A Very British Civil War first hit our wargaming tables around 2009, and is the brainchild of Solway Crafts and Miniatures . Since that time, there has been a steady release of new supplements detailing various units and factions within this alternative history, but up until now these have all been designed as pseudo-historical background for use with the players own skirmish rules of choice.
Went The Day Well are the first ‘official’ rules for VBCW, and is based upon the rules that have been used to play this game around the various UK wargames shows since its original launch.
The rules are written by Simon Purdue, and are something of a throwback to the wargaming rules of old, being produced as an A5 20-odd page book (albeit in full colour), rather than anything larger or glossier.
The rules are designed for platoon level skirmish play, but can also be used to play up to company level, and are especially friendly for playing games in a multi-player format. They are designed to be used with 28mm figures and measurement within the game is in inches. You also need D10s, D6s, a scatter dice, some weapon area templates, some tokens (to represent morale), a set of random event cards (examples are available at the back of the book) and a standard pack of playing cards including one Joker.
The game is played in a number of turns, each of which is broken down into 6 phases, these being Initiative, Random Events, Recovery, Movement, Shooting and Melee
The turn starts with the Initiative phase; each player is dealt one playing card for each HQ or Infantry section that they command, plus one extra. They can look at these cards, and may lay one, face down, next to each unit that they control. Once all cards have been played to the table, they are all turned over, and then each squad takes its turn in numerical order of the cards. If cards of the same value then order is determined by suit: Hearts – Diamonds – Spades – Clubs (why this isn’t H-C-D-S, which is the ‘standard’ for most card games, I do not know) A unit with the ‘Joker’ card may take their turn at any time the player desires.
Next comes the Random Events phase, where it is decided if a random event happens by the rolling of a D6 and this is followed by the Recovery Phase, where any units with a Nerve Status Marker must make a Nerve (Morale) test and any mandatory movement must also take place.
Next is the Movement phase. Units generally have the choice to walk, run, charge or go to ground. This happens in initiative order, and all units that chose to walk can fire in the Shooting phase.
The Shooting phase is then carried out in initiative order. All units that did not run or charge during the movement phase my fire, with some exceptions. LMGs get a negative ‘to hit’ and HMGs and Mortars cannot move and fire in the same turn. You check to see if the target is in range and line of sight (pre-measurement is allowed) Each player rolls a number of D10 for the unit, and must beat a target number depending upon the quality of the troops, as well as any modifiers for movement or cover. If you equal or exceed the target number, you then roll a D6 and kill the target on a roll of 4+. Simple.
Finally, Melee takes place, with all figures in base-to-base contact fighting. Generally, the unit that charged strikes first (note, hand-to-hand combat is not simultaneous) although the defender has a chance to strike first if defending an obstacle. The process is similar to shooting, and whichever unit inflicts the most casualties causes the other to perform a Morale test, which could cause them to retreat or even be destroyed (surrender).
That is essentially all there is to it. There are rules which cover vehicles, special weapons and buildings.
Force composition is remarkably simple, with not a point in sight – forces usually consist of a Platoon HQ and 1 – 3 sections of 10 men each. In addition, for each Platoon HQ you may field 1 support unit (a HMG, Mortar or Sniper) and, in bigger games, 1 special unit, such as a brace of armoured cars or a medium or heavy tank.
Overall, “Went the Day Well?” is a solid set of skirmish rules. The initiative system is an innovative approach to card activation, and introduces a certain mix of luck, planning and bluff to the game.
My only major concerns are with the shooting phase. It is moderately difficult to score a kill (20% chance for a ‘regular’ trooper) but hits which do not cause a kill have no further effect – unless they are caused by a weapon with an area of effect. Given the weapons of the period, it would have been nice to see some more effects of suppressive fire in the game.
My main concern, however, are the weapon ranges, which are nothing much short of ridiculous. Rifles have a range of 18”, HMGs, Mortars and Anti-Tank guns 24”, and Field Guns 36”. I can understand a game designer wanting to limit weapon range in order to enforce players to manoeuvre, and yes in this set of rules it is possible to move and fire in the same turn. There is a point where game design must meet historical reality, however fictional the setting, and in this, I think the rules miss the mark, unless the aim of the game is be playable on a (very) small table. The practical result of these range limitations leaves the actual game taking place in small ‘clumps’ of action in an otherwise huge expanse – especially when playing on the average 6’ x 4’ wargames table.
My own suggestion would be to play the game as written, but double all the weapons ranges, as that seems more reasonable.
My final issue would be one of timing. As I mentioned, it’s been 4 years since VBCW first came on the scene, and it seems that most non-core periods only have a limited life expectancy in the hobby. It has been mentioned to me that perhaps VBCW’s light is starting to wane, and that anyone who was playing the period would already be doing so using the material already produced by Solway and their own particular rules. Whilst this release could generate a new spark of interest in the hobby, it could equally be the case that they have simply been published a year too late.
Time, as ever, will tell.
Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher