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""A Fire Bell in the Night", New Rules Published" Topic

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Action Log

13 Dec 2012 6:57 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from ACW Product Reviews board

1,744 hits since 13 Dec 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

John Simmons13 Dec 2012 5:50 p.m. PST

Available from On Military Matters.

A Firebell in the Night is a brigade-level set of rules for conducting battles of the American Civil War using miniature figures.

"Infantry and Cavalry are at the Brigade level, in some cases very small brigades might be combined for game purposes. Example might be Caldwell's II Division after the heavy losses on July 2nd Gettysburg.
Artillery is at 6 gun tube battery per base."

Innovative movement and redeployment system confronts the commander with the challenge of using European-style formations in the difficult North American terrain.

"As a Divisional leader, the formation of your Brigades and the terrain they are in will determine not only their movement but the friction of battle, moving and changing formation in difficult terrain costs battle effectiveness. The Command relationships of Corps, Division, and the Brigadier leading his men into battle are found important on the table top"

Realistic casualty tracking system creates fog of war and a clean table-top free of visually intrusive game markers that detract from the dioramic effect.

"What is old is new, this game does use paper and pencil, not for some, but is not a heavy project, we have templates that give a format that is easy to track. Fog of war is at a level not found in many games, what is the enemy strength? With no Disorder or Staggered markers, a commander must judge the situation to "best guess" the level of the enemy battleline. You might know they are hurt, but how bad? You know they are fatigued, but how stressed?"

Realistic fatigue tracking system monitors fighting strengths, putting premium on fresh units from reserves or by resting and reforming front-line units.

"Units can really get hurt without taking large loses, the friction of battle can wear on them, they will need time for the unit officers to reorder the ranks, for the men to rest and catch their breath, for the straggers to get back in position. A fresh Brigade can push back that larger brigade that has been in the fight"

Easily implemented command system emphasizes the relationship between divisional commanders and their brigadiers.

"Command and Control is represented, but without the use of written orders, we focus on their administrative ability -multi-tasking the demands of command, their effect on the men as Morale, and their skill leading men into the danger zone. The system will give you the feel of the superior Morale boost of Hancock as a Corps commander at Gettysburg, the fighting Hood leading the Texas Brigade into melee, or
Cleburne leading his Division into attack."

Special deck of 50 "crisis cards" interjects drama and uncertainty to the battlefield.

"With four years of war, the random is often seen, Ammo issues, losses of leaders, explosion of limbers, confusion with orders, many things will go wrong. Manage Chaos…"

The critical effect of supply issues on the battlefield is dealt with cleanly and effectively.

"Ammo use is a factor, at times units might be pulled out of the line of battle to reform and refit with ammo"

Developed over several years in conjunction with wargamers, re-enactors, and ACW historians.

Rebasing is not required -- practically any basing system can be used. Distances listed on the charts for both 15mm and smaller figures and for 25-28mm figures.

"My basing is for Fire And Fury, works great, no rebasing is required. 1" per Infantry base = 300 men, Brigades from 4 to 8 bases, scale is 1"=100 yards."

"With this figure scale and ground scale, battles like Bull Run I can be played on a 4' by 4' table top with troop counts that are within the reach of many gamers."

Ratings for every general that fought in the ACW -- over 1,000 entries!

"The time per turn is 20 minutes per turn.
With the scale of 1" to 100 yards, the battles will fit on a standard dining room table. (17.6" = One Mile)"

Thanks for your consideration, John


vtsaogames14 Dec 2012 3:59 p.m. PST

Any reviews, AARs? How long does an average game take to play?

John Simmons16 Dec 2012 9:42 p.m. PST

In regards to AAR, I will follow this post with a recap of a playtest of our "Bull Run I" game from six months ago. It is a good representation of a game session.
We find that you should be playing faster in game time vs. history time, Bull Run I represents the afternoon action from 1 PM to 5 PM, we always finished in less then four hours, the last game was 2 1/2 hours.

