Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scenario: Stone vs. Iron

"Our men on the left loaded and fired with the energy of madmen, and the 6th worked with equal desperation. This stopped the rush of the enemy and they halted and fired upon us their deadly musketry. During a few awful moments, I could see by the lurid light of the powder flashes, the whole of both lines. The two ... were within ... fifty yards of each other pouring musketry into each other as fast as men could load and shoot."

-Maj. Rufus Dawes, 6th Wisconsin

August 28th, 1862: A "fierce and sanguinary struggle" (T. Jackson) erupts along the Warrenton Turnpike as Stonewall boldly strikes a column of Federals moving towards Groveton, Virginia.

Confederate Order of Battle
Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson: + 2
2nd Virginia
Fatigue Grade: 4
2 stands
4th Virginia
Fatigue Grade: 4
3 stands
5th Virginia
Fatigue Grade: 4
3 stands
27th Virginia
Fatigue Grade: 4
1 stand
33rd Virginia
Fatigue Grade:4
1 stand________________________________________

(Col. Marcellus Douglass)
26th Georgia
Fatigue Grade: 3
3 stands
38th Georgia
Fatigue Grade: 2
2 stands
21st Georgia
Fatigue Grade: 2
2 stands

Col. Alexander Taliaferro: + 1
47th Alabama
Fatigue Grade: 1
3 stands
37th Virginia
Fatigue Grade: 3
3 stands

Union Order of Battle
Brig. Gen. John Gibbon: + 1
6th Wisconsin
Fatigue Grade: 3
3 stands
2nd Wisconsin
Fatigue Grade: 4
3 stands
7th Wisconsin
Fatigue Grade: 3
4 stands
19th Indiana
Fatigue Grade: 3
5 stands

(Brig. Gen. Abner Doubleday)
76th New York
Fatigue Grade: 2
3 stands
56th Pennsylvania
Fatigue Grade: 2
3 stands

Lines separate Commands. If the leader's name is in parentheses he is not present at the battle.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Then Holler Living Rulebook 1.1

Here's version 1.1 of the Living Rulebook. Inside you'll find:

an updated turn sequence
streamlined frontage rules

Living Rulebook Version 1.1

Stone vs. Iron: The Struggle for Brawner's Farm coming soon!

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Then Holler" at The Congress of Gamers

Then Holler will be making its convention debut at the Congress of Gamers in Washington DC, October 9th and 10th.

We'll be entering the game into the Rio Grande Game Design contest and running demonstrations most of the weekend. We'd be thrilled to see you there.

Find more convention information here:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Variant: Smoke

This variant introduces "smoke" into the battlefield. The smoke is certainly literal, but it is also an abstraction to generally represent the advantages of prepared volleys and the difficulties of redeploying men under fire.

Here's how to do put it into your games of Then Holler.

When a regiment fires at another regiment, put down a smoke marker. We represent this with an unrolled cotton ball spanning a length across the Frontage of the firing regiment.

Regiments moving through smoke take one Fatigue Point.

When a regiment executes fire combat, trace a straight line from the lead company of the firing regiment to its target. If that line goes through smoke anywhere, reduce their Combat Grade by 1.

Smoke stays exactly where it is laid down until an Ace is pulled. At this point "the smoke clears" and players remove all smoke markers.

Design: Feedback

Hello out there.

We hope you've been enjoying the game over the past couple of days. We've created this post as a place for questions and comments about the Basic Rules.

Post whatever you think could help us make the game better in the comments section below. Important/frequently asked questions will be addressed on the website and in the Living Rulebook.

Thanks for your support. We're really looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Illustrated Example of Play: Matthews Hill, part 3

With the 10 of Spades the 14th US moves immediately off of the road and into the woods, hoping to apply pressure to Evans's flank. They take one Fatigue Point for moving through Light Woods.

Now is a good time to clarify the order of battle in the Living Rulebook. The 14th US was attached to Porter's division, who was not present at the first attack on Matthews Hill. They may enter the game as early as Irwin pleases, but without a leader they will not regenerate Fatigue from drawn jacks. Burnside's Command Quality only applies to units under his direct command.

