TITLE: Across A Deadly Field: Regimental Rules for Large Civil War Battles
AUTHOR: John Hill
PUBLISHER: Osprey Publishing
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
None listed. There is a Yahoo group for the author’s Johnny Reb rules. The author just recently passed away.
The author’s daughter, Stephanie Hill, has published a tribute web site dedicated to her father. You can visit it here.
PRICE: $39.95 (in 2014)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The American Civil War
Across A Deadly Field (AADF) is another of the very attractive hard bound rule books from Osprey Publishing. The book is 144 pages long, and in full color thoughout. The rules take up the first 92 pages, with the remainder of the book being devoted to a points system, scenarios, rules summaries and charts. The usual Osprey artwork is featured throughout, and the book is lavishly illustrated with diagrams and examples.
As with Johnny Reb III, the rules are organized by troop type (Infantry, then Artillery, then Cavalry). While the mechanisms for all three are essentially the same, each section describes how they apply specifically to that troop type. Thus formation change for infantry is in the infantry section while limbering is covered in the artillery chapters, and dismounting in the cavalry chapters.
AADF is attempting to fill a specific niche in the wargaming market: providing a set of rules using regiments as the maneuver elements, but with a scale to allow the playing of complete battles, like Shiloh, Cedar Creek and Antietam.
AADf uses a fixed 1:60 figure ratio. Accordingly armies will require several hundred figures per side.
While the maneuver element is the individual regiment, it is really the birgade that serves as the base unit.
- Ground Scale: AADF uses three ground scales keyed to the size of figures being used. With small figures 10mm or under, 1” equals 100-120 yards. With 15-20mm figures the ground scale is 80-100 yards. And with 25mm figures and larger, it is 60 to 80 yards.
- Time scale 1 turn = 30 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1:60
- Recommended Figure Size: None. Separate charts are provided for each ground scale
- Table Size: None listed.
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in one evening.
AADF has no specific basing requirements, other than requiring units to adhere to the given figure ratio of 1 figure = 60 men. Regiments are expected to be of 2 stands, though accommodations may be made if using regiments with more than two stands.
Casualties in AADF are by individual figure, and may be marked with a pipe cleaner or casualty caps. Stands are removed when all their constituent figures have become casualties.
AADF uses an I-GO-U-GO turn with limited reactions by the inactive player. Who moves first is determined by the scenario and players alternate thereafter throughout the game.
There is no “turn sequence” in the usual sense. All game activity is in “Actions.” During a turn the active player may move his units. Unattached leaders move first. Each unit gets two actions (move, change formation, charge, etc.). Units may be moved in groups with restrictions. One unit must conduct all its actions before moving on to the next. Firing, rallying, close combat etc. are all a function of actions - they are not split up in to separate phases. The sequence in which players take actions is thus very important.
AADF is clearly an adaptation of the author’s Johnny Reb rules set, so many mechanisms will have a similar feel to that rules set.
Units (or groups) may perform two actions, one after the other. The allowable actions are:
- Movement: Movement allowance for units is determined by the type of unit and its current formation. For example infantry in line may move 6” through open terrain.
- Disengage: A unit moves away from the enemy, but suffers degraded morale as a result. Fire at a disengaging unit is at a disadvantage (minus one die, see below).
- Change Formation: Good units spend half an action to change formation, green units need a full action.
- Charge: Charging units gain additional movement determined by a die roll, but may be disordered as a result. The goal of a charge is to enter into close combat with an enemy unit. Close Combat is fought immediately and results carried out.
- Ranged Fire: The unit may fire at the enemy. Results are applied immediately.
- Rally/Reform: A unit may spend an action to reform and rally, recovering from rout and/or disorder.
Groups: Units may be combined to form groups allowing them to perform actions together. They must be adjacent and in the same formation and must perform the same actions. However, results are still carried out individually. For example, you may charge with a group of 3 regiments. However, reaction fire may cause one to disorder and fail to close while the other two charge home.