Dennis at On Military Matters found a problem with the first printed run, he stands behind his service 100%. The first few copies shipped could have a problem with the pages out of order from the printer format. If you ordered the first two weeks and have this problem, please contact the store to have this addressed. We are sorry to have found this issue, all current copies have been reprinted and are in excellent shape.

John Simmons16 Dec 2012 9:56 p.m. PST

The "Battle of Seven Pines, Day 1" is in the rules book.
Here is a battle report (email) I wrote to Tod Kershner, of my playtest of our Bull Run scenario with Dale Wood. This was the worst defeat for the Rebels of all the playtests. John
President Davis,

The action fought yesterday has went poorly for our cause. The Union army had turned our flank in the morning, it was with the heroic action of Generals Evans, Bee, and Bartow that the flank was stabilized by noon with the arrival of Gen. Jackson's Brigade. A fine and strong position was established on Henry house hill to counter the invaders on Mathews and Buck hill.
Gen. McDowell paused to regroup his forces, during this time Gen. Johnston was with me to assist in the recovery of the brigades so damaged in the morning fight.
I ordered Gen. Cocke defending the fords on Bull Run to move a detachment of his large brigade under Col. William Smith to move to Gen. Jackson's support. It was during this time that as they marched, Union gun fire from across the river into their rear unfortunately caused our green troops to rout from the field. Their lost cast a pale upon all others to see our men run at the first fire.
Shortly after 1:00, the Union guns on Buck Hill and Dugan Ridge opened fire on our guns positioned on Henry Hill, the battery commanders performed poorly with two of the batteries pulling out of position and routing to the rear, It was during this early action from ranged fire that Gen. Jackson was hit and carried from the field, Gen. Bee was near by and heard to say sadly, "There lies Jackson." His lost was sorely felt, Col. Nobody was promoted from his regimental post and lead the brigade.
The Union forces across Bull Run advanced and cleared the stone bridge, and soon advanced to unite with the brigades that had crossed the farm fords, advancing their guns to close the range, it put our position in a difficult position to be attacked from two fronts. During this time, the brigades that had fought in the morning, had recovered and were ready for action, Hampton was formed up on Jackson's right, Evans moved up onto Jackson Left with Gen. Bee in reserve. I ordered Gen. Bartow to the key position, the apex of our line to connect Hampton's flank with Gen. Cocke moving up from the fords to defend the stone bridge area.
With Col. Kershaw marching in our rear to come to our aid, it was seen that the Union army was now advancing on all fronts, in a very coordinated fashion. The enemy fire from their guns was intense, sadly another of our batteries pulled out and left the field. As the lines closed, Gen. Cocke was seen leading his Brigade forward to attack two enemy brigades with their gun support, at first seen from the hill, a questionable move but their blood was up. His advanced paused in front of the guns, the men failing to close, the men took heavy loses, but stood bravely and fired a volley that caused the rout of one enemy brigade, Gen. Cocke continued his attack over the next hour and was able to clear the field.
During this time, the union were closing in on Henry House Hill, they advanced the guns and opened fire at close range, that with Skirmish fire caused many loses within our units, we had held fire with our small smoothbores until close range, the guns again performed poorly falling back. As the Union closed into fire range, I'm sad to report that Gen. Johnston fell, shot from the saddle while at the front helping to give morale to our troops on the line. It was soon after this that Col. Hampton had confusion with orders and pulled back off of Henry Hill opening a hole in our line. Long range fire from across Bull Run hit the brave Gen. Cocke, with his death his men lost heart after their heavy fight and turned to leave the field.
The enemy brigade under a Col. Sherman charged up Henry house hill and seized the crest, piercing our line, flanking Gen. Jackson's brigade under Col. Nobody.
We positioned two of our remaining batteries and Gen. Bartow wheeled to fire into this Col. Sherman on the Hill. We hit them hard, it looked like three Crisis issues hit him, but to no effect, he stood. Gen. Evans on the other flank fought well, but with heavy loses routed from the field, Col. Kershaw had moved up to his support and with the union flanking the hill had redeployed to meet the threat there, Gen. Bee in reserve was moved forward to fill the line. Gen. Bee had been reinforced by the 6th NC which reached the field late, these men replaced the loses of the morning, Gen. Bee was at full strength. For a moment it appeared our line might hold.
Our fight flank which earlier had won the action, was now in rout, Gen. Bartow was taking fire from the rear, his unit and the last brigade in his support routed, with them the last two batteries as well. Col. Hampton's retirement from his key Hill position and then his rout after only talking min. hits, was a stain on his record. I recommend he be transferred out of Infantry Brigade command, give him a Cavalry Regiment.
Col. Sherman maintained his position on the crest, nothing we could do moved him, his blue line stood like a "stonewall".
With heavy fighting and mounting loses, Col. Nobody was confused within the smoke and noise and ordered his brigade to fall back 500 yards.
Our army had lost Henry House Hill, most of the men were in rout, it was only due to the steady action of our brigades under Gen. Longstreet, Gen. Ewell, and Col. Early that were able to fight and stop the Union army pursuit, other wise Richmond could have been captured.
The army is now at Fredericksburg and reforming.
Gen. P.T. Beuaregard (John)

