Sunday, 18 April 2021

ACW rule comparisons

This post takes a very small action of a Confederate regiment attacking a Union regiment that is defending some higher ground and looks how four different sets of rules treats the situation.

It is not so much a serious analytical post, rather, it is just a bit of fun that highlights some differences and allowed a bit of wargame action on a self indulgent Saturday afternoon - and why not!

For the rest of the post that looks at four rule sets, please use the ‘read more’ tab. 

The scene is one of using the fire and charge rules from each system to have a Confederate regiment try and capture the higher ground.

Rather than thinking of this strictly as a ‘charge’, for this period it is probably more helpful to think of this as that close action in the last 100 yards of potential contact, in which each side tries to impose their sheer presence and firepower as a threat to the other, in the hope that the other will break before ‘real’ hand-to-hand contact is actually made.

I quite like the way that Pickett's Charge reflect this by the 'charge' being what is described above, while a 'True Grit' close to melee situation only arises when the charge process results in a draw.

To equalise the situation across the games, we need some situation ground rules;

Both regiments will be regular, have average command, have rifled muskets and essentially be equal in all regards.

The Union player (on the high ground) will always be player 1, or at least the player than can get off the first shooting.

The hill is gentle high ground and does not count as difficult terrain, obstacle or otherwise offer a defensive advantage ... it just looks nice!

The Confederates must always deliver 1 round of fire before they can attempt to close contact.

To equalise the dice across the game, before play I rolled a sequence of dice for 2D6 results and a sequence for 1D6. Each play test will draw from these dice results in the order that they are presented as dice rolls are needed. While the different systems will be doing different things with those rolls, it does at least offer the prospect that the ‘spread’ of dice over the course of each test is the same - well at least I assume that is the case!

This is the sequence of dice for 2D6 combo, 8,5,5,8,8,6,7,7,11,9,3,7,10,8,8 (the 11 and 3 look interesting and are bound to ruin someone’s day!)

These are the 1D6 rolls, 3,3,4,3,3,3,5,6,3,2,5,1,4,3,6,5,1,2,6,4,3,6,2,4

Terrain - the figures are 15mm by Peter Pig, the game cloth from Geek Villain, the trees and hill from S&A Scenics.

In no particular order, we find ourselves starting with Black Powder (by Rick Priestly and Jervis Johnson, published by Warlord Games).

The sequence of play here are orders, movement and then firing. The sequence can be interrupted to take a Break Test for those units that suffer excess casualties during the turn.

Turn 1. The Union Fire, inflict 1 casualty and the Confederates fail their save. They return fire, inflict 1 casualty, but the Union do manage to make a successful saving roll against that hit.

Turn 2. The Union being Player 1, get to shoot first. They inflict another hit and the Confederates again fail to save against it, so they now have 2 casualties. If they reach 3, they will become shaken.

For their part of the turn, having already met the special rule of firing once (in turn 1), they announce that they will charge to contact. They pass their command roll and make the charge.

The Union can react with pre-charge closing fire and they get a +1 on each fire dice for being in close range. They do well and inflict 3 hits, one of which (a rolled 6) is also a 'Disorder' result. The Confederate make their 3 saving throws, but only block one hit, so 2 new hits are added to their existing two hits, plus they are disordered!

Since they have exceeded 3 hits, they must take a Break Test on 2D6 and suffer -1 for the excess casualty and -1 for being disordered.

If it gets a result of seven or more it will be fine, less and it will fall back, four or less and it is classed as broken and simply removed from play. The Confederates roll low (bad) and break, they are removed from play!

Well that was short and sweet. Black Powder is designed for big games with lots of units, but to still be playable to conclusion in an evening, so this sort of unit churn is not unusual. The question is, do we think it is a good result for the player in terms of the situation?

Accepting that it should be difficult in this period to close with an enemy due to high firepower rates being a disincentive! It is probably difficult to argue with the ‘failed attack’, whether or not it justified the loss of the unit so quickly is a question, it certainly brought things to a halt quickly and reduced the sense of player engagement because of that.

