Friday, 27 May 2011

Brigadier '38 Review

Solway crafts and Miniatures, the publishers behind 1938: A Very British Civil War (VBCW), have just brought out a rules set called Brigadier '38. This is the first rules set published for VBCW, although some homes spun rules have been freely available on the net for some time.

I should explain, for the uninitiated, that VBCW is somewhat unusual, in that it is more of a concept, that a game. The setting is in 1938, and is based around a fictional "what if?" scenario when King Edward refuses to abdicate, sparking of a British civil war. When the writers of the background came up with the idea, they felt that small games could be adequately managed using any rules set the players felt drawn to. This proved very popular amongst the players, as they didn't have to buy new rules etc, and could adapt systems they were used to.
For our games Leon and I adapted FUBAR which is a game written for participation games at events. FUBAR is a well thought out, well play tested, and very simple rules. It lacks a point-based army building system, which we got round by writing our own army list. FUBAR has the added advantage of being freely available in the net as a PDF.
Brigadier '38 has been developed primarily with larger games in mind, where lots of players bring their armies and participate in what the VBCW community refer to, not surprisingly, as a "Big Game". I myself attended Big Game 3 last year, and it was immense fun, but readers might recall I was underwhelmed with the rules set we were using as it was confusing, and open to interpretation. It is hoped that Brigadier '38 will overcome that problem.

I should add, at this point, that Brigadier '38 is not the rules for VBCW, it is just a rules set. It is not intended to become the only rules used, but I imagine it will become the de facto rules set for the Big Games.

When I first got the rules out of the envelope I was surprised: It is quite small. It is a handy sized A5 rulebook, ideal for slipping into the old gaming bag. The production values are quite high, like all of Solway's products, with high quality illustrations and lost of nice pictures of VBCW miniatures.

There is no 'fluff' background in this book- it is a pure rule book. For the details of the background you really need to buy the source books from Solway. The rules themselves cover most of the things you would want a VBCW game to consist of, like tanks, artillery, cavalry, communications, bicycles etc, and a simple and concise enough to speed up even the largest Big Games.

The games is turn bases, and each turn consists of Initiative, Orders and Movement, Firing (which is split into artillery, primary fire and secondary fire), Rations and Melee. The orders rules are the stand out bit for me, as I haven't played a game which used a system like this. officers can give commands out the the entire Brigade, or just a Battalion, or even an individual company (the basic unit of the game), and the rules cover the many problems with communication in 1938- crummy radios, telephone lines being shelled, signalmen being shot etc.

On a critical note, the rules are a bit scant on explanation, and that can lead to a lot of scratching of heads as you try to figure out exactly what it means. Once you have figured it out though, it is usually quite easy and obvious, but a few "for examples" would have helped clarify what is going on. In addition, there is often confusion around some of the terminology used. For example, you have the terms Battalion commanders, Brigadiers and officers used frequently, without an explanation for the exact meanings of the terms. Another criticism is the use of abbreviations without an explanation. One class of vehicle is described as "Softskin small in MC or MC combination"- I still have no idea what that means.

Even taken into account these criticisms, Brigadier '38 looks like a well thought out and well produced rules set, that will allow fast paced, and highly characterful games based in the VBCW world. I think it will be well suited to the games I play at home, with about 60-70 models on the table top, but will come into it's own for multi player games like the Big Games.

1 comment:

Gaz67 said...

MC or MC combination, would probably be "Motorcycle or Motorcycle combination (motorbike and sidecar)" as a wild guess having not seen the rules. I'm sure if you compare the MC stats with a staff car you'll be able to make a comparison.