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"Worst ACW Rules You Ever Bought?" Topic


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02 Oct 2017 5:36 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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6,685 hits since 2 Oct 2011
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Costanzo104 Oct 2011 1:44 p.m. PST

If you accept a unit can fight several turns without having a little damage, you can't build a minimal tactical plan, your future and pleaser stay only in dice.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2011 1:54 p.m. PST

For me Fire & Fury is and has always been the worst set of ACW rules ever. I hated it long before everyone and his dog was playing it.

First couple of times I played it I saw brigades move doing cartwheels and back flips. They would literally be right in front of my unit and then in one move, my opponents brigade does some kind of gymnastic crazy move and he is on my flank the next turn and all I can do is stand and watch him do it.

The other problem I have is the way the rules are written. Reminds me of some of the worst British rule sets. Less narrative and more rules please. Somewhere in this book are some actual rules, I think.

Then the first time I saw a whole brigade of Zouaves! With brigade flags no less. Brigade flags on the field of battle! That was the final straw!

I guess I am bias because I believe the ACW was a regimental war. But I really hate those rules. That's why I hate playing AOE or any other derivative of F&F. I wasted money on regimental F&F, stupid on my part.

Tiger7304 Oct 2011 1:58 p.m. PST

The Blue Light Manuel and Stars and Bars are the worst for me. But I confess I only read them--never played them.

IMO F&F is a very good game system, but for me, doesn't give the best "feel" for the ACW. My preference is JRIII.

Jerry

vtsaogames04 Oct 2011 3:38 p.m. PST

Stars & Bars, but I keep it for the OBs.

nsolomon9904 Oct 2011 4:52 p.m. PST

Stars & Bars (thankfully only paid 10 bucks at a Flea Market but it was still money I could've used for something else)

DJCoaltrain04 Oct 2011 5:23 p.m. PST

I have more than a couple dozen ACW rules. I've never seen anyone use Blue Light Manual (yep, got them too). BLM is far too difficult to acces – I often wonder if their purpose was simply to annoy as many ACW buffs as possible.

S&B I have played a few times, I don't like them – too much fiddley stuff. But I know folks who still use them.

My vote for worst goes to Mr Lincoln's War. Too many Bleeped text moments in them. After the first game we had three pages of "Yes/No" questions for the writers. After we got those answers and played again we only had two pages of questions. Then we gave-up and quit. Not worth the candle.

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2011 7:28 p.m. PST

Stars & Bars, hands down. It may conceivably be the worst set of rules I have ever bought for any period.

Back when Origins was still held at Widener College in Chester PA I went to a presentation given by a member of the group that had playtested S&B. You can imagine my surprise when this gentleman informed the audience that the ACW was fought with smoothbore flintlocks; things were pretty much downhill from there.

LT

SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member04 Oct 2011 7:55 p.m. PST

Another vote for Blue Light Manual!

Berlichtingen Inactive Member04 Oct 2011 8:08 p.m. PST

For those who think that the only reason someone can dislike F&F is sour grapes, here's what I like and dislike about it. Understand that the dislike outweighs the like in my case.

Like:
I love the maneuver tables. Fantastic idea, and it works well. This, unfortunately, is the only nod F&F makes toward friction

Dislike:
1. Let's see… I'm commanding at least a corps and there aren't any command rules? Wtf, over? Oh wait, there are 'command' rules… the army commander can give pluses to the initiative roll… followed by a straight IGOUGO yawn fest.
2. The incredibly shrinking brigade frontages. Ok, I understand the ease of pulling stands, but brigade frontages shrink at an alarming rate, given that there is zero evidence of that happening in battle accounts.
3. Absolutely no fog of war. Sorry, ACW rules without any kind of FoW is ridiculous.

I have never played a game of F&F that felt even remotely like a Civil War battle account. So, no, it's not because they are popular that I don't like them, it's because, to me, they suck.

@Pan Marek

In answer to your question, the rules I like the best are They Couldn't Hit An Elephant link . As to why, they play like battle accounts read. As with all Too Fat Lardies rules, battle friction is built in at the core. I like the variables to morale ratings, so that not all raw troops are the same (great when doing battles like 1st Bull Run). One word of warning, rules by Too Fat Lardies involk strong feelings, for or against… you love 'em, or you hate 'em

Hauptmann6 Inactive Member04 Oct 2011 10:21 p.m. PST

I know, I know, but there is just a handful of us who realize that is crazy! I solved the problem by going with one infantry base size with four figs on it. I thought John would fix that problem with JR3. But no he didn't, real buzz kill. I still play JR2. Can't find another regimental set I like better that everyone else here will play.