It could of course easily have gone the other way with some lucky rolls or even left hung in the balance for a turn or so as a stand-off via a draw, but it didn’t and in this instance, it lacked feeling because of that. Perhaps in a bigger setting it wouldn’t seem so obviously bland or luck centric. I say this as a fan of Black Powder, not an overt criticism.

Pickett’s Charge by David Brown, published by Reisswitz Press is next. The first time I did a cover to cover read of these rules, I felt a bit overwhelmed and set them to one side. Since then, I have been watching some YouTube from the JP channel who plays a lot of the napoleonic sister game and the next time I looked at them, they seemed very straight forward in fact, but with some nice detail.

The reader should know that at the start of a turn a player rolls for ADC’s and then allocates those ADC’s to various units to assist with various tasks. It is the way that the system adds colour to the command and control mechanics. In our test, just to use the mechanic, we will roll for a single ADC and if successful, allocate it to the unit which will allow re-rolls when the ‘brigade’ tests for orders.

The turn is split into phases, with the player holding the initiative going first in each phase for that turn.

Both players roll for ADC availability and get one.

Both players make brigade command rolls to see whether their formations obey their orders or go ‘Hesitant’. Both sides pass and therefore their status is that they obey orders. So they don’t need their allocated ADC’s this turn.

Both players roll for initiative on 2D6, minus 1 for each hesitant brigade in the army and the Union gain it, in effect they become player 1 each sub-phase.

Declare Charges - neither side do (remember the Confederates have to fire first).

Move - neither side do. The Confederates don't need to move and if they did, they would suffer a fire penalty.

Fire - The Union will fire first. The Confederates are within ‘effective range’. There are no modifiers and they roll on the Standard Volley line of the Fire Table with 2D6, inflicting 1 casualty. A unit will remain fresh until it gets it’s 4th casualty, at which point it will worsen, then worsen again at the 8th casualty and Disperse at between 10 and 14 casualties, depending on how big the unit is, so units here are fairly robust, but visibly degrade over time, which feeds into future action.

The Confederates fire back and roll well, they inflict 2 casualties plus the Union must take a ‘See the Elephant Test’ (read morale test). They pass and continue to obey orders.

Turn 2. Both sides test and obey orders, but this time on the Initiative test, the Confederates win, so initiative flips over to them.

Charges - the Confederates declare a charge, the Union do not. The Confederates move to charge and add a D6 centimetres / inches (depending which figure scale is used) bonus to their move. The Union declare reaction fire and inflict 2 casualties.

The charge is resolved by both sides rolling 2D6 and comparing results. The Union get 11 without modifiers. The Confederate get 9, but there is a -1 mod for their 2 casualties, so the final result is 11 Vs 8 in the Union favour. The result for a charger losing by 3 is ‘attacker retires / defender holds’.

The Confederates have to fall back, take an extra casualty doing so and become ‘unformed’. Having now taken 4 casualties, the Confederate regiment is no longer fresh and drop to level 1 (increasing casualties mean you can be fresh, then level 1, then level 2 and then dispersed).

The move phase - neither side does movement.

The Fire Phase - the Union can’t fire, because they used their one fire allowance for the turn when they defensively fired against the charge. The Confederates can’t fire as they have charged this turn.

At the end of all of this, the Union are fine and holding their position with just 2 casualties. The Confederates are starting to suffer from casualties and are unformed. They will need to use their full movement to reform.

In their current state, if they charged now, they would suffer -2 for being unformed and -1 for their current casualty level, plus the potential of another -1 before contact if they lose 2 more casualties due to reaction fire during another charge. 

So while they still have fight in them, they are not as viable as they were at the start and certainly taking some time to become ‘formed’ again, would help, but it keeps them away from the hill that bit longer.

Firepower by Alessio Cavatore and published by the Perry Brothers, is a small A5 rules booklet that comes with their 28mm ACW Battle in a Box set.

It is the amalgamation of the part rules that were given away in the various 28mm ACW unit boxes around 2008, though the cavalry rules never saw the light of day and so the Firepower rules presented here are more like a second edition, streamlined and combined.

These are a very fast play and decisive set of rules. The scenarios in the rulebook last for 7 turns, plus a possible 50% chance of an 8th turn. Once regiments make contact, they can only expect to survive for 2 - 3 turns. Infantry attack with 9D6 and the ‘to hit’ score depends on range, but once a unit reaches 9 hits, it is removed from play. 

