Whew, I'm just barely managing my breakneck speed of posting twice a month.
In this post, we Continue our celebration of ACWrary by going over various ACW rule sets. I'm gonna go through a bunch of ACW rules and give opinions on them. Nothing is as inflammatory as an opinion. But should make for good reading yes? Otherwise it's a big waste of time.
Alter of Freedom
Sharp Practice 2
Rank and File
Regimental Fire and Fury and Brigade Fire and Fury 2ed.
ACW is the Best CW
Alter of Freedom
The best parts of AoF is the Bidding system to activate brigades in what order and the Turn Clock. These are some fun mechanisms that help simulate being in charge of an entire battle. I also really like the way that the Personality of the Army and Division leader can be reflected by dictating how they spend their available points to activate units. For instance requiring a leader to hold back some points for some end of the turn movement because they are fussy about small details. Or not allowing a division leader to assign equal points to his brigades (thereby preventing coordinating actions of those brigades) because the leader has trouble making up his mind. This process is closely related to the Turn Clock because you don't really know how many activations you are gonna get in a turn.
Overall the process of bidding points to activate your brigades either early in the turn or later, before the enemy or after, does indeed allow for the feeling of the commander influencing the battle. Which I think is a real thing in the ACW. Think of Antietam where Lee ran hither and thither spurring his troops to shore up breaking points all over his line whereas McClellan basically stayed in one place and watched it all through binoculars. And just to do the opposite at Gettysburg, especially on the second day, Lee basically stood in one place and Meade ran all over plugging holes with troops. It's probably easier to do that sort of thing when on the defensive. In Chancellorsville Hooker was temporarily taken out by a concussion from a shell and the whole Union army suffered from a high command paralysis at a really bad time.
I find the mechanics of how units actually fight each other to be pretty boring. They are well written and easy to understand, there's just not much to them. I understand why; because the rules are aimed at doing large battles in a decent amount of time and one turn is supposed to be one hour so it streamlines a lot of the minutia of combat. To me this makes it more of a strategy game than a tactical one, and I just miss the tactics. All the brigades are the same size so one looks like another and a strong or weak brigade is only differentiated by how many strength points it has, which is on a label. There are no formations. There's practically no shooting in the game because it's scope is so zoomed out and small arms skirmish fire is pretty ineffectual. Brigades really just charge each other over and over. Sometimes when I played it I felt like I was commanding more of a Dark Ages / Ancients Army than an ACW one because of the lack of shooting. I know that the charge into contact is supposed to simulate the close range fire fight and all that stuff but to me it just feels like you charged their unit with yours and either they will recoil or you will. There's no meat grinder feel. It's more of a ping pong. I want that grind of brigades slugging it out. I liked playing AoF but I spent a lot of time afterward thinking of how I could take that bidding system and bolt it onto a rule set that has more meat in it's combat.
Sum Up: AoF is a well written game that does what it sets out to do; provide a higher level of command experience and big battles. It's more of a strategy game so your engrossed in how to get your brigades into action but the actual combat is lackluster. Rating: Three stars
I liked PC the first time I played it. Then I played it about 3 more times and I really didn't like it as much. I got the impression that PC was a 'really good Napoleonic ruleset that was 3/4s complete.' This was reinforced when General d'Armee came out, which is basically the same core system more flushed out and includes infantry squares for Naps. But it falls short for ACW. The main thing that it does well is support my belief that the ACW was 'fought by regiments but moved by brigades.' I forget who said that (or something very similar) which I just plagiarized but I've been convinced. When you read ACW history you hear all the time what a certain regiment did. Even when you're discussing a famous brigade (the Iron Brigade, the Stonewall Brigade) you still tend to focus on regiments. But regiments really didn't wander the battlefield by themselves but maneuvered as a Brigade. So any game that rewards regiments sticking together but ultimately acting as hit points for brigades is doing well in my eyes. In PC the status of the Brigade will affect what the regiments can do; and when regiments get used up it affects the status of the Brigade. You're never gonna refight an entire battle using regiments (that would be maddness!!) so your basically looking at a division or corps command. This is a good option for each player to control a corps or a division without too much brain power / being overcome by details. Combat is gritty enough to provide that grind I was talking about but also quick enough not to bog down.
PC also has fun ADC system where Divisional and Core leaders can assign ADC tokens (or cool painted figures) to the brigades to trigger certain affects. You roll for how many you get each turn so this number fluctuates throughout the battle and provides some fun tension. The game also uses some ACW terminology like calling units "whipped" which adds a delicious dollop of historical flavor.
