Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Twilight of the Sun King and some thoughts on generic armies

Promising but not perfect
The Twilight of the Sun King (TotSK) rules cover the period from 1680-1721. They were originally written by Steven Thomas of Balagan fame but authorship subsequently passed through other hands. I'd been meaning to try them for ages but never got round to it. So I already had an interest when the new, third, version was published by the Pike & Shot Society.

It's a high level game, there are historical scenarios, and, uniquely, it combines different forms of combat into a single unit reaction test. The game has, I believe, great promise but I'm not intending to play it just yet.

My Marlburian armies are currently 'between basing' and my 1690 armies turned out to be too small. For grand tactical games with historical scenarios, this has really concentrated my mind on the desirability of having reasonably generic armies that can be used for a range of historical battles (and rules). Time to look again at 2mm, possibly on 25mm square bases?

The other stop factor is the large number of problems with the rules. The TotSK Yahoo Group is awash with queries and an errata (currently 5 pages long!) is in preparation. Sadly this new version of the rules was obviously not adequately tested or proofed. On the plus side, however, there is a lot of interest in and support for the rules from people who want them to work.

There are two lessons for rule-writers here: get them tested by different groups of people who approach the rules in isolation and get them proof-read by someone like me!


  1. Rule writers need to frequently edit from page 1 right through to the last page in a single sitting to make sure than any rule change or tweak does not cause a contradiction or ambiguity anywhere else.

    have you seen the Perry's new travel game, due out later this month. A small battlefield on a square grid (1" I think), with 8mm figures and suitable terrain etc. It may be worth just holding back and seeing whether a variation of that might be better for your 'generic' forces et.

    here is the link for more info ...


    1. Thanks for the link. I think they are on to something there. Looks a bit like Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame. All indicative of a convergence of board and miniature gaming.

  2. There is a belief that all games should hold to an ideal that if an issue with the rules arises during play it can be settled by polite discourse, a little compromise and a civil agreement. This may be true, but I believe that every set of rules should be written *assuming* that they will be played by twoo people who have never met each other before and will not agree on anything unless it's unambiguously written down in black and white. This may not be true in reality, but it should be the standard against which all games should be developed.

    I find paying money for games which assume I'm going to fill in important areas of game-play myself to be vexing.

    'Twilight' is worth persevering with, however.

    1. I should add that I'm less concerned if a set of rules is incomplete, but is available as a PDF which is updated by the author and which I can then just download again as part of my purchase price. I hold something I have to buy as a physical printed thing (and have posted from the other side of the planet at the cost of a kidney) to higher standards.

    2. It's disappointing. Lots of manuscript amendments could get chaotic. Whole replacement pages would be nice. But I remain interested enough to persevere, time permitting.

  3. As someone involved in the development of these rules I thought I would comment.

    I think that you need a little context here. The current version of the rules have been used by around 10 groups that we know about, not including the 3 that did the playtesting. As far as we can tell they enjoyed the game and they had no problems with the rules. One or two noted a few typos but they seem to have understood the intention of the rules.

    The seeming exception to the above was one group who are behind many of the 'errata'. This group played and enjoyed the game using the rules as written and, as far as we can tell, as they were intended to be played. They have since played the game a few more times, they continue to like and support the rules.

    Very few (to be honest I can't actually think of any) of the rules were changed because of this. So the 'errata' is mainly (all?) a clarification of intention to make the intent that is in there clearer.

    The group rightly brought these up to help make things clearer but some of the changes relate to things dating back to the original rules. So they have been clear enough for successful use over 25 years or so with various groups, including ours when we started playing the earlier versions of the rules. Others are typos that have slipped past the 5 proof readers of this edition and the unknown number of users and other proof readers of the 2 previous versions.

    So in short don't be put off by the 'errata' it is likely that you will not need it. Finally on your shortage of figures I will point out that the system is totally flexible. A cavalry/infantry unit is 2 bases but a base can be 1 figure or 1000 figures - that is up to you. So I would just use whatever you have and try the game. From other games you like I think you will like this as well. Also the next thing we plan is converting the set for the TYW, something else you seem interested in.

    1. Hi and thanks very much for your detailed response and explanation. I note the very strong support these rules enjoy and look forward to trying them.