Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Viking Shore; Part 1 - Longship

 

Hello All,

In this post I build a 28mm (ish) Viking Longship.  All good Vikings need a longship.  Which means until now all my Vikings have been quite lame.




I'm stuck in the Dark Ages, but it's a good kind of stuck you know?  Like when something is stuck in your teeth but it tastes good.  

I wanted to expand my dark ages collection but did not want to paint miniatures.  Painting miniatures is boooooring.  Decided to do something different and build this ship that I've had lying around for a few months.  It took way longer to do than expected; due to my lack of time and poor modelling skills.  The object is not to have the ship sail around carrying miniatures but to sit on a coast looking like a really cool piece of terrain.  A little Dark Ages scenery magic that will get some oohhs and ahhs and a maybe few Viking lady groupies.  The I can say something sexy like "Let me show you my Longship..." 


Here is My Longship


Tadaa!


Bow

Stern



Whole ship

whole ship another angel





mast



Now for fun, let's put a miniature on the deck so we can get some sense of scale...


Standing in the Bow looking awesome

Stern


Middle



On the whole, I am quite pleased how it turn out, which is why I spammed you with pictures. 



Construction Notes (for those interested):


I used the same Revell Viking ship model that everyone has.  This model is 1:50 and 28mm is close to 1:56 so it near enough in scale to the miniatures to make no big difference.  

I got the model from a nice man on TMP
who basically let me have it for free.  I just paid the postage
and gave a promise that one day I would use it.
Promised fulfilled.





The ship comes in this ugly brown plastic but has everything needed to construct it.
One problem is that the model is designed to sit on a stand so has a keel
which will prevent it from laying flat on the game table.
It had to go.



To cut it down to closer to the waterline, I first glued to two halves of the hull together.
 Then I used a dremel with a cutting attachment to slice off the keel.
And a sanding attachment to further wear it down.

I didn't do the best job of it.
The plastic was melting as much as it was cutting off or being sanded away
and I was afraid I would end up destroying it..
  It now lays mostly flat, but wobbles to the right some.
I quit while I was ahead.


The model has an anchor well in the bow of the ship (read: big open space)
that I didn't like; how can someone stand in the bow and look awesome with no deck?
I constructed some deck planks over the anchor well with card from a cereal box.




Making the furled sail was a bit of challenge and I tried a couple ways.
The successful method was taking some toilet paper and soaking it in watered down glue,
enough that it became saturated but still held together (ie, not a lot of water/glue),
then folding it over and over on top of itself like layer cake.
Let dry on some wax paper.
Then used scissors to trim it down to the size of the yard. 
It kinda-sorta-almost looks like cloth that was gathered up in folds.



I glued the sail to the yard.
I took some lengths of  'rope' included in the box and coated them with glue
and then wrapped them around the yard and sail.
Looks alright.




Used the 'rope' to tie it to the mast.
I also took lengths of the rope covered with glue and wrapped around the mast
in strategic locations (where I thought rope would be).
I did the same on the Bow and Stern parts.  



I'm pretty sure that Vikings did not climb up the mast and then go out along the yard to loosen the sail like on Napoleonic era ships; but rather had the yard stored down the center of the boat and when it came time, just raised to yard into place.  I originally tried to have the yard and sail stored lengthwise along the ship but I couldn't get it to fit, so up high it went.  



Lastly was putting the decals on the shields, paint the shields some,
and putting the shields on the ship.
The decals are fiddley and didn't always work.
I had no intention of doing every shield that came in the box (64)
but just enough to give a good showing.  



Problems That I have Made Myself


Now that I am the proud owner of a Viking longship, I've come into some BIG problems.

1) I haven't quite figured out how to store the damn thing.

2) One longship does not a Viking fleet make; now I want one or two more.  This has lead to some internet shopping and comparisons.  Any suggestions are welcome before I buy something.  

3) The biggest issue is that I currently don't have any suitable river bank / beach terrain for the awesome model to sit on.  This must be solved immediately otherwise my Vikings will continue to be quite lame because there's nowhere to put it on the table.  My Vikings can saaay they have a ship but no one will see it, just like in high school I had a girl friend in Canada.  I'd like something where the ship could appear to be partly on shore and partly in the water; like they just pulled up to do some raiding.  

I freely admit that these aren't really-real problems.  


Now More Sporadic in Nature


I want to give a notice to those who are silly enough to waste their time by reading this blog regularly that updates will likely become more sporadic in the near future.  I have too many real world concerns that are coming to head and will require time and effort.  The biggest of which is I have to get serious about moving; unless I want son #3 (now 4 months old) to share my room forever.  

