Altar of Freedom

Started by Shecky, 14 December 2013, 11:47:53 PM

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Has anyone tried these rules?

They are grand tactical ACW intended for use with 6mm figures but can handle 10mm. I bought the PDF version last night and from my initial reading they appear to be what I've been looking for in large battle rules - ability to handle a large number of units, fight the major battles to completion in a reasonable amount of time with a focus on the command issues.  In fact, I've been jotting down my own ideas for such rules and came up with a similar concept, except I struggled with how to handle different sized units.

The one draw back seems to be having to make labels for the units each time you want to play.  But that might not be too big of an issue.



I havnt heard of them , but I have always like games that have the brigade as the basic unit type..The one review of it seems quite positive
If I were creating Pendraken I wouldn't mess about with Romans and  Mongols  I would have started with Centurions , eight o'clock, Day One!


Good rules. The scenario books contain pre-made labels. Just print them, cut them, attach them.



I'm actually going to do my own labels as I find the pre-supplied ones a bit too large for the 10mm figures.  I've done labels before on other bases so I have a template to use.

I'm going to run a game toward the end of the month using my 6mm figures but I really want to play using 10mm. I just bought more Pendraken figures at my FLGS today so I should almost have enough.


have you tried these rules yet  :-\


Yes, I played my first game on Monday.

Here's a review I wrote yesterday on the Great Hall Gamers forum. Sorry it's so long winded...

I've always wanted to fight the big battles, like Gettysburg, but that usually means needing a big table and lots of figures.  It also means needing lots of time, especially if the recommended time scale is 15 -30 minutes. Most popular rules, such as Johnny Reb or Fire and Fury, tend to break down as you scale up to larger battles. And some rules like Volley & Bayonet which can handle the larger battles do so by removing some of the more interesting elements of games like command and control.

So having neither a large table and lots of time to play, I was interested when I heard about Altar of Freedom published by Iron Ivan Games. It purports to be able to handle the large battles of the American Civil war, do it in a reasonable amount of time, and produce an enjoyable game with realistic results.

What's in the rules
The Altar of Freedom rule book is 72 pages long and is available either in hard copy or PDF. The the actual rules are only 20 or so pages with the rest of the book filled with a description of the commanders' personality traits, design philosophy, scale conversions, optional rules, an army builder, QRS, and four scenarios (Shiloh, Champion Hill, Antietam, and Cedar Creek).

There are two scenario books which are sold separately and are only available in PDF which cover the major battles of the war. "All Quiet on the Potomac" features 18 battles in the east and the recently released, "Atlanta is Ours", features 18 battles in the west. The scenarios in the main rule book and the scenario books feature maps of the battle field, special rules, orders of battle and sheets of printable labels to identify the units.

In AoF one stand equals a brigade. To account for the varying sizes of brigades each scenario establishes an average brigade strength for that battle and uses a strength modifier to depict the disparity between larger and smaller units. The strength modifier can also be used to give an advantage to the more veteran units. So for example, the average brigade size at Antietam is 1100. Wofford's brigade of Texans was well below the 1100 average so would normally have a strength modifier of -1 but because they were veterans and performed very well they are rated +0.

Brigades are formed into divisions and divisions into corps or wings depending on the army and time period. Each corps has a commander depicted on the table and in most battles the army commander is depicted if he was present at the battle. Each commander also has an HQ on the table which represent rallying points for broken units.

The heart of the command and control rules is the Priority Points system. Each commander is rated with a priority number which determines how many points he can bid each turn to activate his subordinate divisions. Players can also bid the points to influence the Time Clock or reserve some to do specific actions at the end of the turn.

At the beginning of each one hour turn the opposing commanders roll to see who controls the Time Clock for that turn. Think of the side who controls the clock as the side with the initiative for the turn. The Time clock is represented with a die or some other marker and indicates how long the turn could potentially last. The clock can be anywhere from 10 - 20 depending on the scenario.

Once Priority Points are bid and the Turn Clock controller is determined then each side calls out their highest bid. Divisions with that bid then are activated with all of the initiative owners divisions going first. Units within the division move, then the defending side fires followed by shooting and close combat from the active side. Once all divisions on both sides with the same priority bid have been activated then both sides roll 1d6 to see how far the Turn Clock is reduced. The player who controls the Turn Clock determines which of the d6 to use to reduce the clock.

So a sample turn may go like this: the Union player controls the clock and has four divisions and bids 6, 4, 4 and 2 for his units. The Confederate player has three divisions and bids 6, 4 and 3 for his divisions. The Union player activates his "6" division first followed by the Confederate "6" division. Following their activation both sides roll 1d6 and the Union player determines how much to reduce the Turn Clock. Then the "4" divisions are activated with the two Union divisions completing their activations before the Confederate side activates. Both sides roll to reduce the clock and then the Confederate "3" division is activated. Once again the sides roll to reduce the clock. If the Turn Clock reaches "0" before all units have activated the the turn is over and any unactivated units remain so. This system encourages players to focus on what units they absolutely need to activate in a turn.

Each commander also has one or more characteristic which affects their ability to command. The characteristics range from benefits such as the ability to re-roll a die each turn to limiting the  number of Priority Points they can issue a turn.

Movement is very simple. Units can move any direction and end facing any direction. Terrain is either open, which does not impact movement, or rough, which reduces movement by 4". Only recoil movement restricts how units may move.

