Getting back in the game

7 07 2012

Troops get fundamentally tired of being shot at.  Not just tired in the “dead tired” sense but in the “they don’t pay me enough to do this @#)&$@!” sense.  When this occurs they walk off the job, or, as is more often the case, run pell-mell off the job.  Eventually running starts to look like a lot of work and they stop behind a convenient fence, a hill or in a barn.  At this point soldiers are on on or near the battlefield, recovering from the shock of battle. 

Maybe they do recover, maybe they don’t.  They may have it in them to be useful again today, even if only as units to protect a flank or defend a strong position.  They will never know what to do or where they are needed though because they are scattered and unorganized.  They no longer are a unit working with a single goal.  A ton of work must be done to get a significant enough group of them back together and give them an achievable goal that will inspire them to go back out and perform a dangerous job. 

This is one of the principle jobs of civil war commanders and their staff during a battle.  Good generals do this well. Bobby Lee famously waded into the 6000 surviving troops of his 12,000 troop assault on the third day of Gettysburg saying “This is my fault” over and over.  Not only did those troops rally but if contemporary records of that event are to be believed, they asked for another chance to carry the position with a second attack.  Regardless, those troops where in position to stop a Union counter assault. Other battles have notable failures where troops where around but were not able to be issued orders.  Recovering the Morale of troops is a foundational element of any Civil War Battlefield simulation.

Recovering Morale

Both brigade and division commanders can give orders for a unit to attempt to improve its morale.  This is literally an order by a general for a unit in its command structure to shape up.  Only one unit may be effected at a time.  It is totally conceivable that three units from a single charge should be huddling in the same barn but the order must be for a single unit (a regiment or artillery piece) to recover.

A unit that has been ordered to recover makes a skill check with the following modifiers:

  • -1 Unit Shaken
  • -2 Unit routed
  • -1 per stand lost
  • -1 if flanked (any of the shooting units can not be shot at)
  • +1 partial cover (fence or tress)
  • +2 full cover (building or works)
  • -1 if disordered (automatic if unit is routed)
  • + 1 for each foot the unit is away from the nearest enemy unit

Very happily, this list of modifiers is IDENTICAL to the modifier list for Flight Checks and Morale checks.  Huzzah!

With a successful skill check, the unit upgrades its morale status; from “Routed” to “Shaken” or from “Shaken” to “Good Shape”.  A routed unit that successful recovers morale (to shaken) can change formations too.  As all routed units are disorganized, this is a good thing.  

There is no bad outcome from a Morale Recovery check, failing just leaves it in its original (busted) state.


Consider the sad case of 47th Indiana.  As you may recall, we have shot the crap out of the 47th Indiana…


Having been reduced from 360 soldiers to a scant 30 in about 45 minutes of simulated battle, they “quit the field.”    We watched them degrade their moral and then flee until finally the found the backside of the battle and took a breather…


Now, they sit panting behind their fence listening to the battle and wondering how its going.  An order is given to reform!  (Some general must be bored because this is a seriously feeble unit now)

The following conditions apply to the poor 47th Indiana

  • The are routed
  • They are disordered (as are all routed units)
  • they have lost three stands (!)
  • They are in partial cover (woods or fence… take your pick (note… not both!))
  • They are (happily) over three feet away from the enemy

The 47th needs a modified 4…

4 + 3 = 7 for lost stands

7 + 2 = 9 for routing

9 + 1 = 10 for being disordered

10 – 1 = 9 for being in the woods (partial cover).

9 – 3 = 6 for being 3 feet away from the enemy

They need a ’6’ on one of their skill dice to recover their morale.  They are a veteran unit and get 3 dice.  Their general is also throwing in one of his dice because he cool that way and clearly has nothing better to do with his command influence.


Hey… we rolled a ‘6’!  Lets upgrade our morale to Shaken shall we? 


You can’t see it in this picture but the unit is now also in line. Note: I could create markers for showing formations for one stand units but this is a really odd occurrence and I doubt it will come up very often.

Now I have a shaken unit alone at the back of the battlefield.  In a subsequent officer order (perhaps even the same officer but a different order) another morale recovery order is given.

The following conditions apply to the poor 47th Indiana

  • The are shaken
  • They have lost three stands
  • They are in partial cover
  • They are still over three feet away from the enemy

The 47th needs a modified 4…

4 + 3 = 7 for lost stands

7 + 1 = 8 for being shaken

8 – 1 = 7 for being in the woods (partial cover).

7 – 3 = 4 for being 3 feet away from the enemy

They need a ’4’ on one of their skill dice to go from “shaken” to “good shape”. Again they are a veteran unit and get 3 dice and once again their general is also throwing in one of his dice.


All four die are rolled and each would have successfully rallied the unit.


The unit is now in “good shape” and eager to defend this section of the union line.  Huzzah!

My 50th post!

This has been the 50th post for McPherson and Revenge!  I started this blog in November of 2010 with little expectation of reaching 50 or even knowing I could stand work on a project that long.  By my own reckoning I am more than half way done but I still have a long way to go.  Thanks to everyone for reading and we’ll see if I can make it to 100!


