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""Big Battle" ACW Rules that include Regiments?" Topic

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OldReliable186204 Aug 2021 2:33 p.m. PST

I've looked at several ACW rulesets over the years, such as Altar of Freedom, F&F, and A Firebell in the Night, and while I've found several good rulesets, something has been on my mind. A good summary of ACW fighting said that, "Civil War armies fought by regiment and moved by brigades," and this leads me to ask: are there any ACW rulesets that preserve the regiments in some form, while still allowing you game battles like Gettysburg or Chickamauga?

Ferd4523104 Aug 2021 2:50 p.m. PST

I like to play F&F regimental. I do not think that a big battle is physically possible. We have broken a big battle down into separate actions with casualties being carried over or assumed depending upon historical events before our scenario. Not much help I guess. H

miniMo04 Aug 2021 3:36 p.m. PST

KISR Publications has DBACW. I haven't played this, but I do play DBN which nominally uses 1 stand = 1 brigade but also works fine at 1 stand = 1 regiment. I suspect DBACW should work the same. The DBN system handles big battles very nicely and you can play them to completion.

The rules are available here:

Visual overview of a Gettysburg game here:
YouTube link

Consul Paulus04 Aug 2021 4:09 p.m. PST

Short answer: No

Long answer: There is no physical reason why you could not try to represent a battle such as Gettysburg on a regimental level. However, the number of discrete units that will have to be on the tabletop to make this a worthwhile exercise means it is impractical (IMHO).

For context, here is the number of stands that is needed to stage the entire Battle of Gettysburg, from the OOB in the back of the original Fire and Fury rulebook. Consider that this is to represent the battle at brigade level not regimental level with 1 stand representing 200 infantry/cavalry, a leader and his staff or 6-8 guns:

10 corps leader stands
29 division leader stands
69 artillery stands
14 cavalry stands
11 dismounted cavalry stands
582 infantry
…and an uncounted number of markers.

Each day of the battle is split into separate scenarios, each one (by the author's own estimate) lasting several hours. If you tried to represent them at regimental level, the game would probably need to run for several days, and I doubt if you could find enough players who could commit to that amount of time.

I suppose that if you were playing it solitaire, and so did not have to rely on other players' enthusiasm, it would be possible I still do not see it as practical.

Lieutenant Lockwood04 Aug 2021 4:18 p.m. PST

1862, you're reading my mind! I'm getting back into the ACW, and I, too, think that level of play is ideal for the period. I am enjoying Altar of Freedom, but it doesn't adapt well to solo play (Greg Wagman, the author, says so himself) and though I love some aspects of the game, the priority points bidding system is a bit 'gamey' for me.
If you come across the regiment-as-base Grail, please let us know…until then, it's brigade bases and incompetent generals!

All the best…Mark

William Warner04 Aug 2021 5:17 p.m. PST

Volley & Bayonet has a variant where each base represents a battalion, which corresponds to a civil War regiment, rather than a brigade. The mechanics are simple enough so that recreation of major battles might be possible. Still, it would be a major undertaking.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2021 5:21 p.m. PST

I'm with Consul Paulus. Consider the huge number of regiments you're talking about in a major battle and the differences in strength, which means either different size stands or multiple stands per regiment. Think of the smallest stand you can actually handle and let that represent 100 men. Now work out your ground and figure scale. What size table are you going to need? And how many castings?

But this doesn't mean nothing can be done. You just can't do it all at once. As an example, you can use the same basing for two different games. Four 10mm infantry on a 20mm square base could be 100 men in regimental-level Mr Lincoln's War and 300 men in brigade-level On to Richmond. You can do something similar with Johnny Reb basing and Across a Deadly Field. But I don't think there is any practical way to refuse the flank of the 20th Maine and command multiple corps at the same time.

OldReliable186204 Aug 2021 5:26 p.m. PST

1862, you're reading my mind! I'm getting back into the ACW, and I, too, think that level of play is ideal for the period. I am enjoying Altar of Freedom, but it doesn't adapt well to solo play (Greg Wagman, the author, says so himself) and though I love some aspects of the game, the priority points bidding system is a bit 'gamey' for me.
If you come across the regiment-as-base Grail, please let us know…until then, it's brigade bases and incompetent generals!

All the best…Mark

John Hill's rulesets Johnny Reb III and Across a Deadly Field followed this philosophy – JR3 seems to inspire either love or utter hatred (a bit like F&F, really), and Across a Deadly Field also seems to have a mixed reputation. Other than that, I can't say I've found very examples of this type of ACW game.

Blasted Brains04 Aug 2021 5:50 p.m. PST

I recommend taking a look at Rank and File by Crusader Publishing and consider using it's highest man-to-figure ratio.

