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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Deep Fried Happy Mice! (Another review of BBB)



Why Deep Fried Happy Mice? Who knows? Not me, though perhaps someone will enlighten me. Anyway: DFHM is "The World's First Online Miniatures Restaurant": Mark Serafin's website mainly dedicated to reviews of wargames figures, rules, books etc. I encourage you to visit it.
You won't regret it. Also Mark's online store, Scale Creep.

My particular reason for pointing you towards DFHM right now is of course BBB-related. This is the BBBBlog, after all. Vincent Tsao is a BBB player whose beautiful photo-reports I have already posted about. Having reviewed other games for DFHM in the past, Vincent has now kindly written an extensive and well-informed review of BBB and BBEB for DFHM.

I am very grateful both to Vincent for taking the trouble to review BBB, and to Mark for posting the review in his DFHM Rules Directory.


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TITLE:

  • Bloody Big BATTLES!: Rules for Wargaming the Late Nineteenth Century (2014)
  • Companion volume: Bloody Big EUROPEAN BATTLES!: Wargame Scenarios for the Late Nineteenth Century (2014)

AUTHOR:

Chris Pringle

PUBLISHER:

SkirmishCampaigns

PUBLICATION DATE:

November 2014

WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:

The main forum for discussion of BBB and BBEB
Color maps for all scenarios in both BBB and BBEB
Quick reference sheets
Complete small ‘starter’ scenarios
Miscellaneous additional complete free scenarios
Spreadsheets listing game size, numbers of troops required for each scenario, etc
Campaign reports

An occasional BBB blog for those who prefer blogs
Includes full review of BBB and BBEB as published in the Foreign Correspondent

jpg versions of color maps and scenarios
Photo reports of numerous BBB games

PRICE (with date):

$25.00 (in 2015)

REVIEWED BY: Vincent Tsao, no connection with author or publisher.

PERIOD COVERED:

All major battles between 1854-1897, especially:
Crimean War
Italian War of 1859
American Civil War
Austro-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
Russo-Turkish War
War of the Pacific

THE BOOK:

BBB is a stapled 8.5” x 11” book. It runs 56 pages. It has a color cover with a B&W interior.
The rules themselves comprise 27 pages with numerous examples.
27 pages are given over to 9 scenarios for the largest Franco-Prussian War battles, which link together as a complete FPW campaign.
2 pages of Quick Reference sheets (also available online from the Yahoo group). Page 1 has movement and terrain charts, page 2 had firefight and assault tables.

I strongly advise downloading the color QRS from the Yahoo group. I had it printed on both sides and laminated. It is far superior to the black and white version in the rule book and much clearer.

BBEB is the same physical format. It includes 16 historical scenarios, most of which are linked into campaigns:
Crimean War – 4
Italian War of 1859 – 2
Second Schleswig War – 1
Austro-Prussian War – 3
Russo-Turkish War – 4
Serbo-Bulgarian War – 1
Greco-Turkish War – 1


SCOPE:

Units are typically either brigades or divisions, to enable fighting complete battles as grand tactical games in a manageable way. All BBB and BBEB scenarios can be fought by 4 players, mostly on a 6’x4’ table, in an evening.

ARMY SIZE:

Average army size for the Franco-Prussian scenarios in BBB is about 70 1”x1” stands a side, with the largest needing 100 or so.
Most of the scenarios in BBEB are somewhat smaller.

BASE UNIT:

An infantry unit is generally made up of 3-7 stands of figures, cavalry usually 2, artillery 1. Units typically represent divisions or brigades, but may only be regiments, depending on the size of the battle.

GAME SCALES:

  1. Ground scale variable according to scenario but generally approximates to 1” = 200 yards
  2. Time scale variable but typically 1 turn = 1 hour
  3. Figure/Base Ratio variable but typically a 1” base = 1000-1500 men or 24-36 guns
A number of the smaller scenarios on the Yahoo group use 1 base = 500 troops or 12 guns.
  1. Recommended Figure size 6mm to 15mm
  2. Table Size: 4’x6’ is standard; a couple of larger scenarios need 4’x8’; some starter scenarios only need 4’x4’.
  3. Game Length: the rules are geared to enable games to be played to completion in 3 to 4 hours or less.
When first learning the game it may take longer. My group takes about 25-30 minutes per turn as of our third game.
I think we’ll do better as we get used to the rules.

