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By the Book: Rules questions in GBACW


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This is the place to discuss the rule system, particularly with questions!


Greg Laubach writes:

In answer to Neil Wakefield's questions:

[22.12] The three extra movement points is the Double Time. If the Double Time Restrictions [22.2] are not met, then the extra movement is not available.

[22.22] You don't get the three extra movement points for Double Time unless Double Time is used to the end of the Movement Phase. This rule implies that a unit using Double Time ends the movement phase in column formation and the extra movement allowance is expended in terrain suitable for Double Time. If you want to change formation at the end of the move or want to end up off road, then don't use Double Time or come up with a house rule.

[7.23] I guess that you are saying that a shot down a long rectangular formation might cause more casualties than either a front or rear shot. That is probably true, however losses in the GBACW system represent not only the killed and wounded, but the stragglers and routed too. The total "losses" in a GBACW game are often much higher than the historical battle. It may be better to think of GBACW
casualties as troops that are rendered ineffective. Now in enfilade fire, the
GBACW games represent the disorder that occurs in a line formation due to any fire coming from the sides or rear as an increased chance for ineffectives or losses. In many of the games there is also a morale penalty.


Russ Gifford writes:

In answer to Neil Wakefield's questions:

[7.23] Good way to say it Greg. The concept they are trying to show is how much more impact the fire has on the unit when it comes through one of the enfilade hexsides, which in GBACW are the three 'rear' hexsides of a unit.


Russ Gifford writes:

In answer to Neil Wakefield's questions:

Well, I am more than willing to talk about this, but please remember, most of these questions deal with design choices, rather than rules, so I not really saying 'this is how it is,' only 'here's why I think they did this.' So none of what I write will be worth anything more than 'my opinion.' But some of these were discussed when the original rules were written for TSS, so here's what I think they were asking.

PS: I also am prevented from listing 'chapter and verse' because I am on the road and do not have my GOB rulebook with me! That said, here goes!

[21.64] Short answer: if I recall correctly, the idea of the original version of this rule was simulate the 'bounce through' effect of artillery – the tendency of solid shot hitting the men in successive lines, and bouncing through to the next person in line. The range is important, because as troops came in close, the loads were switched to canister, meaning a shotgun effect with little range but extremely deadly to those it could reach.

Longer reasoning: They actually changed things to address your example. The 900 men in your example will get at least a +1 shift (if not a +2) on the shot for density. Whereas the individual units will get a -1 shift each for density – unless the rule modification we see a year later in
TSS2 is in place: they changed it to say each TYPE of unit – artillery, cavalry, Arty – would be targeted, not each regiment. So in your example, only one attack would happen for all of the Infantry regiments. (So, I guess they heard you!)

[25.64] The stone wall benefit.

Your example seems more apropos here. The concept of Berg and company is good: a single stone wall can't protect everyone, can it? But as your example states, 'wait a minute!'

But remember, in most GBACW games, and I am certain in GOB, there is a relatively low limit to the number of regiments in a hex, not just the number of men. So with the changes, and the restrictions, it just doesn't work out that you often have lots of 1 SP point regiments in a single hex. The rules steer you away from mixing regiments of different brigades, and that's generally where small regiments come from! But as I said above, in reality in these games, you don't have the regiments breaking into 100 unit groups and then crowding together, due to the fact it is more deadly to them. Is it historical? Well, it is certainly helps as you think about a stone wall to know that 1000 men aren't hiding behind a single 120 yard wall!

[22.12] Double Time

OK, not certain if I understand you on this one. I can start my units moving to get them out of non-Double Time terrain, and then declare DT to get an additional 3 MP. Technically, I can't use the 3 MP until I am going to DT, so those points will only be used when I am Double Timing. (In other words, I can use up to 6 points to get to a clear hex where I am in column - and then if I am double timing, I'll have 3 more points. I cannot use 7 points to be 'ready' to double time.

[22.22] DT continued

The organization of a unit into DT status takes some time, and that means getting them moving requires some work. The problem is to DT, units were being placed into column, and fast marched to their location. DT gets them extra points, but they will be tired afterwards - at least winded. They get the points to simulate their ability to move faster - well, I can't fast march in terrain that is too cluttered or broken to keep up my speed, and no one fast marches in the woods! So, once I start DT (and I have to be in column) I can't tell them to not DT. If I did I'd be doing what you were afraid of - using DT points when I wasn't Double Timing! And I only get the points for Double Timing, not for anything else!

This also keeps people from DT into the battle. Your troops are winded after a DT march. They would not go from a DT march, shake out into a battle line and directly march into the fight! This rule says if I go from column to line, my movement ENDS. Done.

If this makes sense....


Greg Laubach writes:

Re: Neil Wakefield's questions, and Russ' answers:

Yes, it makes sense. And I think you hit upon part of the problem in your second answer, Russ.