Fire combat in AADF uses a similar mechanism to Johnny Reb. First determine the firing unit’s Firepower Points. This is based on how many figures are firing and how they are armed. After consulting the Infantry Firepower Points chart the range is determined. Units roll three dice at short range, two at normal range and one at long range. Add the results to the unit’s Firepower Points.This result is then modified for terrain, formation, enfilade fire, etc. However, regardless of how many modifiers apply, ly two positive and two negative modifiers apply to a single combat. The final result is cross indexed on the Fire Combat Results Table and the results applied immediately.
Fire combat results include Morale Checks or casualties. Artillery, infantry and cavalry all fire in the exact same way.
If using a Group action, up to 16 figures may combine their fire together.
Close Combat is the result of a Charge action (only). The Active player declares the charge, and rolls to see how much extra movement the charge grants. If the unit Depending on the distance moved and the quality of the charging unit, it may go into disorder during the charge. Reaction Fire is taken now (if any) by the defender and results applied. If the fire stops the Charging unit the charge is over and no close combat occurs.
If the charge goes home, the defender makes a morale check. Assuming the defender passes each side calculates its Final Impact Value (FIV). The FIV is the number of figures in the unit, plus the roll of 2D6, plus/minus any modifiers. Modifiers include formation, terrain, morale status, etc. Compare the two results and calculate the difference. The side with the higher FIV has won the close combat. Depending on the difference the loser falls back and suffers one or more casualties.
If the FIV are equal an actual melee takes place. Melee is a simultaneous fire combat but using 5D6 for each side and limited modifiers.
All units are rated either Green, Trained, Veteran or Elite. Each rating has an associated Basic Morale Point (BMP). To take a morale check roll 2D6 and roll equal to or higher than your modified BMP. Modifiers to the BMP include leader bonuses, having support units, works, etc. Only at most two positive and two negative modifiers are applied when checking morale. A unit may move up or down up to 2 morale levels, depending on the result (the more you pass/fail by, the more extreme the result).
In addition, units may be in disorder. Units suffer disorder for a number of reasons such as interpenetration, charging, taking casualties, etc. To recover from disorder a unit simply spends an action doing so: morale checks do not apply to disorder.
During your opponents turn each of your own units has a limited ability to react to the enemy. If an enemy unit is to your front and in close proximity, your unit may react with a single action, such as changing facing, firing, counter-chaging etc. A unit gets only one reaction per turn, so choosing when to react is an important. For example if an enemy battery unlimbers and you fire at it, you will not later be able to fire at the infantry unit that moves up on your left!
There are other sections in the book including rules for Sharpshooters/Snipers, Lancers, Forming Sqaure, and more that are included, but as they are rarely used I have not detailed them here.
The rule book includes a points system for pick-up and tournament games. Also included is a small starter scenario dealing with a portion of Gettysburg on July 1. Also included is a mini-campaign for the Mine Run Campaign of 1863.
The book itself is quite pretty but unfortunately the layout and organization leaves a lot to be desired. Splitting up the rules by unit type might seem sensible, but makes for a lot of practical issues. For example, enfilade fire is introduced in the Infantry section of the rules but is not defined until the artillery section. Works are covered int the chapters on Engineers.
Secondly the attempt to accommodate three different ground scales yields an unwieldy book. Every chart has to be presented three times, and the rules can be hard to read: “up to 3” in 10mm scale, or 4” in 15mm scale or 6” in 25mm scale.” Many other authors have confronted this issue and developed a much more elegant solution namely, the Base Width. By using the BW as a measure you eliminate the need for all this repetition.
The basing requirements are also unusual. With a varying number of figures per stand, Johnny Reb players will have no problem, but most gamers have units comprised of an equal number of figure per stand. They will need to use a roster or other strength tracking system, unless they want to rebase.
Finally, the terrain rules are very vague. You can pro-rate terrain costs, average them, and many are dependent on judgment. This means players will need to agree beforehand on how they will handle these issues. Not a major deal for most gamers, but as the game includes a points system, it may be a problem in a competitive tournament setting.
I had the good luck to see John Hill speak about these rules a few years back. At the time they were described as an adaptation of Johnny Reb to a grand tactical ground scale. The lineage of AADF and the debts it owe to the Johnny Reb rules (especially JRIII) are clear. Whether they succeed I leave to others to judge.