One of my problems with the American Civil War is that there is so much information readily available! From modern historians' interpretations and reinterpretations, the experience of reenactors trying things, to official reports, memoirs and so on, not to mention a plethora of wargame rules, the wargamer has a lot of grist for his mental mill.
The trick is to find the right balance between detail, game decisions, chaos, simplicity, available resources of time, space and mental energy, and fluctuating personal preference for the target audience. When there is a committee of 3 making the final decisions (yes that would be the old 'me, myself and I') it can take a lot of time to settle things, especially when test games are a few every couple of years rather than one or two a week!
Anyway, I have a set of rules that I've been reasonably satisfied with but the player is having to deal with too many layers of command with results that don't really reflect the historic failures, never mind the occasional blunders! The larger games also take too much time and energy, due in part to too many repetitive die rolls and fiddly bits, so that larger games often start to drag. So far, every effort to fix these issues have ended with a game that was too simple, too dice driven then "general" driven, wasn't quick after all, or just lacked flavour. But..."Nil desperandum", that's our motto!
|The new rules at play.|
This time I managed to convince myself to make a few compromises of an Old School fashion to try to keep the general flow that I like while dropping or simplifying some of the game processes, especially some of the command control ones.
I have several times gone the most common route these days of using the brigade as the basic unit but its no good. I like my regiments! Many of mine are still generic but more and more have built a history for themselves over the years and I like the feel of that. So, this time I am dropping the Brigadiers and having the regiments controlled by the Division commanders with the Brigadiers doing their work without being noticed. The regiments are all the same size and the numbers won't match historical orbats but it OS style, its about the over all feel while still aiming for a reasonable 'feel' to the game even if 6 units of set strength turn out to be representing 14 of varying strengths in 3 brigades.
The Corps Commander (or Army commander in some of the smaller Western campaigns) represents the player so I place him on table to represent me, look pretty, and to theoretically decide what he wants his Division commanders to do. From the late '80's on I was a strong proponent of command control rules to limit or affect what a player could do but eventually, comparing the sorts of outcomes and mistakes etc provided by pretty much every command control system I have seen or tried, it seems to me that the extreme errors and omissions that they inflict, usually based more on a die roll than the situation, not only happen far too frequently compared to history, but are almost never as bad as many decisions that the average player inflicts upon himself in a game without command rules! What I am limiting myself to then is a simple "out of command" roll for regiments the player wants to move when they are not within 4 hexes and line of sight of a Commander.
I did think about adding more friction by reviving my old favourite, dicing for move distances, that I've so often used over the last 30 years but in a full ACW game, its not unusual to find 45 to 60 "units" on my table. That's a lot of time spent rolling dice for little impact, so I'm leaving it lie dormant. The hexes make it almost impossible to do fiddly, tricksy stuff anyway.
So, now the troops can move and shoot quickly and efficiently, the player is in charge and able to make his own mistakes and the combat system is old and well worn. Let the game resume!