A morale test is taken each time a unit suffers harm and so once the fight starts, this together with the 9 hits rule means things don’t hang around for long.

Units Generally can only do one thing per turn, move, fire, charge or rally, though each unit can choose the order that suits their situation best.

On turn 1 the  Union fire and roll 9D6. At this rate, we will quickly run out of the pre-game dice sequence that I set up and we will actually need to be rolling new dice. They inflict 2 hits. The Confederates check their morale, which is casualty based and pass.

The Confederates fire back, as they are obliged to do by our special rule and inflict 3 hits. The Union check morale and pass. As units accrue hits, passing morale becomes harder.

Turn 2, as player 1, the Union fire before the Confederates can charge. They inflict 3 hits and the Confederates now have a total of 5 casualties. They take their morale check and ....... fail!

The attackers break and run
They roll 3D6 inches (I am using centimetres with the 15mm figures), turn and flee. For their part of the turn, the only action they can take is a Rally Test, which they do and pass. This is lucky as a fail would mean they keep running! They turn to face the enemy.

Turn 3. The Union don’t do anything, the Confederates are out of musket range. The Confederates advance back towards the hill - again with a random movement allowance generated by dice.

Turn 4. The Union fire at long range, still with their 9D6, but needing sixes to hit this time. They inflict 1 hit, the Confederates take their morale test and pass. They fire back as they are too fragile to waste time advancing closer to the enemy while not getting a chance to fire. They secure 1 hit against the Union who now have 4 casualties.

Turn 5. The again Union fire at long range, getting 1 hit. The Confederates check morale, fail and once again flee, putting them beyond weapon range. Even if they could get back into the fight, they are now too damaged to be able to do anything meaningful with the Union position. They draw some satisfaction that they at least have not been removed from play ..... yet!

Two Flags - One Nation is a set of my own rules, which most recently were hex based and are currently going through a revision to a non-hex tabletop. Rather like the Firepower rules, in the main, units here can only do one action in a turn. Each unit can participate in the phase that best meets their situation.

The turn starts with a dice roll (2D6) against the Events Table - but no event this time.

Union part of turn 1.

Command & Control - Okay

Artillery Phase - none

General Fire Phase - the infantry fire at long range with 2D6, needing 5’s or 6’s, no effect.

Charge Phase - none

General Movement Phase - none

Rally Phase - not applicable (this recovers units from Disorder)

Retreat Phase - not applicable (this is tested for once units reach 5 casualties)

Confederate part of the turn. They fire, but do not inflict hits.

Turn 2. Random Events give the Union ‘Up and at them boys!’ If the Union charge this turn, they get a -2 modifier to their Charge Test.

The Union fire and fail. The Confederates are close enough to assault. They move to contact and take a Charge Capability Test on 2D6. They fail this, but the charge still goes in, it just means that the charge is Half-Hearted and so they will suffer an attack penalty of -3D6.

The Union now take their Capability Test as defenders. They pass, so they can choose to reaction fire. They get 4 dice because this is now close range fire and they score 2 hits. Those new hits mean that the Confederates must test again for resolve (Capability Test), but their 2 casualties give a negative modifier - even so, they pass and the charge goes in.

For Close Combat, infantry V infantry roll 5 dice, minus 3 dice for the half hearted charge. Like with general musket fire, 5’s and 6’s hit the enemy, but now the attacker can also suffer with 1’s resulting in casualties to the attacker. 

The dice are rolled (rather taken from the dice sequence outline at the start of this post) and the Union suffer 1 hit.

After a Close Combat, the side that has accumulated the most losses to date must fall back a full move. In this instance, it is the Confederates who must disengage as they have 2 hits compared to the Union 1. Both sides are now marked Disordered.

The Confederates attempt to Rally their disorder off, but fail.

Turn 3. No events. The Union are now close enough to fire with 4 dice, but lose 1 dice for being disordered. They miss. However they do manage to rally off their disorder status in their Rally Phase.

Units cannot charge in consecutive turns (things with lungs get tired!) in any case, the Confederates are disordered and have suffered a few casualties, both would work against a successful charge.

