Which rules set do you prefer?

jr3.jpgrally.jpgI started wargaming back in college at Miami of Ohio in the late 1970s,  primarily using Stars ‘N Bars by Scott Bowden. Not long afterwards, I was exposed to a typewritten set of tables and charts from some Indiana gamer named John Hill, a set of rules destined to become Johnny Reb. I played JR1, JR2, and finally JR3, and obviously from this blog’s title, I remain a leading adherent of this rules set. However, I have played a number of rules over the years at conventions or privately, and I must say that there are good ideas in all of them. Perhaps a hybrid is what is really needed?

 I founded Charge! newsletter originally to promote JR3 gaming, and it has remained steady at a couple hundred hard copies each quarter. Over time, I have opened the pages to other regimental scenarios (such as for Regimental Fire & Fury and Rally Round The Flag, as these are readily convertible to Johnny Reb, and they add diversity and variety to the magazine). I am encouraging more authors from these alternative rules sets to also submit their work to Debi and I, and we hope to post more in the future.

 While I remain a fan of JR3, I enjoy Civil War history even more, and I enjoy a good regimental game no matter what the rules set may be. I am even branching out into ACW naval thanks to my new fellow York Countian, Bob Johnson, who has re-hooked me on riverine warfare gaming.

 In your opinion, what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of JR3 versus the other major rules sets for regimental-level Civil War miniature gaming? I plan to eventually write a Charge! article comparing and contrasting the top six or so rules sets, but, for now, I solicit your input and thoughts. Please leave comments with specifics on what you like and don’t like about RFNF, JR3, RRTF, Mr. Lincoln’s War, ABL, Honor &  Glory, Civil War Commander, Piquet, etc.

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Thanks!

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Categories: Charge newsletter, Civil War wargaming | Tags: , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Which rules set do you prefer?

  1. Bob Johnson

    Honestly never found a set of rules that conveyed, to me, the feel of the ACW battlefield. This may be largely due to the fact that there may be no typical battle that encapsules the war as a whole.
    If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Fire N Fury which is very abstraced, easy to learn and easy to play. But then I also enjoyed playing the Featherstone rules in his 50 year old book.
    Bob

  2. Don Featherstone’s wargaming rules are indeed classic, and are still around at scattered conventions and gaming events. His concepts, while certainly dated, are easy to learn and adapt, and they lend themselves well to casual games for an evening of entertainment.

  3. J. Sharp

    Definately Honor and Glory. For a free set of rules, it has a depth and scalability that is unmatched in other rulesets.

    You can go to the brigade level all the way up to an entire army if you so desire. Not to mention the developer of the game is very open to suggestions on making the set even better.

    If you are new to ACW gaming, give this one a try for sure! You can use anything from 2mm up to 28mm or larger. That is the beauty of the game itself. For people like me with a 4×4 table, it makes all the difference.

  4. Honor and Glory for me as well.

    Very simple to learn and play, and the game system is by far one of the best i have ever played – either as a free down load or a commercial set.

    It also allows player to decide retain figure basing is they have played another set of rules in the past – there is no need to rebase your figures.

    (oh, and i am not a relative of Bob who posted a comment above)

  5. Because most of the guys I game with are new to the game speed and quick understanding are the key to a good rule set. This is why I’ve created my own rule set which fits on 2 pages of quick reference charts. I found the game moved really well but didn’t insult the intelligence of the gamer.

  6. John Acar

    Two answers for me. Honor and Glory gets the nod for best tactical set of rules for ACW. Easy to play and understand. You will never add more than about 4 numbers together to figure out a combat outcome. I played In The Name of Glory with the game group and we banged out 8 turns in about 2.5 hours! HandG is virtually the same set of rules taylored to ACW and will have similar results.

    But wait! I said two fold! My second choice is Fire and Fury. The game, as mentioned above is abstracted a bit but it captures the player’s role as army commander, where the smallest unit is a brigade. Very fun game and very easy to pick up. Most importantly, it gives very believeable results.

    HandG for Tactical
    FnF for Grand Tactical

  7. Glenn Pruitt

    I own two published sets of ACW regimental rules. JR3 and Piquet Hallowed Ground. I also own Brother Against Brother but you specifically said regimental level.

    Of the two I prefer Piquet. The main knock on JR3 is the complexity. I simply can’t get another player to spend the necessary time getting his head wrapped around the rules in order to play a game. Honestly, I don’t relish the complexity either.

    While Piquet is not what I would call simple, it is simple enough to convince other players to give it a try. It’s main attraction is the unpredictability of the unfolding of events. You have to make tough choices because you just don’t know exctly when you or your opponent will be able to execute certain actions. On the downside, this randomness can go to the extreme of “I’m getting my butt whipped and I can’t do anything about it.” The latter situation (which does happen from time to time – but never every time) is really no fun at all, and thus defeats the purpose of playing a game. It’s supposed to be fun!

    Being a tinkerer (software engineer that can’t leave good enough alone) I have written my own ruleset which I have foisted upon my friends. Heck, they’ve even come back for more so I guess it’s not terrible.