The fine art of running away

29 01 2012

Last time we talked rules, I mentioned the distinct possibility that troops getting shot at could eventually get sick of it and start running for their lives.  This occurs when a unit that had previously been ok with standing their ground fails what is known as a morale check due to enemy fire.  This brings up an interesting notion.  When running for one’s life, is it really possible to run far enough?  When do you stop?  Nearest ditch?  When you get back home to Ohio?  Never?

Troops in battle would run towards the rear (ideally behind their own troops so they would be screened) putting real distance between them and danger.  Distance is the best cover after all.  At the battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run if you are a closet southerner) the union troops fled from the battlefield all the way back to Washington D.C.  The retreat took several days and was a national disgrace known as the “the Great Skedaddle”. Much was learned from that fiasco including the necessity  keeping reserves on hand to provide a position that could be used to rally troops while  still on the battlefield.

From a game perspective fleeing is an odd notion.  It’s compulsive movement that occurs despite unit/officer skill.  Up till now moving troops is a very deliberate act requiring an officer to employ skill to issue orders.  Furthermore, we have already stated that routing units can’t be issued orders, the exception being the ever popular “stop being routed you knuckleheads” order… (which I’m not explaining yet!).    We need fleeing to occur at random times and we need fleeing to happen despite the units will.

Is now a good time to panic?

The bag o’ destiny is the keeper of all things timing.  It dictates the order in which game events occur and it might as well tell us when we should do our running.  To this end I have created some Flight Check markers that are the same shape and size as the generals activation chits.

Flight Check Chit

I figure that units probably run for their life faster than they march, or even quick time, into battle so I put two of these bad boys into the bag o’ destiny along with the general markers.  That way each turn units will have to check for flight twice and therefore will move twice as fast as regular units not running for their lives.  Play testing may reveal that I am an idiot and this is too much or not enough.


During the game, whenever a Flight Check token is drawn, all routing units will check to see if they flee.  There is not mechanic for delaying this check.  It occurs immediately and simultaneously.

Flights are also triggered if an enemy unit gets within 4” of a routing unit or is shot at at any range.  When triggered by movement, flight will be checked  before the moving unit gets to shoot.

Flight checks

Once a flight check token is drawn, all routing units make skill checks to see if they must flee.  To make a flight check, units make a skill roll using the following modifiers:

  • -1 shaken (negative morale is negative morale modifier. FUN!)
  • -2 if routed (More FUN!)
  • -1 per stand lost
  • -1 if flanked (any of the shooting units can not be shot at)
  • +1 partial cover (fence or tress)
  • +2 full cover (building or works)
  • -1 if disordered (Which it is… its routing.  Sorry)
  • + 1 for each foot the unit is away from the nearest enemy unit

Two fun things about the list above. 

  1. Being disordered is a –1 modifier.  This makes since as far as it goes BUT there is NO WAY for a routing unit to NOT be disordered.  I could restate this rule to say that being disorded is NOT a –1 but you need a ‘5’ instead of a ‘4’.  I could also leave it out all together and make it easier to not run away.  I choose to state it this way because it that makes this list of modifiers REALLY similar to the morale check modifiers.  That leads us to thing #2.
  2. This list is IDENTICAL to the morale check list with one teensy exception; I get a +1 for every foot I am from an enemy.  This means that units become less likely to run the further they are from the enemy.

As always, when making a skill role, a unit uses 3 dice modified by –1 dice if the unit is green and +1 if the unit is elite.

Units can elect to automatically flee when a check occurs.  This can be done either because the unit would be better off moved or because the units controller dislikes math.  Either way, Flight is always an option.

What happens when a unit flees

Two things happen when a unit flees; It gets smaller and it gets closer to safety.  Let’s do smaller first.

Each unit that flees takes two straggler hits.  These are the groovy yellow inner tube hits that a unit picks up when it quick times or routes.  A straggler check (a roll for effect using the table above minus the distance modifier) may be made to see if these can be avoided (each success reduces stragglers by 1) or you could just take the two hits like a man and avoid doing some math here because by this point the unit is pretty screwed.  A routing unit that is missing one stand and has no cover will need to roll ‘8’ with its skill check (base of 4, -2 routing, –1 disordered, –1 for one stand)

Remember, when a brigade is activated, each unit in the brigade loses one straggler hit automatically.  This models soldiers that are separated from their unit with the serious intent of rejoining it.

The unit next moves 150% of its regular move “to the rear”.  Infantry in disorder have an 8” move so they would flee 12”.  This move should be toward something that would look like a good place to hide, would provide cover, is not towards enemy units, already has friendly fleeing units, has formed friendly units, or in general looks like a road back to Washington D.C.  There really is a role playing element here that you can’t capture in a rule.  The flee-er should pick a spot he can reach and his opponent should say “Yeah… I would totes hide in that barn too”.  Either that or he should point out a better barn.  The thing to avoid is using flight to redeploy units.

Oh… in addition to running and taking straggler hits, its customary amongst seasoned wargamers to quote Bill Paxton while running away.

Bill Paxton reflecting on his situation

Units that flee off the table, by convention, are removed from the game.  The stands lost are counted as casualties for scenario victory point purposes.  Another reasonable outcome is that they count as half casualties (given that they aren’t really dead.)  I would probably do the latter.  It is also OK to keep track of the number of inches the unit flees of the table keep track of it elsewhere.

