Monday, July 1, 2013

Up the long grassy slope or Kinch's Charge

Happy Canada Day!

I hadn't planned to publish this battle report today as its not exactly relevant but its done so here we are. 

The game whose set up was shown in the last 2 posts is, of course, an adaptation of the Picket's Charge scenario from the original Fire & Fury booklet. I wasn't sure that a straight assault on a defended hill would make for an interesting game but even as a solo game it turned out to be quite exciting at times.
General Kinch puffs contentedly on his pipe as the lead elements of his division cross the pike and assault the Union positions.  

By one of those odd quirks my different ground scale and different base size resulted in each of my stands representing the same number of men as the F&F stands making translation easy, just calling my normal units brigades instead of regiments and using my usual Brigade Commanders as Division Commanders. With the Yankee army, I was able to use a standard 4 stand unit for each Federal brigade, throwing any left over stands out as a skirmish screen.  

The Confederates were not quite as easy as there were fewer brigades but roughly the same number of stands.  I decided to just field the right number of stands by division and not worry about having 6 "units" instead of either 3 brigades or 15 regiments. There were not enough leftovers for a good skirmish line so I fell back on just playing the rules as written and detached a few stands as skirmishers. 

Since my own rebs are in fairly identifiable units under Generals who have acquired names, I used those names rather than those of the historical commanders. This gave me General Featherstone with his 3 Elite brigades (mostly 30 year veteran Airfix in fact), General Robert with 6 "volunteer" brigades on green bases, and General Kinch with 6 brigades including Irish as well as other volunteers. General Taleri followed up but according to the scenario he is not commanded by Longstreet and only able to provide support. In the event, a series of bad command control rolls meant his men were never really engaged at all.

Rather than give a blow by blow account of the ebb and flow of 12 turns of battle (3 hours of "game" time and pretty close to that of "real" time.) I'll hope that the pictures and labels will give some sense of the to and fro action while I write a bit about the mechanics and how the rules performed.  Each of the red dots that  increasingly appear in the photos mark where a stand was removed. I got the idea from Chris of Day of Battle at Huzzah. Having a different coloured marker for the Union would have been even better but I didn't think of that until too late and aren't sure I have enough green ones to pull it off. Anyway, it lets you see where the action was most intense. The little green dice show the number of hits being carried over.

The Confederate first line drives in the Federal skirmishers. The left hand brigades pause to fire a volley before closing.

Occasionally I get itchy about not letting troops move and shoot but any relenting just causes problems. Having troops stall once they began firing often comes up as a problem historically yet gamers given a chance will  fire on the move whenever possible regardless of penalties. This then calls for adding morale tests or disorder rules to force troops to stop and inevitably these add a chore and rarely give just the right effect unless quite complex. The old 'one or the other', which goes back at least as far as Featherstone's Battle with Model Soldiers, does the trick nicely with no fuss. It is only generals with stout hearts who can ignore the temptation  to stop and shoot and just press an attack home in the teeth of the enemy's fire. Of course the initiative system sometimes gives you a chance to stop and fire, hoping to advance again before the enemy can return fire.

I was especially tempted to allow skirmishers to move and shoot but fire is supposed to  reflect a sustained fire and so again I held fast. Generals must choose to either wear down the enemy with shooting or press the assault. In play, the reb skirmishers moved up soaking up the enemy skirmish fire and then fired one round as the main line passed through them and made the assault. The skirmishers then either rejoined their units or took up positions from which they could fire on exposed enemy troops, watch the flanks and covering the retreat of repulsed units.
The first assault goes in. After a prolonged melee, the Rebel right is repulsed but the left captures one battery and drives the other defenders back.

 Early on, the Yankee guns tore some gaping holes in the Reb lines and for a moment I was afraid that either I had too many guns and gunners on the table or that they were too powerful but again I held firm and in the end the effect was about right.

A salient is pressed into the Yankee position. Displaced troops from the Federal front line rally on the 2nd contour or flee the table while reserves move up and counter attack, driving the Rebs back to the wall

I was curious if removing the new morale rules and modifying the old automatic retreat would still seem like a good idea and it was. There several tied melees (melee including firefights at under 50 yards), several where the defeated side pulled back 4" and quickly rallying and being ready to continue the fight and several where the defeated side hot legged it and didn't manage to rally in time or with enough men to re-enter the battle. The army morale rule was enough to discourage bringing badly battered units back into line except in desperation while encouraging aggressive follow up to destroy enemy units or force them off the table. In other words, the rules worked as intended.

The last Federal line braces itself for the final assault. Reinforcements from the left double time into position to brace the center. In the distance General Taleri has advanced far enough to cover the fleeing remnants of the frontline as they begin to rally on the treeline. The red discs, each indicating where a stand was lost,  show the intensity of the fighting. 

This game was not an attempt by me to replicate Picket's charge as a test of the rules historical accuracy, I just wanted another crack at a game with this many units and stands to compare the feel against my more usual, smaller set ups.  However, given the scenario lay out, orders of battle, game restrictions, victory conditions and so on, it probably wasn't surprising that the game started to look reminiscent of the original, in general if not in every particular (in fact, the books on that phase of Gettysburg  are still on the 'to read' shelf so I still only have a superficial knowledge of it and couldn't have carried out or assessed it in any other fashion ).

