Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"Hearts of Tin" - trial game...

As I get older I increasingly find myself getting irritated* with rules that are needlessly complicated...  you know the one's, why have 5 pages when 50 can be filled with endless complications that in the end, result in the same result... and yes I'm aware that the counter argument is that we just line them up and throw a D6 each to decide the outcome, but what I want is a set of rules that sits on that side of the half way mark between the two extremes......

* I got so grumpy the other day that I even caused my self to stop and think..... 

So it is with the current game that DG and I are playing using the eminently sensible, but endlessly confusing (to me), Regimental Fire and Fury rules - I don't know what it is but despite playing them for almost two years now, I just cannot get on with them...  I'm happy to play them, but only if DG explains what I need to do at any point in time, as I'll freely admit they are the most counter-intuitive set of rules I've ever played....  and don't even get me started on the D10....

For a short while I had hoped that "A House Divided" might do the trick - it says "Fast Play" on the front after all - but no, even DG describes them as "wordy", and at 120 pages long how fast play can they be (answers to me by all means, but as another blogger wrote, send them on a used £10 note )....

So it was that I was reading Ross McFarlane's [clicky] blog recently and my interest was piqued by his mention of the rules he has written called "Hearts of Tin" [clicky]...   I'm on a bit of a roll at the moment (following a few months of wargamers block) so I set the table  up for a small American Civil War set to in order to try the rules...

For my scenario I turned to my well thumbed copy of "Battles with Model Soldiers" [clicky] and chose the third of Don's demo games...
How many happy memories does that simple little diagram bring back....

Which ended up as the following once I'd laid out the table...

NB. The signal tower is just a "nice to have"!
 Herewith the Confederate deployment...  from the left:

  • 4th Virginia
  • Artillery (12pdr Napoleon)
  • Tiger Zouaves
  • Cavalry
  ..all troops for this game (both sides) classed as "average", all muskets are smooth-bore, all artillery 12pdr Napoleon's..

.and here's the Union - from the left:
  • 8th Ohio
  • Duryée's Zouaves
  • Artillery (also a Napoleon)
  • Cavalry

...and so to the first move...  both sides diced, the Confederates win and become "Player 1"... both sides then threw initiative dice...  "Hearts of Tin" uses a DBA'esque activation system where the brigadier and any units within close proximity get to move "free"  but points then need to spent to move units that are further away etc. As you can see in the following the Rebs had more movement opportunities than the Union but either way at the end of move 1 positions were as follows.

End Move 1 - Union has deployed its artillery, both sides are sending their cavalry on a flank move, and the wall continues to be a magnet!
Move two - first melee as the Union cavalry crashes home on the 4th Virginia - both sides lose a stand - the small D6 indicates that the Confederates are also carrying some additional casualties towards losing their next base - the good news is that the infantry have held, and things will not be so much in the Union's favour in the second round (no charge bonus in subsequent rounds).

Elsewhere the cannons continue to boom - causing little damage....

End Move 2 - Union Ohio Regiment turn to face Reb cavalry... the Tigers will move through the wood...
Move 3 - further firing - little effect...  the melee continues between the Union cavalry and the Confederate infantry - the other melee has ended quickly however, as the Confederate cavalry inflicted enough casualties in the first round to cause the Union infantry to immediately break and rout away - the Confederates now have an open flank and a target rich environment - worse than that, the  Union artillery is now shielded from any useful targets...

End Move 3  - Union infantry are out of shot, bottom left
Move 4 - end of game - in the third round of the melee the Rebel infantry see off the Union cavalry who break (and are also just out of shot bottom left..)

The Confederate cavalry has charged home on the Union artillery causing them to break, the Tigers have flanked the Union Zouaves...

Union commander orders retreat leaving the Confederates as victors..

End Move 4

End Move 4 - Union troops retreating pell mell....
Post Match Analysis:

  • A fun little game - I'm going to have another game with a few more units to give the activation rules a proper chance of building some "friction"
  • I liked the melee rules - "Hearts of Tin" uses a 3 phase move where the moving player gets to do their move, then in the second phase the opposite player throws their melee dice and the first player removes casualties and tests for break, and in the 3rd phase the moving player then throws their melee dice and the second player removes casualties and tests for break - casualties are not simultaneous. I see the second phase as modelling the casualties a charging unit takes as it crashes home... 
  • Just two morale states - good or broken - simple, and does what it says on the tin..
  • Shooting is not as effective as melee for killing people - two dice per stand in melee, only one when shooting.... if you want to kill your opponent, get hand to hand quickly...
Recommended - try them for a fun, quick, game, where you get to think of manoeuvring rather than whether you are allowed to do what you want to do.....


