TITLE: Brother Against Brother: American Civil War Small Action Rules
AUTHOR: Ivor Janci
PUBLISHER: H. G. Walls
PUBLICATION DATE: 1997
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $20.00 (in 2011)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The American Civil War 1861-65.
Brother Against Brother (BAB) is a very nice looking paperback booklet. The booklet runs a total of 48 pages. The main rules take up 20 pages. The remainder of the book includes a variant for the French & Indian War, a starter scenario, a few pages of ads, and some optional rules. Also included are two sheets of laminated cards that will need to be cut carefully apart.
SCOPE: BAB is aimed at small unit actions.
ARMY SIZE: Given the scale of the game, players will get a satisfactory game from as few as 20 figures.
BASE UNIT: The unit in BAB is a ten-man unit called a squad, under the command of an NCO/sergeant. A company consists of 3-6 squads with a company commander.
- Ground Scale: 1”= approx. 5 yards
- Time scale 1 turn = 3-5 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1 figure = 1 or 2 actual soldiers
- Recommended Figure Size: 25mm but conversion for 15mm and other scales is covered.
- Table Size: Not stated though most scenarios call for larger sized tables (6x10).
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in 2-3 hours
Bases play no part in the rule - basing is strictly for utility/aesthetics. The book includes a chapter on organizing and basing . You will need to be able to identify the squad leader some how, and keep units from getting intermingled.
Instead of a strict set of phases, action is determined by pulling cards. Each squad is assigned a corresponding playing card. Cards are then drawn two at a time. When a squad’s card is drawn, each figure in the squad may perform an action. They do not need to all perform the same action. Some may move, some may fire and some may load, for example. The turn ends when the last card is drawn.
Command Rules: BAB uses a straight forward command radius. All members of squad must remain within 6” of the squad leader. Squads, in turn, must keep their leader within 6” of the company commander. Squads that are out of command may only Load, Fire or fall back to cover if fired upon. Out of command figures cannot charge the enemy and suffer penalties in melee and morale.
Actions: When activated, each figure in a squad may perform one action. The allowable actions are Move, Load, Shoot and Charge.
Movement: Like much of the game movement is unpredictable. When a squad moves 2D10 are rolled. This is the distance, in inches, the squad may move. Squad movement is based around the squad leader. Simply move the squad leader as desired, up to the number of inches rolled on the dice. All of the privates are then placed anywhere within 6” of the squad leader. Keep in mind that not all figures in a squad need to perform the same action - this will allow for some sophisticated cover fire type movement.
Fire Combat: In keeping with the streamlined design philosophy, fire combat uses a simple mechanic. Each firing figure rolls a D10. The score needed to get a hit is determined by the range (close or effective) and the target’s cover (Open, Soft Cover, Hard Cover). Fire is squad against squad not individual figures. Mark each firing figure - these figures will need to take a reload action before they can fire again (Exception: breechloaders and repeaters may fire every turn). Each hit scored on the enemy removes one target figure from play (the author recommends having casualty figures for a more realistic looking battlefield).
Melee: A Melee in BAB can only result from a charge, and a charge can only be carried out by a squad within 6” of the company commander. Charging squads must attempt to contact the enemy. Melee results if the figures are in base-to-base contact (note that a charge may “fall short” if the movement dice rolled are insufficient to get all the way to contact). Charging units must make a morale check to drive the charge home. If the charge results in contact the defender then takes a morale check. Assuming both squads pass melee is resolved.
Melee is resolved figure by figure. If one side has more figures he may “double Up” on an opposing figure. Each figure rolls a D10. The high roller eliminates one enemy figure. A tie means those figures continue to melee in the ensuing action phases. The die rolls have a few modifiers for terrain, charge bonus, out of command, etc.
Morale: BAB uses a deck of custom cards for morale checks. Any time a squad must take a check, a card is drawn from the morale deck. In general to check morale, you roll a D10, subtract the number of remaining figures and if the result is 0 or less you pass. Morale cards may call for a squad to subtract 1/2 the number of figures instead. If the squad passes nothing further happens. If it fails, a number of figures equal to the result Skeedaddle (are removed from the table). For example: a squad with 6 figures remaining must check morale. The D10 is rolled scoring a 9. The net result is 9-6=3. This is a fail. Three figures will Skeedaddle!
In addition, squad leaders can only become casualties if the “Thwack!” card is drawn from the morale deck. This results in the leader being removed and the squad performing a morale check. The same applies to company commanders.
Cavalry: Rules for cavalry follow the same basic mechanisms. Movement is 3D10 and mounting/dismounting counts as an action. When dismounted one figure in 5 must be detailed as a horse holder. Firing at mounted cavalry gives a 50/50 chance that the hit kills the horse instead of the rider.
Artillery: Artillery is represented sections of two guns and 10 crew. A section is considered a squad for activation purposes. Artillery must limber/unlimber to move. Limbered artillery moves the usual 2D10. A gun may be prolonged up to 1D10.
Guns may fire shot or canister. When a gun is loaded it is marked to show the type of ammunition it is loaded with. When firing shot they target a specific enemy figure. Fire is resolved as normal except that on a die roll of 0 it bounces and may affect another figure. Canister is an area affect weapon. A D10 is rolled for every figure under the “swath.” Canister can be quite devastating. At close range teh swath for each gun is 2x3” and they hit on a 0-5 in open ground. Bear in mind there are no saving throws in BAB - one hit always equals one casualty!
Fifes and Drums: This appendix includes some suggested rules for adapting the rules to other periods including Pontiac’s Rebellion, the Seminole Wars, the Mexican American War, etc. These rules introduce varying levels of morale and firing ability based on troop type. This allows you to pit a formed Grenadier unit against the irregular fighters of a country militia or Indian war party. Also included are short weapon lists for these eras. Optional rules addressing ambushes, forts and boats are included as well.
Optional Rules: BAB includes brief optional rules for:
- Troop Quality
- Hold Fire
- Reaction Fire
- Volley Fire
- Event Cards
- Leader Personalities and Special Traits
The rule book includes several scenarios to help players get into the game. First Blood pits two equal forces - ten squads and three officers each - in a fight for forage. The second scenario Camp Raid features a Union assault on a Rebel cam to destroy supply caches.
Also included is a scenario for the French & Indian Wars called “Under Siege” in which a British force needs rescuing by the stalwart rangers!
A new supplement of scenarios called Brothers Divided has just been published (March 2009). It features small actions from the Gettysburg campaign. Future scenario books are planned for other campaigns and theaters.
Brother Against Brother are a good, simple set of skirmish rules for the “horse and musket” period. The book is very well laid out with a summary box at the end of each chapter containing all the key points. The writing is good so you get to the end of each section really feeling you know how to “do that.”
I have only played BAB once - it was a variant for the Plains Indian Wars. I thought it was a very fun and adaptable set of rules. Most of the players were new to the rules but picked it up in just a few minutes. While I have heard critics say they do not reflect actual Civil War combat, I think that somewhat unfair. Certainly this rule set would not do well for a battle involving complete regiments fighting in line formation. But they are not designed for that scale battle in any case.
I would especially recommend these rules as a great way to introduce kids to the hobby. They are fast, furious, and even a 10 year old will be able to run his own company after just a turn or two.
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