Home Forums Horse and Musket American Civil War Looking at 4 ACW rule sets

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  • #155250
    Norm S
    Participant

    I have taken a few ACW rule sets for a spin, jut to compare the ‘in game feel’ of the fire / charge processes.

    It’s just a bit of fun rather than serious analysis.

    More info on the blog. LINK

    http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2021/04/acw-rule-comparisons.html

     

    #155251
    John D Salt
    Participant

    This is really interesting. ACW not my period, but I tip my hat to the rule designer who named the morale test on first contact the “see the elephant” test.

    Obviously one can’t draw definitive conclusions from just one play per rule set, but the results seemed sufficiently similar, and sufficiently believable, to provisionally decide that none of the rule sets are obviously barking mad when it comes to representing the balance between fire and movement.

    The idea of a pre-generated random number stream helps to make the results that much more comparable, and is in fact what is done in serious computer simulations, so well done if you invented the idea independently.

    One thing I would like to know for purposes of the comparison, what where the troop and time scales for each set of rules?

    All the best,

    John.

    #155252
    Norm S
    Participant

    Thanks John.

    Black Powder – Units are regiments, grouped into Brigades. regiments can be small to Large. Units move at 12″ (but can move between 0 and 3 times in a turn) and a rifled musket can fire out to 24″. They do not have a stated ground or time scale. They state a principle of weapon range is that they go with what feels right re unit movement and they say while weapon ranges were likely greater, what they use ‘feels’ right..

    Fire Power – Units are regiments and operate independently without a brigade hierarchy. regiments are a standard generic size. Units move at 2D6″  and a rifled musket can fire out to 24″. The rules do not make mention of ground or time scale. They have randomised movement, as above it looks like a game with a building block based on what looks / feels right.

    Pickett’s Charge – Units are regiments grouped into brigades. regiments can be small to large. Units move at 9″  and a rifled musket can fire out to 18″, but also have an ‘extreme range of 24″. Ground scale is 1mm = 1 yard for 15mm scale. All measurements in the game are cm for 15mm and inches for 28mm. The timescale is described as ‘elastic’.

    Two Flags – One Nation -Units are regiments grouped into brigades. regiments can be small to large. Units move at 8″  and a rifled musket can fire out to 8″. states regimental frontages will be 80 – 120mm,  ground scale is 1″ to 50-75 yards and suggests time scale be thought of in terms of 1 representing roughly 15 minutes.

    #155253
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Thanks for that.

    Brownie points to the designer of “Two Flags — One Nation” for bothering to state game scales, I think!

    Interesting that although all sets are pitched at the same organizational level, the maximum firing range varies between threeish and oneish times the standard movement rate. I take this to mean that no set allows people to leap through the enemy’s zone of fire unscathed, which would be unreasonable, you might only resolve firing once before the attackers get into contact.

    My understanding of the period (based entirely on Paddy Griifith’s “Battle in the American Civil War”) is that infantry attacks often tended to stall and result in ineffectual “bickering” between opposing firing lines. My reading of your trial plays is that the first three all had the confederates decisively repulsed, whereas “Two Flags — One Nation” produced a result more like the stalling and bickering that I would expect to be typical. Was that part of the design intention? While it would obviously be a good deal of effort to do more replays, did you get a feel of how likely such a result would be under the other rules?

    All the best,

    John.

    #155256
    Norm S
    Participant

    John, fairly common to the charge situation in these games seems to be that the defender will get off a volley immediately before contact and in each of the rules, casualties from that firepower has the potential to throw back the assault there and then, whether that be by direct result or failed tests etc. The exception is Firepower, the most basic of the 4 rules, which does not have what we might term a Defensive Fire mechanism.

    Only Two Flags – One Nation has a specific morale test (capability test) to be able to put the charge in and even if it it fails, the contact is still made, but it is called a half-hearted attack with the -3 fire dice penalty. This was a deliberate design mechanic to deliver that ‘unenthusiastic’ and very limited contact, where units dance in front of each other and do not to that final bayonet point attack. Likewise the combat mechanic of 1’s causing hits to the attacker obviously gets reduced in a half-hearted attack, because less dice are rolled, again reflecting the ‘stalling and bickering’ situation.

    One of the things I wanted to cover was the apparent sense that ACW regiments would go into the meat grinder and get chewed up quite quickly, putting an emphasis on fresh troops being at hand to rotate into the front lines. The design has  units diminish through casualties and all of a sudden you reach a tipping point (3 – 4 casualties) where the unit can still perform, but danger lurks. At 5+ casualties, each such unit must test for retreat in the retreat phase, if they fail their test, they fall back and take an additional hit, so once you get past that tipping point, the unit actually makes their part of the line vulnerable and there is an increasing trend towards retiring even if they are not fired upon again, because the test is mandatory for every unit with 5+ casualties in the retreat phase. At 8 casualties, the unit is removed from play.

    I did like Pickett’s Charge because the author is up front about unlinking ‘charge’ from the actual hand-to-hand melee. In his rules the charge should be decisive one way or the other in terms of one side losing fighting will – only if that phase is not decisive (i.e. a draw) do we go deeper into the combat by having a close combat …. or the hand-to-hand bit. I think from my readings, that it is a much better understanding of ‘charge’ in the ACW period.

    Both Black Powder and Firepower are looking at a more decisive outcome and they use the term charge without obvious finer distinction ….. but we can always assume that that is exactly what the dice is doing for us, with a failed charge perhaps simply representing the ‘stalling and bickering’, though without imagination, it is difficult to detect because the gamer is programmed to see dice rolls in the spectrum of pass or fail, win or lose, not in story telling.