    -Glenn Pruitt
    Purcellville, VA

  8. Hi Glen

    Sounds like you are having a bit of a tough time with your rule set, why not download a set of H&G and give them a spin, would love to hear what you think of them.

    All the best

    Dave

    PS. Thanks guys for your kind words of support for H&G

  9. Sorry Glen

    I was reffering to your commercial sets, not your own

    Cheers

    Dave

  10. Right now I’m using Field of Battle (FoB) by Piquet. It uses a streamlined version of the Piquet system and covers the entire horse and musket period. It gets rid of the possibility that one player gets all the initiative (as can happen in regualar Piquet). Like many people stated above, I need a system I can teach to newb’s at a convention. FoB plays very quickly, is excellent for multiplayer (unlike “normal” Piquet) and you never know what’s going to happen next (so it’s good for solitaire as well). The main downside is that it’s very abstracted so it doesn’t feel a whole lot like a ACW battle. I’m hoping in the future to somehow merge bits from This Hallowed Ground onto FoB to regain some ACW feel.

    I’m also very big on Volley & Bayonet – probably one of my favorite miniatures rules of all time.

    Carnage and Glory is pretty good if you don’t mind using a computer to track stuff.

    In On to Richmond (the original brigade-level ruleset) I always liked the morale test results where you could charge forward 45 degrees to the left or right.

    Fire and Fury is OK but if I’m going to play brigade level I’d rather go Volley and Bayonet. Plays fast and I don’t have to fiddle with all those small stands in various formations.

  11. David Norris

    I am currently using Mr Lincolns War which is producing a game which feels realistic is fast paced and which all who have played it so far have enjoyed. We have only used relatively small troop numbers so far, 8 regiments (around 28 figures aregiment)and 3 cannon a side so far, but we are going to try a far bigger game next month. I do find some bits of rules difficult to make out (I do not get how odds are worked out for throwing a six then a one to get the required score to my understanding of stats the odds of that are too high for the desired effect) but we compromise and have had a reasonably smooth flowing game
    We are using 28mm figures.
    I have Regimental Fire and Fury but have only used it once I am really waiting for a definitive version
    I intend to try Guns at Gettysburg as I play General de Brigade for Napoleonic

  12. David,

    I have never played Mr. Lincoln’s War, nor have I seen it run at any HMGS-East Conventions. I have visited their website in the past, and IIRC, veteran gamemaster Hap Jordan is a devotee of this rules set. Others have told me the rules are hard to follow in places (as are Johnny Reb 3).

    Scott

  13. Dave Marks

    Hi All

    A few people have commented that they need an easy to learn rule set that can be played at shows/conventions. Honor and Glory really does fit the bill. We run a number of participation games at shows using what we call our ‘game-it-and-go’ system. Let me explain what I mean by this. Instead of the standard participation game where the game last fixed time slots, we stage a massive game with lots of units. That way people can join in as and when they want and take command of a few regiments in an active game. They play for as long as they want, they can leave the game whenever they want and if they want to may rejoin the game at any time during the show. People really seem to like this system and the table is very active throughout the day. Should we get to the stage where no members of the public want to play, then we run it as a demo until someone wants to join in. We have players of all ages and experience play our games and the games reall are great fun. But all this highlights just how easy Honor & Glory is to learn. We even had players, who had never played H&G rules before, teaching newcomers to the table after a short space of time. Some game organisers have been impressed by the sheer number of players that they think are running the game only to find out that they are members of the public having a lot of fun!

  14. Bill Starmer

    Hi guys, I just stumbled on this website after reading about it on TMP. I’m very much a noob when it comes to ACW wargaming but my group is really enjoying it and we are working on our armies and terrain.

    We’ve been playing Mr. Lincoln’s War and now that we are feeling comfortable with the rules we’ve really enjoyed it. I agree that the rules can be hard to follow in spots and the first few games were “challenging”. But I will say that Steve Phenow has been very responsive on the game yahoogroup (http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/MrLincolnsWarACW/) and that has helped us greatly. I also get the impression that if you are familiar with Civil War tactics it will be easier to follow.

    The reason I’ve been playing Mr. Lincoln’s War actually has more to do with a good friend of mine that introduced me to ACW gaming. I used to live in Pittsburgh and he would run some very enjoyable games at the conventions in Butler, PA. I moved back to Maryland and my old gaming friends decided to give it a try. I figured I would stay with what I played and enjoyed so we went with Mr. Lincoln’s War. I have no idea how it compares with other regimental level games since I’ve never given them a try. :)

    Anyway, we’ve actually played little Saturday night pick up games of Mr. Lincoln’s War at Fall-In and Cold Wars. Our goal it to have things ready so that we can run the Battle of New Market by Fall-In. I hope we get it ready in time. I also want to try to get my friend Brad to run a game at an HMGS East show. He is a great GM and really puts on great game. So maybe in the coming year we will see Mr. Lincoln’s War the East cons.

