About 2 years ago (!) I posted on the outstanding potential for the rules and scenarios hosted on the Junior General site, which is a site that began as a resource for history teachers to teach their students about history through wargaming. The simple-but-not-simplistic rules hosted on the site are wonderful, and even inspired Steven Thomas to publish the excellent "Tilly's Very Bad Day" Thirty Years War (TYW) rules. Both of which are excellent additions to the "Allure of Simple Wargaming" experiment in their own right!
|The Junior General Site - Used without permission.|
Fast forward to present day, I recently got the chance to put Tilly's Very Bad Day (TBD) through its paces on my own wargaming table, albeit with MDF counters instead of miniatures (All of my ECW miniatures are yet unpainted). I enjoyed it immensely. TBD was a wonderful game and I immediately turned to the Junior General rules to have another look at its massive stable of rules and scenarios. (I plan on doing a post on TYW rules as I have a TYW game scheduled with Ken to try In Deo Veritas).
|Tilly's Bad Day TYW Battle - 2 Infantry-Heavy Armies - Red & Blue - clashing somewhere in Moravia?|
Looking at the splendid additions Steven put into his TYW work, I wondered what kinds of additions one could add to the Junior General Horse & Musket era rules to make them as exciting and fun as TBD? First I had to play a game straight out of the box and see how it went. This being ACW month here at SOUND OFFICERS CALL, I figured - why not try the rules from the Little Round Top scenario?
|View to the north of the Smith Farm from "The Widow Freitag's" house and the orchard.|
|The Smith Farm - rumor has it Mr Smith packed up and left for Great Britain to become a successful wargame designer!|
|Rebels pour through the Widow Freitag property and along the Plank Road|
The terrain was neat and totally unintentional. The Smith Farm held a huge open area surrounded by a fence or woods. To advance into would invite fire from all sides. Both sides accordingly overwatched the farmstead but chose to advance down the flanks. Movement is generous at 6" for line and 12" for column. All obstructions cost 1/2 movement. Units may move and shoot. More on this in a bit.
|the open expanse of the Smith Farm - a killing field - Union Regiments are moving up hastily to take position along the fenceline|
|The Rebs have arrived at the Smith Farm as well and are struggling to find a good spot to emplace their artillery.|
|Sir, how did we get here so fast? Easy, Porter, we rolled a 6 for our arrival. Rebel reinforcements stream south.|
|Large yankee batteries take up position north of the Smith Farm. 8 guns here!|
|There they are men!|
|Double timing through the cornfield|
|The Yankee Artillery fires first.|
|Yankee troops and Rebel troops careful to avoid the open area in the center are favoring the flanks. A fight is developing on the half wooded hill on the left and the copse on the right!|
I really like the shooting rules - which are by stand. When you lose a stand, you lose a shooting die. The JG rules have the ACW units at 6 stands. I made mine 5. Tilly's Bad Day uses a system called "resolve" to represent what the individual bases represent in the JG rules. I liked this and borrowed it for this battle (and everyone knows my preference for single-unit stands).
Instead of removing stands, I just used a dice to represent "stand loss". These rifle-armed Regiments hit on a "6" at 12" except when shooting closing fire against chargers, in which case they hit on a 5+.
Units move and shoot, which is incredibly high-octane, but I love it. Developing an attack is not as challenging and the infantry units feel very powerful. Probably how it should feel for an ACW battle. Tilly's Bad Day, really the inspiration for fighting this battle, uses a turn sequence where the Phasing Player moves, and the Reactive Player fires. I like that because it's chock full of decision making, however for this battle I played as-is because I wanted to get the feel of the rules first.
|Union Regiments advancing on the right|
|Yankees advancing on the Union right through the woods. Johnny Reb will meet them on the other side of the copse.|
|Rebs bringing up reinforcements along the Plank Road for the fight for the hill on the Union left.|
|The Union have a commanding position on the hill, but how long can they hold out against multiple regiments? And without a Rally Rule?!?!|
|The see sawing battle develops with fighting for both flanks. The Union edge out into Smith Farm's deadly open expanse.|
I love how the pre charge sequence works in the JG and Tilly rules. You must roll your number of remaining stands, or less, on a 1D6. So say if a unit has 4 stands (or in this case strength points) remaining, they must roll a 4 or less for their morale. If they have 2 stands or SPs remaining, they must roll a 2 or less. Commanders can influence this die roll by a factor of a single stand. The Union on the right, seeing an opportunity to charge, roll their pre charge morale check. They are full strength with 5 stands, meaning a 5 or less is needed. The roll a 6! Of all the times to roll a 6, now was not the time!