It's not crazy. It's the way you can keep regiments strengths and frontage correct.

corzin05 Oct 2011 4:23 a.m. PST

just curious, what do you guys mean when you you say

"Johnny Reb.
Different base sizes for the same troop type?"

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2011 5:15 a.m. PST

Stars & Bars were easily the worst I ever bought. I keep my copy mostly as a resource for scenarios and because I never throw anything wargame related away.

I like Fire & Fury but am a bit iffy on Regimental F&F, mostly because of the way they don't handle skirmishing. The Paraguayan War variant of Regimental F&F is just silly.

NigelM Inactive Member05 Oct 2011 5:40 a.m. PST

My nomination would have to be Circa 1863 not because of any failings in the rules, to be honest I can't remember what they were like, they just happen to be the only set of specific ACW rules I recall buying. A have a few sets which bundle them in with other periods e.g. M.O.D. Games Fall of Eagles. Keep saying to myself I'll use BP, TCHAE, Guns at Gettysburg, Civil War Battles etc but never actually get round to picking a set up. Even if I did I probably wouldn't have time to paint the figures anyway!

Trajanus05 Oct 2011 9:40 a.m. PST

Then the first time I saw a whole brigade of Zouaves! With brigade flags no less. Brigade flags on the field of battle! That was the final straw!

And this was the fault of the rules? How is that exactly?

If we are kicking F&F I'm surprised no one has mentioned the ability to amass a gazillion Fire Points against a target, roll a '1' and do no harm to it whatsoever!

RF&F is a far, far, superior animal!

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2011 11:21 a.m. PST

@Berlichtingen-
Thanks!

Ken Portner Inactive Member05 Oct 2011 11:34 a.m. PST

Ok, I'll bite on the FnF critiques:

Dislike:
1. Let's see… I'm commanding at least a corps and there aren't any command rules? Wtf, over? Oh wait, there are 'command' rules… the army commander can give pluses to the initiative roll…

It depends how much granularity you want. Most people aren't interested in writing down orders.

followed by a straight IGOUGO yawn fest.

most every rule set-- except Too Fat Lardies- does things this way. Don't know what distinguishes FnF as the worst in that respect.

2. The incredibly shrinking brigade frontages. Ok, I understand the ease of pulling stands, but brigade frontages shrink at an alarming rate, given that there is zero evidence of that happening in battle accounts.

As you point out, this is an ease of play thing. It's a simple matter to place casualty counters or whatever and keep your frontage. This makes them the worst ACW rules ever?


3. Absolutely no fog of war. Sorry, ACW rules without any kind of FoW is ridiculous

Except for TCHAE, which set of ACW does have "fog of war?" And doesn't the command roll in FnF (or BP, etc.) simulate fog of war in some respect? Again, it seems you've got it in for FnF as it's no different than all the others.

You obviously like TCHAE. So do I. Don't see how that even remotely qualifies FnF as the worst set of ACW rules.

firstvarty197905 Oct 2011 12:01 p.m. PST

I'm not saying it's the "worst" but the variable base sizes for JR has always bothered me. Other than that, the rules themselves seem okay.

Fire and Fury, in both its varients I think are fine, though there are aspects to each that I dislike. I borrowed a lot his ideas for a rules set I came up with, but added in a opportunity/defensive fire/reaction roll that I think improves it a lot by adding more randomness and makes it less of an IGOUGO game.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2011 3:05 p.m. PST

It's not crazy. It's the way you can keep regiments strengths and frontage correct.

A smaller unit has a smaller frontage! Do I have to have six versions of the Louisiana Tigers with different size bases and number of figures.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2011 3:12 p.m. PST

And this was the fault of the rules? How is that exactly?

It's the brigade scale. Guys want to have the pretty Zouave uniforms so they paint one whole unit of Zouaves. Where at the most you should, at that scale, just have a very few Zouave figures. I have that issue with all brigade level games. If you want to do specific units you need to go regimental.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2011 3:14 p.m. PST

No fog of war? That is more a function of the scenario than the rules. Just use whatever method you want for that paticular battle. You can use dummy counters or whatever.

