TITLE: The Sword & The Flame
AUTHOR: Larry V. Brom
PUBLISHER: And That’s The Way It Was
PUBLICATION DATE: 1999
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $28.00 (in 2008)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: British Colonial Empire 1878-1884
The Sword and The Flame (TSATF) runs a mere 52 pages and in this edition (the 20th Anniversary edition) that includes “The Sword In Africa” a variant for small unit skirmish in Africa. The rules themselves take up a mere 15 pages. The rest of the volume covers a brief description of the various armies, includes painting guides, tips on making terrain etc. Also included are a sample game, bibliography, optional rules etc.
SCOPE: TSATF is a tactical game of British Colonial combat.
ARMY SIZE: In TSATF each unit is comprised of 20 infantry, 12 cavalry or one gun plus crew. For the British, 2-4 units will be a good starting force. This will generally require their opponent to have between 1.25 and 2.25 the number of figures as the British forces contain.
Whatever their name - platoon, clan or band - in TSATF every foot unit is comprised of 20 figures. Every mounted unit is made up of 12 figures and artillery is represented by guns with 4 crew. Depending on the army each unit will have 1 or 2 leaders. These units will be formed into larger units with leaders of their own.
- Ground Scale: Not stated (most weapons have a range between 18 and 30 inches)
- Time Scale: Not stated but probably about 10-15 minutes.
- Figure/Base Ratio: 1:1 Each figure represents an individual soldier.
- Recommended Figure Size: 25mm but conversion for 15mm and other scales is covered.
- Table Size: At least 4’ x 6’
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in one evening
The size and shape of bases is unimportant in TSATF. Any base size will do provided it helps to identify in which direction the figure is facing (this determines field of fire etc.).
- The Movement Phase: Units are moved one at a time, the sequence determined by the draw from a regular deck of cards.
- The Fire Phase: Players fire their units one at a time, sequence determined again by drawing from a deck of cards. Units may only fire once per turn.
- Close Combat Phase: Melees are resolved in any convenient order.
- Morale Phase: Units that require it make their morale checks. Units that fail are routed
The Unit Sequence: For both Movement and Fire, a deck of cards is used. If a red card is drawn, the British player must move or fire with a unit. If a black card is drawn his opponent must do so. Players may not “pass.” They may elect to do nothing with a unit, but that unit may not move/fire later in the same turn.
Movement: Unlike most rules, in TSATF units do not have a set movement rate. Instead, their movement allowance for the turn is dictated by rolling a number of D6. The number of dice to be rolled is dictated by the Movement Chart. Variables include unit formation, leadership, terrain, unit type and nationality.
Once the number of dice has been determined and rolled, the unit may move that many inches. Units are required to remain in one of 5 formations: Close, March Column, Square, Open Order of Mass. Units change formation simply by actually moving the unit’s figures to their appropriate locations.
Leaders are very important to keep troops in motion. Units within 6” of a leader may move. Units that are not must roll a D6 to move. Failure means they remain stuck in place for the turn.
Charge moves are a way to gain extra movement at a cost. Units must have an object of a charge - either an enemy unit or terrain feature. Units that charge must roll a D6. On a 1-5 that many figures are stragglers and only move half the distance the unit moved. On a 6 there are no stragglers. Furthermore, figures that charge may not fire this turn!
The rules also address situations such as obstacles, structures and water features. Cavalry has a special ability called “Phased Move” in which they can “reserve” one or more of their move dice to perform other actions such as mounting. Or they may simply use some of their movement dice at the beginning of the turn and the remainder at the end.
Concealment: TSATF expects that most scenarios will have the “native” player’s troops begin the game hidden. This is managed simply by noting terrain features with markers and keeping track of which units are where on a piece of paper. There is no “spotting” procedure. Units in cover within 4” of the enemy are visible. Units not in cover are visible if a clear line of sight exists. In either case once spotted hidden figures are put on the table (note that only part of a unit might be visible while the remainder remain concealed). Units that move out of line of sight are again concealed and their movement tracked on paper.
Fire Combat: For the most part TSATF uses a straight forward “Kill Dice” system. Cross referencing the target’s formation and terrain with the firer’s weapon type yields a “to-hit” range of numbers. For each figure firing a D20 is rolled. Every die rolled within the range given yields one it. For each hit, a card is drawn. Depending on the value and suit of the card drawn, the hit has various results. If a heart is drawn, the figure is killed otherwise it is wounded. If wounded a second time, the figure is killed. Leaders and other special figures are harder to kill and require varying combination of both value and suit to be killed. For example, unit leaders are only hit on an Ace. Artillery fire is resolved in the exact same way but for every crew figure three D20 are rolled.
Close Combat: Close Combat results from a successful charge. If a unit charges an enemy unit, it must stop 1” away. In the Close Combat phase each unit must pass a morale check. Charging units that fail immediately retreat 6” (12” for cavalry) and no close combat takes place. Defenders that fail are considered “Shaken” and they retreat a distance of 4D6.
If a Close Combat occurs, it is not resolved unit vs. unit. Instead each separate combat between adjacent figures is resolved separately. Close Combat is an opposed die roll. Roll a D6, add your modifiers, high die wins! All combats are “one-on-one.” A defending figure may, in fact, have to fight 4 or 5 separate Close Combats in one phase (this is where the Zulu numbers really tell!). If the loser rolled a 1, he is killed, a 2 means he is wounded. Otherwise the loser is temporarily withdrawn from the fight. Once all combats have been resolved the loser’s figures are shaken and retreat 4D6, the winner may occupy the ground. Losing units continue to retreat until rallied.
The rule book offers several suggestions for scenario types but no specifics. The army lists are more like abstracted unit organizations - with the scale of the game little more is needed.
Also included is a detailed bibliography covering each conflict individually as well as more general titles and movies of interest.
The Sword and the Flame are everything a rule book should be. Comprehensive, well thought out, clearly written, well proofread and easy to grasp. TSATF have been adapted to nearly every period of warfare so the underlying mechanisms are obviously robust. The book is well laid out and a real pleasure to read. I especially like that it assumes no prior war gaming experience and provides a simple guide to buying, painting, mounting and playing with miniatures. Even better, it includes a detailed sample game outlining a nasty ambush in ten turns.
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