TITLE: Civil War Commander
AUTHOR: Jim Kopchak
PUBLISHER: Jim Kopchak
PUBLICATION DATE: 2008
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: None known
PRICE (with date): $10.00 (in 2009)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The American Civil War 1861-65
THE BOOK: Civil War Commander (CWC) is a comb bound booklet of 28 pages. Many of these are blank and some are ads for various ACW organizations. The actual rules comprise perhaps 14 printed pages. The game comes with two laminated player aid cards.
SCOPE: Civil War Commander (CWC) is a scalable set of rules in which one can play any level of game from regimental to corps-level engagements.
ARMY SIZE: CWC allows gamers to play at a variety of tactical levels. At the battalion level an army may be made up of 25-50 bases per side.
There are three scales of game in CWC. A given game may be at:
- Battalion Level: A base unit is a battalion made up of 3-5 bases
- Regiment Level: A base unit is a regiment of 3-7 bases
- Brigade Level: A base unit is a brigade of 5-9 bases
As with base unit there are three sets of scales in operation within CWC.
- Battalion Level: 1” = 50 to 75 feet, 1 turn = 6-10 minutes and an infantry base represents 33-50 men.
- Regiment Level: 1” = 75 to 100 feet, 1 turn = 15-20 minutes and an infantry base represents 75-100 men.
- Brigade Level: 1” = 100 to 150 feet, 1 turn = 30 minutes and an infantry base represents 150-200 men.
CWC is extremely flexible with basing. So long as both sides are based the same any basing may be used. The author recommends the following base sizes however:
- Infantry: 1” wide by 3/4” deep
- Cavalry: 1” x 1”
- Artillery: 3/4” x 1 1/4” deep. Crew figures mounted in 1/2” square stands.
- Motivation Phase: Players may move officers, motivate units to advance, and rally.
- Evade, Charge and Movement Phase: Players may resolve charges and move units.
- Simultaneous Fire Combat: Both players resolve artillery and small arms fire.
- Check Morale and Leader Casualties
- Melee Phase
General Note: Unfortunately CWC are one of the most disorganized set of rules I have read in a long time. They really read more like a series of crib notes for the GM rather than being a document from which you cold learn how to play. Therefore, the descriptions of the game mechanics are somewhat tentative (see Reviewer’s Comments below for more).
Motivation: Each player rolls a D10 and compares this to their commander’s rating. units that fail this test may not advance and may even rout. The player may use a commander or superior officer to rally the unit by attaching that leader. Units that pass may advance toward the enemy.
Contact Distance: Engagement range in CWC is 18”. Units must stop 18” away from the enemy on one turn and may close range on the following turn if they are successfully motivated. Units at 18” check initiative to determine who moves first.
Movement: Movement in CWC is fairly standard. As with the rest of the rules the movement section is written like a series of notes, exceptions and asides, so finding the costs of terrain and formation changes can be a challenge. There is a helpful set of diagrams on formation changes however.
Ranged Combat: All ranged fire is resolved the same way. the firing unit rolls one D10 per firing stand. Cross referencing the weapon type with the range yields the “to-hit” number. Each success causes one hit. Stands take two hits before being eliminated (though players may decide to use 3 hits per stand if they desire). there are modifiers for cover, formation, first fire etc. Firing on the flank does not give a DRM but instead allows you to re-roll misses.
Melee: Melee works much like ranged fire. Each stand rolls 2D10 (unless it has a hit in which case it rolls 1D10). A roll of 5 or less inflicts a hit. Modifiers again include cove3r, holding the high ground, etc. The winner is the unit inflicting more hits. The loser retreats and the winner then occupies the position.
The rule book includes two scenarios from Antietam. The first is of a Union attack designed to seize important terrain on the north end of the battlefield including the North and East woods and two cornfields. The second focuses in just the cornfield and west woods.
The rules provide some general guidance for rating units and officers but include no specific army lists. There is a short list of sources for scenario information from other publishers.
I am always hesitant to be critical of a set of rules I have not played. That is why these 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. Here are some sample paragraphs:
SO Ld#’s of +2 may try to rally 2 units if unit it is with has a unit within 2”(split Ld#). If +3, may rally 3 in 3” of unit. SO checks for hits for very unit fired upon it tried to rally.
To React Move: Declare Reaction MOVE as the enemy starts or begins to move in 45o LOS. Move 3” for every 4 1/2” the foe moves. Units may React Fire 1st on units react moving on them. If not, alternate moves & fire normal. Evading is also a reaction move.
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.
There is a sample game in the beginning of the book but frankly I found the examples of play just as hard to digest.
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.
So I would strongly caution anyone considering purchasing these rules unless you have played the game at a convention or with another player. If you just try to use them fresh out of the envelope, so to speak, you will be spending half your time just figuring out what the heck the rules are.
If you care to send me your comments I’ll add them to this page.