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Convenient Wargaming

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One of my primary goals right now is to design an easily accesible game. A game is accesible because of the following things:

A) Price
B) Difficulty to learn
C) Portability

I had a crazy idea one day that it might be possible to make a simple strategic battle game using a buck and some change. I also allowed myself a plaid tablecloth. Since this game could be played impromptu, it passed the third requirement. The price was not only cheap - it was essentially free. Most everyone has pocket change lying around. If they don't, it's easy to borrow some from somebody else anyway. The last requirement was a shallow learning curve. This was a gimme - it would be painful to write anything too complicated given the simplicity of the bits and board used.

I began toying around with ideas. I created the simplest rules set I could think of - but still leaving some room for customization by the players. This game is not meant to be abstract, as this tends to turn away the targeted wargaming crowd. Ideally, this would be a fun time killer that could also be used to introduce "n00bs" to wargaming.

Below are my notes so far - clearly not too much. Please note that this is a work in progress and has yet to be tested. There is more but--(see note at bottom). Also, the unit values may seem overly simplified, but those were the values that were the most logical for gameplay:

I am posting this to see if others have had similar ideas, would like to collaborate, or simply have some comments (or flames! Those are usefull too) for me. If this is absolutely stupid, please let me know - I don't want to waste any more time on it ; )

Summary: Rules for a simple and quick and cheap wargame using only coins

1.0 Introduction
2.0 Setting Up
3.0 Basics
4.0 Playing

1.0 Introduction
1.1 What is it and why?
[Insert game name] is an attempt to make a simple, quick, and extremely cheap wargame. Many games require players to buy costly pieces and playing fields. I tried to break the mold and make a game playable by virtually anybody. [Insert game name] can be played anywhere with only pocket change and a large paper napkin.

2.0 Setting Up
2.1 Army Setup
Before the game can begin, both players must agree upon a cost for their armies. For beginners, a good army cost might be 50 cents. The players may then choose any combination of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that total that amount or less. The one restriction is that the army mustn’t be more than ¼ mines rounded up.
2.2 Board Creation
The board must be configured to fit these armies. The following formula should be used to decide the dimensions of the board for a two player game:
Length of each side [in spaces] = sqrt (army cost * 2) + 1
This formula is a lot simpler than it looks. If a calculator is not handy, feel free to approximate the square root. The proper sized board for a 50 cent battle between two players is 11 x 11. The board is apt to have many more spaces than coins to place on them. If the resulting root is not a whole number then round it down to the closest whole number. If the board is already made, it should be folded to these dimensions. One technique for doing this is to fold two of the edges down to the size needed [Diag. 1]
If a pre-drawn board is not available, one can be made easily using a large piece of paper and a pen. Simply draw rows of evenly spaced dots down the page [Diag. 2]..
2.3 Win Conditions
At this point players should agree on a win condition for the game. Win conditions are completely up to the players to decide. For a typical beginner game, a ‘last man standing’ win condition should be used. This means that the last player to have pieces on the board wins. This condition requires the winning player to be active and thus promotes a quicker paced game. A more strategic game could use a ‘capture the flag’ type of win condition. The goal is obvious: place one of your units on your opponent’s flag piece. A gold dollar or a folded bill could symbolize the flag. Both players would place their flag like any other piece at the start of the game. It would remain there for the rest of the game. This win condition leads to a slightly slower paced game than the ‘last man standing’ condition does. It is also spurs players to be a lot more defense. Although a purely aggressive tactic could be used to win this sort of match, it is unlikely to work due to the resulting gaps in defense. If a play group is rather ambitious, they can attempt to adapt the rules for more than two players. Although many things would have to be tweaked such as the board formula and play sequence, it could be an incredibly fun twist on the game. The list of possible win conditions is endless so, instead of going into more detail, I am going to stop this section here. I think it is only fair that players are encouraged to invent their own new variations.

3.0 Basics
3.1 Units
Each type of coin or “unit” has three preset values that determine how it can be played. These values symbolize the unit’s Attack, Defense, and Range. The table below gives the values and names for each coin.