Units that lose all their soldiers to straggling aren’t eliminated.  They are tracked like there are still units on the table but the do NOT collect extra straggler hits.  The regiment on the table doesn’t so much represent the mass of soldiers on the table but rather the point at which they will eventually begin to reform.

Example of fleeing

Consider the following example…


The 47th Indiana has been blown up.  They have already routed and are now hiding in the woods pretty close to one of their artillery units.  They were once a 4 stand regiment and now down the the last figure on their command stand.  A Flight Check chit has been drawn and its now time to see if time to run for our lives.

Let’s see 47th needs a modified 4…

4 + 3 = 7 for lost stands

7 + 2 = 9 for routing

9 + 1 = 10 for being disordered

10 – 1 = 9 for being in the woods (partial cover).

You can’t see the confederates in the picture but they are less than a foot away.  Bummer. 

A 9 is a big number to reach fro with a six sided die.  Let’s see how that turned out!


So…. 47th Indiana is a Veteran unit… so they get 3 dice.  Their general must have been about to through away a dice because it looks like he lent then one of this command dice (for a bonus fourth dice).  We roll and we get a 1, 1, 3, 6!.  That six has a 50% of actually being a 7.  We roll a 4… bingo… it’s a 7.  Now we have a 50% chance of that 7 being an 8.  We roll a 5 and its now an 8.  Now we have a 50/50 of being 9.  We roll another 5 so we get 9!

Ok.  Reality check.  The odds of me getting a die to roll a ’6’ is 16%.  The odds of rolling a ‘6’ and winning 3 coin tosses is 2%.  Nice long odds but not relevant given we rolled 4 dice.  Let’s flip the scenario so we can work out the odds of failing this roll with all four dice.

The odds of NOT rolling a ‘9’ is 98%.  The odds of me NOT rolling a ‘9’ on 4 dice is  92% (98% x 98% x 98% x 98%).  That means the odds of me succeeding is 8%.

OK.  So… given that the enemy is so close still and I’ve got no figures left to shoot with, I had no business trying to not flee.  I need to get the hell back to D.C.  Doubly so given that I can’t take more straggler hits!  Let’s say we just forget I rolled those dice and I run for the hills.


I am supposed to be running 12” to the rear.  I have some latitude on where I can run so I check to see if I can make it to some cover.  I see a patch of woods that looks perfect for running into and hiding.  I will have to cross two fences (each with a 1” movement penalty) and about 1” of woods to go through which costs me 2” inches of movement.  That means I move 9” linear inches.  There.  Much better.

By the way…  I took these picks in my first ever play test so the situation above was not so hypothetical.  The unit above got itself into a proper pickle prior to breaking and I managed to get a good photo.  This is the unit just before deciding to leave.


I love the casualty markers!

Blowing stuff up Pt. II: Running away

28 08 2011

Getting shot at is unpleasant.  I have no first hand knowledge of this but I’ve seen Saving Private Ryan a bunch a times and it just seems like it sucks.  I seriously doubt that soldiers, even tough soldiers who have seen Saving Private Ryan, could do this overlong.  To model this we need some system to handle units getting fed up with being shot at and doing something about it.

I imagine that staying in position while being shot at requires tremendous discipline.  Discipline is a commodity that soldiers enter the battle field with a ready supply of.  When in this controlled state the unit can be described as being in “good shape”.  It mostly wants to do what it’s told.

As the battle wears on though this discipline is torn away by fatigue, disorganization and shock.  At a critical point in time a unit reaches a tipping point and functionality degrades.  Units become less likely to react, and follow orders.  In this state a unit can be described as “shaken”.

Shaken units that continue to suffer the effects of battle will eventually get fed up and leave, regardless of what their commander might wish.  These soldiers will run to a position of perceived safety to the rear of the fighting, preferably behind friendly troops, preferably in a barn.  In this state a unit is described as “routed”.

Units can, over the course of battle. improve their condition with time, distance and some proper coaxing but that is the subject of another blog.

Morale checks

After each fire command or reaction fire where a unit takes a hit that unit will need to make a skill check to see if its moral status degrades.  If multiple units are ordered to fire at a single unit in the same command then all fire is resolved before a morale check is made.  Morale checks are made with the following modifiers:

  • -1 shaken (negative morale is negative morale modifier.  FUN!)
  • -2 if routed (More FUN!)
  • -1 per stand lost
  • -1 if flanked (any of the shooting units can not be shot at)
  • +1 partial cover (fence or tress)
  • +2 full cover (building or works)
  • -1 if disordered

Note: all skill and rolls for effect are modified +/- a die based on the elite/green status of the acting unit.  I may sometimes forget to mention it but its always true.


If a unit is in good shape and fails a morale check, then it is now shaken.  Shaken units immediately take two straggler hits (yellow ring) minus one for successful die on a skill roll.  This roll (a straggler roll) is made modified by the same table above.

A unit that is shaken gets a shaken counter and has the following limitations

  • -1 on all skill checks
  • no more than a quarter movement may be spent moving towards the enemy.
  • No assaults
  • No supporting an assault
  • Not thinking about assaults


If a unit is shaken or routed and fails a morale check, then its now routed.  Routed units immediately:

  • Take two straggler hits and make a straggler check as above
  • Becomes disordered
  • Flee 150% of regular move towards “the rear” (typically 12”)

“The rear” is an abstract concept and not something you can make a rule for.  When fleeing both sides should discuss where the proverbial barn would be.  Fleeing troops would likely flee not only to a place of safety behind friendlies but also towards other fleeing troops.  Also… units are unlikely to move past cover so the 12” movement is a guideline, not strictly speaking a rule.

