We have amassed reasonable forces (around 200-240 infantry per side) with cavalry and guns in 28mm. Now we need a great set of rules. The rules need to be fast and inclusive as we play with 3-4 players per side. Any rules that leave a player sitting idle for 20 minutes are unacceptable. We want a commercial set with minimal house rules.
The rules that we have looked at are; Black Powder (BP), Rank and File ACW (R&F), Regimental Fire and Fury (RFF), and They Couldn't Hit an Elephant (TCHAE).
For now we have put TCHAE to one side. There are members of our group who don't really get on with card driven systems and not having a go during a turn. In TCHAE units are activated by cards, the "Coffee" card terminates the current move.
So that leaves us with BP, R&F and the new arrival, RFF.
We have played a few games of Rank and File with it's ACW supplement. This set gives a nice free flowing game and its integrated move sequence means that players are busy most of the time. The ACW supplement is a little difficult to use, so I have created an ACW specific quick reference sheet for the rules. You can download this from the Crusader Publishing forum (ACW QRS V1.pdf).
The R&F system uses a neat turn sequence that has the two sides doing some things sequentially (moving) and most things simultaneously (shooting, melee, morale etc). My main issue with the rules is that the basic rules do not include a command and control mechanism. The role of leaders in the system is to bolster troops. The ACW set does include a system of orders and order changes but I have not found them to be playable in a group game. Now, some members of our group like not having a C&C mechanism because they believe that that is their job. Personally I like some fog of war. That leads nicely into our next choice; Black Powder.
I will lay my cards on the table; I like Black Powder. The mechanisms are simple, the C&C system handles fog of war brilliantly, they are very nicely written. I was hooked after my first (and so far only) game. The issue when playing with this set as a group has been that the turn sequence and the fog of war mechanisms leave some players idle for a little too long. The very simple (but not simplistic) movement rules and very abrupt death of units also left some players less than happy.
Now for the newcomer - Regimental Fire and Fury. I have had my copy for about 36 hours at the time of writing. It is a lovely book and the rules derive their mechanisms from the original Fire and Fury rules. I have had a copy of the original for years but have never actually played them. They are well known by a number of our group and we should pick up the regimental version pretty quickly. The system looks straight forward and of the four sets I have discussed here they are the most thorough looking set. lots of examples, lots of explanations and very little ambiguity. I really want to try this set out. One thing about RFF is that it is very specifically for ACW, BP and R&F cover the whole Horse and Musket era and so will cover our requirement for a standard set for the whole "period".
So, this weekend we are going to try two back to back games, using two sets of rules for the same scenario. I have taken a scenario for 1st Kernstown from the June 2008 edition of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy magazine as my starting point and added some detail from the scenario for the same battle in the TCHAE book. I have worked out OOB's for each of Black Powder, Rank and File, and Regimental Fire and Fury. You can get a copy of my scenario from Google Documents (Kernstown.pdf)
Hopefully I will be able to post a report and some conclusions from our experiment.
As a bonus, I have produced some ACW casualty markers to help with some of these rule sets. You can copy them if you want to. I print them out and stick them onto self-adhesive floor tiles prior to cutting them out. They work very well. (ACW Casualties.pdf)