Steve, over on his blog ‘Sound Officers Call’ (link below in the resource section) has started what is to become a series of posts on the subject of the ‘simple game’ and what that actually means.
He is tabulating some thoughts on the subject by testing some rules against games and he has asked blog readers to respond to a list of questions following their own gaming of a ‘simple’ ruleset, so that he can feed all of the experiences into his evaluation.
So, in the spirit of pursuing the simple game, I have put a game on using just 6 units per side (in the Neil Thomas tradition), but using the Perry Firepower rules. I will do a brief AAR’s with some photo support and then go on to answer Steve’s questions with further detail.
The scenario that I have put together is generic enough that it can be tested against several rule sets, giving a better benchmark of outcomes.
please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.
The basics of the Bridge scenario - this will be a meeting engagement, with both armies starting off the table. Sides will dice to see whether they are the Red or Blue army and then will dice to see who is player 1. A player can bring 1D3 units on each turn, testing each turn until all of their units are in play. The commander counts as a unit.
The waterway is set at the centre of the table and has a single bridge. The river is quite deep, but can be crossed in places by infantry and cavalry. First they must stop when contacting the river and then in any subsequent turn whenever they attempt to cross it, each unit must roll a die. On a 1-2 the water is too deep, move the entire unit 4” in either direction along the bank and try again on the next turn (it is the enemy player who decides whether the unit moves left or right, but it cannot be forced to leave the table or an illegal position). On a 3-4, the unit enters the water, but it is deep and they end their movement in the water, next turn they can advance normally. On a 5-6, the unit can properly cross the river to the other side and beyond, but it’s movement allowance is halved.
All units can and artillery must use the bridge to cross the waterway. Movement is at normal rate.
At the end of play, the player who has units closest to both ends of the bridge wins, anything else is a draw.
The game will last for 7 turns. At the conclusion of the 7th turn, roll a D6, on a result of 4+ another turn will be played (max 8 turns).
Each player gets 4 regular infantry regiments with rifled muskets, a regular cavalry regiment and an artillery battery (12 pdr smoothbore).
The game sets up, sides are rolled for and the Union are the Red army, with the Confederates being Blue army. The Union win the dice-off to go first.
The Union get lucky and get 3 arrivals to the battlefield (the Confederates will get just 1!). Their cavalry move at speed up the road towards the bridge, while two infantry regiments flank each side of the road. Movement allowances are random and again the Union do well.
The Confederates obviously bring on their cavalry, along the road as their single arrival.
The Union cavalry maintain their momentum and charge over the bridge, into the Confederate cavalry, driving them off.
The Union are the first to get all of their brigade onto the table (they are the fastest with the mostest!).
The recovered Confederate cavalry counter-charge the Union cavalry and in turn, send them reeling backwards, but both cavalry units have taken significant casualties and are close to exhaustion.
Union artillery move into position on Long Ridge.
As the infantry units start to get closer to each other, long range musket fire opens up.
The cavalry on both sides are starting to pull back, allowing the infantry to take over the struggle at the bridge.
The Confederates are getting the worst of the musketry exchange and things are not looking good. One regiment is in retreat, whilst a second is lost to the Zouaves.
Though late in the day, the final Confederate regiment arrives, advancing towards the Chapel.
In a desperate move, Confederate cavalry charge the advancing Union infantry column at the bridge, but they are too brittle to prevail and are seen off (removed from play).
The Union find a place to cross the river, near the Chapel, it is deep but fordable. A fresh Confederate regiment flings itself up the road at the Union regiment that the cavalry just tangled with and their charge is spectacularly successful, forcing the Union back with severe losses. Slowly things are moving the Confederate way, with the Union finding it difficult to keep within occupation distance of the bridge.
The Zouaves (below) attempt to cross the creek, but it is too deep and they move further downstream, but the cavalry do find a shallow spot and cross over to the Confederate side of the waterway (note by failing the test to cross, the Confederate player has instructed the Union player to move the Zouaves 4" away from the bridge).
As a last ditch attempt to control the bridge, the Confederate infantry again charge the Union on the bridge, who just collapse with high casualties, the effect of being charged three times no doubt!
This Confederate attack puts them on the bridge and closer to both ends of the bridge than any other unit can claim. This is the final turn and would normally be a win, scored in the last moments of the game ....... but! Under the rules, a die roll is made to see if an extra turn is played, and it is.
This allows the Union Zouaves and cavalry to compromise either end of the bridge. The Confederate on the bridge can now only control their own end, as the Zouaves can claim to be closer to the other end and so the Union manage to claw back a loss to a draw. A tight game indeed.
How long did the game take to play? I was doing recording and photographing, but I would say a little over an hour of actual game time.
What was the scenario? As described above, a bit of a symmetrical battlefield with random arrival times and random movement mixing it up a bit.
