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Subject: Actual Play: Homebrew Civil War Rules rss

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Rob Hobart
United States
Missouri
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Starting with some introduction: My opponent in this game is K.G. “Greg” Bast, who some of you may know as the fellow who did much of the work on the official Civil War Advanced Rules before the pressures of real life forced him to step aside and hand off the project to others. Greg and I played the game extensively back in our college days and many of the optional elements he introduced into the Advanced Rules (especially the variant leaders) were based on my old homebrew variant rules from those days. Thanks to Vassal, we’ve been able to renew our old rivalry and tried a few games using his revisions, and based on that we’ve gone on to develop our own Advanced Rules that add and refine many elements we felt were lacking in the original design. This is our first full game using these homebrew Advanced Rules, which I hope to eventually post here and elsewhere.
As a brief guideline, the biggest changes we made included more detailed leader rules with heavy revisions of existing leader counters, a larger selection of leaders than the original game, and a system for entering and using the leaders “blind” until they are revealed by combat. We also tweaked the CP Table/Tie-Out system (no tie-outs until CP Table Use is at 3 or higher), made a distinction between Primary and Secondary Armies, and eliminated the troublesome Trans-Miss Armies. Large forces now cannot be supplied by isolated depots or depot “chains.” We allow Non-Army Reaction, but only for forces of 3 SP or larger (and at a –1 DRM penalty). Finally, we use a variant of Greg’s refinement of the LLC chart, so promotions are not automatic, defeated leaders can occasionally be Removed, leaders may be Inspired or Sapped (+1/-1 to Tactical Rating for next combat), and the Non-Combat Termination (or “NCT”) result simulates a variety of unusual leader problems such as resignations, bad health, and so forth.
I’ll try to explain the rules specifics in more detail as they come up.
Turn 1
The turn starts cautiously with both of us feeling out the situation. No Trans Miss armies means no race to get a 3-star out to Springfield, so the forces there sit idle while we make other moves. Following an early tie/extension, we both build armies in the eastern theater, I build a fortress in Washington, and Greg moves his SP in West Virginia into Grafton to force me to fight for the state.
Eventually Greg decides to go ahead and attack Springfield. The “blind” leader rules result in a battle between Van Dorn and Sedgwick. The battle is actually a tie (a simple dm to each side), but Sedgwick is killed, a bad result for me since it not only costs me a good leader for later but also means I cannot easily rally the 1 SP in Springfield. Greg takes advantage of the Advanced Rules discount for rallying 1-2 SP forces (one of several changes designed to make smaller forces slightly more viable compared to armies), rallies his little force, and attacks again. This time, with my force still DM, it’s a decisive victory. My SP dies and Van Dorn occupies Springfield umolested.
In the eastern theater, Greg decides to get aggressive, trying to pick off my 3 SPs at the head of the Shenandoah Valley with the ANV. (This will have the additional value of revealing a bunch of his Early War leaders – the army contains two 3-stars and 3 lower-rankers, so there’s an excellent change of revealing someone good like Jackson, AS Johnston, or Longstreet.) Unfortunately, the results go very poorly for him – first he flubs his roll to pick up the extra 2 SP and additional 3-star leader at the head of the Valley, and then his attack succeeds only in killing 1 Union SP (not even a DM!) while suffering a DM for himself. His leaders are revealed as Beauregard, Bragg, Hardee, Magruder, and Huger – not the best assortment! The only positive for him is that Beauregard gets Inspired and will be +1 Tactical on his next combat.
With the ANV DM’d, I move out the AoP, leaving 3 SP behind to garrison Washington. My intention is to pick up both the 1 SP at Arlington and the 2 SP that retreated from the Valley, allowing a 2-1 attack against the DM’d force through a mountain gap. Since the 2 SP are adjacent to the ANV, he’ll only get one chance to React when I enter his actual hex.
Unfortunately, I fail the roll to pick up the 2 SP, leaving me with the less pleasing prospect of attacking with only 6 SP against his 4. This is still decent, however, since we’re using the optional rule that a 3-2 attack is resolved on the +5 column. So with DM canceling half the shifts for the gap, it will be a +3/+4 column attack, I’ll get one reroll and I won’t have to worry about penalties from my own bad leaders.
Sadly, Beauregard rolls well and manages to React. He retreats to the additional 2 SP (and three-star leader) waiting in the Valley. I still have one Movement Point left, but the Rebel move changes the prospective combat to dead-even odds, not to mention that it’ll reveal one of the Johnstons. Since I won’t have enough CP left to rally (and the Rebels will), I decide its not worth the risk just to try to kill one or two SPs. So the AoP pulls out of the Valley and re-unites with the 2 SP it could not pick up during the advance. Greg rallies the ANV on his next pulse.
Up to this point I’m not terribly happy with how the turn is progressing – I’ve lost 2 SP and a good future leader for no real return. Only the Rebels’ bad luck with their initial leader assortment has prevented this from being a real disaster. However, at this point fortune turns in my favor – I’ve finally managed to assemble a 4 SP force in Rolla, Missouri, with 3-star and 2-star leaders. I rail in an SP from the West to garrison the town and then march the 4 SP to attack Springfield. The 3-star turns out to be Ben Butler, but then chance rewards me by choosing Grant as the 2-star. The battle is a decisive Union victory, as the Rebs lose 2 SP and the city, and Van Dorn goes onto the turn track for next turn. Sadly, Grant does not promote, but the battle still evens the SP losses for the turn, reveals the best Union leader, and secures Missouri for the Union.
(From a strategic viewpoint, one of my goals as a Union player is to keep the exchange of casualties as close to even as possible, in order to attrite down the Rebels without losing too many men of my own. For Turn 1, I’ve managed to maintain a direct exchange, 2 SP lost on each side, which is acceptable – though I’d have preferred higher totals, obviously.)
This sequence in Missouri is also an interesting example of how our revision makes the game more realistic. Historically, even after their victory at Wilson’s Creek the Rebels were forced to retreat from Missouri by the end of winter, and their attempt to rally and return to the state was crushed at Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas. The Basic Game, by allowing Armies in the Trans Miss, makes this history nearly impossible to duplicate – in fact it is common for Missouri to still be contested into late 1862 or even into 1863.
The turn ends with both of us entering our remaining reinforcements, and I try a gambit by marching 6 SP down the west coast of the Mississippi river from Cairo, threatening the newly-built Rebel Army of Tennessee at Fort Henry/Donaldson as well as the city of Memphis. We’ll see how that goes.