BASING SIZES:

The recommended base size is 1”x1” for infantry, cavalry and artillery alike. The rules can be used with somewhat smaller or larger base sizes up to 1.5” or so, provided both sides are based the same.

I use 1 inch wide bases of varying depth. Square bases do make it easy to figure out the 45 degree arc of fire.

TURN SEQUENCE:

  • First Player Unit Movement. Dice per unit to see whether/how far each unit can move.
  • First Player Generals. Move Generals.
  • Defensive Fire. Second Player’s units fire at eligible targets at any point during the move they just did. ‘Halt’ results may move enemy units back where they came from.
  • Offensive Fire. First Player’s units now fire.
  • The Assault. First Player’s units that charged into contact resolve their Assaults.
  • (then repeat all phases with players reversed)

GAME MECHANICS:

Movement: 2D6 roll per unit, modified by morale factors, generals and doctrine, and difficult terrain, to determine whether unit gets a full or half move or none, rallies or not, or may be forced to retire or break. There are 6 modifiers to the movement table.

Firefight: calculate total firepower points of all bases firing at a target unit. Column shifts left or right on firing table according to tactical factors. 2D6 roll to determine whether Disrupted, Halted, any bases lost, artillery silenced. There are 7 common column shifts and 3 uncommon ones. Small arms covered are smoothbore muskets, muzzle-loading rifles (like Minie rifles), needleguns, early breechloaders, late breechloaders (like the Chassepot), repeating rifles and repeating carbines. Artillery covered are smoothbore artillery (Napoleon gun-howitzer), rifled artillery, breech-loading artillery (Krupp guns), machine guns (Gatling, Mitrailleuse) and rockets.

Assault: opposed D6 roll. Apply a few tactical modifiers, calculate resulting difference. Loser pushed back variable distance, may lose bases. Winning attackers may take the defender’s position or on a big win exploit for half a turn and possible assault another enemy unit immediately. There are 9 possible assault modifiers, usually only one or two apply to any one assault.

 ARMY LISTS/SCENARIOS:

There are no army lists, points systems, or TO&Es provided, as BBB is geared specifically to fighting historical scenarios.

Scenarios Included (BBB):
Franco-Prussian War Campaign Scenarios
o        Froeschwiller
o        Borny / Colombey
o        Mars-la-Tour
o        Gravelotte
o        Beaumont
o        Sedan
o        Loigny / Poupry
o        Beaugency
o        Le Mans

Scenarios included (BBEB):
The Crimean War
o        Kurudere
o        The Alma
o        Inkerman
o        The Chernaya
Risorgimento! Italian War of 1859
o        Magenta
o        Solferino
The Second Schleswig War
o        Dybbøl & Als
The Austro-Prussian War of 1866
o        Custoza
o        Nachod, Trautenau, Skalitz & Soor
o        Königgrätz
The Russo-Turkish War
o        The Second Battle of Plevna
o        The Third Battle of Plevna
o        Aladja Dagh
o        Metchka / Tristenik
The Serbo-Bulgarian War
o        Slivnitsa
The Greco-Turkish War
o        Domokos

Each scenario includes a black and white map, a short history, orders of battle for both sides, victory conditions, scenario rules, campaign/scenario options and scenario notes.
The rules include a simple campaign. You can play a group of the battles in turn, the winner of the current game gaining some advantage in the next battle.
When terrain is complex the black and white maps may be difficult to figure. The files of the Yahoo group have the color version which is much clearer.

REVIEWER’S COMMENTS:

          The soft cover has the only color, so this is not a coffee table set of rules loaded with eye candy of fabulously painted 28mm figures. On the other hand the rules don’t cost $40.
There is a table of contents. The 27 pages of rules contain a good number of helpful examples. The rules are fairly simple and clearly written. I found only a few minor typos- a rarity in rules and published books too these days. There are a good number of clear examples with diagrams. I felt I could play after a reading or two.