Coin Unit Attack Defense Range
Penny mine 1 1 Stationary
Nickel troop 1 1 1
Quarter tank 2 4 2
Dim jeep 2 2 3
Dollar flag N/A N/A Stationary

EDIT: Looks like the software doesn't like TABLE tags... I took the liberty of formatting it correctly, hope you don't mind ;) --hpox

3.2 Army Placement
Once a board has been created and players have chosen their units, the units must be placed on the board. Units may only be placed in empty spaces. The zones in which each player is allowed to deploy units depends on the agreed upon scenario. For basic games, the rule of thumb is that the middle two rows are off limits and that each player may only place their pieces on their respective side. If the scenario includes a flag to capture then teach player’s flag is placed following the same guidelines as the unit placement. All units are placed with their heads side FACEUP and their ‘top’ facing forward.

4. Playing
4.1 Game Sequence
The game is played in rounds. A round is defined as the time in which every unit on the board gets a chance to move. Rounds are broken up into turns. Each player gets their own turn to move their units. At the start of each round, players roll to determine whose turn is first. Ties are broken with a second roll.
4.2 Turn Sequence
The player whose turn it is has the option of moving any and all of their units once. After a coin unit has been moved, it is turned 180 degrees to the right. This signifies that the piece may not be moved again until the player’s next turn.


There is more but it is in my typing shorthand (random grumblings)
If you've made it this far, you probably need bifocals now. . .

- Silverdragon0

Convenient Wargaming

You know Silverdragon...I like the War of Coinage. Something about your ideas for this game make me think it would be rather fun to play. Novelty perhaps. Simplicity perhaps. Whatever it is, I should of thought of it. ;)

Actually, I don't see any reason it wouldn't work and be amusing to play. One thing caught me though and that is how you get your values for each coin.

On a side note, you could fold dollar bills into little planes to get aerial combatants. :)

I'm going to have to think on this one a little and see if I can come up with some other ideas to spice it up.

Have fun!


Convenient Wargaming

Very cool idea. I've been working on a similar kind of thing for a while. A table top war game that uses only standard cards. Units are made of a base card face down, and up to three cards face up. Each suit corresponds to a different stat: Spades: Defence, Clubs: Attack, Diamonds: Attack range, Hearts: Movement range.

There is a fair bit more to it, but it doesn't work properly at the moment.


Joined: 12/31/1969
Convenient Wargaming

What would be cool is if you could simplify the rules enough that you could create a rubber stamp that would fit in the blank areas on a dollar bill, and then stamp some bills and put them out in circulation. Sure, it's technically illegal but if you didn't stamp too many then it wouldn't be a problem (see Where's George for my inspiration). Before long your game would be played by strangers all over the country, and if you kept distributing bills over time your game would spread all over, even world wide.

Kinda fun, I think.


That bill idea is interesting - but so far there is WAY too much information to put on a bill. It might be a neat gimmick to print a mock bill (not counterfeit like) and put the rules on the back - you could slip it into your wallet . . . but distribution isn't the problem right now.

I'm wondering if anybody has some feedback on any simplistic combat mechanisms might work. I was considering having a physical element - since this is a really casual game to begin with. The trouble is that I am so locked in this mindset about values, that I am having trouble thinking outside of the box. Coinflipping is an obvious way to have some randomness - - - I dunno, I'm wondering what weird and novel things you guys might come up with.

Thanks alot
- Silverdragon0

Convenient Wargaming

Hey, good ideas here! I can see the war going on now, the Heads vs. the Tails out to destroy each other.

Now, how about combat? I was thinking that during an attack, the attacker flips a number of coins equal to the attacking unit's (or combined attacking units') Attack Value. The defender flips a number of coins equal to the defending unit's Defense value. Each player is looking for coin flips that match his army's side (meaning that the Heads player flips for heads and the Tails player flips for tails). The alleviates the calling of heads or tails in the air or anything like that. Each player totals up the number of matching coin flips. If the attacker's # of flips > (or >=) defender's # of flips, defending unit is eliminated (and has to be used for a tip to the waitress... I see this being played in coffee shops a lot).


P.S. This may seem obvious, but don't flip the units themselves during combat! Use other coins.

P.P.S. For a nice World War feel, use coins from different countries (The column of Italian Lyre stumbled directly into the American defensive line of Abraham Lincoln mines...).

Convenient Wargaming

Another simple idea could be to spin the coins - first coin to fall loses.