Mikhail Lerementov Inactive Member05 Oct 2011 4:24 p.m. PST

Picquet. Played it once and never again. The game involved our side, the Union, winning every initiative roll. In two hours of gaming the Rebs moved once. I recall watching the designer running a ACW game at a con. He finally called a halt to the initiative die and announced that now the other side would get a turn. Broken set of rules.

Berlichtingen Inactive Member05 Oct 2011 4:32 p.m. PST

Jesus, I'm not faulting people for liking F&F, or disliking Stars & Bars or TCHAE. I don't like them… which is the correct answer to the question put forth. For me, the only thing ACW about them is one side is painted blue and the other butternut.

The ACW rules I've bought are Stars & Bars (liked 'em), Stars & Bars 3rd edition (ACW the Empire III way… didn't like them), Johnny Reb 3rd (it's ok), TCHAE (love 'em), Regimental F&F (interesting ideas… needs modifications) and F&F (don't like 'em… might work with lots of modifications)

Bottom Dollar Inactive Member05 Oct 2011 6:07 p.m. PST

JR is probably the best tactical toolkit of rules. F and F probably is the best grand tactical set of rules. Both could probably use further development to make them more definitive. Recent and previous ACW systems probably offer a lot of suggestions for doing that. I'm not sure if there is a worst unless there is a system which offers absolutely zero insight into wargaming the period. One thing I am not in favor of are mechanics which make the probability of having the initiative to move, advance, adjust, what-have-you—you the player-- too low. That's like having a mechanic which gives a commander the ability to abdicate his authority… or to avoid their culpability for a win or a loss, i.e. it wasn't my fault ! or don't sweat it Johnny, your failure to roll mov't initiative did you in.

Personal logo Dances with Clydesdales Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2011 8:19 p.m. PST

Johnny Reb. The charge sequence is entirely too involved. It slows down the game for no benifit I can figure out. Units all have the same frontage regardless of size. Makes no sense. Fix those problems (and a couple others)and my worst would switch to Mr. Lincoln's War.

Trajanus06 Oct 2011 10:34 a.m. PST

Rallynow,

It's the brigade scale. Guys want to have the pretty Zouave uniforms so they paint one whole unit of Zouaves. Where at the most you should, at that scale, just have a very few Zouave figures

Thought that's what you meant. Still not the rules though, just players who don't know or choose to ingnore their history!

jpipes07 Oct 2011 6:44 a.m. PST

Seems like by far the "worst" rules mentioned in this thread are:

-Stars n Bars
-Blue Light Manual
-Fire & Fury (lots of passion for and against this one)
-Mr Lincoln's War

And there were minor mentions of Circa 1863, Brother Against Brother, and a few others.

I'm surprised to hear Stars n Bars, though it begs the question which edition? I have the 3rd and though it's dense it also seems very interesting and dynamic to me. But I also come from a board wargaming background where rules are frequently 30+ pages long for a moderately detailed game.

F&F I can understand as it's wildly popular and therefore going to strike a love-hate relationship. I personally don't feel the Civil War is properly depicted when fought at the brigade level, for many of the reasons already mentioned. I understand that abstractions help speed up play but those abstrations also tend to abstract away all that I think actually defined the ACW combat experience. When an abstraction breaks down the tangible connection to reality it makes those rules of far less use to me as an historical gamer.

Private Matter07 Oct 2011 6:56 a.m. PST

I think the venom with which people will attack a set of rules they dislike or defend their favorite set of rules is funny. Its a personal choice based upon one's own experience and preferences, so to attack someone for not sharing your own opinion its like urinating in the wind; something is going to splatter back on you.

I personally don't like Brother Against Brother but that is only my opinion as I prefer another set for that scale.

I haven't played many of the rules listed but I have played and enjoyed several: F&F, RF&F, Terrible Sharp Sword and TCHAE.

nazrat07 Oct 2011 10:20 a.m. PST

"Johnny Reb. The charge sequence is entirely too involved. It slows down the game for no benifit I can figure out. Units all have the same frontage regardless of size. Makes no sense. "

I find the Charge sequence easily navigated. It can slow down the game a bit until one is familiar with the modifiers.

Units do NOT have the same frontage if you play the rules as written! Different numbers of figures are on different sized bases, so a unit representing 100 men is significantly smaller than a 300 man unit. Where did you get the idea that all bases are the same size?