Side note: I've tried to upload a picture of the end-of-turn deployments from Vassal, but to no avail. Apparently my computer-fu is not up to the task. Any suggestions?
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Talorien
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Very nice work on this classic game



A small note: line breaks would make your article easier to read
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Jim F
United Kingdom
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I think this game should be given a new edition. I can see why people love it. Any publishers out there willing to take it on?
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Andrew Pleass
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Nottingham
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The Civil War » Forums » Sessions
Re: Actual Play: Homebrew Civil War Rules
Excellent post, looking forward to reading more.

Like the sound of your homebrew rules and the leader entry/reveals especially
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Rob Hobart
United States
Missouri
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Game One, Turn 2

Sadly, the Rebels win Initiative and immediately reinforce both Memphis and the twin forts, thereby rendering my gambit moot and leaving 6 SPs sitting in the swamps of the Missouri bootheel.

Perhaps in reaction to that, I get aggressive in the East and take advantage of a double-pulse to march the Army of the Potomac down into Virginia (cutting the supply line of the ANV, which is still sitting at the head of the Shenandoah Valley) and overrun the fort/SP on the Yorktown Peninsula. This clever move backfires on me somewhat, however, when I forget that the hex on the peninsula is swamp (2 movement points), preventing me from moving the AoP back to threaten Richmond. This, in turn, means Greg can run an SP from Richmond up to re-open the supply line to the ANV. That’s what I get for trying to get overly ballsy with the Union on Turn 2.

The overrun, incidentally, reveals Don Carlos Buell as commander of the AoP (could be worse – could have been Fremont!) and his subordinates are one-stars Sigel, Burnside, and Curtis. Not the most impressive leadership cadre I ever saw, though on the plus side the overrun means nobody gets promoted and thus I don’t (yet) have to worry about Burnside and Sigel getting worse.

