Sunday, July 28, 2019

Habits Are Hard To Break

Once again I sat down, looked at the still unfinished 20 turn game on my table and thought: "I have not done what I thought I was doing. Instead, I've gone  even farther off course.".  Reset!

Simple scenario. Equal forces, 3 roads either side. Roll for entry point per division. Sieze an enemy road without losing any.

The original plan had been to write a ruleset with as little  regimental detail and as few artificial command mechanisms as I could but instead, with each tweak or rewrite I seemed to have slipped ever farther back down that well trodden road. So,  I opened up a blank document and began again.

I thought about what a revelation it had been 17 years ago when I first read Joe Morschauser and, after scoffing, tried playing his rules. Then I thought about how  much I had enjoyed, and been excited about, the games I had played using the very simple rules he inspired me to write. Rules which I had proceeded to regress until the rules were neither fast nor fun while convincing myself that I wasn't doing that at all. It comes I think from my early days, WRG and reading Charles Grant's books. The simpler Featherstone and Lawford and Young had been hastily put aside by the young man for more modern, detailed, scale conscious rules. Unlearning that approach has been a steep curve over the last years.

I reset the table, typed up a one page rules summary,  and started again.

Desperate Union counter attack repulsed with heavy losses.

This time I played 15 turns in about 3 hours and was able to declare a narrow Confederate minor victory. More than that, the advantage had swung back and forth but in the end it was player decisions not dice that decided the issue. (Mind you a last desperate Yankee charge might have come off against the odds if the dice had been kinder to them and turned the game to a draw.)

So here's the one page rules:

Ross Fast PLay ACW QRS

Determine initiative My usual card initiative deck

Sequence of Play

A moves or  shoots
Resolve charges (Oops missed this phase when I was typing)
B moves or shoots
Resolve charges
Generals, Cav, Horse Arty 18” 
Inf, Arty 12”  
If with 6” of enemy no sideways move
1/2 speed  if maneuvering (fall back, sidestep, pass through,  etc) 
1/2 speed across delaying terrain, inf only in thick woods, swamp, steep rocky hills etc
Roads negate off road terrain for columns

Shooting: Shoot straight ahead. Units may change facing, unlimer etc and shoot. 
Inf: 2d6 per unit  6” @5,6 hits    
Cav: 2d6 per dismounted  unit. 6” @5,6 hits 
Arty 2d6 per gun  12” @4,5,6 hits, 36” @5,6 hits  
-1 vs cover
Support. A unit may pass up to 1/2 hits to an infantry unit within 1” to flank or up to 3” to rear. 
Rally Men! A Cdr may join one unit within 6” each turn and roll 1d6: 5,6=cancel 1  hit, 1=Cdr dead  

Charge Resolution: Both sides roll  2d6 per unit in contact, 4,5,6 hits     
-1 if attacking cover or an obstacle or if charged in flank.
Follow Me! A Cdr may join a unit in contact. Roll 1d6 5,6 = inflict 1 hit or cancel 1. 1=dead
Apply hits then if neither removed side that took most hits retreats. Charger may occupy ground. If tied charger falls back 1” (cav may dismount) or full move. (Player choice)

Unit Morale. 
Inf take 4 hits, Cav/Arty take 3 hits
+1 if Elite (crack/Veteran etc)
-1 if Green (demoralized etc).

One of the Union roads is blocked by Rebs. Not really controlled by either but adding in the shattered Union 2nd Division enough for a technical victory.


  1. Hi Ross,
    Questions: you indicate that a unit of infantry takes 4 hits. OK - then what happens? Does the player roll a die, immediately fall back or something else?
    Second: the rules as laid out say that when you fire you roll 2D6. Does that mean that you have two chances to roll a hit on a 5 or 6? I assume that it does. However, do you allow for bigger units to roll more dice? Wouldn't a six base unit have double the firepower of a three base unit?
    The reason I'm asking is that these rules seem easily digestible for even my gang of Friday Night Old Guys.
    best regards,

    1. Good questions Jerry, I worked hard to fit this on 1 side of 1 page so not much explanantion included.

      Its sudden death, when a unit hits its limit it is removed from the table. They might have run away, they might have been shot to pieces or maybe they fell back and are rallying in the rear but they are done for the day.

      2d6 means roll 2 dice and each 5 or 6 inflicts a hit so could be 1 or 2 or none. Its not a linear relationship between number of men firing and morale effect (Probably 80% of the shooting result is morale rather than physical). I normally use standard size units so would field a double size unit as 2 bit for slightly larger units I allow them to absorb an extra hit before becoming combat ineffective.

      There are also some rules I use across games that didn't make it onto the one page but I'm happy enough to start writing the full 2-3 page explanantion to back it up soon.

    2. Hi Ross,
      Thanks for the comprehensive reply. The shooting piece I pretty much figured out for myself except for the casualties. I've had morale checks so instilled into my wargaming head that it seemed odd to simply leave it out. On the other hand your explanation makes a whole lot of sense. BTW, I have to think about it a little but these rules seem to shout out for an adaptation to simplified colonial play - or ECW for that matter.
      Last question: is hand to hand combat simply an extension of fire combat? My unit hits yours and we both roll dice?

    3. Jerry, Charge resolution is a mix of attempts to charge with bayonet or sabre where the defender may break and run or where the attacker may stop short it they don't run and engage in a pointblank fireback. All seen from the Corps or Division commanders POV. btw I just noticed an ommision, there is supposed to be a charge resolution phase after each player's move.

      It SO hard to break the habits and mindset of years of low level detail and that stuff does have a place but to do it even 1/2 way right seems to be either a long game or a small one.

  2. I really like the framework: thanks for sharing this! It's an excellent prompt to get me back on a rules project I've been working on.

  3. There is a great deal to be said for the simplicity of Featherstone. My own rules (?) owe a lot to his various versions presented in his earlier books. I'm trying to limit everything to five, or at most six, easily remembered rules/steps for play. Yours here get very close. How might you modify them for 18th century tabletop warfare?

    Best Regards,


    1. I would have to think about that. Obviously heavy cavalry to be considered and less flexible drill but big thing is probably the short duration of sometimes rather deadly firefights, more like melee almost.

  4. So, have you abandoned the friction / firefight bogdown element? Or are you planning to build back towards it?

  5. Love getting the window on your design process - deciding what to leave out and what is absolutely necessary is a difficult task!