Light Bobs Review – Forging a Nation Vol II

A Light Bobs Review:  Light Bobs is a new set of miniature wargaming rules from Chris Parker Games. Subtitled Battalion Level Rules For the American Revolution, the rule set fits between skirmish level rules and regimental or brigade level rule sets. The ground scale and figure ratio scale are intentionally undefined by the author in order to allow a “open scale” game system.

Selling for $24, Light Bobs is designed to be used with individually mounted figures and should be easily playable with figures from 15mm all the way up to 54mm. The number of figures that a player uses for this game (the author suggests around 33) would make this game playable with 28mm or maybe even 40mm figures without pinching the wallet too much or bogging down your painting schedule.

The author, Chris Parker, has been wargaming since childhood. He has been a member of The New England Wargamer’s Association where he met his mentor, Dick Bryant of the Courier, and owned his own game shop in Massachusetts. His previous works include medieval rules titled Knighthood and the Middle Ages and later, skirmish rules entitled Day of Battle. Parker’s interest in the AWI and the American Revolution traces back to his and his brother’s joining AWI reenactment units during the Bicentennial commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His brother David’s study of the AWI had impact on Parker after he published a thesis entitled “That Loose and Flimsy Order: The Little War Meets British Military Discipline in America 1755-1781” while he was teaching military history at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.

Light Bobs Review

Light Bobs Review:  The combination of his re-enacting experience and his brother’s writings led Parker away from his normal preference for large scale battles, to focusing on battles that involved not thousands, but hundreds of troops. Parker cites and his reading of Diary of the American War – A Hessian Journal by Captain Johann Ewald as a major inspiration for his rules. Ewald was a light infantry officer who fought in many engagements during the American War of Independence. Parker’s aim is to put the player into the role of leaders such as Ewald by having the player become a “Leader of Worth” (LOW).

The LOW is the commander of a task force like army composed of the units the leader thinks he might need to accomplish his mission. In this regard, Light Bobs is partly a role playing game with the player ‘purchasing’ skills for his leader and acquiring others through determined by die rolls. As the players progress through their table top battles, the leader can grow in prowess and rank, or if the player fares poorly in battle, he might be facing a demotion.

Prior to the game, players make up their force by selecting “companies” from army lists for the British, Americans and French forces in America. The British list also includes native American tribes as part of their forces.

The author further defines these army lists by altering the composition of available forces and their quality based on four general time periods:

  • Boston: April, 1775 – March, 1776
  • Saratoga: 1776 – 1777
  • Mid Atlantic: 1776 – 1783
  • The South: 1780 – 1781

Light Bobs Review – unit size:  Company types include dragoons, artillery, line infantry, Hessian’s, Grenadiers, militia, loyalist and marines. These types are further categorized by their quality such as poor, average, veteran, or elite. The number of companies a LOW can have in his force is based upon his rank. The number of figures in the companies is tied to their quality. The better the quality, the less figures the unit has…for example, an elite has 4 figures, while a poor unit has 12. This is due to the author’s studies in which he found that the battlefield foot print of a unit (at that time) was based upon their discipline and quality. This might lead one to think that higher quality units would be out gunned by smaller units but the rules compensate for this by giving higher ratios of combat dice per figures to the better units.

Prior to combat, terrain is selected through a terrain generator modified by theater of action. The players then take turns alternately placing the terrain on the table. Terrain, of course, will have different impacts on game play.

Turn sequence is based on a combination of leader skill, rank and the draw of a card (from a standard 54 card deck). The result of this is that one player can end up going first multiple turns…which could be bad luck for the other player. Game play is driven through the LOW’s issuance of orders based on the number of command cards he has available to him (again, represented by playing cards from a standard deck) which is determined by his rank and a die roll. These commands allow the LOW to maneuver, fire and reorder his units. The LOW can increase the efficiency of his command points through maintaining a cohesive line and wise spending of his points. An LOW can even carry some command points over to the next turn.

Maneuver is fairly standard with movement being tied to formation (line or column). Companies can also adopt close order, loose order and open order (reserved for Indians and ranger type units). This will also affect how companies move through terrain and at what speed.

Firing is based on dice rolls multiplied by the quality of unit as previously mentioned. Hit probability is tied to the quality of the unit being fired upon. Once hits are determined, the target unit has a chance of avoiding casualties through ‘situational rolls’ which account for distance from firer to target, cover, etc. Target units with command points or in close proximity to the firer can return fire with the results being simultaneous.

Close combat follows units closing to contact as part of their maneuver phase. Melee is resolved in a manner similar to fire combat. Hits result in the LOWs force receiving morale markers that cause it to take battalion level morale test. Success for passing this test is tied to the size of the battalion, composition and losses. A battalion failing such a test will find its companies’ driven back.

As the game continues, units will receive ‘disorders’ based on the number of actions that they conduct in a turn, morale events or participation in melee. Units can only acquire so many such disorders before they become ‘spent.’ A units spent level is tied to its quality but the LOW must be careful to shed these disorders before they render his units worthless.

Games will be decided based on scenario objectives, loss of an LOW, one force being broken or one side voluntarily ending the game; a serious option if you need your force or LOW for the next game. The rules are attractive provide several examples of game play, including photo diagrams. Unfortunately, during our play test of the rules, my group found the explanation of the turn sequence confusing and the quick reference charts needing more depth and clarity. We had trouble determining how often a unit could return fire and we were at a lost to explain why an artillery piece, no matter how light, had the same close range as a musket.

Light Bobs Review comments:  While trying to follow the turn sequence through the rule set, it seemed that the author paused often to explain concepts that might would have been better explored later on. I often found myself jumping back to the table of contents using the iPad to try and resolve questions that came up during game play. This confusion slowed our play test and was quite frustrating.

I highly recommend game masters conduct a solitary test play of the rules prior to presenting them to their clubs to avoid similar frustration. To assist with this, there are videos of a typical game turn available on the Day of Battle website. There were several typos on the version which we received as well as subject verb agreement errors that caused confusion when playing the game. Hopefully, these errors were corrected for the print version. In conclusion, Light Bobs is an interesting rule set filling an under explored element of the American War of Independence, small unit actions. I do not want to throw out the proverbial “baby with the bath water” over the difficulty we had interpreting the rules – I am sure players will find the rules intuitive after several plays. I sincerely hope the author and his editors re-look at the rule set with fresh eyes.

Light Bobs Review final thoughts:  If you have been looking for a game that will put a cockade on your hat and allow you to become a ‘leader of worth,’ then surely this is the rule set for you. You will have the opportunity to earn honor and glory on the battlefields of America and earn your way up the ranks of the Continental or British army. And, if you don’t find you are earning your fair share of the glory, the author has even provided a “Benedict Arnold” rule for you to change sides!

Light Bobs Review was published in  Forging a Nation Vol II

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