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2012 1:48 p.m. PST

Rats, another brigade scale rules. Just what we need.

KimRYoung Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 11:44 a.m. PST

Rats, another brigade scale rules. Just what we need.

Why, is this a problem?


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 12:27 p.m. PST

Probably just a problem for me. I have been looking for a new regimental set of rules for a while and frustration is setting in. In my opinion the ACW works best on the regimental level as oppose to brigades.

So when a new set rules comes out, I get my hopes up only to see yet another brigade level rules. These maybe a fine set of rules but a non-starter for me.

John Simmons19 Dec 2012 4:16 p.m. PST

Rallynow No problem, I started my gaming back around 1976 with Tod Kershner using 15mm Heritage figs and "Rally Around the Flag" regimental rules. I have many fond thoughts from those days of battle. Tod, Dale Wood, and I also had the opportunity to play with John Hill in his playtest days at game cons before "Johnny Reb" was published another great set of rules.
The Most Important Rule, Have Fun!
P.S. I also played in Playtest games with Rich for his "Fire and Fury Regimental Rules", this is also a fine set.

John Simmons19 Dec 2012 4:38 p.m. PST

"To aid in understanding the game system development, here is an email where I was discussing with Tod and Dale my thoughts regarding the above memo from old P.T."

Shall we say, "In defense of P.T. Bearegard", that is to say "me".
The play test of Bull Run went great, it was a success, I got my rear handed to me…. but this was fun.
The game was different, much different that the last time when I felt the Rebels would have fought a tough fight and would have had a brigade on the hill at 5:00 pm, they were in numbers and fresh. So, the question asked, what was different this time -

The scenario was changed, but the items moved should have helped the rebels.
1) Hunter, Div. Gen. for Union is wounded and out for game, brigades must roll or McDowell steps up to direct a Brigade.
Intent was to add command issues for McDowell that he faced in reality. Which out of command brigade to order to action….
2) An additional ammo use for one of the rifle Batteries was added so it will go low on ammo with just one more roll.
The one battery had fired a lot in the morning action, previously Reynolds' Union battery was adequate ammo, we thought we missed this last time, so with both at adequate at start, this is big change for union. My intent was to slow the gun bombardment down
3) Lt. 6# SmoothBore guns only -5 mod, union have two batteries, the south everything, should help Rebel guns.
4) Written rules for Brigade Artillery as played last time, just in written form.