But I do like the idea of coin flips - or possibly just dropping coins. You grab Attack number of coins and flip or drop them - if the number of heads showing equals the defence, then it's defeated the enemy. I think the coins being used by the defender aren't really necessary it'd slow the game down.

I'd also go for - declare and resolve all attacks at the same time - obviously some units would need to be hit by multiple opponents. I'd also have mines unable to be shot at.

IngredientX's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Convenient Wargaming

A-ha! I didn't want to post a reply until I found a link to a game that used change as playing pieces. Here's one...

Too Many Georges

The problem with this game is that it still requires a map, a die, and other extra bits. I'm sure I can find an example of a game that you really can stuff in your pocket...

Oh, of course, there's James Ernest's Change, which is included in Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack. It's a game played with coins, where the idea is to make change. I believe CHHFP has two other variations of this game, one with playing cards and one with dice.

Finally, one of the most portable, yet not-too-deterministic games out there is Looney Labs' Cosmic Coasters. It's a game played on honest-to-goodness bar coasters, with any marker you can get your hands on (Andrew Looney suggests bar peanuts, as it fits the theme). It uses Paper-Scissors-Rock as a central game mechanic, which may seem annoying at first, but when you consider where the game is designed to be played, is really not a bad idea.

I think what these games all hit on is the idea that the more portable a game is, the more likely it will be played somewhere that is not condusive to gaming... like a crowded and dark bar, or a nightclub, or an airplane, and so on. Perhaps an intricate wargame can be played with, say, several pistachio nut shells and a ballpoint pen :) , but if the rules are too complex, why make it portable in the first place?

A couple of things to think about, I guess... Hope it helps...

Convenient Wargaming

IngredientX wrote:

...but if the rules are too complex, why make it portable in the first place?

This is a great point. There is one solution is the game is enjoyable enough or addictive and that is to have a small rulebook that could be carried in a pocket or wallet (or purse). Still, I'd have to agree that for a portable game as being discussed such as the War of Coinage, the rules should be relatively simple and easy to remember. Such as damage and defense values possibly being based more on the value of the coin itself. Just as a matter of simplifying.

Have Fun!


Torrent's picture
Joined: 08/03/2008
Table Chess

Several of my friends in college had a game they called Table Chess. It was played using Salt and Pepper shakers. I never took the time to learn the rules, but it was played with a pair of shakers per person and had some wierd movement rules. On the other hand, since I don't know the rules it could have been just two guys moving salt and pepper randomly for effect at the table.

However you could add that sort of thing to your list of commonly availble things to play with. And as it comes to me, menu prices and such could be used. Not exactly 'portable', but catering menus are availble too.

I see, that's right, thanks!

Yeah, I must admit it never dawned on me that the rules would hinder the game's portability. But in a way, it does - as you guys described. The more complicated the rules, the less likely it is that people will be able to play the game impromptue (spelling?). I like your ideas about how to make convenient gaming a little more . . . convenient ; )

wow, I really have to catch up, lemme see what I can do

@Hawklord: I'll see what I can do with those ideas. If I revisit the war of coinage as I have it now, I will certainly test some of the implementations you suggested. I'm not sure how I would feel about diving away an entire platoon as a tip - - - maybe you'd just have to ante reserves : )

@Curufea: I agree, except the spinning might not work too well - they go haywire sometimes

@IngredientX: "if the rules are too complex, why make it portable in the first place?" EXACTLY - thank you for getting me back on track! I'm going to start anew and make a simple game - one that makes the portability worth it. Simplicity that matters more than portability when the final goal is to make a game that people enjoy playing wherever/whenever. Now I have one more question for you: how exactly do you flip pistachio shells? ; )

@Vexx_Paradox: Yeah, my original idea was to have the grid drawn on a handkerchief. The rules would be in the border. Speaking of the card idea, I am going to start a new thread about games without boxes - please respond (I know you guys would anyway . . .)

@Torrent: Table Chess vaguely reminds me of a game I used to play with friends. We called it imaginary chess. This is a last resort-too tired to play a sport- bored to death game, but it is really fun if you play it in the right company. The rules are simple enough: Pick a nice shady spot and pretend to play chess on an imaginary board. It is actually quite easy to tell who wins. The golden rule is to NOT track where pieces are. This adds a stealthy element to the game since neither player knows where anything is at any time : D


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