My real and critical mistake, however, is failing to reinforce Washington DC to higher than 6 SP. At 5 SP and a fortress it’s a formidable defense, but the ANV could potentially take it out if they manage a back-to-back pulse. I could easily have reinforced it by 2 more SP (I had the dice-difference and the SPs) and that failure costs me heavily. The ANV swings into the attack, striking at Washington under the leadership of the newly-revealed AS Johnston (no, he couldn’t roll Joe Johnston, no, he had to get the one guy who gives him a re-roll on the attack). The battle is a one-sided smackdown – I suffer a d3 and my commander, Sumner, is killed. Thanks to Albert Sydney’s re-roll the Rebels are not even demoralized – although Beauregard does suffer a Severe Wound, which is something I suppose.

Happily, a couple of short pulses follow, allowing me to reinforce Washington but not to rally its defenders. The Rebels naturally attack again – why shouldn’t they, against a DM defender they outnumber 2-1? – and inflict another d3/nothing exchange. This time the Union defender is one-star Lyon (who fails to promote – typical for this turn!) and it takes both of the Rebel re-rolls for them to get their crushing victory – but get it they do. FINALLY, on my next pulse, I manage to Rally the defenders, reinforce them, and sealift the 3 SP from Fortress Monroe back to the city, making it unassailable to further attack. The ANV then marches down into Virginia to cover Richmond against any renewed move by the AoP.

After that debacle, the rest of the turn peters out with little action – I hope for another tie/extension (we got one earlier), but it is not to be. I do manage to march Grant down into Arkansas and seize an undefended Fayetteville, which forces the Rebels to pull together a force at Clarksville under the returned Van Dorn. I also nearly complete the work of consolidating all the scattered Union SPs in the north, and assemble the West Virginia forces into a single stack of 4 SP waiting to strike at the lone Rebel SP in Grafton. The Army of the Cumberland is also ready to move, waiting in Cincinnati for the order to march into Kentucky next turn.

This turn is a 6-1 SP exchange in favor of the Rebels – a major violation of my basic strategic goals. That’s what I get for not paying close enough attention before I try to get aggressive. Next turn I’ll have to score a lot more kills if I’m going to rebalance the situation. Happily, this early in the game that’s still eminently do-able.

Game One, Turn 3

Turn 3 starts with my entering the naval pool and the Rebels reinforcing their positions around the map, as well as withdrawing the lone SP from Grafton – an annoying play since I was finally in position to kill it.

At that point a rules misunderstanding occurs between Greg and myself – a typical problem when playing with a new rules-set. As a result I am forced to replay a pulse, albeit with the benefit of knowing a tie (and hence more CPs) will follow it. I had been considering moving the new fleet adjacent to the 6 SP force stranded in southern Missouri, in hope that a tie and more CP would then allow a joint land-naval operation against either Memphis or Fort Henry/Donalson, whichever looked more advantageous. Knowing that a tie was indeed coming, I went ahead and made this move, and also swapped out the unknown leader there (who might be Banks) for Grant from Fayetteville. This will slow down any further advance into Arkansas, but puts Grant where he can do the most good. I also re-assign Lyon as Grant’s subordinate (the Advanced Rules allow a 2-star leader to benefit from one subordinate commander) to enhance his striking power. With that deployment complete, I go to work on converting Kentucky, sending one SP to do the rail tour of most of the cities and then marching the Army of the Cumberland south toward Mill Springs. The AoC’s commander remains an unknown, and the options are either McDowell or Fremont (shudder), so I really need to get some of my two-stars promoted soon.

After the tie, I do indeed get a 4-point Dice Differential. Grant and the fleet (which turns out to be commanded by Foote – history repeats itself!) swing into action. Memphis is defended by 6 Rebel SP in a fortification, commanded by Price and with an unknown one-star. Since the hex contains a fort but not a fortress, my assault can take the city if I win the battle. With the fleet pitching in, I have an 11-to-6 SP advantage, and Grant, Lyon, and Foote grant a +4 Tactical bonus on their own. Even better, the unknown Rebel leader (who could easily have been a +2 like Jackson, Longstreet, or AP Hill) turns out to be GW Smith, awarding me another +1. I win a decisive d3/d1 victory, Grant goes in for promotion (though sadly Lyon does not), and on the Rebel side Price is wounded, leaving poor one-star GW Smith as the sole commander of the demoralized 3 SP. Initially, this seems like a nice result for me and one which will start me toward recovery from last
turn’s disastrous SP exchange.