Bottom Dollar Inactive Member07 Oct 2011 11:25 a.m. PST

"I find the Charge sequence easily navigated. It can slow down the game a bit until one is familiar with the modifiers."

Good God, does that mean you have to put some thought into it?

Trajanus08 Oct 2011 3:48 a.m. PST

Yeah, scary ain't it! :O)

Old Slow Trot Inactive Member08 Oct 2011 5:44 a.m. PST

Can't remember the name, but it was one of the first ones I bought.

mosby65 Inactive Member08 Oct 2011 6:49 a.m. PST

The Blue Light Manual was indeed, to put in the kindest possible terms, a flawed effort. Published 34 years ago and now, mercifully, long out of print, the BLM was published at a time when a set of published miniature rules was mostly judged on first, how innovative its game mechanics were and, second, how accurately and comprehensively it reflected all the battlefield realities of the period in question. How easy they were to learn and enjoyable they were to play did not hold the supreme primacy it does today. Or, in the words of this classic "geezer versus whippersnapper" conversation a wargaming friend of mine reported overhearing at a wargaming convention some years ago:

"Listen, boy, we were real wargamers then! Wargaming was not some giddy, idle, mindless pastime for us. We deeply cared about the level of historical accuracy the miniatures rules reflected. And most of all, we cared about defeating our opponents in an historically comprehensive game worthy of our participation."

Very noble. And monumentally wrong-headed. Playability (rules elements emphasizing ease of use and level of enjoyment) and historicity (rules elements reflecting historical realities) were then, as they are now, equally worthy of attention. In my opinion, a set of miniature wargaming rules should be ultimately judged on how well it balances these two critical factors. There is no question in my mind that the BLM dismally failed this critical measurement.

kevanG22 Oct 2011 6:47 a.m. PST

Black powder were the worst ACW rules I have played

Omemin Inactive Member24 Oct 2011 11:26 a.m. PST

The problem with Stars N Bars as written was the command control rules, We ditched them for our house rules (as we do for most rule sets) and things were great.

I was also grossly unimpressed with Volley & Bayonet and American Battlelines. I also agree with the criticism of the Piquet system. If you want to see just how bad your die-rolling is, try any Piquet set.

CorpCommander31 May 2012 12:16 p.m. PST

Command Decision III. Terrible when used as ACW rules. Same goes for Check Your Six – the author clearly didn't realize that airpower wasn't a major factor in ACW battles…

:-)

I think all ACW games have some merit. I didn't like Stars and Bars but I did like the idea of keeping things not immediately impacting the ongoing battle to be kept simple.

Fire and Fury has a lot of rules that academics would call 'a priori' – such as the modifiers against Confederate Artillery. Consider them stereotypes.

Johnny Reb (all flavors) has one problem – it tries to model everything you've ever read about happening in an ACW battle – Thus the charge rules.

Getting that balance of ease of play with historical feel is tricky as hell. Consider also that the more you read and know about a period the less likely you are to like any game based upon that period. You are condemned to finding flaws all the time.

The fact is we know too much and can see to much of the battlefield to really create the problems of command in the American Civil War. So I say take the experience with a grain of salt. It will taste better!

RudyNelson31 May 2012 1:58 p.m. PST

Bought Stars and Bars when it came out in the 1970s. The gaming group discussion was so confusing that it became clear that a game could not be played which would run smoothly.
So Stars and Bars.

Omemin Inactive Member05 Jun 2012 7:52 a.m. PST

The original Stars N Bars (with my command rules rather than Scotty Bowden's) works VERY well. Once he went to the "Telescoping Time Concept (TM)", I ran away back to edition 1.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2012 9:07 a.m. PST

…what do you guys mean when you you say
Johnny Reb has different base sizes for the same troop type?"

In JR2 there are different size bases for infantry depending on how many figures are in the regiment. It would be more convenient if all infantry were based the same with the same number of figures on them and just adjust the number of bases.

Units do NOT have the same frontage if you play the rules as written! Different numbers of figures are on different sized bases, so a unit representing 100 men is significantly smaller than a 300 man unit. Where did you get the idea that all bases are the same size?

Well sort of they do have the same frontage, that is the whole point of starting with five bases no matter how many figures you have. Who said they all had the same base size? Nobody.