This entire process is known as “fleeing” and may come up again in other blogs.

A unit that is routed gets a routed counter and has the following limitations.

  • Routed units must remain disordered
  • The only order that may be given to a routed unit is a rally.
  • The only reaction that a routed unit can perform is a full movement to the rear.
  • – 2 on all skill checks
  • If enemy gets within 4” then the unit automatically flees again (new straggler roll!)

Example of Morale Checks

When last we left 22nd Kentucky they had taken two hits!

Post Fire

This is a bunch of getting shot.  To make a moral check the 22nd Kentucky must get at least one success on 4 dice (3 dice +1 for being elite)

The will need at least one ‘4’.  There are no modifiers on this roll…. should be easy.


Oops.  And I’m all out of Battle Karma too.  Bummer.

One more example… This time from the beginning! (Including shooting!)

The 22nd Kentucky decides to grab some cover to its rear and shoots ineffectively.  The Confederate unit then moves to conform and shoots again.


Less than 4” and more than 2”… That’s medium range.  The 22snd is behind a fence (partial cover).  To hit the confederates need “6”s (4 +1 for medium range and +1 for the fence).  The 22nd should be fine here.


Crap!  A 6!  Boo.  No Battle Karma left… dangit!  This is the third hit on the stand so its gone.  22nd Kentucky just got smaller.

This morale check is gonna be a good bit tougher.  4 dice (3 +1 for being elite) and the 22nd needs a 5 (4 +1 for being shaken +1 for being down 1 stand, –1 for being in partial cover).


Poop!  No “5s” or “6s”!  Is that a barn over there?!?!  RUN!


12” to the rear and now the 22nd is disordered.  Note: 2” of movement are spent crossing two fences to the 22nd’s rear so only 10” are moved.  (These rules and many others are covered in movement)

Let’s see if we take straggler hits.  The 22nd still get 4 dice but now then need “7”s! (4 + 2 for being routed, +1 for being down a stand)


Good news/Bad news.  We got one “7”.  We rolled two “6”s and got pretty excited but we could only turn one of the “6” into a “7”.  If this makes no sense then refer back to our rolling for effect blog.

Next time we will see if we can’t get these guys back in game!

Blowing stuff up

21 08 2011

Most games do a bad job simulating gradual effects.  It’s true.  For instance, troops do not blip from one spot to another 400 yards away without occupying any of the spaces in-between but in our game (and virtually every other one as well), they do.  We have to draw the line somewhere that balances the need for granularity and playability so we create rules that enforce that units in motion are measured once ever 15 minutes and we hope nothing goes really wrong.

Nowhere is this granularity vs. playability problem worse than the measuring the effects of fire.  In a fifteen minute time frame (one of our turns) a soldier might reasonably squeeze off 10 to 40 shots (based on how scared he was and what he is carrying) and, at what we are calling close and medium range, can reasonably expect to hit something. During the war about 150 bullets would be fired for each hit soldier.  Not a great rate but it adds up.  This means that 400 men could shoot between 25 and 100 soldiers a turn (again, 15 minutes).

At what point do we say “ok… that’s enough hits… let’s give you a measurable impact”?  Even worse… what IS a measurable impact? 

Stands are an obvious answer here.  As a unit takes damage it can remove a stand!  The problem is, a stand (which we established represents 90 guys) is too big a chunk to just break off whole.  We need something that I can reasonably say a regiment can kill one or more of in a turn.  We need sub stands.

To add granularity to fire, each stand can take 3 “hits”.  A hit is a 30 man casualty that ain’t coming back.  A stand marked with a “hit” will be fully functional BUT once a third hit is received the whole stand is gone and the unit marked with a stand loss counter. 

To mark hits I purchased groovy colored rubber O-Rings that I place on the injured stand.  Red is my “dead” colored casualty marker.  I also have yellow markers for stragglers (a rule I hinted at in my movement blog). This doesn’t look so much good as it just works and is an old school way to track casualties. 


Note: 3 is not a number I came up with. At this ground scale using more traditional 15mm miniatures, I would have gotten 3 figures to a stand and then used each figure to represent 30 men.  Each of the O-rings above would have fit over a figure and looked like the a soldier was schlepping a red inner tube at a water park.  If the thought of battle bothers you then you are free to think of the soldiers stripping down to their trunks and queuing up on a water flume


Units can shoot at anything that is in front of them and in range.  This deceptively simple and common sense statement statement implies TWO rule systems; Arcs of fire and weapon range.

Each stand (not regiment!) has an arc of fire that it can shoot that extends 45 degrees from either side of the stand.  (Note: I can’t make the last sentence not suck.  I tried.)  Here is a example of how arcs of fire are measured.

Fire Arcs

If a unit cannot fire all its stands at one target then it can split its fire with no penalty.

Range is based on the weapon system being used by the unit.  In the vast majority of cases the unit will be infantry, and the weapon system will be a muzzle loading rifled musket.  The ranges for this weapon are reflected in the table below.  Other weapons such as smoothbore muskets and carbines will be covered later.