1) I really liked the command problems this created for the Union, McDowell was seen leading from the right flank with Hunters Div., he had to make a choice, which helped Burnside and Porter to be effective. Although we have rules to replace leaders, some times in a scenario it works to not allow this and give the command field problems that we read about in the history reports, not easy is good. Bull Run was confusion for both commands – Could apply other battles…
2) The ammo worked, Scott (Union) was out of ammo and low at the end, but sadly so was old P.T., Me. If I had been able to fight on for another 3 to 4 turns the lack of art. fire could have been seen to effect the end result. Lucky for Scott he broke me when he did, or so the history goes, excellent field command by Gen. Scott. Even with small batteries, the rifle tube is good.
3) Not a game changer, minor end result on this Modifier move from -10 to -5, still believe it was a good thing. One factor was the combo, my batteries Routed every time I looked at them.
I tried to keep two batteries in reserve, one on each flank of Henry House Hill, the art of timing got me, it is a art to know when to wheel into line and unlimber, not to soon or you get counter battery fire, or as I learned, to late, your brigade falls back and now you can't advance to unlimber with no support. Damn Hampton, send him to the Cavalry…. I was going to use the Lt. SB for their nasty canister fire when the final attack came, never happened. I did give Col Sherman a taste of two batteries at the 300 to 500 yard distance, this was effective in giving a lot of hits, but he stood until the guns both routed. If I had been within canister the extra hits on Sherman might have made a difference, good rules.
4) I liked the brigade guns moving around with their infantry brigades, looked correct and felt like history reads.
Believe the command rules for Brigade leaders to position guns within their radius worked.
The attachment of brigade guns to their parent Inf. Brigade was an interesting layer to the onion by Dale.
No need to add to master rules, I believe this should be added to scenario rules for early battles. Result was very Mexican-American war as the OOB's were at that time.

Key difference, Routs and Dead Generals, I got more than ever, the Union got NONE…
Stuff happens in war, I found this fun, one could game this scenario over many times and find a different game.
The crisis cards flow, create issues on the field, adds flavor and taste to the game.
The experience was good and I would order this dish up again. John
"Additional comments, – the next game session I played against Tod as McDowell/Union and it was a smashing Rebel Victory. Key reasons to explain this change 1) Artillery Management 2) Crisis Cards 3) Tactical Choices."

John Simmons05 Jan 2013 4:00 p.m. PST

per the question from another link-
"how fatigue is handled under these rules?"

The Brigade or Battery will pick up fatigue from movement, formation change, firing, and melee. This is in the thought process of the Friction of battle, it could be looked at as physical the men are tired, stragglers men increasing falling out of ranks, equipment gun barrels are fouled, cohesion of the unit officers are losing control. This friction is measured in the game by the term Efficiency Points. These directly reduce the fighting strength of the Brigade/Battery. If the Brigade/Battery has the chance to reform for a turn, ie. not in combat, the Brigadier can attempt to restore order, how much is not known. An example would be during the Pickett/Pettigrew charge on July 3 at Gettysburg, as the rebels advanced they entered a swale about half way across the field, this allowed the unit to halt and officers to reform ranks, close ranks, straggers etc. from long range artillery fire, "take a breath men".
For the artillery crews, the act of firing the battery for a turn causes this lost as well, with the risk of ammo and the physical effect, it is not uncommon to see a battery rest for turn vs. the game where we just fire away.
Another example in a recent game, 1st day of Seven Days at Oak Grove, Gen. Sickles moves his brigade across White Oak swamp, it is heavy rough, slows the unit down, Gen. Sickles is pushing to clear up to the high ground. He orders the unit at the Double time, the unit is hit hard by E-factors, he gets the ground but is in bad shape. The Rebels under Gen. Huger advance into a Skirmish fight which does not allow Sickles to reform, he now is in a bad spot. During the next turn, with the brigade in trouble, it fails morale, falls back over the stream, and picks up more e'factors in the process. It will take time to reorder the unit, although it has very little strength point loses it is recked due to friction. With luck and good officers Sickles Brigade could re-enter the battle in an hour.

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