FIELDS OF HONOR:
What You Think


Frank Frey (ffreyiii@luna.cas.usf.edu)
I really like Fields of Honor (FOH). However, I do agree with John Retzer that the game works best at the company/battalion/regiment level.

I especially like the Morale/Fire/Melee rating system, as it allows some very accurate modeling of historical forces. I also like the points system.

I've developed a "mythical countries" campaign which uses the regimental scale of 1:66, but uses the battalion as the BMU rather than the regiment. All in all, FOH is a lot of fun to play and is well written. I will certainly continue to enjoy it.

Shane Hensley (pegshane@aol.com)
Gee, sorry about the typo with yeomanry.

As for my great grandfather in the book - it's a genuine picture of a Confederate raider during the war. What's your problem with that?

As for the cossacks, you'll find - if you do your research - that there was indeed a company of cossacks who fought with the Boers. As well as Texans and some French as well.

Sorry you don't like the rules. I don't care much for Savage Wars, either, though, so I guess it just comes down to tastes. As for complicated, I have to argue a bit (though I admit my bias openly.) Four turns into a game, everyone at the table knows the 2 charts you need well enough to play without them. That's been the case at every convention I run it at (Historicon, Cold Wars, GenCon, Origins, and several lesser cons.)

Still, I'm not trying to talk you into anything. Just defending my baby.

Jan Wybesse Stiles Spoor (jans@tribeca.ios.com)
FoH makes for an interesting 19th century game, preferably with Blue and Red forces (which they include), a la period training manuals, as long as you stick to the lower scales.

The author is really trying to compress too much into one game, by making the same set of mechanics do service for sections and companies as for brigades (!!!) and trying to cover every military engagement of the 19th century with one set of rules. And anyone who includes photos of relatives (irregular horse, yet), refers to the Yeomanry as Yoemanry, calls a hussar trooper "a member of the Hussars," and (best one) includes 100 Don Cossacks (with lances, of course) in their OB for the Second Boer War, well....

I'll stick to Savage Wars of Peace, thanks.

John Lloyd Retzer (news@provide.net)
Fields of Honor is a rules set that I think has been unjustly (and unwisely) overlooked by Civil War gamers (probably because the cover sports a full-color painting of British soldiers at Isandlwana). Although it was published in 1994, it wasn't until Historicon 96 that I discovered just how much fun it was (playing in a marvelous Boxer Rebellion scenario). I since have used it for several Civil War engagements.

What makes FoH unique is its sliding scale. I am convinced, though, that it does not work as well at these extremes as it does in the mid-range scales: Company (1:8), Battalion (1:33) and Regiment (1:66). I think that the weapons ranges and movement in these scales are much more playable.

Regardless of the scale, the basing of the troops is the same. This is especially nice for me, since my troops are based for Fire and Fury, and this allows me to play smaller actions without rebasing for some other rules set.

Charges in the game are fairly difficult to complete. A unit driving at the enemy's front usually will be subjected to so much "opportunity fire" that it will falter and fall back before completing its movement. More likely, lines of soldiers will creep forward in the movement phase, until they are blasting away at each other in a deadly short-range firefight. This is consistent with most of the reading I've done on the period. More importantly, it feels right.

The nice thing about the initiative system is that, when combined with the simultaneous fire, it creates some of the feel of simultaneous movement games (like JR), but avoids the gaming cheesiness that some are inclined to.

Combat uses a nice mechanism. As the author explained it at Historicon, the shock of taking fire would create many effective casualties that had not actually been hit. After a time, those would recover from the shock, pick themselves up and return to action. However, during the time that they were reeling, they would have an effect on the morale of the unit.

Another thing that makes this game so much fun are the Calamity and Fortune tables.

Rob Stoebick (ROBBRR@aol.com)

My group and I really enjoy FOH a great deal and have used it for numerous periods besides the 19th Century, post-Napoleonic period it was intended for.

We are looking for any suggestions people may have for a Napoleonic conversion as we suspect this would provide a very satisfying game. However, some of the rules pertaining to cavalry and squares need some "tweaking" and anything else anyone could think of that would provide a more Napoleonic "flavor." I noticed that the designer mentioned playtesting the 1812 Russian campaign and we would love to know what his design thoughts were for that, as well as any unit stats and rule changes. We just happen to be planning a massive 1812 game, and the group of 20 or so we meet with every Friday night would like to use Fields of Honor.

This rule set has a lot of fans in Cleveland, Ohio, and it has become a consensus favorite in our club. We are the largest historical gaming group in northern Ohio, and the members (as well as the friends of members) have become big fans of FOH.

Chris Johnson (nathanjo@erols.com)

An excellent set of rules, with a lot of room for historical tweaking if the players so desire. We had to monkey around with the artillery rules for a Mexican War extravaganza, but otherwise my group is quite happy with them.

