I have concluded that JRII and III are quite different games. I have played JRII extensively, and concluded that it is an excellent tactical level ACW game. It was clearly based upon a regimental level approach to ACW, was detailed in its rules, and was a good enough representation of ACW maneuver and combat at the regimental level. It appears to me that JRIII is an attempt to close the gap between the regimental level of JRII and the brigade level of Fire and Fury. The rules changes, particularly those dealing with artillery and stand sizes, seem an attempt to move the focus from the detail of regiment and the artillery battalion to a more general and simple larger brigade focus; it's a classical playability versus realism trade.
My experience with the oft cited JRII difficulties are that they fell into several categories. The most common cited issue -- rules detail -- really seemed to be explained by players who had not read or had little depth in understanding the rules. Another common issue was large amounts of playing time required to move units quickly and to the place where the player desired they be. The major culprits here seemed to be scenario design which placed the opposing forces far apart and lack of planning and wasted moves by players who did not have clear ideas where they intended to commit their units. The issue of difficulty recreating large battles was characteristic of JRII. However, JRII's regimental focus and scale meant that division level actions became a practical limit. Smaller engagements were handled well by JRII. The JRII rules were clear when finally deciphered, but it did take time and effort to do so. The charts and tables were a weak point; information was scattered and players needed to work out a search routine to work through them. Peculiarly, JRIII rules have no paragraph numbers, making them problematic in another way.
JRIII seems to try to satisfy the beer and pretzels gamer while keeping the flavor of the highly realistic wargame. My first take is that the compromise doesn't work well. Fire and Fury already occupies the simplistic ACW niche; JRIII is parked somewhere in between it and JRII. Locally, the ACW gamers seem to have split. JRIII is popular with the gamers who want a quick game with lots of units. However, several of us have returned to JRII for its realistic flavor and the tactical feel.
|Dick Noll (FACRFN@facilities.buffalo.edu)|
The new charge rules definitely improve the part of the rules that seemed most artificial and provoked the most arguments. Also good is the four-stand regimental size, allowing for units whose size was not exactly divisible by 100. The breakdown of large regiments into battalions also seems more realistic, as the old green 25's and 30's usually defeated elite smaller units by sheer manpower, when the opposite result seems to be the norm in historical accounts.
I realize that you are used to many accolades for your game, Johnny Reb. Some day a game will come to the market that will represent the American Civil War, with an emphasis on historical accuracy - this would be quite different in form than JR.
When I start playing games of a historical period, I get interested in reading and learning more about the period. This has been true about ACW. (This does not seem to be the case with most Johnny Reb players.)
A common situation with wargame rules is to amend the rules, based on the scenario being played. Not with Johnny Reb players.
|John Hill (Hilljhn@aol.com) replies:|
While the reviewer does seem to have a basic understanding of the period, his conclusions appear to based an an inadequate knowledge of how Johnny Reb, in this case JR III, actually works. In short, he misread the rules. Let us examine each of his points:
After numerous years of development, and changes in ownership, JR III is finally here. There have been many of us, who after years of playing different playtest versions of JR III at conventions, could not wait for this day.
I have been a JR player for over 10 years and I have had the opportunity to see JR develop into the rules set it has become. I have also had the opportunity, along ewith my club, to playtest the current version of JR III. And the following is a very quick overview of the new rules, their changes, additions and improvements.
For regular JR players and players of other rule systems, the changes and improvements in JR have increased the speed of play, reduced the frequency of rolling dice, and improved the ability to fight larger battles. The first changes to be noted in the rules are the changes in game scale. Each figure represents 30 men, each gun stand is a battery, an inch is 50 yards and regiments are only four stands. I like these changes since the relative historical frontage between units and batteries is now better simulated. I also gained numerous new units by taking the 5th stands and combining them into new regiments. One can now field historical amounts of artillery without the batteries taking up miles of scale battlefield.
Some other changes include:
I really like the feel of JR III and play seems faster, enabling one to recreate larger battles. The variety of formations have also increased allowing for double lines, brigade columns, individual skirmish stands, and even squares. The combat procedure is definitely more enjoyable. New players pick up the charts only one sheet and learn the rules faster than before. Little features that I like are requiring units to withdraw a die roll when they go shaken unless accompanied by a leader, and units below half strength require an officer to advance.
We have found that artillery and skirmishers have been properly dealt with. Batteries deal out fewer casualties at long range, and their close range fire results in a more assured number of casualties without as much swing in the results. Skirmishers are also greatly reduced in fire ability, but they still do the task they are there for. Another nice feature is artillery penetration or "bounce through" fire. A recent club playtest game resulted in 4 regiments taking casualties due to the proximity of those units to the target unit which originally took the hit.
Overall, I feel the changes made to JR are all great improvements. The rules are playable and have the right historical feel. I believe that existing JR players will find JR III to be the rules set they have always been looking for. I also would not be surprised to see large numbers of converts from other rules sets out there. Pick up a copy soon, and see the array of changes for yourself.
|Doug Kline's review was originally published in Zouave magazine, and was subsequently released to the Internet by John Hill.|
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|1 July 1997||comments by downsd|
|5 June 1997||Dick Noll's comments|
page split off
|14 May 1997||John Hill's rebuttal|
|21 December 1996||added comment by joppedal|
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