This is the first in a series of three posts dealing with short and fairly simple play-tests of rule sets which I am presently interested in. All will use a 4' x 4' board and will be solo, in preparation (I hope) for some face-to-face gaming later in 2022.
First off is a test of the new Live Free or Die
rules from Little Wars TV. Readers will know that I am a firm admirer of LWTV - besides being very watchable and well produced, their content is of the highest quality. It is solidly rooted in 'proper' historical wargaming, with plenty of historical background and a very creative approach. The Live Free or Die
project exemplifies this.
Looking for a set of simple rules for the AWI, Tom and Greg from LWTV used the old 1980s Loose Files and American Scramble
rules from Andy Callan as inspiration. They then turned the development process into a 6-part podcast
covering most aspects of rules design and publication, before producing a video of the culminating wargame of the Battle of Brandywine
. As if that wasn't enough, they then made the rules available online as a full-colour PDF or print edition, with half the money going to the American Battlefields Trust. And then they produced a 'how to play' video
, and then
continued the theme with a refight of the Battle of Trenton, filmed on location at a museum in Trenton pretty much on the site of the original battle. Phew! If you can find me anyone else doing this kind of thing anywhere else in the wargaming world at the moment, I'd love to know about it. Oh, and did I mention the basic rules are just 4 pages long?
So, I bought the PDF (only $13) and set about making a few changes to suit the rules for the SYW and take into account one or two personal preferences. These included having brigade commanders for each brigade rather than just one or two subsidiary commanders, the inclusion of evade moves (offered as an optional rule in the PDF), some use of average dice rather than D6 where I thought it might help, and a minor tweak allowing for the possibility of double moves. The rules also use the concept of removing bases to represent casualties, which I don't personally like as I prefer to keep my figures on the table. Some markers to indicate lost bases work just as well.
Of particular interest was that the rules use a command points system, something I've never really liked as such rules seem to add an additional level of artificiality to wargames rules, which tend to be quite artificial enough in most cases. But I went with it. The scenario was quickly developed from a battle created by the Cirencester Wargames club which featured recently on the Shadow of the Eagles blog
. I reduced the table size and trimmed down the number of units slightly - as you can see from the photos the Austrians are defending some high ground and are being attacked from two sides by superior Prussian forces. Figures are 28mm.
|The Prussians struggle across the stream in the foreground and try to get to grips with the |
Austrian position. Their cavalry is changing flanks to support their right.
|A bit of a traffic jam results. |
The cavalry of both sides get stuck in on the right of the picture.
|Well, the cavalry are a bit thinned out, but the infantry firefight is well underway.|
|Close up as the Prussians try to break into the Austrian line.|
Overall, the game was most interesting, and the rules turned out to be pretty well written, easy to understand, and easy to use. Despite the simplicity, there are a number of mechanics which seem quite original and add interest to the game - for example, units may use 'hasty fire' and use their full movement, or use 'volley fire' and remain stationary, with the latter using double the dice. The Andy Callan concept of deciding the result of a melee which then decides how many casualties are incurred to each side is another interesting mechanic. The charge process also seems quite original and produces some fun issues when charges fail to make contact.
The army and subsidiary commanders are very involved in the game, as they can help substantially with firing (which I have doubts about), and melee and morale (which is entirely appropriate). The commanders are also the source of the command points, with better commanders having more of them. This is a good way to represent commander quality. I found that my idea of creating brigade commanders, and thus increasing the number of subsidiary commanders, meant that too many command points were available. This led in particular to units being able to be shored up by attached commanders and becoming rather too resilient. So perhaps this is a change to abandon.
Another point to mention is that the rules are targeted at historical play, and require proper victory conditions for both sides. Actually destroying units seemed quite difficult to do - they tend to retire to the rear, ready to be rallied by their own officers or attached commanders. So rules dependent on losing a proportion of your forces to decide the result don't really work.
If you're a Horse & Musket wargamer, I would strongly suggest you look into these rules. They are not expensive to acquire, and make for an interesting and fresh gaming experience. And any rules you can fit onto 4 pages must be worth a look! Conversion to other periods would seem to be possible and could be a fascinating little project.
News Just In
Not satisfied with what they have already achieved, those LWTV boys now have the rules, along with various scenarios and supporting material, published in a wire-bound soft-back edition. Available from Caliver Books in the UK for £29.95
. Honestly darlings, keeping up with these £30 rule books from Caliver is becoming quite a chore!