Bloody Big Battles is a simple game designed to play out large 19th century battles in an evening. The book is 56 page black and white magazine style book. The rules of play cover just 14 pages and include several examples on movement, shooting and assault. The game requires 2 six-sided dice and a largish table along with many stands of infantry. The nominal scale in the book is 1000 infantry or cavalry per base or 24 guns for artillery. The ground scale is approximately 150 yards per inch. These numbers are scaled up or down depending on the size of the scenario played. Speaking of scenarios, there are 8 included with this game manual covering the entire Franco-Prussian war.
The author has based this game largely on Fire and Fury ACW rules set but has greatly simplified many aspects. Units, regardless of size, become spent based on their training level. A raw unit becomes spent if it lose just 1 stand while a veteran unit can take 3 hits before becoming spent.
Several aspects dealing with morale are built right into the maneuver table. As units are raw, trained or veteran, one of the results of shooting is to halt a charge based on the charging units training level. This will cause no damage but will cause disruption if the unit in question is not better than the result rolled. For example, I roll an R result when firing at a charger. That unit is trained so the unit will still charge home. As well, when rolling on the maneuver table, if the unit in question is in good order, some results will allow the unit to recover a stand if the training level is high enough.
There is one oddity that stood out for me. When a unit is in a reinforced line (deployed deep by game terms), it may only shoot with the front rank. But if that same unit were assaulting, it may shoot with BOTH ranks. I am not sure why this is unless it is because the unit in question is performing some sort of rolling fire drill as it advances.
Otherwise, shooting and assaulting are similar to Fire and Fury. Each stand is worth so many fire points on the fire table. Total these points up, roll 2D6 and check the result. Defender fires first followed by the attacker. The big difference is the 2D6 instead of the D10.
Assaults also work like Fire and Fury but each player rolls a single D6 and adds up modifiers. A quick note, the rules sate that the dice are compared immediately and the difference is modified up or down based on attacker and defender. Attackers will add modifiers while the defenders will subtract. It would be more straight forward if each player were to roll their die, add modifiers to it and then compare. It’s a minor quibble.
The rules set covers weaponry from 1815 through 1900. This means that you can have a wide variety of troops represented on the table top. As units are ostensibly divisions, this means that much of the tactical detail is abstract. The reason I say this is that you can probably extend the game pretty easily all the way back to 1700 when armies became truly large. For instance, there are rules for armies being passive which is a -1 penalty when trying to maneuver a unit. This can be applied to most armies through the Seven years War. There are fire control modifiers which will give you a +/-1 combat shift depending on how good/bad your troops are. English/Dutch troops in the Wars of Spanish Succession might be average while other continental troops would get a penalty for rank fire. So while this book is clearly aimed at 19th century Europe, the nuts and bolts are there to extend this game to earlier periods.
I picked my game up from FRP games for $20. Other places are selling the game for $25. If you enjoyed Fire and Fury but want something a little lighter in concept, you should check these rules out.
Thanks for the great review–I’ll have to give these rules serious consideration. How big was the battle you fought with them? What period?
I have not used them yet. I do have the ACW stuff to do entire battles. Perhaps this could be something we try out at one game day at Matthew’s.
I plan on doing something for Quatre Bras as well. It would make for a nice small 1-2 hour game.