The next card is the 6 of Diamonds, and Pierre directs Company D to join their fellow South Carolinians, sending 2 Combat Grade worth of minnie balls into the 2nd Rhode Island.

The 5 of Spades, and the 1st Rhode Island hits Company B/4th South Carolina with a 4 Combat Grade salvo.

The 2nd Rhode Island is wavering, one Fatigue Point away from danger. The 2 of Hearts is drawn and Pierre orders Company B of the 1st Louisiana to move up from reserve.

Their 1 Combat Grade volley puts a sixth Fatigue Point on the 2nd Rhode Island. Now that the regiment is over 5 Fatigue Points they will rout and take casualties with Queens and Kings. We represent this on the battlefield by moving the companies a little ways apart.

The King of Spades is drawn and the 2nd Rhode Island is all out of luck. Irwin and Pierre check their orders of battle, looking for regiments over 5 Fatigue Points. Company B of the 4th South Carolina is at 9 Fatigue Points and is forced to lose a stand, taking them down to one. The 2nd Rhode Island is at 6, and Burnside watches grimly as his advance loses a company as well.

With a 7 of Spades the 14th US works their way to the edge of the woods, deploying into 3-1 and taking a shot at Company A of the 4th South Carolina.

The 14th US began their move with 1 Fatigue Point. Deploying into 3-1 cost them 2 Fatigue Points (Frontage - 1), moving through Light Woods cost one more, and firing cost one more for a total of 5 Fatigue Points at the end of the turn.

Their volley against Company A has a base Combat Grade of 3. Company A is uphill, which is a -1 modifier, but the 14th's Elite status gives them a +1 modifier in return. They inflict 3 total Fatigue Points on Company A.

With this comes a brief lull in the chaos as the Jack of Diamonds is pulled. Irwin and Pierre both roll for Command Qualities of Burnside and Evans, respectively. Irwin rolls a 2 on a D3, so with Burnside's +1 modifier his final Command Quality is 3. He heals 3 Fatigue Points on all regiments under his command within 6 inches (this is his Command Range, which is equal to Command Quality x 2).

Evans rolls a 3 with no modifiers. He heals his units in the same fashion.

NOTE: If enemy units were in either leader's respective Command Range, the player controlling them would roll a D6 at this point in the sequence. On a roll of 1 the leader is killed.

The Ace of Spades brings another sigh of relief. All regiments heal a number of Fatigue Points equal to their Fatigue Grade.

The 10 of Hearts brings more units into the fray, as it allows Pierre to activate one of his reinforcement brigades. He chooses to activate Bartow and the men of the 7th Georgia are brought out of reserve and pointed towards the smoke beginning to billow down the road...

Illustrated Example of Play: Matthews Hill, part 2

The next card is the 2 of Clubs. Irwin takes this chance to move the 1st Rhode Island up the road and into battle line. The shorthand we usually use for a formation like this is 6-X. Note that since the lead company both began and ended its move on the road, the regiment can both reform without taking Fatigue Points and move an extra 2 inches.

The regiment then opens fire on Company B of the 4th South Carolina. Although the units under Evans's command are referred to as "companies," they function like regiments in every way. The force holding Matthews Hill in 1861 was made up of two depleted regiments; Evans reorganized them into reinforced companies.

The 1st Rhode Island has a Frontage of 6, so it has a base Combat Grade of 6. Company B is both uphill and at long range, so the volley has a -2 modifier. Company B takes 4 Fatigue Points.

This is the order of battle we've drawn up for this session. The image is a little fuzzy, but we've added 4 black markers on Company B's entry to represent 4 Fatigue Points. Feel free to use dice, pencil and paper, etc.

The 1st Rhode Island also takes 1 Fatigue Point for firing.

With the 3 of Spades Irwin presses his advantage, moving the 2nd Rhode Island up to support their fellows and rattling off a volley at Company D of the 1st Louisiana. This fire is again uphill and at range, so Company D takes 4 Fatigue Points to the 2nd Rhode Island's 1.

The Confederate Player (Pierre) catches a break with the 9 of Diamonds. Company A of the 4th South Carolina remembers where they put their guns and returns fire on the 2nd Rhode Island.

