TITLE: The Gatling’s Jammed! Big Battle Colonial Wargaming in the 19th Century
AUTHOR: Stephen Danes
PUBLISHER: Partizan press
PUBLICATION DATE: 2008
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
PRICE (with date): $30.00 (in 2008)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: 19th Century Colonial Battles
THE BOOK: The Gatling’s Jammed (TGJ) is a saddle stitched (aka stapled) booklet of 64 pages. It features a ful color cover with a black and white interior. There are a few pages of ads on the inside covers. The rules themselves run 53 pages with the remainder taken up by an appendix and several scenarios. The book is attractively laid out and is printed on heavy, coated stock.
SCOPE: The Gatling’s Jammed is a set of rules for the larger colonial battles such as Ulundi. As such they are not designed for small unit actions like Rorke’s Drift.
ARMY SIZE: TGJ is a variant of the popular General de Brigade rules. In general the units will be large (between 16 and 40 figures) is using 4 figures per base. Thus a battle will require several hundred figures per side.
BASE UNIT: The base unit is the regiment (or native equivalent).
- Ground Scale: 1” = 50 Yards
- Time scale 1 turn = Not stated, probably 20 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio 1 infantry base = approximately 100 men
- Recommended Figure Size: 15mm
- Table Size: Not stated.
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in one long evening
TGJ will work with any basing scheme provided both sides are based to the same standard. A recommended basing for 15mm figures is (W x D):
- Close Order Infantry: 1” x 1”
- Irregular Infantry: 1” x 1.5”
- Cavalry: 1” x 1.5”
- Artillery: Based on size of the model
- Initiative: Players roll 2D6. The winner may move first in each phase or make his opponent do so. The player with the initiative is called the Phasing Player.
- Command Phase: Commanders issue orders to their units. One unit per side may attempt to change orders based on the unit commander’s initiative rating. Wounded leaders are replaced, leaders reassigned, and creating new brigades may be attempted.
- Compulsory Movement Phase: All units in retreat, rout, broken or pursuit move during this phase. Units that move in this phase may not move in any other movement phases.
- Charge Phase: The Phasing Player announces all charges. He then resolves each charge in turn. The non-Phasing player then declares and carries out all of his charges.
- Movement Phase: The Phasing Player moves all of his units according to their orders, terrain restrictions, etc. Once complete the non-Phasing Player moves his units.
- Firing Phase: The Phasing Player carries out all available fire combat, followed by the non-Phasing Player. Fire combat is not considered simultaneous - casualties caused by the Phasing Player do not return fire.
- Melee Phase: All melees are resolved. Melees are considered to be simultaneous. Follow-up and push-back moves take place. Some units may need to check morale during this phase if forced to retreat, etc. Some units may need to make a Pursuit test as well. Note that pursuits actually take place in the next turn’s Compulsory Move Phase.
- Moral & Pursuit Phase: Unit and brigade morale are checked as required.
The Command & Control System: One of the main features of the General de Brigade family of rule sets is the orders-driven Command & Control system. Each brigade in the army must have an order. Depending on what order it has, it may have movement and combat requirements or restrictions. Brigades with Assault orders, for example, must charge or advance toward the enemy with at least half their units.
Each side has a Commander in Chief (CinC). The CinC issues orders to his units. CinCs are rated for ability. The greater his ability, the more likely an order change will be successful. A CinC may issue one order change per turn. If unsuccessful in the current turn, the change takes place in the following turn.
Each side may also attempt to change one unit order per turn through initiative. The Brigade commander makes an initiative check. He rolls a D6 and compares it to his initiative rating. If less than his rating the order is changed. If equal to his rating the order will be changed next turn. Otherwise he is unsuccessful. If he rolls a 6 he loses his nerve and will actually change to a less aggressive order than his current one (exception: Brigadiers with a rating of 5 ignore this rule).
Movement: As one would expect, each unit must be in a specific formation (line, column, extended line, battalion square, etc.). Units have a base movement rate, plus movement die. For example infantry have a base move of 2” plus one D6. However, the movement die may not add more than the unit’s morale rating. Example: A British Regiment is rated 4. Even if he rolls a 5 on his move die, the unit will be able to move no more than 6” (2 base + 4 die = 6”). The rules cover the usual cases such as wheeling, changing formations, commanders etc.
TGJ also includes a simple hidden movement system through the use of Unit Markers. A unit marker represents an unspotted unit. Once spotted the corresponding troops must be placed on the table subject to a few restrictions for terrain, etc. There is a simple spotting rule in the chapter on Terrain.
Terrain is outlined in a separate chapter which details both combat modifiers as well as movement modifiers. In Difficult terrain only the movement die is used, hill contours cost an extra inch of movement to ascend, etc.
Fire Combat: Fire combat is a simple D6 system, with one mechanism for small arms and another for artillery.
