The rules are ten pages long and like most free rules, they have a few holes where you are supposed to fill in the gaps. As most of the free wargaming rules don't make it past the reading stage, here is what I found that caught my eye and got me to give them a try:
- Figure ratio is small, 1 figure equals about 15 men. This allows you to play some pretty small battles and large skirmishes.
- The basic unit is the company, not the battalion. Again, this allows for battles the size I am looking for.
- It appeared to have a command and control system which used orders, command radius, activation, and leader characteristics.
- Failing to activate does not mean failure to act.
- Casualties could be recovered by rallying. Here is a game that acknowledges that "casualties" are not necessarily dead or wounded.
- It has close order, loose order, skirmish, and column formations. Each have their own movement benefits and effect on combat.
- Like The Sword and the Flame, movement distances are randomized.
- Hidden figures, scouting, and detection are accounted for.
- Firing is simple, throwing a die for every figure (or every n figures) to generate hits. Hits equal figures removed.
- Melee is handled through opposed die rolls.
- Morale is modified by providing units flank and rear support, giving you a reason for second lines, reserves, maintaining a battle line, etc.
I played a small game on a 30" wide by 20" deep board. The Patriots had a 6" set-on and the British marched on. (Sorry, no pictures. This is a rules review not a battle report.) The Patriots had a slight numerical superiority, but the British had a significant quality superiority.
I set up the Patriots in three lines, with very little spacing between them. The first line consisted entirely of rifle-armed skirmisher units. These were three 3-base units (six figures). Given the small unit sizes, they should not generate a lot of firepower. All other infantry units were four bases (12 figures) while the cavalry units (one for each side) were three 3-base units (six figures). There was no artillery on the board.
First, these rules are really designed for single figure basing, but I figured that between micro dice and markers I could keep track of casualties and such. This basically worked until I hit melee. Each unit has to keep track of three figures: the number of effective figures remaining in the unit (i.e. the number of figures in the unit on the table), the number of figures made into casualties, and the number of figures dead. When a unit takes a hit a figure becomes a casualty. That casualty is removed from the table, but may be brought back by a rally action. During the rally action you roll for each casualty: a 1 or 2 means the figure is dead (so it is no longer a casualty, but now goes in the dead pile), a 3 or 4 means nothing happens (it is still a casualty), and a 5 or 6 means it returns to duty (removed from the casualty pile and returned to the unit on the table). It is important to rally your casualties before the unit disappears completely, as once that occurs it cannot be rallied.
So, as you can see, having individual figures makes it much easier to handle these three states. But, you can still fake it with micro dice or counters and multi-figure bases. However. when it gets to melee you start to realize where the need for single figures come in. Melee results in a casualty, no effect, or the losing figure (not unit) retreating. This can result in scattered figures, especially as the loser retreats the number of inches equal to the difference in the opposed die roll. Very messy!
The problems really start to show up in the command and control system. The sequence of play and the action determination rules seem to contradict each other. The sequence of play discusses placing order markers, yet the action determination section indicates it is IGO UGO by command. If the latter, why would you have orders and order markers? It does not make sense. This is where I think you have to figure out which way you want to play and stick with that.
Command and control basically works as follows:
- The senior-most command attempts to activate his units first.
- Each unit rolls a D6 to see if it activates. If it does it carries out an Order. If it does not activate it rolls to see what it does. (Typically it carries out the order it had last turn, unless "if silly then HOLD".)
- Here the rules become unclear because one section says carry out the actions while another implies all like actions are carried out by both sides at an appropriate time in the sequence. I chose to do a typical sequence of : Activate A, Move A, Activate B, Move B, Fire with A and B simultaneously, Melee with A and B simultaneously, Rally A, Rally B.
For the most part I kept my figures as together as possible, but ended up with a string of bad rolls forcing almost all of one British command to remain off of the board on turn 1. In the end it did not affect the outcome much, but it was a surprise (which is generally not a bad thing).
The first thing I did not like is that you cannot move and fire, but you can charge and fire (the charge move is 1/2 a normal move in this instance). Now what is the difference between a charge move and a move? Nothing really, same distance; it is just a move resulting in contact with the enemy. It is not that I disagree with not being able to move and fire (for this period I think it should generally be one or the other), but rather that one can combine those actions but the other cannot. In the end I did allow a unit to move and fire, with a 1/2 move penalty as with charging, in addition to the penalty to firing while moving.
The one thing that can ruin a playtest is extraordinarily hot dice, and my rifleman had them that day. First shot: 5 out of 6 hit when the odds were 50% chance to hit. Second shot: 6 out of 6 hit. Well, I got to try out the morale rules early!
All in all, these rules have some things to like, but there is too much randomness for me, between activation, order, movement distances, and so on. Maybe I will pluck some rules out and put them in another set, but for now I do not see playing these.