Skuffle Wammer with ghouls

Dev diary 2

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Last year, I developed and published Skuffle Wammer, the universe's smallest wargame. It's designed to be played in 5 minutes or less, with the intent of being the tabletop gaming equivalent of a good stand-up-and-stretch at work. The play area is an A4 sheet of paper, you throw out some miniatures and some dice, and play to the end. The dice are used as both ammunition and as hit points, and each mini possesses just 3d6, and its rules are just half a page, so it really is a fast and fun game, and easy to play. Lately I've been experimenting with expansion ideas, and my first idea is to bring some ghouls into play.

Ghoul stats for real this time

If you've read my first dev diary entry about zombies in Skuffle Wammer, then you know I've already done half the work for ghoul rules. In fact, in a way I've done the hardest half: the parts that don't work. So I started this process feeling pretty confident in what I wanted.

Ghouls are undead, so they're brittle. They come apart pretty easily, so a ghoul starts with 1 die less than the opposing miniatures.

However, they've got really sharp claws and really big teeth (just take a look at the ur-ghul from Blackstone Fortress, or any ghoul in any fantasy property). To reflect its lethality, a ghoul in Skuffle Wammer hits on 1 or higher (1+) on a d6. Functionally, that's an auto-hit, but it does cost a die so they have limited use of that ability.

Based on early zombie playtests (which, due to a mix-up, were actually done as ghoul playtests anyway), I expect an equal number of ghouls to be defeatable. By the numbers, the "good guy" miniatures could stand around and take 2 hits each from the ghouls, and then roll their remaining die and win the game with just one hit. But that assumes 1:1 distribution of hits, and any Shadowrunner knows that ghouls run in packs. A group of 3 ghouls swarming a single miniature kills it in 3 hits, and then can move to the next one to kill it with their remaining 3 hits, and then there's one more ghoul left to deal 2 more damage to the third marine. You still end up with 4d6 to roll against the ghouls, but you need 2 hits of 4+ to win. Looking at it that way, it's kind of anybody's game.

Playtest 1: And then there was one

In the first playtest, my marines won with only one casualty, wiping out every single ghoul. It sounds like a slaughter, but I really wasn't sure which way it was going to go during play. Rolling 4+ to hit is uncertain, and the marines rolled pretty poorly at first. One had a chainsword so I moved him into melee right away, and he hit on 3+. That helped a lot, and I think when you're going up against ghouls you may as well bring your melee weapons. The ghouls aren't going to hang back, because all they have is melee.

For the record, I play rules-as-written (maybe that's not surprising, because I wrote them) and a ranged weapon hits on 4+ even when you're in melee range. That arguably lacks realism, because point blank shots are pretty effective in real life. However, I don't think a melee attack with a ranged weapon means "point blank", and in fact means that your opponent could grab hold of your gun and redirect it.

This playtest felt pretty good. It was tense, but that could just be because I legitimately didn't know how it was going to go.

Playtest 2: Once more with feeling

It surprised me, but in the second playtest, my marines won again with only one casualty, wiping out every single ghoul. That's cause for concern. I'd expected more variance.

Playtest 3: It's swingy

Here's some of the variance I was hoping for. The ghouls won this one, two to zero. I think the ghouls seem scarier than they actually are, but I think I'm comfortable with that.

Ghoul rules

After a few more playtests using these mechanics, I decided the feel of the game play was good for ghouls. Their auto-hit mechanic is mitigated by the paltry action economy of the game, and while they may lose more often than they win, it's an easy opponent to run in a solo game. They run in packs, so they swarm around wounded opponents and then move to the next one in line.

The final ghoul rules I'll write into the forthcoming expansion pack:

  • Ghouls have 2d6 each, and hit on melee 1+
  • Ghouls run in packs, so several focus attacks a single opponent before moving on to the next one
  • When a ghoul kills an opponent, the ghoul may immediately make a free move action to the nearest opponent

Download the game

You can download Skuffle Wammer from As of this writing, the expansion is still in development, but eventually they'll be added to that download.

Images by Seth Kenlon

, Creative Commons BY-SA.

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