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Twilight of the Sun King

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TITLE: Twilight of the Sun-King: Fast play rules for the Marlburian period

AUTHOR: Andrew Coleby & Steven Thomas.

PUBLISHER: The Pike and Shot Society http://www.pikeandshotsociety.org/ 

PUBLICATION DATE: 2008

WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:  Twilight of the Sun King Yahoo group. This is not an official support site though one of the designers has joined the list.

PRICE in 2010: 10 USD or 2 GBP

REVIEWED BY: Vincent Tsao, who is not associated with the Pike and Shot Society or the authors

PERIOD COVERED: approximately 1680 – 1721.

THE BOOK: It is a small pamphlet, A4 folded in half. The cover is heavy paper with a color print of the battle of Denain on the cover and a portrait of Eugene of Savoy on the back. The title page has a less successfully reproduced black and white illustration of a battle. The rules run 6 pages. They have been printed in the wrong sequence though it is not hard to figure the correct sequence. For the lazy, the order is title, verso, 4, 2, 3, 1, 5 and 6.

SCOPE: Fight battles in a couple hours with an army on each side. Individual units are infantry or cavalry brigades and artillery batteries.

ARMY SIZE: We have been playing with 15-30 brigades per side. Blenheim will require about 40 per side. The rules will work with any scale, though larger figures may look silly when musket range is around 1 inch. The designers play with 12mm figures. I’ve used 15mm and am considering doing this period in 10mm. The rules are independent of figure scale since figures are not counted or removed.

BASE UNIT: Brigades of two elements (stands). Artillery batteries should have two elements – one of guns, another of limber and teams. We don’t have limbers and are using 4 stands per infantry or cavalry brigade (no rebasing) and it works fine.

GAME SCALES:

1. Ground scale (1cm = 100 paces or 250 feet, 1 mile = ~8.4 inches)

2. Time scale (1 turn = 15 minutes)

3. Figure/Base Ratio (1 brigade = 2,000 infantry or 1,000 cavalry or 8 guns)

4. Recommended Figure size (Probably 15mm and smaller – this may be THE rules for 2mm)

5. Table Size: none listed. I get good games on 4 X 6 feet. Medium battles could fit on smaller.

6. Game Length: Estimated: 90 minutes to 3 hours.

BASING SIZES:

The suggested size is 40mm X 20mm, the same size as DBR. Hmm, wonder what they played before designing these rules… Artillery is deployed with the short end facing the enemy. We used four 1” wide stands per brigade with artillery on a single 1” wide stand and changed the ground scale slightly to 1” = 200 paces, 1 mile = ~12”.

TURN SEQUENCE:

IGO-UGO. Determine who goes first and then alternate play for the rest of the game. Each player must take any required morale checks and then gets to move units.

GAME MECHANICS:

There are only two calculations in the game. The first is morale. Firing, melee, everything else is all subsumed in this single calculation. Any unit under fire or in melee must check morale by rolling a pair of average dice. There is a list of 15 modifiers. If the modified score is 7 or greater, the unit passes. If a unit fails, it is marked as having failed. We use casualty figures. Infantry units rout and are removed from the game after three failures, other units after 2 failures.

Once you have finished taking required morale tests, you may move. Units may move straight forward. Anything more complicated – including closing with the enemy – requires passing an action test by rolling a six sided die. This test can be modified by a good commander in contact with the unit. This is a simple and effective command & control mechanism. You can never be sure anything but a really simple plan will work. It seems at least one unit per game takes an extended break for 4 or 5 turns.

Officers may be rated as -1, 0 or +1. Only the latter have any effect on play. There are no command radii. Better generals may modify morale and action tests. Otherwise they are window dressing. We have added house rules to give them a little more to do. There are three grades of unit: raw, average and elite. The first gets a negative modifier on morale tests; the last gets a plus modifier. These grades have no effect on action tests.

Once combat is joined, you often dread the coming of your turn. If you manage to survive your morale tests, you then try to move existing units to cause the enemy to take morale tests on their turn. Many front line units get locked into fights. This can mean marking time with reserves while waiting for one side or the other to give way. If you like to adjust units all during the game you may find this frustrating. I like this aspect and feel it is closer to what went on than the constant fidgeting I often see in games.

Since morale tests are done with two average dice, plus or minus modifiers have a big effect on the game. In many musket period games units are given bonuses for having rear support. In these rules you get a minus for not having it. Fighting with a minus 1 is something to be avoided. As a result, both sides support their front lines and games look like period prints. 

An army is liable to quit the field once half of the units in that army have routed. On the turn this happens and every turn after that another brigade routs, the army rolls a six sided die and has a 50/50 chance of running. The rules say to do this at the end of the turn. We do it right after the morale test so that no one wastes time moving troops to find the army has broken. 

ARMY LISTS/SCENARIOS:

None, nada, zip. I have been scouring the web and converting scenarios for other rules. Basically, divide the number of infantry present by 2,000 for infantry brigades. Divide the cavalry by 1,000. Divide the guns by 8 or 10 or whatever feels right. But you are on your own. You will have to do some research. Perhaps they might consider an expanded second edition…

This is not a game site but I recommend it for WSS data http://www.spanishsuccession.nl/

REVIEWER’S COMMENTS:

This is not one of the glossy, eye-candy, coffee-table set of rules that are now popular. The booklet is printed with pages out of order, some rules could use clearer explanation and perhaps some examples would help. On the other hand, they are mighty cheap.

Once you get past this the rules produce a simple, fast game with period flavor. If you like more complex, granular rules stay far, far away from these. If you want a game that has a feel for the period and gives decisive results in a couple hours, give these a test drive.

PLAYER’S COMMENTS:

When we first started playing we had some problems interpreting the rules. There is such a thing as too much brevity. But a couple emails to the Pike and Shot Society cleared these up and we have been enjoying games since. We banned one formation (double line) mainly because we like the look of brigades supported by other brigades. We find the rules give good games that end clearly in 90-140 minutes. I suspect a game of Blenheim (coming soon) might take 3 hours or so to play. I’ve not had the hangover from doing too many calculations that sometimes follow other games. It’s a good, fun set of grand tactical rules.

We are currently considering modifying these for Seven Years War (and other periods). It shouldn’t be too tough. The rules are simple enough that very small changes should do.

For another discussion please see this thread on TMP.

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