Still a challenge of extraordinary proportions as others have illustrated.

At least Rank and File will play about 10 x faster than Fire and Fury and probably about the same for Johnny Reb.

If you are set on regimental level action, the Johnny Reb II is pretty hard to beat. I switched to Rank and File because I wanted more focus on the fun and the miniatures and a lot less "noses in the rulebooks". Just focus on lower level action – you can get away with maybe a corps on the table but a divisional level game with multiple players will work out better. (Didn't stop me from collecting enough figures for an army for each side with supporting artillery and cavalry, though – not all painted yet, neither.)

And, in my "highly vaunted" opinion, F&F is really wonky.

ChrisBrantley04 Aug 2021 5:52 p.m. PST

At 15mm regimental scale, you're looking at a brigade to a divsion sized game unless you've got a really big table and multiple payers. As mentioned, John Hill's Across a Deadly Field (Osprey Games, 2014) increases that to a corps sized battle using two base regiments…but has gotten mixed reviews as noted in other posts. If I was going to try a larger ACW battle with units at regimental scale, I'd probably look at V&B or one of the DBA civil war conversions with the idea that one base equals one regiment, and 4-5 bases equals a brigade.

But generally, I keep my games at brigade or division level with each player running a brigade of several 5-10 stand regiments using Rally Round the Flag from the 80s. I can get a division aside on a 5x8 table (and more if brought on as reinforcements) with each brigade getting a frontage of 2-3 feet to fight in.

khanscom04 Aug 2021 7:05 p.m. PST

"If you come across the regiment-as-base Grail, please let us know…"

Certainly not the Grail, and not too "serious", but "On to Richmond" represents regiments as single bases, while the maneuvering unit is the brigade or division. Using 6mm some quite large actions can be gamed.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2021 7:13 p.m. PST

OTR is a stand = 300 men.

Old Contemptible04 Aug 2021 8:09 p.m. PST

I have had "Johnny Reb 2" games with multiple corps per side. Four to eight players to a side. We did Antietam and the 1st and 2nd days of Gettysburg. It helps if everyone knows the rules and if you have enough figs, able to keep the game set up so you can play over several days and have a really large table. It can be done with 15mm figures.

Lately we have been using "Mr. Lincolns War" which is a regimental scale rules, all with 15mm figs. We did Antietam. We couldn't fit the Sunken Road or Burnsides' Bridge onto the table, so we did them in separate games. We had three players per side. It took about ten hours over two days.


Regimental just seems to feel more like a proper Civil War battle. I don't get that feeling with brigade games.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Aug 2021 8:53 p.m. PST

You might have a look at Et Sans Resultat, which is a Napoleonic game. It represents individual battalions organized in to divisions. A division has an objective and moves full speed toward it until stopped. Because the action is at the division level, there are no fiddly bits. A battalion is just a single base.

It is almost ground scale agnostic. Just set your ground scale and convert how big your regiments are. Best of all, it is at a high enough level it works just fine if every regiment is, say a 30x15mm stand.

But yes, that's a lot of stands. McClellan had 191 regiments at Antietam. That is a LOT of stands for just one side! Possible in 6mm maybe….

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2021 8:28 a.m. PST

Hi Old,
I recognize the summary you're talking about… :)

Anyway, don't let these NAYSAYERS dissuade you from the undertaking. And when you do put on a Gettysburg game with regiments you let me know because I'd like to play.

But to do so you'll need a ruleset that plays fast and easy. I'd think about using Rank and File (which I have played and like). maybe even Black powder. basically rules where a unit is anything you want it to be.

Another ruleset that I recently heard about that could warrant consideration is Gettysburg Soldiers. I've read the rules and they are pretty simple (so simple that sometimes I think I am missing something) because they are aimed at putting on large convention style games (I believe). It uses regiments but one could control an awful lot of them easily. I have not played them yet though so can't really give a full description.

good luck!


Big Red Supporting Member of TMP05 Aug 2021 9:15 a.m. PST

ACW boardgames depicting large battles whereby each counter represents one regiment such as "Terrible Swift Sword: Battle of Gettysburg" are often referred to as "monsters". This is due to the amount of space and the length of time required to play. I don't know about the time requirement for a miniatures version but the space requirement would be substantial.

A reasonable solution might be to fight different parts of the battle using regimental rules and combine the results into a sort of mini-campaign. Antietam would be particularly suitable due to the piecemeal nature of the Union assault.

Another possibility is using really small figures. 6mm figures might still be too large but 2mm/3mm figures, creatively based, might work.

Please let us know how you progress.