Alas, it doesn’t last. Greg sends the Army of Tennessee charging toward Memphis, and improbably manages to get it moved twice before I can get 2 Dice Difference to rally Grant. So Grant’s force is destroyed (though happily he and Lyon survive) and the SP exchange continues to go against me. Grant and Lyon will both be available next turn, but aside from that the only silver lining here is that Greg leaves only 2 SP to garrison the Fort Henry/Donalson hex. I send five SPs marching from Cairo, and the commander is revealed as Rosecrans and goes in for promotion. So I’ll have two solid three-stars available next turn. (Under our revisions to the rules, Rosecrans as a three-star is a 3-0-1 leader, but is vulnerable to Non-Combat Termination after any battlefield defeat – representing his solid combat record up until his mental collapse after Chickamauga.)

One other bit of good news does come my way at the end of the turn – due to Greg sending his army down to Memphis, he is in no position to fight for Kentucky, and with the Army of the Cumberland seizing Mill Springs the state converts at the end of the turn. In response, Greg builds a 6 SP force at Knoxville under Beauregard.

Game One, Turn 4

At this point I am very unhappy with the SP exchanges I’ve suffered – over the last two turns I have lost 12 SP while killing only 5. However, on the plus side I now have Grant and Rosecrans coming in as 3-stars and since it is now Turn 4, I have the ability to build a Secondary Army (representing either the early Army of the Ohio or Pope’s Army of Virginia). Unsurprisingly, I send Grant to Washington to build the Army of Virginia, and march it southward with its maximum 15 SPs. In response, Greg reinforces the Army of Northern Virginia to its maximum 16 SP (under our rules, Rebel Primary Armies have a maximum strength of 80,000 men, the peak Lee reached just before the Seven Days), upgrades Richmond to a Fortress, and increases the garrison there to 10 SP.

At this point, I realize I have the potential for a devastating move – with Grant hovering menacingly to the west, if I can take a coastal hex (Norfolk is the obvious target) I can sealift the Army of the Potomac there and potentially trap both the ANV and the Richmond garrison. The move, strong in any game, is made stronger under our rules because Large forces cannot draw supply from isolated depots. (This simulates the historical dependency of such formations on rail lines.) However, pulling off such a move will require careful preparation, and I end up repeatedly delaying the attack while I try to get all my ducks in a row. This is helped along by a grand total of four CP Table uses, resulting in a huge pool of Eastern CPs for the Union – I’m praying for no tie-out, since I chose the East as Tertiary next turn to try to make some progress in Arkansas.

I try to distract Greg by making an aggressive push in Tennessee. Rosecrans marches upriver to occupy an undefended Nashville, and when the Army of Tennessee moves toward him in hopes of finding easy prey, I bring down the Army of the Cumberland to unite both forces under Rosecrans’ command. At that point, Joe Johnston decides a better course of action is to pull into the mountains toward Chattanooga and the Knoxville garrison. I send the AoC after him, now under Old Rosey, with my anonymous Fremont-or-McDowell leader staying behind to command the 2 SP garrison of Nashville. Under our rules Johnston Reacts as though he has Initiative 2 (reflecting his superior defensive abilities) and he also is getting a +1 React bonus from Forrest (all cavalry in our revision are either no React bonus or a +1 bonus, rated separately from their Tactical score). So I’m not expecting a fight, and hope only to get adjacent to him and set up a possible future battle.

Incredibly, he rolls double 1’s (a 1-in-36 chance) and we fight a battle; equally improbably, his two subordinates are Hood and Cleburne, the two best Confederate leaders in the Mid-War pool. However, he also has Polk and G.W. Smith, and my revealed leaders include Thomas and Kearny. The battle results in a d2/d2 tie. This is a perfectly acceptable result from my perspective, since a game composed entirely of ties will attrite the Confederacy into oblivion. Even better, Kearny earns promotion while Polk gets Sapped (a die-roll of 2 on the LLC, resulting in an additional -1 Tactical on his next combat). Its not all good, though -- Franklin gets killed, costing me a valuable early-war two-star, and the other two-star in the hex, McClellan, also rolls a Sapped result (kind of appropriate for Little Mac, I suppose).

