Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Thoughts on Firy and Fury rules

The American Civil War (ACW) is one of the main conflicts gamed by wargamers worldwide. Unsurprisingly there are a plethora of rules available and I seem to have bought many of them; some good, some bad. I am currently involved in a mini-campaign using Longstreet by Sam Mustafa (Honour, 2013) and I will cover these rules, and my thoughts on them, when I write the next AAR in the campaign series. I used to enjoy playing ACW using the 2nd edition of Johnny Reb (John Hill, 1988), but strangely my interest in these rules dropped when the 3rd edition (1996) was released, even though I cannot recall ever using the new edition! The ‘go to’ set of ACW rules for me has always been Fire and Fury (Richard Hasenauer, 1990). I feel they provide a fast flowing game using easy to understand rules. The players can play the whole game using the 2-sided A4 QRS and rarely need to refer to the main rule book, whose production qualities remain high even after so many years. Some gamers have felt the need for a bit more depth in terms of weapon variation etc., and have criticised the brigade unit structure, preferring a lower level, regimental structure game. With this in mind another rule set, ‘Regimental Fire and Fury’ has been published (Richard Hasenauer, 2010). Although I brought this new version of the rules, I have never played them because I don’t feel the basic game requires the changes or additions made.

Fire and Fury, although excellent, does have a few problems. Recreating historical battles using defined OOB’s are well covered in two supplements: Great Eastern Battles (1996) and Great Western Battles (1992). The main rulebook does explain how to convert a historic OOB into the game format and this is great if you wish to refight a given battle, but ‘pick-up’ games pose a problem because the rules do not cover randomised army generation, terrain placement or victory conditions.

By searching online I have found a number of Random Unit Generation mechanics that all seem to work well, but I found one site that gave 20 roughly balanced OOB’s for the Union and Confederate armies that were of the right size for my games. This was ideal, but unfortunately I have lost the link so I cannot give the credit due to the author. I have printed these OOB’s out on business cards, and now I simply roll a pair of D20 dice to determine the composition of each army. A D6 is then rolled for each brigade and divisional commander, and any score of ‘6’ makes him ‘exceptional’ in quality.

To generate terrain I utilise the campaign cards for ‘Swamp Fox’ produced for the ‘John Bull/Patriots’ rules written by the excellent Perfect Captain group ( These can be downloaded for free and printed out, and they allow me to randomly select many typical North American battlefields. So far, I have never drawn the same card twice, so have never fought on the same terrain twice. The basic terrain set up follows that shown on the card with a few changes (e.g. adding a bridge on unfordable rivers, or adding a railway track). The battlefield then has some snake rail fences added to enhance the overall feel.

The biggest challenge remains the game end and victory conditions. To determine the game end I am trialling a ‘countdown’ mechanism frequently employed in rules published by the RFCM (Rules For the Common Man) group. At the end of each Confederate turn a D6 is rolled and the score subtracted from a starting value (I’m currently using a value of 21). When the score reaches ‘0’, the game ends. Using this method the game length is uncertain, but will average 6 turns. I am finding this a bit too short so I may increase the start value to 30 or more. This is because combats tend to take a few turns to resolve with charges and counter-charges occurring to control objectives and terrain features. Units get ground down rather than routing and disintegrating. The approach of a defined game end does pressurise players to press their plans forward more vigorously and prolonged firefights are far less common. At the end of the game, players tot up their victory points as shown in the table below:


Each enemy infantry/cavalry stand destroyed


Each enemy artillery stand destroyed


Each enemy commander killed/wounded


Each friendly brigade that is still ‘fresh’


Each friendly brigade that is now ‘spent’


Each friendly artillery stand that is now ‘wrecked’


Each friendly brigade located in the original enemy deployment zone


Each objective marker taken and held at game end


Each friendly cavalry brigade that has left via the enemy table edge

I have yet to correlate the difference in score with a descriptor of the scale of victory because I have played too few games using the system. Also the victory points for objectives may change.
If any readers of this have any comments or suggestions about my ideas, then I would gratefully appreciate input.

1 comment:

  1. Cheers Mark, I still love and play Johnny Reb 2, by far the best ACW set out there, probably considered a bit old school now, with tables and stuff.