My only real criticism are the unit ratings and factors, as the historical foundation for many of them is rather shaky. Mexican units, for example, are rated about equal to U.S. regulars! Similarly, the Crimean War section overrates the Russians--most did not have rifled muskets, which is one reason why they fared so poorly on so many battlefields. These and similar errors are easily remedied by anyone who is the least bit literate in military history.

Shane Hensley (the author) had promised a second edition, but admits he has basically shelved it in favor of Deadlands/Railwars. :-( The only way to bring the rules back to life is to let him know there is an appreciative audience out there.

Bob Rodgers (brodgers@tiac.net)

I mainly play French Foreign Legion or American West games. Fields of Honor is really better as a colonial set of rules with a European style army facing irregular or native troops. I suppose they will work for those other periods, but I think you will lose some of the flavor of those periods because both armies will fight in similar styles.

Randy Collver (Collverr@nwrel.org)

Before I comment upon our experiences with Fields of Honor, a short description of our group is in order. Our group consists of 6 regulars, with two additional occasional players. Ages range from 16 through the late 40's, with the majority of us having over 20 (Yipe!) years' experience gaming with miniatures.

Our tastes are eclectic and range from Ancients to Modern, with Naval and Fantasy thrown in for occasional spice. In the main, however, we are a group of individuals who are interested in history first, with gaming as primarily a social event and opportunity to model what was and what might have been. In short, none of us are rules lawyers and if we have a problem, we generally stop, discuss the situation, come to a conclusion, write down our decision for future reference and move on.

With that in mind, our comments:

After years of looking, we all agree that we have finally found a set of Colonial Rules that all of us like, some wildly enthusiastically, some merely enthusiastically. We've played about 10 games over the past two months -- eight games in the Sudan, Custer's Last Stand and, most recently, a scenerio from the Ashanti Wars.

Two elements of the rules we find particularly appealing. The first element is the variable grading for Morale, Fire and Melee. Each of these factors has 5 grades, from A down to E. This allows for an incredible variation in troop types and actions. It allows us easily to fine tune armies based on our research into a particular campaign or battle. In combination with the second element, the Commander personalities, we have a wide open situation where even the same scenerios will not play the same.

The rules as a whole fit together very well. When we finish a game, we could write it up just as we've read in the original sources and in later descriptions. That, for us, is the highest complement we can give a set of rules. I strongly recommend that you play a few games before you make any adjustments to the rules. We have found that we haven't had to make any. (The detailed description of the game answered any questions we had regarding the rules.)

If you have four to six regular players who meet once per week and have approximately 4-5 hours to complete a game, the 1000 pt. game works just fine. We've been playing at the Company level. I'm planning a campaign in South Africa at the Regimental level.

Our recommendation: Buy and Play the rules. As good or better as anything else we've played in any period. Fun, with the right amount of chrome for the afficianado, yet simple enough for the occasional gamer to learn and enjoy. I've been trying to do the '45 (Jacobite Rebellion) for years - I think I found a set of rules that will work well for them, too.

John Meunier (expired email address)

The sliding scale doesn't work. Movement rates do not change in relation with the time and ground scale changes. Casualties rates (expressed in man-minutes of firing it takes to kill one opponent) swing wildly from the bottom of the scale to the top.

Fields of Honor has lots of texture that you don't get in many games. It has a great feel, and lots of nice features. But the central mechanism is really out of whack. I have tried to fix it with limited success. (I've long given up trying to make the 1:1 scale work -- it isn't possible for me to do that.)

Tom Primrose (shecky@ix.netcom.com)

I've tried these rules and wasn't impressed. I thought there were too many die rolls to determine hits. You have to roll a number of 1d6s to see how many hit and then roll those that hit, add and subtract the modifiers to get the KN, and then add the dice that hit, divide by the KN to get the number of casualties, of which half are permanent. It seems like this could have been simplified a bit.

Del Stover (expired email address)

I just thought I'd share a battle going on in my club that appears to be offering the most realistic approach to a Napoleonic battle and its command problems that I've ever seen.

A long-time player of Napoleon's Battles, I've always been dissatisfied with the command rules. But while exploring later periods, I came across Fields of Honor. The rules are relatively simple but well-designed. They play well. But what has gotten my club so worked up is how we're using the command rules.

Essentially, a commander can command what he can see. But there are a few twists. First, visibility is limited - about 1,000 yards in all but the flatest, most open terrain. Second, command isn't instaneous. As we're playing the rules, orders must be sent by messenger to the next lowest commander, who subsequently must send orders down to his subcommanders.

Let me show you how it worked the other night. Playing a corp commander, I received an order from the army commander to advance on a town. The messenger reached me from the army commander in one turn (ten minutes). That wasn't guaranteed. Messengers can move only 2d6+4 inches (the random distance representing that messengers lose their way, can't find the officer they seek, etc.).