Combat is either ranged or close combat and is very simple. For ranged combat the firing unit rolls 1d6 and applies their strength modifier plus a few other modifiers. Anything over 4 causes the target to fall back. Anything over 7 also inflicts fatigue on the target. In ranged combat both sides roll 1d6, apply the same modifiers as ranged combat, and the difference between their die rolls determines the outcome. In most cases the loser falls back and takes a fatigue.

Units break when they incur 4 fatigue or as result of close combat. At the end of a turn players roll to recover their broken units and any units which fail are permanently removed from the game. Fatigue may be removed at the end of a turn if a unit is 10" or more from any enemy unit. This encourages players to keep a reserve and move shot up units to safety to recover. The game ends when one side loses enough units to reach their break point, which is determined by the scenario.

There are also rules to handle multi-day battles. During the night turn both sides can readjust their lines and move HQs.

Playing the game
My thoughts about the playability are based on playing the Seven Pines scenario with two other players. Based on what the rules claim to do, I expected the rules to be able to handle a somewhat large battle, demonstrate the problems of command at that level, and provide realistic results in a reasonable time. It took less than 15 minutes to explain the rules and get started. We picked up on the nuance of the bidding process by turn two. In other words, they are easy to learn and teach others.

Combat was very simple and we quickly learned the importance of support units. You want your +2 units up front and your -2 units in support.

The command characteristics added interesting flavor to the game. Heintzelman's characteristic enabled him to distribute Priority Points to units outside of his command which saved one of Casey's division. Longstreet had the "hesitant" characteristic which meant if he rolled a "1" at the beginning of a turn then he couldn't issue any Priority Points. Of course, he rolled a "1" the turn he really needed to activate.

In the end, the game played as expected. It offered plenty of decisions for the players, kept them engaged throughout the game and was completed in reasonable time. We played 10 turns plus a night turn in about 2 1/2 hours.

Final Thoughts
Altar of Freedom is not for pick-up battles. You and your gaming buddy can't just show up on game day and throw out troops on the table. Even if you use the Army builder suggestions you will still need to give your generals characteristics, assign strength points to brigades and organize your army into divisions and corps. But if you are willing to put in the time to prepare a game they do provide an enjoyable time. Already I'm preparing for the next game and running it at the next MillenniumCon.


Thanks for the review Shecky they look interesting


Thank you Shecky. I've been thinking about getting those rules. You had the most informative review I've seen. I now know these rules are for me.


Many thanks for the review. I have also bought the rules and the eastern scenario book to start with, as well as downloading lots of free material , including the ACW historic paper buildings. I'm sticking with the 6mm at the moment because I already have a very large number and they paint up incredibly quickly using the production line method. I have the Foundry three pots of Rebel Grey and paint some hats, coats and trousers in shade, then others in the main colour, more in the light colour and any remaining undercoats in butternut, plus some of the hats in a darker brown. Hoping to get my firsgt game up and running in about a month. Like you I have selected Seven Pines as my first game  as there is no need to paint up cavalry for this scenario. This is not just a remarkable set of rules but an entire system with its own free newspaper and hints and tips. A great find!
The artist formerly known as Dour Puritan!


Well my first game turned out to be Shiloh played with 15mm on sabot bases round at a regular opponents house. As the Confederates I thought I would give A S Johnston's original deployment a go; what a disaster. The game plays well and it looked impressive, even with the 15mm figures on a 4x4 table. I did learn a number of valuable lessons though:

1. Get stuck in. These are not rules for standing off and shooting. It disrupts the enemy line but little else.

2. That said, don't mask your guns. Artillery is very good at disrupting the enemy, and on two occasions it broke an infantry brigade. However the 30mm artillery frontage is definitely too small and allows the guns to manoeuvre far too readily. I will be basing my 6mm artillery on 60x60 bases to over come this problem.

3. If you really need to get a particular corps/division moving don't be afraid to give up the turn clock and pass some army commander points to that formation. I was fixated with the turn clock, and when I lost it, having spent many points on it, my opponent used the high dice rolls to get the turn over quickly (in order to get Lew Wallace's command on table). As a result on four occasions I was unable to move Breckinridge's command, which only has a maximum of two of it's own command points. On  couple of turns I should have given Breckinridge three of Johnston's command points, giving him a total of five and ensuring his troops got to move.

4. I also found that leaving a division with only one point can result in it not moving owing to the turn clock running out, especially if both players roll high.

In conclusion this is a game about commanders, making the most of their skills, minimising their weaknesses and managing very large scale manoeuvres. It matters not whether the 17th Georgia are in line or skirmish but rather that their corps commander is unflappable or hesitant, leads from the front or rear etc.
The artist formerly known as Dour Puritan!



I have been playing quite a bit of ACW over the last year, mainly Longstreet games - however I was pointed to AoF about a month ago, and downloaded a copy.  It looks good and i want to try it out, so it has been great to read about peoples' thoughts here.  Are there any figure-scales or basing systems people have found particularly good/problematic when playing it, from either a practical of visual perspective? 


I do think the 6mm captures the spirit of the level of the game much more than 15mm. Looking at my 10mm figures I see no reason why it would not still look visually impressive in that scale as well, particularly with Total Battle Miniatures and Timecast 6mm ACW buildings. I have mounted C19th 10mm figures on 60x30mm bases and they look good, especially as you can get about 16 figures on a base. In the 6mm I'm mounting between 24 and 32 figures to a base. Here's two examples - 1866 Austrians in 10mm and Union in 6mm.

The artist formerly known as Dour Puritan!


Yes, they do look excellent. 
The only problem is the notion of talking myself in to buying/painting more ACW in a different scale - just can't bring myself to do it, when there are so many other ideas around! 

Derek H


The artist formerly known as Dour Puritan!