TITLE: John Hill’s Johnny Reb: Miniatures Rules for the War Between the States, Second Edition (1988) aka JR2
AUTHOR: John Hill
PUBLISHER: GDW, PO Box 1646 Bloomington, IL 61702-1646
PUBLICATION DATE: 1988
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
- · http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/jriii/ The Yahoo! Group is primarily aimed at JR3 but there are many members familiar with JR2 as well. The scenarios provided there and game photos can be easily used with JR2 without much if any modification.
- · http://scottmingus.wordpress.com/about/ The Johnny Reb Gaming Society similarly is primarily focused on JR3 but again offers many resources that can be used interchangeably between JR2 and JR3. The JR Gaming Society publishes Charge! a gaming magazine focused on refighting the American Civil War using Johnny Reb.
- PRICE: $24 (1995 to present) though now harder to locate one can find copies (new from the owner) and used (from fellow enthusiasts) for roughly the same cost.
REVIEWED BY: ~The Bandit of Falcon Technologies
PERIOD COVERED: American Civil War land battles, 1861-1865
Contained in a paperback book with a magazine style binding that counts 59 pages cover to cover are the black & white rules, with accurate illustrations included throughout as necessary. The book ships in a box set including perhaps four sets of the Beginner’s Rules and charts for game play coupled with a scenario booklet. Also included are 300 order markers. The included scenario book includes six battles ranging from two regiments per side to a multi-division engagement. Each scenario includes historical relevance and circumstance to frame it along with an order of battle for each side and a excellent, scaled wargame map.
The rules are tactical in their scope, beginners will enjoy the included scenarios where they command a pair of regiments while it will take quite extremely experienced players to tackle the large divisional engagements.
In an average game a player is likely to command a brigade of perhaps 60-100 figures divided into several regiments, typically 3-5, perhaps supported by some artillery. Advanced players may choose to run whole divisions. A large force is not typically going to exceed 500 figures.
Players typically command a brigade of 3-5 infantry or cavalry regiments often supported by 1-3 stands of artillery representing a battery. The regiment is the basic unit of maneuver and is made up of 10-25 figures always in 5 stands.
List the game scales, especially:
- Ground scale (1” = 40 yards)
- Time scale (1 turn = 15 minutes)
- Figure/Base Ratio (1 figure = 20 men)
- Recommended Figure size (15mm but 10mm and 25mm conversion guidelines provided)
- Table Size: Ranges based on scenario, 4x6’ is entirely adequate for many battles, small scenarios go as low as 2x3’ and large ones as high as 6x10’.
- Game Length: One might estimate an average game between four players, each commanding a brigade to run for approximately 4 hours. Smaller games can be done in significantly less time.
The recommended basing scheme is as follows, specific sizes for larger and smaller infantry regiments are included but the most typical are listed here:
- Infantry: 3 figures per stand 3/4 x 3/4”, 4 figs 7/8 x 7/8”, 5 figs 1 x 7/8”
- Cavalry: 1 x 2”
- Artillery: 7/8 x 1”
- Limber: 7/8 x 2 5/8”
- · Phase 1) Mark Orders: Players issue order markers (face down) to individual regiments or whole brigades.
- · Phase 2) Routs & Rallies: Assess morale for any units shaken or routed.
- · Phase 3) Reveal Orders: Players reveal the orders they issued.
- · Phase 4) First Fires: Units marked first fire immediately conduct fire combat.
- · Phase 5) Charges: All units marked charge do so.
- · Phase 6) Movement: All units marked to move do so, all formation changes take place.
- · Phase 7) Moving Fires: All units that have not fired yet this turn may do so.
- · Phase 8) Office Casualties: Players roll for any officers possibly wounded in combat.
Nearly all die rolls are performed with 1-2 six-sided dice.
For fire combat, ranges are determined based on a table stating weapon type (rifle-musket, smoothbore musket, etc.). Players then take the number of figures firing (or strength of an artillery battery) and consult the Combat Results Table applying any applicable conditions from the Small Arms Fire Modifiers (or alternatively Artillery Fire Modifiers). The target unit may receive saving rolls based on their condition.
