Red Badge of Courage is definitely the most complex ACW game in my collection. And, now with World in Flames gone, it is likely the most complex of all my games. That's not to say it's a bad game, far from it.
The counters, maps, and player aids are up to GMT's usual excellent standards with a couple of exceptions. One complaint is that the counters are only 1/2"--this makes moving the inevitable stacks very difficult. The larger counters found in Glory I & II are much more managable, but I suppose larger counters would make the maps in RBOC even bigger.
Having manpower losses makes for more realism, but it does make counter stacks unwieldy--and there aren't enough casualty markers for some of the scenarios.
At 33 pages, this is a monster rule-book by any stretch of the imagination. It helps immeasurably that I had experience with a similar system in GMT's Glory series of games. Red Badge of Courage (RBOC) is essentially the logical extension of the Glory system, taken to a level of complexity many times greater.
Fortunately, for the most part, the rules are relatively intuitive, especially for an experienced gamer. This is definitely not a game for newbies. Clarity is lacking in some cases, but after playing for a few hours, the mechanics generally fall into place.
The problem is trying to remember all of the slight variations on rules. For example, you do get road bonuses in March and Advance formations, but not Attack; you can attack in Advance (instead of moving) and Attack formations, but not in March; etc.
I really like the chit-activation system. Again, it is not a simple chit-pull system as determining the number of chits per command takes a bit of practice. Pulling an inconvenient sequence of chits can really jam up one's troops. Your best commanders (Hooker, Reynolds) can be sitting around doing nothing whilst the units at the other end of the line are being decimated by a massive Confederate attack. Makes for great tension.
Combat is much more realistic than in the Glory system, with ranged fire, and differences for both infantry and artillery depending on weapon types; ranged fire is generally easy to comprehend. And even Shock combat, while not at first intuitive, does make sense after going through it several times. Again, remembering details of and variations on the different types of combat: ranged, shock, charges, reaction, prep-fire, etc. is difficult.
The least intiutive rules are those of routs and retreats. Why should you rout in shock combat, but not in fire combat? Those rules could definitely be simplified.
While leaders are put to good use, they seem to have less influence than I would expect from the rules (and history). GMT and the rule book makes a big deal over "Action Profiles" of difference brigade commanders, but those aspects of leader personalities rarely (and may never) come into effect.
I've only played part of one scenario so far (Longstreet's Attack, I think is the name). I don't agree with the time it takes to play this monster. Perhaps playing solo and doing a lot of rules-checking has lengthened the time to tackle even a comparatively short scenario. It took me over 5 hours just to set up and well over 6-8 hours for just ONE TURN! FtF play might cut down on the set-up and playing time, but with so many units that can move and fight multiple times each turn, there is just so much to do.
Overall, this is a very long, very complex, but fun game.
A nice review.
Glory is actually a derivative of GBACW rather than GBACW being an evolution of Glory.
In regard to playtime, I agree they are understated. I'd double the stated playtimes that are in the two Battle Books. This said, I have found 1st Manassas can be played within twelve hours.
Why should you rout in shock combat, but not in fire combat? Those rules could definitely be simplified.
I think the general argument is that regiments generally did not rout from fire. There were many fire fights during the ACW where units stood their ground shot each other up.
Unlike a fire attack, a shock attack is really a psychological attack as much as physical hand-to-hand combat. A unit that has been disordered (i.e., had its formation weakened) tends to take casualities and slowly fall back as it gets further shot up. However, due to the loss of confidence accompanying its weakened formation the unit is more likely to panic when shocked (i.e., charged).
Also, for me, much of the fun and attractiveness of this game system comes from its detail and its associated flavor. While I love GMT's Glory System (I am its current developer), when I have the time and space I much prefer the current GMT incarnation of GBACW.
- Last edited Fri Aug 10, 2007 4:19 am (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Fri Aug 10, 2007 4:11 am
Perhaps I am incorrect, but isn't it the case that a unit could indeed Rout from Small Arms/Artillery fire by way of losing more than half of it's strength? Once this happens, the unit advances to 'Collapsed' condition. At that point, if the collapsed unit fails a UDD, it Routs. All of this can be caused by Fire Combat in complete absence of Shock Combat, I believe. If I am wrong, please let me know.
Great Game. Great system.
One of the most enjoyable solo experiences ever had. Takes up a lot of time and space though. Very detailed and complex. But well worth it.