They have a base Combat Grade of 2. Being uphill of their target gives them a +1 modifier, but being at long range gives them a -1. They inflict 2 Fatigue Points of damage.

Illustrated Example of Play: Matthews Hill, part 1

Initial Deployment

This is the battlefield at approximately 9:30 AM. Colonel Evans has positioned his depleted command to concentrate firepower on the northwest road, the most likely avenue of the Yankee assault.

Burnside's brigade leads Hunter's division, searching for the best point to launch the Union hammer blow against the right flank of the Confederate army.

Bartow and Bee, meanwhile, hustle their brigades up the road to reinforce Matthews Hill. They will be able to move on-board when a red 10 is drawn.

The first card pulled is the 3 of Clubs. This allows the Union player (we'll call him Irwin for now) to issue an order to one regiment or leader. Irwin chooses to advance Burnside himself 6 inches down the road.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rules: Everything You Need to Play "Then Holler"

Living Rulebook Version 1.0 (PDF)

This is the download link for the Living Rulebook Version 1.0.

It contains the complete Basic Rules for Then Holler.

With this ruleset you can model any infantry engagement, real or imagined, in the American Civil War.

It also contains one pre-made scenario, the early morning slugfest over Matthews Hill that officially began First Bull Run.

Over the next couple of weeks we will publish the final rules for cavalry and artillery.

As we receive feedback and continue to fine-tune on our own we will update the Living Rulebook directly.

Further updates on the site will include notes for designing your own scenarios as well as rules for campaigns and multi-player commands.

Enjoy the game!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rules: Melee Combat

Melee combat occurs whenever a regiment moves into contact with another regiment. This is called "Charging" and costs 1 Fatigue Point.

To do damage with melee, order the regiment a regiment in melee in the way that you would give it a fire order (you can in fact Charge and do melee combat in the same card pull). Its Combat Grade is equal to the "Melee Frontage" of whatever side of the regiment is in contact with the enemy. A flank attack, in addition to having the + 1 modifier in the same way as shooting, will mean that the target regiment can only attack back only a limited Melee Frontage.

To execute melee combat costs 2 Fatigue Points, as opposed to the normal 1 for shooting.

All relevant Combat Grade modifiers (uphill/downhill, in Stream, etc.) are evaluated normally.

Once a regiment is in melee it can reform as it pleases as per orders, paying normal Fatigue penalties to do so.

A unit may move out of melee combat with a normal move, but it must become disordered at the end of the move.

Being in melee does not prevent a regiment from receiving Fatigue Grade bonuses from leaders nor regenerating fatigue whenever it would normally be allowed.

Regiments in melee may never fire out of it; other regiments may never fire into it.

Rules: Quick Reference Charts

Fatigue Grade

*Basic Movement: + 1 Fatigue Point for every company of Frontage, minus 1

*Shooting: + 1 Fatigue Point

*Taking Fire: + X Fatigue Points, where X is the attacking regiment's Combat Grade

*Moving in Light Woods: + 1 Fatigue Point

*Moving in a Stream: + 3 Fatigue Points

*Moving in a Ford: + 1 Fatigue Point

*Moving uphill: + 1 Fatigue Point

*Moving through a house: + 1 Fatigue Point

*"Pushing" a regiment an extra D3 inches (only once per order): + 1 Fatigue Point
A unit can Push for free if it ends its movement on a Road

*Wheat: + 1 Fatigue Point

*Abattis: + 2 Fatigue Points

Combat Grade

*Close Range (within 2 inches): + 1 Combat Grade

*Normal Range (within 4 inches): + 0 Combat Grade

*Long Range (within 12 inches): - 1 Combat Grade

*Target downhill: + 1 Combat Grade

*Target uphill: - 1 Combat Grade

*Target in Light Woods: - 1 Combat Grade

*Target in Stream: + 2 Combat Grade

*Firing from Stream: -2 Combat Grade

*Target in Ford: + 1 Combat Grade

*Firing from Ford: - 1 Combat Grade

*Target in House: - 2 Combat Grade

*Target in Wheat: - 1 Combat Grade

*Target in Abattis: - 2 Combat Grade

*Targetting regiment's flank: + 1 Combat Grade

*Targetting regiment's rear: + 2 Combat Grade

- - -

We imagine these lists will grow as the game grows, but these are all the Fatigue Point penalties and Combat Grade modifiers you'll need to play the Matthews Hill scenario.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rules: Turn Sequence