Till Next time.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Ravenfeast: Escort the Priest Scenario and Review

 

Feeling Dark


Me: "Doctor, I just feel like it's coming back after a long time away."

Therapist: "What's coming back?"

Me: "I've just been feeling so Dark lately."

Therapist: "Uh-huh, and how long does this last?"

Me: "Oh, it lasts for Ages. What does it all mean?"

Therapist: "It means that it's time to blog about the Dark Ages on that silly little miniature wargame blog of yours."

Me: "oh, I can do that!  Sounds Great!  Thanks Doc!"

Therapist: "No problem.  Glad I could help.  That will be $500 for the session and I don't take insurance."

Me: "....."


Ravenfeast produced by Little Wars TV


I'm sure most of us are aware of Little Wars TV the youtube channel.  Lots of vicarious fun going on there and a great presentation of what a miniature wargame club could be like (My favorite guy is Keith).   They also do a nice job of promoting 'the hobby' and have put out a FREE set of wargaming rules for the Dark Ages called Ravenfeast.  Billed as a simple wargame aimed at beginners.  Very admirable and the group deserves a lot of praise and support.  It's the first entity that I've seriously thought about supporting on Patreon.  I haven't; I got a family to support and a small drug habit that needs feeding.  But I've thought about it.






I also thought to myself,  "I love the Dark Ages, and I love new rules, and I haven't played a miniature wargame in months, and I'm so bored lately, and I stubbed my toe, and my hair has split ends, I need to have some fun, so why not give the rules a try out?"  Yes, I tend to think in run on sentences.  


Escort the Priest to Victory


Ravenfeast comes with 3 scenarios and there are more online, but I still made up my own escort scenario just for fun-zees.  Here's an attempt at a dramatic backstory:

"King Alfred is moving his armies of Saxons against the Vikings lead by Guthrum.  A great battle will occur soon.  Several days journey from the armies a priest has a vision; If he carries the cross from his holy order of the Incredibly Nice Saint Augustus Nativity Ecclesiarch (or I.N.S.A.N.E) to the battlefield then God will surely grant victory over the heathen Vikings.  So he begins to walk without stopping and word travels ahead of his coming.  A Saxon Earl takes his men to provide an escort for safety and protection.  A Viking Jarl is dispatched to capture/kill/prevent the priest from fulfilling his quest and sets an ambush...."


Set Up: Use the exact same set up as the 'Back to the Boats' scenario in the rule book.

Forces: The Saxons are the Defenders and the Vikings are the Ambushers.  The Ambushers have about 200 more points than the Defenders (in hindsight I reduce this to 100 after playing it).  There are sample troops in the book which also provides the point structure so you can create your own unique profiles.  The forces I used were composed of:

That is 403 points of Saxons and 607 points of Vikings.


I used the open point structure to create the Viking Hirdmen Archer; basically a slightly better archer with some armor, because I HAD THE MODELS and they LOOK COOL.  

Distorted image but you get it....


Objectives: The Saxon Defenders must escort the Priest safely across the table.  The Viking Ambushers must stop that from happening. 

Victory:  The Saxons win a major victory if the Priest and at least one Earl or Earl's Champion exit the table (at which point they are somehow magically saved from further pursuit).  Minor Victory if only the Priest leaves the table.  Anything else and the Viking win.  Dirty Vikings. 

Special: Add to the Saxon force the Priest who has the following profile and special traits:
I made up 3 of those traits.
He has a 3" move because he is tired and carrying something heavy.


Game Pics from the Dining Room Table


RF uses a 4x4 table but I am lazy and didn't want to drag out the folding tables from the garage, so just used my dinner table which is around 3x3.  We'll get to the carnage faster that way.  


Table set up



 
Brave Saxon Defenders guard the Priest.
The Earl is the one with the fancy cloak and the raised sword.
All good leaders point their swords in the air.




Dirty Vikings block the road.
The Viking Jarl is wearing the fur cape.
He's also pointing his sword straight up, so he must be a great at this job.




Saxons (on right) move to block the force


Saxons (on left) use the waddle fence as an obstacle to defend
against the Viking flank attack from the other side.








Mid game






Saxons (foregroud) advance toward the Vikings blocking the road




Shieldwalls form and clash together





General Mayhem as the fight breaks down to individual engagements.
The Vikings are able to start attacking the Priest.  



Oh no, the Viking Jarl and some nameless Bondi
are ganging up on the Priest, there are just not enough Saxons to prevent the attacks.