Dan Cyr05 Aug 2021 9:23 a.m. PST

On To Richmond has single stands as a regiment/battalion, and as noted a scale of 300 men to a stand. Which pretty much is the size of most regiments/battalions in the ACW (or even less men) during most of the war other than at the very beginning or if newly recruited and at its first battle or two.

I use OTR and just add another stand to a large regiment (or even another stand) as most large regiments would sub-divide themselves on the battlefield into "battalions" for reasons of command control.

Amalek05 Aug 2021 9:26 a.m. PST

As someone else noted, the Et Sans Resultats rules fit the bill.

Individual battalions are represented on the table top, each one stand.

Those individual stands operate together in divisions.

The rules are for Napoleonic, but the representation you're looking for is there.

JSchutt05 Aug 2021 3:01 p.m. PST

There are some things "board games" can do better.

Martin Rapier06 Aug 2021 12:02 a.m. PST

Tbh, I just think of the individual stands in something like Fire and Fury or Bloody Big Battles as 'regiments', even if they are manoeuvring as brigades or divisions.

oldnorthstate09 Aug 2021 12:33 p.m. PST

The Carnage and Glory ACW system allows you to scale both the unit size and ground scale while still retaining the regiment as the basic maneuver element…if you want to fight a large ACW battle you'll need to reduce both your ground and figure scale as needed.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP10 Aug 2021 1:11 a.m. PST

Representing regiments when fighting Gettysburg presents a couple of major problems.

One is the practical one of time. There are over 150 Confederate infantry regiments. Are you going to be making decisions and resolving actions for most of these every turn? Even with fast-play rules at, say 15 seconds each (to think, measure, roll dice, move or remove units or markers), that's about half an hour per turn per side. And we haven't even allowed for all the artillery and cavalry yet. With ground and time scales that allow regiments to be represented, how many of those turns will you need for three days of battle? And how many days will it take you to play?

Then there is the problem of not seeing the wood for the trees. If you're so involved with the micro-level of what's happening to individual regiments, it's hard to stand back and see the overall picture, the shape of the battle developing. Real-world commanders operate 'two levels down' and care about sub-units three levels down. At Gettysburg that means as C-in-C you should be maneuvering corps and divisions and caring about the loss of brigades. Individual regiments are a level too far.

As a few others have said above, you could regard individual stands as regiments, but with those stands just being components of a manoeuvre unit (brigade or division). Or, with rulesets using brigade bases, you might have separate groups of 2mm or 6mm figures on a diorama base representing different regiments in the brigade. But that is a cosmetic representation rather than a functional one. I don't think it is practical to represent individual regiments functionally in a game of Gettysburg unless you go down the road some have suggested above and slice it into lots of smaller games.

TMP link


Bloody Big BATTLES!

doc mcb11 Aug 2021 10:28 a.m. PST

The problem, too (and this is why I am coming to prefer F&F Regimental to JR) is that one regiment might be 800 men, while (in the same battle) another BRIGADE might be composed of a dozen very small regiments which combined gets it up to maybe 1000 or 1500 men. The brigade was the unit of maneuver in battle and needed to be kept up to roughly 1000 to 2000 men, regardless of how many regiments it took. I myself very much enjoy fighting the big battles at regiemntal level in board games (Terrible Swift Sword) and on computers, but on the table top I don't see how that can be done without extraordinary resources of space and time and miniatures and players.

blank frank15 Aug 2021 10:45 a.m. PST

Well there is HFG, Horse, Foot and Gun which are Phil Barker's Big Battle Rules. A sort of DBA. Here the basic unit, a base is a regiment. The command and control system means you will be moving larger groups but the combat resolution will be done by the 'base' and there is the opportunity to move bases individually. They cover a very big period 1701 to 1914 and although they are simple, having to extract the modifiers and references to year your playing can be difficult. Sadly these rules came out towards the end of Phil's creative output and I know nobody who plays them. Years ago I re-fought the first Bull run using them. They gave a good game. A 'search' will list some blogs where they have been played. Perhaps other folks can provide more information.

blank frank16 Aug 2021 2:39 a.m. PST

Another approach would be to use Bob Cordery's book 'The Portable Napoleonic Wargame'. He suggests he how the rules can be adapted for later wars. These rules are very playable. Like Paddy Griffith's Napoleonic wargames for fun. He presents rules for different levels of battles. The Brigade, Division v Division and Corps v Corps. For the later The basic infantry unit (two to four infantry bases with a commander) = an infantry division of two to four regiments/ brigades.'The figure base representing the division are expected to act as one but they may be spread…' OK the rules use a gridded battle field but can work without and at about eleven pages of rules they are easy to learn.

Aspern1809 Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Aug 2021 4:48 p.m. PST

Across A Deadly Field does this. Check out the reviews and see if it is a system that you would enjoy playing.

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