Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Deposit on the Devil's Bill

This Gettysburg game was my 3rd go at fitting a major ACW battle onto my table using Brigades as units.  (There were also 2 smaller battles played  with Regiments as units, (Belmont & Kernstown).
Last year I played Picket's Charge as a bathtubbed game fielding one of my 3 or 4 stand regiments for each brigade and reducing the battlefield to match but not adjusting the rules. The year before I played Bull Run  as a gridded game using 500 yds per grid area and 1,000 - 1,500 men per 2 stand unit. I had originally planned to use that scale for this game but compressed it again to 750 yds/square and 2,000 men per unit, so that I could fit the whole of the 3 day battle onto my main table.

End of  2nd or 11:00 turn. Heth's late morning attack has been repulsed by Meredith with Reynolds narrowly escaping death. 
Translating the scenario map onto my table gave me some grief but it wasn't until I played 2 turns and then went digging that I realized what the main problem was. Most of the heavy action was supposed to be happening in the two rows of  9cm squares along the table edge! This meant units attacking from off table and being forced to retreat off it. If I had just turned the map sideways I could have added 2 more rows of squares allowing some room to maneuver but I wasn't about to reset again and decided to press ahead after adjusting Macpherson's Ridge so that it met Seminary Ridge at the base of Culp's Hill.

Through out the game, the crunch of trying to physically fit the troops into the grid along with the difficulty of spotting faint temporary lines on top of terrain gave me serious headaches only over come by agreeable opponents (It was a solo game.). If I had followed either my initial plan of using my main table, or had gone ahead with using my permanent portable board with 1 stand per unit, this difficulties would not have arisen.
End 12:00 turn. Reinforcements are pouring on while indecisive combat rages  (or smolders, it was an unlucky dice turn).
Apart from that, and some minor rule glitches, the game progressed well (lasted about 1 1/2 hours), was fun with some tension and reached a very reasonable conclusion with the Rebs doing not quite as well as on the day. They managed to drive the Federals back onto Cemetery and Culp's Hills but they took too long to do it and suffered too many losses.  In large parts their difficulties were due to better rolling by the Boys in Blue but the over crowding had its effect as did the small number of 1 hour turns in conjunction with the rules. I'm not sure a better plan could have been extracted from the start positions without more room and more turns but this as well as the rules can all be tweaked.

By the end of the 15:00 turn, Macpherson's Ridge is still being disputed but Rodes Division is making itself felt.
When I compare this game to the Bull Run and Picket's Charge games, it was OK but not as good as either. As a quick, portable game, there was too much terrain, too many figures and too little room in crucial areas while other areas were not used at all. For a full game it was too crowded and too short.

As for the rules, there were a couple of issues. One is that I had made changes to how I normally handle support and for engaging units which are not aligned and the new rules just didn't feel right. Another is that given the long time frame, I needed an intermediate combat result between draw and total defeat.  A third minor issue was trying to track the relatively large number of Division Commanders against a fair number of adhoc units when trying to figure out who was commanding who, all made worse by congestion.

My real intent had been to fit big battles on my main table not as portable games. The Picket's Charge game was good but I need to fit larger armies onto much larger battlegrounds. The Bull Run game was a better fit so my plan is to go to 1/2 hour turns instead of 1 hour turns and 500 yards per 4" square instead of 750 yds.  With more room, with units able to appear in their normal configuration and with space for Generals in with their units, I should be able to track things more easily. Once I tweak the rules, clear the wrapping stuff off my table and get it set up, and get past the family time stuff, I intend to replay the game.  
An hour later Heth is down and his Division has taken heavy losses but the Yankees are being pushed back all along tbe line. During the final turn the parts of the  Yankee army that weren't fleeing were retreating to avoid being cut off but the town had not fallen and it would be dark before Ewell would be able to launch an attack on Culp's Hill. Losses were heavy on both sides but a narrow Union victory I think.


  1. A Merry Christmas to you and yours , Tony

  2. Unusually for a wargamer, I don't know much about Gettysburg but the intent, to do big historical battles with the smaller figures on the big table, seems very worthwhile and I look forward to hearing about the replay in due course.

    As for "clear the wrapping stuff off my table" that sounds familiar! I find any table space is vulnerable to getting covered with stuff at the best of times but it's a losing battle at this time of year :-)

    1. Yes Steve, one of those battles just not worth fighting. Surely worth brownie points though?

  3. Would Gettysburg work better with Square Brigadier or Portable Wargame? Hmmm--food for thought. I may have to try it. (Yeah, right, "may" have to try it!)

    Happy holidays (I'm pretty sure you have those in Canada), and thanks for your great blog!


    1. Thanks for tuning in Chris and Happy Holidays to you as well.