Charges are a contest of wills, each side computing their respective morale and adding a die roll hoping to best their opponent. Actual hand-to-hand combat is broken off from charges and conducted as a separate mêlée action, a possible outcome of a charge. Mêlées are conducted similarly to fire combat but there are no saving rolls and an alternate table is used for modifiers.
Morale checks occur when a unit takes its first losses, any artillery losses, witnesses various scary events, or takes large amounts of losses. Each unit has a Basic Morale Value and seeks to roll higher than this amount to pass a morale check, the value is modified by their losses and present condition.
Describe how armies/forces are put together, and how a game is set up. Also, are army lists or scenarios included? Are there supplements to buy (e.g. the rules include 8 army lists, others available separately). Is there a points system? Are TO&E’s included? If there are numerous scenarios or army lists included list them. If there are too many you can summarize like this:
Army lists included for each of the scenarios listed below giving unit strengths, quality level, armament and officers along with any benefit they provide.
Scenarios Included (listed in order of difficulty):
- · Front Royal, VA, June 23, 1862 – Small Union infantry garrison attacked by a larger mixed arms Confederate force, 2x3.5’ table.
- · Corydon, IN, July 9, 1863 – Small Union infantry force attacked by small Confederate cavalry force, 2x3’ table.
- · Hoover’s Gap, TN, June 24, 1863 – Union brigade attacked by two Confederate brigades reinforced with cavalry and artillery, 4x4’ table.
- · Chickamauga, GA, Sept. 19, 1863 – Union division attacked by a larger Confederate division, 4x7’ table.
- · Pitzer’s Run, PA, July 2, 1863 – Small Union force skirmishes with small Confederate force, hidden movement required, 2x2’ table.
- · East of Chancellorsville, VA, May 4, 1863 – Small Union corps attacked by two Confederate divisions, hidden movement required, 5x9’ table.
- An additional scenario book was originally available for sale, To the Sound of the Guns.
- · Williamsburg, VA, May 5, 1862 – Strong Union brigade (possibly a second) defends against two Confederate brigades, hidden movement required, 4x6’ table.
- · Vicksburg, MI, May 19, 1863 – Union corps attacks Confederate division, requires hidden movement and fortifications, 4x6’ table.
- · Assault on Vicksburg, MI, May 22, 1863 – Union corps attacks Rebel div., requires hidden movement & fortifications, 4x6’ table.
- · Vicksburg Combined Scenario – Run one following the other.
- · Stephenson’s Depot, VA, June 15, 1863 – Large, green, mixed arms Union division attacked by a small, elite Rebel division, 4x5’ table.
- · Dawn at Chickamauga, GA, Sept. 19, 1863 – Small Union corps attacked by two small Confederate corps, 5x8’ table.
- · Brice’s Crossroads, MI, June 10, 1864 – Mixed Union corps attacked by Rebel cavalry corps, requires hidden movement, 4x7’ table.
- · Trevilian Station, VA, June 11, 1864 – Elite Union cavalry brigade attacked by small Confederate cavalry division, 3x5’ table.
- · Lynchburg, VA, June 18, 1864 – Union division attacked by two small Confederate divisions, 4x8’ table.
- · Cool Springs, VA, July 18, 1864 – Small Union corps attacked by Confederate division, 4x6’ table.
- · Castleman’s Ferry, VA, July 18, 1864 – Two drastically understrength Union corps attack a Confederate division, 4x6’ table.
- · Snicker’s Gap Combined Scenario – Run both simultaneously with maps adjacent, requires a 4x12’ table.
- · Pegram’s Farm, VA, Sept. 30, 1864 – Reinforced Union corps attacked by large, mixed arms Confederate division, 4x8’ table.
- · Spring Hill, TN, Nov. 29, 1864 – Mixed arms Union corps attacked by Small mixed arms Rebel corps, requires hidden movement, 4x7’ table.
