Saturday, March 21, 2009

ACW Figures in search of a Project - Follow Up

Over the past couple of days I have heard from a number of people on the subject of 25mm ACW.
On an aside I also learned why I get so much private email off my blogs and not as many comments as I’d like, so well I learned something it’s time to get back to gaming discussion.

I think after several discussions that a number of people are in a similar boat to me, they want to do something but you get so far into the project, stop and ask yourself what he frell am I doing.

Today I played in a game of 15mm ACW game “Rally Round the Flag” and confirmed why I hate the rules so, but that is another topic. But it did provide a good venue to have some discussions with others concerning 25mm gaming.

In 15mm I have the complete Army of Northern Virginia or damn close at a pretty low scale, 1:30, and for a period I find the battles so boring I don’t want to recreate that. Whether I play “Rally” or “Fields of Honor” or “Guns at Gettysburg” there is no reason to duplicate it.

So the question becomes what do I want to do?
The lowest scale is a skirmish game or some other game along those lines. This is actually the lowest number of figures needed and might be the quickest to get something started. In several games players might only need 20 to 30 figures or maybe as many as 60 in another game. The challenge here is how many players can you get involved and when does the game become unplayable. And I guess more importantly what rules would you use? I am not real happy with most of the rules as published and while many are okay none of them are great.
In talking with players here there really isn’t much interest for gaming at this level. I figure if you showed up with a game you could players to play and maybe a couple of players might paint figures.

The next level of gaming is small scale actions. Think about detachment and company level actions involving recon, supply, escape or dozens of other options. There are literally thousand of actions on this level during the course of the war and I suppose it holds the most interest to me. The problem here is the rules just don’t exist. Currently in the Twin Cities there are at least two groups attempting to play at this level, one group is playing up, using modified skirmish rules at a brigade level while the other group is playing down, using a modified version of a regimental game.
I know BJ will suggest TCHAEATD but after talking with other people and checking out the rules I will tell you I am not interested in them. I found a group that tried the rules and I would like to post a quote, anonymously since I haven’t asked if it was okay. “No doubt they [Too Fat Lardies] developed and play tested in 15mm but I doubt they played a game in 25mm with their basing and scales. The game just doesn’t work [in 25mm]. … We are left trying to figure out if we can salvage the game at 25mm.” I will say the rest of the note was not as kind to the rules. I have seen this issue before, my classic example is “Wilderness Wars” where the game works great in 15mm but seems to fall apart in 25mm.

When we move up the scale from here we really are left with things that we already have in 15mm. Regimental and Brigade Games; which I just don’t want to duplicate.

So I am left with 150 painted figures and another 600 or so unpainted figures, going what do I do with these.

Fitz knows where I have been going for the past couple of months, while he has been “supportive” I am not sure he agrees with what seems to be coming down the pike.

The idea I have bounced around is to take a game system with many of the same principals you find in the ACW from another period and adopt it for ACW. The game I am looking at is “Drums of War along the Mohawk” by Bill Protz.

Of course a couple people are going to start screaming hypocrite because of my stand against a BAR or similar level game in the Napoleonic period. But I think there is one huge change between the Napoleonic Period and the American Civil War; the size of the Battalion. In the Napoleonic period battalions regularly number 720 men or greater, while a typical regiment/battalion in the 1862/1864 you are looking at 300 to 350 men. Well under 50% strength of the Napoleonic strengths, thus reducing the number of figures by 50%.
Additionally another interesting sidebar for the period is in the ACW you have just a few formations, Column of Fours (March Column), Line Abreast, an open line and skirmish. The Napoleonic period I can name four formations for a cavalry defense (Square, Battalion Mass, prone, brigade square) without even thinking about it.
Of course those that want to call me a hypocrite I understand.

Well enough rambling for now.


Anonymous said...


The obvious question to ask is: if you think the period is so boring, why do you have so figures for it in two scales??? If the answer is "because they were cheap," well that answer doesn't fly for my wife whehn she comes home with extra stuff either.

I'm not surprised you don't care for TCHAE. It doesn't seem to fit what you look for in rules, and it's a commercial set, so it starts with two strikes against it. :-)

For what you're describing it wouldn't be a good choice anyway, since it's set at more of the Johnny Reb III or Stars & Bars level.

Tactics in the period had a tendency to be more simplistic as you state. The challenges will be more on the battlefield, since the average ACW battlefield was much more broken up by walls, buildings, woods, etc. than your average European battlefield in many cases. IMO too many ACW games don't have nearly enough terrain on them.

A couple of things about the BAR/ACW idea. First, you're comparing apples to oranges to a certain degree when it comes to unit sizes. You're quoting typical field strengths for ACW units but then going back to paper TO&E strengths for the Napoleonic ones.

For the 1813 campaign that everyone loves so much, the average French battalion size was somewhere around 500, with many of them in the 300-400 range. The Russian regiments in many cases had to field a single understrength battalion. Only the Austrians seemed to come close to their paper strengths in some cases. A 70-80 figure Austrian battalion would be a pig to maneuver at 1:10 (or even 1:20) and that presents a number of interesting choices for the commander as well.

Another thing is that BAR doesn't have to be run at 1:10. That's the preferred scale for the rules authors, but the book has modifications for running smaller units as well.

For what it's worth I don't really care for Rally much anymore either. It had it's day in the sun, but now there are better sets out there. If you're interested in smaller battles, something like the forthcoming Regimental Fire & Fury or even Black Powder might be something to consider if you decide to not poke around with BAR/ACW.

I would be interested in a BAR-like set of rules for the ACW.

knightwire said...

