Rebels and Redcoats – iOS Game Review
Rebels and Redcoats. iOS game review. Published by Hunted Cow. Developed by Hex War. Based on the Rebels & Redcoats boardgame series designed by Christopher Cummins, developed by Joseph Miranda and published by Decision Games. $9.99
Passed Inspection: Easy to play; any scenario can be played in about an hour or less; good adaptation of the boardgame series including some scenario-specific events; nice graphics, including unit-specific uniforms
Failed Basic: Some online documentation would help; not all scenarios reflect the special events found in the boardgames
I was really excited to learn the Hunted Cow game system was going to be used to bring Decision Games’ Rebels & Redcoats boardgame series to iPad. I spend a lot of time playing Hunted Cow’s 1862 and 1863 Civil War games and their Tank Battles: North Africa and Tank Battles: Eastern Front World War II games; Decision’s Rebels & Redcoats series ranks among my all-time favorite board wargames. The marriage of the two systems seems like a natural; both are pretty simple and quick-playing, and in both the armies generally fight until one or the other reaches a “disintegration point” and remembers it has important business elsewhere. In the boardgames, the loss or disruption of units reduces an army’s morale until it reaches 0 on the Disintegration Table; losing some units hurts more than losing others.
The same seems to be true in the iOS version. In the upper right corner of the screen are two semi-circular bars that shrink as losses mount, showing how close each side is to reaching its disruption point. Some losses don’t seem to move the bar at all, while others take away a significant chunk of it.
The Basics of Gameplay
If you’ve played any of the Hunted Cow wargames, you pretty much know how to play all of them; the mechanics are basically the same, although some things such as levels of troop quality have been added along the way. Despite the similarities in mechanics, the Civil War games have a very different feel from the WWII games, as they should. The simple tutorials walk you through all the major elements of play in about 10 minutes.
In a nutshell, click on a unit. All the hexes it can reach in a single move become overlaid in white; an X on some (or all) of the hexes means the unit can’t shoot after moving into those hexes because it moved too far or took too long negotiating rough terrain, or the unit is one that can never fire after moving. If any enemy units are within range, they are highlighted in red. Their strength is shown as a number in their hex. Bang away at the target of your choice simply by clicking on it. If you do damage, the unit’s strength point declines. It may also become disrupted, which diminishes its firepower and melee strength. To reorganize it click on the Select Formation button (which is also used to change good-order units from line to column or vice-versa). In the black powder–era games you can click a Charge button and send your selected unit into melee with your selected target instead of shooting at it. Word of advice: don’t ever send a green unit to melee an elite one. You will not like it, Sam-I-Am.
You can activate the Combat Analysis feature, which will tell you what percentage of success you are likely to have in an attack, but the information conveyed isn’t immediately clear. If, however, you touch one of the icons within the CA screen, boxes appear with text that explain the modifiers. If Hunted Cow would use a portion of the tutorial to explain how to read symbols in the CA it would help players, but experienced gamers can generally guess what the combat results are likely to be. Since using CA requires clicking on a target to select it, then clicking again to attack it, which quickly gets tedious, I play with it turned off.
What’s New in Rebels & Redcoats
As noted, new features have been added as new games have been released, and there are three big differences in Rebels & Redcoats from previous Hunted Cow games I have played. (The changes mentioned here may have already appeared in Peninsular War or 1864, two Hunted Cow games I haven’t played yet.) First, your infantry can form square to repulse a cavalry charge. You can do this using the Select Formation button or, if the unit is a good-quality unit and an officer figure is within command range, the unit will automatically try to form square if it is charged by cavalry or dragoons. You will have to use the formation button to get it out of square, though; the unit can fire from square but can’t move.
A second upgrade adds open formation to your options. This allows units to make better use of cover in woods hexes and seems to diminish losses, particularly from artillery, but troops in open formation don’t shoot as effectively as when they are volleying from line formation. Adding square and open formations to the game system gives players more options, but when you click Select Formation be sure to check what formation your troops went into. Several times I found belatedly (i.e., I had already selected another unit) that a unit I thought I had put into line to prepare for an assault had actually formed square and wasn’t going to move next turn.
