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Searching for Tractics in those bushes

One thing that made Tractics games so exciting was the hidden set-up. As the player moving on the board (or after setting up hidden behind covering terrain), one would have his soldiers search for the enemy. None of this contemporary "style of play" where "all toys are on the table." Sometimes you didn't look in the right place, but the enemy sees your units!

After I tried several popular rulesets, I had the feeling that there was too much of the wrong kind of rules. I wished I could get a copy of Tractics or even Fast Rules, a simpler cousin. But both were "hiding in the bushes," out of print. Finally, I detected them!

I contacted the authors and copyright holders, Michael Reese and Leon Tucker, respectively. Why don't we do a new edition? They agreed, and so I spent three months getting Fast Rules ready. It needed very few updates or clarifications. Tractics is another story! Mike and I have spent seven months so far and are close to finished.

Here are some features with Tractics:

  1. Present the original rules, which we call Classic

  2. Incorporate the option to use the 1976 Modifications found in Little Wars magazine

  3. Update several sections with new rules options: Morale, Indirect Fire, and many small adjustments

  4. Improve the Pull-Outs, (the game's reference chart pages) that were loose leaf in the boxed set

  5. We added 56 new vehicles to the 95 from the Classic rules. That's 59% more, for nearly every nationality plus an all-new Japanese and LVT sections. There are lots of small corrections and adjustments; just yesterday I got 576 from Mike!

  6. Enjoy less paging through because we condensed the Armor Penetration charts from four pull-out pages to one!

  7. We condensed the Indirect Fire Mode from four pull-out pages to two (with less wordy text blocks to decipher). Or only one page with the Updated Artillery Rules, which incorporates Direct Area Fire too.

  8. We made the type more legible and 27% larger.

  9. Added a flow chart to help understand the Tank & Anti-Tank section.

  10. We have much, much more, but this blog post will likely get to be too long... stay tuned. Please put your email on our list via the form at the bottom of the webpage.

Note what we are not doing: not including the "Modern" era vehicle charts (those will be a free download available this spring). We do retain the Modern rules section.

Here's how the Classic edition's pull-out compares to the coming Updated edition, in black & white and color.

Tractics got a reputation for being "too complicated." But I think that is undeserved for two reasons. Compared to what? Donald Featherstone's rulesets were simpler but very abstract. Nowadays, rulesets tend to be a bit abstract and have lots of rule sections to counteract the 5000' general factor. Reintroduce hidden set-up, and then no rules are needed to unleash a thrilling Fog of War.

The other problem that exists with all rulesets is getting someone else to learn them. If just one person understands the rules and plays most of the sections (using Fast Rules to fill in parts, perhaps), then hosts a game, something magical can happen. None of the players need to know any of the rules but will likely have a blast playing the game. Eventually, some will want to learn and judge games too. But don't miss the fundamental goal: bringing in new people who may not have ever played a wargame at all.

Finally, the "homogenization" of contemporary rulesets means you get a result but little detail to fill out the narrative. The story of the game becomes exciting and memorable as particular flukes happen. A turret ring hit jams the turret. The tank's gun is jammed—the artillery fire overshoots. These details help the judge (or defender acting as the judge in a two-player game) to fill in the story that each will remember for years to come. As more players become available, more options for various games (not just Tractics) present themselves.

Even if you don't get Tractics, I hope I've helped spark your imagination about how a different play style can lead to a more enriching hobby with new friends.

PS We plan to have multiple versions so you can choose what appeals to you:

  • An inexpensive black & white edition, perfect bound.

  • A more colorful edition, perfect bound.

  • A spiral-bound edition in color.

  • A pull-out only booklet (saddle-stitch), in color. You can use it as is, or pull the staples out and hang them on the walL. This could be a companion to the black & white edition.

  • A Kindle edition that will have fewer photos but a handy option to learn the rules. The consolidated charts may be a challenge to read on a smartphone but should be legible on a tablet.

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