Fire is done using the roll for effect mechanic with the following modifiers:

  • -1 Medium range (<4” for infantry rifles)
  • -2 Long range (<8” for infantry rifles)
  • -0 Short range (<2” for infantry rifles)
  • -2 if firing unit moved 3/4 movement (more below)
  • -1 if firing unit moved 1/2 movement (more below)
  • -1 Partial cover (woods, fences)
  • -2 Full cover (buildings, fortifications)
  • +1 Target is in dense formation (Column, Assault Column, Disordered)
  • -1 Target is in dispersed formation (Skirmish)
  • +1 Firing on flank (unit cannot shoot back because of Arc)
  • -2 Firer is “spent” (in the case of reaction fire)

There will be other modifiers as I introduce Artillery and Cavalry but to keep things simple I am limiting my examples here to be infantry only.

As you may recall, rolling for effect is done by rolling a die for each stand, looking for a modified “4” or better and counting each hit.  In this way it is possible to have multiple hits.  The number of dice is modified as follows

  • -1 die – Green unit
  • +1 die – Elite Unit

Note: if the unit splits its fire, then this bonus die only applies to one die roll (the attack with the larger number of dice)

Example of fire

In the example below, two regiments face one another at Medium range.


The confederate unitwill get 4 dice and will need “5’s” or better.


The confederates roll and get two hits!  This has a few impacts on the game.  One… The confederates are Spent.  Two… The union troops take two “ain’t coming back” hits!

Post Fire

We are not done here.  The next step would be to determine the morale impact of being shot.  One has to imagine that standing still while being methodically killed is pretty tricky. I will cover these rules next week(ish).

One final note (because I know Jerry will have this question)… Yes…  Assuming the Union unit is still here after checking morale (whatever that means) then it will get to make a reaction check to shoot back.

Reacting to stuff

10 07 2011

One of my pet peeves with miniature games is that they mostly do a poor job of allowing troops to react to what’s going on on the battlefield.  I’ve had more than one game go wrongish because something really unrealistic, yet totally legal occurred.  One typical result is when a unit sits still and lets itself get shot to bits from the side and rear.  There are historical instances of this happening but they are usually the result of great resolve… not poor reaction skills.  This can be infuriating if you are sitting around waiting for it to be your turn so you can move you troops 1 inch and get out of the situation.  Another fav is when troops move their full range and then shoot first.  What’s up with that?  It seems like standing still and watching the other guy move into range ought to have at least a few advantages.  In the Civil War, when troops found them selves in a bad way they did something about it and usually before it was too late and they NEVER let the opportunity to punish the other side go to waste.

I am not the first person to be irked be the inability to react to an opponent in a realistic way and and as a result there are several popular rules options available to handle many of these types of problems:

Reaction fire:  If unit A moves into range of Unit B and B is able to shoot then B gets to shoot.  Welcome to the battle A!

Denying the flank:  When an infantry unit becomes flanked its owner is allowed to move the end stand closest to the enemy so that the end of the regiment is now no longer point exposed.

The line was the principle formation employed by soldiers during the war.  It featured troops densely packed two deep allowing for the maximum rate of fire.  The week point of this formation was not its rear (as you might expect) but its ends.  A line could be easily reversed but it would be very difficult to form a new line perpendicular to the old one.  Also… imagine the effect of a line be shot on flank by a cannonball.  It would be possible to lose several men to a single shot.  A common short term fix to this problem was to bend back the line so that a company or two of soldiers now faced their enemy.

While both these solutions reduce the number of “wrongish” situations, they don’t really address the fact that units could react very quickly.   Reactions might not be limited to just shooting or turning a few guys to face an opponent.  Another option would be to fall back a few hundred yards or to swap places with a reserve unit directly to the rear. A commander may also realize that he is in TOTALLY the wrong position and what he needs is to be as far away as possible.  And…. as always… the skill of the reacting unit should make a difference.  What we need is a system that allows units a broad array of actions, triggered by enemy behavior and influenced by the skill of the reacting unit.

A system that allows units a broad array of actions, triggered by enemy behavior and influenced by the skill of the reacting unit

In McPherson and Revenge units will be able to react whenever one of two things happen; A unit moves close enough to shoot you or a unit shoots you.

One exception.  Artillery.  The ranges are just too long so Artillery must move to within medium range to trigger a reaction.  I haven’t broached the subject of artillery yet so all this may be shocking.  Basically artillery are giant guns on wheels that shoot grapefruit size bullets that kill stuff real good.  More on this later.

When rolling for reaction, the reacting unit makes a skill roll to determine if it can react using the following modifiers:

  • Unit is spent +2
  • Trigger unit is shooting or will be shooting at long range +2
  • Trigger unit is shooting or will be shooting at medium range +1
  • Reacting unit is “Shaken” +1
  • Reacting unit is “Routed” +2
  • For each stand lost +1
  • Reacting unit is disordered +1
  • If Shot, –1 for each hit (WAKE UP!)

First thing you will note is that there are damned few positive modifiers to making a reaction role.   Basically getting killed makes you MORE likely to hurriedly react, everything else makes you want to stay where you are.  This sounds realistic to me.

Second thing is that as a unit is approached by the enemy it will get TWO opportunities to react.  Once before the damage is done and once after the paint has been mussed up a little.  (BTW… not sure I mentioned it but units can move and then shoot.  There is a little tiny gap in between move and fire where reaction can occur.)