It does suggest though that the rules at least don't hinder an historical game. 

The Rebs gather their strength and launch one last desperate charge.

Just out of curiosity, since the game went so well, I decided to compare game losses to historical ones. The Confederates lost 30 out of the original 62 stands of infantry in the three divisions committed to the attack (74 in total). The Federal army lost 20 of their 72 infantry stands.  The rules suggest that on average 1/2 of these are dead, wounded or missing and the other 1/2 stragglers or demoralized that will return to the ranks if left alone. Given that the majority of the Rebel losses were inside the Federal lines I'm going to count a further 1/4 as prisoners. At 200 men per stand that suggests something like 3,000 dead and wounded and 3,000 stragglers for a total loss of about 6,000 for the Confederates, perhaps 4,500 being permanent, and 2,000 for the Federals. Flipping to Wikipedia, they report an over all casualty rate for the Confederates of 50% including 1,123 dead and 4,019 wounded, many of whom were captured. There were also unwounded prisoners but some of the wounded would have been lightly wounded so the over all the effective losses are surprisingly close.  Wiki doesn't have Federal losses but looking else where I see a number of 1,500 mentioned so mine were perhaps a bit higher but still not too far out. 

So the ebb and flow of the game resembled the original and the end result, both tactically and in terms of losses, was reasonable. Not bad.

The attack is repulsed and a counter attack drives the last Rebs off the hill. Note the scattered red markers almost at the road. The Highwater mark of this attack. On the Confederate right, Union troops can be see advancing to enfilade the Rebel line.

My armies are a mix of figures I've painted  myself, some 30 years ago, others over the last 3 years with a large lot painted by unconfirmed others and passed on to me via Rob of The Captain's Blog. I've gotten used to small games with big figures so administratively, this battle pushed my patience a tiny bit. There were nearly 50 units on the table and at times 2/3rd were carrying at least 1 hit which I mark with little green dice. This meant a lot of little dice coming adrift and floating about looking for a unit to haunt. This was exacerbated by a lot of stands in similar or identical uniforms using the same figures in a medley of poses making it hard to track units, especially the units I didn't paint.

Luckily my decision to drop the new morale tests and percentages made it less important as to exactly where the hits went so by the late game, I was beginning to consolidate hits within divisions to remove stands and minimize the number of marker dice. 

Still, now that I'm happy with the rules again and have decided on an organization and range of game sizes, I will have to get on with plans to reorganize and incorporate the new figures into recognizable units, marked by pose or some distinct uniform or badge.  My Confederates are not only dressed in consistent poses (as in firing line, marching or charging not necessarily identical) and identifiable  uniforms, they also have a bar code painted on the back of their stands which was  great help. I may need to check out more advanced hit tracking systems though. More ACW this fall.

General Kinch had been at the front of the last attack, risking life and limb to steady his men. On turn 12, as he held together a final rearguard to protect the retreat of the remains of his division, a fatal "1" came up on the die and the brave general went down with a wound. The battle was over.


  1. Looks like a very good game, Ross. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

    -- Jeff

  2. Good looking game, and a happy Canada Day to you!


  3. Happy Canada Day! I certainly hope that you were able to relax and maybe even get in a game or two. Your game pictures and description were particularly enjoyable. The mention that General Kinch was knocked down with a wound recalled to mind the scene from Gettysburg where Pickett is urging his troops on and a shell lands nearby and knocks him off his horse. Tell us - when the army commander told Kinch to reform his division did he utter the fateful words "General, I have no division...." Were any of your brigadiers casualties during the three hours of play? Does a riderless horse still gallop the fatal field, the brigadier forever lost in a cloud of smoke? Was there a preliminary bombardment by the CSA?
    All the very best,
    A/K/A The Celtic Curmudgeon

    1. Thanks Jerry, Don't think he made it back to report. Thise Yankees were pretty close when he fell.

      I was playing a level off so while I'm sure Brigadiers fell, I wasn't representing or tracking them. But I' sure their was a riderless horse. Should have put one in a picture! There was a tremendous pre-game bombardment, (or at least I presume so, there are no Reb guns in the scenario and it starts at 15:00.)

  4. Happy Canada Day. Nice seeing the troops in action.


    1. Thanks Rob, for the comment and troops, its a burden but I feel obliged to get them out and play games. you know how it is. fun fun fun, is there no end to it? :)

  5. Happy Canada Day!
    That was a corker of a game!

    1. Thanks! The rules are essentially the fat version of Rattle.

  6. I like the look of the big battle on a bigger table. I admire your hills. Are those the ceiling tiles we discussed?


    1. That's actually the usual table, its optics - less crowded. Did we talk ceiling tile hills? It was a long drive. These are the same off cuts from 1" pine shelving that I've been using for a while now but I rounded a few more corner and they've finally been painted to match the table.


  7. Great looking game and a great read, thanks. I enjoyed the 'Kinch' touch complete with pipe :-)