|Rebel Regiment taking flight in the cornfield!|
|The Yanks give a loud hurrah after the flight of the REbels, but there are more Regiments behind those Rebs!|
|The Rebels move out to challenge the Yanks at Smith Farm.|
|It took almost 3 Rebel Regiments to capture this hill from a Union Regiment in terrain. Sounds about right to me!|
I called the game at about 20 turns. With the Union consolidating their position further north, and the Rebs in almost complete control of the field, I'll give this to the Rebels although it was by no means decided. Both sides had some fresh units and 80% of their Regiments and Batteries still on the field. The Rebels had push the Union back to their starting lines but were hesitant to push further.
This game was a real blast and I attribute my playing of Tilly's Very Bad Day to showing me the raw potential of the Junior General rules, which I will play and tinker with for other eras including the AWI, SYW, and Napoleonics (there are scenarios and rules for all of those eras and many, many more on the site).
I think to jazz up the JG rules (which admittedly are meant for youngsters, likely in middle or high school) a few holes need to be plugged. Here is what I would add for this ACW game, and I base this off of the great work that Stephen has done with Tilly:
The Turn Sequence: The turn structure deserves some thought. Tilly's Very Bad Day has a neat feature whereby the attacker moves, defender fires, and both sides launch charges. I like that especially because Steven restricts shooters from charging. Make no mistake - the game played perfectly fine as straight IGOUGO, but the "twist" that he puts in makes you think about just shooting all of the time. Read Steven's thoughts on the turn sequence for Tilly here.
Rallying: I like the idea that units can rally. Even if this is a local gathering of shirkers and malingerers or even a dressing of the line and a restoration of the NCO's order over the troops, rallying occurs naturally. TBD has a "heroics" feature whereby fighting strength and morale is restored through the destruction of enemy units referred as heroics in the TBD rules. Again, this is worth taking a look at.
Units force off table: A 12" retreat pretty much guarantees that you're going to have a unit forced off the table. This happened in the Smith Farm battle to a Union Regiment and with a rules set that conveniently fits into a few paragraphs, it's natural that there aren't rules for this. I'm inclined to say they're out of the game.
Command and Control Rules: I love how the JG and TBD rules handle the use and commitment of commanders. Commanders add a stand's worth of troops to your melee fighting ability and rallying ability. I love the risk to commanders as well. TBD has a command radius from a force (wing?) of units. Any horse and musket rule set should include this feature as well. I was not very disciplined in the addition of C2 ranges for this ACW battle but will be in future iterations.
Road Movement: Probably not necessary given that units in column in the JG rules move 12" but I figured since terrain impacts movement in the negative, roads should enable movement in the positive. I added 3" making a unit in column able to move 15" if they dared...
Line of Sight: TBD has defined parameters for line of sight and they're worth taking a look at, especially for a "modern" era like the ACW, where rifle ranges reach 12".
Limber/Unlimer/Artillery Action rules: TBD represents use of artillery as a much less mobile arm as it should be. On an ACW battlefield, artillery enjoys much more mobility and the JG rules reflect this. I should also add that I love the rules for "formations" - basically you can switch formation before or after movement, but you can do so only once in a turn. This really just works. Artillery gets similar treatment with movement and the rules don't distinguish between limbered and unlimbered, however an artillery battery can never fire on the turn it moves.
Breakpoints: TBD has introduced some clever features to end the game. Clearly units did not fight until the last horse, last man, etc. Armies have a psychological or physical breakpoint. This should be represented on the tabletop.
That's all for now. Thanks for reading and you should definitely check out both the Junior General website, and the Tilly's Very Bad Day rules, both of which are free and reflect some great work on behalf of their respective owners. Junior General has over 85 sets of rules and scenarios (!) and also a massive selection of paper miniatures to print out if you're short on time. TVBD is well supported by Steven Thomas who posts weekly on many wargaming topics, but has posted at length about design considerations for Tilly.
Okay - interesting stuff coming up so stay tuned! ACW Month "marches on" with Shiloh next week in glorious 10mm using Altar of Freedom. Today a brief diversion playing "In Deo Veritas" TYW/ECW rules at Ken's house. Also stay tuned for an exciting post on WWII aerial combat, and a "dark" distraction? Watch this space!