continues until someone fails their Rout Check and the game ends.

  Designer's Commentary  
  I’ll be honest; I’m not a fan of ‘forwards’ or ‘prefaces’. So, if you don’t read this I’ll certainly understand. But, if you do, I want to give you some insight to help you better understand the why’s and wherefore’s of this body of work.
In the Beginning...

Like most authors of new rules sets, I was unsatisfied at the time this project started six years ago. Our First Born Gaming group in Reno was playing a campaign system I’d written for Operation Husky, during WW2.

My 15mm Fallschirmjager were dying on the vine it seemed, and I had an itch to play them in 28mm instead. My thinking was that I would do better with small, man-to-man level skirmishes than I was doing at the Company level we were playing.

I made a comment to my friend, John Douglass, that I’d like to play a game like that, and asked if he knew of any decent rules for that level and period. He didn’t. But then he told me that I had the skills to write those rules, and that I should. When I mentioned this conversation to Charles, he added a supportive, “Well, duh!” Always supportive that Chas...

Money Spent, Time Wasted

Before committing my ideas to paper, I decided to search the market for a sufficient set of rules that would let us play the games we wanted. Sixty some dollars and a couple of months later, I found historical ‘skirmish’ rules were of two overall types: either too loose and vague, or way too pedantic and unplayable. Not only that, I didn’t find any that dealt with individual models working together but without the exacting cohesion of ‘units’.

Some were bogged down with lists of modifiers while others were nigh unreadable. It was time to write my own take on the subject.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

When I realized that my system would also work for other eras, I began to tread on dangerous ground. Many comments from gamers on various forums indicated a type of closed mindedness to the concept that conflicts in different eras could be represented by a single game system without losing the ‘feel’ of that period’s brand of fighting.

Complaints that previous attempts by other authors failed to deliver enough granularity for their favorite period or conflict were rampant. Other comments were akin to ‘best of luck to you, if you don’t get eaten by the critics’.

So with that in mind I set out to do three things. You will have to be the judge of how close I came to these objectives.

Playable Games Get Played

I’ve always held that no matter how historically accurate a game system is, if it isn’t playable it’s of little use as a game. Too often with historical rules, the author will lean heavily on the ‘reality’ and not enough on the ‘playability’. I discovered this in my quest for that balance. It is this balance of ‘playable realism’ that Brink of Battle strives to deliver.

You won’t find that this game counts bullets and biscuits. Nor will it engage in fruitless historical debates over details that don’t add to the enjoyment of miniatures wargaming. Those arguments are best had off the tabletop and with sufficient amounts of high quality bourbon.

Instead, Brink of Battle puts the onus of historical accuracy on the players. Each player will have his interpretation of the ‘facts’ of the historical troops he’s trying to represent. No army lists to dictate to players how they are supposed to build their forces. There is room here for enough individuality and interpretation of troops that each player should find a satisfactory representation of what he thinks those troops would be like.

At the same time, the rules give you the ability to represent historical forces with enough granularity that it keeps from becoming generic or bland.

Dynamic Tension

My theory is that dynamic tension is at the heart of every exciting wargame. Without this element, many games turn out more like simulations and leave the players with a lackluster result.

Two aspects of Brink of Battle are designed to ramp up the dynamic tension. The first is alternating actions. Back in early 2006 when development started, this was not as common a game mechanic as it is now, six years later. This not only keeps both players involved in the game, but it also creates new tactical opportunities and decisions with each action.

The second aspect is the ability to interrupt an action and allow the opposing player to throw a wrench in the works. This changes the tempo of play which can crank up the tension.

Intuitive Elegance

I’m not a fan of book keeping; especially during my free time. With that in mind, these rules are written with clarity in mind. This clarity prevents ambiguous abuse at the hands of less sporting fellows, and helps the reader adapt to some concepts of play that may be new to them.

Modifiers are simple, and bean counting is kept at a minimum. This shifts the emphasis of play over to strategic decision making and the fateful result of the dice, rather than bogging play down with endless reference to charts and tables.

Sharp End of the Spear
  It may be true that no plan survives contact with the enemy. It could also be said that no rules set survives contact with its players. Only time will tell if this grand experiment has accomplished the three aforementioned objectives. Thanks for playing.  
Noch Weiter!

Robert A. Faust
February 2012