The rules are kinda a mess. It's one of those rules that when you read them everything seems covered but then each game you play you find something new that is not explained well or just not mentioned. When you look up the FAQs and errata of PC, there is a lot of it. Some of these make changes to basic rules like how skirmishers fire and to the 'dead volley' result chart and these are like, pretty core mechanics. The charge/melee rules in particular are all over the place. Melee phases are usually the most complicated of rulesets and I think PC could of used another 3 pages of explanation and examples. It's just not clear enough. I also don't love that charging units and the units being charged basically play out the whole turn sequence by themselves to completion. When the charge combat is complete you then go back to almost the beginning of the turn sequence for the other units not involved. It's just wonky to do it that way.
The ADC system is clever at first and there's like 10 options to choose from; but my experience showed me that you only choose the same 3 over and over and over again (these being Brigade attachment, Double Quick, and Assault fire. Sometimes Rally). The others just never apply or apply so very rarely that you forget about them.
Overall: There are a lot of good ideas in PC but the rules as a whole are not fully formed. It's just not written that well and many things are confusing. If you REALLY like it's good points then you can overlook the bad but I think the bad wins out in the end. It's kinda like a beautiful woman with a shitty personality; does not a long term relationship make. If a second edition comes out I would probably buy it, and I'm sometimes tempted to buy General d'Armee and use those rules and just ignore the Nappy stuff. In the meantime PC just sits on the shelf and I hardly ever have a desire to play it. Overall Score: Two stars.
Sharp Practice 2
People tend to love or hate TFL games; and I am the same. I really like Chain of Command, but am not a fan of I Ain't Been Shot Mum. I like What a Tanker but hated Dux Britainarrium. Which is all strange because because it's mostly the same concepts in each game just slightly different. It's the same thing as liking Double Fudge Chocolate ice cream but intensely disliking Rocky Road. Except that nobody really likes Rocky Road.
SP2 is a generic Horse and Musket ruleset that plugs into the ACW by using special traits for the units; so you'll think that SP2 is a good ACW game as long as the traits reflect what you think is appropriate for the ACW. It does a good job of this, plus I think that SP2 is just a GOOD game overall. It has solid mechanics and an interesting game play. TFL are big on 'friction' in their wargames and SP2 is probably one of the better versions of how it creates that friction. It's also one of the few games where troops deploying onto the battlefield is part of every scenario so when you play a battle it really has a beginning, middle, and end feel to it. Mostly though, it's gonna come down to that IF you like the mechanics of SP2 then you'll likely enjoy it for the ACW. For example; if you like card based activations, and random turn lengths; if you like the way that shock works or rolling to see how far a unit will move and etc.. The game plays really well with 2 people but can bog down with more.
The unique feature of SP2 from the stable of TFL games is the use of Command Cards. It's using these that the player really enhances his activations and provides a great risk versus reward mechanic because the more that you have the more that you can use at once for a bigger effect--but the turn might end and you lose your chance for that big effect. The command cards have a LOT of uses actually and adds a lot to the game.
You're not going to be recreating any famous battles of the ACW with SP2 though. I'm not even sure what the basic forces in SP2 are supposed to represent; could be a company, a regiment, or some guys off on a detached assignment. What you get is a good game with enough ACW window dressing.
However; here are some quibbles...
The biggest problem in SP2 is there are a LOT of rules in the game. No rule is very complex on it's own, there's just a lot of them and most of them interact and taken all together makes SP2 more complex than it appears. There's definitely a learning curve for this game. I think this is demonstrated thoroughly in that you can watch a YouTube video of SP2 being played by the rules author and his business partner and they mess it up several times.
The melee rules are the most complex because it's a whole several step subsystem of it's own. It doesn't matter how many times you've played SP2, you're always gonna open up the rule book and go through the steps.
It's not a daunting amount of rules to learn like some board games have. But you can't say "everything you need to know to play the game is on this short QRS." A QRS for SP2 is 5 pages long.
And while I really like the Command Cards in the game, they have SO many uses that until you learn them all you have to keep a list of what could be done and consult it almost each time you get dealt one.
The game can also drag if you have too many leaders in a force. Here is a house rule that I use: Status 1 Leaders who are attached to a formation with a higher Status Leader whom is actually leading the formation DON'T get a card. 99% of the time when these Status 1 Leaders activate they remove a point of shock or do nothing. I just have all status 1 leaders do that at the beginning of a turn.