[21.64] Gleam of Bayonets took the basic number of men per Strength
Point from 100 to 50 and bent the standard rules to make that work.
I guess that because of the smaller regiment sizes, the number of regiments that could stack in clear terrain was raised from the standard 3 to 4. Artillery has been able to fire through the stack in all of the games up to TSS2. A good tactical rule of thumb is don't stack in an artillery field of fire. The example of four small units receiving four fires versus one large unit receiving just one
fire seems illogical, but it ignores the shift for density [8.35].
The firing artillery unit modifies its fire strength based on the total density of the stack, so the stack of four, 1 SP units would receive four fires, each with a column shift to the left. The single
18 SP regiment would only receive one fire, but the shot would receive a two column shift to the right. Just glancing at the CRT and not calculating the probabilities, I would guess that the four shots at the low density stack would have a lower chance of a hit than the single shot at the high density stack.

[25.62] Here again the density of the stack behind the stone wall is being ignored. Remember that for small arms fire and for artillery fire at range 3 or less, 8.21 says that the top unit in the stack receives the fire (and for artillery fire at greater than 3 hexes, see above, with a shift for the top unit). If the example was for small arms fire, then the shot at the four, 1 SP regiments would be shift 2 left for the stone wall and 1 left for density. However the shot at a single 18 SP regiment would be 2 left for the stone wall and 2 right for density.


Neil Wakefield writes:

I’m playing A Gleam of Bayonets with a friend at the moment. Here are some rules that we find curious that it would be good to hear the views of others on:

[21.64] ‘An artillery battery will attack each unit in a stack separately if the battery fires at a range of four hexes or greater.’ So, using an extreme example; this means that if 4x1 SP (total 200 men) infantry units occupy the same hex the stack is attacked 4 times but if you had 1x18 SP (total 900 men) infantry unit in the hex it is only attacked once. We don’t understand the logic behind the rule.

[25.62] ‘Only one Friendly unit in a single hex receives the 2-column shift benefit of a stone wall hexside, even if more than one Friendly unit occupies the hex.’ Using the same extreme example again this means that if 4x1 SP infantry units occupy the same hex only the top unit receives the 2-column shift but if you had 1x18 SP infantry unit in the hex it would receive the benefit. We don’t understand the logic behind the rule.

[22.12] ‘Units…may go into Double Time at any point during their movement, adding three more Movement Points to their Movement Allowances, for a total of nine’. We think that the additional Double Time Movement Allowance should only apply to the portion of the move where Double Time is being used.

[22.22] ‘During a Movement Phase, a regiment in column can move through prohibited terrain using normal movement, then change to Double Time when it enters allowable terrain… However, once a regiment has begun Double Time movement, it must use Double Time movement until the end of the Phase. A regiment cannot change from Double Time to normal movement in a single Movement Phase.’ We think you should be able to change from Double Time to normal movement during a move just as 22.22 says you can start a phase using normal movement and then change to Double Time.

[7.23] ‘A unit which is enfiladed… has the total Fire Strength being directed against it adjusted one column to the right.’ We don’t understand the rationale behind this rule, unless it’s purpose is to reflect the potential increased effect of fire received in the flank, in which case fire from the rear flanks might be considered enfilade fire but not fire from the rear.


Greg Laubach writes:

At the end of November, I asked about how you played the retreat before melee and advance sequence, melee by melee or all retreats at once and all advances at once. 12.8 is ambiguous.

Russ Gifford writes:

"It certainly is. I think there is more multiple methods to play this section than any other in the system!

"As Greg pointed out in his letter, the Melee rules in GBACW were open to interpretation. As the system continued, the designers tried to expand the rules as necessary to clean up the vague points. That method continued in Corinth, as they worked to evolve the Melee into a firm set of steps. TSS2 continued that process, so we will use that series of steps to examine the choices.

"And also, let's remember, the Designer and Developer of Corinth were, respectively, Richard Berg (TSS, et. al.) and Eric Lee Smith (GBACW).  So if we can't trust these two, who can we trust? ;)

Me, anything I think is just me talking. But here is how I see it: The Melee rules are not truly changing from game to game, but being expanded to clarify what the designer originally intended.

First - what are we trying to achieve?

I am suggesting the rules as evolved for TSS2 be used for all games in the GBACW/TSS2 system.

This is not a stretch. There are no real changes, just explanations to make it clear what you are supposed to be doing in melee - and more specifically, in the Retreat Before Melee phase that precedes Melee.

So - let's turn to the TSS2 Sequence of play. For the Retreat Before Melee phase, it spells things out clearly, in a sequential fashion. It lists sub-phases G1, G2, and G3 in the Retreat before Melee phase. Obviously, just as all parts of A have to happen before B on the Sequence of Play, all parts of G1 have to come before G2, etc.

The Retreat Before Melee phase:

G1: The Phasing player announces all his Melee attacks for the Melee Phase.

G2: Outlines the non-phasing player has the option to retreat eligible units. Explains the units can undergo Withdrawal Fire, must roll for rout at the end of the retreat.

