Brother Against Brother

I was invited to my friend Jeff’s house last Saturday to try out a small 28mm semi-skirmish game using the Brother Against Brother rules.   We originally were planning on an ACW clash, but circumstances being what they were it turned out that we played a game set in the French and Indian War instead.

The main purpose of the game was to exercise the rules and see how they worked.   Because of this, the French and British had identical forces consisting of three infantry squads at 10 figures each, two artillery pieces with crew, and an officer (the colonel).   We played one of the standard scenarios out of the book: a meeting engagement where both sides marched on to the table via a country lane and then had to deploy out to meet the enemy.

BAB uses a card draw system for unit activation and movement rates are randomized by rolling 2 d10 for infantry to move minus deductions for terrain.   You actually only move the squad leader figure and then get to arrange the rest of the squad around him up to 6″ away.   Jeff used an optional rule adding a joker to the card deck which ended the turn immediately which added (IMO) a nice fog of war effect to the game since we were not guaranteed that every unit would get to do something.

Fire Combat can be destructive, depending on the range and terrain.  As is fitting for a horse & musket skirmish game, infantry can either fire, reload or move in a turn, so choices should be made as to how many figures you choose to fire each turn.  You can unleash a volley but then you’re totally unloaded for the next turn.

Artillery firing cannister is nasty and can dominate an open board.  On the flip side, an average infantry squad volley can decimate an artillery crew in short order, so pushing your guns forward has both high risk and high reward.   Normally there wouldn’t be two artillery pieces with just three squads of infantry, so the guns had a larger effect on the game than might otherwise be the case.  Still, it was good to figure out what they can and cannot do.

Melee combat is brutal, and losing one’s squad leader can be a devastating impact on a squad.   We had a situation develop in the game where I had a squad of French colonial regulars in a tree line exchanging fire with a squad of British hatmen who were behind a wooden fence.   The British took a casualty, which forced a morale card pull.  The result of this was their squad leader being shot (the only way to lose a CO other than melee).  This meant that the British squad would not budge from behind that fence until their colonel came over and promoted a new squad leader.  They would sit behind the fence and shoot without issue, which seemed like an OK thing.

Next turn my French colonists took another casualty, and the morale card pull revealed that they were forced to charge the nearest enemy, which was the aforementioned NCO-less squad of Brits behind the fence.   This seemed like a suicidal move:  leaving a tree line to charge a squad set up behind an obstacle.  The French made it into combat, and then we figured out that having no squad leader means a -4 DRM for the Brits, which on an opposed d10 roll is critical.  My French ended up bayonetting the entire squad over the course of two turns which turned the game on that flank.   Lesson: keeping the colonel in a central location so he can react to things like NCO loss is critical.

Jeff posted a query about this on the BAB Yahoo group and it appears our interpretation of the rule was correct.

Overall it was a fun, if bloody game.  It ended with the French having one depleted squad left and the British the same.   I don’t know if these rules will become the staple small game set for this group or not.  The jury appears to be out, and there are other sets to try.  I have “This Very Ground” from Iron Ivan and Sharp Practice from Too Fat Lardies among others to try.

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1 Response to “Brother Against Brother”


  1. 1 Jeff June 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Just a little commentary.
    The challenge in looking at low level games is determining “what exactly do you want the game or rules to accomplish?” This question has really been the fly in the ointment for me over the past decade as I have collected bad rule set after bad rule set trying to find something.
    Brother Against Brother is an older rule set and unlike a number of the modern concepts it is in my opinion more about being a Skirmishing game. In essence a figure represents a boy and the boy has actions they can accomplish. Many rules it not about the individual figure but about the unit or squad and that leaves a very cold taste in my mouth. So every time I purchase a set of “skirmish rules” I compare the game and concepts to BaB as a measuring stick.
    I have done lots of experimenting with BaB to play a game at a slightly different level (1:5) over the years because of my interest in the Southern Campaigns of the American War of Independence without much success. I have also played many variations of BaB for the ACW because of what other people want to play, but if you want blocks of men why play a skirmish set of rules.
    So the game we played on Saturday was pretty close to the core set of BaB rules as I could get, we were short a few figures and a couple of things we handled wrong. I also put out two cannons per side which I doubt will see much play in future games, but I was trying to decide how to handle the initiative and fire for them.
    In our game it was clear that both players had a more mass combat game mentality than a skirmish game and when you only play an occasional skirmish game that is really going to be an issue for players. So any judgment on the game needs to take that into account regardless of your opinion of it.
    Both players rolled crappy movement dice, I swear the two of you averaged 5 inches a turn compared to the expected rate of 9 to 10 inches. And that really effected game play as both players were slow and deploying out and tentative in their initial movements which bogged them down for several turns. Now I can’t say that is the “rules fault” or “players fault” but really a scenario issue. But it does highlight a problem in the rules.
    The next problem was in my organization of the figures, we should have had 3 squads, a captain, two artillery and a captain and a colonel, the missing captains really hamstrung Jim’s reaction to the lost squad leader. The just have to be there and those figures moved up on the painting table.
    We need to have a much larger discussion on “Line of Sight” and specifically what blocks it, and what constitutes Linear Obstacles. While the rules are clear on some things what those two things are doesn’t get explained and can make a difference.
    So once I get some more figures painted up (for either F&IW or ACW) I want to give the rules another try.


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