Saturday, 8 October 2016

Musket and Saber rules with ACW figures

Having recently been playing a few of the Musket and Saber mini-folio boardgames from Decision Games and with the rules fresh in my head, I thought it worth experimenting by taking the rule system to the miniatures tabletop using Kallistra 4" hexes and their 12mm ACW forces.


The following post looks at a generic scenario to test the rules and some observational notes on how it all worked out. 

Please press the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post.

This should really be a straight migration of formats, but the 4" hex on a kitchen table means a much smaller battlefield than the folio games give, so I will adjust movement rates and hope that everything else hangs together okay.

I am using the series rules in full from the Salem Church folio game (by Decision Games) to manage this scenario. My recent blogged articles on the Saratoga and Germantown folio games in this series give an insight into the game system and mechanics.  Links to those posts are shown in the resource section at the foot of the page.

Anyway, let's crack on with this game session, giving the scenario details first, followed by replay notes and conclusions.

Generic ACW scenario - Applied to Muskets & Sabers.

This is a throw down scenario intended for testing ACW rules on hexes. In this instance it has been amended to look at the Musket & Saber rules from the Decision Games series of mini hex based boardgames.

I am using the components from the Salem Church folio to get combat values and will use the counters from that game as markers on the table.

The hill is hard to see, it is marked by the Union troops 

Background - Union forces have taken control a river crossing and have artillery on the high ground behind. Confederate forces have been ordered to take the river crossing and clear the high ground beyond.

The Union have a third brigade marching to support the position.

Union forces 
1st Brigade two regiments each rated 5-4-3 / 4-4-3 plus brigade commander
2nd Brigade two regiments each rated 5-4-3 / 4-4-3 plus brigade commander
Divisional artillery 1 battery rated (3-5)-6-3 and ineffective side (0-0)-3-3

Union reinforcements 3rd brigade with three infantry regiments each rated 5-4-3 / 4-4-3 plus the brigade commander and the Divisional Commander.

Confederate forces 
1st Brigade two regiments each rated 5-4-3 / 4-4-3 plus brigade commander
2nd Brigade three regiments each rated 6-4-3 / 4-4-3 plus brigade commander
3rd Brigade three regiments each rated 5-4-3 / 4-4-3 plus brigade commander
Divisional artillery 1 battery rated (3-4)-6-3 and ineffective side (0-0)-3-3
The Divisional Commander.

Note, to reflect the playing of this game on a smaller hex grid than is found in the mini boardgames, typical unit movement rates have been reduced from 6 MP's to 3 MP's. The above values show units at full strength, with the values after the slash representing casualties (the loss of a step). The first figure is combat strength, the second morale and the last is movement. The two artillery values are ranged fire and adjacent fire.

Special rules.
1 - all Brigades each have a brigade commander valued at 1 - 1 - 3. Both divisional commanders are valued at 2-1-3.

2 - all Union artillery have a range of 4 hexes, Confederates 3 hexes (these have been lowered to reflect the reduction in movement rates).

3 - the stream is fordable except to artillery (who must use the bridge), but any unit that enters the stream must halt and end their movement. They also take a morale check with plus two (+2) added to the die roll and if they fail, they become disordered and any leader present becomes ineffective. The bridge obviously negates these penalties. 

4 - All units that fight into and infantry that fight out from the stream are halved in value, then any leader bonus is added.

5 - A stream hex can hold a maximum of 1 infantry unit and 1 leader at any one time.

6 - Union reinforcements, at the start of each turn, roll a single D6, if the score is equal to or less than the current turn number then ONE of the Union 3rd Brigade's regiments will arrive on their board edge at the road hex during the Movement Phase and can move in full that turn. If the entry hex is occupied by the enemy, arrive instead further along the board on the nearest non-enemy occupied hex to the road. A dice is rolled each turn in this fashion until all of 3rd Brigade have arrived in this manner. The Union Divisional commander and the Brigade commander will arrive with the first reinforcing regiment.

7 - all terrain costs and combat benefits / restrictions are the same as given in the ruleset (other than stream as mentioned above).

8 - Since our battlefield is smaller that the folio game, amend rule 7.6 to 'if a unit would rout off the table, reduce the rout move to 2 hexes, if it still leaves the table, it is lost as per 7.6'.  

9 - the game lasts for 7 turns. At the end of turn 7, roll a D6, on a result of 4 or more, an 8th turn will be played.

Victory Conditions.
Each of the four front sloping hill hexes (there are 4 of them, all adjacent to the stream) is a potential victory hex. To win, the Confederates must at the end of any Union combat phase occupy at least two of those four hill hexes PLUS they must also be holding the bridge itself (that is a total of 3 victory locations physically held by either infantry or artillery).  Any other result is a Union win.

The Union set up first. They must place their artillery on any hill hex. Their two brigades can set up anywhere on their side of the river (including the bridge). The 3rd Brigade starts play off table and arrives as given in the special rules.

All Confederate forces begin off map and enter the game during their movement of turn 1. 

The Confederates go first.

The Battlefield.
The terrain features shown on the below map are hill, road, bridge, stream and light woods.  Please note that in the photographs taken, due to lighting conditions the hill hexes on the left side of the battlefield do not obviously look raised to the camera and therefore the dominant feature that they are is not fully appreciated .... though the high ground is very obvious to the naked eye. 


The Replay.

The scenario demands that the Confederates advance across the stream to get their victory objectives and that necessitates units attempting to ford the stream to get enough numbers across during the battle, as the bridge, unless overwhelmed, could well be contested for several turns.


