As promised (yes I know- sometime ago) here is a review of the new Rules for the Common Man ACW rules.   It is a points system, but there is no reason you purists can’t put historical Orbats in instead.  Units are Brigade sized, 3-7 bases of troops at about 250 to the base.As with all RFCM rules there is a little pre-game.  It is exactly the same as the ‘Bloody Barons’ one, with the wording chanced from Medieval England to 19th century USA.  This governs how the terrain is set up, who the attacker is, and various random events that means the army brought to the table isn’t the one you fight with.  This took about 30 minutes.  It is done by alloting ‘war dice’ various catagories, and then once all dice are allocated rolling off each catagory against your opponent. 5 and 6 are successes,- most successes gets to read out a litle narative, which either enhances your army- eg extra ammo, or worsens your opponent- e.g unit is late arriving. 

 The defender (attack dice is one of the above catagories- most successes is the attacker) also has to roll for each unit on the table- the more he lost by on the ‘war dice’ roll, the harsher the effects /the more likely that you lose stands/have units arrive late.  Once all the layout is finished then the attacker starts.

 Brigades are grouped into divisions.  To move a Brigade you roll 2d6 (again like BB) and compare to the command score. This is the Generals quality- 0 best, 3 worst, plus troop quality- 1 for veterans, 3 for green, plus 1 for each full 3 inches seperating them, plus various mods for intervening terrain etc. So a Quality 1 General giving orders to an Average unit at 7 inches is 1 + 2 + 2 = Target of 5 or more on the 2 dice. 11 & 12 automatic success, 2 & 3 always fails.

Motivated units get d6 Action points, and these are spent on various actions in any order, so a unit with 5 could Wheel (1AP), move twice (2AP), then fire once (2AP).  An interestin twist is that the maximum that can be spent on movement is 6 minus the units frontage- so a unit 4 stands wide can spend a maximum of 2 AP, while a column 1 wide, but six long can spend 5AP (if rolled, of course!)

Firing is 1 die per stand in the front rank, then half the second rank.  This means you have to decide movement vs firepower. A unit 6 wide can’t move, but can use all its muskets., while a road column is hopeless in combat, but can ignore disorder due to terrain, or do you go for a balanced 4 Front/2 rear or 3/3 formation to allow some movement at the loss of firepower!   I liked this idea- don’t think of it as a strict formation, think of it as a stance.

 5 and 6’s hit (usually), and you can reroll some misses, depending on unit quality- Veterans can reroll 1-3, Green units 1s only. Hits are by the half base. However a half counts as a full base for combat/size etc, so you need 2 cumulative hits to do any actual damage to a unit.  On top of this the defender gets saving throws of at least 4+, but possibly as good as 2+.  This said I did manage to maneouver a unit of regular in 4 up, 2 in 2nd row to withing close range of ‘Tee Hee’s Veterans, throwing 4 hits, then hitting with the rerolled “2”. Despite being in cover (3+ save) he still lost a whole base as he failed 2 of the 5 saves, failing the morale test, and the unit retiring.

The best way to do real damage is in ‘melee’.  A point of debate. In the horse and musket era- Napoleonic and ACW, very few casualties were caused by bayonet etc. Despite this all H&M rules seem to rely heavily on hand to hand.  Discussing this point down the pub after, the rational has to be that these are not actual hand to hand fights, but more getting up close and conducting a fire fight at point blank range.  Osprey “Wellingtons army in the Peninsular” notes that many fire fights took place at less than 50 yds, and Paddy Griffiths in his book on ACW tactics argues that despite the increase in firepower, ranges in ACW were roughly the same as 50 years before. In RFCM terms this is 1 inch- and the rules do make it clear that non engaged units must stay over an inch apart, or they must enter close combat.  So in H&M rules we should consider Melee to be one side breaking under threat of melee/close range fire.

The Melee is a ‘Bucketful o’ dice system’ – 10 or more dice is an average! 5 or 6 cause 1 hit The losing player then retreats, losing more 1/2 bases as the price of failure.

The rules at this point in the book were not clearly written- you have to read carefully the first time, as two relevant parts are seperated by a couple of pages, so we played slightly wrong (but we now now).

 Game length is by countdown- another RFCM standard. At the end of his turn the defender rolls a d6, and takes it from the countdown total, which starts at 21. When this reaches 0 the game immediately ends.  Victory points ara awarded for bases killed, plus brigades wiped out, so better 6 bases from i unit, rather than 4 from 2 different brigades. Also the attacker gets more victory points for the objective furthest from him (9d6) rather than the closest (3d6)- he places these as part of terrain lay out.  No ‘2 points for painted army’ in this set though, a normal Peter Pig RFCM mechanism.  Because many VP are awarded as dice, the final outcome can’t be known until they are added up, so you’d have to very sure of the dice you will get before you just ‘shut up shop’ and do pure defensive- one side having, say, 15 dice and the other eligible for 12  means you cant’ just play safe (or ‘suicide’ because its obvious you cant win) there is always a chance.

I played a small game (no corp commander, 400pts not 600, 30 war dice, not 50), with 3 others, so we each had a division of 3 brigades. 2 had knowledge of Bloody Barons, so the transition wasn’t too hard.

The pregame took about 30 minutes, and we came close to finishing in about 2 hours- 1, 2, may be 3 more turns- the countdown was about 8.  We lost some time because it was our first game, and ‘Belgium’ had decided to help with our 1st game, despite never having read the rules!  The melee proceedure took about 10-15 minutes for the only melee of the evening.  Looking back it would have taken about 2 minutes at the most if we knew the rules. 

 We enjoyed it- though one person did say he was unlikely to play again- but that could just be familiarity with Fire and Fury meant that a first attempt seemed too slow.

Points I would make are

1) The firing is not that effective- even cannon once you get outside canister range, and even this will only inflict on average 1/2 base kill per 4 shots, once the saving thow has been done. You have to assume that ‘The Fight’ is mostly point blank firing, rather than cold steel.

2) the rules do not follow the order of turn sequence, and stuff can be hard to find, which leads me on to

3) there are lots of little exceptions etc, which are easy to forget, as they are not on the QR sheet.

That said, the main body is easy to learn, and after only a turn or so 80% is automatic.  I’d recommend you at least try them- I will certainly be playing again.

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