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Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Bull Run ... meh rss

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john guthrie
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my friend and i played Bull Run at Origins today. i must say we were really underwhelmed by it. we both appreciate martin wallace games immensely (note: neither having played his "war" games), and this was far from his best.

the game is played on a map that represents the battlefield, with irregularly shaped sections. a number of troops are deployed in some sections at the start of the game, as well as artillery (2 cannons for the rebels, 1 for the union). each side has one "leader", which he is allowed to deploy anywhere on the map. the union side is given 4 dice, and the confederacy 3.

on a player's turn, he rolls his dice. the actions he takes are based upon what he rolls. if he rolls a 1, he gets to take an action card from his deck. a 2 or 3 lets him fire his artillery at an adjacent enemy. a 4 or 5 lets him move a number of troops, and a 6 is the "leader" action, which lets the player take any of the above actions in the area where his leader is found. since the action cards are so powerful, we typically used the leader action to pick another card.

the player can execute these actions (pick a card, artillery fire, movement) in any order, but he must do all of them. he can play action cards at any time in the turn (as can the other player, for action cards that affect the opposition). then, if any areas contain troops from both sides, a skirmish takes place. during a skirmish, each side will roll the dice. the defenders roll first, two dice for each troop of his kind in the contested area, with a maximum of 6 dice. a 4, 5, or 6, is a hit, else it's a miss. for each hit, another die is rolled. for that die, a 4, 5, or 6 is a wound, else it's a retreat. two wounds and a troop piece is removed from the game, and the person who rolled the die gets to assign the damage to the wounded side however he wants.

artillery fire is similar, only it's one die per die that was a 2 or 3. with artillery, only a 5 or 6 is a hit, and the subsequent die roll has 6 as a wound and all others (1 thru 5) as retreat actions.

there are three ways to win. first, if one side can capture the flag of the other side (by controlling the section of the map where the map is) and keep it until a round's end (after the confederate move, the union goes first), he wins. otherwise there are three starred sections on the map, and if either side runs out of action cards in his deck, whoever holds two of those three sections wins. lastly, there is a "rout" action card that can let you win on a die roll (you have to roll two dice and get a sum less than or equal to the number of enemy troops you killed in the last skirmish - so if you killed two you'd have to play the action card and roll snake eyes.

i've mentioned action cards. they're pretty powerful. they bend the rules a bit, by letting you do things like roll an extra die in battle, or cancel a forced retreat for a troop piece. and you can only have five in your hand at the end of a round.

so why didn't we like this game? well, i guess it just felt so random. i went for 4 turns at the start without getting a single action card while my friend blasted away at me (i also consistenly rolled 1s, 2s, and 3s in battle), and neither one of us found that very much fun (my friend hates feeling like is winning a game because of luck). also, the artillery was very weak. a 5 or 6 just to get a chance at rolling a 6 to do any real damage. and the "rout" path to victory was just crazy - we never had a skirmish kill more than 2 enemy troops.

one thing i should mention. this is still a prototype. it was nice of Mayfair to lug it out to Origins (they also had martin wallace's other new game, Aeroplane, which we both loved), but when we played there was no one there to explain the rules - some other non-Mayfair person, who just happened to be there while awaitng the start of her game, went over the game for us. the rule book was short and incomplete, and some of the action cards ambiguous (for instance, the ones that let you add dice to battle rolls didn't make it clear whether it was one extra die per troop or just one in total.

all in all, this game was a "must miss" for us, unless something really changes in the rules.
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Mark Chaplin
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My Bull Run Wallace balloon is deflating.