Initially the scenario rules stated than any infantry unit entering the stream would immediately halt and automatically become disordered. This was rather severe as it turned out, as due to the penalties that accompany disruption plus the effects of fighting from a stream and the difficulties in becoming re-ordered, the Confederates were extremely unlikely to be able to fight their way out of the stream and would simply take high casualties.

So, since the replay, the scenario has been amended so that units entering a stream stop and take a morale check (+2 on the dice, so only a 50 / 50 chance of passing if with a leader) with failure causing disruption plus any leader goes ineffective. So this is still quite punishing, but enough nuances will crop up to make local interesting situations and give a greater sense or urgency to the Union player for reinforcements to come to rescue.


Because the Confederates can now stand a chance of crossing the stream undisrupted, two new rule amendments have been added as a restraint. These are; that a maximum of one regiment can be in a stream hex at anyone time (to stop bulldozing through) and the Confederates start play off map, which causes them to take an extra turn to get to the stream, though this also gives them an opportunity to deliver a large amount of force into one area of the table - most likely either down the road towards the bridge or directly in front of the hill.

So, in our game (which did not receive the bonus 8th turn), the bridge obviously became a focus of attention. It passed back from one side to the other, with both sides taking step losses, but with the Confederates becoming disadvantaged early with the loss of their brigade commander and the fact that once they crossed, there were typically faced by two or three regiments and so they were hit hard each time.


Each turn the Confederates threw as many units forward as they could across the stream in the hope that something would get through, but their right flank quickly collapsed and their left was checked by the Union moving over to block them.

The first Union reinforcement came on quite early together with the Divisional Commander, (who would later die of wounds received when he launched an attack to push the Confederate right flank out of the stream, but the remaining reinforcing elements of the brigade arrived towards the end of the game, not that their presence was essential, they just ensured the inevitable.

As play progressed, the Confederates did not let up in their assaults, but they were repeatedly held at bay in the stream. As the game came to a close, the Union thought their enemy weak enough to launch their own assaults into the stream on both flanks (not that the victory conditions required this), but as with the Confederates before them, their advance ground to a halt as their own troops became mired and disordered in the stream.


Several units had taken a step loss, with the Confederates taking the most losses and being therefore more fragile. Had the scenario continued their ability to maintain the assault would have diminished rapidly. As for actual removals due to losses, the Union had a regiment, a brigade commander and the divisional commander leave the table. The Confederate casualties were heavier with two regiments and two leaders removed from play.

Conclusion - We enjoyed the play very much. The rules designed for a hex game obviously transfer smoothly to the hexed miniatures table. We came across a few rule niggles, but they were sorted in a gentlemanly fashion and initially I forgot that when disrupted a unit is only halved on the attack, not the defence, so this might have help the Confederates in the earlier turns as they tried to 'survive' the stream.

The game grid was limited to a 10 x 9 hex field so that it remained 'kitchen table' size and since this represents about a quarter of the playing area normally found in a folio game, I halved movement allowances and reduced artillery ranges by one. It all seemed to work anyway.

By the end of play, we had been fighting over a relatively small band of hexes (around the stream), but the game did not particularly feel constrained, indeed the stream simply took on a significance of its own and the too and fro for positional advantage did have a very engaging aspect to it.

View from Union held hill 

I am going to further explore these rules in this setting. It was very handy to use the game counters next to units and leaders to have a ready visual information on unit strengths etc to hand. Each counter is just a bit bigger than a small dice would be and holds much more information. 

Since playing, the victory conditions have been re-worked, but the bridge and the hill still remain the essential objectives of the game. All amendments to date have been added into the scenario given above, so some of those new elements may not fully jive with our face-to face game as reported here, but will hopefully make a second game even better.

There is quite a bit of interesting system in this game, so the quick play version of these rules does not mean simplistic. All-in-all it provided for an engaging encounter that took no longer than an hour and a half to play.

There are a range of folio games available now, covering a range of subjects. At around £9 to £10 they an ideal gaming treat and their compact size makes an ideal vacation type package. I bought mine from Second Chance Games in the UK (see resources).

Previous AAR with the system on Germantown 1777 - 

Previous AAR with the system on Saratoga 1777 - 

My sister website COMMANDERS that will likely have future notes on this game -

All terrain and figures are from Kallistra - 

Second Chance Games - 


  1. At its root, you have taken a boardgame and replaced the 2D cardboard counters with 3D figures while scaling up the hex size. I like that translation. Using the boardgame counters in the miniatures' game as unit status markers is a nifty idea. For unit step reductions, did you simply flip the counter to its reverse side?

    I have seen ASL translated to miniatures but do not recall having tried it myself. Thought about it yes. Tired, no. That is, with the exception of using 6mm figures with Commands & Colors. Great potential, I reckon.

  2. Yes, I think there is increasing interest in the figures / boardgame cross-over. I did flip the counters to their reverse side for step losses and also for leaders and guns, which show an ineffective side with all values much reduced until they recover.

    This would have been a 100% easy transfer as I was already starting out with hex rules, so as you say, it is just 3D'ing the board, but the rules are used with maps that are 4 times the size of my play space and generally have larger forces, so that is where some thought was needed, but it all seemed to work okay.

    I was not initially planning on using the counters, rather a pin marker or something to represent a step loss, but the counters were mores useful and identified which formation the units belonged to and therefore which leader could control them without resorting to other visual distractions.

    After the game we put some 28's on the board, but the stream looked like a puddle and the bridge looked ridiculous - so they would have needed a bigger hex that in turn would need a bigger table to keep the same number of hex cells.


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