Back in the period of the French Indian Wars / Seven Years War (1750s 1760s) in North America you had Warriors with good bushcraft skills such as the Forest or Woodland Indians and Light Infantry type scouting units such as Rogers Rangers.
Rather than set this in historical America, this scenario is set back in the same period of the 1750s and 60s in North Gondal, one of the Bronte ImagiNations of the North Pacific where we recently set our later 1870s skirmishes between Forest Indians, Redcoats and Loggers.
If that is not to your taste, this is North Generica, a parallel but slightly altered version of North America. So no one can say “That Never Happened” in that way …
As well as trying out a small patrol of my new Gruber’s Rangers, I also wanted to try out the simple Rules for Junior Generals enclosed with my Bold Frontiers (Australia) cardboard tree sets that made up my forest. I was playing both sides, solo play.
I have been recently chatting by email to the trees designer Chris Lynch of Bold Frontiers (Australia) about 54mm gaming, toy soldiers and forest wars. He asked what I thought of these simple starter rules on 3 sides of A5 paper.
There are more complex rules about using the trees for concealment and using markers etc on his website but these Rules for Junior Generals are more akin to simple H G Wells starter rules or simple Featherstone rules to give a basic ruleset for young players, slipped into his attractively packaged historical figure and trees selections and playsets.
This is trying to give young players a step into figure gaming beyond firing at them with Nerf Guns in place of various projectiles such as matchstick firing toy cannons and marbles that we all had as young gamers.
Firstly Chris suggests simple equipment that any school age child might have – two d6 dice, a 30cm ruler and optional protractor.
This was quickly set up on the dining between meals. It was fairly traditional, made up of large felt pieces over book hills with blue felt strips for stream, grey strips for the road, Bold Frontiers trees, a rocky scatter of slate chippings, twig logs and a coffee stirrer plank bridge alongside a swiftly assembled Roy Toys USA wooden log cabin. Simple enough. A few Lego Friends forest animals mysteriously appeared during the fighting.
Once the trees are placed on the playing surface, Chris suggests an aim for the battle such as building a small ruin out of construction bricks as something that the two sides fight for.
I used my RoyToys ‘build your own’ log cabin as I thought it suited the forest setting. It helps suggest that the Forest Indians are angered by their Sacred Forest being felled to make the cabin and the bridge and overall resent the building of the military road to help supply the soldiers and settlers. An attack on these might discourage settlers and troops.
Once each side had reached half casualties, a d6 morale dice would be thrown – fight on or retreat.
The starting moves
A pony and cart escorted by a Ranger was due to arrive with basic supplies for the Ranger post and then on to settlers beyond.
The Forest Indians had to get quite close in to start firing, as befits the fairly forested cover of this area. Any figures hit whilst under cover have a simple d6 savings throw to reflect the protection that this cover affords.
Basic movement ranges are given, Chris’ suggested movement of 15 cms matches the old 6 inch move and is not too big for the average dinner table. My game was set up on the dining table between lunch and tea.
Climbing walls and obstacles also has a simple movement penalty in cms, depending on the size of wall or obstacle of chest height or lower. Again, simple for young gamers to work out.
Line of Sight, sightlines and eyeline are simply outlined, with more detail of arc of sight for each figure also set out (this is where you could use your protractor). I didn’t use this to closely. I simply thought – Could the characters see each other?
The suggested firing ranges in this case for flintlocks, muskets or rifles were not too long, close range being under 30cms and long range beyond 30cms.
Chris’ Rules for Junior Generals mentions inventing dice rolls to solve disputes or unforeseen situations. I added in a d6 dice roll regarding whether the Ranger sentries spotted any Forest Indian movement as they flitted from tree cover to cover closer and closer to the log cabin. A 6 on a d6 would mean the sentry spotted the Indians moving before they opened fire or charged.
Until the Forest Indians opened fire, whilst they were sheltered behind trees, they were classed as concealed. Once firing began, especially with Black Powder, their positions were known. More detailed points about tactics and concealment are made here.
Rather than my usual Close Wars / Featherstone type dice rolls to choose which one side moves first, before the others move, then fires first etc. (IGOYUGO).
Chris instead has a simple approach that each side (or individual) can only do one of these actions in their turn – FIRE, MOVE or FIGHT (Melee). I rolled a simple d6 as suggested to decide which side went first.
The Forest Indians close in on the log cabin and Rangers inside.
Chris suggested that once a side reaches 50% casualties or lower, to roll a d6 to stay on or retreat.
In one late move, about half the surviving Rangers were killed, dropping them rapidly below half numbers, so a morale roll saw the three surviving Ranger slipping quietly away into the forest.
Aerial bird’s eye view of the skirmish casualties including the fierce fighting around and inside the log cabin.
The final paragraph of Fight (Melee) section is a little unclear, possibly a typo or cut and paste paragraph error, as it reprints the ‘firing at figures in cover’ savings throws paragraph, not a mechanism for resolving a Fight / Melee. Instead, I settled melee with a dice roll.
I have to say that my firing dice rolls were generally lousy on both sides throughout the whole game!
The end of the skirmish
Once the last Rangers had slipped away through the trees, the Forest Indians harnessed the pony and cart and stripped the cabin of all its supplies. They carried away their own fallen warriors and also collected the fallen Rangers Flintlock Muskets and ammunition. The Rangers were roughly buried.
Finally the Forest Indians set fire to the log cabin.
Hopefully it would discourage the settlers and soldiers from returning to the Sacred Forests of the Forest Indians. Or would it?
Final reflections on Rules for Junior Generals from Bold Frontiers
They prove a good enough starting point for a young gamer wanting a few rules for an Infantry game, without the complications of cavalry or artillery. This makes sense as the current Bold Frontiers playsets do not include cavalry or artillery.
They cover simple mechanisms for moving, shooting, fighting, arc or line of sight, cover savings throws and end of game victory conditions.
They encourage you in the final ‘safety clause’ to create your own rules:
“If you find that your game can be improved or made easier to understand, don’t hesitate to modify and refine the rules. Write down these changes so you don’t forget them. This process can help to improve a game and make it more satisfying and enjoyable to play.”
A licence for a lifetime of rules tinkering begins here!
Chris Lynch mentions on his front page (August 2020):
“We are no longer selling Armies in Plastic figures by the box. In the near future, we will begin introducing more comprehensive playsets depicting military and other adventurous themes. These will include foot figures, cavalry and artillery, and exciting new ranges of scenery such as rocky terrain, tropical jungles, deserts with palm trees, and the scarred battlefields of World War I. There will also be some economical architectural features to add atmosphere to games with 54mm figures.”
All sounds promising!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 3 August 2020.