Not having to sign-in would be one way you would receive more comments. I have read many posts and (to no ones surprize I'm sure) have had an opinion to express. However being at work or in between stints of "Alex-hearding" I have zero interest in hunting down a username and password that I rarely use.

As I have no 25mm ACW, I'll simply vote "Present" on this discussion.


the_fitzer said...

Well that certainly muddies the water...

You don't want to do singly mounted figures for skirmishing games because you have too many and don't think it would be a good use of resources, but you want to singly mount figures for a game you don't like and, even you will have to agree, will not work on a standard 6' x 12' table. Not really seeing this one work out either. Perhaps you should rethink your project or wait until some one/group actually puts together a project that floats your boat.

I've seen a lot of smoke on this subject lately, but no real fire yet. I'd just wait.

Just my two-cents worth...

Jeff Johnson said...

I would like to respond to BJ comments first.

When I am grocery shopping if an item I usually buy, say “Tide Laundry Detergent”, is on sale I will buy a container because it is on sale and I know I am going to use it, maybe not today but probably within a few weeks because of the mounds of laundry we generate. It makes good financial sense to buy the items when they are cheapest even if that means buying them early. I figure this plan in grocery shopping saves my household about $425 a year, give or take a few.
The same principal applied here for the 25mm Old Glory ACW figures. The Source Comics and Games blew out many of their packages at $5 a bag (compared to $31 regular price), as the group I was in was talking about doing some 25mm ACW figures I bought a few bags (46 I think) it was a good price and I had virtually everything I need to play any game.
Of course the problem with all good plans it fell apart soon thereafter. Issues on rules scales and other concerns prompted the project to get side tracked.
So what is a guy to do with between 750 and 900 ACW figures? I sorted them out and started painting and sent a few out to get painted.
The issue today is I have 120 figures completely painted and another 120 figures partially painted. Now I want to make the final plans on what to do with them.

I dislike most of the set battles in the ACW since there is little we can do to alter their outcome. If the union wins historically the union wins 9 times out of 10 in most miniature games, unless of course the game is so slanted to one side or the other that the other side can’t win. IE Rebel Yell, where it is almost impossible to win as a union player without 3 to 1 odds.

I think the period is interesting and many of the characters in the period are truly worth studying. I have read a book credited to Confederate General Longstreet on playing 5-card draw poker as an example of things that makes these personalities more unique.

I have stated my concerns about “TCHAEATD” or whatever acronym they wish to use, I am sure I will pick up a copy and throw it in the box of rules I have collected. In reading TMP and other web forums my concerns seem to be the same as a number of other groups, so I don’t believe they are unfounded. Considering I like “Fire and Fury” for a higher scale game I am not looking to replace it which is the niche that TCHAEATD is truly trying to fill.
Regimental Fire and Fury has been supposed to be released anytime now since 1997. I have a PDF copy from 2003. In a rare case I have to agree with Col. Gray on looking at the rules, “BOFF” works great for brigades but when you are representing battalions and regiments the command and control mechanism does not seem to correspond to our perceptions of how battles were fought.

As I have stated in many forums the problem with most commercial rules is the fact we don’t play with the rules author. Too many rules have issues concerning interpretations. This has become more and more of a problem as MORE rules become available commercially. If you need to spend so much time and effort defining how rules play why play them or rather why not rewrite them to be your own. In the ACW a classic example of this “Brother against Brother” there are several groups that play this game in the Twin Cities but if you didn’t see the name or the rules book lying around while playing you would not even begin to guess that these groups were playing the same game.

When you compare the Napoleonic Period to the ACW there are several differences that make it an apples to oranges discussions.
First is the scale of the Armies involved, there are couple dozen battles larger than Gettysburg in the Napoleonic period while Gettysburg is the largest battle in the ACW.
Second is how replacements were put into units, the Union just created new units wholesale while the Confederacy did attempt to keep filling units it also kept creating more and more new units. In the Napoleonic period for the MOST PART countries just recruited more men into existing units.
In the ACW Union units averaged between 325 to 375 men in a regiment. During the 1813 campaign the combined armies averaged slightly more the 735 men per battalion at the beginning of the campaign. The caveat to that is I assume the Russian regiment is equivalent to a battalion. By Leipzig that number is down to just under 600 men per battalion, but they are still nearly twice the size of the ACW counter parts.

I think in most miniature games we do not represent enough terrain on the board. This is more apparent for the wars on the American Continent. In 25mm I have made nearly 12 linear feet of fence, 6 linear feet of stone wall, 15 linear feet of stream/river. Not to mention buildings, woods and other bits and pieces on the table top. Very people will accuse me of not have enough terrain on the table top in 25mm.

“Drums of war along the Mohawk” [Drums] can be played in a number of scales and the rules allow you slide the scale to virtually whatever level you want to play; however in my honest opinion there is no reason to play Drums in anything other than 1:10 and here is why:
No matter what scale you play Drums at you are going to have virtually the exact number of figures on the table. If you play at 1:10 your command represents a brigade at 1:20 your command represents a division or two brigades. You have the same number of units and elements you just are calling them something different.

As Jim pointed out I am not the biggest fan of singly mounting figures, I have argued against it in several periods. My position hasn’t changed, but for the ACW unless I want to recreate Fire and Fury in 25mm I don’t see any better alternatives. As much as it pains me to say it also allows me to play other games being played locally with other groups, pushing my own figures.

I’m not as concerned about this game fitting on a 6x12 tabletop as I am say of the Napoleonic period. I like the Napoleonic period a lot more and I would like to play the period more often. The ACW might be a good period to play games at conventions and other settings where larger games can be played. Maybe this might get others interested in the game.

Just some rambling for the morning.