  15. Ric Walters

    Hello, Has anyone any experience with “Guns at Gettysburg” by David Brown? A friend uses his Napoleonic rules – “General de Brigade” and has been rebasing much of his collection of 10, 000 plus figs for this system. Yes, you read that number correctly – he started 15 years ago and, other than a WWII German army for Africa, has done nothing but Napoleonics for the entire time. Gaming at his house is a “moving experience” :-). But, I digress, any input on GaG (cute -eh?) would be appreciated. Good Gaming – Ric

  16. Anonymous

    If anyone has an old copy of Stars & Bars from Scotty Bowden, I would be interested in puchasing it from you. He had 2 or 3 versions out The version I am looking for came out in 1979, It is in binder format 8×11, dark Blue soft cover, standard txt. and diagrams.

    You can email me at irishwop67@aol.com
    Joe

  17. Thomas Beach

    I have always been, and continue to be a devotee of Bowden’s Stars ‘n Bars. I own both the blue binder version referred to by Anonymous as well as Stars ‘n Bars 3rd (Sorry Anonymous, but I’m afraid I could never let go of either of them). I have voiced my dislike for JR3 previously on Scott’s pages. And again, no disrespect intended. But the explanation for my dislike is best illustrated by my passion for S&B.

    Anyone who has played S&B would concur that this is not a set of rules for the casual gamer or suitable for convention play. They are steeped in concepts heavily centered around the difficulties of battlefield management which include cascading, operational orders. Additionally, the rules take into account the grand-tactical as well as tactical aspects of the simulation. Players may be moving regiments around. But they must never lose sight of the bigger picture at divisional, corps or even army level.

    Convention play rightly demands a speedy, playable game system which JR3 and the majority of other rules sets cater to. And to that end, they excel. However, these advantages are achieved at the expense of historical accuracy and simulation. I say that realizing it is only my opinion.

    My own personal preference is to sacrifice speed and playability (although experienced players will find S&B immensely playable) for a more realistic simulation — a set of rules which demands more from me as a player and rewards me with a greater “feel” for the period. I have played no other ACW rules sets to date which accomplishes this greater than, Stars ‘n Bars.

    Tom Beach

  18. Kevin

    I like modified On To Richmond as well as Fire and Fury. I tried the Regimental version of FnF at Historicon this past summer and had a blast with it. Looking forward to its official publication. I don’t play JRIII as I absolutely despise the 4 stand size for all regiments in JRIII – ignoring the historical reality of unit frontage is ludicrous. Have recently tried Guns At Gettysburg and they show some promise – especially if the artillery rules for cannister and producing morale checks are fixed

    I dloaded Honor and Glory and will give it a try – but a quick overview gave me the impression that it too uses the 4 stand size for Regiments – if so, that is aggravating and I will likely not play it. If it can be adjusted to model historical battles, I will give it a go. As things stand, though, FnF Regimental has my vote.

  19. I have played Fire ‘n’ Fury, but do not like the abstractions required for combat at this level. I have played both JRIII and Guns at Gettysburg, and prefer the latter, though I will not turn down a game of Johnny Reb. I have Dave Marks’s rules, and intend to use a variant he has designed for the ECW — For Parliament, King, or Glory. They are clean and seem to promise a good game, so I have no doubt they would work well for the ACW period as well. American Battlelines is a rules set that I am in the process of revising, and has much to recommend it, especially in the way it models the disruption of troop formations as they move around the battlefield. It is a tried and true system also.

  20. As the guy who introduced you to the modified John Hill ruleset, I have a few comments. I was in the Purdue Wargaming Club while John was using us to playtest rules that became “Johnny Reb” and also a little thing called “Squad Leader.” I liked John’s philosophy of writing rules to coerce historic behaviors from gamers. (For instance, in armored combat he gave big pluses to Russians in close, to encourage them to be fought at short ranges; it wasn’t that their optics or ammo couldn’t handle longer ranges – he wanted Russian gamers to see that doing things the way the actual commanders had to gave the best results.) I modified John’s rules to fit a 1:100 figure scale, smoothed out his CRT, and added rules to allow us to play campaigns.

    At first, John Hill chiefly wrote rules to encourage us to buy miniatures from his hobby shop. I spent all my available capital there while at college! I think John’s rules got much more complicated when he thought about selling them. More complicated does not mean better. I still prefer the more free-wheeling play of his original ideas.

    In fact, I own “Rally Round the Flag”, “Stars n’ Bars”, JR1 and JR3… and while I’ve studied each, I’m not sure I’ve ever played a game using any of them!

    A reminiscence… John built a huge layout of Antietam in his basement, right next to his world-class HO railroad! He made special trips to the Maryland battlefield to take notes and confirm distances, so that his Antietam was very exact. Then he set up a battle with 5mm figures – that’s right, 5mm! – and invited the Purdue Wargamers to come play the battle. He had a “fast clock” for his railroading that we used, and the actual order of appearance was followed using it. One quirk: if you brought painted figures with you, you got to be a Corps commander on the field at the start. If you just brought yourself, you received a reinforcement unit to play that arrived later in the day! That day I was glad I’d started buying and painting 5mm figures!

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