What happened? Anything extraordinary? This is a bucket of dice system with saves only if in cover. Infantry roll 9 dice in attack and twice 5 hits were scored on enemy regiments, which is a big old punch! and puts those troops on notice that they may not be around for much longer. One of the Confederate regiments held their ground against the odds by passing all of their morale checks following taking casualties. This discouraged a Union regiment from attempting to cross the creek.
Who won and why? It was a draw ... snatched from a Confederate victory. This was all about unit locality v’s the bridge (objective), random movement and failed morale checks after taking casualties both fed into how easy / hard it was to take / hold the objective.
Did you enjoy the game? Why? Yes, it looked nice and had a bit of the old school joy about it. Things seemed to matter locally, but not enough to kill the game at any stage. The objective was clear. The uncertainty of arrival and random movement allowances mixed it up and made the game more dynamic. The game did not need constant rule referencing.
After reading the rules, how many consultations occurred with the rules during the game? To start with, just a few, but they were the silly things caused by knowing / reading too many other rule sets, such as ‘at what point of the sequence do leaders move’. These were very easy to find and after the first turn I didn't need the rules again.
Was the scenario created for you or did you create it? I created it, but took some elements from recent games that I thought worked well, such as random arrival of forces.
Did any troops perform remarkably good or bad? On turn one, the maximum of three Union units arrived, plus they got very good random movement scores. The Confederate infantry unit conducting the last two charges on the bridge did very well, inflicting heavy casualties.
Was it luck or part of the mechanics? Mainly luck based because of dice mechanisms, but the dice should even out over the course of a game. This did make the game very solo friendly.
What were the victory conditions in your game? Very simple objective based. Perhaps I should have included the destruction of enemy regiments as I think that makes players take better care of them as they start to max out on the number of hits that they can absorb.
If the game was or was not enjoyable (it has to be one or the other!) was it due to the mechanics? Enjoyable. The mechanics are easy to hold to memory, making it easier to concentrate on the tactics and play. There is an absence of exception rules and some common principles play across the rules, so infantry and cavalry charge in the same way and move in the same way (as do artillery), with the same movement restrictions (stop when you meet an obstacle).
The outcome? A draw, but it was all down to the last couple of dice rolls, which is always a good sign.
Tension? Yes, in the first part of the game, the Confederates had it hard, but they came back and so this uncertainly is good. A downward spiral for one side is not inevitable and conclusive once it starts. You take morale checks after receiving casualties, which if failed causes the unit to break. A couple of times I found myself really drawn into those moments when they became fairly critical and getting good dice matter.
Did you like the game because of (a) the system (b) the outcome (c ) the troop behaviour.
System: Yes, because the rules are simple, but not too simplistic. They are a step up from One Hour Wargames because they include command, morale and a mixed sequence of play based on actions rather than say a strict order of fire then move etc. I like simple rules, but am often left feeling that just an extra couple of pages of text would disproportionately help the rules. Here I wished there had been some extra detail for mounting / dismounting cavalry and would like to see heavily hit units (i.e. they are about to disappear) suffer a penalty when they attack - though simple rules are usually robust enough to easily house rule.
Outcome: Mostly it was the scenario and situation rather than the rules that made working for the outcome enjoyable. The area that the rules did impact upon is the maths that a unit will generally be able to survive in combat for 2, perhaps 3 turns and then it is ‘done in’. This works with the 7 turn type scenario and encourages a player to think about reserves and fresh units. It also reflects ACW warfare with regiments cycling through the fresh to spent stages.
Troop Behaviour: This was generally fine. The commander brought focus to his part of the field by helping with movement and morale test die rolls within 6" radius. The ‘churn’ of units did help give it a period feel, going from fresh to exhausted in quick order. Troops are rather generic, so for example I couldn’t have smoothbore muskets, which I would have liked to have thrown in there and you would have to house rule for an elite type unit such as the Iron Brigade. The saves given for cover make units appreciate cover whenever they can find it and can make them reluctant to leave it and resume the advance, so combat is more likely to be settled by the firefight rather than the charge. Units do not benefit from ‘friends’ being close by, so there is no benefit to attacking in column of lines, which I would prefer to see in there.
Conclusion. Overall, I thought the game a success. It was the right level of play, game time and simulation for the mood I was in and the size of force involved. I am glad I put the effort into setting up and playing and would be happy to play the same scenario again with these rules. A bigger force, even on my small table (for 28mm) can be justified by the system, to make more use of the flanks and to help represent the advantage of having fresh reserves, even just two extra infantry regiments per side would work. It is still probably a tad on the light side for me, but so easy and accessible that they make a good go to set of rules and gets you past that feeling that you need to invest in a rules read before you play. It certainly reduces the barrier to getting a game going. They would make good convention rules.
Steve’s ‘simple wargaming’ blog post LINK
My sister webspace COMMANDERS is a bit more snippet based than here. Link.