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Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Wargamer's Take On Test Of Fire: Bull Run, 1861 rss

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Kent Reuber
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One of my reservations is the Rout card, that allows you to win automatically if you can roll less than or equal to the number of eliminated units the other side has suffered. Even as a wargamer, that seems a bit too luck-based to me. If it were me, I'd have allowed you to make a rout roll only in the case where your losses were less than your opponent, or perhaps roll 1 dice equal to the difference in your losses. Sudden death in this case seems like it might be a bit too sudden. How does the reviewer feel about this?
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Jeffrey D Myers
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"Always rely upon a happy mind alone." Geshe Chekhawa.
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People feel similarly about the peace die roll in The Napoleonic Wars.
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Kent Reuber
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Peso Pete wrote:
In other words, I see the point of the rule since these were amateur armies at the time and their morale was hardly predictable. However, I'd be kind of pissed if I was winning the game and suddenly my opponent got a lucky roll with the rout card and made my army run from the battlefield.


Agreed, I see the point of the card, I just wish it were implemented differently.
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C Sandifer
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Is the 45 minute playtime accurate? If not, my interest just dropped quite a bit.

This game's pulling me in all directions. It's a low-complexity Martin Wallace game (often a -), it's a war game (+), it's compared to C&C (-), it's short (?) and simple enough that kids or families might enjoy it (+), it's super cheap (+), and it contains a potentially broken Rout card (-).

Could be that it's time to spend some Amazon points.
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C Sandifer
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Also, I assume that it's possible to leave out the Rout card without otherwise affecting gameplay? Seems like a reasonable option if the card is that problematic.
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Kent Reuber
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wkover wrote:
This game's pulling me in all directions. It's a low-complexity Martin Wallace game (often a -), it's a war game (+), it's compared to C&C (-), it's short (?) and simple enough that kids or families might enjoy it (+), it's super cheap (+), and it contains a potentially broken Rout card (-).


I wouldn't compare it to C&C--I'd compare it more to War of the Ring. In that game, you roll your dice and each dice lets you take an action. The difference is, in War of the Ring, players alternate using their dice, where here a player uses all their dice one at a time.
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Clay Cooper
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I'd probably either remove the rout card from the deck or only allow it to be played once a certain minimum no. of units have been lost by either side.
 
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Clay Cooper
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Can someone describe how the combat procedure works, please? Thanks.
 
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Kent Reuber
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There are two types of combat: artillery bombardment and assaults.

Artillery hits on a roll of 5-6. For each hit, you roll for effect: 1-5 causes one unit to retreat and on a 6 causes one unit to take damage.

Assaults are resolved as part of movement. The defenders fire first, then surviving attackers fire. If the attackers can't clear the area of defending infantry, the attackers must return to their starting areas.

You roll 2D6 for each infantry unit and (optionally) 1D6 for defending artillery. Maximum numbers of dice rolled is 6D6. Each 5-6 hits, though defenders on a hill hit on 4-6. Again, you roll for effect for any hit, but this time, retreats are 1-3, and damage is caused on 4-6.
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C Sandifer
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Peso Pete wrote:
wkover wrote:
Is the 45 minute playtime accurate? If not, my interest just dropped...


From my experience, no. My games clocked in somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half - which is still really good for a wargame.


Yep, sure. For me the issue is whether Test of Fire is as fun as other games in the same 60-90 minute category: War at Sea, Manoeuvre, Quebec 1759, War of 1812, etc.

And hey, Rommel in the Desert can last 60-90 minutes if your supply is cut right away.

Regardless, if ToF is a good adult-kid game, it doesn't really matter. It'll be worth it. (I'll find out soon, because my copy is on the way...)
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Keith Anderson
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Peso Pete wrote:
wkover wrote:
Also, I assume that it's possible to leave out the Rout card without otherwise affecting gameplay? Seems like a reasonable option if the card is that problematic.


I see no reason why you could not do as you suggested. However, I will offer an historical context for the card. McDowell [the Union Commander] thought he was on the verge of winning the battle when his army broke and ran, so there is an historically valid reason for the card. However, I would just hate to lose a game because of it!