The only thing in the game that I don't like are the random events that sometimes trigger. I just think they're all lame. The simple fix is to just not use them.
Overall: SP2 is a good game of horse and musket skirmish that fits the ACW well. Score: 4 stars.
First off, Longstreet is not so much a miniature wargame that uses cards but is a card game that uses miniatures (see what I did there?). That's an important point to make because it will really affect one's enjoyment of the game if one doesn't grasp that early. It's the cards in your deck that matter, and not so much the battlefield. Longstreet is a very interesting game; Dai and I played several games during the way back when (it was before I even had a blog, clearly the dark ages). We were playing the campaign and I know I got to a point where I was REALLY interested in what happened during the campaign but less interested in playing the actual battles. I keep the rules around for the campaign system mostly, because one day I AM I SWEAR gonna play a ACW campaign. During the campaign you get to augment your force, get reinforcements, camp sickness will affect units (an often overlooked part of the ACW), get skills, and etc.. It's kinda cool that your large, fresh, Eager and Green Regiment who can't shoot worth a damn but will charge anything you point it at will, after a few battles and losses, become a small battle hardened veteran unit that shoots really well but is very reluctant to charge anything. The campaign system also stacks the deck depending on where you are during the war which is a nice feature; Games in the early war the CSA has a distinct advantage and those late-war games favor the Union. The midwar decks are fairly balanced.
Anther thing that I liked but others might not; it's kinda a grab bag of all things cool about the ACW just mixed together. There's repeating rifles, there's the Rebel Yell, there's African American Soldiers eager to prove themselves, there's faulty CSA shells, etc.. Basically anything cool in an ACW movie has a card in the game.
Dai and I never finished the campaign, think we got 4 games done out of the 12 needed. I think this is mostly because our lives got busy (as they do), we moved on to other games, and we soured on the actual game play of the battles. For me, I'm more of a miniature gamer than card player. I don't want to say that the game play was bad, because it's not, it's just not what I'm looking for. Yet here are some things that ALWAYS rubbed me the wrong way:
During a turn units can charge OR move but not both. No, not like that, like this: If you had 3 units that you wanted to move and 2 units you wanted to charge the enemy then you could move the 3 units and NOT charge at all or have the 2 units charge and the other 3 just sit there. So it's impossible to be aggressive on one flank while falling back on another. And that is just plain wonky and does not reflect ACW at all.
During a battle there are a lot of 'gotcha' moments due to the card play. Like there are cards that you can play that prevent the other player from charging or that really reduce all shooting attacks. So you often have moments where you set up a glorious charge across the whole battle line (because you can charge OR move) only to have the other player stop it with a card play and a sly "oh no you don't." Basically, some of the card effects are just annoying. Like the 'magic marsh' card (I forget what it's actually called) where you get to add a piece of rough terrain anywhere on the table; so inevitably you place RIGHT in front of advancing enemy troops. I know that it's supposed to represent the frequent occurrence of troops plowing into a bog (or whatever) that no one knew was there; "Over this small foot hill Boys and straight onto the enemy's flank OH DEAR ME WHERE DID THIS SWAMP COME FROM??!! That's not on the map!" --but when it happens every game it's less amusing.
Rank and File
Regimental Fire and Fury and Brigade Fire and Fury 2nd Edition
Fire and Fury set the standard for ACW wargaming when I first began playing it in the early 90s. BFF and RF&F are still my favorite ACW rules (besides my own). I did not care much for PC for a variety of reasons.ReplyDelete
Thanks Jon for your continued support with comments. I didn’t know you had your own ACW rules. Care to share?Delete
The original Fire and Fury came out in the 90s? It’d be still be 15 years from the 90s that I would even learn that miniature wargaming existed. 😀
Nice post Stew, always interesting to get the Pro's and Con's from someone who knows the period and has played the rules.ReplyDelete
One of the important aspects of rules for me is that they should be solo friendly, so important processes like bidding can get in the way of that. I have PC, but never get a full read through the book before I put it down. I understand as I read, but then the previous pages fall from memory and I feel that I don't grasp the cohesive whole - or perhaps lack the enthusiasm to do so, but I will get there one day.
I like the Rand and File rules, though the one page of ACW notes in the base game doesn't seem to do enough to make the ACW feel a different H&M period - so getting the ACW supplement would seem to be where I would need to be.
I do use the Black Powder rules with the Glory Hallelujah supplement. I quite like the chaos and uncertainty, but I think they are there until a better set comes along.
