Friday, 6 July 2012

First Look: John Company (Edition the Third)

Whilst looking around for a set of rules for larger Indian Mutiny games I came across John Company from The (Virtual) Armchair General.  A little research indicated that these might be suitable so I picked up a copy from Mutineer Miniatures along with a few additional packs for my next units.

John Company comes as a 196 page softback book with an optional graphics pack (which consists of colour versions of the back and white card and counter pages in the main book).  The colour covers contain back and white content in single column format with various tables, diagrams and contemporary illustrations.  The rules also come with 4 double sided quick reference sheets.

John Company is intended to cover all the campaigns of the Honourable East India Company from 1750 to 1860.  The smallest unit is an Infantry Battalion, Cavalry Regiment or Artillery Battery and the rules recommend a player for each Brigade (or roughly 50 figure bases).  The rules we written for 25mm miniatures with a ground scale of 1"=100' but are easily adapted to other scales.

The rules are card driven with Orders, Actions and Events decks.  Each turn you need to determine whether units are out of command (in which case they roll on the "Without Orders" to determine what actions they may have available).  The a card is drawn from the Orders deck for each General - you can then determine from the General's leadership rating how many orders he may give this turn.  Orders cards may also indicate that an Event has occurred, in which case a card is drawn from the Events deck.  Order counters are placed next to the relevant units.  There are 23 different orders which may be issued broken down into four classes - defensive, advancing, retiring and charge.  Certain orders are only available to certain unit types and some orders are "continuing" (i.e. they only need to be issued once).

Once orders have been placed those with charge orders will declare their charges and then these are resolved, with conflicting charges resolved in order of die rolls.  The remaining units in each Brigade need to wait until the Brigade's card has been drawn from the Action deck in order to activate and carry out their orders.

The rules make extensive use of the "resolve" test to determine what the units actually do within the context of their orders.  Each unit has an initial resolve level determined by their type.  Up to forty different modifiers can be applied to the initial resolve level, some positive but most negative, depending on the unit's condition and circumstances (some of the modifiers are dice rolls).  A table is then consulted cross referencing the resulting morale against the unit's order class and formation.  The results range from a bonus to movement through to rout.  This modified resolve is also used (after applying further modifiers) as the unit's fire factor which, compared to the numbers of basing firing, determines the result of small arms and artillery fire.

Melee can only occur in the event of a charge and once again the current resolve level is used.  Confrontation modifiers are applied and the units' resultant resolves compared.  This determines both the losses and the result of the close combat (if indeed the units come into contact).

There are sections on terrain, weather and optional rules for fatigue, artillery bombardment, sappers, confusion, night fighting and the like.  Army profiles are provided for the various combatants along with three introductory scenarios one each from the 1st Afghan War, 1st Sikh War and the Mutiny.  There are also designers notes, sections on figure sources, uniform guides and s list of battles fought by the HEIC.  The back of the book then has the pages of cards, counters, markers, templates etc.

The rules look interesting but the extensive use of modifiers may make them somewhat fiddly - only a tabletop game will determine that - but the approach makes them look like they should be good for solo play; however, the presentation of the rules could have really been improved.  I didn't really find the contents page layout as clear as it could have been.  The approach of embedding and explaining the modifiers within the main body of the rules does not help readability particularly when combined with the single column format and I'm sure having 4 "quick" reference sheets may not find favour with some.


  1. A great review, they do sound like they could be fun!!

    1. Thanks - it's a first look only as I haven't actually played them yet! I'm hoping they'll be more the ticket than The Devil's Wind.