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john guthrie
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Yugblad wrote:
My Bull Run Wallace balloon is deflating.


then i have one word for you - Aeroplane. the other Martin Wallace game Mayfair was demoing here was excellent. Thematically like Automobile (which is growing on me), you get to buy newer and bigger and better planes as the game goes on, which you use to fly routes you've established on the map. it has dice as well, but you do things to improve your dice roll (i.e. if you have enough cash in hand, you can pretty much buy whatever number you need). and you can overbuild other players' route stations with newer ones of you own (a la Brass). and the best part of it, of course, i won when we played.
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Ingo Griebsch
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Many thanks for this additional hint, john. I heard nothing about that until today... thumbsup

grafpoo wrote:
Yugblad wrote:
My Bull Run Wallace balloon is deflating.


then i have one word for you - Aeroplane. the other Martin Wallace game Mayfair was demoing here was excellent. Thematically like Automobile (which is growing on me), you get to buy newer and bigger and better planes as the game goes on, which you use to fly routes you've established on the map. it has dice as well, but you do things to improve your dice roll (i.e. if you have enough cash in hand, you can pretty much buy whatever number you need). and you can overbuild other players' route stations with newer ones of you own (a la Brass). and the best part of it, of course, i won when we played.
 
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Scott Henshaw
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Thank you for writing up your game play. How would you have felt if the die rolling had been more equitable for you?
I am a notorious poor die roller, so I know how that feels. Did your poor day rolling low color your enjoyment of the game?
I realize this game is suppose to be simpler than most of Martin Wallace's other games, but I hope it still has some reason to be played.
With the 150th Anniversary of this battle only weeks away, I have been reading a few books on the subject. This 1st major battle of the ACW was almost a farce.
The troops were so unprepared for the realities of real warfare. Though most men on both sides fought bravely, neither side was fighting well due to their extreme inexperience.
A good game on this battle should have LOTS of chaos. It is as it actually was.
I like what you wrote of the game mechanics and still look forward to seeing the end result.
Cheers!
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john guthrie
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ScottH wrote:
Thank you for writing up your game play. How would you have felt if the die rolling had been more equitable for you?
I am a notorious poor die roller, so I know how that feels. Did your poor day rolling low color your enjoyment of the game?
I realize this game is suppose to be simpler than most of Martin Wallace's other games, but I hope it still has some reason to be played.
With the 150th Anniversary of this battle only weeks away, I have been reading a few books on the subject. This 1st major battle of the ACW was almost a farce.
The troops were so unprepared for the realities of real warfare. Though most men on both sides fought bravely, neither side was fighting well due to their extreme inexperience.
A good game on this battle should have LOTS of chaos. It is as it actually was.
I like what you wrote of the game mechanics and still look forward to seeing the end result.
Cheers!


i could see that part of it could be my souring on an unrepresentatively (? - is that a word) lop-sided game, dice-wise. and my grouse about artillery being almost impossible to score a hit with, well, maybe that is purposeful (others who wargame more could back that up). i am willing (but not eager) to give it another try, but i certainly won't be buying it to do that...
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Tom Stearns
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I wonder what the rational is for giving the Union one more die than the CSA? Both sides were pretty evenly ineffective as far as organization was concerned. As the battle played out the CSA leadership actually performed better.

As for artillery in the game, does range make a difference? Solid shot at range was not very effective at killing as much as it was at disorganzing, hence the greater chance at getting a retreat as opposed to a wound. However at close range, artillery fire was devestating and the wound chances should be significantly higher.

Are there more than just one leader per side? Does terrain have any effect on movement or combat? Do leaders have any effect on combat or movement?

I tend to not like simplified games of battles because there are so many factors involved that if they are glossed over take away from the realism.
 
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john guthrie
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gohrns wrote:

As for artillery in the game, does range make a difference? Solid shot at range was not very effective at killing as much as it was at disorganzing, hence the greater chance at getting a retreat as opposed to a wound. However at close range, artillery fire was devestating and the wound chances should be significantly higher.

we were told range was to an adjacent section only.

gohrns wrote:

Are there more than just one leader per side? Does terrain have any effect on movement or combat? Do leaders have any effect on combat or movement?

one leader per side. although... the CSA side had two leader tokens. but again, we were told, and this was backed up by the rules (as the CSA player, i double-checked) that it was one leader per side.

and no terrain effects.

and the only effect leaders have on anything else is that a roll of 6 lets you do any action in the leader's section. otherwise, they just count as a troop (i think)

it seemed very prototype-like, but i know pre-orders are available, so this must be what they are going with.
 
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Donald Walsh
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It reads very similar to the War of the Ring action dice system. Does it feel similar at all?
 