My rule shelf has Glory Hallelujah, Civil War Battles (Peter Pig), Rank and File, Firepower (Perry Brothers), Micro Force ACW (GHQ), Pickett's Charge and the two 'Across a Deadly Field' scenario books. By boardgames have the regimental series by revolution Games and the Brigade series by Worthington Publishing.
Thanks Norm for your continued support of this blog.Delete
R&F is a great rule set but is very generic. Even with the supplement it plays the same. I imagine that it’s a less chaotic version of BP. Most generic H&M rules have this problem. It’s strength is the ease of play.
For a good solo game of ACW I would recommend SP2. The card activation will get you that chaos and friction. 😀
A good summary Stewart, and I agree with you on lots of points, as someone who likes regimental level rules I have not played any of the larger scale rulesets and detest card driven mechanics as it really can be a one sided affair.ReplyDelete
Have you tried any of the Jonny reb sets? Lots of charts and maths but does give a good result. I have not settled on a set for French Wargame Holidays, but will possibly use Rank and File as I do like to use scenarios and once set up you can play several times through with no changes and get very different results.
French Wargame Holidays
Thanks Matt for your comment. I appreciate it. 😀Delete
I have not tried JR. I was turned off by the basing requirements of needing stands with different numbers of figures on them. It’s a nice idea but too much work. It’d be like doing the Age of Sail and having the same ship in pristine condition, somewhat damaged, and then near sinking. 😀
A very nice review of the rules, and a really interesting read. My first ACW rules were Fire and Fury and it's funny but because when they started to become 20+ years old, I started to think they had become superseded by newer sets of rules. I picked them up again only a couple of months ago and realised that they were considered a great set of rules for a very good reason. Fire and Fury gives a brilliant game that 'feels' ACW. I am determined to play them again this year. The only thing that I might do is bolt on something more Command and Control orientated for leaders as this for me was the only real flaw in the system.ReplyDelete
I just purchased Altar of Freedom this week, as I am intrigued by the Command and Control and time clock rules and want to see how they play. The command element and friction has become much more important to me these days, though I hope the rest of the play is good too, even if it is not so gritty as the rules that focus on lower command levels.
Hey Jason, thanks for leaving a comment. 😀Delete
It’s true that BFF and RFF really do feel like ACW battles. But I think you’ll like AoF as well. It’s more of a strategy/ operational game while BFF is more grinding and tactical. I’m sure with a little imagination the bidding could be bolted onto BFF.
Good luck getting ACW on the gaming table. 😀
To me BFF & RFF are ACW’s Gold Standard. Case closed.ReplyDelete
Thanks Mike for your continued support of this blog. 😀Delete
I agree with you wholeheartedly.
That is an excellent, excellent review sir. I got a lot from this post. I echo same where I have the rules in question, and you have highlighted some of the things I didn't know about others.ReplyDelete
That is an excellent, excellent review sir. I got a lot from this post. I echo same where I have the rules in question, and you have highlighted some of the things I didn't know about others.ReplyDelete
So nice, you said it twice lol. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate it. And I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😀Delete
Thanks for the review stewart! Where are you located? I first heard about your blog via SacHistGaming. Let's get together and play. Contact me via email@example.com. Here's a link to a BP batrep. Don't expect high production quality.ReplyDelete
Thanks Grover for stopping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate it. I’m in the Sac area, I’ll shoot you an email with my more exact location. I’m hoping when all this Covid stuff clears up some I can be a more active member of the club. When the family lets me....😀Delete
Having played RF&F, Longstreet (Of course) and PC2 with you, I enjoyed RF&F the most. LIke you said, Longstreet was almost a videogame feel (LIke the classic PC game North and South - which you can get free for yer phone btw) and wasn't much of a tabletop effort at all. Heck, even the rules said you don't need minis to play, instead offering that cards could be used for the units. We actually played I think 6 games and my poor force was awfully undermanned and underpowered compared to your dirty Yanks.LOL I think though that it would make for a good rules set to teach younger gamers for the random "fun factor" and due to the easy-"ness" of the rules set in general?ReplyDelete
Thoroughly enjoyed this post matey and it was fun to go down memory lane seeing pics of your minis set out in cool scenes from games (One or two I might have played in myself?).
Thanks Dai. I appreciate it.Delete
Was it 6? More than I remember. Longstreet is not a bad game but as we said there are more ACW-y games out there. The campaign is set up like that where the CSA start out strong but get weaker and the USA the opposite, especially with artillery.