G3: The Phasing player can advance eligible units into the vacated hex.

Next - the Melee Phase.

The melee phase follows, where the attackers (attempt to) enter the hexes, and melee is resolved.

So - let's break it down, step by step!

Retreat Before Melee has its own Phase, so it will certainly happen for ALL troops before ANY Melee happens. In fact, according to the multi-step sequence in TSS2, page 15, middle column, which is pretty similar to the Corinth list -

Step A:

1. ALL melees are declared by the phasing player.

Then we get Step B, which says:

2. The defending [non-phasing] player may retreat ALL units that are eligible to retreat before melee.

(The rule says ALL - so to me that means no advance is going to happen after one unit leaves allowing other units to be cut off before they can retreat - which is also reinforced by a line I'll point out in a moment.)

But they still do these retreats moving one unit or stack at a time, because:

3. When the retreating unit leaves the hex, they may trigger Withdrawal Fire (opponent's option).

Casualties are taken at the moment of Withdrawal Fire, as are pin checks - but not a morale check. (See below.) If they fail the Pin check, they are pinned in the original hex, and have to stand for the Melee. [12.87]

4. If they did not pin, at the end of an individual retreat, the non-phasing player checks morale of the unit that retreated. It either stands or routs.  Which is why step 3 above did not check morale during the retreat. [12.85]

And remember, mounted Cavalry and limbered Horse Arty can Retreat Before Melee and not take a morale check!)


Any in-command unit adjacent to a unit that is Retreating before Melee can voluntarily retreat - even if not been designated for a melee! (Which is why I think the intent is to prevent entrapment due to the sequence restrictions of the game system.)

THEN I think then next step happens because the previous point makes it clear they have to option to NOT be trapped.

5. The phasing player can advance units that were adjacent and had a retreating unit in its ZOC into the newly vacated hex.

So, that's step B taken care of! It also was the final step in the Retreat before Melee phase - so in my mind, all of the above steps HAVE to happen before the next step.

Now the start of the Melee phase, and Step C:

6. Units with Leaders that announced melee intentions go into the hex automatically.

And on to Step D:

7. Units without leaders make a morale check (Corinth, zero Command Point Leaders in TSS2), or die roll as per the game's Exclusive Rules. (Pea Ridge)

8. All units are now in place. Melee is now resolved. 

Since the Melee rules demand the unit that declared go through with the attempt, this gets us to the moment of truth: melee now occurs between any enemy units who share the same hex.

And the phasing player resolves these melees in any order he chooses.

At least, that's how I read all this.

Russ Gifford adds:

And now, in practical terms, from experience, the actual sequence most of us use in is something like this: (I'm not saying it is right, just how it happens.)

1. The attacker announces all melees.

2. The attacker then points to the first melee and says, "You staying?"

3a. If defender retreats, attacker announces the withdrawal fire (if any). The withdrawal fire is resolved.

The defender then checks the retreating units morale, and possibly routs the unit (any rout is applied after the one or two hex retreat is executed).  Attacker may advance into the vacated hex.

3b. If the defender stands, the attacker enters the hex, and melee is resolved.

4. Repeat from step 2 until all of the retreats and melees are executed.

PS: This does bring up the rule that allows even out of command units to retreat before melee. It is a rule I ALWAYS forget!  [12.81] TSS2, [12.89] in GBACW.

Of course, pinned and routed units may not Retreat before Melee...


Russ Gifford writes:

"In TSS2, they make it clear that the increased Leadership effectiveness bonus does NOT count in the Rally phase! [17.22]
Whoa! That rule is NOT in GBACW! So be aware!

Todd Baker showed us the next one:

"Speaking of changes in TSS2, another big shock is in the Seeing the Elephant rules.  In GBACW, you do this once for units with a '?' for a morale. In TSS2, you use the Seeing the Elephant table to determine their morale EVERY PHASE a unit with a '?' takes a morale check! [13.14]

Tom Gaul notes:

"Withdrawal and Retreat Fire are similar, but here's a rule of thumb to keep them straight: Withdrawal Fire generally happens during the enemy's Movement Phase, or the Withdrawal Before Melee Phase It occurs when a unit LEAVES an enemy ZOC. Retreat Fire generally happens during a Fire Phase (Defensive Fire Phase or the Offensive Fire Phase) since it most often is a routing unit or units displaced by routing units. It occurs when a unit ENTERS an enemy ZOC."

"Why does the difference matter? Retreat Fire pins a unit in the hex it took the shot in. If Withdrawal Fire pins a unit, it pins in the hex it was trying to enter, not the hex it was shot in. (Unless it was a Retreat Before Melee shot. If it fails a Pin check, it cannot leave the hex and must accept Melee! [12.87])

 Russ Gifford adds:

"Speaking of Retreat Before Melee, did you know even out of command units can attempt to Retreat Before Melee??? [12.81] BUT - units cannot enter an Enemy ZOC using Retreat before Melee! [12.83]

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