For awhile there it looks like the Saxons are winning.
Viking dead on the left, Saxons on the right




At this point I had to take a break in game due to the Great Interrupter (otherwise known the baby boy) needing a diaper change, a bottle, and 30 minutes of rocking before going back to sleep.  

When I got back, I played two more turns and the Vikings killed the Priest mainly because the Saxons did not have enough men to block each Viking.  


Rules Review?


You don't really need a rule review for Ravenfeast.  The purchase of rule reviews is to give more information so that folks can decide to buy a set of rules or not, and these are free so no need for that! 

Though here are some observations from my game play:

The rules are really well produced.  These look sooo professional and better than some rules that I've paid for. 
The rules do exactly as intended; it's a simple fun rule set.  Us veteran wargamers might find them a little too simplistic (because we're all tactical geniuses right?!)  And there are some nice general hobby encouragement pieces.  It's very well written as well.  

Other observations:
Miniatures are stuck in combat unless they do a disengage move which grants a free attack with no save, which seems strange to me.    I had several models that were stuck in place for several turns because no one could win a fight.  

For example:
The Viking Champion and Saxon Earl shown above were stuck in combat
basically the whole game just trading blows.



Morale tests happen at the end of a turn, and the rules are a little unclear if miniatures who are stuck in combat should take them.  Or maybe I'm just used to LOTR where miniatures are who are fighting are too busy to take morale tests.  I played it that models DID take morale tests and if they failed made a disengage move. 

Rules don't say if a shield wall could be formed in rough terrain (Shield walls move at half speed and rough terrain is also have speed so would a shield wall in rough terrain be half half? I just played no shield walls in rough terrain.

The rules do mention that if a miniature is attacking over an obstacle it takes a negative modifier to it's melee stat.  This did come up in my game.  But it's unclear what happens when the miniatures get stuck in combat like I was describing.  Is one still considered the attacker?  When the Vikings charged the Saxons defending the fence, I gave the Vikings the negative; but if two models continued to fight over the fence I gave them both the negative.   


Overall though, I had a nice evening messing about with my dark ages stuff.  Scratched an itche if you know what I mean.  Till next time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Slyder House and Barn by Things From the Basement

 

Hello all, 

As discussed earlier on the blog, hobbytime seems to come at a premium these days and there's precious little of it, so I've been focusing on some smaller projects in order to see progress.  Here I've completed some 15mm buildings. 


Slyder House and Barn in 15mm


Awhile back a bought into the kickstarter by Things From The Basement for their 'Farms of Gettysburg' set.  Like a madman I went all in and got the complete set, and now I have all these 15mm barns and houses lying around.  As I haven't had experience with this company before; the first buildings were gonna be a an experiment.  I selected the Slyder House and Barn to start because in all my extensive knowledge of Gettysburg, I couldn't immediately recall if anything about the Slyder Farm or where it was. 



Oh, there is it.  In the black circle.
Turns out it's near Little Round Top.  Go figure.
That reminds me, I need a Devils Den.


I have my usual ambivalence with MDF kits.  I want it to be nice but I also don't want to put too much effort into it.  Kinda sums up my whole attitude toward life really.  

I didn't take any WIP pics because there really isn't much to it.  Here's how the buildings came out:


Slyder House and Barn


The kits ARE very nice.  These 15mm buildings are just smaller versions of the 28mm ones, so come designed that you can take off the roof to place miniatures inside.  I'm not gonna be doing that for my ACW gaming so I just glued the roofs on in the end.  Also, you use the instructions for the 28mm kits and these show the assembly of windows and doors, but in the 15mm these are etched on or part of the model, you skip these steps.



I spray painted the house and barn an off white.  If you do light passes from far away the etched details on the MDF remain so it preserves the wood planking effect.  


Rear of the Barn.  Or maybe the front.
I don't know anything about Barns.

On the inside of the windows I glued a piece of navy blue card stock just so they wouldn't be open holes gazing into the nothing inside.  I kinda like this idea.  I'm gonna do it to my own house so folks can't look inside and see how messy it is.  Madness or Brilliance? 








For the house, it was a simple matter of painting the chimney and all the stones in browns and greys. But it took fooorrreeevvveeer.  





On the roofs I added some of those paper shingles that I like so much.  Which also took forever to do or maybe it was because I only got to work on these for about 15 mins at a time...








Overall I like how they came out.  I'm sure that someone with talent and time could really bring these MDF kits to life (I'm looking at you Ivor) but I did a good enough job for the gaming table.  It's one of terrain pieces that once it's surrounded by fields and fences it'll look even better.  



