Thursday, September 9, 2010

Advance the Flag (part 2 of 3), a kind of overview

Cover to Advance the Flag
I've been a sort of fan of Chris Peers' rules for some time. What does that mean? It means I buy lots of them, admire some, play few. As noted previously, I recently acquired his ruleset for big battle ACW games mainly just to see what they were like. I thought they would be a variation on Ever Victorious Armies which is, in it's turn, a variation on Contemptible Little Armies, they aren't. Below I'll attempt to run through the features of these rules, with some minor comparisons to the earlier rulesets I've mentioned.(In large part I'm writing in this kind of detail because I found exactly nothing on the internet when I was trying to find info on these rules.)

Format: First off, until recently all Chris Peers' rules were published by HLBS company, as were these,  so there are no frills, at all. One sided pages with exactly zero illustrations. This doesn't cut the cost very much, I bought mine at Brigade Games for $21.95 US. Secondly, as with CLA & EVA the rules are constructed in a way that may be confusing to some gamers. They look much more complex than they are because, in essence, he starts the rules by establishing the setting and defining (in both historical and game terms) the necessary troop types, weapons, unit composition, etc. One page is used to describe four types of fire-arms, for example. There are seemingly no real rules until the last 1/3 of the book. Really that isn't true at all though. The rules themselves are super-simple, well presented and quickly read but are, of course, contingent on understanding all of what was laid out in the earlier parts of the rules. Effective, and perfectly simple when you understand his method for presenting rules, but different than the standard.

Scale: The game is at Corps level with units of 4 stands representing a Brigade. Stands may contain any number of figures, but the rules are oriented towards 28 mm figs. The rules suggest a stand size (60mm frontage) but frankly there is no need to re-base as long as your basing system is relatively consistent. Divisions are 3-8 Brigades and Corps are, of course, 2 or more divisions. Artillery is represented by 1 stand batteries that are under Corps control. Corps commanders may form larger grand batteries. There are no organizational tables in the book, but these are easily obtained from hundreds of printed and internet sources. One important point to know is that Brigades in this game are maneuvered and operate in formations like regiments in other games, so you don't lose the fun of maneuver warfare.

Command & Control: Unlike in previous games from Mr. Peers, there is no orders system, rather leaders will play an important role in motivating their subordinate units and must stay actively engaged with them. The loss of a leader is one of the biggest events in the game in terms of causing a moral crisis. Most leadership occurs at the Division and Corps level but, as you will see below, there are some important occasions when the quality of Brigade leadership will come into play.  Players may buy a limited number of "Outstanding" leaders at all levels (which allows for the possibility of an outstanding Brigade leader). Players must take a randomly determined number of Incompetent leaders. Leaders  motivate units to move and give bonuses in melee and may rally away disorder markers.

Units: Infantry may be Raw, Veteran, Elite and/or Dashing. Dashing is to some degree analogous to Ferocious in his earlier games, being most applicable to early war Confederate Brigades and Zouaves, etc. They may be equipped with the usual selection of smoothbores, rifle muskets, breechloaders or repeaters. Interestingly rifles and smoothbores are effective in the same range but rifles have a long range which is significantly longer but fire is at a serious reduction to accuracy. Smoothbores do not have a long range and Mr. Peers discounts the effect of "buck & ball"ammo (rightfully in my opinion). Fire mostly inflicts Disorder upon targeted units, but rolls of 19 or 20 (fire is rolled on a d20, all else is d6) is particularly effective and reduces the target by a stand. This is the only way that figures leave the table from fire, unless the cumulative effects of disorder cause the unit to rout or disperse. (see below).

Scenarios: There are three generic scenarios presented: attacking a fortified position, meeting engagement, pitched battle. The first is a 2:1 scenario, the latter two are at the same points value with the meeting engagement involving off-table divisions arriving at random times.

Terrain & Weather: There are sections for weather and terrain. Terrain is fairly standard and pretty simple.

The Turn: The turn is a fairly standard alternating activation (by division) with at least one "simultaneous" phase (firing). Confederate player moves first. Sequence is: Rally-Late Arrivals- Mandatory Retreats- Movement- Shooting- Close Combat Resolution- Morale Tests.

Movement: Movement is a curious variation on Mr. Peers' earlier systems. In past games there was a  random and relatively modest movement rates assigned & rolled for each unit. Now in AtF a standard Divisional general rolls 1d6 and adds a set amount to the randomized number which is dependent on the unit's type (cavalry, infantry, artillery, etc.), formation (skirmish, line,  column) and terrain. Outstanding leaders will motivate more movement (they may roll 2d6 and choose the best of the two rolls), Incompetent leaders less (an Incompetent leader who rolls a natural 6 confuses his unit, which then does not move this round). All movement which will travel through difficult terrain is done at the difficult rate. In short most Infantry units in line will move between 3 to 8 inches in a turn which is on par with most other games of this sort but might be a little slower.

Shooting: Simply said, a d20 is rolled for each stand and modified by a number of variables including whether the target is in effective or long range, if the firer moved, the firers weapon or ammunition (for example, canister). A modified roll of 14+ is needed to score a "hit"and thus inflict a disorder marker, as stated above a roll of 19+ kills a stand.

Close Combat: I have covered this in my previous post. One of the simple strong points of the system.

Morale: Morale has several aspects in this game but all revolve around units becoming disordered. The first aspect is a number of conditions that will necessitate a morale check in the morale phase (at the end of the turn). A morale check is based on quality with Veterans being better than Raw (obviously). A failed Morale Check gives a unit (or in some cases all units in a Division or Corps) a disorder marker. Secondly there is Disorder itself which can be accrued from three main causes: fire, close combat and failed Morale Checks. A unit with one Disorder will go on as usual but at two or three the unit may not close with the enemy, at four Disorders the unit routs and at five the unit disperses. There are no Division or Corps break points. Rallying is done at the beginning of the turn and simply involves any unit which is disordered rolling 1d6, if a 6 is scored a Disorder is removed. Outstanding Brigade commanders may roll 3d6 and Incompetent ones none (so these Brigades will only be able to rally under the influence of a higher ranking commander). Divisional or Corps level generals may attempt to rally units that are within their personal influence.

"Color": What I've included above is the skeleton of how the system works. What I haven't always included is the various tangential rules that give the rules their color. The leadership rules, which I have discussed above,  in and of themselves tend to add character to individual Brigades and Divisions. For example a Brigade could be Raw (and thus prone to failing Morale Checks) but Dashing (and thus likely to successfully Charge) and lead by an Outstanding Brigade officer who could really help remove disorder markers. Brigades will become very effective in certain circumstances and terrible in others (lets say a dashing Brigade led by an incompetent officer which would be good in it's initial Close Combat but would probably become ineffective rather quickly unless shepherded by a Division General). Other areas of "color" include rules for Supply Trains which are very useful to the owning army, but if captured by the enemy can cause Morale Checks throughout the entire owning force (this also gives a legitimate reason for both sides to field cavalry). There are rules for bursting guns, quaker guns, fortifications and field works, balloons and gunboats.

NEXT my (unplayed) conclusions and comparisons

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