Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Got my Studio Tomahawk on! Part Two.

And the winner is. . .

This Very Ground from Iron Ivan Games. What the . . . !?

If you've visited here before, you may be aware that I was already invested in This Very Ground for my French and Indian War project when I decided to give Muskets & Tomahawks a look. Overall, Muskets & Tomahawks is a very nice product. The N.C. Wyeth illustration on the cover alone gets a nod. 

Recently The Baron pointed me to a post on Anatoli's Game Room that includes a thorough review of Muskets and Tomahawks as well as a "short comparison" with This Very Ground that I find quite useful. If you're interested, Mr. Anatoli also provides a similarly-thorough review of This Very Ground here (and I do hope Mr. Anatoli doesn't mind the links, but I would be hard-pressed to improve on his detailed reviews).

So why do I use the term "useful" to describe the comparison? The comparison provides an opportunity to show subjectivity in practice, as Mr. Anatoli and I look at the same points of difference between the rulesets and draw opposite conclusions, based ultimately, I think, on "what we like." Both systems quite obviously provide a good game and lots of period flavor. . . but as we all know, it often just comes down to what "feels right." Mr. Anatoli  is calling Muskets & Tomahawks (M&T) his "go to" set of rules for the French and Indian War, while I have decided to stick with This Very Ground (TVG). For example, if we look at the comparison:

1) Shooting Mechanics. In M&T each soldier in a unit can take one action, which means some soldiers can move while others shoot while still others reload. Individual soldiers' firings have to be tracked for reloading, which I don't like as well as the Volume of Fire in TVG, which is tracked by unit, and provides a neat little morale mechanism based on the amount of firepower a unit puts out.

2) Movement Mechanics. I prefer that in TVG Regulars are limited to Formed Formation, regardless of terrain, which makes them slow and cumbersome in the forest, all the time. Regulars don't get to break into skirmish formation for movement in the woods, which I think better reflects their European training prior to their arrival in the colonies.

3) Close Combat. I really like the "psychology tests" involved in the "Charge" and "Standing Ground" procedures prior to Melee. Used with the Initiative system, there is real finesse in the tactics of driving off the enemy with a volley and the threat of the follow-up with cold steel. If you can get to hand-to-hand, the new streamlined procedure makes Melee fast and lethal.

4) Casualties/Morale. TVG uses a roll to hit and a roll to wound based on a D10, and different Volumes of Fire provide Morale modifiers - the "psychology" of coming under fire is well illustrated. Using a D10 (rather than the D6 in M&T) allows Units to be defined more through differences in numerical ratings as opposed to the use of "traits." Morale is based on percentages of casualties in a unit - this coupled with the D10 means the game is scalable. A unit can be 5 soldiers or 20 and the game plays just the same.

M&T uses a deck of cards to activate units; it works fine. I prefer the Initiative-based system of TVG because it is a little sneakier - you can actually choose a disrupted enemy unit to activate on your Initiative and force to it take a Rally test that just might cause it to rout off the field if it fails. . .

M&T's Scenario Generator and Random Events are great features. No reason you couldn't use them with TVG, too.

So two really good game systems. . . and which one is "better" is totally subjective. 

I'll be taking This Very Ground to Spring Recruits in April. See ya there, maybe!


  1. I have been reading the M&T reviews too and I have to agree, there was not much in the way of compelling arguments to switch from TVG. The formations and effect on combat and morale, ability to force an enemy activation, and the volume of fire mechanic all made for interesting game play. I do not like the Hit and Wounding mechanic, however, but I can live with it.

  2. Hi Dale. Agree entirely. Why roll twice when once will do, but in this case we don't have a choice ; )

  3. When we play M&T, we do something different in reference to initiative. At the start of each turn each side draw 3 cards from the deck. The hand that you drew can have activation cards for both sides. In the beginning step for one side they play a card, either a card for themselves or for the other side. Once all activations have been dealt with, they draw another card and the other side can play a card. We find it helps each side have some control of the game. If anything, it creates a lot of drama.

  4. The South of the River Gang play Mustkets and Tomahawks. I have huge collection of F&IW and AWI figures. TVG ground came to me in pieces which turned me off

  5. Sheriff Lee! Nice to hear from you. I figured out I played at least one rule wrong each time I played for awhile. . . so I know what you mean. But that happens (IMHO) with all sets of rules as you get to know them.