After years of preparation and perhaps the most significant playtesting in wargaming rules history, Rich Hasenauer has published his long awaited Regimental Fire & Fury rule set. I have been a long-time devotee of regimental Civil War gaming, having started in college with home-grown rules and graduating after that to Scott Bowden’s Stars and Bars before getting a hand-typed copy of a set of rules from an early Origins that grew into Johnny Reb. I have played dozens of ACW systems of various scales over the years, with my favorites being Johnny Reb 3, Fire & Fury, and Brother Against Brother. I was involved in a few playtests of RFF at various conventions, including Historicon and Cold Wars, and came away interested in the system for its simplicity and ease. Hence, I have watched Rich’s progress with interest, and wargamers such as Lowell Hamilton have worked diligently to translate the Johnny Reb scenarios I publish in the hard copy version of CHARGE! into RFF format. I have asked Lowell to write an article for an upcoming issue on how others can make similar conversions, because there are hundreds of JR-type scenarios out there that can be used for the new RFF rules with a little effort.
I got a copy of RFF at Historicon and have had a chance to read through the book a few times. Here are my initial impressions:
1. The book itself is a wonderful addition to any Civil War wargaming library! Printed on glossy coated-two-side paper in China using high quality offset lithography printing, the colors stand out and the photo reproduction is superb. In hard back format, the book looks good on a shelf and will stand the wear and tear of time (we gamers are not the most gentle in the handling of our rules books!). Rich has included dozens of photographs of wargaming armies in action, which by themselves are fun to look at and, frankly, shamelessly steal ideas on improving my own wargaming layouts (yes, I am not beneath pirating others’ good ideas for my own tabletops!). There is a ton of eye candy in RFF that makes the book stand out. And, that’s just the photos. We have yet to talk about the illustrations.
2. OK, now for the illustrations! Rich’s book is perhaps the most clear example I have ever seen in how to depict often complex wargaming tactical situations and the rules that are applicable to those situations. There are dozens of such illustrations, all in full color and all nicely explaining both the gaming mechanic and the interpretation of the rules that govern the situation. These are among the very best such illustrations I have seen in a wargaming product (and I have seen many rule books of all genres in my 35 years in the hobby!!!). Nearly every page includes at least one photo, illustration, or graphic, and I found myself in my first run-through of the book paying much, much more attention to the layout and design than to the rules themselves!
3. The rules are laid out in a compelling and easy-to-follow fashion, unlike several other popular (and not-so-popular) rule books of recent vintage. Well indexed, and in a logical progression, the format is useful and easy to reference. I deliberately tried finding a few specific situations and rules, and the indexing and sequence made it easy to find what I was looking for.
4. Rich includes a lot of basic information useful for new gamers, including basing and figure mounting and labeling. I would imagine this will be quite helpful to new gamers moving into the period. Again, the photos he uses are great, with some superbly painted and mounted figures that are inspiring me to repaint some of my older figures. I like his convention of printing unit ID labels as a reverse (white on black) for clarity, but not being as obtrusive as traditional black-on-white labels.
5. Rich includes six scenarios in the book, which of course can readily be converted from RFF to Johnny Reb or other ACW regimental rules sets. These include Seven Pines (Casey’s Redoubt), which is of intense personal interest to me because I have recently finishing writing a new biography of William “Extra Billy” Smith, whose 49th Virginia appears in this scenario. The book will be published by Savas-Beatie). Seven Pines will be the first RFF game that I tackle on my own as a gamemaster. The other scenarios are Ball’s Bluff, Wilson’s Creek, Stones River, Gettysburg (Joshua L. Chamberlain and Little Round Top), and Olustee. In carefully reading through the scenarios, they are well researched and historically accurate, a credit to Rich’s usual thoroughness in preparing for a game.
6. Finally, for the rules themselves… RFF uses a fairly simple turn sequence, with alternating Union and Confederate player turns. Each game turn has three distinct phases per player. The first is the Maneuver Phase (replacing fallen leaders, maneuver checks, charge declarations, regular movement, and detached leader movement). Rich gives a complete account of how to perform these functions, making great use of the photos and illustrations. The second phase is the Musketry & Cannonade Phase, which is self-explanatory. (As a descendant of multiple Union soldiers who fought at Gettysburg and Antietam or marched with Sherman through Georgia, all I can say is roll very well when firing at the Johnnies!) Finally, the players resolve the Charge Phase. Simple, clean, and effective.
OK, as a veteran gamer in my early 50′s, I have long since been a devotee of Johnny Reb and all of my ACW and AWI armies are based for that system in double ranks, which is one minor drawback to RFF (it uses single rank figures with different base sizes than my JR forces). However, I have some spare figures laying around that I may rebase so I can play RFF, or I may be able to adapt some of my larger JR bases for RFF (I have a ton of small 3/4″ x 3/4″ and smaller bases for JR; the two-man tiny stands of course won’t work well for RFF). I have long contemplated getting into Mexican War gaming (and at one time purchased nearly a thousand unpainted Musket Miniatures figures for MAW gaming). I know Rich has a variant of RFF for that period, so that is likely where I will initially concentrate my RFF efforts. I saw him present MW games at the annual HAWKS game day near Baltimore and got hooked on the period again. Variants can be used for AWI and other horse-and-musket periods.
Rich, my friend, here’s a rousing cheer for your latest effort! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!
I am sure that Regimental Fire & Fury will be the early favorite to win a Historicon Award for 2o1o! The spectacular graphics and photos by themselves should ensure your easy victory. You will have my vote! As a winner of a 2009 award myself, I congratulate you on this outstanding effort!
Regimental Fire & Fury (96 pages, hard cover, copyright 2010)
Fire and Fury Games
P.O. Box 6998
Columbia, Maryland, USA
Support is available on the web at Rich’s website.