Here's the house in real life.
I find the stones in the wall kinda ugly actually but what can you do?


More Fun with MDF


While I was playing around with MDF, I decided to upgrade my hobby desk with a new paint rack.


The old Paint rack made of plastic disks would always get super messy and just didn't hold the paint stuff very well. So most of the time the paint just ended up sitting on the desk.  



The new paint rack is MDF that I purchased with a gift card that I got for Christmas.
I got a rack that could hold 76 pots of paint because I couldn't possibly have that many.





I like it better already.  Much more organized.
Turns out I had 83 Vallejo paints.  Which seems CRAZY.
I don't even like painting all that much.
There's probably some colors in there that I've never used.




With these buildings complete and off the hobby desk, and newly organized paints I'm ready for the next small project to bring to miniature gaming glory.  Just seeing where inspiration will take me.


On the Pandemic Front


I've now had my two shots and am all vaccinated.  I got them through work because I am an essential worker.  I don't feel all that essential but someone in the Government said I was.  My local area has even stepped down some of it's precautions and there's even talk of having a game convention in September.  That would be amazing.   

Till next time.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

ACW rules review extravaganza!

 

Whew, I'm just barely managing my breakneck speed of posting twice a month.


More ACWrary!

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.    

Games covered:

Alter of Freedom

Pickett's Charge

Sharp Practice 2

Longstreet

Rank and File

Regimental Fire and Fury and Brigade Fire and Fury 2ed.  



ACW is the Best CW


That's why it comes first in alphabetical order.  As most of you know, I am a BIG fan of wargaming the ACW.  I love the history, I love the look, I love the movies, and I love the books.  It's one of my biggest miniature collections.  So naturally alongside the miniatures I've picked up and tried out a couple of rule sets.  

I obviously can't cover all the ACW rulesets ever written.  I've confined myself to rulesets that I own, have read, and played at least once.   I've also limited myself to rules that you could go out and buy right now if you like what you hear.  Also I didn't go too in-depth into the mechanics of each game because that would be a lot of writing and I'm lazy.  Plus you can find such information on other places in the magnificent internet.  You could probably even safely search the internet in front of your spouse for ACW miniature gaming rules because the odds are it won't lead to nudity.  

Throughout the post I'll put pics of my ACW forces in action that have appeared previously on the blog.  I would of liked to of staged new pics but one only has so much time these days.




So here we go.


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.   



However;

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 


Pickett's Charge




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.  



However:

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.  


Longstreet



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.  



However

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.  

Your starting force in Longstreet is a mix of infantry, artillery, and cavalry....WHY the HELL is cav in there?  The ACW reeaaaallly quickly moved off from mixed brigades of infantry and cavalry and as I explained in my previous post, cavalry is dumb.  Ok, it's not dumb but cavalry is really a side line to ACW battles.  

Overall: Longstreet is a very interesting game, I've never played any other game like it (it might be like the other games in the Honour series).  It unique, and that's either a blessing or a curse depending on if you like the card play aspect.  It's more of a deck management game that uses miniatures than a traditional miniature wargame.  While the campaign system is written for it's own rules, it full of good ideas and probably be adapted for use with other rule sets.  But since I'll likely never break out Longstreet just to play a battle, I'll give it 2 stars.  


Rank and File




I'll tell you a secret; I've never played Black Powder (GASP!  SHOCK!).  I've never played BP because I already own a good generic large battle horse and musket rules, and these are Rank and File.  RF is superb in it's simplicity; units can be regiments or brigades or anything you want, the turn sequence is easy, the mechanics are smooth, it's basing is flexible.   You could also pick up the ACW supplement for a few more rules that make it more ACW-y but that's not required really.  But I will say that the supplement is really well written and enjoyable, a good resource in it's own right.  It's one of those supplements that's great for a novice because it gives plenty of background and has just enough rules in it to add more  ACW flavor but really does not change the core mechanics.  
IMPORTANT NOTE:  I have always played R&F using a D8 for morale instead of a D6.  This makes passing morale / rally checks a little easier and allows units to linger longer in combat which results in more delicious carnage.  And because units that take 50% losses cannot rally, this does not increase the game time. 

Combat in R&F is easy and smooth and has enough grind to it to satisfy me.  Units will blast away at each and whittle themselves down.  There's juuust enough of the meat grinder feeling that I like.   Earlier when I talked about Alter of Freedom and stealing the bidding system, it would be Rank and File that I would use.  

