The Battle of the Severn provides a very simple, foot only scenario for evaluating the basic mechanics of a rules system.
I have decided to reduce the game to a 3′ x 3′ battle map and keep only a small amount of terrain. Since The Severn was fought in a wide, relatively flat clearing this is easy enough to setup.
Scum of the Earth (Nordic Weasel) is a fast play rules system for the black power era optimized to the Napoleonic Wars. It does claim, however, to be useable from the ECW through the first year of WWI. Each period is covered with a single page addendum which gives notes on units and special rules. The system uses a number of unit “Traits” and each period addendum also has new traits specific to that period. The rules are designed for individually based figures but using multi figure stands (particularly in the smaller scales), each as a single figure, is embraced in the design.
Nordic Weasel also produces an additional rules packet that includes new unit types and traits. Several of the new unit types (Musketeers, Pistoleers – a cavalry variant-, Swordsmen and Forlorn Hope) help to better accommodate the Musket and Pike period.
Units consist of six figures (stands if you prefer). The number is important since performance degrades as figures are lost. The rules don’t distinguish between muskets and pikes within an infantry unit with the suggestion to use two muskets and four pikes. As this is, as far as I can tell, for visual effect, I’ll reverse the ratio.
As a skirmish game Scum adds flavor with character and leader figures which do not add to the count of figures in a unit. I’ll use a leader figure for each side (Govenor Stone for the Royalists and Capt Fuller for the Commonwealth) to check the command and control features of the game. As in many skirmish games, the character figures add a few capabilities and this coupled with its tables of random happenings offers a good deal of narrative potential.
The rules provide for limited formations (each with its own advantages and disadvantages). The standard formation is “Line” (all the pieces touching), then “Assault Column”, “Skirmish” and “Formed Up” (Square). Obviously the typical formations of the Napoleonic Wars. I’ll use line (but in two ranks to save space).
Once deployment is complete, an optional (and I must say fun looking) Battle Complications table can be used to change various things about your army. I am not going to use it but I have complicated things a bit for the Royalists by placing them behind the line of the fallen tree causing them to separate their force.
“Traits” are used to give your units unique characteristics ( you can use multiple traits). For this simple play-through I’ll use only one, making two of the Commonwealth units “Veteran” (per the scenario). I’ll mark them with wagon wheels but in future games I’ll likely use various colored cubes (there are lots of traits available). The “Veteran” trait prevents the unit from being “Shaken” the first time It occurs.
The terrain features are very limited and represent “Bad Going”. A straight line connecting the trees with the board edges represents the edge of dense woods (“Very Rugged”) and the fallen tree is a “Linear Obstacle”.
Scum uses inches to measure movement and a suggests a 2′ x 2′ play area. To speed things along on my 3′ x 3′ battle map I’ll use my standard Baroque units (2.5″).
The scenario has a very simple objective, route the enemy. I will have no turn limitations in doing this (likely they won’t be needed). Units are attrited by fire and particularly by melee’ (figure removal). The are also pushed back and further degraded by morale status, of which there are three, “Initial”, “Shaken” and “Broken”. I’ll use the Baroque Disordered and Exhausted markers to indicate the last two.
At the moment in the game that a side exceeds 50% casualties it will be considered routed and the game will end. The Royalists start with 30 figures so the 16th casualty is thier break point. The Commonwealth has 24 figures so will break on the 13th loss.
The game flow uses my much preferred IGUGO which works well for solo play. A great deal of flexibility is allowed in how turn phasing can happen and I’m going to use cards to randomly activate each unit (on both sides). The activated unit (as in Baroque) then plays out its full turn before another card is drawn. The non-phasing side does have some opportunities for reaction.
Movement distance is variable. A 1d6 determines distance and certain unit types and formations get a modification to the roll. Moving through certain terrain may cause the unit to “Hesitate” (the move distance becomes zero AND an enemy reaction may be triggered). The point to which the unit plans to move (“Destination”) must be indicated (I’ll use a green cube) before the movement roll. The unit must move toward that point as far as the roll allows. If it reaches that point before it has expended its roll it must stop. Clearly, placement of the destination is a non-trivial task.
On the first turn of each unit’s activation the rules provide the option of “Deploying Into Battle”. Instead of rolling, the unit may make an automatic four inch move, ignoring modifiers and terrain. Since the Commonwealth side is better disciplined it will exercise this option, the Royalists will not.
I am also going to use two other optional rules: The “Energetic Game” rule which provides that any time a movement roll is 1 then a reaction might be triggered and “Firefight” which allows a target unit (if not shaken or broken by the enemy fire) to fire back.
The increased movement distance got everybody immediately engaged in shooting and with the ability to return fire (if not shaken) a good amount of lead was flying back and forth. The Royalists caught the advancing Commonwealth company on the right with a charge, won the melee’ and drove them back with casualties.
Shooting does not cause as many casualties as a melee’ might but is effective at lowering the opponent’s status, particularly if you can concentrate fire:
At this point the Royalists have lost thirteen figures and the Commonwealth nine, so both can give a few more casualties before breaking. The problem for the Commonwealth, however, is twofold. Two of their units are very close to removal (when one figure is left the unit is removed) and the Royalists, who have been driven back behind the large fallen tree are showing no inclination to come out.
The rules permit units to be combined, which is a nice feature, but it costs one figure to do so and any excess over six is lost. Doing so would give the Commonwealth two capable units to root out the two near full strength units behind the fallen tree. Attacking across a defended linear obstacle is problematic plus flank security would be an additional worry.
Could the Commonwealth still win, sure, but my guess is they will take sufficient casualties in the attempt to cause them to break first. So I’m going to take the draw.
This is indeed a very fast play and provides much action (I did use much longer move distances). In my mind the play is very similar to One Hour Wargames and I like that options are available for returning fire, taking vacated ground and Cavalry pursuit (in the additional rules packet).
1. These rules are clearly designed for 18th and 19th century warfare and the author freely admits that doing Musket & Pike is a bit of a stretch. Pikes prevent a head on attack by horse (as long as the the unit has not lost more than two of its figures) and the musket range is reduced from 9″ to 6″ for the ECW. The additional unit types in the supplement will help capture more of the feel of the ECW period.
2. I like that before moving a unit you must place a marker to show were it should move BEFORE rolling for movement (great solo gaming feature).
3. I am puzzled by how to change facing. I did make oblique moves which seemed reasonable and would have wheeled using the procedure in One Hour Wargames but did not find it necessary. The artillary pivot rule could be adapted to other units by using a “permission to do” die roll. Since Artillary gets a free pivot up to 45 degrees prehaps units do also.
4. Even with changing face (or wheeling) permitted, there are no melee’ bonuses that I could find for attacking flank and rear. Presumably Cavalry can attack Foot from the flank but this is not explicitly stated.
5. The casualty and unit status mechanisms are simple to track and work well. Once a unit is “Shaken” in becomes a perminant state (the Veteran’s trait of ignoring the first occurrence is therefore important). Being “Broken” can produce various bad results but a successful rally will take the unit back to “Shaken”.
The rules author comments in this thread at TMP.
Here also are a couple of posts on one of the excellent HOTT sites:
And a review of the rules with a ECW demonstration.
Clearly changing face and flank attacks appear to be shown but I have no idea where these are in the rules I have.