They fire and get 1 hit. Units that suffer hits must take a Capability Test. The Union pass ..... just! If they had still been disordered, they would have failed, which would have seen them retreat from the crest.

Both sides have equal casualties and the Confederates remain disordered.

Turn 4 - No event.

The Union fire and inflict a casualty, the Confederates fail their Capability Test and retire. They are now at 3 casualties, which still gives them a presence, but they are getting close to the tipping point of not being viable for offensive action. Perhaps it is better to withdraw them to a defensive position now and call a fresh regiment up.


I suppose the first thing that I should say is that I enjoyed all four situations, with each bringing a different thing to the party. If we were to judge our hobby on the fun factor alone and the ability to simply get a game to the table, then each of them will do that, with the simpler rules perhaps having the greater strength.

So we have four rule sets and four attempts at taking the high ground, all of which failed on the first attempt against a fresh force. That is certainly a fair outcome for two identical forces meeting where one gets extra opportunity to fire as the defender, or at least to fire first.

the Union hold their position
There was a close moment to successfully clearing the hill, with the Two Flags - One Nation rules when after receiving fire, the Union only just passed their Capability Test .... avoiding a withdrawal, though if they had withdrawn, they would essentially still have been in good condition and able to counter-attack.

Likewise Black Powder offered a prospect to take the high ground, they just needed better dice, perhaps reflecting the chance element of those rules than can produce controlled swing results. What we didn't get a chance to show here was some of the nuance of those varied results, such as failed orders etc, which in bigger sweeping games, gives a sense of 'indication' of what is going on 'over there on that hill' rather than the close up scrutiny we have here.

The Firepower rules saw the Confederates seen off before they could even consider a charge and while these rules are simple, they do reflect the dominance of firepower over the 'desire' to charge to contact more than the other rules, though fairly devastatingly so.

Pickett's Charge allowed for opening engaging fire and then a charge, which felt like is was quite properly repulsed, though the Union were significantly helped by that roll of 11 and on another day, the Confederates may have taken the ground, but would need a fairly good differential in their favour to do that.

Had the high ground been given a truer defensible value by making it say 'difficult or rough terrain', then some difficulties due to movement penalties may have been created for units moving to contact so easily and failing to quite reach the Union line in a charge move would have been an interesting dynamic for game purposes, though here, it may have reduced the 'equalisation effect' between rules that I was seeking.

The rules that I felt seemed to give the best ‘feel’ and outcome to the situation were Pickett’s Charge, both during the assault and after the repulse, as it felt like the Confederates had had a bloodied nose, but could still have another go.

A couple of things do stick out. The systems that only allow one action (Firepower and Two Flags-One Nation) in a turn make it harder for the attacker as they always have to choose between movement and fire, so in an assault situation, they surrender their fire to get closer to the enemy, giving the defender a break from harm and providing them with extra fire opportunities.

The Neil Thomas ‘One Hour Wargames’, another fast play set not looked at here, has the same thing going on. For these type of rules, more time needs to be spent trying to wear down a defence by fire, perhaps with artillery support, before launching an assault - or attacking at say 2:1 odds, but taking your knocks on the way in and accepting those casualties.

The systems that inflict the lower casualties or at least controlled casualties and allow units to absorb quite a bit of damage before they fall to bits, seem to offer a more interesting game, there is just simply more nuance going on and the assault itself does not feel such a blunt instrument.

In that regard Pickett’s Charge gave the more interesting twist to the situation and while the repulse of the attacker was clear, the Confederates were still in a usable state post assault - not as good, but this sort of slow deterioration due to the rigours of battle will be going on at various points around the table, bringing interest over a longer part of the game, while units, initially at least, are not knocked about so badly that they will leave the game early.

I also like that in Pickett's Charge, the combat is table driven and therefore somewhat controlled, rather than dice driven systems, which use multi dice rolled (buckets of dice), hitting on 5's etc and with two of the systems (Black Powder and Firepower) using opposed dice by allowing 'save' rolls and to a degree Two Flags-One Nation does similar by requiring a Capability Test every time casualties are received. In Pickett's Charge, it is possible just to get one or two casualties and that is it - done!