The course of play in Then Holler is governed by a normal deck of playing cards. Players flip cards one at a time. When a card is flipped, this is what you do--

*Red Number Card--order one Confederate regiment or leader

*Black Number Card--order one Union regiment or leader

*Jack--evaluate leaders

*Queen--regiments rout

*King--regiments take casualties

*Ace--evaluate regiment Fatigue Grade

Occasionally specific cards will have greater significance. In the 9:30 AM scenario, reinforcements will enter the board when 10s are drawn.

Number Cards

When a regiment is ordered it can move once and/or fire once. After an order is completed, evaluate Fatigue points taken by the ordered regiment as well any other affected regiments.

When a leader is ordered he may move up to six inches. Facing, Frontage, etc, do not affect his movement. Leaders don't have Fatigue Grades and don't take Fatigue Points.

When a regiment is ordered to fire it may fire at any regiment within its range and within its facing (that being a cone extending at 45 degree angles from each corner of the regiment). Relevant ranges are measured from the lead company; the lead company is also what determines a regiment's status as in terrain even if it isn't fully on the feature in question.


When a Jack is pulled both players go through 3 steps with each leader they control. They will--

*determine quality
*regenerate Fatigue Points
*check for well-being

To determine your leader's Command Quality, roll the indicated die on his unit card and add the modifier. Your leader will extend that to all regiments within his Command Range (four inches in any direction).

The leader regenerates a number of Fatigue Points equal to his Command Quality to all regiments within his Command Range. Note that Command Range is traced from the leader to the lead company of the target regiment.

Finally, if there are any enemy regiments within your leader's Command Range, roll a D6. On a roll of 1 your leader has been killed by enemy fire and is removed from the board immediately.


When a Queen is pulled both players evaluate their regiments' Fatigue Points. Any regiment above 5 Fatigue Points is in danger of routing.

If a regiment is above 5 Fatigue Points it has two options:

*Become disordered

A regiment can become disordered to stave off the effects of battle. Whenever a regiment elects to become disordered in the Queen phase it may ignore a potential rout. It immediately changes formation to have a Frontage of zero, which we represent by breaking apart the companies slightly on the table.

Once a regiment is disordered it must reform and take necessary frontage Fatigue for that redeployment before it can truly be effective. If a regiment is forced to rout or take casualties while already disordered it must take them, a regiment cannot be disordered more than once at a time.

If becoming disordered is not possible or not desired, the regiment must fall back a number of inches equal to its current Fatigue Points minus 5. In other words, the regiment must retreat one inch for every Fatigue Point it takes over 5 (Wavering).

Whenever a regiment retreats it moves back immediately towards its table edge. It maintains its Frontage but does not take Fatigue Points for the rout move.

Also make a mark on the retreating regiment's unit card. If a regiment's retreats ever exceed its Fatigue Grade, that regiment is considered completely broken and is removed from the board.

After all relevant disorders and rout moves have been made, players pull another card.


Kings call for a casualty check. This goes mostly the same as a Queen's rout check. Regiments can either:

*Become disordered
*Take casualties

Becoming disordered functions the same way as it does with Queens. There is no difference between a regiment disordered by a Queen or disordered by a King, and a regiment can never be disordered more than once.

To take casualties, look to any regiments with a Fatigue greater than 5. Those regiments, if not becoming disordered, lose one company. The damaged player can choose which company to remove.


An ace usually brings a sigh of relief from all players. All regiments immediately regenerate Fatigue Points equal to their Fatigue Grade. Another card is drawn.

- - -

When you come to the end of the deck roughly an hour of game-time has elapsed.

Regiments can be ordered over and over again with successive card draws, but be prepared to pay the price of an ill-timed Fatigue check.

Try to position leaders where they'll do the most good when a Jack is drawn.

Color only matters with number cards. Face cards mean simultaneous evaluation.

