Having now played 4 games of Longstreet I thought it time to share my thoughts on the rules. They were introduced to the Falkirk Club a few weeks ago pretty much as soon as they were published. The Maurice rules by the same author had proved popular and a move to ACW seemed logical as a number of people had usable figures in 15mm.
Although not in the absolute first wave I jumped on the bandwagon fairly early on for two main reasons. First off there was a good vibe about the rules in the club with a number of games being played and the participants obviously enjoying themselves. Secondly it was an excellent opportunity to reorganise my ACW collection. I am not a fan of rebasing but having 3 very different basing conventions did need to be sorted out.
There was soon demand for a Longstreet campaign and the original half dozen grew to a final tally of 14 players. This has been an added bonus for me as of the 4 games to date 2 have been against club members that I had not previously played.
The rules mechanisms themselves are very simple and easy to pick up. The differentiator here is the card system. Each player maintains a set of 6 cards which as well as being used to initiate firing, movement and charges also enable additional effects to be introduced such as move further, deliver more intense fire etc. One killer card is the ability to put a bit of disordering terrain on, just where your opponent does not want it to be. There are a number of cards that effect only one side. As a Confederate commander I particularly like the Rebel Yell card which makes charges more effective, although only for the early years of the war. It is also possible to interrupt your opponents move.
The campaign system exploits the fact that the rules cover a single war and uses this to mimic the changing face of the conflict. Thus at the start both sides are made up of Eager Recruits who are more effective in attack than defence. As the war progresses the troops become more war weary, the effect cards swing from being more supportive of the Confederacy and Union armies on average become larger.
Another interesting feature is the personalities of the generals which can enable them to have certain battlefield advantages - an engineering officer is better at putting up battlefield defences for instance. Other cards are important in the post battle phase.
A mechanism that I have not seen before which is used in the campaign is that of epic points. This is based on the premise that the point of the campaign is the personal prestige of the general. Heroic deeds are more important than actually winning the battle. Thus in my last game where I was the attacker trying to take a hill, despite being thrown back and losing the battle itself successive waves of heroic charges resulted in me scoring 7 epic points to Bill's 4. At the end of the campaign it is the general with the most epic points that wins.
The post battle phase allows the recovery of many of the battlefield losses but the effects of camp fever (all stands throw a dice and are eliminated on the throw of a 1) can be deadly. Campaign cards are then drawn which generally provide recruits to bolster units and new personality traits for commanders. Armies are then brought up to a minimum strength for the next game by attaching new units.
A campaign lasts nine battles, one in 1861, two in 1862, three in 1863, two in 1864 and one in 1865.
Overall my impressions are positive. Games are generally a little short for my liking (mine have been under 2 hours) and the rules a little simplistic. They will never be my rules of choice for a meaty refight of an actual battle where a set such Fire and Fury would be my rules of choice giving a more intense, thought provoking encounter. That is not to say that the games are not fun, just perhaps a little shallow.
The campaign system is what stands out for me. The fact that although results carry forward from one game to another each commander is always left with a usable army for the next game is a real strength. Indeed early in the war an army can actually be improved by an influx of eager new recruits. Making the standard campaign nine battles long is also a great idea. In Falkirk we have committed to a game a month for nine months which is (hopefully) eminently doable.
To summarise - a reasonable fun ruleset for playing ACW battles backed up by an excellent campaign system. Over the next couple of years I hope to fight a couple of campaigns and after that possibly a game or two a year - that is a good result for a new set of rules.