Charlie Wesencraft has published several books on wargaming. His first, “Practical Wargaming”, covers several periods from ancients through the late horse and musket period. His second, “With Pike and Musket”, covers the English Civil War. What is remarkable about the latter is that it is also an extensive scenario book covering more than 20 battles. His third, “Seven Steps to Freedom”, covers 29 battles in French and Indian war and American Revolution. It was rejected by his publisher and was almost never published until John Curry accepted it for his History of Wargaming project. It was finally published in January 2015.
There are 188 pages of text, diagrams and maps in the book. All of the graphics are black and white line drawings. There are 29 scenarios in the book, grouped in 7 phases (steps) in chronological order starting with the French and Indian War and ending at Yorktown. The former has only 4 scenarios. The balance deal specifically with the American revolution. There is also a set of rules to play out the scenarios. These rules are similar to those found in his previous book, “With Pike and Musket.” The scenario information has enough detail so that you could adopt them to whatever game and basing system you like. This alone makes the book a real value for anyone wanting to game this period.
I’ve seen in other reviews and even from the author(!) that these rules are dated and gaming has moved on. I strongly disagree. They are rather unique by today’s standards, but these rules have a lot going for them.
Units are formed of anywhere between 10-20 miniatures. British regiments, for example are approximately 12 figures. Cavalry regiments are somewhat smaller. There is an efficiency rating of 1-4 points which will determine how well the unit obeys orders or fights. Efficiency is determined randomly at the beginning of the game and then raises or drops based on results of combat when the unit fights.
Movement is basic with the standard rules for turning and changing formation which cost you a portion of movement. The striking difference is that he uses an activation roll to actually move, charge and stand firm against an enemy. This roll is modified by the unit’s current efficiency rating. The player must usually roll a 5 or more with sometimes a 6 or more to escape the ill effects of the situation. For a standard move or charge, the ill effects usually mean the unit just stands in place. Standing firm or from taking casualties, the unit may flee. Efficiency is added to the roll making it more likely that the unit will pass the check.
Combat is chart based. there is a simple casualty chart that determines how many casualties a unit delivers based on half the number of figures fighting. This number is modified by a die roll. 1-2 is -1 casualty. 5-6 is +1 casualty. Simple and effective.
There is a weather gauge that determines the status of the battlefield weather. Again this is diced for with 2 dice at the beginning of the game. Weather is then checked for at the beginning of each turn to see if it changes by 1 step. You might start the battle with clear weather and then a storm may blow in half way through. It is a simple method. I’ve seen it used in GDW’s “Fire and Steel” game.
The author writes in a very easy to read narrative style. The battles are interesting to read about and the author gives some analysis about each battle’s historical conclusion. As a simple history book, it made for fun, light reading.
This book can be many things to many people. It is a fine history book on its own. It has a very playable set of wargame rules and scenarios to provide hours of fun at a fairly low cost. I highly recommend this book.
“Seven Steps to Freedom” By Charlie Wesencraft