          The scenarios are clear and list the number of troops/guns per base. This makes using the scenarios for other rules straightforward. It’s always nice not to have to spend time “translating” scenarios.

PLAYER’S COMMENTS:
         
          First, let me say that BBB meets my dice requirements. High rolls are always good. I prefer that instead of needing high dice for one type of thing and low dice for another, and then having trouble remembering when each is called for. This way snake eyes means trouble and box cars calls for champagne, regardless of the situation. The rules resemble Fire and Fury, as Fire and Fury resembles On to Richmond . But it is stripped down, leaner and meaner than F&F.

          I’ve played three games so far and like the game more as I go. We are not up to speed yet, taking 25-30 minutes per turn. I think we can get that down to 15-20 soon. I like the movement system. It is similar to Fire and Fury. In F&F players roll 1D10 which means the extreme results can happen 1 in 10 times. BBB uses 2D6 which means the extreme result is 1/36. A disrupted unit rolling on the movement table won’t break unless it has negative modifiers. Be assured units won’t always move when you want. If that bothers you, avoid BBB. I prefer C&C rules since we often play one or two players per side.

Movement is generous, 12” for infantry and artillery, 18” for cavalry and staff. This means units will close fairly rapidly, no early turns spent watching units crawl into range. Units must move in a straight line (unless marching along a road), so no zooming up from in front to fall on a flank. Units exert a zone of control. Within 3 inches you either move towards them or away from them. After completing a move a unit may pivot on its central stand to face any direction. Fiddly wheeling measurement is gone. A Unit can cover a lot of ground if it is unopposed. Infantry in column on a road with a good movement roll can cover nearly three miles in an hour. I’ve played other games where unopposed units can make perhaps half a mile per hour because the movement and time frame don’t really match. In BBB you’d best picket open flanks rather than rely on slow movement by the enemy. Of course a bad movement roll may indicate the unit CO has decided to stop and consult his schnapps flask…

The firing table is easy to use, one (2D6) die roll tells all. The designer has put work into the table so the player doesn’t have to do it during the game. In many other games guns are firing, moving or dead. Silenced batteries must limber up and pull out of the fight, at least for the moment. This adds a lot off flavor to the game.

Units are halted based on their training level, so raw troops will halt before trained, etc. This means assaults often stop and turn into firefights, not unlike accounts of actual fights.

Assaults are resolved by opposed die rolls, each side rolling 1D6. Again, this is similar to Fire & Fury. But with each side rolling 1D6 instead of 1D10, there is a smaller range of results. In F&F a fight between two equally matched forces has a 2 in 10 chance of one side or the other being routed. One player I know says F&F is too dicey because of this. In BBB two equally matched forces will not get the most extreme result. One side or the other must have at least 2 points of modifiers to get a chance of the extreme result. This is more deterministic than F&F but assault is still not a done deal. There is also a good chance that a frontal assault won’t go home and instead become a firefight. You should disrupt units you wish to charge. The sure way to close is to avoid the enemy front and hit them in flank or rear. This is easier said than done.

BBB requires four different types of markers: disrupted infantry/cavalry or silenced artillery, reduced artillery, spent and low on ammo. If you are allergic to markers be warned. It’s not a problem for my group. You may of course use figures or whatever in place of markers.

I find the game to be a good, simple, sturdy system for fighting grand-tactical battles of the 19th Century. I’ve been working on my own grand-tactical rules for a while and feel like I no longer have to look. BBB is pretty much what I was looking for. There is command & control, done simply. You can tweak it for different armies. Truly slow armies can be declared passive, giving them a -1 modifier on the movement table. With the bell curve produced by 2D6 that modifier will have more effect than you think. Better armies can have more generals on the field. They give a +1 modifier for movement.

Assaults are more deterministic than F&F, which keeps some of my gaming mates happy, i.e. we can play these rules. So we have one set of rules for the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War and arcane periods like the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific ( Chile , Peru and Bolivia ). I even suspect we can use the rules as is for grand-tactical Napoleonic games. After that last statement I’d best step lively before I find myself bound to the stake.