Black Powder and Firepower, both fast play rules, seemed to burn out units rather quickly and the whole thing felt a bit more impersonal for that, though in some regards, understanding how these systems unfold will have the players adopting better survival strategies, plus big games or fast play games need these qualities.

The Firepower rules in particular can be deadly, particularly at the closer ranges, with 9D6 being rolled. Of the four games, this one felt more like just rolling and hoping for the best and that one side simply out-survives the other, a sort of indiscriminate fire value. In the past, I have found these rules work better when there is cover on the battlefield and units can then try to save against hits, it can keep them in the game for an extra turn or so, which is quite useful with the starter set that the rules come with, due to low unit count and allowing a better story to unfold.

Charge systems and post casualty fire typically require morale checks or tests, regardless what name is given to them. Two Flags - One Nation relies a lot on Capability Tests and that means extra dice rolls. I tried to take some of them out,  but where that happened, the story telling and nuance reduced to something more generic.

By the end of play, I think I enjoyed the Pickett’s Charge situation the best. It gave that sense of hitting an obstacle, falling back and then being able to try again or at least have the ability to look at what options you should take next.

The situation itself is a good micro way to learn or get re-familiarised with rules, as the action is small enough to be very focused and manageable, while generally hitting all of the major rule mechanics of a system from Command and Control, through movement, fire and assault to morale. It also allows for a bit of midweek tinkering, just throwing a bit of quality time into the hobby time-frame.

Resource Section.

The YouTube channel for JP, who plays the napoleonic version of Pickett’s Charge. LINK

My sister webspace COMMANDERS has a collection of shorter AAR’s. Link.


  1. If you like simple rules, you may find "Rebels & Yankees" worth a look - They are available as a free pdf download.

  2. Thank you, I have downloaded them and will explore with a coffee moment :-)

    thinking about it, I should have also put a mention of Peter Pig's 'Civil War Battles', GHQ's 'Micro Force ACW' rules and Crusader's 'Rank & File' into the mix, or at least made mention of them as they sit on the shelf.

  3. Just the post to go with Sunday morning coffee with an ACW game waiting on my table!

    However, in general, I do like these sorts of practical rules comparisons, both doing them and reading them. Thanks

  4. Thanks Ross, I think we share the same interests in rule construction, development and comparison ..... with the downside that a set is never complete or just right :-)

  5. Interesting exercise! I’d be curious how the R&F rules compare. Where do you think your preference lies between wanting a fun game and wanting a realistic game?

  6. Hi Renaud, I am a bit changeable on this, my mind (not heart) tells me I want faster, shorter games, which I think are mistaken labels and that in fact I would probably prefer some easier games that have some depth to them, but are cleverly done.

    If I had to cross that line between fun and realism, I know of late that I am increasingly edging back over into the realism camp, simply because fast, furious and simple can sometimes feel a bit hollow or generic as a gaming experience.

    The secret perhaps is to game with fewer systems, so that you can get to know each one better, which in turn reduces their perceived complexity.

    1. I’d be interested in your take on R & F. I like Pickett’s Charge but due to the ADC command system, consider it best for 3 or more brigades each side. Anything smaller and R & F is definitely my first choice. Easy to pick up after a break, intuitive and a sequence of play that works well for 2 players or multi player. There’s enough ‘chrome’ for it to work well for Napoleonics or ACW. I haven’t yet tried it for SYW. Another interesting post.

    2. Thanks, that is interesting about R&F, as I find myself pushing most games to 3 brigades and above to work with rules, when really, both my table and preferences would often want less.

  7. Interesting to see how the different rules approach a like situation. The repulse and rally result for another bash seems very ACW

  8. Hi Phil, I thought the Pickett’s Charge did a good job. It seems that all of the rules came to a similar conclusion in the position not falling, but what was very different was the condition that the Confederate unit (attacker) was left in.

    If some rule ‘results’ are broadly similar, I wonder what it is that makes us pick favoured sets.

    1. I think which rule set you favour is, well for me anyway, one which gives you the flavour which mirrors your view of the period they represent. For instance Battlegroup rules give me that in buckets.

    2. "If some rule ‘results’ are broadly similar, I wonder what it is that makes us pick favoured sets."

