An evolutionary update is in the works for the ACW game Devil to Pay. After 4 years of running these at conventions we have a few reasonable rule updates that will improve the game without changing it too much. There are various abuses we have seen that are being tweaked out of existence. They were legal abuses, but still. We also discovered a rules hole or two simply because out of all the playing we’ve done, we just haven’t seen every single permutation! The ones we did see are fixable though.
Nashcon 2016 was a blast. I really had a good time overall. The staff was great, as usual, the hotel was refurbished, and there were plenty of games and gamers. There were a few hickups, but nothing really major. The bar and restaurant were combined in the hotel and the noise level was pretty high when it was packed. The marble surfaces they added looked very nice but reflected sound a bit too well. The outside deck was still nice however. The convention registration area was unexpectedly not part of the Nashcon floor plan and so the staff had to scramble to create a new registration area. Those were the only complaints I had about the convention site and the convention itself. Otherwise it was a well run affair.
I ran I’m Your Huckleberry twice and Devil to Pay once. I had signed up to run 4 games but there were a lot of GMs so one of my games got bumped. It was a minor blessing that Devil To Pay got bumped because, as I found out, I did not play test the scenario enough and it needed tweaks. The Union Army was so fouled up by terrain and traffic congestion that it just could not reach the target area in time to commence fighting properly. Most of the game was spent with the Union artillery plinking back and forth with the Confederate artillery, and the Confederate Cavalry making an extremely daring dash into the Union Rear area. That was when we hit a rule bug that I will discuss in the forums. The long and short of it is that the Union, following the rules to the letter, were able to use a formation change to get out of charge range and then got a favorable fire order which they used to blast the hell out of the confederate cavalry. Everyone agreed it was a sad state of affairs and didn’t feel right. I have a suggested rule modification that I think will address this problem. I saw the same problem in the 90’s when I was developing Bonnie Blue Flag so this is oddly familiar. The next game will go better as I plan on a more stringent play test of the scenario.
In complete opposition to that, the I’m Your Huckleberry games were extremely smooth playing and extremely fun! A few changes made all the difference. Nina had suggested to me that cards representing the characters would be really nice. That way people could see what they had and basic information without having to really look closely at the miniature. I added a data line for each weapon and I created a spreadsheet that made fast posse creation loads easier. Further, one places the die on the card instead of next to the character. This is a much better way of hiding what you are doing. It made the game play go a lot smoother. Another change was to eliminate almost all of the effects in the wounding table and replace them with YELLOW (scared), BLUE (bruised and injured), and RED (incapacitated). RED and BLUE can be reduced with Patch Me Up. YELLOW can be cleared with the recovery option of action #10.
A few things still need a touch of cleanup. The one mounted character dismounted and remained dismounted for the whole game. That made sense in the context of their strategy. That’s a scenario cleanup. The handling of wounds for mounted and dismounted need to be carefully considered. Marking who is wounded (horse or man) isn’t easy now. I think we will assume the wound is on the man but optionally let the man lose the horse to avoid the wound. Another thing I am cleaning up is shotgun range. I dialed it back, but in light of other changes it needs to be extended from 9 inches to 12 inches. Also, sawed off shotguns need to be considered in hand to hand combat if they are loaded.
My next planned convention is Siege of Augusta in January. I did consider going to GenCon this year but when I went to buy badges, you need an account for every badge. I didn’t have time to create two accounts, get the friend’s request/acceptance passed for both, and then get back on and buy tickets. It’s really overly cumbersome, in my opinion, and they lost 2 badge sales over it. Maybe next year – though I tend to keep a sense of distaste after something like this so probably not. Any system (gaming, convention, governement, etc.) that doesn’t do it’s best to smooth the path with efficiency tends to push me away. In this case, GenCon is gaining a lot of personal information that they want, without giving anything back to the consumers other than the burden of doing this thing. Not that it’s hurt the convention. Their attendance has grown from 25,000 to 61,000 in the last 12 years. They expect continued growth this year. I think it is a good convention, from the reports I’ve heard. I just hate bureaucracy that only benefits the organization and not the consumer.
Nashville needs a Fall convention. A big one day show in October. That’s my opinion. I think we should get it going! We also need a one day show in Atlanta in the Spring. What do you think? Chime in on the forums!
I am running two games of The Devil to Pay at Nashcon. If you have not heard about them yet, these are regimental level rules for warfare during the American Civil War. They have been out since 2015. We started work on them in 2006, with primary development getting underway in 2011. This first edition plays really well. The mechanics are easy to understand and you won’t need an expert player to turn to in order to figure out something like a charge. The authors have been playing Johnny Reb since the mid-1990s, and other civil war games as well. From 1989 to 1998 I developed Bonnie Blue Flag, a brigade level set of rules. When Nathaniel St. John set out to write these rules he knew what he liked and didn’t like in rules. He didn’t like complications and felt that the rules had to be memorable. He did like there to be friction of command. As a veteran he has some experience with that.
The scenario I’m running is Lookout Mountain. Normally one would not choose this as the historical outcome was so one sided. In the real battle the mountain was beset by heavy November fog and by 3PM was in whiteout conditions. The Union was able to advance unimpeded by Confederate artillery. This is an interesting situation. Fog like that is extremely random. I’ve seen fog like that. It’s tenuous. So, for my Lookout Mountain scenario I make the fog random. It can build and wane. If it get to an extreme of either clear or foggy it will stay at that level for the rest of the game. This means the Union can’t rely up Mother Nature being a solid ally. The most notable feature of the battlefield is it’s rough and steep nature. I’ve been working on custom terrain for it. While the convention is right around the corner, it’s not quite ready yet. Otherwise I’d have photos up! I treated the miniatures and the scenario first. Terrain can always be cobbled together, so not having special terrain wasn’t going to stop the game from happening. Not having enough miniatures, however, was! I’m confident the terrain will be ready in time, however.
The rules will cover this battle very well with little intervention. One rule I will be making up will be how artillery works against troops. There is a flat area that leads up to the mountain, which artillery can fire upon with no penalty. However, trying to fire at troops on the mountain at a different elevation is at half strength. Its not easy getting cannons to fire above or below their normal angles and that would be required upon this hill.
Another thing I like about The Devil to Pay is that if you just follow the turn sequence and don’t try to seize the day, you are going to lose. The turn sequence isn’t set. It’s kinda random, actually. You need to take advantage of the Carpe Diem cards to force the sequence to do what you want. If you just let the other side decide it will become their battle, their way, and ultimately their victory.
This weekend we are continuing work on the ACW regimental combat rules ‘The Devil to Pay’. These rules have been used for a variety of 18th and 19th century periods. The development of ACW rules using them is interesting because it is the very start of the modern era of combat (rifles, advanced artillery, advanced communications, rail, etc.) and because the authors have significant military experience in real life and working knowledge of the period. In fact I would say my knowledge of 19th century artillery is a hindrance because I want to model everything! However at the level we are doing it, we are dealing with sections of artillery and so I must constrain myself. Work on the game was going well up through last year. Then I made some changes and the game I ran at Historicon was a disaster. Luckily, Nat and the other Peter got to work on ironing it out again. I am really excited about the direction it is going in. I think this has the possibility of being a really excellent set of rules that will appeal to a wide number of gamers. The rules are not complicated, produce good results and have just enough suspense in them to make for very entertaining games.
Watch for after action reports and also watch the twitter account for photos of the games as the playtest continues.