Saturday, 23 August 2014

The best wargame I ever played by miles was...............

AK47 by Peter Pig

Not the "Reloaded" version currently available, but the old AK47 Republic.

I've been wargaming now since the late 1970s and have seen just about every possible combination of dice, tables, rules that claim they are innovative, revolutionary, ground breaking or unique. AK47 Republic managed to do a bit of all that, and managed, above all else, to be fun.

That is not to say they didn't have problems.

First and foremost was the "Elephant in the Room" in that they were covering a very touchy subject and could be seen as borderline racist. All wargames are in bad taste somewhere along the line - we get enjoyment and stimulation out of what is at root recreating the death and destruction of others. If there were a cable channel that simply showed people being shot and mutilated simply for the enjoyment of the audience I suspect anyone subscribing would (rightly) come to the attention of the Authorities, yet we all do it at one remove or other. Most of us are happy to either not think of it or rationalise it in some way - its just a game, its historical or whatever. AK47 was not just all that, but was also set in Africa and was about the horrible, bloody and sometimes seemingly depressingly pointless wars of liberation as Africans fought European Colonial masters, and each other. What is more, there is a distinct whiff of "Black & White Minstrels" about it. Black African troops tend to be classed as incompetent Militia, White Europeans as Regulars or Professionals. You are encouraged to create fictitious countries and faction names, possibly to add distance to the setting from the real thing, but even then that does seem just a little iffy,  Umbongoland may not exist, but there is still a faint taint of racism in creating a nation with such a silly name, and playing a game set in modern Africa when the Rwandan genocide was in the news was also a problem.

Added to that there was the production quality, which was, to say the least, not high. We had not quite reached the glossy full colour printing that most rules now have, but even in comparison to contemporary rules the layout was poor, the rules badly worded and contradictory, punctuation was sometimes optional and the diagrams were (badly) hand drawn affairs.

But it worked. Beautifully. Players represented faction each with their own army list which limited access to troops types, and each army had only 5 units, but each also had a Political Manoeuvre chart on which you could spend points, leaving players with a decision - do I buy "x" units or invest those points in some Politics?  The PM charts were very different depending on faction, and the returns on the investment in Politics could be fairly random or downright damaging. What was really fun and interesting was that the PM charts could affect both your troops and your opponents, and often in a big way, so an arms embargo could turn a motorised infantry unit into footsloggers as their trucks were removed, or the Cuban Ambassador could "accidentally" leave the keys to a couple of tanks when he visited.

Then there was deployment - you numbered your units 1-5 and rolled to see if they were actually available on the first turn - usually most were not. Then you rolled each turn to see if they did arrive, but sometimes they would appear from a different direction. It was chaos, and run against a countdown where at the end of each turn a d6 was rolled and the result deducted from the initial target, which usually gave about 6 -8 turns play.

The on table mechanics were deceptively simple - all the rules you needed fitted comfortably on 2 sides of A4- variable move distances, attacker rolled 2 dice plus mods based on weapons etc, defender rolled 1 and deducted. Doubles in combat resulted in special effects which could help or hinder, and morale was a simple dice roll based on class and circumstances, with the added complication that an opponent could force a second morale roll once per turn.  Nothing was certain.

That lack of certainty, the chaos of variable moves, armies that after PMs looked nothing like what you had expected, non arrivals, late arrivals from the wrong direction and random events all combined to make a perfect storm of a gaming experience, and probably the finest wargame I ever played. And great fun.

There were still some issues, mostly because players were demanding more toys - Helicopters, ATGWs etc, more troop types. PeterPig responded to supporters requests for an updated version with AK47 Reloaded. These addressed much of the layout issues bit sadly threw out much of the chaos in favour of some new game mechanics that, in my view, didn't manage to create the gaming synergy of the original, and were a massive disappointment.

On the plus side, the old AK47 is now available as a pdf from peterpig at

Do yourself a favour and buy them.


  1. You are so right mate. Brilliantly put.

  2. I've just recently picked up that PDF myself, and wandered across your website while looking for examples of what other have done with them.

  3. They were, and are, great fun, and I wish that PeterPig would simply reissue them with a couple of changes and a bit of proof reading. One can dream