      This is a good question that could be expanded upon. We all likely have thoughts on this topic with Phil's remark likely very popular.

    3. I wonder whether so much choice just simply allows us to find the set that has the least number of things we dislike, rather than choosing the set we are totally satisfied with and does this generate the need to keep on exploring the next new set ...... more in hope than expectation !

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  10. Very impressive gaming, Norm. You've played more games here than I have for the past year or so - by far. Although I'm not an ACW aficionado, I do like Black Powder (for the fast play/outcome as you mentioned). Not sure if you used the ACW supplement for BP, but maybe that would add a little more "flavor".

    1. Thanks Dean. I did use Glory Hallelujah mods, but did not apply anything that would change dynamics, so the Black Powder example did not really get a chance to show anything off like smoothbore or rebel Yell etc. Also BP excels in a bigger setting, so what happened in close focus here, in a true BP game, it would be ‘there is some sort of action going on on that hill over there!” and the wider things such as large movements or entire brigades breaking are a big part of what makes BP tick. I do like BP, but the dice fell awkwardly for it today :-)

  11. A good post Norm and I think a lot depends upon what you want from the game, the time available etc. For me BP with the GH! supplement amendments works fine, but then I'm not an ACW officianado and so am quite happy to compromise some things. Picket's Charge sounds good but probably too detailed, relatively speaking, for me.

    I've found that it is better for me to stick to some core rulesets, so that I can concentrate on my tactics etc, rather than refer to the rulebook a lot during a game. This comes at a cost possibly of period flavour, but it works for me.

  12. Thanks Steve. BP holds the greater advantage that you can move between era quite easily with little new rule investment. The supplements are certainly a great strength in that regard.

    It would be really interesting to run each of these ‘little situations’ 2 or 3 times and get a deeper sense of the range of likely outcomes that each rule set will offer. As we both appreciate, Black Powder does have a gentle dose of chaos, giving games an edge.

    The first time I looked at Pickett’s Charge, I thought it was harder than it really is ...... but the BP play sheet has two sides and the PC play sheet has 4, so maybe that tells it’s own story :-)

  13. A good idea to compare the russets Norm and interesting that, despite the different mechanisms, they all gave the same result. And why not? A single unit attacking an equally armed opponent in this era should be likely to be driven off with high casualties, so all the tests seem to work well for this particular situation.

  14. Hi Keith, before I started, I thought the results would be all over the place, but was surprised how some consistency came through not only in results, but also the routines, which may go by different names, but essentially are doing the same thing.

    I want to be doing a bit more of this sort of thing this year as I try to whittle down some of my rule titles.

  15. These compare and contrast exercises interest me too, Norm. Given that this is such a small sample of one unit attacking a stationary defender and using the same die rolls, I am not sure I would have much confidence in any inferences. This is especially important since each process uses those same string of DRs differently.

    With modeling such a finite process with limited choices, I could see setting up a set of four simulations and repeating these trials 500, 1,000, 10,000 times. Perfect situation for monte carlo simulation. I conducted some simulation trials for TF-ON a while back and see how this could produce some insight into the process and mechanism of each ruleset. I think if rules' developers used more simulation in their design process, we would see much different rules.

  16. Yep, interesting point, this compare and contrast exercise actually made me look at some of the phasing sequencing in a different way, so that I was looking to see if the same design intent was present, but administered differently, whether by name or placement, even when radically apart.

    So looking at TF-ON, the player can decide whether to charge or not and then move to the target, but must take pre charge test. Is that much different than say Black Powder, in which a unit must firstly test to see whether it can get the order to see whether it can even move to contact. Both are very different approaches, with different names and different places in the sequence, but in reality, both are needing a 2D6 test prior to getting into a scrap!

    For the same situation, the Firepower rules have randomised movement, so declare the charge and then roll dice, hoping it is enough to reach the target ...... again, we are throwing a 2D6 procedure into the pre-contact mechanics.

    It might look a stretch, but Pickett’s charge has a similar effect further back in the turn when they roll for orders, a failed order marks the unit ‘Hesitant’ and such units cannot charge that turn.

    Just an interesting interpretation of effect.

  17. An interesting exercise and observations about the outcome of the action, and whether a unit is still usable after such an attack.

