TITLE: A Firebell In the Night: Brigade Level Miniature Rules for the American Civil War
AUTHOR: Tod Kershner, Dale Wood and John Simmons
PUBLISHER: On Military Matters
PUBLICATION DATE: 2012
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $34.00 (in 2015)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The American Civil War
A Firebell In the Night (AFIN) is a 54 page paperback. It is full color throughout. Accompanying the book is a player aid card and 5 cardstock pages of ”Crisis” cards that are to be cut apart and used during play. Stapled into the center is an additional 12-page scenario with rosters.
The rules themselves run 31 pages, while the rest of the book is comprised of a blank roster for copying, a terrain summary chart, and an extensive list of leader ratings for players to use in developing their own scenarios. There is no index but there is a detailed table of contents.
AFIB is designed to recreate battles of the American Civil War with units representing brigades.
ARMY SIZE: Each unit is generally 4-6 bases, and scenarios will most likely require 15-25 brigades per side. The number of figure per base is not important to game play, but it would be expected to require perhaps 400-500 figures (in 15mm) per side, not including batteries and leaders. Armies also require supply wagon models for each division.
- Units represent brigades of infantry and cavalry, and batteries of artillery.
- Ground Scale: 1”= 100 yards
- Time scale 1 turn = 20 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry base = 300 men
- Recommended Figure Size: Any
- Table Size: Any
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in one evening
There are no specified base requirements. In general when using 15mm figures the authors recommend bases 1” wide. For larger figures bases 1.5” wide are recommended. Throughout the rules all measurements are provided for games using both base sizes.
- The Admin Phase: Units are rallied, new leaders diced for, and resupply attempts take place.
- Action Phase: Command and control is checked and initiative diced for. First player’s assaults are declared and carried out. After assaults all remaining units are moved. The second player now repeats these steps.
- Simultaneous Artillery Fire
- Resolve morale checks caused by artillery fire.
- Simultaneous combat (melee and firing are resolved together).
- Morale checks caused by combat are resolved.
- Recovery Phase: Eligible units may recover “e-factors” (see below).
The Roster System:
Key to many of the rules is the dual-axis roster system. Each brigade in the game has two roster tracks. The first is Strength, which is the unit’s combat strength. This is given by the scenario and gets degraded as it takes casualties. The second are “E-factors” which represent all of the temporary factors that reduce a unit’s effectiveness. These include fatigue, stress, disorder etc. In general you subtract the E-factors from the unit’s remaining strength points to get the unit’s current effectiveness level.
However, while strength point losses are permanent, units may rest and reduce the number of E-factors they have. To recover units may not move or engage in combat, etc. If eligible they recover 1D6 worth of E-points. The rosters are also used to track a unit’s ammunition supply status.
Command and Control:
AFIB uses a basic “command radius” system. A division commander’s radius is based on his rating. Units must remain within his command radius or suffer movement restrictions as well as reduced morale. Corps commanders act to extend their subordinates’ command radius, as well as being able to deploy artillery, rally units, etc. Units out of command may not conduct assaults.
Units may conduct one of several kinds of moves, each with their own advantages and limitations:
- Approach Move: Units on an approach move may not change facing or formation and can only move straight ahead. They may also conduct Double Quick Movement.
- Redeployment Move: A unit may redeploy, changing facing, formation and location but only within an area up to 1/2 of the unit’s movement allowance.
- Double Quick Move: Eligible units may move an additional 1D6” at the cost of incurring one E-factor.
- Assault Moves: Units wishing to engage in melee (base to base contact) use an Assault move to do so (they may also do so with a Double Quick). Units must be in Command and Control to attempt an assault, and must pass a morale check to close with the enemy.
- Road Move: Open to units in march column/limbered formation. Such movement is faster but restricted to movement along roads only.
- Big Skedaddle: A unit may voluntarily rout, following the normal rules for a routed unit, but without having to subsequently rally.
Terrain has various effects on different units. In addition to increased movement costs, certain terrain also causes units moving through/across it to suffer E-factor increases as well. In some cases commanders may opt for speed at the cost of additional E-factors.
Skirmishers: Skirmishing is treated abstractly in AFIB. Units are understood to have a skirmish zone that extends out 3” to their front. No figures are deployed on the table. It is assumed they spread out when needed, and are recalled or driven back without the player having to be involved. Extremely long range fire is assumed to be skirmish fire only, and the combat charts reflect this.
Both small arms and artillery fire are conducted similarly. You start with the unit’s Basic Fire Factor which is simply Strength minus any E-factors. This Basic Fire Factor is then modified for target type, cover, formation, ammo status, etc. This yields a final fire factor. For every 20 points of Fire Factor, one hit is inflicted. Then a D20 is rolled. If the result is equal to or less than this “remainder” one additional hit is inflicted.
In addition, if the die roll is odd, a Crisis card is drawn and any results applied to the target. Cards may cause leaders to be killed or unhorsed, units to retreat, or suffer other random effects (not all are negative).
Finally the die roll also serves as an Ammunition check. If the roll is between 1 and 5 the firing unit drops one supply level.
Units must check morale for a number of reasons. The basic check is similar to the mechanism used for firing. Subtract the E-factors from the unit’s strength, and modify according to the Morale Table for leaders, troop type, being flanked, low ammo etc. A D20 is then rolled. If it is less than or equalt to teh final factor the unit has passed. If the die roll is higher, the unit has failed.
Effects of failing vary depending on how much the unit missed by. If a unit misses by 1, it picks up an additional E-factor and retreats 1”. If it misses by 5 it routs, and suffers both additional E-factors as well as strength point losses.
There are four supply levels in AFIB: Full, Adequate, Low and None. As units use up their ammo they fire less and less effectively. This is reflected by modifiers to their Fire Factor. Units may resupply by being pulled out of line and moving to within 4” (touching for artillery) of their supply wagon. Once within 4” they may dice for resupply (roll 10+ on a D20).
The rule book includes one scenario - Seven Pines - as well as extensive leader ratings. The map for the scenario is hexed (for no reason I can detect) and the table scale is not very obvious (it’s in the upper right corner but hard to see).
Overall this seems like an interesting set of rules, and I hope to play a game soon. There are a number of layout issues with the rules that I think could have been much improved. First, none of the tables needed to play the game are in the rulebook. They are only on the Player Aid Sheet. So if you lose that sheet the rules are useless. Secondly, the overall layout seems clumsy. The scenario is in the middle of the book meaning you have to flip past or around it quite a bit (I’m sure this was done to control costs as these pages are in color). And the rules themselves are written in long paragraphs with few headers and no index. So finding what you need can be a bit trying. Diagrams, for example, are often not on the page where they are discussed (but they are labeled clearly). In many cases they are on prior pages to the rule they illustrate.
I think the E-factors idea is quite good, and will probably steal it for some other rules sets I use!