Most battles by my game scale will occur at long range.  For infantry with riffles this will be 8”.  At this range a unit with no other modifiers will need a “6” on a skill check which is not too easy to make.  Reacting will be a crap shot most of the time.

Note: I am on the fence about this but I will go ahead and through it out there as a rule.  A unit this is “spent” (quick time moved or fired) will only be able to react to units at medium (arty short) range.  Spent units are meant to be really busy and would be less likely to react to a threat.  This limitation would only apply to non shooting reactions.

Note: Don’t forget… officer influence!

Cool… I “reacted”… now what?

Once we have established that a unit has reacted, it has a few options”:

  • Move 1/4 its movement.  This is just a wiggle to allow lines to bend to prevent flanking fire.  In most cases this will be a deny the flank like move.
  • Move 1/2 movement straight back…ish.  This is an ordered but hurried withdrawal with no formation change.  If a unit is behind the reacting unit then the unit will appear 2” behind that unit.  Alternately, the unit behind may also make a reaction roll to move into the displacing unit’s place.  The unit will suffer the same effects as a quick time move here (2 straggler hits minus roll for effect)
  • Withdraw full move disordered.  The unit runs for the hills!  The unit goes disordered and makes a full move to the rear (likely 8”),  The unit will suffer the same effects as a quick time move here (2 straggler hits minus roll for effect)
  • SHOOT EM’UP! – Take a shot at the unit assuming you meet the requirements for shooting (in arc, in range, not bullet proof… etc.  One day I may explain shooting.)

Note: routing units may only do a disordered withdraw!.

Note: I am thinking about “formation change” as an option for units.  Some disordered units may snap into line as a result of being shot at or threatened and others may prefer to go disordered rather than get shot in the ear.  Play testing is required.


Let’s Consider the following example.  The 56th Ohio is just out of long range of the 43rd Georgia.


The 56th Ohio moves!  It has a linear movement of 6” while in line and would could cross  two fences (at a cost of 1” each) giving it a possible movement of 4” total.


It moves 4” and triggers a reaction on behalf of the 43rd Georgia.

The 56th Ohio would be shooting at long range so the 43rd gets a +2 on its skill check.  It needs at least one “6”.


Oops… No “6”.  Dagnabit!  Let us assume that a benevolent (or stern) confederate officer uses some of his Karma in order to purchase a reroll.


Sweet!  Success!  The 43rd Georgia reacts and elects to shoot the 56th Ohio to smithereens!


The 43rd Georgia gets to “shoot” (whatever that means) and gets marked with a “spent” counter.

Another example:

The 56th Ohio moves into Medium range on the flank of the 43rd Virginia.


The 43rd will nee a “5” to react this time.  (base number “4” +1 for medium range.)

The 43rd still rolls a success and has the option of doing a quarter move…


… or running for their lives…


They also could move straight back but this buys them very little.

This reaction role could have been much tougher though if the the 4rd had been spent.  Instead of a “5”, they would have needed a “7” (4 + 1 (medium) +2 spent)


Remember… a “6” has a 50/50 of being a “7”  (see my skill checks post  if this is not immediately clear)

An “8” would be needed if the 43rd where also down a stand!


Making good neighbors

30 05 2011

Fences make a huge difference on the battlefield.  Not the paper thin fences we have today but great big fences they used to make when lumber still grew on trees.  Many famous fights pivoted on the fact that one or another side held a position along a fence such as “the angle” at Gettysburg.

No fence says “I belong on a civil war battlefield” more than the snake rail fence. 


This guy is a monster.  It’s 100% wood.  As best I can tell it doesn’t even bother with nails.  If you were being shot at and you wanted to take cover behind something made of wood then you could do much worse than your standard issue snake rail fence.

In addition to stopping the odd bullet, a fence provides another stone cold value to the civil war soldier; It rarely runs away in panic.  Soldiers fought in lines.  They stayed in the fight so long as the soldier on either side of them stayed in the fight.  If a soldier lost the men around him then he is just standing there in a field being shot at.  In this way panic in battle is contagious.

A fence provides much better protection and survivability than running for your life over open ground.  Therefore soldier clung to fences in battle and stayed in the fight.

There are four principle effects of a fence on McPherson and Revenge.

  • Defense – Units in contact with a fence receive a +1 to be hit. (bad for the shooter)
  • Morale – Units in contact with a fence receive a –1 on morale checks (good for the fence sitter)
  • Movement – there is a 1” penalty for units crossing a fence (see movement)
  • Improvised Terrain – Split rail fences can be used to produce improvised terrain

Making fences

To make my snake rail fences, I start with 2.5” popsicle sticks and O scale lumber.  O scale lumber is just really small cut wood.  In this case I use 2” by 2” lumber in the O-scale.  This translates to 0.042” in reality…. small.


I spend some quality time cutting the lumber into about 3/4” pieces


It takes 15 pieces of lumber for each stand on fence and I make the fences five stands at a time.


I then glue the wood to the popsicle sticks in a hash pattern.  The bottom layer gets 3 pieces of lumber and the second layer gets two whole and two half pieces.


BTW… this is shockingly relaxing.

Next I spray paint the split rail fences a dark brown.


Then I paint the fences brown.


