Thursday, December 11, 2014

Die Sighting, Too: Preliminary Review of Die Fighting 2, by Bob Jones

    My copy of the DVD for Bob Jones' new rules, Die Fighting 2 arrived the end of last week, and I have had a chance to peruse it thoroughly the past few days. I have run it on two computers running Windows 8.1, and my old machine running Windows XP and encountered no problems aside from the fact that I had to manually start the "movie", which is the hour long video presentation of the rules. The DVD is pretty packed with material!  Being a bit on the "old school" side, I started with the "Slideshow" of the rules. While designed to run with Quicktime (available as a free download for non Apple computers), it ran fine with the free Windows Media Player included on my machine. As you might expect (Bob was a TV producer in "real" life), the DVD video is very sharp visually and acoustically, and talks you through the rules, with examples provided by the "cast" of wargamers, most of whom are folks that I have known personally for 10 - 15 years. It is always fun to hear Adolfo's pleasant Italian accent as he explains rating the troops, or Ian's Scottish one as explains a cavalry charge. I laughed at the inside joke of having John Mumby explain the rules for terrain effects on movement as his troops attempted to traverse a woods.


Screen shot of Freddie and Greg explaining shooting in Die Fighting 2


    More or less the same presentation is also on the DVD as a PDF file, and as Bob says, the slideshow pretty much IS the rules. It is very well done and quite clear. Depicted below is a screen shot from the PDF version of the slide show; even after it is reduced to less than a 100 KB file, it still looks good, and it is sharper and more vibrant in the original.




    As I was already familiar with the original Die Fighting, I paid special attention to the many changes which certainly seem to have made DF2 a more elegant, focused, and fun rules set to play. I mentioned these in my earlier posting, and you can read about them in detail on the Repique Rules site as well. I am especially interested in Bob's planned set of Campaign rules, "Die Marching", and it is easy to see where many of the changes in DF2 will mesh very nicely with a campaign set. There are very useful guidelines for setting up your forces for pick up games, which look they'd be fairly fast and fun. I especially like Bob's idea of a "deck" of Historical commanders that can be drawn from at random, sight unseen, and then assigned to your various commands, subject to precedence (you cannot necessarily make the best leader the C-in-C). Also using the card deck system, each leader has ratings for an average day, good day, and bad day, and special rules can easily be added for specific commanders (Erzherzog Karl's tendency to epileptic seizures would be one obvious one, as well as a delirious Blucher), some of which might only be applicable on a "good" or a "bad" day. Otherwise the leaders are rated randomly by a die roll, and can include special characteristics such as "Inept", "Timid" "Fabian", "Headstrong", and "Foolhardy".   The rules for battlefield objectives have also been refined and create a simple mechanism for rewarding the seizure of key positions with variable amounts of Resource (red) dice. 

    There are five period specific "Templates" included as separate PDF files that can be printed out...  and all the pdf files including the slideshow can be copied to your computer(s), laptop, I-pad, tablet, etc - they now reside on my 2 home pcs and my new laptop for easy access and reference! The Templates as supplied cover Linear Warfare, Revolutionary Warfare, The Napoleonic Wars, Wars of Transition, and Colonial Wars. Taking the Napoleonic Template as an example, there are subtle modifiers for each of the 5 Major powers, earl;y and l;ate, as well as US, Canada, Spain, Portugal, and other Minor states. Obviously, these can easily be further modified by the gamer - say giving the excellent Saxon Cavalry a bit of a boost and their artillery a bit of a drag. These modifiers influence the rating of each of the major unit types i n the rules - Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Command... as one might expect, as well as some modifiers to the roll for the size of each command. There are the expected guidelines on army composition for each of the above, intended for pick up games. Bob loathes army lists, and would be the first to tell you to feel free to change them as you see fit. 

    The Napoleonic Template also includes special rules for Horse Artillery, Skirmish movement and combat, , A rapid March Move (available only to the British, French until 1813, and the post 1814 Prussians), Mass Column rule, Cavalry Mass rule, Artillery Bounce through, Howitzer effects, Grand Battery Barrage, and some additional minor tweaks.  Finally, the Napoleonic Free Dice Table is the vehicle for most tactical, troop quality, and situational modifiers to movement, fire and melee combat, and Rallying... all on a single page. 

    Die Fighting deliberately leaves the question of how many men a "unit" represents open, but roughly a battalion or regiment of Infantry, a cavalry regiment, and an artillery company seem about right.  Thus a player's command, typically 7 to 14 units, would represent either a Division (battalions) or a Corps (regiments). There are no specific basing or figure requirements, as long as both armies are based fairly similarly and the various formations can be clearly depicted.The nominal ground scale is 1" = 25 yards and a turn represents roughly 30 minutes. The infantry firing ranges are perhaps a bit generous, but long range firing is generally foolhardy in DF2, so just because you can shoot from up to 300 yards away does NOT mean it is generally a good idea... just as in real life!