The most important change, in my opinion, is that unlike the 1862 and 1863 Civil War games or the WWII games, in Rebels & Redcoats you can “stack” and “unstack” artillery with infantry to protect the guns. When you click on such a stack, if targets are within musket range they’ll be highlighted as usual, but if they are only in artillery range the highlighting won’t show unless you use the toggle button to switch to the artillery. If there are targets within musket range, your infantry will fire at the one you select; then, after that combat is resolved all targets within artillery range will be automatically highlighted and you can fire with the artillery at whichever target you choose.
Rebels & Redcoats also introduces Indian ally units and bowfire. Their presence doesn’t affect gameplay as much as the other changes mentioned, but they add to the period flavor.
iOS vs. boardgames
So, for fans of Decision Games’ Rebels & Redcoats boardgames, how effective is this marriage between cardboard counters and pixels? Well, as in any marriage, each partner gets some new things and each has to give up some things. For example, DG’s scenario-specific special rules remain intact—fog rises at Germantown to reduce visibility; the heat at Monmouth causes units to lose strength during play; etc.—but there doesn’t seem to be any way to play the iOS version against a human opponent.
A big advantage of the iOS version is fog of war—you can’t see units that are beyond a certain distance from any of your units. Additional benefits include the ability to play without having to set up counters and freedom from having to remember rules exceptions and from the cats-and-kids disasters that can occur with a boardgame.
My greatest complaint is that the AI in R&R doesn’t seem quite as challenging as in previous Hunted Cow games, even on the Hard setting. It just isn’t quite aggressive enough. I won nine of the ten scenarios on my first play-through (Hard setting), only stumbling at Eutaw Springs. I’ve learned, however, that much of what gives Hunted Cow’s wargames their high replayability is going back to scenarios and campaigns and trying to top my high score. I have no doubt that will be the case with R&R, and in fact I’ve already started re-playing the scenarios; I would just like the AI to be a bit more aggressive.
I also wish Hunted Cow would provide some documentation on their website to explain the principles behind their games’ mechanics. Much of it is intuitive, and the text found within Combat Analysis is useful, but at times things occur that I’d like to understand better than I do.
Overall, I prefer Hunted Cow’s Civil War and World War II games, in part because they have greater scenario variety: infantry attacking or defending, cavalry-on-cavalry battles, protecting supply wagons / trucks, etc. This Revolutionary War system has less variety because it is based on existing boardgames, so the designers weren’t free to select their own scenarios. That said, the two companies’ game systems work nicely together, and there is variety, just not as much as in other HC games: Cowpens is not Germantown is not Stony Point is not Harlem Heights, so tactics differ depending on the scenario and victory conditions. Hopefully, the HC-DG marriage will soon beget more offspring in the form of scenarios like Bunker Hill, Saratoga, etc. If it does, I’ll pick them up, too. One of the things I appreciated in the R&R boardgames is that the designer included scenarios from the Southern campaigns instead of sticking with just the Maryland–New England corridor. That is also the case in the mobile version of the games. The two campaigns have a good northern-southern mix and consist of five scenarios each, which can be played from either side: Harlem Heights, Bennington, Germantown, Monmouth, and Stony Point; Camden, King’s Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Court House, and Eutaw Springs. As with the boardgames, my favorites have been Germantown and Cowpens.
I’ve seen other reviews that say $9.99 is too high for two campaigns and a tutorial. Everything is relative; I’ve spent four or five times that much for games I haven’t played nearly as many times as I’m likely to play Rebels & Redcoats. Ten scenarios, playable by either side for a total of 20, comes to about 50 cents a scenario; I’d be hard-pressed to call that expensive. Rebels & Redcoats may not be the best game Hunted Cow’s released, but you’ll still get way more than ten bucks’ worth of fun out of it if you like American Revolution games.
Armchair General Rating: 88%
About the Author
Gerald D. Swick is senior editor for ArmchairGeneral.com and previously was on staff of several game magazines including Fire & Movement and Game News. To feed his gaming addiction he keeps a stash of a few dozen board wargames and several hundred miniatures on hand, in addition to some electronic games.
Be sure to check out the series of Revolutionary War articles Mark Walker wrote for ArmchairGeneral.com.