Monday, September 19, 2011

First Battle with Bull Run to Gettysburg

We fought one this past Friday night. Just a small group of us, in order to learn the new rules. Before that; a word on the book itself. Beautiful. It is a really super nice book – certainly in the category of the Black Powder rule book. It has several “Showcase” sections containing awesome images of the incredible miniatures produced by Wargames Foundry.

On to the battle data. There were 2 Confederate brigades and 3 Union brigades on the field. The rebs were basically setup with only 1 brigade to maneuver and 1 that would maneuver little due to the proximity of one of the Yankee brigades. We set these up to engage in a fire fight to see how those rules worked out. In the area there was a stream, a patch of light woods and open terrain. We assumed that there may be a charge or two in this area as well.

The remaining rebs and yanks marched onto the field in a race to secure positions. There was a roadway to allow the road bonus to show itself and a building next to the road to test that. As the these troops converged there was plenty of formation changing and shooting and charging.

So we feel like we set stuff up to really test several aspects of the rules. We included no optional rules, wanting to go “straight” and see how it plays.

I am not going to give details of the action – and I was so busy working the rule book that I failed to take more than 2 or 3 pictures. This report is about how we felt the rules played to our tastes.

Overall I thought the rules were fine. Not spectacular, but certainly worth playing. There was plenty to like and some things that we disliked. If I stated that for our group that Black Powder got a grade of “A” then I’d give these rules a “B”.

Let’s get into the things we felt were not to our tastes. The main issue was that there seemed like a lot of modifiers for things, especially morale. We certainly did a lot of scanning the charts. OK, that’s not the end of the world; most likely a few more plays and some of those things would come naturally.

We felt that 10% losses in a turn caused too many morale checks, causing us to seek that chart. Given the unit sizes possible, this means that some units would check morale every time they lost a model or two. Most of the regiments we put out there were 4 stands (16 miniatures) although we did have some 3 and 5 stand regiments. Also, we did not use any rosters, so sometimes after a unit had lost a stand or two we could not remember how many models it originally had. We finally decided to check morale after each stand loss instead (sort of a tip of the hat to good ole Johnny Reb).

There were no rules for “broken commands”. Well that is easy enough to address with a house rule or scenario rules.

There were no rules for a reduction in firepower when deployed into a building. Well, we’re creative folks, we just decided that the unit can only shoot the stands that are in a particular facing of the building. Solved for us.

There were not any real rules for adding another unit to an ongoing close combat. In the “Charging” section there was a rule that a unit cannot charge a unit already engaged. The “Close Combat” section had no rules on the subject. On the close combat modifiers there is a modifier for “any unit reinforced in an ongoing close combat”. So we invented on the fly and allowed a friendly unit to charge anyway (if they passed morale of course). By this means we allowed reinforcements to enter the fray. I am sure there would other ways to manage that too.

What did we like? Several things. First of all. We like systems that restrict the ability to move all your units anytime you want – these rules have no restrictions. So, they could be a nice convention game where players can easily get involved with the units under their command.

Snipers. We liked this. Each side had 1 sniper in our battle. There were officer casualties as a result. Not too many and it did not feel weird. It made players think about the risk to their commanders – as they should. It made us thing of poor General Reynolds a Gettysburg! We’ll “port” the sniper rules over to Black Powder!

Unit sizes. The rules represented the variation of unit size very well. And is friendlier on the budget regarding needing really large units. We felt like we could put more units on the table than in Black Powder.

Simultaneous shooting. Both sides’ shooting is worked out as if simultaneous. That felt fair. The modifiers for shooting included penalties for movement and if the unit was shooting while itself under fire.

Degrading effect for frequent shooting. If you shoot a lot, your firepower degrades a little to show the effect of smoke on the field, fouling of guns, etc.

Fatigue in close combat. Close combat does not last forever. After three rounds, something is gonna give.

Seeing friends rout causes a morale check. I liked this one. Reminded me of the Johnny Reb days – and is a nice touch for the Civil War period. This may find its way into some Black Powder scenarios too.

Again, a “B”. They certainly worked. In one game play, nothing jumped out as broken. They are not as polished as Black Powder, but they certainly offer a few different things too. I don’t know when we’ll play them again – we’re still pretty taken with Black Powder.

If you’ve played these rules, leave a note and let me know how you liked them! Rule sets are like exotic foods, everyone’s tastes vary. I like to try different systems. I like to experience the creativity of writers out there in the world!


  1. Nice report - any chance of some pictures?

    I've played a solo game with these rules and I was quite impressed with them. I also play ACW with Field of Battle (still waiting on 2nd edition to arrive). My problem with the BRTG morale tests was not the amount of them, but the fact that most of them couldn't be failed. For example, as a unit gets +2 for being over 75%, +1 for being supported, +1 for being within 10" of a general and +1 for advancing plus the score of a D6 and needs 5 or more to carry on, in my game most units passed without really needing a die roll. We both like the sniper mechanic, but I can see that it might be essential to game balance and plan to use it from now on - a general going down seems to be one of the few ways to make a full-strength unit waver.

    Thanks again for the report.


  2. Norman, thanks for the note. I went to your blog, great images and nice figs!

    I was only able to take 2 pictures - I was so swamped running the game! I didn't post them because, really, they were nothing special...

    In our game, we had several units fail morale tests to varying degrees - but we had some really shot up units at many points in the battle.

    I was able to play Field of Battle Second Edition last weekend (I hope you saw that post)...good stuff.

  3. Hi Tony, I check your blog regularly so I saw the FOB ACW report - looked like a great game, and I'm really looking forward to trying out the scenario generator with the random reduction of forces etc myself.

    We played another game of BRTG today and I included a couple of sharpshooter bases. I agree with you in the effectiveness being just right - I had a Brigadier taken out at the head of his brigade leading an assault (which caused the attack to stall) and we had a couple of close calls where the general effectively just missed a turn of adding his command benefits but dusted himself off / got a bandage, to re-appear next turn. It really added a bit of spice to the game. Report to follow on my blog in a few weeks.

    At the moment, I prefer BRTG to Black Powder, but I think some of that is to do with my 6' x 4' table size. We seemed to be rolling triple moves a lot in BP, and units were able to march 24" to within 2" of an enemy unit, then blast away before the unit could react. I know this could happen in FOB, but at least there is opportunity fire, which BP as published lacks. I've tried playing with scaled down movement and ranges, but it just didn't look right with 28mm figures. I think BRTG fills the spot of quick and fun for me better than BP given the size of my armies and the space I have to play on, so I would rate them an 'A' for folks with those constraints.