* * *

Well, with the rules posted previously on the site and this turn sequence you could probably blunder your way through a game (if "you" exist). That's what we've been doing.

We'll compile this all tomorrow and throw in a quick-reference chart that should clear up any (most) difficulties. We are no longer finding it funny that formatting a quick-reference chart is the hardest part of writing rules.

After that, an objective and an order of battle is all you'll need for the basic game.

Rules: Infantry Movement

Infantry movement in the Civil War was, put simply, a logistical nightmare. Moving regiments cohesively around a training green was aggravating; moving regiments cohesively around a battlefield was Herculean.

The best officers knew just how far to push their men. In Then Holler, regiments take Fatigue Points for movement and receiving fire alike, so difficult maneuver will directly affect how quickly your regiments take casualties and rout.

Infantry regiments--with very few exceptions--may move up to 6 inches in a turn. Even if the regiment doesn't actually "move" or cover any ground, it can still change formation and facing as it pleases. Over the course of its movement a regiment can take Fatigue Points for terrain, formation, shooting, and a few other things.

Figure 1 shows the 7th Virginia in column. Right now the regiment is said to have a "Frontage of 1," because one company is at the head.

Figure 2 shows the 7th Virginia not moving anywhere, but deploying into a firing line. Note that the lead company stays in place. Any time a regiment is ordered, you may move the lead company to a different place within the formation for free.

Also note that the 7th Virginia now has a Frontage of 5. Regiments take a number of Fatigue Points equal to their final Frontage, minus 1. This change of formation has cost the 7th 4 Fatigue Points.

Figure 3 shows the 7th moving into double line. Their final Frontage is 3, minus 1 is 2 Fatigue Points. Note that the distance of movement is measured from the lead company to where the lead company ends up. Also keep in mind that a Frontage of 3 means that the regiment has a Combat Grade of 3, and can put out 3 Fatigue Points worth of firepower if they so choose.

Figure 4 is the same movement as Figure 3, but through Light Woods. This isn't the Wilderness or anything, so moving through these particular trees only costs 1 Fatigue Point per 3 inches of movement within it. This does not affect the 6 inch maximum, but you must ask yourself if your troops can take the added strain of difficult terrain.

We'll assume that the 7th spends 6 inches in the Light Woods, which means it would take 2 Fatigue Points. It would also take 2 for its final Frontage (3-1=2), for a total of 4 Fatigue Points.

There are a few other things that cost Fatigue Points (charging and shooting, in particular) and a few more terrain rules (houses, hills, streams, and fords) for the 9:30 AM scenario) left to cover. And also expect an quick reference chart--which will cover the Fatigue Point costs of various terrain, an overview of movement, procedures of fire combat, turn sequence, etc.--to be released alongside the scenario.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Map: 1st Manassas, 9:30 AM

1st Manassas, 9:30 AM

It's a hot July morning in 1861. Finally--and only momentarily--overcoming communications difficulties, USA General David Hunter sends Ambrose Burnside and his 2nd Brigade forward to force the Confederate line back across the Warrenton Turnpike.

CSA Colonel Nathan Evans waits atop Matthews Hill with barely a regiment behind him, watching 20,000 blue-coated troops unfold into assault formations.

Generals Bartow and Bee scramble their brigades in Evans's support. Young men from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi squint nervously at the dust swirling a few miles down the road.

It's only going to get hotter, and the word has just been passed through the Northern ranks that an intrepid young officer named William T. Sherman will soon hit the Confederate flank with a full-strength brigade...
* * *
This is a rough map for the scenario that will be put online with the basic rules. A couple of things to note:

-Each box represents roughly a 2x2 inch square on the battlefield. The game is scaled in the following way:
-One inch equals 50 yards.
-A company of 120 takes up a frontage of 7/8 inches, 3/4 inches deep. These are guidelines, and minor deviations for the sake of sanity will not affect the game.

-The map should end up being about 36x30 inches, representing a little less than a mile by mile snapshot of this particular engagement.

This is our first foray into AutoRealm, a free map-making software online. (Find it here: ) Its power seems to only be matched by its inscrutability. As we continue to publish scenarios we have high hopes that we will only get better at it.