  18. Hi Peter, the tight focus, wash, repeat of the exercise, has been interesting and creates as many questions as it answers. It has made me think quite a lot about nuts and bolts design.

  19. This was a great post Norm and certainly made me think a great deal about varying game designs. We've done this before with rules sets (napoleonic) but indtead fighting a whole battle (Teugen Hausen) not a specific circumstance under trial conditions. We did this to find our favorite set of Napoleonic rules.

    I like your approach better as it's much more efficient and probably more fun, as well as less exhausting:)

    Re Picketts Charge, I could never get the game to "work." We played the sunken lane scenario from Antietam twice and I could never figure out how to drive that Union attack home. It reminded me of playing Johnny Reb 3 - realistic? Probably. But difficult to do anything under repeated fire. I guess it ought to be that way, but it wasnt much fun to me. My group liked them, though.

    Ive found your TFON to hit a sweet spot of fire, maneuver, and decision making. Not as luck driven as Black Powder, but not as difficult as PC. While only allowing 1 action per turn, there is still alot going on there in terms of managing resources and main effort. The cap test to do difficult things is a great and easy to remember rule.

    I've never played Firepower before so I cant comment, but my favorite FWIW are your TFON rules, followed second by BP.

  20. Thanks Steve for the TF-ON thumbs up. Looking at the difference between playing a whole game and just doing a single slice of action, I am wondering whether the whole game produces so many outcomes and variables that it can take 6 months to a year for groups to conclude that a system is not for them and move on ... or is that just the natural time lag for the next new shiny thing to sparkle attractively :-)

    Interestingly did my narrow test mean that I missed issues that your Sunken Lane scenario found? It would probably be sensible for me to escalate the PC action up to a small scenario - Sunken Lane is obviously ready made and look at the bigger picture.

    I do like some of the ideas in my TF-ON (obviously), though as I convert it back to an open board, I am left wondering whether it's success was that it worked well as a hex based game, especially against a background of there not being many alternative rules, whilst in the open board version, it doesn't stand so tall against the many fine commercial sets.

    I think we both like rule comparisons and some of this feeds back into your 2020 theme of the 'simple game', a position I am shifting on. Simple on it's own doesn't seem enough, the after play comment needs to also be 'that was good'.

    1. A great point, Norm re playing the entire battle. That's exactly what happened too, although a few new and shiny Cold War rules (at the time) stole the show and we drifted on, as you said.

      Playing out a specific, tactical "field-problem" I think is more useful than an entire game. Too many variables at play.

      Picketts Charge that's a much tougher one to tackle. I asked my group what they would have done in similar circumstances to break through the rebel line. Granted, it's entirely possible that it's my bad generalship, but the outcome was bleak for the Union each time we played it. Left me scratching my head as to the best way to attack the position. The rebel units are small but numerous, and high quality, versus the larger union units, but there is much open ground to cover and the rebels are behind a fence and also in cover. The union did have artillery and I tried to focus on 2 specific portions of the line to break through, and even tried skirmishers to the front to attract fire (this also was something attempted in Johnny Reb) with the results being the same. In the end I was disheartened and i disengaged from PC. They're lovely, too, I loved the clean presentation, the tables, etc. I even bought GdA and O Group, their Napoleonic and WW2 successors because they're a pleasure to read. Curious as to yours and everyone else's thoughts on PC. How did you break the Union line?

    2. Steve, I have the Sunken Lane as a boardgame scenario and from memory, it presents exactly the same circumstances as you outline and it was a grinding attack that ‘partly’ won the day.

      Since the Sunken Lane scenario comes with the rules, I will put it up on the table and report back.

    3. I'll be watching with much interest, Norm!

  21. Hi Norm,
    Very interesting comparison. I wonder if you can look add in your thoughts on, arguably, the most popular ACW rules ever Fire and Fury?
    I am personally a Napoleonic player, so starting at a disadvantage generally, but I really like General d'Armee, which is Dave Brown's Napoleonic version of PC. I have always found Black Powder just too much like a game of dice with a very bland pinch of flavor added in.

