Civil War Commander: new rules from Jim Kopchak

My friend Doug Rogers of Ohio recently reviewed Jim Kopchak’s new CWC regimental-level ACW rules set, which has recently been published after considerable playtesting. Doug’s review was originally posted in the pages of the hard copy Charge newsletter, but some people have asked me to give it a wider audience through this venue.

Here is Doug’s review:

On one rainy Saturday afternoon last October, Jim Kopchak from the Northern Ohio Wargaming Society (NOWS)  GM’d the Battle of Brawner Farm/Thoroughfare Gap for five novice players and myself, who had played these rules only once before, at the Drums Along the Maumee (HMGS-GL) convention in northwestern Ohio earlier this year. Within just over three hours, despite our inexperience, we had completed ten turns to finish the scenario, which engaged two Union brigades against three Confederate brigades. After thrusting the entire Rebel front against the Yanks in this meeting engagement, the Secesh captured the guns of the collapsed Union left and resurged in the center, but were swept on the Federal right for an overall Union victory.           

Civil War Commander (CWC) is a fast-playing game that can be adapted from its original regimental design upward to brigade scale, or down to battalion/skirmish level by changing how many bases (stands) are used per unit and modifying the “hit levels” needed to remove a stand from play. Each command represents progressively larger units, longer distances, and longer turn/time representations as you go from battalion to brigade-level battles.            

Figure mountings for Johnny Reb, Fire & Fury, or other popular rules are fine for CWC, because the number of figures per base (stand) is not critical. Rather, the number of bases is important, and the figures on them are not counted. It is helpful to have magnetic baseplates to use with individual stands’ metal plates to hold the unit together on the gaming table. The 15mm figures we used had flags to designate the various regiments. Markers for casualties, shaken, and routing are also used in standard game play. However, unlike some other rules, you will not get eye-strain headaches from staring at large tables after counting and re-counting individual figures. Instead, each base of a unit rolls a D10, at or below a critical number, to hit. This hit number is determined by weapon and range alone, making the fire “table” practically memorized after a few turns.           

Civil War Commander is a great rules system for those souls who perpetually roll low dice sums, since one must roll a D10 ‘at or below’ to fire, motivate, melee, or pass morale. The game turn sequence is Motivate/Rally/Initiative, Move, Fire, and Melee, each of which is punctuated by morale checks and opportunity fire. Movement is by initiative, while firing is generally simultaneous for normal end-of-move combat. The rules cover cavalry, artillery, skirmishers, snipers, command radius, charge and evade, saving modifiers, and plenty of other details that do not detract from the simplicity and speed of play.           

The speed and simplicity of these rules make for good convention play. At the same time, I am only beginning to realize the flexibility and variety of interesting play/results they offer. Copies of CWC (10 pages + a laminated quick Reference Sheet) are available directly from author Jim Kopchak at jimlindaneil@att.net for about a ten spot, plus postage and handling. I’ll still play JR3 and Brother Against Brother, but I definitely will make use of these new rules to play larger engagements and for those cases where we have young or novice players and/or need quick play. Civil War Commander is a great addition to any serious wargamer’s cache. 

… Doug Rogers, North Coast Historical Wargame Society           

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Categories: Civil War books, Civil War wargaming, Product reviews | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Civil War Commander: new rules from Jim Kopchak

  1. Jim will be running a game of Antietam West Woods using his CWC Rules at the Drums convention at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg (near Toledo) on May 17th. I plan to be there as well with some of our Royal Rangers.

  2. I am always hesitant to be critical of a set of rules I have not played. That is my Rules Directory pages tend toward the descriptive. How does combat work? How does morale work? I think if you know what the rules are like you can decide for yourself.

    Sadly, Civil War Commander are the most disorganized, poorly put together rules I have seen. They may give a good game but teasing the game out of the rule book as written is very challenging. in the first place it is written like a series of notes the GM might write to himself.

    The constant use of acronyms, abbreviations and sentence fragments makes these a real challenge to wade through. Additionally, the lay out on the page is chaotic and hard to scan. The player aid cards are mostly text, not charts, and many modifiers and exceptions are inserted in the rules as text rather than lists or charts. And many of these things are undefined. For example, fire modifiers include the note: “-1,-2,-3 Cover.” I assume this is for, say, light, medium and heavy? But nowhere are these kinds of cover defined.

    Finally there are two other major design issues that I cannot get past: ranges. A smooth bore musket fires up to 12”. Easy enough. But there are three ground scales. This means they fire between 400 and 600 yards at brigade level, between 300 and 400 yards at regiment level, and between 200 and 300 yards at battalion level. Leaving aside the issue of what the range of a smooth bore musket really is, this confusing ground scale will have some very strange consequences.

    Second, to think that 5 stands representing a brigade will behave exactly the same way as 5 stands representing a battalion seems to me a mistake. Wheeling a brigade of 4 regiments is very different from wheeling a regiment. The same applies to command and control. Your neighbor’s elbow is a critical variable in commanding a regiment. But it has little to do with a brigade.

  3. There is a card game called “Civil War Commander” you can find information at warcoachgames.com or civilwarcommander.webs.com.

  4. Rob Westbrook

    The e-mail address in the original article for Jim Kopchak does not seem to be working any longer. Does anyone know how I can get a copy of the rules?

  5. I will forward your e-mail address to Jim.

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