TITLE: Johnny Reb III
AUTHOR: John Hill
PUBLISHER: Battlefield Terrain Concepts
PUBLICATION DATE: 1990
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $24.00 (in 2009)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: The American Civil War
Johnny Reb III is a staple-bound 96 page booklet. Included with the rules are four identical reference cards and a sheet of die-cut counters used to indicate unit orders, morale status, etc. Of the 96 pages, the final 24 are advertising. There are no scenarios or army lists included in the rules, but they are available separately.
SCOPE: JR3 is a tactical game of the American Civil War.
ARMY SIZE: JR3 is designed for larger battles so requires a substantial number of figures. Typical scenarios will require several hundred figures per side.
BASE UNIT: The base is the infantry or cavalry regiment.
- Ground Scale: 1” = 50 yards
- Time scale 1 turn = 20 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry figure = 30 men
- Recommended Figure Size: 15mm but conversion for 25mm and other scales is covered.
- Table Size: Generally at least 4x6, but 6x10 is preferred
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in 3-5 hours.
- Infantry: 7/8” by 3/4 deep”
- Cavalry: 1” by 1 1/2” deep
- Artillery: 1” squares
Each turn consist of nine phases:
- Mark Orders: Each regiment, battery or battalion will be given an order in each turn. Orders allow units to move, disengage, change formation, charge, etc. Orders are marked with die-cut counters (included).
- Routs, Rallies & Replacements: First, routed units are moved. Then all rally attempts are made. Finally, replacement ammunition, horses and leaders are rolled for.
- Reveal Orders: Both players simultaneously reveal all their orders. Players may immediately change some orders to a hold-type order.
- Resolve First Fires: Units given the appropriate order may now fire.
- Move Disengaging Units
- Resolve Charges: To quote the rules ”the Charge Sequence is a self-contained mini-turn, [so] its resolution is probably the most complex part of Johnny Reb III.” (p.41) See notes on charges below.
- Normal Movement
- Resolve Moving Fires
- Resolve Officer Casualties
With the exception of charges, Johnny Reb III’s core mechanics are complex versions of other well known mechanics. Fire combat, for example, is resolved cross indexing the dice with firing strength. However, the number of dice rolled varies, and there are a large number of modifiers both to the die roll and to the number of dice thrown.
The Orders System:
At the beginning of each turn an order chit is placed behind each unit. Which order a unit has been given obviously governs where and how far a unit may move, and how effectively it fires.
Fire Combat: Both artillery fire and infantry fire are resolved in the same way. One counts the number of figures firing and cross index this with the roll of one or more dice. For example, units with Hold orders throw 3 dice. Dice are added or subtracted for morale, range, number of previous volleys in the phase, etc. There are also modifiers to the dice roll itself, for enfilades, works, green troops, terrain, etc. There are also rules for penetration - basically, units behind the target may also take casualties. While there are a lot of modifiers, I suspect they would quickly become memorized. In any case, they are summarized on the player aid cards included.
There are additional rules which cover skirmishers, sharpshooters, ammunition, etc.
Charges: Charges are a major part of Johnny Reb II, and are both subtle and complex. The rules for the Resolve Charges phase of the game turn takes 9 full pages to explain! That said, however, the rules seem (to the untrained eye) pretty comprehensive. There are two types of charges - coordinated and (obviously) uncoordinated. While complex in the execution, this really does call out the difference between two regiments attacking as a single unit, as opposed to two piece-meal attacks by two separate units. Not all 2:1 odds are created equal!
Briefly (and possibly inexactly) charging units reveal their targets. Attacking units then suffer disorder (based on a variety of factors). Defenders take defensive fire and possibly counter-charges. Both players then Dice Down for Impact. Essentially each charge includes three sources of combat results: defensive fire and counter-charges; impact; and melee. After defensive fire impact is just that - does either side throw the other back? If the attacker throws the defender back, and has enough movement to remain in contact melee follows, otherwise each side makes an end-of-charge volley.
Command-And-Control: The C-n-C rules are orders oriented. Each turn, every unit is given an order. Units may be too far from their commander to receive orders, in which case they may not advance or charge. Other conditions, such as losses or shaken morale, may prohibit the issuing of certain orders to certain units.
Morale: In JR3 each unit has a basic morale. Over time this may be eroded, due to casualties, cover, leadership etc. Essentially as morale erodes, the unit becomes less and less effective. This is simulated through Tactical Competence. In essence, for a variety of actions, units must check their morale. Morale checks are fairly simple: on two dice, roll higher than your modified morale to pass. If they fail the morale check they do not fully complete the action as intended. A raw 2is an instant rout and a raw 12 is an instant rally.
Of course, units also check morale for other reasons, such as their first casualty; for every stand removed; if a visible unit within 6” routs, etc.
The rule book includes one scenario - Waterloo - as well as army lists for several major nations. There are no lists for Spain.
Also included is a short appendix adapting the rules for the Seven Years War, including rules changes and army lists.
There’s no nice way to say this: the organization and layout of the rules is just dreadful. The breakdown by most common use is just not a good way to organize a rules book - save that for the player aids. Each section begins with the major charts for that section. However, most of what is on the chart remains unexplained. For example, at the start of the Infantry Section we are shown a chart about Formations & Movement (page 5). A note explains that one column gives a value used in “Impact Dice Down.” This is not defined on this page. Nor does it tell you where it is defined. Checking the index, we see it listed on quite a few pages. The first definition of Impact Dice Down is found in a chart on page 37 in the section on Sequence of Play. Worse still page 37 is not one of the pages identified in the index. It turns out this is explained fully in Step Four of Charge Resolution, on page 49.Â I assume you can imagine how frustrating reading a rules book like this might be. Finally Impact Dice Down is also called ”Dice Down for Impact.” I could cite plenty more examples, but you get the point.
I think this strange method of organizing the rules also affected the quality of the writing. Many of the “rules” section feel like lists of modifiers and exceptions to rules. For example, consider infantry movement. On page 8 the complete ”General Movement Rules” appear as a bulleted list:
- Formed veterans and elite can combine movement with a formation change.
- Any wheel movements are done at the beginning or end of a move, and cannot be combined with a charge.
- Any charge in rough terrain is done totally in disorder.
- Veteran and elite units, when charging, go into disorder at halfway through the charge bonus.
- Green troops, when charging, go into disorder at halfway through the total charge distance.
- In OPEN terrain, crossing fences and walls cost two inches per obstacle, or do the whole move as if the unit was moving in BROKEN terrain. If moving in WOODS or ROUGH a fence does not subtract further movement.
That is the complete list. Granted there are further movement rules in the sequence of play section. But where are the rules? Of these 6 bullets, two refer only to charges (shouldn’t that be in the Resolve Charges section?). What if, of my four stands, only one goes in the woods? Do all stands have to pay the penalty? Can I save movement from turn to turn? Can a regiment give its movement to another? I know, obvious enough to experienced gamers, but I don’t think any set of professionally published rules should exclude such basic material.
I have played JR3 perhaps half a dozen times. In each case I played with an experienced game master who was able to quickly resolve questions etc. While I think it gives a good game I had two issues with it, that prevent me from adopting it as my own tactical rule set. First, it requires a lot of markers, order chits, etc. that seriously detract from the aesthetics of the game for me. I have thought of using a roster but each unit requires several pieces of information. Second, the charge rules were complicated enough that I never felt even slightly at ease with them. I just applied what i hoped were sound tactics and hoped for the best.