  22. Hi Ed, thanks for dropping by. I owned Fire and Fury many years ago, when the choices were really that or Johnny Reb 1 and 2 (was that the 90’s ?). Anyway, too many years ago for me to properly recall, but I remember thinking they were slick and of course in a presentation that was ahead of its time.

    If I had to jump off the fence, I probably prefer the levelof gamin which has units as regiments rather than brigades.

    I also have General d’Armee rules and have been impressed with the games that the bloke in the Resource Section above, puts on, though his visuals are superb and so he is already half-way there in selling the rules :-).

  23. A very interesting post, thanks for sharing it.
    Is the Firepower rulebook available? I could not found it on the Perry´s page?

  24. Thanks, As far as I know, the Firepower rulebook only comes with the 28mm ACW Battle in a Box set. The original small boxes of infantry figures did carry the infantry part of the rules and I think the artillery sets might have, but from memory, the cavalry rules didn’t.

    It might be worth you dropping an e-mail to Perry Miniatures to see if they can help. The actual copyright might still be with Alessio Cavatore, who I think runs the River Horse company.

  25. Nice post Norm. I enjoyed reading the various rule set mechanisms. It’s not surprising to me that rules written specifically for the ACW tend to have more of that flavor than the generic ones.
    I liked the idea of doing the rolls pregame to get more even results.
    If doing something similar again; I would consider adding a support unit to the charge as I think that’s a very common feature of ACW gaming as well. 😀

  26. Good point Stew that is something that is handled differently between the sets, so it flag up some contrasts.

    I have just put up the Bloody Lane (Sunken rd) scenario from the Pickett’s Charge rule book and that is giving an interesting game. Around 17 regiments per side ... so your sort of thing :-)

    1. Definitely so. Good luck with your battle! Looking forward to the pics.

  27. Interesting compare and contrast post,Picketts charge does seem to give a nice feel for period, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the lack of variety in results but I was! We will probably stick to blackpowder as we all oqn the rules and almost know what we are doing, almost!
    Best Iain

  28. Thanks Iain, I have a bigger game on the table now for Pickett’s Charge and while my head is in the rule book a lot, some interesting and engaging things are happening ....... but, while the details is here, I think the broad brush of Black Powder would likely give a similar game / potential outcome and it is the system that I am more familiar with.

  29. Another couple of rules sets worth a look are 'Long Road North' and
    'Mr Lincoln's War'.

  30. Hi David, I did have Mr Lincoln’s War (from memory, did they have long weapon ranges), a nice tidy set that like so many good things, I got rid of to fund new purchases and then regretted at leisure! I remember seeing Long Road North at the wargame shows, but have never owned them. I think at the time those rules were released, both Johnny Reb and Fire & Fury were the big two in town and are probably had an influence over basing standards as DBA did for ancients, a legacy we are still seeing permeate through rule sets.

    1. I’ve got two copies of Mr Lincoln’s War, for reasons I can’t recall. I liked it at the time but eventually concluded it was very similar in turn sequence to Rank and File. R & F is better written and clearer, plus only uses d6, so I decided in the end to stick to R & F. There were a series of Gettysburg scenarios in WSS around 2012 and I played several games repeatedly. Both R & F and NLW gave great games, but slightly less rules overhead with R & F.

  31. I have R&F on the shelf and like both the production quality and where the rules are going, though I though the specific page for ACW amendment did not carry a lot. My understanding is that Crusader Games eventually did dedicated ACW set.

  32. Hello Norm,

    Delayed comment as I have been busy for a few weeks and only catching up on blog posts. Not a fan of ACW but enjoyed the post and the idea of one on one to do rules tests is brilliant. I did enjoy reading through the reports and the debriefing. I seemed to have lost the effort it requires me to replay a battle with different rules but can certainly see the possibility of using just a a few units a side could be a good way to get a glimpse of how the rules mechanisms work.

  33. Thanks Shaun, while interesting in its own right to compare, I think from a daily wargaming point of view, your way is better in which you just get better at knowing a few rule sets rather than dabbling in many.

    I have been looking at my GMT boardgame SPQR to get some ancient battles in. This is an old system that now covers many battles, so it goes to the principle of learning one set of rules. i am doing a trial game on the Great Plains, with the intention of putting Trebbia on the table in the not too distant future.


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