Thursday, January 17, 2013

Convergence: Testing the Square ACW Brigadier

Gratuitous cell snapshot of the action mid-game.

By the time I actually got to setting up a game last night I was pretty tired so, instead of a carefully designed scenario, I took an idea from an old vaguely remembered OTR (On To Richmond) scenario published in The Courier decades ago, grabbed what I could find in the way of troops and scenery without digging too far, headed downstairs, let the dogs out and started putting stuff on the board. My intent was to field a division of 12 - 15 units on each side but there weren't enough troops in the box I had grabbed unless I went with 1 stand units which just looked too thin on the ground. The Yankees ended up with 6 regiments, a battery and a General, the Rebs found 5 regiments, 2 batteries and a General.  Each side entered from opposing corners  heading for a road junction leading over a critical bridge that their force had been sent to secure.

By Turn 5 the battle lines are forming, in the morning twilight apparently..

 The armies had obviously been forced marching and both Generals were too tired to come up with a cunning plan so each side rushed down the road as far as was safe then started deploying lead elements and opening fire while units from the rear constantly extended the line towards the objective.

A Federal attempt to flank the Rebel line has been repulsed.

The Yankees were taking a bit of a pounding on their right but on their left, by the objective, they managed to push into a gap between the Reb line and the river and  launched one of the few charges of the game. The Reb infantry calmly refused their flank and rolled two sixes and a five sending the Flanking Blue-bellies reeling. The second Yankee regiment obviously dismayed whiffed their roll. As the Rebs pushed forward to exploit their success, they took heavy losses in turn while the Yanks clung stubbornly to their positions. On both sides losses mounted and the Generals were forced to constantly risk the bullets to hold their men in the line. The loss of the Federal battery to counter battery fire sealed  the matter and the battered blue division pulled back.

   The end of the day.

So, what did I think?

I was pretty tired going in and with a simple scenario and small forces, didn't expect much and didn't take notes and almost didn't take pictures except that once it got going I perked up and began to be interested in the game. So that's a plus.

Because there were few units and the game bogged down into a long range firefight, the turns flew by. I didn't keep any track but just estimating distances traveled and allowing for remembered events, it was somewhere close to 20 turns in about an hour and 1/2. The extended firefight is not untypical for the ACW so I have no issues with that.

The difference between the rifled and smooth bore artillery may have been a little overstated but the rules weren't meant to be a detailed recreation of ordinance capabilities  but rather to exagerate and highlight tactical differences and from that POV it worked. The rifles were best employed as long range   weapons while the smooth bores excelled at the close range fight but both gave good service in both roles. Due to the unplanned encounter both sides actually found their rifles deployed under infantry fire while the Reb Napoleon was initially providing long range support. Eventually this was all sorted and the extra firepower from the cannister along the fence  helped turn the tide.

About 1/2 way through the game I did encounter one issue. Rather than working with the draft of the Square Brigadier, I started with HofT and just changed what was necessary. In the process of adding the Give Ground rule, I inverted it from the way I had been playing it before Christmas. It was supposed to (and now does) read that units can cancel 1 hit by retreating. I had written instead that a unit can cancel all except 1 hit. oops! That took the rule from meaning that low intensity combat was more likely to drive the enemy back rather than destroying him to the exact opposite.  Anyway, its been fixed.  

Having looked again recently at Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame, I was a bit more ruthless than usual in stripping out unnecessary fussiness. In a fit of madness though I deleted the paragraph defining the arc of fire to the front.   Having units just turn to face worked ok and if I hadn't removed the requirement for units in brigade formations to be aligned as well as adjacent, it would have had the right effect. The temptation to put the fussy bits about formation back in is strong but the desire for clean and simple is stronger so I'll put the arc of fire back in so units don't  have to fiddle about.

Lastly, with small forces I didn't use any ADC's which somewhat reduced player choices but there were only 1 or 2 occasions where players had to miss opportunities due to scattered formations and a lack of orders. That's about right to my mind, especially since both sides rolled above average on numbers of orders. More important was the reappearance of the move or fire rule which made it easy for an attack to stall and turn into a prolonged and indecisive firefight. A frequent enough problem in history. The Yanks did try one assault which got slammed by the dice but if the dice had been reversed it might have been decisive.

The terrain board worked ok but there are still some areas where the grid gets lost when terrain or troops start covering it, especially in dim light. Nothing I wasn't able to handle but it needs work and more hills and roads.

On the whole I still like the feel of these rules. Now I want to try a bigger ACW game,  and an ancients and an RCW version of the Square Brigadier. I also want to play HofT and see how 3 element units feel vs the unit is a unit. In other words is there anything to be gained compared with just losing the grid and playing on the bigger table? Then there is that terrain issue and a frame for the board. Oh and I want to get back to naming ACW units and generals and marking them as well as rebasing and refurnishing the new recruits.and there is a queue on the painting desk.......

Hopefully next week will be quiet!


  1. I like how an ADC stores PIPs, but don't entirely understand how they work beyond that. Are they a separate figure?

    1. In theory they are just a capability and you could track the current availability of stored Pips on paper.

      I like to use a separate figure to remind me who has an ADC and in a bigger game when I roll up orders I place spare officers, messengers, drummers etc 1 for each order. I place them by the unit that is receiving an order to keep track and place any extras by the adc until the next turn. When I find myself calling up the last saved Order figure from beside the ADC, I think twice about how badly I need to issue that order right now.

  2. That's a nice looking board you've done there. I did a gridded one for ancients recently using foam matting with indented borders and a uniformly green flock, but I think the different shades you've used look really good. I might steal that idea for next time. Your post also reminds me that I have a couple of boxes of those Italeri figures just needing a touch up to finish. Might have to move those up queue...


    1. Thanks Aaron. I'm pretty happy with the look, I just wish I'd made the grid slightly larger and I'm trying to figure out if I can modify or live with it.

  3. Always a pleasure to see your ACW lads getting an airing.


  4. No need to ouch. They were out this year, I figure any of my armies that get out once a year have no reason to complain. But I like their look.