FINE TUNING FIRE & FURY

(This article appeared in June's 1995 issue of HMGS/PSW's newsletter, "The Messenger." Credits for the authors are at the end of the article.)

While F&F is a fine game, as a simulation it is lacking in historic subtleties that made the Civil War unique. (With apologies to Mr. Paddy Griffith.) Eric Schultz, Mike Miller and myself had long phone conversations about what to change about F&F to make it more Civil Warlike. If any of our readers have house rules that you use for your F&F games, let us know. A follow up article is in the pipeline and we could use your input.

Those Linear Tables!

The biggest complaint that I have heard about these rules are the tables that must be rolled. Results vary greatly from roll to roll. The designer must be attempting to reflect the chaotic conditions of a Civil War battlefield, but only First Bull Run was that chaotic. To give those charts bell curves, roll two D- 10 and average the result together, rounding off. The disorder effects chart should still be rolled with 1 D-10 as it represents the morale chart, and should not be predictable.

Movement Modifications

Since true command control and morale is incorporated together in the maneuver chart, one is struck in F&F by the spectacle of a Corps' divisions all moving as one except the odd shot-up brigade. In real Civil War life it was hard to get two divisions to cooperate, let alone coordinate operations. So make the division the maneuver unit. Players must roll the disorder effects chart to rally brigades. Next each division rolls on Division Maneuver Table with the following results:

Die RollResultDescription
0 or less BREAK CONTACTDivision retires out of enemy's movement range and may not advance the rest of the day. They will continue retire without a roll to avoid capture.
1-3 HOLD GROUND Division cannot advance. Brigades may not change formation if rallied.
4-6 TARDY Division is allowed a 1/2th move. Brigades may change formation if rallied.
7+ WELL HANDLED Division moves normally.
Note that if the brigade failed its rally, it cannot change formation per the rules. If the divisional commander attaches himself to a brigade the normal maneuver table is rolled.

Modifiers

This chart has different modifiers. They are:
ModifierReason
+2 For exceptional division commander. (Must be in command and not attached.)
+1 For exceptional corps commander. (Must be in command radius.)
+1 For an exceptional army commander. (Give Lee something to do.)
-1 For a poor divisional commander. (You know who these are.)
-1 For a poor corps or army commander. (Poor Bragg!)
+1 For each undisordered or Rallied with Elan brigade at the start of this phase. (Remember, you rally your disorders, than roll the divisional maneuver chart.)
-1 each brigade not Rallied with Elan.
If that is too radical for the gamers of the bunch, well, fine. It does change your strategy however, and gets you thinking like Civil War General.

More Movement.

As you continue to use the brigade maneuver chart, do you really think that disordered but fresh brigades were that unreliable? Nope, either do I. Change the modifiers to +3 Fresh, +1 Worn -2 Spent.

More Movement.

No hand hauling artillery? According to Snowdon Andrew's Mounted Artillery Drill, there are two drills to do this: "By the Hand to Front," and "By the Hand to the Rear." I don't think it would be too out of line to allow a gun stand a 1" handpush to the front or rear.

Fire changes.

Again let's look at artillery. Yankee batteries had a real advantage with their rifles, but we never see their effects in F&F. So, let add rifles to the game. Dump the idea of 8 guns to a stand in the 1-200 scale, and make it 6 guns a stand. Round off. This means a Confederate artillery battalion of 16 guns is now 3 gun stands, while a battalion of 14 guns would be 2 stands. The ratio of rifles to smoothbores are 1 rifle to 2 smoothbores on the average in the Confederate army, 2 rifles to 1 smoothbore, or 1-1 usually in the Federal army. Rifled stands have a different performance curve than regular gun stands. (SEE BELOW)

(Don't be too alarmed the fact that Confederate batteries had their rifles assigned by section - once a battle began, rifled sections were brigaded together in battery.) Remember, a gun stand does not represent a battery.

More fire. Out of Ammo.

Troops run low on ammo too quick. I can see a regiment burning powder that quick, but a brigade? The rule's author assumes the worst damage is done by the most firepower, that is not necessarily true. It might just be the destruction of command personal. You just don't know. So, the next time you roll a 0 for fire effect, add this, Roll 1 D-10: 1-3 you are low, all other results, you just shot effectively. The next time the same brigade rolls a 0, the chance goes up to 1-6. After that every time that brigade rolls a 0 it must roll another 0 otherwise it's low. If you can roll 2 "0" in row, well you have the best shots in these United States and you deserve to conserve ammo. All other rolls means brigades are low on ammo, and must follow the game's replenishment rules.

Still more fire. No defensive fire!

When these rules were first making the rounds back east, one quirk I noticed was breakthroughs were unopposed by fire. Since the rule's author was there, I asked if this was an oversight. I was told that fire was not allowed since friendly troops were often intermixed with the breakthrough unit. While this might be true, it did stop the target of said breakthrough from firing. They saw what was happening and they did not want the same thing happening to them.

As one participant of Stones River recalls: "We felt they [pursued troops] were jupradizing (sic) the safety of our unit, so we gave a holler 'Firing, Firing, Firing!' then let go with a volley of fire that stopped the Rebels and it was sometime before they commenced to advance again."

When a unit was in danger, niceties as weather or not friendlies were in the way of the fire were overlooked. Therefore allow brigades near the breakthrough to fire at -1 to their roll. If you really want be accurate, allow any brigade, that is passed through by a friendly retreating brigade, only 1/2th its fire.

And still more fire.

By allowing brigades to fire both ranks of the double-line while on the attack, the double ranked line becomes the best formation to play the game. Casey's Tactics informs us that this maneuver is called placing regiments in reserve. The regiments are in column of divisions for quick movement to a threatened part of line. If your troops are in column of divisions, you can't give too much fire support in an attack. Your job is more of morale, and the chart's melee pluses bear this out. The best formation in the American Civil War was the line. Therefore, if a unit is double ranked, it may only fire the front rank, period. It still gets its melee bonuses.

Melee.

You are Hard Pressed by the enemy, and so disordered you retreat beyond 2" from the victorious enemy. Because you rolled lousy (Desultory Fire) he had an advantage in the melee. But you nearly fought him to a standstill, gave him the best in the ranch, and he just beat you. Yet there he sits in your former position, pristine and undamaged. Nuts! Let's change that. If the attacker wins the melee with the result of Hard Pressed or Driven Back, the attacker becomes disorganized. So now with these rules, go forth a put a little Fire in your Fury.


Eric Schultz lives in Chicago. He is a Civil war historian, re enactor and editor of the 123rd Tennessee (Senior) unit's news letter. His next project will be explaining American Civil War Skirmish Drill to wargamers.

Mike Miller resides in La Mesa, CA. He is a former member of Battery B, 4th U.S. re enacting unit. He is currently collecting books on Civil War mapmaking. His alter-ego is Gen. J.E. Johnston, and he was last seen arguing with Lt. Gen. J. Pemperton (John Curran) on how best to save Vicksburg.

Steve Phenow resides in Hollywood and is the head of the Van Nuys Civil War Round Table, which meets at 7:00 PM every second Tuesday of the month at Bookgrinders Book Store, at the junction of Fulton and Burbank Bvld. Van Nuys CA. He also edits the HMGS/PSW Newsletter "The Messenger" and puts on ACW battles in miniature for the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, CA



Fire & Fury page written and maintained by: Allan Wright -- aew@unh.e du
If you have additional information or corrections, please e-mail me.