Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Sixty-One Sixty-Five ACW Skirmish Rules Review...

Sixty-One Sixty-Five Rules Overview

Sixty-One Sixty-Five is a set of American Civil War Skirmish Miniature Rules by Sergio Laliscia. They are published by Ganesha Games and are based on the Company's ‘Song of…’ rules system. They are designed to recreate Company level actions with each figure representing an actual ‘man’.

It’s available as a printed booklet or as a PDF. The cover is colour and the rest is black and white including some diagrams and a lot of sketch style pictures. There are 34 pages the first 19 are the basic rules and then there are 4 pages of special rules followed up by 3 scenarios, force profiles and a (not comprehensive) QRS. The last pages cover a ‘Song of…’ variant for Squad level actions.

The rules state a player can control about 30 to 98 infantry figures which are deployed in Squads of 4-8 men or pairs of skirmishers. A game with each side at 98 figures i.e. a full Company should run for about two hours. Given experience with the rules I believe the number of figures used could be increased but the trade-off would be a much longer game and an increase in activation attempts.

Squads of troops and Skirmish Pairs are rated for Quality (used for activation and morale purposes) and Combat (used to calculate Firing and Close Combat totals). There are modifiers for activation, morale and combat that affect these base numbers. Officers, Standard Bearers, Musicians and NCO's are represented by individual figures and are important to maintain command control over the Squads.

Measuring sticks replace tape measures/rulers in this game, you use the Short, Medium or Long sticks as required to determine weapon ranges and troop movement. I made up 3 sticks of the correct lengths to use when moving and then and then two more; one with 3 long bands and the other with 3 medium ones for firing.

Regarding scales the actual length of time each turn represents is not included in the rules but given the ability to load and fire a musket/rifle in the length of time given I’d say about a half minute given a real action environment. Distance scale is not mentioned either but I wouldn’t relate weapons maximum ranges to the basic stick lengths I would say these signify ‘effective’ ranges for the weapons not actual ranges.

Single based figures will be best for this game of course movement trays could be used to speed movement.

Normal six sided dice are used most of the time, the only exception is if you include troops with variable ‘Quality’ in your OOB in which case an Average dice is required (six sided with 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5 denoted).

The only a markers required are to denote Units with discharged weapons. Shaken figures are denoted by turning them in 180 degrees so they have their back to the enemy.

The rules include an initiative system is for multiplayer games using playing cards.

How the Rules Play

This summary doesn’t cover every rule in Sixty-One Sixty-Five but hopefully give you an understanding of how they play!

Unit Activation

Each turn is made up of a series of Unit (read Squad or Skirmish Pairs) activations. All Units get a chance to roll for up to 3 actions using a die per activation comparing the result to their Quality rating. The basic actions are to move, shoot, reload and close combat  . Actions can be performed depending on the number of die rolls passed. If 2 or 3 dice fail when a Unit attempts to activate the opposing player gets the initiative and can attempt to activate their Units until all have attempted to activate or have a turn over result themselves. Turn overs are important so if you start a turn you could roll just 1 die in activation attempts for your units which would ensure you will be able to activate all of your Units before your opponent gets a chance as you can never fail 2 or 3 rolls in the one attempt BUT it means your Units won’t be able to do much! Ah the choices! Being in ‘command control’ gives units a benefit when activating.
So it’s a fine balance depending on each Units quality number or how desperate you are to carry out multiple actions how many activation dice you roll. This is one of the best parts of the game and can cause a grey hair or 20!


There are four formations available for use by the Squads; they can be in single or double lines, and in columns. Skirmishers roam free but each pair must be within 1 short measuring stick of each other.

Formations affect play columns move faster but poor when engaged in Fire/Close Combat actions and obviously lines are the reverse!

Difficult terrain is covered simply and anything flagged as such slows a Units movement by a stick length; i.e crossing a fence reduces an infantry Units medium stick move to a short stick one.

Firing/Close Combat

Skirmisher fire is effective against other skirmishers and against Squads, usually it does not cause many casualties, but by ‘shaking’ troops can reduce the performance of squads and can potentially cause morale checks.

Squad fire if using the aimed action at close range can be deadly!

When a soldier is shaken they do not count toward their Squads strength for fire and Close Combat modifiers. They can be ‘rallied’ by spending actions or by the squad Corporal.