I keep saying that R&F is easy to learn (because it is) but that's not to say there is no tactics or strategy.  The game straddles the balance between being simple but still needing a good plan of attack to make it work. 

One of the benefits of R&F is that since it plays pretty quickly you can get a lot of turns into an evening.  Which means it's great for games that start with an empty table and the troops enter from roads.  You won't spend have the evening just getting into position.  




However;

I don't really have anything that I dislike about R&F.  The worse thing about it which really is not bad at all, is that it takes a little more work to prepare a scenario because you have to create the OOB and decide and on the scale.   Units, no matter what they are representing, need to be between 4 and 10 stands each.  I have found that 6 or 7 is the sweet spot. 

There is NO command and control in R&F.  If a unit is not routing it WILL go where you want it to.  Leaders don't really lead but just provide morale benefits.  

Overall: Rank and File does exactly what it says it does: provides easy rules for large battles but still has plenty of tactics to go around.  The ACWness of it comes more from the equipment traits and the special rules for the period, but the generic core mechanics are great.  4 stars.  



Regimental Fire and Fury and Brigade Fire and Fury 2nd Edition






I'm gonna lump these two together because they are basically the same game.  The mechanics in each are 90% the same, it's by the same author and etc...it's the the scale that is different.  One is for Regiments and one is for Brigades (got figure).  RFF has been my go-to set of ACW rules ever since I got them.  I think they are simply the best.  The books are the best written rule books I have ever come across.  They are clear, there is just enough examples and charts, the melee phase is thoroughly explained, the mechanics smooth.  I really appreciate the turn sequence (Side A maneuvers, side B fires, Side A fires, Melee for both; followed by Side B maneuvers, Side A fires, Side B fires, Melee for both and that's 1 complete turn)  and it's a stroke of genius that the morale of the unit is combined with the maneuver check.  I like the way that units degrade over time going from Fresh to Worn to Spent as losses mount and I like the way that this degrade can be speed up or slowed down depending if the unit is Spirited, Reliable, or Unreliable.  It does such a good job of reflecting how some units in the ACW would stand there and take all sorts of punishment while others would start to fall back after being shouted at by the enemy.  It also displays the linear tactics that ACW commanders preferred.  These are the rules that set the bar for a game that feels like an ACW battle.  

I would say that the rules are of moderate complexity as each phase has it's own little subsystem.  I have ran these rules at conventions with no problems and people tend to pick it up fairly quickly.  

I really can't sat enough positives about them.  If you like the ACW and you don't have these rules you are missing out.




However:


In order to sound fair and balanced, here are some MINOR draw backs.
You got to do a lot of math in RFF.  The math is not hard, it's simple addition and subtraction, you just have to do it a lot.  For instance shooting;  people who are completely used to games where each base rolls a D6 with a few modifiers looking for a 4+ can be dismayed that RFF doesn't work that way.  Instead in RFF you add up all the fire points from ALL the units shooting at a target, which converts into a modifier (for example 11 fire points gives a +2 modifier),  add or substract the other modifiers (there's only a handful), roll a D10, and consult the fire chart.  Basically in each subsystem you're rolling a D10 and doing some addition and subtraction to get a result to look on a chart.  It can kinda feel like you're doing a first grader's math homework.  
I want to stress that I think the added complexity is actually a good thing and really helps with the overall feel of the game being ACW.  And again, the math is not hard.  It's not long division.  
It's just more mentally tiring than just counting up successes on a pool of dice.

Each unit in RFF and BFF requires a label, so hosting a game takes work because you have to print out and attach them, as you can see in all the pics in this post.  

RFF and BFF are best a multiplayer games.  In RFF a single player can play a brigade easily and an experienced player could do a division.  In BFF a single player can do a division easily and the more  experienced could do a Corps.  

Overall:  These are my favorite ACW rules and in my mind set the standard for all the other ACW rules.  5 stars. 








Wrapping Up:


Naturally, these are just my opinions and therefore don't really mean anything;  They're worth exactly what you paid to get them.  And even then, if someone was hosting a game and invited me to play and was using any of these rules I would still come along happily.  Even the ones I rated low.  






For myself; if a game was for 3 or more players I would immediately reach for RFF /  BFF or R&F.  If for 2 players I would likely bring SP2 (or just a smaller RFF scenario with 2 brigades a side maximum).  

I hope you enjoyed this rule blitz.  

 If you have a favorite ACW rule set please feel free to let me know.  I'm always on the lookout for ACW rules and even if I never play them I like to read them.