|Union commanders roused from their slumber|
at their H.Q.
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Firstly I just want to thank Jonathan Freitag (fellow blogger) for the interest he has taken in these rules. His comments and playing have helped the rules become a tighter document.
One of the problems that I have created for myself is that as I edit the rules with new ideas and changes etc, I am trying to keep the wordage per page the same, so that anyone wishing to update their printed version of the rules, need only download the relevant changed page(s).
Over time, this has increasingly meant that existing paragraphs get cut down or re-worded to make way for new text and sometimes this leads to existing rules losing some of their meaning or nuance, creating more questions for the reader.
So on this pass-through of the rules, I have expanded the page count and given each section a little more room to breathe. This has allowed for some explanations to be fuller and leaves scope for design comments and examples. In effect, the September 2017 version of the rules should be clearer.
I was due a face-to-face game with Mike yesterday and so a frantic reformatting of the rules and a quick scenario write-up gave the perfect opportunity to put the rules through their paces and see what impact recent changes have made.
For scenario inspiration, I turned to my charming Black Powder rules by Warlord Games and took their Daybreak at Hangman's Creek scenario as the basis of the game.
Essentially Union forces are bivouacked partly on, but mostly off the board. Three Confederate brigades enter the board at dawn, intent on capturing the enemy encampment (left), the town (centre) and the factory (right). In their scenario, the Union have pickets in a forward position that can raise the alarm and cause the Union to mobilise for action. I used a different method, but not until after I had drawn the map and put pickets on the high ground - so ignore them.
|The hexed battlefield - most forces start off the board|
Once the alarm was raised, every Union unit then had to roll 5D6 and this was the number of minutes delay that each unit would then have to suffer before they would become available to the Union player.
|Union commanders startled as the alarm|
|The table from the Confederate position|
As a battle, the scenario caused us problems from the outset, but it was fun to play and it did expose the rules to another outing. For the most part, the open ground allowed the Confederates to move quickly and they were upon the first row of tents before the Union could respond. Additionally, units had to enter via the roads in march column and by time they shook out into line, they had already been roughly handled, with several getting the 'retreat for 1 hex and go disordered for 15 minutes' result, which pushed them back off the table ... ouch!
|The Confederate forces prior to set-up|
Jonathan Freitag had asked me about Elite units. The rules only use Raw, Seasoned and Veteran classes and three groups work well for Capability Testing because of the nature of the bell curve of 2D6. I was reluctant to add a 4th class (elite) as their advantage on that bell curve would have been too significant.
I looked at several ways of dealing with their inclusion, but all seemed to make them into supermen. In the end, I hit on the idea of treating them as veteran except each unit would have a bank of 3 x d6, which they could draw on during play. Basically, whenever any dice are rolled on their behalf (testing, firing etc), they could use one die from their bank of dice to do a re-roll of the die that had not favoured them. In play this seemed to work by giving them a slight edge, but not too much.
Their best use of the rule in our play occurred when an elite unit charged me and as part of their attack dice, rolled 1, 3, 3, 5 and 6, so two hits against me and one against themselves. They cancelled the '1' (which had put a hit on themselves) and instead rolled a die from their bank of dice, this was a 6, putting the hit on me, so in the end I took three hits, which made the charge quite devastating, I thought that worked quite well and brought a bit of tension.
|The Confederates capture half the camp before|
Union forces have chance to form-up.
Again the rule in practice worked well. One of my large units was vulnerable to well situated artillery fire. Mike fired, but the dice were poor, getting only one hit, my extra figure base absorbed that. The result gave a nice bit of narrative.
Another change (and I keep messing about with this) is how casualties are taken by units in cover. I have gone from needing 2 hits to cause one heavy casualty, to doing the same but retaining fractions (that creates admin, which I prefer to avoid) and now I have gone to small arms fire can inflict a maximum of 1 hit per fire, charging 2 hits per charge and it remains the case that cover does not reduce the effects of artillery.
This is the change that I will probably monitor the most carefully as it may make defenders too strong, but at this moment in time, I think it probably brings the right amount of significance to good cover. Defenders will likely need some pre-assault fire and because of the chances of abandonment of ground that the post fire Capability Tests can bring, some interesting situations of driving units out of cover may result and it may also raise the importance of studying the battlefield to give greater thought to manoeuvre and unhinging defences.
Even small battlefields can be made interesting due to the way the system uses 'difficult terrain' which specifically works against movement, whilst fire and charging each have different relationships to what is actually deemed as cover.
In our game last night, pre-game we decided that the fields were tall wheat and that they would count as difficult terrain, but not provide cover. I think we could have nuanced that a bit more by saying they did not provide cover against fire, but would provide cover against a charge.
I have added a 5th attribute to the Divisional Commander. Now he can increase the movement of a single unit by one hex, providing the last hex does not contain difficult terrain.
In most respects the core rules have not changed. Probably the most important thing has been worked on is the general text in an effort to reduce ambiguity and probably adding more examples will help here. I am conscious that there is some awkwardness to absorbing the rules, they don't have the slickness that I would have liked, but I hope that by having the rules set-out to match the sequence of play, that effect is reduced to some degree.
I was minded to change the way a unit supports a charging unit by having the supporting unit in the same hex as the lead unit, but I think the likelihood would be that the benefits would be over-shadowed by players keeping most of their forces doubled up and some of the nuances that come from units being spread across a greater number of locations (hexes) would be lost. Having supporting units operating from a different, allows such units to be distracted by their own problems in relation to the proximity of the enemy and this sort of thing brings benefit to narrative.
Anyway, not a massive update, more of a steady as she goes type of affair.
September 2017 version of the rules (free download from DropBox - thank you DropBox). LINK.
COMMANDERS is my sister site to this blog, it is more snippet based and will carry some information about these rules that will not appear here. LINK