(Our rules make both McClellan and Banks into two-star leaders at game-start to better reflect their historical roles and performance in the early war. McClellan is actually a tolerable 2-star but horrible as an army commander. Banks is, well, Banks.)

Finally, all the pieces are in place for my amphibious move, with a large Dice Differential in the bottom half of a pulse to both take Norfolk and move the AoP there by sealift. The Battle of Norfolk pits the brothers Crittenden against each other, a cool bit of historical irony. But sadly, I lose the Initiative on the next pulse, freeing Greg to react to my maneuver before the AoP can move up to Petersburg. True to his nature, Greg immediately marches the Army of Northern Virginia down to attack the poorly-led AoP at Norfolk, inflicting a nasty 1/d3 defeat on me and in the process revealing Robert E Lee. (After the battle he immediately Removes AS Johnston in order to let Lee take command.) Still, this does leave Grant free to swing down, occupy Petersburg, and cut off supplies to both the ANV and the 10-SP garrison in Richmond.

On the next Initiative roll I win the pulse, and am able to carry out a decisive attack on Richmond that destroys the entire garrison – since it is a Large force, the depot in the hex does nothing for it and the fortress is rendered ineffectual. The fight isn’t an auto-win by any means – the defenders are led by Longstreet, and Grant’s chief underling is revealed to be Banks. However, Grant also has Nelson and Meade, and that plus two rerolls is enough to eke out a d2/d1 win and force the garrison into a fatal retreat.

The loss of Richmond and 10 Strength Points is a devastating blow – the overall losses which were formerly trending heavily Confederate have now been equalized, and the CSA is likely to lose Virginia next turn since the ANV has no choice but to retreat into North Carolina with the last Rebel CPs of the turn in order to restore its own supply line. Greg doesn’t know that he’ll have a respite next turn (due to my taking the East as Tertiary), but at the strategic level he’s in a bad enough position now that it may not matter – regardless, he chooses to resign.

Game Two, Turn 1

This game, I take the Rebels and let Greg have the Union forces. He’s actually had a lot more experience than I in recent years, due to all the playtesting he did when he was heading up the Advanced Rules project a few years ago, and I’m intrigued by his choices. He wins the first pulse and immediately moves a Union SP to Grafton, West Virginia, effectively blocking any Rebel move against the state and leaving me no choice but to pull my own SP out of the state. In Missouri, he pulls out of Springfield and concentrates his troops in Rolla, conceding the state in the short term in order to hopefully set up a crushing counterblow later. This would make perfect sense in the normal game (or the “official” Advanced Rules), where both sides have Armies they can build in the Trans-Miss theater, but I’m not sure it’s the optimal choice in our new rules-set where there are no Trans-Miss Armies.

In the east, Greg chooses to fight the Battle of Bull Run, and his commander is revealed as Fremont, the worst of the Union generals, while my commander turns out to be AS Johnston. Sadly, my only underling turns out to be Huger -- although we've scaled Huger back to only a -1 Tactical in our rules, its still annoying to have one of my bad leaders show up here instead of one of the good ones. Greg gets Nelson, a +1 Tactical leader, and as a result he suffers only a d1/d1 repulse despite Fremont's "leadership." However, Nelson does get killed, a plus for me, and Greg loses another SP at the end of the turn when Fremont is unable to rally his force.

Meanwhile, Greg also assembles a sizable force in West Virginia and marches it to Staunton, killing my SP there and building a depot to support future operations in the state. In an amusing example of game imitating history, this move’s commander turns out to be McClellan, who goes in for promotion; Greg promptly redeploys him to the Army of the Potomac to take over from Fremont when his promotion goes through next turn.

As the turn ends, both of us begin assembling troops in the West and I march several SPs up to Springfield to deny control of Missouri to the Union. This forces Greg to delay his own counterattack there until next turn.
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Philip Clayberg
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Arlington
Virginia
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Quote:
Greg moves his SP in West Virginia


? I thought that West Virginia didn't exist until after the Civil War.
 
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