Yes, I’m sure you were a player in some of those games. Good times. We’ll do it again as time goes on and the world gets straightened out. 😀
Thanks for writing this up Stew, quite enjoyed it, although my own civil war knowledge is pretty thin.ReplyDelete
Thanks Laz. I appreciate you leaving all the comments. 😀Delete
And no worries about your knowledge of ACW. That just means when we finally get to play together I can dazzle you with historical tidbits. 😀
ACW is not my era, but always appreciate a good piece analyzing rules: nicely done and very informative. I may check out Rank and File (I wasn't aware of that set until now).ReplyDelete
Thanks Ed, I appreciate your continued comments on my blog. But the ACW is actually EVERYONE’s era!! 😀Delete
I think Rank and File is a very good generic horse and musket rule set. Simple, elegant, and fun.
That was an excellent write-up and I'm impressed you got it done during what I imagine is a busy time for you. As someone who knows nothing about this historical period in wargaming, I think its impressive that there three rulesets that you can give 4 or 5 stars to and that should give any gamer interested in this period plenty to chew on, I would think :)ReplyDelete
Thanks a bunch Kuribo! I appreciate you leaving all the comments. 😀Delete
I hope the post will be useful to anyone, but will settle for mildly entertaining. My trick for blog writing is that I actually do most of it at work. Don’t tell anyone. It helps that I have a position that involves one day of just ‘being available’ for stuff and if no one needs me then I have a lot of down time. 😀
Hey SB.... Really like the RF&F games at your house. Wish you could come plat the BF&F games I've put on at the libraries... (Naturally, NO BF&F games the past 12 months... LORD willing we'll be back to gaming in libraries by late summer or fall... OR whenever you give us the two thumbs up to come game with you at your house.)ReplyDelete
As to your well thought out review on these rules... I've played three sets and found ONLY Rank and File an acceptable 2nd place to RF&F / BF&F. RF&F / BF&F is the REAL DEAL ACW rule set, the gold (or crypto ha, ha) standard ACW rules. It use to be Johnny Reb (especially JRII) was a dominate ACW rule set at regional conventions and a favorite of two of our local game club members. After RF&F came out, then BF&F 2nd edition, JR went away.
Just check out the Historicon site for the last 3 conventions to see how RF&F / BF&F dominated the ACW games offered.
FORGET the rest and just stick with the BEST!!!
ALAN S ... with hundreds and hundreds of stands of 10mm ACW troops who are all awaiting ACW game action.
Hi Alan! Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m very glad that you enjoyed those games at my place. It’s always a pleasure to have you over and it’s been waaay to long.Delete
I’ve never played JR but I’d like to give it a try once. In the meantime we’re agreed that our ACW games will be 95% RFF or BFF with the occasional R&F thrown in 😀
I’m hoping that we can get back to gaming sometime this year. I need to play in one of your 10mm games again. 😀
Oh, the Ambivalence. The Ambivalence.ReplyDelete
At first, I was worried we couldn't be friends anymore. After Mint Chocolate Chip, Rocky Road is the BEST! Then I thought all would be right with us when you gave Rank and File (by Crusader Publishing - hard copy, last check, available from Old Glory 25s, I think, PDFs from other sources) when you gave such a glowing review of those truly wonderful rules. And then you had to go and cause all sorts of consternation by giving that nasty, dreckful set of rules Fire and Fury (it's real name from it's real beginnings) such high praise. Played it all of once and never, ever had any desire to play it again - because it had no feel at all (if any of us have any real sense of it so far removed) of the ACW battles I've participated in, always in miniatures of course. Unless you count the 3/4 dozen reenactments I've watched in person. If that is what you are after, I heartily recommend Johnny Reb second edition. Beyond question, reading many of the scores of ACW battle books I've consumed over the decades, I've often thought - and shared with others - that the battles were fought with JR2 in mind. Of course, the reason I moved on from those rules is they took too much time to prepare to run a game - even after twenty years of using the rules to run unknown numbers of games over those years.
But, hey, to each their own horse - even cavalry in the ACW both in the east and more so in the western campaigns. I did, not long before lock down, watch an F&F game being played and, frankly, it was a bit of torture watching the game proceed at a glacial pace, and a slow glacier at that. I was only able to survive the experience because I got to visit with friends suffering through the game, um, I mean playing the game. I'll stick with my beloved Rank and File.