This seems like an extra step.  I do it because I don’t have brown spray paint that matches the color scheme I want to use and because pray paint just doesn’t go everywhere.

Next I dry brush the fences with lighter shades of brown (brown lightened with increasing amounts of white)


BTW… It has take YEARS of abuse to get this paint brush ready for this task.  This is where having painting daughters come in handy. 

Next I paint the edges of the stand black.  Again.. maybe a wasted step.  Not sure why I do this but I do.


Next I apply glue using the greatest glue applicator in the history of the world.


I then blow static grass onto the glue.


At this point the fence likes pretty done…


… but something is missing.  What we need now is standard issue weeds, bushes and rocks.

I glue pieces of flocking and rocks to the stand.


Here are a couple of action photos!



Anachronism Alert

Snake rail fences where old tech by the time of the Civil War.  They existed on the East coast from Savannah to DC because they where there since before the Revolution.  They liked the look of the fence and as this was an established and relatively wealthy stretch of land, they continued to build and maintain them.  Mississippi would not have had these types of fences however.  I like them and I couldn’t figure out how to make more conventional fences so this is what I am using.

Going from Point A to Point B

8 05 2011

The civil ware battlefield was a place awash with organized units quickly hurrying to and from strategic positions.  Soldiers were trained to not only cover ground but to do so without sacrificing coherence.  At the end of a march or advance across open terrain a job would need to be done.

Likewise, organization could be sacrificed for the purpose of getting soldiers to where they were needed.  It did no good to show up rested and ready to fight after the battle had been lost.  Soldiers would occasionally be driven quite hard to reach an objective as quickly as possible.  That not all soldiers arrived ready to fight was an acceptable risk if those that did could get a job done.  Stragglers where a fact of the civil war battlefield frequently taking considerable time to rejoin their units.

Troops had multiple formations that they employed in order to impact how they fought and how they moved.  Infantry troops for instance would assume a 2 row deep “line” in order to maximize fire.  This formation was not the fastest for movement but was used if it was thought that soldiers were likely to get an opportunity to fire their guns.  Conversely, soldiers could be placed in a thin line or a column which would be ideal for getting about.

Not all ground on the battle field was easy to move about on.  Battles could be fought in the open but just as often they would be fought in the woods or on hills.  In some cases battles where fought in simply dreadful terrain containing marshes and rivers. 

The Battle of Fredericksburg had a REMARKABLE side show as a unit of cavalry artillery lead by a 24 year old John Pelham took up a flanking position on the far side of a creek where he could not be attacked without first crossing a small swamp.  This annoyance held up the battle for well over an hour as regiment after regiment broke waste deep in muck trying to push the gray artillery back.  Pelham eventually was ordered to withdraw  as he was holding up the battle and looked likely to win it by himself.  This all happened in plain site of nearly 100 thousand union and confederate troops..

Finally, going somewhere was considerable easier if you knew where you needed to go.  Following a road for instance is incredibly efficient for no other reason  than roads where easy to follow and it was hard to get lost.  Additionally, officers who had an exact idea where soldiers where needed might provide additional motivation by traveling with soldiers and offering encouragement.

Movement rules for McPherson and Revenge will provide modeling for the following:

  • Different speeds for different formations
  • Formation changes
  • Hurried movement
  • Spent troops (unready for combat or reaction due to exhaustion)
  • Road Movement
  • Officer Bonus

There will be more movement rules hidden in other post later but these will likely deal with specific terrain types or formations and are more appropriate for discussions focused on these exceptions.


Movement can be as simple as taking the a value for a certain troops type/formation and moving that unit with the aid of a ruler.  Miniature gamers do this by second nature.  The trick is to intuitively know what this value is and to know when an exception should occur.  There are a couple of things that impact how far troops might move, first and and foremost of these is formation.

Formations come in two basic flavors; those that favored fighting (line and assault column) and those that favor movement (column, skirmish and disordered).  Rather than come up with a tediously precise movement range for each formation, I’ve decided to produce movement values for each of these basic categories.  Without stopping to explain what these formation looked like and how useful they are (that being the subject of other blogs) here is how I see infantry movement distances for infantry:

Line 6”
Skirmish 8”
Column 8”
Assault Column 6”
Disorder 8”

When moving infantry the base movement value is either 6” or 8”.  This will be pretty easy to remember and should keep the movement charts on the side table.

Next to consider is what the terrain is like and how that impacts these easily remembered numbers.


Rather than create rules for every conceivable type of terrain or creating a complex matrix of movement values for each formation type, I have decided to categorize terrain in a fashion similar to what I did with formations above and then applying modifiers.  Terrain is either “open”, “rough” or “utter crap”.

Open terrain is flat and dry.  Movement in open terrain is done at full speed.  in addition to grass and pasture plowed and planted fields will also be counted in this terrain category

Rough terrain is broken by rocks or trees and is pretty tough to move through.  Going uphill might also be considered rough terrain.  Units in rough terrain have their movement halved for the distance moved in rough terrain.  If a two inch patch of trees lay in the path of infantry for instance they will spend 4” of movement going through it.