Since the messenger spent the movement phase getting the order to me, I could not follow up with my messages to my troops. The next turn, I had to roll a d3 to determine how many messengers I could send. Fortunately, I rolled a 2, allowing me to send messages to both my two division commanders. They received the order that turn, but they had to wait a turn and repeat the process to send messages to their brigade commanders. (That's as far down the line as we go with messages. Brigade commanders are close enough that they can immediately obey orders and move their troops.

It's worked well. Since at a battalion level, which we're playing right now, turns are scaled at only 10 minutes. Thus it takes a minimum of three turns (30 minutes) to get an order from the army commander acted upon (the battalions start advancing). That's not unreasonable for the period. Of course, if one corps is two miles away (72 inches) it will take a while for the corps to respond. The secret, then, is to anticipate, anticipate, anticipate.

Another key feature of the command structure is that rules must be relatively strict: attack to ..., advance to ..., support .... In our game, we've loosened it a bit. Orders must be succinct and clear. We allow some latitude. But orders must be carried out in a manner that's realistic. We use an umpire to interpret whether an order is being carried out. If not, -5 victory points.

Also, we've been experimenting with the first corps on the battlefield: the corp commander isn't pushing his own lead. He receives an order from one the army commander, then passes them on to division commanders. They carry out the advance.

It's quite fun. You watch a division commander interpret your orders--and roll your eyes when he makes some minor mistake. Yet this limitation puts you in the right perspective. Instead of focusing on my battalions, I've been looking at a block of men - divisions - which is where my focus as corps commander should be. I don't care how a division holds a hill. I just want it to hold the hill.

My army commander put it clear: "I'm not going to tell you how to hold your front. You're in the crisis spot, and I expect your corps to get ripped up bad. But if you hold, my other corps will win the battle. So you just do your job - hold the line. Don't worry about anything else."

I've taken that to heart. Standing on the second floor of a nearby inn, I see that my 4th Division is facing a grand battery and an attack column. I could give all kinds of orders to him. But no, I told him to hold the line. How he does it is his business. If he gets into trouble, he can ask for help. Until then, I must keep track of all my divisions. Have I given each the orders they need to carry out the corps' orders? If so, then I only need to respond if something threatens my divisions. I don't worry about brigades and battalions. That's someone else's job.

It's been an eye-opener. In our battle, it's a foggy day - visibility is 15". Beyond that, movement is hidden and tracked on maps. On the first move, the 2nd Corps commander (me) had no idea what was in front of the corps. I ordered my 4th Division commander to advance upon a town and anchor his right flank along the edge of some woods, which fit in with the army commander's plans for the corps to my right.

It didn't work out quite right. It took two turns (20 minutes) to get the orders down to battalion level. Then a Russian cavalry division rushed back from scouting ahead and retreated through my troops, blocking their advance and disordering them. While my troops reorganized themselves, the enemy showed up. I ordered my division to stop and prepare a defensive line. But by the time that order was received by the division commander, however, the troops had resumed their march. It took a total of twenty minutes beyond that to stop the advance. They had moved several hundred yards beyond where I wanted them. But that's war. Command control in those days weren't perfect. And all I need to do is hold the line. I don't need to worry whether the division is 3" or 6" from where I want them.

So far, it's been a blast. Because the turns only represent ten minutes, the lag time (in turns) for commands to be obeyed isn't unreasonable. Indeed, after six turns (an hour), I had managed to move my troops about the same distance as I could have in two turns (an hour) in Napoleon's Battles.

But there is a significant difference. In Napoleon's Battles, you can instantly throw a brigade at a critical juncture - a guided missile. But with Fields of Honor command rules (as we interpret them), such an opportunity can easily pass by before you can respond. Victory depends upon a sound plan that involves maneuvering corps and divisions, even if the battalions actually carry out the fighting.

One other note: Cavalry ain't the superpower that it is in Napoleon's Battles. You charge a line straight in, and it probably will massacre you. You will cause casualties. You might even rout the unit. But with the firepower and troop density of a battalion, attacking with a few hundred horses ain't pretty. Cavalry is best used to harass the flanks, strike from the flanks, and pick off shaken and routed units. Thus you get more infantry fire fights, which has a realistic feel. But then again, it's best not to underestimate the power of horseflesh. Cavalry used well can turn the tide.

I'm not trying to knock Napoleon's Battles. I've played it almost every week for two years. But there's real potential in Fields of Honor.

Anyway, it's worth taking a look at. My gaming group is stunned at the "atmosphere" we're getting from our current battle. It has a good feel - what's happening seems to fit in with our reading of real Napoleonic battles.

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Last Updates
6 May 1999comments by Frank Frey
21 April 1999comments by Shane Hensley
comments by Jan Wybesse Stiles Spoor
comments by John Lloyd Retzer
20 January 1999added Rob's comments
22 October 1998added Chris's comments
17 October 1998added Bob's comments
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