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"Number of units vs Scenario design for good ACW games?" Topic

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American Civil War

621 hits since 13 Apr 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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MiniPigs13 Apr 2019 12:21 p.m. PST

Is it the size of the forces or the motion of the scenario?

Seems like every scenario book I buy says it's just a small game but I never have nearly enough units to play it out. I have to use regiments to stand in for scenario listed brigades.

But, at what point or how many units can give a good ACW game, time after time?

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2019 12:24 p.m. PST

Depends on how many players you have. We find that one Union corps is about right per player in brigade F&F.

MiniPigs13 Apr 2019 12:25 p.m. PST

You're right, I was going to say for two players but didnt want to hem the topic in too tightly.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2019 2:11 p.m. PST

Depends on how much can be done to/with a "unit." Does it have different formations? Can it take casualties? But I'd say at least 4-6 units per player, and never much over 12 unless playing a DBA-style system of pure stand removal.

That's a long way of agreeing with John, by the way--a nine-brigade corps with artillery support is about right for a player in a brigade system, and a brigade to a division if you're maneuvering regiments.

Dave Gamer13 Apr 2019 2:13 p.m. PST

I think for the whole game you want 8-12 infantry units (plus artillery) to make a good game. When playing multiple players per side, each player should run 4-6 infantry units plus atillery. Note that playing a game like Volley & Bayonet where 1 base = 1 unit then you should double those numbers.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2019 2:52 p.m. PST

Another variable is the experience level of the players,
both knowledge of the period and of the rules being

Generally, 3 or so infantry and a battery for beginners,
expanding to 6-9 for very experienced players.

Trierarch13 Apr 2019 10:13 p.m. PST

Depends on your choice of rules and how complex are the permutations with/within a unit and how much game time you have

I generally found that a brigade per player in Johnny Reb worked quite well – which is about three to five Regiments and a battery.

While with Piquet: Hallowed Ground or Pickett's Charge a Division was possible for one player.

A Corps is quite a practical command for one player in Volley & Bayonet (I treat a Division as a unit in V&B), so numbers not far off what Ed is suggesting above.


ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2019 5:07 a.m. PST

I'd pretty much second the responses above: for me, the optimum is about 10-15 units a side for a good 4-player game, a bit less for 2 players.

It depends a bit how long you want a game to take. My gaming is very much geared to the 3-hour or so evening session. For BBB I have a pretty robust equation: add together the number of infantry and cavalry units on both sides, multiply by the number of game turns, divide by 10, add half an hour for initial planning and you get roughly the number of hours a game will last with 4 players.

Thus, Gettysburg: 24 units x 11 turns = about 3.5 hours;
Chickamauga: 29 units x 11 turns = about 4 hours;
Wilderness: 21 units x 9 turns = about 2.5 hours, etc.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

14th NJ Vol Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2019 5:39 p.m. PST

just played BP2 Battle of Stones River. Four players 2 brigades each, which was 10 to 15 units each. About as much as practical to play.

FlyXwire16 Apr 2019 6:32 a.m. PST

Wow, this is a pretty open-ended question.

If you're just "line bashing" (w/o any maneuver to contact) then I'd say give each player a single unit so they can get out of the game asap! see the inference

Much of my own approach these days, depends on the battle problem that's being featured a flank attack, battling for a bridge(s), holding good ground (ridges, fenced terrain, woodlots, or combinations of these), etc.. This is how I think of ways to craft scenarios. Such scenarios might be inspired by snippets from areas of real battlefields, but to me it's having some operative battle problem and idea of terrain that's at the forefront of "the reason we fight" [a game].

So how many units give a good game time after time? Depends on how they fit into the scenario you're trying to present. Don't think you have to put on games from out of the scenario books, or duplicate big battles from out of a small collection make the scenarios fit YOUR collection, but have an idea of what battle problem (or series of them) you're trying to present up front, and that you think your collection is capable of offering for a challenging game.

Also, there's the 'rule of 3' two flanks and a center…..that's sort of a guideline for min. maneuver elements for players to command, and maybe throw in a fourth for having a reserve (or a support element).

Finally, and a little tongue and cheek our little ACW figures don't care if they're fighting at Gettysburg, or just over the Bliss Farm there they're fighting for their lives just the same, on some patch of ground which someone thinks might be important (but your battle problem presented should make doing so important for your players).

Pvt Snuffy16 Apr 2019 7:53 a.m. PST

I've found that just 6 units per player is more than enough if the rules provide enough mechanics to engage the players with interesting decisions.

For a paragon of design around this question, buy "One-Hour Wargames" by Neil Thomas, who has no less than 30 scenarios with 6 Units per side for the first 20 scenarios, and a 4 v. 6 Unit per side for the last ten. You can literally play that book of Units / scenarios for years and not run out of interesting battles.

My typical experience is that each battle has about 4-6 variations depending on the forces involved and the key decisions each player needs to make. But it can be more.

Oh, should mention that he offers a random force list which provides six units from ten possible, 3-4 Infantry, 1-2 Lights, 1-2 Cannon, 1-2 Cavalry. So with ten units per side, you have literally years of gaming ahead of you.

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