Black Powder - is a triple yuck on my list. Do agree that Too Fat Lardies can be an awkwardly acquired taste. I am currently digesting Charlie Don't Surf for my brand new collection of Vietnam war figures who are anxiously awaiting paint. Lots of cool stuff there but a bit more complicated than it needs to be - but that is a hallmark of English written rules in my experience; plus they are rarely well organized for ease of play and ready reference. Still think I will use them, perhaps with some modifications.
I know, I know. There I go being a nuisancy nay-sayer again. Well, someone has to take the dirty jobs, right?
Be well and hope we can play in person some time soonish. If you don't banish me after insulting your favorite periods favorite rules!
Thanks for the comment Greg. It’s always nice to hear from you. There’s a lot to respond to, but I’ll start with the most important topic;Delete
Nobody likes Rocky Road. Nobody. It’s the sardines of ice cream. 😀
I don’t have the long memories of you and Alan, so I feel I don’t have as much skin in the game. Luckily for you and me I like fire and fury and rank and file!
I’ll readily state that if I was looking for a really easy and quick convention rule set that Rank and File would be the better choice.
However I’ve hosted several RFF at conventions and have found that people can and do pick up the rules fairly quickly. Plus I know some small tricks that help RFF play a little quicker. 😀
Even though I don't have any ACW figures ECW is the best CW in my opinion!) most of the guts I game with do so I have played a few games. We rarely use commercial rule sets for the bid Sunday games, so I have not played any of the rules reviewed, but it was an interesting read nonetheless Stew, so thanks for going to all that effort!ReplyDelete
Thanks Ross! You’ve been playing SP2 lately if I am not mistaken which is on the post. But it’s a generic rule set so can find its way into any home. 😀Delete
Glad you read it all and were entertained just a little. I also like reading opinions on rule sets.
And I will forgive your across the pond bias for your own civil war. Since over here we only had the one we might be partial to it. 😀
Great stuff Stew, very informative 😀 I've only ever played two of those you reviewed so it was really interesting to hear your thoughts as you seem quite versed in the era - looks like we're going to have to look into getting RFF for the club. It's funny because I started gaming the ACW with board games - we used to play the old Victory Games Civil War game (with the giant map, hundreds of chits, and would take forever to play) and it was actually playing Richard Borg's Battle Cry about 10 years ago that made me start thinking about gaming the ACW in miniature and specifically 28mm.ReplyDelete
We had another go at SP2 so hopefully I can post up some thoughts on how that went and see what you think 😀
Hey Thanks Ivor for writing down your thoughts on my blog. I appreciate it.Delete
Aaahhh. Battle Cry. I still got that game on the shelf. Or it’s in storage. It’s somewhere, that’s the point.
If you keep going with your SP2 project in the ACW, you’ll soon have more games of SP2 logged than I have, and then you can be the expert! 😀
All of us miniature wargamers tend to become well versed in areas that mirror our collections. Maybe not all of them, but at least our favorites.
Post sun rise addendum to earlier comments. I was a die hard Johnny Reb player when Fire and Fury came out. Johnny Reb gives a very good tactical sense to my reading of ACW battles - I have literally read of battles that reminded me of games I had played with JRII and vice-a-versa, played games based on battle reports in books, I believe it was a Stephen Sears book with "bloody" in the title that was essentially - though written as a battle history - loaded with scenarios designed for JRII with maps to help out as if drawn for the rules. Then when I played that game of Fire and Fury, when it was "new and shiny" I didn't get any tactical feel at all, did I say I got no tactical feel at all. It ran fine as a Game and played quickly and allowed bigger games because units represented brigades. But it lacked any granularity for me. The RFF rules came out around the same time as a new set of JR rules (forget which) - essentially there was a duel for the soul of ACW miniatures gamers between the two sets. JR won for me - until I discovered Rank and File which is infinitely easier to learn and run.ReplyDelete
Oh, I also, briefly, got to meet the late John Hill who wrote the JR series of rules. It was at one of the two Celebrate History conventions near San Francisco. I was using his rules, with a late friend, to run the whole of the 1st Bull Run battle with all the proper units (and properly painted - mostly from my friends collection) with custom built terrain (by me). He was demoing his new rules on a spectacular 6 mm layout of professionally built terrain and he came by to check out our game and thank us for using his rules, very pleasant man - and very vertically challenged, maybe all of 5' and an inch or two tall. But seemed a truly nice guy.
And, yes, a nice and thorough review of many ACW rulesets without bogging down into minutiae which so many reviews do because they only cover one set.
