Basic Impetus


I am a wargamer. I’ve been playing wargames in one form or another since 1968, when a friend of mine brought over a set of rules by Charles Grant. We both had collected lots of old 1/72 scale Airfix plastic toy soldiers and model tanks.  The rules showed us how to refight battles from WWII with them, and from that day forward, I was hooked.

There are many forms of wargames, from computer simulations, to games played on maps with cardboard counters, to battles with miniature toy soldiers on table tops. It’s the latter that I’ve spent most of my hobby time with. Though almost any era can be modeled and games, what interests me most are Ancient period games, specifically the period of 100BC to 100AD, and up to the 7th century with the wars of Justinian and Byzantium.

Although there are many sets of rules published for gaming in this era, the one that I’ve finally settled on is entitled “Impetus”.  It combines an easily-understood and fast-playing game system with a visually appealing basing system for the miniatures.  In this system, the size of the base upon which your miniatures are mounted is standardized at 120mm frontage, or side-to-side.  The depth of the base, or the front-to-back distance, is variable and can be adjusted to your needs as you see fit.

What this does is allow you to make each base a small vignette or diorama, if you wish. The modeling possibilities are endless. One nice aspect here is that the number of miniatures per base is not important. You can use as few or as many as you like, although some heavy infantry units, like Macedonian pikes, or Germanic/Celtic hordes are best represented with large numbers of figures per base. Skirmish troops like Greek Peltasts, Cretan Archers, etc, can use only a handful of figures per base and thus represent their loose, open formations.

Impetus regards each base as a separate, individual unit. Thus, it represents a number of actual soldiers, and not the number of figures mounted upon it. The system uses 6-sided dice, simple game mechanics, and can be expanded through the use of various modifications for many different eras. Best of all, there is an introductory set of the rules entitled “Basic Impetus” which is available as a free pdf download.  I encourage folks who might be interested in the game to download the rules and give them a read.  If your interest is piqued, you don’t have to go whole hog and purchase a bunch of miniature figures, paints, brushes, etc. You can just draw out and cut some bases from matte board, cardboard or foam core and write on them what each represents, then try out the rules solo or with a friend.

In future posts, I’ll discuss the rules, the various figure scales that wargamers use, painting and basing techniques, and how actual battles can be recreated in miniature. It’s a wonderful hobby, encompassing a huge set of demographics, and gamers and clubs may be found all over the world. As a way of introducing kids to history, math, art and strategy, I can’t think of a better hobby than wargaming.

28mm scale medieval troops based for Impetus


3 Responses to “Basic Impetus”

  1. January 17, 2012 at 00:25

    My youngest brother and I liked Seapower in the 70s. The company that produced the game sold 1/1200 scale models and had a simple set of rules for gunnery and such. It was kinda neat to be able to game such hypotheticals as the Yamato vs Tirpitz, and other equally improbable matches.

    We gamed Midway a couple times, and it didn’t matter which of us played the US, the US always lost.

    While the game could be played without an umpire if it was a purely gun scenario. A scenario like Midway requires you make paper moves that require you use an umpire so you can introduce the actual friction of war. We had a problem finding someone that was competent enough to act as umpire. It was a great game.

    I liked several of the Avalon Hill offerings as well. SPI wasn’t so good as their rules tended to be to involved and easily gamed.

  2. January 21, 2012 at 02:17

    Thanks for your blog post. I’m interested in impetus and wanted to see how people were basing. I agree that this system, like Peter Guilder’s 1970s Sudan era rules, creates an opportunity for beautiful dioramas.

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