Modern combat is largely defined with tools that transcend the traditional human experience: satellites giving near real-time updates to commanders many kilometers from the dangers, night-vision and infrared goggles, drones and more. Yet even we, with our mighty ships, aircraft, field hospitals, and logistics are not immune to the dramatic effects of the weather.
Weather has been decisive in hundred of battles. Dunkirk and the Battle of the Bulge were both essentially decided by cloud cover, and there are numerous instances of mud and cold, blowing sand and heat deciding things as much as bullets or manpower—how would Agincourt have played out without the mud from the rains? I recall some of the older game systems like 1958’s Tactics II had a weather chart but cannot think off hand on weather being incorporated in recent wargames I have played.
Individual battles are certainly more interesting and precise to apply weather to, as flexibility is less of a concern in the design. More than just affecting the actual fighting, the weather profoundly affects the conditions which lead to a battle: Kublai Khan invading Japan, Napoleon at Waterloo, and Philip V of Macedon at Cynocephalae all fell victim to poor conditions leading into oft-dissected battles. I cannot help but wonder: Are we too concerned with designing an accurate infantry charge mechanic or artillery strike model, and not enough in terms of real fighting conditions for our wargames?
Here are a few ideas for how you can add weather effects to your favorite wargame:
Roll a D6 on a chart. 1-3 results are negative, 4-6 are positive. They apply to both armies equally. Some armies or units could have resistance to different effects, or have unique effects of their own on certain numbers. Example: Positive effects might be veteran units gaining 1″ of range on a 4 result, on a five that adds in an effect assisting units in movement through difficult terrain, and a 6 increases morale effect for all units. On the negative side, a 3 increases artillery scatter chance, 2 means all movement is reduced by 1″ plus the scatter, and a result of 1 adds a range reduction or accuracy difficulty at long ranges to all that. This is a system-agnostic permutation that I used to play with.
For more variety, make a deck as thick as you like for global weather conditions that effect both armies equally. Of course, this could easily be made more elegant if specific for your system—maybe the winner of the initiative gets to choose when they attack, or you mix terrain placement in with weather choice!
Does anyone have any weather-related resources, or mods or options that they have made? Do you like how a game or system handles the weather? Have you ever made your own? We can do better than Blood Bowl with such a fecund topic. Comment below on your opinion: Should the weather be more involved in our hobby systems? Here’s a pdf with some tools and templates to use if you want to start taking a crack at it yourself.