Care Bears Go To War - The Battle of Teddysburg11 Jan 2017 0
OK, first thing is that I want to assure everyone from the start is that I did not forget to take my meds this morning, and neither did our illustrious Editor when he assigned this to me. Or at least I hope that’s the case in both instances. This little tome concerns a nifty little set of American Civil War (ACW) miniature rules he came across that can stand as such in its own right, but has just a bit of unique twist to the game. The combatants are little 18 mm Teddy bears. No, this is not an alternate universe where the little guys are slugging it out for real. Instead it’s the story of little toy Teddies that come alive after all humans are in bed, and begin to reenact ACW type battles. I mean seriously, the cavalry rides hobby horses. Not a single person . . . er, bruin . . . ever gets hurt, because it’s all about playing war, not actually doing it.
OK, bear with me on this (pun not intended). Miniature gaming is not always serious, as let’s face it, sometimes even the most stalwart Grognard needs a break from the algebra defining the fire of a Prussian Zundnadelgewehr. So we do have convention games like those that duplicate an H G Wells Martian type conflict that substitutes for World War I. Still too serious? Well there is always Mark McLaughlin’s immortal Princess Ryan’s Space Marines or Gnome Wars. No joke, with the latter I mean the same little dudes you see on the Travelocity TV commercials, except reinforced by Highlander Gnomes, Prussian Uhlan Gnomes among others, and the games are always busy.
So with that in mind (duly remembering that serious Ancients tournaments often saw Trajanic Roman Legions clashing with Aztecs – hey, it could happen), let’s take a look at what author Drew Edney and sculptor Mike Broadbent of Slave 2 Gaming have in store with the Battle of Teddysburg.
General Presentation and Scale
As of this writing the game is still in beta development, and is only available via a PDF download from the Wargame Vault for $ 3.50 US. The rules book itself is only 17 pages long, but when you remove stuff like the cover, table of contents, for example, the actual playing rules work out to 11 pages plus one extra, single page of charts. Overall, the book has a little amateurish feels to it as regards page layout and graphics. This is countered, however, with an easy to read text and a carefully thought out, logical progression in explaining the rules. The book is in full color and there are plenty of diagrams – well done in many cases I might add – to explain all the details of movement and fire and whatever else. Humor is pocketed hither, thither and yon, making for a comprehensive and yet easy read.
The game is a regimental contest in that each artillery stand is one battery of four to six guns and each infantry or cavalry stand is one company of soldiers. Thus, since most ACW regiments consisted of 10 companies, in the game 10 stands equals a single regiment. Basing is 25 x 25 mm for four infantry or two cavalry, 40 x 40 for artillery and 30 mm round for leaders, of which each side has to have at least one. Games are created using a point system to buy units or formations much like Ancients tournaments.
Like many games these days, Teddysburg uses some randomness to instill a bit of the fog of war into the proceedings, and this is seen right off the proverbial bat. In a glass the players deposit a colored bead (say blue for the North, red for the South) for each unit on the table. Then each player swaps pulling a single bead out until all are gone. When a bead of a particular color is drawn, the owning side can choose a formation to perform combat actions such as move, shoot or charge. Once the regiment is finished, another bead is drawn, which may allow yet another friendly unit to achieve death or glory, or perhaps one of the enemy’s units instead. At this point the unit may perform one of two basic actions for free, requiring no die roll for activation. The two actions are Move then Shoot or Move then Charge.
This all sounds pretty simple, but beyond these two basic activities, the system uses a D10 and something called a Final Target Number (FTN), which is a 7 for units in good order or a 9 for units that Panicked. In order to do something outside of the two basic operations noted above, a unit must roll equal to or greater than its current FTN. For example here are the movement related Special Actions one might perform if the die roll supports it:
March (M) – double move, but no shooting
Set Line shooting (S) – two rows of shooting, no movement. Adds +3 dice per 10 stands
Overrun (M) – a charge through a regiment if it is broken and follow through into another regiment.
Limber/Unlimber (M) – Limber up a cannon for movement or unlimber to fire, costs half move.
Change formation (M) – Regiment change formation costs half move.
Assault (A) – Can move into close combat if panicked
Steady I – The Army commander settles his troops, giving -1 to the FTN
Rally I – This is done by the captain to return troops from panicked to good order. No movement or shoot/charge.
Combat pretty much works much the same way. Fire, for example, allows a single dice for every two stands (every stand if melee) of a unit firing, with greater than a 7 to score a “hit,” while the target may be able to escape loss with a similar die roll on what many people would recognize as a D&D Saving Throw. There are other issues and modifiers to consider of course, such as range, morale, the impact of terrain and command and control. Everything, however, seems to be centered on the FTN and whether a modifier will move that base number up or down. It reminds me somewhat of the previously reviewed Twilight of the Sun King, and that’s not a bad thing.
And there is some nice period flavor to wrap things up, not only making the game better IMHO, but also pretty well defining the appropriately whimsical design perspective of the authors. From page 13 which talks about the army construction point system (and I am not making this up):
Union forces of the Tedd-tomic
Land of the Free Bear: All bears are created equal and free. Allows a re-roll of one morale test per turn. 3 points per Regiment.
Best Honey available: The Northern forces had better honey than the south. Allows a re-roll of missed dice once per game. 3 points per Regiment.
The Contedderates of the South
Tedal Yell: The Contedderates were known for their whooping yell as they charged into combat. This allows the Regiment with this ability to flee from combat when they lose and not have to become panicked once per game. 5 points per regiment.
Defending our Honey patch: The Contedderates are protecting their honey from the North. Units with this can try to reactionary action “fix bayonets” with a -1 (needing a 6 instead of a 7). 3 points per Regiment.
I do have a relatively large set of ACW figures myself, so I was able to push around some lead on the kitchen table in preparation for this article, and I really enjoyed the hour or two spent. It was fun and the system does seem to work pretty darn well.
I think the game could still do with a bit or wordsmithing, and a bit more creativity in the graphics department, but then again, this is a beta and not a finished product. Also, the game is just a little too simplistic for my taste, as artillery is not even separated into Union or Confederate, much less 12 lber Napoleon or 10 lber Parrot Rifle. A caveat here, however, in that this is a personal opinion and most certainly NOT necessarily a game shortcoming.
But there are also two other things to consider. The first is that this game seems very easy to adapt to other periods of history. I’m not too much into ACW Zouave Teddy bears, but Old Guard Grenadier bruins? My wife has already hidden my credit cards. The second concerns the so called “greying of the hobby.” This means that current miniature enthusiasts (yours truly excepted of course) are getting older and many are wondering what needs to be done to back-fill the hobby with younger folks. What does not need to be done is making their first game a scenario using EMPIRE, where a degree in plain geometry is damn near a prerequisite. In my opinion this is where a game like Teddysburg could really, really shine – a simple, fun yet realistic way to introduce new blood to historical miniature wargaming. For that alone I give it a very enthusiastic two thumbs up.
And given Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Rebel cavalry was nicknamed the ”critter company,” who knows? This little gem may well be more historical than you think.