British 71st Regiment charges American militia (from an old game, so really a stock photo)
I’ve been working on my Johnny Reb 3 – American Revolution off and on for some time. With two academic teaching jobs, a wonderful wife, and two kids (plus a dog and cat), I don’t have lots of extra fee time, but I tried to do something most days even if for just an hour or two. I’ve managed to rebase about 450 15/18mm figures since Christmas. I’ve also worked out some new charts and some trial orders of battle and the basics for a 1781 Southern Campaign. My wife is away at an academic conference this weekend and my teenage son has was gone most of Friday and part of Saturday playing percussion for various high school symphony bands and the like. My daughter was pretty much exhausted on Friday afternoon and night after battling a cold this week. So amazingly, I had a bit of free time on Friday and Saturday. I decided to rearrange my wargame tables to set up a 4′ x 4′ table for an All Things Zombie game with my son and a 6′ x 4′ table to try out my Johnny Reb 3 – American Revolution rules variant.
In the trial JR3 – American Revolution game I really wanted to try out a variety of types and sizes of units, so I made up a hypothetical board and orders of battle. I called the scenario The Battle of Windy Lane in honor of those in my family (especially the dog) who felt the need to share their recent “windy moments” with me. The points I wanted to test were:
1. The variant rules in general.
2. The new lower MP modifiers for 25% (replacing stand) loss.
3. A variety of unit sizes (these ranged from 8 to 16 figures per unit).
4. How effective riflemen would be.
5. The correct size for cavalry units.
6. And most importantly, did this rule variant really capture the feel of the American Revolution (which I don’t think many rules do).
I don’t have any pictures as my wife still hasn’t given me her old digital camera and the kids’ phone cameras were either not at home or engaged looking at videos of cute dogs (the constant thing going on my 11 year old daughter’s phone). In the next blog post, I’ll include some photos of past games (using a variant of Die Kriegkunst) as the basing is almost the same. I played on a 6′ x 4′ table (about the same size as the battlefield for Guilford Courthouse). Here are the orders of battle I used: Battle of Windy Lane. That order of battle is loosely based on actual units from the 1781 Southern campaign, and selected to have a diversity of unit types, sizes, and morale. I played this game solo. I rolled 2d6 for each side and added the senior commander’s command number (0-3) to determine which side had to place their orders first. That worked really well and allowed me to play a very enjoyable solo version of the Johnny Reb 3 – American Revolution variant.
Here is what I learned:
1. The rules worked exceptionally well. They did everything I hoped they would. I sort of knew they would work as I had tried out this project once before (and then sort of forgot about it due to having too much real world work to do). They fully captured the way I interpret American Revolution battles. The rules had some real depth to them in terms of complexity, but were not overly complex. I have not had enjoyed a set of wargame rules as much as I enjoyed these since I played Johnny Reb 2 back in the 1980s and early 1990s.
2. My revised base morale modifiers due to 25% casualties were too low. Units stayed around too long. So I have revised them (see the new charts I have posted at the end of this blog entry). So I moved them up, but not as drastic as the +3 per 25% loss found in the original Johnny Reb 3 rules.
3. Cavalry needed to be in squadron sized units rather than regiments/battalions to better capture the way they operated in the American Revolution. That means that the average sized cavalry unit will be 4 or 6 figures.
4. Commanders really do matter in Johnny Reb 3. I had forgotten how important it could be to have a commander with a command rating of 2 supporting a unit taking a morale check.
5. The order system worked very well and did not require written orders. It allowed units to operate with the general command limitations that they really faced, but with some flexibility to react to the enemy. I dislike command systems which try to overly force command limitations. There was a great commentary about this in one of Sam Mustafa’s podcasts about Blucher (see here: http://www.sammustafa.com/honour/category/podcast/).
6. Decent (BMP 4) American riflemen can be pretty powerful as they can out range units armed with smoothbore muskets, often giving them an extra die in fire combat, which helps make up for their smaller size (4 to 12 figures).
7. The British really have to use historical tactics to win. If they just try to shoot it out, especially with riflemen, they will lose. Instead, they need to charge and charge a lot. I give British regulars an extra -1 to their impact morale if they are charging (so effectively -2 for charging) and that did a good job replicating the big advantage they had in the charge. One battalion of British Guards got in the rear of the Americans and charged through four units, defeating each of them.
8. The command exhaustion rules worked very well. Three of the four British brigades had to withdraw from the battle due to losses, including two brigade commanders killed. The Americans won the battle as the British reached 40% command point losses, which prevented them from attacking any more, but the Americans were pretty close to 40% and most of their better units were gone or had suffered high casualties.
9. With a 1-20 scale and 1 artillery figure = 1 gun, the scale of the rules worked very well. Outside of some very small cavalry or skirmisher units, most units should have two to five stands. I would divide units with 24 figures into two battalions of 12 figures.
10. I had a lot of fun playing the game, even solo. I used to play a lot of solo board games (which according to Avalon Hill surveys was par for the course), but I had not done much in the way of solo miniature wargames. I think that was due to the time it takes to set up a miniature wargame. However, I found the reward was worth the effort. On Friday night, I rearranged my many smaller tables (2′ x 4′) into two tables, set up two games (the other being the upcoming All Things Zombie game), and made and cut out unit labels for both sides. On the labels I put the commanders’ ratings and the units’ BMPs, which was really useful once I started playing. I marked losses on the units with casualty figures until a stand loss, which allowed me to play the game without unit casualty rosters, which I had become tired of. So all these were good points to learn as I don’t have much time free anymore of longer games with an opponent, but I do have bits and pieces of time for solo games. Plus I can leave the tables set up for as long as I want, so I can break longer games down into several nights when I have time to play. My Saturday game was broken up by a being a chauffeur to my son and his friend, taking the dog for her walk, cleaning the kitchen, plus taking my kids to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, all of which would have made a regular game with an opponent impossible
11. My overall evaluation is that the Johnny Reb 3 – American Revolution (please don’t call it the AWI) variant worked very well. This project will be my focus for this year. I play to rebase the other 200 or so 15/18mm figures I have and keep painting more for my 1781 campaign. Once I get through a few more trial games, I’ll try out some smaller historical battles, probably Cowpens, King’s Mountain, and some smaller (one or two brigades per side) battles and then move on to Guilford Courthouse and Camden, both of which require about 60 more militia figures than I currently have painted.
Here are the revised charts I will use in the next game: JR3 AWI CRT JG 6.0