Now I have to go pull weeds and dig dirt. AKA play in the garden.
(Did you run FF in the game at a convention I played in - if so, I guess I played two games or did I just watch because I was running my own game? Blurry memory.)
Hey again! I think the original Fire and Fury might of had some of those issues; I’ve never played the original. If they came out in the 90s then I was still in high school and I wouldn’t even hear of this hobby until I was in graduate school. But I’m glad you liked the post overall. 😀Delete
And yes you did play once in my RFF games. If you disliked the rules back then I did not notice; likely because you have too much class and good taste to bash rules at a convention during the game. 😀
One of the things that drove me away from JR or ADF was the basing. Needing multiple stands of different numbers of figures to represent the same unit. Just seemed like a lot of extra work. 😀
Just a follow on to Rank and File, the author fully supports the D8 for morale usage. It’s actually my favorite rules set for the 1700-1870 period.ReplyDelete
Thanks Mike for coming by and writing a comment. Appreciate it. You were the one that introduced me to that mod and it’s suuuuch a good idea. It’s a great set of rules. I’m almost tempted to give it that 5th star. 😀Delete
For years we only ever used Fire n Fury for our ACW games, but we kinda fave up on them in the end as we found them so frustrating. You get yourself in a fantastic positon ready to charge then BAM. You go and throw a 1 and don't move.ReplyDelete
We once played a game for around 6 hours and one unit never moved for the whole game. They certainly got the Fury part of the name right.
Thanks Ray for the comment. Were you playing the original Fire and Fury? I ask bc in the versions I have any unit that is in good order, in command, and fresh would still get to move on a 1; albeit a half move. Make it a vet unit and it would get a full move on a 1.Delete
I love this post- read it thru TWICE and have to agree on so many levels. In the end, like you it came down to F&F and R&F. I loved Fire and Fury when it first came out- and played some big games- in 25mm- First Fay Chickamauga, First Bull Run, Stones River- too many to count. With a large group it took a while for the non ACW buffs to get a handle on the rules..some felt they were a little slow at times. When i made the switch to Rank & File i never got a complaint. Big games with at least 6-8 players ( sometimes up to 15) R&F were fast, easy to get their head around and played fast. A complete novice as well as veteran gamers were happy. So for the last 10 years at least, it's been R&F.ReplyDelete
Thanks again for this post. Great read!
Oh...and as for using a D8 for morale...I never thought of it....it's on the cards for the next game! Great idea!Delete
Hi John, thanks for reading the post twice and for leaving a comment. I’m glad you found it worth the time.Delete
I agree that Rank and File is a great rule set for fast easy play. It perfect for games like you just described; large tables, many players, and variable levels of experience.
I’m not sure I would try to do Fire and Fury with more than 6 people; not unless most of them knew the rules and could help the rookie some. Or we just give that guy some command out in the corner of nowhere. 😀
And YES use the D8 for morale. It helps keeping units stuck in and not ping ponging all over the table as much.
An excellent post and thoughtful reviews. I agree that F&F (either the regimental or brigade versions) are the “best” rules to simulate division / corps level action. The dice structure (opposed d10’s) can lead to surprising results if you roll a 1 and your opponent rolls a 10 but I’ve found they even out over the course of a battle. I’m also pretty sure that the 20th Maine rolled a 10 vs a Confederate 1 on the second day of Gettysburg,ReplyDelete
I have a little bit more love for 2 of the rules sets reviewed Longstreet and Altar of Freedom. I like to put on large participation games at conventions and Longstreet is the go to set for ACW. It’s easy to teach and plays quickly. Most people grasp the basics after the first turn and don’t require a lot of supervision.
Altar of Freedom is a “grand Tactical” game and does allow one to play an entire battle in a single game session. The command system and turn clock management is really fun. I do agree that the combat is simplified and the player is more focused on Maneuver than tactical combat. I haven’t really found a better “whole battle” rule set.
Pickett’s Charge is a bit of a mess. That’s really a shame because the Napoleonic version “General d’Armee” is my favorite Napoleonic rule set.
Thanks again for taking the time to organize your thoughts
Thanks Tony for your continued support of this silly blog. I appreciate it.Delete
I LIKE the 1 vs 10 in Fire and Fury. I like that it makes charge combat never a sure thing.
I have nothing but love for AoF. It’s a great game but more strategic/ operational level and I just prefer the grittier combat of other games. I’ve experimented a little with taking the bidding system of AoF (or a system very similar) and using it BFF games for things like deployment. Needs work though.