    In DF2, Bob has opted for a "short" sequence deck. There are six basic cards - Infantry Action, Cavalry Action, Artillery Action, Specialized Action (skirmishers, breachloaders etc reload, Engineering tasks take place, trains, boats and balloons act), Officer Action (Officers move, rally Disordered units without Black Dice), and the key "Four R" card - Rally, Remove, Restore, Retreat - on this card troops can be rallied, routers move, Officer (yellow) dice are restored, and the all important Resource (red) dice are replenished. Now Bob wouldn't want to make it TOO easy on the tabletop generals, so EACH side has their OWN deck, and each side plays one card at a time, alternating. Thus each side is acting on its own, random sequence vis a vis the enemy. But wait - even that seemed a bit too tame, so to change things up, a deck of 8 cards is used for each side (using 2 each of the Infantry and Cavalry Action cards), from which 2 cads are discarded, face down and un-revealed. In special circumstances, some other, additional cards can be added to the mix, usually for a single turn or event. Finally, there is the "Concede"card.

  Victory in DF2 is very clearly defined. There are three ways to win: 1) If at any time, TWO (or more) of the enemy's commands are completely without Red dice at the same time, they immediately suffer an Ignominious Rout. The units in the depleted commands all roll, and on a 1 or a 2 they are considered lost to pursuit. 2) If at the end of any Turn (run through both side's decks) a command has NO red dice remaining, that side suffers a Decisive defeat, and all units in the depleted command roll - on a 1 they are lost to pursuit. 3) At the start of any turn, a side may add the "Concede" card to its deck. When it does so it can no longer advance upon the enemy. When the card is turned, if all commands have Red dice remaining, the game ends and the army is considered to have successfully disengaged; no further losses are incurred. The application of this system to a Campaign or a series of linked battles is obvious!

    As in all of Bob's wargame rules, there are a great many decisions to be made in the course of a game of Die Fighting 2. Almost everything you do has a cost, and the outcome of your actions is seldom assured. You may fail to change your facing or formation, throwing your troops into Disorder. Your charge may fall short, or get out of hand so that your attack lacks cohesion. Terrain may be far more difficult to traverse than anticipated. You just may not be able to do what you want when you want to do it. One thing is for sure - if you try to do every thing with every unit in every command, at every opportunity you will most certainly go down to defeat in short order. Resources must be husbanded, and the army's efforts focused on the right commands, troops and sectors. The additional Resource Dice pool of the C-in-C must be allocated to his sub-commanders in such a fashion as to support the battle plan. 

   So, what are my final words on this non play-through (yet) review of  Die Fighting 2? The DVD is certainly an effective, economical, and innovative presentation of a set of wargames rules, and it is extremely well done - there is really nothing else quite like it out there! Congratulations, Bob! Most importantly, though, after viewing the slideshow and the video, and reading through the supporting materials, I can't wait to put a game on the table. There is no higher recommendation that that for a read through (or in this case, a viewing) of a rules set!

Peter

13 comments:

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    1. It does, and I think the many refinements promise a much improved game experience!

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  2. Very good overview. I would like to see how it works in one of your battles.

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    1. Thanks, Jon, and I plan to do a tgest game as soon as I can mange it! :-)

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  3. That's an enormous number of dice! Thanks for the review.

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    1. It can be, although poker chips or tally marks can be used in place of the Red resource dice.

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  4. Thanks, Peter, for a good review of the physical and the play of the rules. Hmmmmm.....

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    1. Joe, I hope to test them out on the table in the near future!

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  5. Chasseur,

    Many people simply use a poker chip or other marker to denote 5-10 dice and then make "change" as needed. The red dice really function as a casualty, morale, command will, measurement. Each red die is only rolled once for any given action and then discarded and removed from play. They are also lost in combat. When a command runs out of red dice-they're in deep trouble!

    Combat, rally, and movement are not really a "Bucket o' Dice" as most rolls only use 3-5 dice. There are typically 2-3 commands on each side, though the number is scalable to any size. Each player typically has 7-12 units, and one chessex box of 36 is enough of each of the colors ( green, yellow, black) except red, for all the commands in a six person game. Using the chip method, a couple of boxes of red dice are usually sufficient.

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    1. Exactly, Bob. When I played it I used hash marks, actually, to track the consumption of the Red dice. The physical dice are more satisfying, though! :-)

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    2. Thanks for the clarification!

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  6. Brief look at video components and then printed out all that was possible to print out :-)
    Only problem I had was getting phase cards all the same size.
    Love how the Black dice is integrated into system.
    Only thing I miss (besides a 'proper' book :-) ) is the various deck combos - Synchronous, Asynchronous etc.
    Like the 'Dice Bucket' per Sub Command though and ability to restock some lost 'energy' on 4RRR card.

    Now to try to convince my pals to take the plunge of this new rules format..................

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    1. The rules are pretty accessible - if they can handle Field of battle, they can surely handle Die Fighting! You can of course use any of the old options for the deck instead if you like - I won't tell Bob (and he wouldn't care anyway!)

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