As a new product, I thought Blood Sweat and Iron deserved a review. I normally prefer to use the Ironclads rules modified for miniatures, so my preference is for more complex sets of rules, but I have thoroughly enjoyed many simpler sets, and some are more appropriate, indeed necessary, for club play. I am a bit of a sucker for looking out for new ideas and innovations in other rulesets, so got these to see what they were like.
The rules are indeed simple, although they have the usual panoply of movement, gunnery, ramming, morale attributes for rules of this period. The activation system is to draw a token one at a time, and depending on its colour that side gets to move and fire one ship of their choice until all are done.
The movement rules are very simple, and each vessel has a speed of 8, 10 or 12. This is a poor discrimination between the widely-variable speeds of the time, and there are some howling inaccuracies – for example the ironclad CSS Georgia that ended up being a floating battery due to its weak engines is given a speed of 8. Thus, historically slower vessels are greatly advantaged.
Weapons are divided into three classes: Light, Medium or Heavy. They all have the same range. There is no differentiation between rifled and smoothbore weapons.
Armour is similarly in three classes: wooden vessels (8), tinclads (12) and armoured vessels (18). Thus again there is no discrimination between different levels of armour, and USS Cairo is treated the same as CSS Columbia or CSS Texas.
These simplifications lead to the ships feeling much the same. Even the mini data cards have the same overhead pictorial, so there is no segregation by even generic class (monitor, casemate ironclad, wooden vessel etc).
The one area where the game is poor is in the vessel data. It is littered with simple errors. For example:
- CSS Manassas has a Heavy weapon
- USS Puriton [sic] has 4 guns
- USS Roanake [sic] with two turrets
There are a large number of spelling errors in the ship's names. For example:
- CSS Arblemarle
- USS Onandaga
- USS Layfayette
And for those of you for whom these things are irritating, the apostrophe police would have a field day.
I acknowledge the intent of the rules to have a simple, fun game of ACW naval warfare. But it is too simple, and too badly produced to really achieve its aim. It feels rushed, as if someone wanted to play with a new set of models and didn’t really care whether the rules and data made sense. I was left wondering: who would like it; who is it aimed at? Someone who understands ACW would get frustrated, so it may work as a GAME that happens to have models or counters with ACW ships names on them. There are lots of other, better, rulesets that meet the intent of this one and deliver it in a far better fashion.
But to end on a positive, I did think the combined gunnery arc and turning aid is neat.