For small arms fire, you roll one D6 for each eligible base, subject to modifiers. You hit on a 1 or 2 at effective range, on a 1 at long range. Interestingly, effective range is dictated by the unit’s morale factor. Long range is anything over effective out to maximum range. For example, a Jezail has a maximum range of 10”. A unit’s effective range for this weapon is equal to it’s morale factor times 1.5 inches. Thus a unit with morale 3 has an effective range of 4.5” - anything over 4.5” but less than 10” is long range.
Units may fire on one of three ways: Volley, Sniping or Rapid. Volley fire is the default method. When sniping, each unit rolls a single D6, ignoring modifiers and hitting on a 1 or 2. During rapid fire units roll 2D6 per eligible base (not all weapons types may rapid fire, and rapid fire may carry movement restrictions as well).
Players must track hits inflicted on each unit. When a unit has received hits equal to it’s strength factor, one base is removed from the unit. Hits carry over from turn to turn and should be tracked with a roster or casualty caps.
Artillery fire is resolved much the same way. Each gun rolls a number of D6 and hits on a 1 or 2. But instead of only hitting on a 1 at longer ranges, the number of firing dice are reduced instead. Rules for machine guns are included - including the possibility of the gun jamming as featured in the rules title!
Melee: Melee is resolved simultaneously through opposed casualties. The side inflicting the most casualties is the winner. Each base in contact with the enemy rolls a D6. If it scores less than or equal to it’s modified morale factor, it scores a hit. The unit’s morale factor may be modified for formation, terrain, morale status, etc.
Once the hits have been recorded morale checks are made. Any unit that suffered a hit must check morale immediately. If only one side fails their morale they have lost the melee. Depending on how badly they failed the test they will retreat or rout. In some cases winning units may follow up and occupy the loser’s position.
If both sides fail the morale check, then the loser is the side that suffered the most hits. The loser then retreats as normal while the winner ignores the results of his own morale check.
If neither side takes a hit, or both sides pass their morale tests, the combat will continue the following turn. Rules and restrictions for reinforcing ongoing melees are spelled out as well.
Cavalry that win a melee make a Pursuit Test. The unit rolls against it’s morale factor. Depending on the result it may exhibit superb discipline and the owning player may pursue as he wished with it next turn. On the other hand the unit may yield to an Uncontrolled Charge meaning it will charge the nearest enemy unit regardless of orders, sense or good judgment!
Morale: Each unit in the game has a morale factor between 1 and 6, the higher the better. A morale check is simply a roll of a D6 - equal or less then your morale factor is a pass. It matters how much you fail by - fail by one and the unit is halted, fail by six and it disperses (is removed from the game)! Failures result in one of the following:
- Unit Halted - Unit may not move next turn, but may fire.
- Unit Unformed - Unit may not charge, fights as unformed, and may only fire if fired upon.
- Unit Falters - Unit is both Halted and Unformed.
- Unit Retreats - Unit makes a full move to the rear. At the mid-point of the retreat they change formation to “Column of Mob”
- Unit Routs - As a retreat but unit will not even fight back in melee!
Brigade Morale operates like unit morale. Each brigade has a morale rating. The test is carried out as for a unit. If it fails there are three possible outcomes:
- Brigade Halts - All units in the brigade are halted
- Brigade Breaks - The brigade retires 18”, becomes unformed, and assumes hold orders. Any retreating or routed units in the brigade are removed from play.
- Mass Panic - All units (except Guard) re removed from play (Guard units Break instead).
Optional Rules: There are a number of optional rules included. These are:
- Desperate Charges
- Ammunition Supply
- Redoubts & Fortifications
The rule book includes three scenarios:
- The First Sikh War: Moodkee
- The Zulu War: Ulundi
- The Anglo-Egyptian War: Tel-el-Kebir
Also included are simple army lists for:
- The First Afghan War
- The Second Afghan War
- The Sikh Wars
- The Indian Mutiny
- The Zulu Wars
- The Sudan
In general these rules are easy to read and the core mechanisms are all well explained. The editing is generally decent with no noticeable typos or misused words. Examples are few and far between and there are almost no diagrams at all. There are however, some noticeable gaps in the rules. Most of these are easily resolved by the players or a check on the General de Brigade forum. For example:
- As written, Severe terrain causes Close Order infantry to become unformed - but there is no reduction in movement rate. I would assume the effects are cumulative - i.e. in Severe you are limited to your movement die only.
- Artillery fire requires you to declare what kind of ammunition you are firing with. However, I could find no rule that spelled out the differences in the effects of the different types. The only effect I could find was on whether or not skirmish screen being fired through take the first casualty or not. Also, there is not a list of all the ammunition types used in the game (but that can be pieced together from the rules themselves I guess).
- The number on a hidden Unit Marker is more than a simple ID. To spot a unit you must roll against it’s marker number. But there are no guidelines for which numbers you should use. For example, can I use all #6 markers? Or must I always use a complete set of 1-6? Not hard to fix of course, but a bit more explanation would have been nice.
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