It's just the opposite and that is part of the problem. I think your talking about the size of the bases changing the frontage which brings up the issue of all those different size bases. I was really hoping that John would have fixed all that in the 3rd edition but he didn't.

If Johnny Reb had standardize size bases and something like four figures per base. If the charges were streamlined, where all you had to do was to move your unit into contact and role morale to close and to receive the charge. Then fight a simple mêlée. Just like most other rules do.

Eliminate the impact roll. Either reduced the number of times one rolls for seeing a charge or just eliminate the Contagious routs all together. Then it would be a great set of rules.

Keep in mind I am talking about JR2 not JR3. JR3 has the same basing issues with a whole new set of other issues.

I still play JR2 but there is only one or two of the players that can run the tables and charts in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise it takes forever for the rest of us to get through just a few turns. We play a wide variety of rules for other periods and never have these sorts of problems.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2012 5:14 p.m. PST

Johnny Reb 2 was the first I ever played. Once you play a few times we mostly had many of the charts memorized. A quick reference sheet is sufficient. But its agonizing fun deliberating on the chit play in tight spots. That's right, chit.

JoJo the Idiot Circus Boy07 Jun 2012 12:32 p.m. PST

Ok, allow me to preface this by saying that I although I recently played and enjoyed Regimental Fire and Fury, I'm no fan of the original brigade level game. I say this so that no one thnks that I am a fan boy engaging in some knee-jerk defence of the system. Now that being said….

Fire and Fury? The worst system ever? Really? Compared to some of the real dogs out there (some mentioned on this very thread) how can anyone really say that? I think alot of the F&F bashing we see is simply motivated by the fact that F&F is arguably the most widely played set of ACW rules out there today and is thus the biggest target. There seems to be a sub-set of the gaming community that simply has to bash any rules set that is "popular" or comercially successful. You see this particularly amongst the Naopleonic community, but it trancends periods/genres.

I like to compare it to the fans of "alternative music" and garage bands who look down on any bands that have actually been comercially sucessful (or in some extreme cases even sold a CD) as being "sell outs". It's an almost elitist attitude that is very similar to the "lets bash the most popular rules" tedency amongst some wargamers.

That's not to say everyone who has issues with F&F do this. There are some very legitimate reaons to dislike the set. (some of which I share) But it seems that much of the flak that F&f gets is just knee-jerk contrarianism.

Martin

firstvarty197908 Jun 2012 9:42 a.m. PST

People can say what they want about Fire and Fury, but at the very least, it raised the bar as far as the aesthetics that a set of rules could have. Well-packaged and professional-quality sets of rules were pretty unusual when it was released.

Rev Zoom10 Jun 2012 4:51 p.m. PST

I'm an original playtester for Blue Light Manual and Ed Pauley, the author, is a good friend. That said, I agree with the comments about BLM being one of the worst rule sets out there. Ed tried to incorporate EVERYTHING into this simulation. We tried to tell him when we tested it, but authors will be authors. The firing sequence is a nightmare. For Gawd's sake, just roll a 5 for a hit.

As far as Johnny Reb, I absolutely despise the 4 stand size for every regiment and have argued that with John Hill since Johnny Reb 1 (well back then is was 5 stands per regiment). John said it is so there is a standard morale modifier for each stand lost. So this justifies bases of different dimensions and crowding 5 figures on a stand? Why not just put 4 figures on a stand of standard size and adjust the morale penalty for stands lost based on original size? DOH!!

And I also hate the maneuver chart for brigades in F&F. I far prefer On To Richmond from which F&F was designed.

One set I have not seen mentioned is Guns Of Gettysburg. I find it to be pretty good. Not perfect, but not bad either – once you change the silly rule that every regiment in a brigade must have the same order. I allow a brigade commander to have a variable number of command points per turn and this will allow a change of orders. Better generals get more and so forth.

Bandit Inactive Member14 Jun 2012 6:45 p.m. PST

I've only bought three ACW rules sets, so keep that in mind when I say Fire & Fury were the worst I've bought.

They are functional, they work. I just don't like em because they aren't regimental. I agree with a fair number of the other criticisms like how overly maneuverable brigades are.

The other two rules I've bought are Johnny Reb 2 (which I love) and Regimental Fire & Fury (because I play with people who like it).

Cheers,

The Bandit

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