Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rebels and Redcoats Vol. III review

There's absolutely nothing new in Rebels & Redcoats, Vol. III, from Decision Games. It's a straightforward, old fashioned hex-and-counter wargame depicting battles from the American Revolution.

From a reviewer's standpoint, this might be considered a bad thing. Reviewers like innovation. Reviewers want to see something new, especially if they've seen a lot of games.

But from a players standpoint, there's a lot to be said for the familiarity of tried and true design techniques, especially if they work.

Rebels & Redcoats Vol. III contains 19 battles from the American Revolution. As a matter of fact, it includes just about every significant open field battle of the entire war. All that's left out are the sieges and a handful of fights that might be hard to treat as full-fledged battles anyway like Lexington and Concord, Oriskany and the Paoli "Massacre."

The first two volumes of R&R were published in 1995, depicting four and eight battles, respectively. Vol. III followed about 10 years later with its seven battles, but now all 19 battles are included in the one Vol. III box. There are no significant differences between the three volumes. Indeed, the errata is minimal for a hex-and-counter wargame. The most obvious change between the volumes is the map graphics, which vary in style between Vol. I-II and Vol. III.

Systemically, the game is very standard black powder era stuff. Units are rated for movement, combat and morale values. Leaders have a command rating which modifies morale and a command span which puts units "in command" for movement and combat. Artillery units can bombard over a distance of 2-5 hexes, depending upon the size of the cannons. Units have zones of control that force enemy units to stop and fight. Units that are not adjacent to the enemy at any point can "force march" and extra distance at a chance of being "disrupted," a status they can also achieve from combat result.

The turn sequence is IGO-HUGO. Up to eight strength points of units can stack in a hex, and terrain effects are standard. Light infantry rated units get some movement advantages, and there are some special rules for dragoons, but they appear in such limited numbers that they're really not much of a factor in most battles.

The nub of the entire game system is the morale rating. Both sides are armed similarly and units are usually all about the same size. Regiments in both armies usually operated understrength and were usually about 300 or so strong. In game terms this means a typical combat factor of "4" per regiment.

The big difference between the armies was in morale and training, represented by a morale rating. Many game activities require morale checks and here the Redcoats have a significant advantage. Americans are often rated "5" which means they have a 50% chance of failure on the 10-sided die roll before modifications. British/Hessian units are typically a "7" or "8." Over the course of the game that 20 or 30% advantage in morale checks and rally rolls adds up to a significant edge.

Most of the battles don't require a lot of special rules and for those fights that might be a bit scripted ot less interesting because of historical factors (Trenton, Bunker Hill, White Plains for example) there are what-ifs provided for a more entertaining battle.

R&R is a good, old-fashioned SPI-style wargame that any grognard can sit down and start playing.

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