Fire and SteelFor a variety of reasons, I mostly game in 15mm. I enjoy painting the figures, but every once in awhile I feel like a change to 25mm. More detail to paint and shade. While I don't have the time or money to create a whole army in 25mm, the ideal solution is to play skirmish level games using the larger figures. And as luck would have it I stumbled across a great set of rules for these skirmishes...Fire and Steel.
As the name implies, it is a set of rules covering the periods between 1700 to 1900. (Actually, I'm still trying to find a set of skirmish rules for the Renaissance and Ancients eras that I am happy with). The rules were written by Mark Evans and Dave Wilson and published by WRG. I bought my copy through the Keep from the UK. I have employed it during friendly games, and at participation games at conventions for periods ranging from Pirates to Darkest Africa. (There is an account of one such Darkest Africa game here).
Fire and Steel proved successful in all cases. The rules are fairly simple and uncluttered by too much nitpicking detail. Skirmish gaming should be both fun and fast moving. Fire and Steel succeeds admirably on both accounts.
A six sided die is used to determine hits and wounds. Rolls are modified by range, the weapon used, some situational modifiers and the character's particular skill attribute. A skirmish game should be influenced by the individual casting's skills and temperament. In Fire and Steel attributes can be easily modified to produce some colourful games. Some sample scenarios, and suggested army attributes for a multitude of periods are included in the rules booklet. American Civil War, Indian Mutiny, French and Indian War, Napoleonics, Western Gunfights, Seven Years War and the Sudan are all covered. Obviously you are not limited to these army lists; in fact they provide great ideas for scenarios and lists of your own devising. As mentioned, I've used Fire and Steel for both Pirates and Darkest Africa and created my own lists, attributes, special scenario rules and even weapons!
Other rules cover horses, machine guns and explosives. Given the structure of Fire and Steel it is easy to include special rules for certain scenarios. Each figures has three impulses available to use as the player wishes. You can use the impulses for any combination of moving, reloading, firing, or any other activities you may wish to include. For example; in my Pirate game Debauchery, Rum and Bloodletting, players could use an impulse to take one drink from a rum barrel. (Well, they were pirates!).
The figure density is rather low - the authors suggest a maximum of eight figures per player, which seems about right. Like the small size of DBA armies, this is a wonderful way for players to dabble in a large variety of periods or campaigns at relatively little cost or time. Gives you an excuse to buy a pack of the latest Foundry offerings at any rate!
The rules aren't perfect - the single greatest problem with the rules is the lack of a player's reference card containing all the information you need to play. Unfortunately the charts necessary to play are scattered throughout the booklet. I'd strongly advise purchasers to create their own player charts. In fact, I've already done that. See below...
The rules are also a trifle vague on the subject of "impulses". As mentioned, each figure gets three impulses. All well and good, but does that mean that each figure uses one impulse, then another figure uses one impulse, until all figures have been moved, and then the first figure now uses its second impulse, and so on. Or does a figure use all three impulses before play moves onto another figure? Yet it really doesn't matter - either method works quite well, although the second method (a figure uses all three impulses at once) is a little bit faster, especially for multi-player games.
Overall, I'd highly recommend these rules to anybody looking for a quick, fun and playable set of gunpowder skirmish rules. One player at a convention participation game, despite having never played these rules before, called them "the best set of skirmish rules I'd ever played!". High praise indeed, but a most well deserved accolade.
Downloadable Player ChartsAs mentioned above, I've created a set of player charts for Fire and Steel. Feel free to download the file. It's in PDF format, so use Adobe's Acrobat Viewer to read and print them out.
ScenariosDebauchery, Rum and Bloodletting. Ahoy Mates! Here's a multiplayer F&S Pirates scenario inspired by the Foundry's superb line of pirate figures.