  1. Steve
    I have followed your blog for some time. Although I was a big fan of the original Fire and Fury, the Regimental version seemed to move away from everything I enjoyed about the original set. Looks like you have come to the same conclusion. Personally I use Peter Pigs Civil War Battles (with a slightly amended saving throw table). Not everyones cup of tea but they do the trick for me. I am intrigued by Hearts of Tin and shall have a look myself. Thanks Sean

  2. We played ACW using Rank and File. I picked it up in one evening and we played 4 really good battles over consecutive Thursdays. Great rule set which we may use for Naps as well.

    I,m with you on complicated rule sets. We use DBA / DBR for campaigns for example. Princilpes of War is a set we use for most periods and always get a good battle. The book is mainly made up of army lists and the rules themselves cover around 20 pages tops.

    1. Thanks Phil - I use their Rate of Fire rules for WWII Skirmish and liked them a lot - I'll definitely seek them out at Warfare next month....

  3. I'm with you on 'simpler' rule systems Steve. I constantly lose interest even during the read through of some rule books.... talk about long winded!
    That little map brings back some memories. I recently saw it again 'in the flesh' so to speak over the Summer when I managed to get my hands on a copy of Featherstones' 'Battles with Model Soldiers', the book that first got me hooked all those years ago.

    1. You are so right Steve... that and "Wargames" were on permanent loan from my library until I could afford my own copies!

  4. I have to agree with the desire for simple rules. It works in cycles I think, rules get overly complicated and then fashion changes back into simple affairs. Current vogue is definitely overly "chatty"/complicated rules. I will stick with "simples".

  5. Agreed about simpler rules, Steve. I actually prefer some of Ross' earlier versions of "Hearts of Tin" to the more ACW-era version (he is constantly tweaking them) . . . but since you are looking for an ACW rule set, I can certainly see the value of this version to you.

    Ross does like rather "quick" rules . . . he doesn't want to spend 5 or 6 hours on a game that could be played in two hours. Also I do believe that the current version of HofT is intended for a lot more units than you used in your test game. Perhaps try the same scenario with each force being a brigade rather than just a regiment, eh?

    -- Jeff

    1. Jeff- you're right and the rules themselves say that, but I just wanted a quick test (and it was!).. it was enough for me to realise a second game was definitely on the cards.. :o)

  6. Sounds like Black Powder would also work for what your asking as another alternative. It plays very fast and with whatever sized armies you want.I'm enjoying the heck out of it, but keep in mind we use the 66% rule which is 66% of movement and ranges as given in the book.


    1. Chris - I'll bear them in mind, they appear (from what I read) to be one of those Marmite sets - either loved or hated - i'm fairly open minded so I'll check them out next time I see them..

    2. I think you'll like the decision. Just saw the signal station and it looks great! I too really like them and own one. Who makes the one you have please?


    3. Should also mention I also have a House Divided and didn't much care for it either.


    4. Hi Chris - I have Matt over at "Waterloo to Mons" blog for the burning desire to have one of those signal towers! Mine is slightly different in that it comprises the bases of two different models one on top of the other but either way all the embarrassing details of my bodged attempt are here ===> http://steve-the-wargamer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/american-civil-war-signalling-edifice.html

  7. I still get the warm and fuzzies when I see the that map/diagram. I wonder if starting here has something to do with my I like Grant's Teasers? After all Sawmill Village is just an expanded version of this intro game.

    Thanks for the report and for the comments, they reflect my intentions well.

    1. Cheers Ross... I'm looking forward to a bigger game - more units...

  8. Let me second the call for Black Powder. We've been having a ball with them!

    Then again, I really loved Featherstone's "Wargaming Airborne Operations" - the very first Featherstone book I owned!


  9. I think that "Bull Run to Gettysburg" might suit you too, Steve.

  10. David/Greg - keep them coming - but keep them simple.. :o))