Then imagine how McDowell felt :-) and for higher stakes.
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Kent Reuber
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I wonder if this would be a good game to play as a history class exercise? It seems like the rules are simple enough. It would be interesting to show how difficult it might be to fight your way across the fords vs. the idea of the sweeping flank movement used historically.
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Eric Martin
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Peso Pete wrote:
kentreuber wrote:
One of my reservations is the Rout card, that allows you to win automatically if you can roll less than or equal to the number of eliminated units the other side has suffered. Even as a wargamer, that seems a bit too luck-based to me. If it were me, I'd have allowed you to make a rout roll only in the case where your losses were less than your opponent, or perhaps roll 1 dice equal to the difference in your losses. Sudden death in this case seems like it might be a bit too sudden. How does the reviewer feel about this?


Yeah. I'm conflicted on the rout card. On one hand, the rule is a lot like the old Gamers Civil War Brigade Series rule where you could roll to see if the opposing army routed, so if a respected wargame designer like Dean Essig used a similar rule, it can't be all bad. On the other hand, I didn't care for it in Civil War Brigade Series for the very reason you mentioned.

In other words, I see the point of the rule since these were amateur armies at the time and their morale was hardly predictable. However, I'd be kind of pissed if I was winning the game and suddenly my opponent got a lucky roll with the rout card and made my army run from the battlefield.


After only two plays against different opponents, once as the North and the South, our games had a lot of flipped units, but few eliminated units. My Northern opponent made one try at a rout. He had to roll snake eyes and missed. The CSA taking every card he could to run down his deck really put the pressure on the Northern player, however.
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Eric Schiedler
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Peso Pete wrote:
midnitecop wrote:
The CSA taking every card he could to run down his deck really put the pressure on the Northern player, however.


That is an interesting strategy that underlines what I said in the review about the onus of attack being on the Union. The Union has to attain their objectives at the end of the game or they lose, so they are the ones who have to be aggressive. The Rebels could also win it by taking Centerville, but the chances of that happening are remote.


In our games, the confederate player has to carefully balance between taking extra cards with his leader rolls and reinforcing the front lines with fresh troops. Also, the leader comes in handy when counter-attacking in order to have 4 moves! Two move rolls, a leader roll, and a move card make for a handy counter-attack!

Yes, taking Centerville is possible.

Now, as for the Rout card:

Each deck has several rout cards, so you could take out one or a few from each deck if you wanted as a house rule.

However, I have zero problem with the rout card as-is. Here's why.

You can't win using the rout card unless you kill enemy troops! This makes attack tactics and defensive tactics extremely touchy. How do you cover your troops with one hit? How do you keep the offensive going in order to kill troops?

And the rout card is best used when it is saved for late in the game. You only can get multiple rout cards if you dig through the deck to get them and save them, and they take up space in your hand that could be used for devastating tactics cards used in devastating combos! So they cost quite a bit to get.

Among the experienced players, we rarely have two or more troops dead on one side until late in the game.

If you have a problem with the randomness of the rout card, know that you need to hedge the odds of this roll throughout the game by good play. And you could always just end the game in one minute by each player rolling a percentage die and then looking at a chart to see how much higher or lower than average they would have rolled for combat. This would calculate how many dead you'd have and the chance of getting routed. You'd make a second roll to save the rout and then that'd be it.

So no, not a problem, unless you don't like critical rolls in games, as the OP stated quite nicely.
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William Miller
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Just got in my first play of this yesterday. It ended in routing the Union army so that was pretty historically accurate I'd say. I think Peter summed it up very nicely!
 
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Seth Owen
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Peso Pete wrote:
coopman827 wrote:
I'd probably either remove the rout card from the deck or only allow it to be played once a certain minimum no. of units have been lost by either side.


This is kind of how it works already. First, you have to have the rout card in your hand. Then you roll two dice and compare it to the umber of enemy units killed. If the die roll is equal to or less than the number of enemy troops killed, the enemy routs. Otherwise, you lose the card. Since you cannot reshuffle cards in this game, you have to be very careful about when you play this card.

I guess that is why I don't see it as a game-breaker. There is an historical reason for the card to be in the deck and you cannot keep trying to use it over and over again, so I'm not seeing it as much of a problem.


I think removing the rout cards might throw off the game balance (even though the Federals actually have fewer of them) because it would allow the Confederates to unrealistically sacrifice units in order to delay Union progress towards the geographic objectives,

I'll note that the Decision Games edition n of the Blue & Gray quad includes a First Bull Run scenario that also involves a rout die roll. The fact of the matter is that the unexpected rout of the federal Army was a key part of the battle.
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