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john guthrie
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havoc110 wrote:
It reads very similar to the War of the Ring action dice system. Does it feel similar at all?


sorry, i haven't played War of the Ring
 
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Brian Baird
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havoc110 wrote:
It reads very similar to the War of the Ring action dice system. Does it feel similar at all?


Yes, it is, but there's less options for each action. If you roll a 1, you're picking up a card. 2 or a 3? You'll be firing. And so on. The leader (a 6) is a 'wildcard' action of your choice, based on which area your leader is in.
 
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Brian Baird
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gohrns wrote:

As for artillery in the game, does range make a difference?


Artillery fires to an adjacent space.

Quote:
Are there more than just one leader per side?


The Confederates have two leaders in an 'advance' mode I haven't played.

Quote:
Does terrain have any effect on movement or combat?


There are 3 locations marked as hills, which give bonuses to a defender fighting on them.

Quote:
Do leaders have any effect on combat or movement?


Not really. If you roll a six, you can elect to perform a move action based on the area the leader is in (effectively allowing you to move more troops this turn).

Quote:
I tend to not like simplified games of battles because there are so many factors involved that if they are glossed over take away from the realism.


It's definitely a simplified, relatively streamlined game, based on my initial play, with a lot depending on your dice rolls. Need to play it some more to fully judge.
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Dan Dolan
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I picked this up today and got a play in vs Jeff D whoo is a WAllace fanboy. He was not impressed with the game but I liked it as a quick playing little game.

It is a chaotic representation of the Civil Wars first battle. The Union getting 4 dice is needed as they have to carry the burden of attacking but the rebels aren't standing back doing nothing as the Yankees advance. They can cause the Union some problems by counteratttacks.

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Scott Henshaw
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I did not realize this was finally released. I will have to look for it. Thanks for the info!
 
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Robert Johnson
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I grabbed this yesterday at my FLGS as an impulse buy never hearing about it - at 29 bucks how could I say no.

What a fun little game. Simple - yet perfect for me and my 9 yr old. Nice Map, cards are fun to play and like the dice use for action selection.

I am solo'ing today, enjoy the back and forth swings. Twice now the Rebs almost made a breakout to Centerville only to have their hopes dashed as Union replacements flooded in.


As for Artillery being weak - save an artillery card (which I think doubles the "to hit" dice) and use when you roll a few 2,3's. I did and that's how I got the Rebs off the hill.
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Nevin Ball
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Quote:
What a fun little game. Simple - yet perfect for me and my 9 yr old. Nice Map, cards are fun to play and like the dice use for action selection.


This sounds like the perfect way to introduce my nine year old to wargames and teach a little history as we play.
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Christopher Hill
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As a counter to the original post I'd like to say I thought the game was rather enjoyable. It is definetely a simpler version of most war games, but it can be a nice intro for a war gamer wannabe.
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john guthrie
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kinga1965 wrote:
As a counter to the original post I'd like to say I thought the game was rather enjoyable. It is definetely a simpler version of most war games, but it can be a nice intro for a war gamer wannabe.


as i said, we played a prototype with a crappy and incomplete rulebook. i'd be interested in hearing if the final product (and general play) matches what we played as described above.
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Thomas Mink

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Without any random elements, folks would be complaining that playing the same battle over and over could get old or claiming the game is "scripted.

All I know is that the game is fun to play, easy to set up, and entertains for an hour or more.
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Frank Hamrick
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Yes, there are terrain effects, and the way Wallace incorporated their effects is genius in my opinion. The terrain affects the number of troops you can move from one zone to another on a single move action. Thus, woods allow only one unit per move action. Thus, terrain affects how many men and thus, how many dice one will roll in a given attack. Each zone side has a number printed on it to designate how many units may cross that side on a given action. A wonderfully elegant way to affect firepower, etc. without all the hassle of learning the "numbers" for various terrain effects.
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Leon Loo
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Rout. "Play this card during your turn. Roll two dice. If the result is less than or equal to the number of enemy units eliminated, you win the game immediately."

I believe "the number of enemy units eliminated" refers to the total number of all enemy units eliminated during the course of the game. I think that makes the play of the rout card, the game mechanic that most frequently ends the game.


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