The rules are designed to force players to adopt realistic tactics, including scouting ahead for hidden enemies as the game system uses "blinds" to simulate the fog of war. The main focus is not on military hardware but on the men using that hardware, and on morale and command and control. Rather than giving the player total control over their forces every action, the system uses so-called "Big Men" to allow players to influence their forces behaviour. It also features a random, card-driven initiative system rather than the classic I-GO-U-GO system most turn-based strategy games use. A typical company will have a card for each platoon and a card for each Big Man (officers and NCOs). The actions of squads/sections are keyed to the platoon and Big Man cards. This initiative system is designed to simulate the "friction" of war noted by Carl von Clausewitz, plus units use a dice system for movement, observation, and fire that means you never know exactly how they will perform.
The basic IABSM system provides a framework allowing players to tailor the game to specific situations or conflicts. Apart from its main focus on World War II, it has been adapted to the Spanish Civil War, the Falklands War and the Korean War.
The rules are designed for Company level games, i.e. where each side fields roughly a reinforced company of troops at 1 man to 1 figure scale, with infantry combat being at the heart of the rules, but also including a comprehensive mechanism for armour support, artillery, etc. The rules have been designed for 15 mm scale figures, but can be easily adopted for other scales such as 6 mm or 25 mm. The system does not use a point-based method for constructing opposing forces, so most games are designed to be scenario driven.
The Kriegsspiel approach
|“||Most games on the market, in general, pre-suppose that you will be playing with reasonable people with whom you are at least quasi-friendly. IABSM takes this supposition and advances it even further. These are NOT tournament type games rules because frankly they rely on players being more concerned about having fun than winning a trophy.||”|
One of the main characteristics of IABSM is that many common and somehow simple decisions are left to the players, effectively providing a "framework for play" rather than a checklist to represent real situations on the model battlefield.
The challenges and possibilities of this approach are endless, since shooting at a target behind some cover would require both players (or the umpire) to agree on the shot being Great, Ok or Poor. But this freedom also allows for any non predictable action to take place, like heroic feats, based in the same common agreement.
Rules and Sourcebooks
The main rules do not contain any information about the armies involved. The armies are described in various supplements. Currently Too Fat Lardies has released supplements for several theatres and campaigns:
- Covers the period between 1939 and 1943.
- Army information for Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
- Covers the period between 1943 and 1945.
- Army information for Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Romania, the Soviet Union and the United States.
- In the Footsteps of Legions
- Covers the war in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
- Army information for British Empire and Dominion forces, Free French, Vichy France,Germany, Greece, Iraq, Italy, United States and Yugoslavia.
- In The Shadow of the Rising Sun
- Covers the war in the Pacific.
- Army information for Australia, China, Holland, Vichy France, Great Britain, Japan, Thailand and the United States.
As well as supplements detailing various armed forces, Too Fat Lardies also publishes scenario supplements for use with IABSM. The supplements contain historical background, maps, mission briefings and participating forces. As the forces involved are described as real world equivalents rather than point values, conversion to different rulesets is relatively easy. Scenario/campaign packs published so far are:
- The Defence of Calais
- The Campaign for Greece
- Operation Sea Lion
- Anzio: Wildcat to Whale
- Where the Hell Have You Been Boys (D-Day)
- Vyazma or Bust
- Fall of the Lion Gate (Fall of Malaya/Singapore)
- Bloody Burma
- Call this a Ruddy Picnic?
- Cymru am byth (Rather than detailing a specific operation or campaign, this supplement follows the actions of one regiment during the course of the war.)
Also, some free scenarios has been published in the Scenario of the Month section of the Too Fat Lardies webpage.
- Too Fat Lardies website
- Independent review on Boardgame Geek.
- Independent review on RPG.net.
- Independent review on The Wargame Shed.
- A totally biased, in their own words, review from the Durham Wargames Group. Other Too Fat Lardies rules covered in the articles as well.
- Issue 2 Page 44 : Wargames Journal Interview with Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner about wargaming and IABSM Another independent review.