I was half expecting the Newport Noodle to cover this little engagement but apparently no reporters were available or paying attention or there was free coffee on offer somewhere. Just as well since this'll give me time to straighten out the back story, maps, troops etc and get ready for a small but proper campaign.
The scenario was a traditional equal forces encounter, General, 2 cavalry+brigadier, 4 infantry+brigadier, 1 gun. Both sides entered already deployed, both with orders to seize the crossroad and stonewall. I placed the infantry in the center and diced for the cavalry and guns with a 50% chance of left or right for each. All troops were average. Red is formed up on the Northern side of the table.
There was an initial rush forward all along the line apart from Blue's cavalry being sent on a wild goose chase to check out the woods by the window thanks to a chance card. Fortune played no favourites though and soon granted Blue a 1 area bonus move allowing them to reach the wall ahead of Red. Red's subsequent assault was repulsed all along the line but Blue's flank was overlapped and a combined infantry and cavalry assault over ran Blue 1st Infantry.
On the Western flank Blue's artillery managed to drive back Red's battery and the threat of a flanking move by cavalry induced the new Brooklyn volunteers to fall back with them on the initiative of the battalion commander. For a moment I thought the axis of the battle lines would both shift 90 degrees but Blue's right looked more exposed despite the Oerberg Volunteers forming square so I diced for options and Blue's cavalry came galloping back while Red rallied his infantry and the opposing lines skirmished.
Blue repulsed several assaults but eventually weight of numbers told and another Blue unit broke for the rear leaving a wounded Brigadier Zinn behind. At the same time Blue's artillery ran low on ammo and moved to the rear (ie Another chance card allowed Red to retreat it.)
It looked like the game was about finished but Blue's cavalry had now come galloping up.
A brief, indecisive mounted clash and mounting casualties saw Red falling back slightly and dismounting. Blue pondered the options (ie diced for them) and decided to follow suit. A protracted firefight resulted all along the lines which intensified as Blue's artillery and some rallied infantry moved back into line.
In the end, it became a slow grind of firefights between battered units and Red's growing numerical superiority continued to tip the balance until Blue's army morale collapsed as a 3rd and then 4th unit broke with only 1 Red unit being too badly shot up to rally.
When I once again started planning a single framework for everything from skirmishes between a few units and battles with as many troops as my table will hold, I thought I needed to go back to something that would allow me to break units up mid game but once again that caused unwelcome rule alterations that broke many of the things that were working. I pondered the question between games and realized that all I needed was a way to break down units before a game. In other words the ability to have full units and detachments so that I could have a small outpost or man an armoured car. That resolved that.
I also decided that I liked the system of a joint preliminary artillery and skirmisher fire phase followed by alternate player moves each with a close combat resolution such as I tried in the Dec 2014 Gettysburg games. It needs some adjustment but I am happy with the feel of it.
The big issue right now is getting just the right balance of combat effects and morale, temporary and permanent. Its a very delicate balance made worse by awareness of scale and detail in a set of rules that are supposed to be showing intention and outcome rather than process.
For example, in order to fit a battalion into one area and fit the kind of battlefields that I want onto my table, I have had to adopt a ground scale of roughly 150 yds per area and around 450 men per battalion, stretching or compressing it to 200 yds for bigger battles or 100 yds for smaller ones. Initially I once again tried detaching stands of skirmishers so fire could be seen to be relative to the positions of the skirmishers but since a skirmish line is not separate from its parent unit that gave me the added complication of units occupying 2 areas (or 3 if I pushed it to theoretical limits). Easy enough when they stand still but a real headache when they start manoeuvring, esp in a bigger battle Manageable if I relied on "feel" rather than a rule but it really detracted from the pace and feel of the game without really adding anything other than to encourage unhelpful thoughts like "this sort of detail would be easier if I were using 24 or 48 man units on an ungridded table with a ground scale closer to 1"=10 yards".
Really though, I am striving towards an effects based game which assumes that unit commanders rather than the player-general is managing the details of unit tactics. This means some hard choices about letting go of 1:1 relationships and a lot of details. For instance, if a unit is firing at 3 area range does that mean they are shooting at a target which is 450 yds away? This is within theoretical maximum range for aimed shots by well trained troops but beyond normal effective battle range. Or, if the units are both formed and at the back of their respective areas are they actually nearer to 600 yards apart? Or do they each have advanced skirmish screens firing at each other at 100 yards somewhere in between. We don't know and shouldn't need to either way this fire should have some effect, but not too much. Decisive results should only be affected much closer. SO, I've been tinkering with hits and morale and numbers of dice and so on, looking for an equivalent for the 1 or 2 hits on a 48 man unit when using 4 hit units. A few years ago I was playing around with a disorder result and am beginning to think that I need to revisit that keeping in the mind that I am NOT going to track more than 1 marker for status and 1 for permanent reduction of morale/casualties.
Apart from such details, its all lights green, there will be more minor tinkering but I know what I am looking for now and the pattern of the rules is set, the organization of the armies is set and recruiting and dressing the troops in full swing. Now if I could just have a few days to devote to the hobby instead of so called 'real life'! The current goal is to have the back ground write up prepared and the first of a series of mini campaigns or at least battles ready to go by March. So....back to work!