If all goes according to plan then tomorrow will see enough of the basic rules posted to get you on your feet playing the game. An order of battle and a little bit more background on the 9:30 AM scenario will follow shortly after.

Rules: Leaders, example of play

Jackson has rushed to the aid of the Wavering (shorthand for having 5 Fatigue Points) 2nd Virginia!

*Leaders can move six inches each time they're ordered. This movement is largely unfettered.

*Note that he traces his Command Range to the lead company of the regiment in question.

Jackson has already rolled for his Command Quality: a D3+2 which came to 3+2 for an impressive 5.

The next time Fatigue Grade is evaluated, the 2nd Virginia will regenerate 5 according their own Fatigue Grade and 5 more for Jackson's proximity. It will still be a tense few minutes as the 2nd Virginia forms in line and begins to return fire, but Jackson has just put one more threat in front of Sherman...

Rules: Leaders

Leaders are the glue that holds fighting men together. Their impact can never be fully quantified.

Here is Thomas Jackson before he was "Stonewall," at the head of a mere brigade at 1st Manassas. The diamond counter is how he would be represented on the battlefield; the card would be on the order of battle itself along with the regiments under his command.

In the same way regiments have a Fatigue Grade, leaders have a "Command Quality." Jackson has a Command Quality of D3+2. Again, this is pretty damn good. It doesn't break that bank, though, and his Command Quality would improve when he is in, say, the 2nd Manassas order of battle.

At certain points in the turn all players would be called upon to make a "Command Check" of all of their living leaders. This is done by rolling the die indicated on the card and adding (or subtracting, in Braxton Bragg's case) the indicated modifier. This number is added onto the Fatigue Grade of all units within 3 inches of the leader counter.

Command Quality is a measure of the leader's individual initiative at critical moments of the battle.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rules: Fire Combat

Fire combat in Then Holler is resolved naturally along with movement. It is based on a comparison of the firepower and quality of the attacking unit with the Fatigue Grade of the defending unit. Consider this situation, when the 2nd Virginia gets caught flat-footed by 69th New York.

Note the arrows on the lead companies: these determine the facing of the entire regiment. The "Combat Grade" of a regiment is determined by its "frontage"--put simply, a regiment puts out an amount of firepower equal to the number of companies that can fire. In this case the 69th New York has a frontage of 6 companies (a combat strength of roughly 820 at 1st Manassas) firing for a Combat Grade of 6.

This, plus a few modifiers, is added to the current Fatigue Points of the target regiment. Let's say that the 2nd Virginia has taken the following Fatigue Points so far:

Moving in double line +1 (This is determined by frontage. Regiments that move or change formation take Fatigue Points equal to their final frontage minus one)

Crossing a stream +2

So the 2nd Virginia has a total of 3 Fatigue Points. The Yankee volley has the following modifier:

Close Range +1 (barring extraordinary differences in weaponry, close range will be within 2 inches, normal range within 4, and long within 12. Also note that close range is determined by the range from the lead company.)

Altogether the 69th New York has a Combat Grade of 6 plus 1, 7. They add 7 Fatigue Points to the 2nd Virginia for a total of 10.

Later in the turn action will stop and all units will evaluate their Fatigue Grade. If the 2nd Virginia stays safe until then they will regenerate 5 Fatigue Points (as per their Fatigue Grade) and come out with 5 Fatigue Points left. That's right on the edge of breaking, so they'll need some support or some timely intervention from Jackson himself to hold the line.

Rules: Regiments and Fatigue Grade

We believe that the two primary pieces of information an officer would have about a regiment under his command are its size and its fighting spirit. For reference, let's look at the 2nd Virginia, the lead regiment of the "Stonewall Brigade" at 1st Manassas.

There it is on the right, in column. In a miniatures system each block would be a stand, on a board each block would be a counter. Either way, each one would represent roughly 120 men. The 2nd Virginia was at a fighting strength of about 600 at 1st Manassas, so it has five stands. For convenience's sake we've gone ahead and labeled each of these Companies A through E. This distinction is mostly unnecessary, but it is helpful to note which block will be the "lead company" for the regiment. Distances from this company will determine facing, march distances, weapon ranges, and command cohesion. In the 2nd Virginia we'll assume that Co. A is the lead company.