To fire a Unit uses its base number adds/subtracts modifiers and adds a D6 roll, the defender then rolls does the same and the totals are compared. The firing unit needs more than 1 to 1 to affect the defender and the higher the ratio the deadlier the result.

Close combat is worked out the same way but with a different set of modifiers! So once a unit moves up to ‘the defender’ they can spend 1 or 2 more actions to engage in Close Combat. The charging Unit uses its base number adds/subtracts modifiers and adds a D6 roll, the defender then rolls does the same and the totals are compared whichever side achieves more than 1 to 1 wins and the other side applies losses and retires. Again the ratio the deadlier the result.

A nice feature of the rules is if a unit being fired upon or being charged has loaded weapons they get the option to get defensive fire volley!


A Morale check is required when a Squad whenever they take 2 or more casualties as a result of a single Fire/Close Combat result or if a skirmisher pair take one casualty.

When a squad is reduced to 3 figures they are routed and move to the sides rally point. 2 routed Squads at the rally point can be combined into a combined squad and used again.

For non-historical games/scenarios Victory is decided when a side reaches its Break Point total (either one third or half of the men fielded decided prior to play commencing) at that point the broken side loses.

Command Control

It is good to have rule sets with Command Control and this set features simple yet challenging ones.

Okay so you have a company lead by a captain here’s how it works…

Every Junior Officer (Lieutenant), NCO and Squad within one Long stick of the Captain is in Command control.
Every NCO and Squad within one Long stick of a Junior Officer (Lieutenant) is in Command control.
Every Squad within one Medium stick of an NCO is in Command control.

But there is a twist, having a standard bearer or musician with your Captain can give reroll chances for activations or morale rolls but only if the following complete chain of command is in place to the affected unit (so if the units is within 1 Long stick of a Captain but not the full below chain of command these bonuses can’t be used!)…

The Squad is within a Medium stick of an NCO who is within a Long Stick of a Junior Officer (Lieutenant) who is within a Long Stick of the captain with the attached standard bearer of musician.

I clarified this with the rule writers!

Cannons and Cavalry

These ‘arms’ are covered in the rules.

Cannons are pretty powerful so need to be incorporated into scenarios with balance in mind, there is a warning ‘too many big guns’ is not recommended. Canister and solid shot rounds are covered, When activating artillerymen they pool their actions together to pivot, prolong, load and fire their piece.

Cavalry are pretty much ‘mounted infantry’ but rules covering charges are included. A nice feature with cavalry is the requirement for ‘handlers’ to be removed from the Unit strength to manage horses when the cavalry are dismounted

Our Comments after 3 games using the rule book Scenarios…

The rules are laid out pretty well but there are a few items that were not clear to us we were able to post these up on the Yahoo Group which must be well monitored as we got rapid replies from the designers! We can say support is good from our experience.

Weapons are simplified for ease of play which is good and there are the main basic ACW weapon types; muskets, rifles and carbines BUT I see a need for some special home rules here to cover late war ‘repeaters’.

A single die per squad was said to make results more susceptible to luck, handfuls of dice would average out results making it less likely a single die roll can make a big difference, I didn’t find this but it was mentioned.

As you get more experienced squads on the board the chances for turnover of initiative within a turn diminish almost creating an IGOUGO system. Playing scenario two we found in an 8 turn game the CSA (with a good number of highly motivated squads) by keeping their men in tight command control turned over the initiative attempts only twice  so in this case with them as the first player each turn they basically played all their forces actions before the USA side had a chance to carry out any (the roles easily could be reversed here).

Overall I believe that Smooth & Rifled or State of War can give you very good ACW skirmish games BUT I also believe Sixty-One Sixty-Five is a set of rules perfect for playing a game with your mates for several reasons; it uses the Ganesha Games Song of... 'engine' so learning one set of rules allows skirmish gaming for all periods  from swords and bows to machine guns and tank to be covered without learning a plethora of rule sets, it features incentives to use ACW tactics and a game can be played in a very timely manner. All games have trade-offs between 'playability' and reality and these rules lean to 'playability' but that is a good thing as far as I am concerned when catching up with the other TSOGer’s on a Monday evening!

Front cover of rule book
I'll write up the battle of Piave Blucher AAR for my next post!

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