    #155259
    Tony S
    Participant

    In our club myself and another gentleman tend to buy and try far too many rules, whilst the rest of the club looks on with varying degrees of bemusement.   We once did the same comparisons of some of our rules for the Napoleonic period.  Great fun!  I just love reading about other such comparisons.  You were much more rigorous in your testing – we simply played the same scenario using different sets over a period of several weeks.

    John mentioned “no set allows people to leap through the enemy’s zone of fire unscathed” – which I quite agree is a good thing.  But it was my understanding that Black Powder does indeed allow that.   I was quite turned off when I played it once or twice for Napoleonic battles when a unit was able to rush across the table and deliver a point blank volley to the enemy without any interference.  Admittedly, it depends on a command roll, but the fact that it is quite possible sticks in my craw somewhat.

    That said, thanks for sharing your endeavours.  Loved reading it.

    #155261
    Norm S
    Participant

    Thanks Tony. Glory Hallelujah, the Black Powder supplement for ACW has a rule that says if a unit moves more than once, it can’t fire. It is a superb brake on the point you don’t like and I’m not sure why the designer did not take the opportunity when the second edition came out to put that in as a standard rule.

    The ‘big moves’ in Black Powder would then be all about manoeuvre and not attacking.

    I would like to be a gamer who just plays a few sets and gets to know them very well, that way even greater complexity in a set becomes less of an issue because of regular play …… but we do like the next new thing 🙂

     

    #155269
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    My understanding is that Black Powder does allow defensive fire against a charge. We played a game of ACW Black Powder and were quite satisfied with the feel of it.

    My favorite ACW set remains Fire and Fury.

    #155279
    Tony S
    Participant

    Not allowing troops to fire if they move more than once is a rather good idea, I quite agree.   Indeed a shame that is wasn’t added to the second edition (which I haven’t bought by the way; I’ve only ever owned and played the first edition).

    The idea that good command rolls are all about maneuver is quite compelling.   Maybe I should dig them out again and add that Glory Hallelujah rule for other periods.

    There may very well be a rule about allowing defensive fire against a charge, but there was no charge in my example.  They just rapidly advanced and delivered a volley, while the enemy merely watched.  I always have a vision of that scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, where John Cleese runs across a field in plain view to surprise the wedding guards watching him closely.

    I don’t play much ACW (although somewhat contrarily I own armies in two different scales for that war) but right before the Covid outbreak we finished a campaign in Longstreet and absolutely loved it.  Highly recommend them.

    I quite understand the logical and intelligent decision to concentrate on a few rulesets, but I certainly seems unable to do that!   I can only offer the explanation that this is a hobby, and therefore does not need to make any sense!

     

    #155281
    Norm S
    Participant

    Black Powder does allow the defender to use closing fire against a charging unit. It can be quite devastating, because the defender gets a dice modifier for close range fire.

    The Warlord Games ACW EPIC package may see an upsurge in ACW Black Powder interest / posts. I hope so.

    #155314
    Sane Max
    Participant

    well, I love the way Black Powder plays, but still think that for the ACW you cant top F&F – and yet….. a friend and I played the same scenario using both, and commented several times on the way both games were turning out the same way. It might just be that our built in prejudices (which in this case I think are good prejudices)  overpowered the rules. in both games there was a lot of troops standing behind rail fences shooting at each other – even though in both cases rail fences offered no benefit whatsoever 🙂

     

    I will have to have a look at the other two!

     

     

    #155317
    Norm S
    Participant

    Yes, a very interesting point, with such a tight focus, there were moments when I was left ‘discovering’ that even when treading different rule and ethos paths, results can be surprisingly similar. I think you are exactly right that player influence has to be treated as part of the mix.

    #155326
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    Very interesting, thank you Norm.  You mention the possibility of reducing Capability Rolls in 2F1N but that it would make things a bit more impersonal.  Through this experiment do you think there are some aspects you may change or expand upon in your rules?

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #155369
    Norm S
    Participant

    Thanks. Probably not. I have been involved in a couple of designs and one of the things that strikes me is that the ‘maths’ has to be right and that at an early part of design, the maths gets built into the system and everything starts to run of that, so some tweaks around the edges might not matter, but that anything that fundamentally interrupts the maths does have a ripple effect.

    My rules worked well with hexes and gave a good game and were useful in the context that there are few places to go if you want hex based rules, but as I do a sister set for an open table, based upon a strict translation, I think they compare less favourably to some of the commercial sets out there. I still like them, but then everyone might say that about their own rules 🙂

    I am just putting on a decent sized scenario of the sunken lane today, using the Pickett’s Charge rules to explore them further. If it becomes do-able, I should really, while the terrain is set up, run the other three rule sets over the same battlefield to gauge differences. With 5 brigades per side, most aspects of the rules should be brought out.

    #155374
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    Interesting, it’s not every person who can look at their own work in such an objective manner, thanks.

    I am just putting on a decent sized scenario of the sunken lane today, using the Pickett’s Charge rules to explore them further. If it becomes do-able, I should really, while the terrain is set up, run the other three rule sets over the same battlefield to gauge differences. With 5 brigades per side, most aspects of the rules should be brought out.

    This would be brilliant!  I know it would be a lot of work, but if you could give this a go I think we would all learn quite a bit.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #155435
    Norm S
    Participant

    Here is a short video clip of my table for the Sunkenlane scenario. LINK

    http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2021/04/preparing-for-sunken-lane-1862.html

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