“utter crap” is stuff you go around.  Its knee deep water, a stream, or a particularly heavy forest.  Movement is quartered in “utter crap”.  BTW…Utter crap is not my final title for this third, most worse terrain type but I am at a loss for a better name.  Every other game I have seen that employs good/bad/awful naming to terrain categories confuses me.  The words for mildly bad terrain and really bad terrain overlap to much (broken? rough? difficult? bad going?).  They all sound the same.  “Utter crap” communicates in a way that can be appreciated how tough it is to assault a position in waist deep water.

Roads are really convenient for moving on while in column.  To reflect this, Units that spend their entire movement on a road get a 1/4 movement bonus.  For instance, infantry columns get 10” movement on the road.


Infantry in line, in open terrain:


In this instance infantry can move 6” straight ahead.

Infantry in skirmish moving into a woods (rough):


In this case, infantry can move at half rate through the woods so the net movement in the example above is just over 4”.

Infantry in column across a creek (utter crap):


In this case the infantry column has to cross 1.5” of utter crap which translates into 6” or open movement.  With a total of 8” of available movement, that leave 2” of movement left for the other side of the creek.

Changing formations

Units can change formations as a part of movement.  This operation would have been more complicated than it sounds as most formation changes  involved communication between 400 or so men to do something unexpected.  Additionally, many formation changes involve the considerable displacement of troops.

A formation change could take the entire turn(15 minutes of real time) or only a few minutes.  Skill level would make a huge difference.  To model this and entire turn movement must be expended to change formation minus a quarter movement for each success of a roll for effect.  A minimum of a quarter movement is required for a formation change.  Remember, a roll for effect involves rolling a number of dice based on the skill of the unit in questions (green = 2 dice, Elite = 4 dice) and counting each die that equals a ‘4’ or more.

In the example below an elite unit in line changes to skirmish and moves forward


In this case the unit in question changes to skirmish formation (the faster formation) and then moves the maximum distance.  Maximum distance in this case though is an unknown.  If the unit makes 3 or 4 successful skill then it can move 6” (after losing a quarter movement to the formation change.  If there are 4 failures than the unit changes formation and is done.

Infantry Columns can convert into line and lines into columns with extra efficiency as the displacement of troops is relatively minor and this maneuver was practiced.  In this case a formation change only costs 3/4 movement  minus 1/4 movement for each success.


Units that are willing to sacrifice their reaction capabilities (an entire set of rules I am going to decline to explain at this time) can “push” to maximize their movement.  Before moving, a skill roll can be made to determine bonus movement.  For each success an additional 1/4 movement can be added to the total move.  Once this roll is made the unit need not use the bonus but the penalties will be applied.

Units that move quick time are marked with a “spent” counter which indicates that reaction rolls are conducted at “+2” and that reaction ranges are halved.  I’m not gonna tell you what this means but, trust me, it’s bad.

ALSO, Straggling may have occurred.  Once the unit is moved, two straggling hits are accessed to the unit minus one for each success on a skill check.  Straggling hits are similar to battle hits (another major game concept I will explain later) but are different in that they will be automatically recovered over time.

In the example below an infantry regiment in line quick time moves over open ground:


It’s maximum movement is 10.5’ (6” plus 3/4 of 6”).  This measurement is made and place holders are put on the table where the troops would end up if all three skill dice where to roll 4+.

Dice are rolled and only 1 success occurs.


This leaves the regiment half its normal move (3”) short of its target.

Now its time to see if there are stragglers.  Dice are rolled and again, there is only once success.


The regiment is now spent and has one straggler.  The straggler is marked with a yellow o-ring.

BTW… keep the image above in mind when reading the next section.

Standing orders

When ordering troops to move, it is not known if soldiers will be able to reach their maximum possible potential move.  It is pretty easy to imagine though that commanders would have given orders frequently that assumed optimistic speeds.  Officers also would not have thought of a 15 minute turn as a limit.

To model some of this, units when moved may have their maximum movement marked on the table using the markers I have shown in the example above.  These markers can be left on the table over the following turn and when the unit is next activated, they can finish the last turns orders much more easily than being given new orders.  Marked orders can be given to a unit with a “+2” on the officers activation roll and, if the order is the first order given then it is automatically successful.

Standing orders can always be ignored and new orders can be given.

If an officer fails his first attempt to give orders, then he may issue standing orders in order to improve the likelihood that troops will be able to move in subsequent turns.

This rule will likely not impact officers with 3 or more dice but, as officers get fewer and fewer dice for activating, this will allow them to keep some of their troops in the game.  Interestingly enough, this delayed order means that opponents will be able to see what a unit intends to do which is probably really fair given the time it takes to do it or the decrease in command competence.

Don’t’ forget officer influence

Just a reminder… Officers have influence dice that can gift a regiment under their command when making a roll.  These dice must be outnumbered 2 to one by the dice being rolled by the unit (that is they can never be more than a third of the dice being rolled.

These dice can dramatically improve the movement of a unit when used on either changing formations or pushing for extra movement.

Making markers

I created the move markers by painting 3mm litko bases.


One side I painted blue, the other gray.


To the blue side I added a light blue “X” (the military sybol for infantry) which I outlined in black.         


To the grey side I added brown.


and I painted the edges black.


The arrows for movement I created by cutting sheet form into strips and cutting pointed tips.


I captured quite a few images of movement that I did not use for the writing of this blog.  I intended to give a few more detailed examples of movement including a brigade movement but I seriously ran out of time and I think most of this came out pretty clear.