- · Farmville Road, VA, April 7, 1865 – Union cavalry division attacks mixed arms Confederate division, 4x6’ table.
The rules read clearly and there are strong written and graphical examples given to support and explain concepts. The table of contents is based on the phasing of the turn sequence and supported by an index. While the logical outline following the turn sequence helps the reader follow the flow and understand the phasing, it can be difficult to use as a reference as various parts of a given concept may naturally be spread out should different parts be most likely to occur in separate phases. For this the index may not be perfect but is perhaps the player’s best tool and is perfectly workable. Conceptually the rules for turn sequence, fire & mêlée combat, moving & formation changes and morale tests are rather straight forward to be understood from reading. Charge combat is perhaps the most complicated and will likely require visualization beyond simple reading to understand.
The Johnny Reb series is said to be the most popular Civil War rules set ever, true or not, chances are you’ve met someone who has played one version or another if you have not yourself. This, the second edition, has far more in common with the original release than the third edition which sought to reduce overhead and streamline game play.
Thanks largely to the clearly defined turn phases and the order marking system new players are likely to pickup the general concepts quickly and be able to keep pace. As with many rules sets the charts are a stumbling block. In JR2 the primary tripping point is actually the page layout of the charts in that charts were organized to fit well on the pages, not to be easily referenced, thus many related charts are flung far apart from each other. The charts are numbered for reference but this is not any more helpful as the layout does not follow the numbering scheme either.
There is a small amount of clutter on the tabletop between the typical one order market per unit, plus dice, plus casualty markers (often pipe cleaners). Players who desire for the gaming table to look as diorama-like as possible may be frustrated by this and substitute some other less distracting methods. A small variety of “order dials” have sometimes been available from various dealers and individuals and may speak to this interest.
New players paired with experienced ones will likely find game turns in a teaching game can be held to roughly 20-25 minutes, i.e. slightly slower than real-time. Charge combats will slow this down unless run by an experienced player. Experienced players will find that the two greatest impacts on turn length are 1) time allowed for players to choose orders, 2) number of units a player commands. Larger games among experienced players (even if paired with newbies) will commonly break into multiple “mini-games” where different parts of the table are resolving different parts of turns at different times. This is something I would strongly encourage to keep large games moving and players involved.
The detail level of the game is obviously tactical, players are determining when their units conduct any given action. Weak points will definitely include command and control which is a facet largely ignored. Regiments are in no way penalized for operating largely by radio control without regard for their relation (geographic or otherwise) to the rest of their parent brigade. Officers offer morale and performance benefits to model the notion that troops were often more successful when personally led by a strong commander in person.
Period flavor is obviously in the eye of the beholder. My personal attention has been kept by JR2 because it does not feel generic to me. The advantage in the choice of the regiment as the basic unit of maneuver is flavor of the war. Numerous skirmishes and small unit combats were conducted between formations smaller than divisions, many smaller than brigades throughout the period. This allows players to refight those actions accurately and in appropriate detail but often in short periods of time.
The flip-side of the coin is that major battles can easily become unwieldily both because of the table size requirements and the number of units necessary. If a player’s primary interest is refighting major engagements (Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga) in their entirety, while JR2 can certainly be used, their interest is likely better served by other rules. Should a player be interested in breaking down into portions of those engagements (Jackson’s flank attack at Chancellorsville, Longstreet’s attack on July 2nd or Ewell’s action against Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg, or the denoted scenario for Chickamauga) the player will likely find some excitement in knowing that the 6th Wisconsin could operate away from the rest of the Iron Brigade flanking Davis’s Rebels on July 1st or the 1st Minnesota could attempt its famous charge to save the hole left by Sickles on July 2nd – both of these instances are possible because those regiments are represented on the table. The impact of individual regiments was highly important during the war.
The simultaneous nature of turns allows for all players to be on an equal footing each turn and have equal chance for involvement in the game. Players are likely to find a new level of understanding when controlling small forces while utilizing hidden movement counters robbing them of the normally all encompassing view of the battlefield we typically hold.