I’m REALLY surprised by the choice of Longstreet for a large participation game. How many decks do you have? I’d be using Rank and File.
And it’s too bad about PC. I want to like it. You probably play it better bc you got GdA. It’s funny that owning the Nap version helps you play the ACW. 😀
Oh crap! Sorry Miles! I confused you with someone else! Even though it clearly says Miles and not Tony. Looks like I failed my reading comprehension roll. ☹️Delete
Interesting and exhaustive post on a war I have little/no interest in (no offense!) My nephews are very slowly building two armies in 28mm and we will probably use blackpowder because we have some idea of what we're doing having played warlord's pike and shot a fair bit, so I guess I'll have to play! Maybe the costumes are a bit boring and there are no tanks to make up for it?!ReplyDelete
No offense at all Iain! We all don’t have to like the same stuff. But thanks for leaving a nice comment for me anyway. 😀Delete
I’m sure though that after a few games with the nephews you’ll see the ACW as the glorious conflict that it is. 😀
A great post Stew, well thought out reviews. To be fair the only ACW rules I have played are Fire & Fury and after the update Brigade Fire & Fury. Found these work fine, have played some seriously big battles using them, Gettysburg and Antietam, as well as smaller self generated scenerios. See no need to change to anything else for this command level of game.ReplyDelete
Thanks Tony! Makes perfect sense to stick with what you like and not be like me who seems to have a compulsion to buy ACW rule set after rule set. Only to keep coming back to F&F. Imagine how much money you’ve saved! 😀Delete
Excellent and helpful reviews. Have you had much experience player Brother Against Brother? I have owned the rules for years, and was excited by them when I first bought them, but have never played a game with them and don't know hear much about them. I do play SP2 and love it, especially its narrative power, though not sure how much it has any particular ACW feel about it.ReplyDelete
Thanks Damien for stopping by and got leaving a comment. I appreciate it.Delete
I have played BvB and have a copy of the rules that I got second hard. It’s a fun game and I do like it’s morale system. I didn’t include it in the post because you can’t go out and buy it these days as it’s out of print. I heard rumors of a new edition coming out on TMP but that was before the pandemic. 😀
Thanks for putting this up Stew, have you ever looked at the brigade-level ruleset A Firebell in the Night? Also, should I buy JR2 or JR3?ReplyDelete
Your welcome James. My pleasure.Delete
No I haven’t read or played Fireball or JRanything so I can’t help you there.
Though I was put of off JR bc of the basing bc to mark casualties you replace a stand of figures with a stand with less figures. From 5 to 4 to 3 I think and that means you need multiple stands for each regiment which sounds like a pain to me. 😀
Good reviews. Thanks. I absolutely agree with you about the JR basing and had many a discussion with John Hill about it. He was adamant and so am I - I hate the JR basing. But...I love everything else about JRII (JRIII is good but not as good). So here is what I did. Since the JR basing is intended only for morale reasons (lose a stand, check morale with a minus for each stand lost), I use a stand 25mm square with 4 figures and simply changed so a small regiment (under 4 stands) has a +3 modifier per stand lost, a regular regiment (4-6 stands) has a +2 modifier per stand lost, and a large regiment (>6 stands) has a +1 modifier per stand lost. It works just fine. In JRIII, it is +4, +3, +2 as JRIII has a different scale (1"=50 yds vs 1"= 30-40 yds in JRII).ReplyDelete
I found too many holes in F&F incarnations for my taste (RF&F deals poorly with skirmishers, for example and I am still not sold on combining all fire against a unit into one roll) but I will still play it.
Again, thanks for the excellent reviews.
That should say a PLUS for each stand lost.ReplyDelete
Thanks Winks. I’m glad you enjoyed the found reviews. One day, I hope to try out a JR game just to see how it is. 😀Delete
Good review thanks. Have to say I had a similar issue to pickets charge. Should be such a good set of rules. IsaacReplyDelete
Great write up for an overview of some the rule sets available. Have to say my go to is BFF since 93 although I've added now some parts from V2. The group I've introduced it to have taken to it like ducks. Simple, fast and manages to capture the ACW feel. RFF was left wanting with its shift of unnecessary complexity and after a 6 hour game with more time with head in books rather than rolling dice we called it at a draw. This was from 30+ year gamers and not new to RFF. Again, too granular for what it's trying to achieve.ReplyDelete