The 2nd Virginia is also represented off-board by the unit card above. Their title further specifies that they are under Jackson's command. The large "5" in the center is the most important piece of information about the regiment: their "Fatigue Grade." This value is a quantification of their discipline, morale, and, in some part, fighting ability. A yellow-bellied militia unit would have a Fatigue Grade of 2; most regiments at 1st Manassas have a Fatigue Grade of 3.

A regiment's Fatigue Grade, in game terms, is how many Fatigue Points it can regenerate at the end of every turn. Over the course of a turn, moving, firing, and taking fire will inflict Fatigue Point losses on a regiment. After all units have moved and/or fired each regiment will recoup a certain number of those losses. The 2nd Virginia will regenerate 5.

This creates battle fields that organically ebb and flow. Green units melt away quickly at the fiercest points of battle and veteran units earn their pay. But once regiments start taking Fatigue Point losses that exceed their Fatigue Grade (usually a product of particularly severe fire or strenuous maneuver), a crisis of leadership is imminent.

In a little while we'll talk about principles of movement and fire, and compare Then Holler to a few other rulesets (not always favorably!).

EDIT: And while we're not sure if anyone is actually reading this, if you're out there and you have questions go ahead and put them in the comments section and we'll get them answered straight away.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Design: What Is "Then Holler"?

At its very best, no American Civil War system (including this one) can remotely compare to the experience of commanding thousands of men on a deafening, smoke-covered battlefield. The difference between the reality of conflict and the abstraction of a table game is infinite and every game will fail utterly in its abstraction. This was the guiding principle behind Then Holler.

If the purpose of game rules is to provide a perfect imitation of reality, a perfect game would have no rulebook. Faced with the boundless gap between our subject and our design, we concluded that complexity in service of “realism” was doomed to fail at its sole purpose and was thus unnecessary.

Then Holler tries to imitate the mind-state of a Civil War officer. We state the obvious in order to make the distinction: a Civil War officer would not have access to a vast library of charts detailing the precise interactions of specific soldiers and weapons and would not have the time to look at them in the first place. There are very few analogous charts in Then Holler. This is a product of both design and abstraction. Important distinctions (veteran regiments, talented leaders, strategically significant technology and terrain, etc.) are built directly into the main game system as much as possible. Distinctions that would not be important to a man on the field are not important to the players.

All of that is not to say that the system isn’t flexible. Additional complexity can be layered in at the player’s discretion. For example, the system as is involves very little luck. It wasn’t a conscious design decision, but it happened. There’s definitely a case to be made that the chaos of a Civil War battle is well-represented by a little bit of extra dice-rolling. For players so inclined, official variant mechanics of combat resolution, morale evaluations, etc. can be swapped directly into the system with no errant impact on the strategy or course of an engagement.

This is made possible by the core simplicity of the game. Groups of soldiers are defined by two essential qualities (size and spirit, basically), which is combined with a couple of organically significant advantages for cohesive, decisive use of leaders. The amount of analysis that even this considerable abstraction allows would be superhuman for your average brigadier general, but we have tried to refine the system to be most responsive to your average brigadier general’s priorities and doctrines in a highly stressful situation.

We suppose it is primarily a publishing decision as to whether or not to publish Then Holler as a board game or simply a miniatures ruleset. A very light amount of research is required to draw up a map and order of battle for any engagement imaginable, so we would like to embrace and encourage that potential for decentralization and player choice whenever possible.

Over the coming days we look forward to making the basic rules available on our website. This will be paired with the first scenario--the early morning attack on Matthews Hill that kicked off the 1st Battle of Manassas (Sherman and Burnside vs. Evans, Bartow, and Bee). Updates will continue regularly from then on as we try to make our rounds of nearby conventions.

We hope you enjoy the game and hope to see you around the Southeast.

“Run, boys, run! Don’t wait to form! Don’t let them stop! If you can’t run, then holler!”
--Gen. Phillip Sheridan, Missionary Ridge, November 1863