Sunday, September 6, 2015

Go around

If I had wanted an example of one of the sorts of games I have in mind for the future, this would be a good one to use.

The board all laid out with troops, terrain, turn/chance deck and victory markers. This was around turn 3. Work on terrain and the 4" grid continues although the game could have been as easily played using a ruler for them as can still read such things.
This scenario (#4 in CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames) is about a force defending an island which is the only (known) crossing point on a river. The defenders have 3 infantry, 1 light infantry, 3 guns (or 1 1/2 battery) and 2 cavalry units. Units are treated as equal value in those scenarios where players are allowed to pick from a list  but infantry are defined to be twice as big as cavalry or light infantry and the map for this scenario agrees so I placed 2 of my units for each infantry unit. Hopefully the speed or extra range of the others makes up at least some of the difference valuewise but I may want to add some other bonuses. I had 2 choices for the artillery, 1 game battery for each scenario gun or else 1 1/2 batteries. I decided to field a battery with only 1 stand instead of 2 for the 1/2 battery.  The defenders were deployed as per the scenario map.

The attackers have 3 cavalry units spread out in a recce screen and 5(ie 10) infantry, 1 light infantry and 2 batteries (4 guns) to be deployed as desired with a central zone covering about 2/3 the width of the table. Their goal isn't to capture the island or the bridges but rather to exit as many units as possible off the far side of the table.

The point of course is that the attacker's cavalry screen finds a  previously unknown ford that bypasses the island. Once the defender realizes that the attacker can bypass his position, all hell breaks loose.

This is actually a gratuitous shot taken at the same time as the lead one but it might be easier to see the 3 stand units each with a marker figure, and the 4" grid. The roads and river are masking tape.
I wanted to use the rules as written so with heart in hand I shuffled and drew 18 cards. Red for Rebs, Black for Bluebellies. Over the course of the game 3 black event cards came up and no red ones. That seemed a bit unfair and I wondered if I should have selected the cards but there were 4 cards yet to draw when the game ended do I turned them over and....3 of them were Red event cards. Luck of the draw then!

The aim of the game was for the attacker to get troops off the table but I didn't want to ignore losses. After a bit of pondering I set the breakpoint at 6 units lost for each side (1 more than 1/2 for the Rebs, 1 less for the Yanks) but counted each Yankee unit thst exited the far side of the table as equal to a unit lost for the Rebs. Since I have a copy of Battlecry I broke out their victory tokens as markers.

Every thing went swimmingly for the first few turns until I stopped to check a rule and noticed that they weren't written exactly as I was playing them.  I had left the cover modifier the way I used to do it rather than updating it to match how I usually do it now but had changed the fire and movement rule to how it was in the old Square Brigadier even though I have being playing it the Tin Army way. I debated whether I should switch how I was playing to match the written rules and maybe even restart or, since I was happy with how the game felt, just update the rules to match what I was actually doing so I wouldn't need to remember changes. I opted for the latter so last week's post containing the rules has been updated to match how I played the game.
I meant to take more pictures, honest, but with turns flying by at an average of 5 minutes per player turn the game was almost over before I remembered. Here an assault over the bridge has just been repulsed on or about turn 12.
The initial  Federal plan was to threaten the main bridge and assault the second bridge, bypassing the town but both bridges were hard to storm in face of rifle and artillery fire, some of it from cover. Once the ford was discovered the reserve brigade and cavalry were send around the flank while the Rebs struggled to withdraw troops to face them, not helped by a chance card that froze one of their brigades for a turn.

I meant for long range fire to be fairly innocuous and it was. It tended to slow units and decrease their effectiveness rather than destroying them but casualties did slowly rise. Close combat on the other hand, was deadly and hard to predict. Despite thinning the island's defenders to a light infantry unit and 1 2 stand regiment of infantry, both in cover, the Feds never suceeded in grabbing 1 tiny toe hold on the far end and suffered losses of 2 or 3 stands for each one they inflicted.

One the other hand, once their cavalry had galloped across the ford followed by a hard marching column of infantry and dupported by a battery firing from the flank, well... since they got there "fustest with the mostest" it was the Rebs that had to try to shift them while they marched troops across behind the holding screen and off the table.
 A desperate gamble that almost paid off. The second charge by the Kentucky  Cavalry and they rolled up, enough to break their opponent and pursue through to block the ford! Too bad for them but their Yankee oponents also rolled up so it became a tied melee with 1 stand left on each side meaning the cavalry had to rally back, right into the line of fire of sharpshooters and a battery of artillery.

Final score 6 vs 3 for the Yanks, 3 Reb units destroyed and 3 Yankee units exited. 15 turns, 2 hours and lots of tense moments and enough swings of fortune that it could easily have ended the other way.

This is the first game in which I have used the quality bonus markers since the Gettysburg game last December when I introduced them. Once again they did the trick allowing a fresh unit to overcome the disorder of a single hit in order to attack on their turn, allowing it to win or tie a melee or sometimes, doing nothing at all!

I have a feeling the Blue and the Grey will be appearing more often over the next year.


  1. Very nice and very classic wargame table! lots of action and very beautiful figures, thanks for sharing these photos. Cordially Carlos

  2. This is a great scenario - and the first I ever played from 'The Green Book'. This was before I even owned a copy. This was in Wellington, some 30 years ago, maybe. We were using 6mm figures, also ACW, but I think the Confederates were attacking. The rule set was one developed by a Dunedin club from a board game. The river forked about half way along the table length in the game we played, and that made a bit of a difference, as it turned out.

    It was a two player a side game, with an umpire. I commanded the CSA right, at once heading for the river confluence, where I thought a ford most likely to be (We hadn't been told there was one, but simply looking at the table set-up suggested one had to be there). I was right as it turned out, but, hearing nothing from the game umpire, continued the search along the stream to the edge of the table. Still no ford. It took a bit of jumping up and down before I convinced the umpire that if there were a ford my guys had found it long since. Turned out he was absent from the table when my guys first reached the river, precisely where the ford was. I hadn't noticed his absence.

    The adventures were not over yet. Small as the figure scale was, the adaptation from the board game gave rifled muskets a 2-inch range. Not enough to clear the river, even if standing right on the bank. Unable to force a crossing, my colleague simply left the table in disgust. Taking over - meanwhile marching the cavalry and available infantry hot-foot to the ford - I lined up all the artillery along the riverbank beside the East Bridge, meanwhile making demonstrations against the West Bridge, and flung across an infantry regiment with its support.

    Barely beating off the counter-attack this provoked, I managed to reinforce the bridgehead by feeding more units across, and gradually the Union has to abandon the east Woods towards the town. By this time I had a decent sized force north of the river closing in on the north road. To shore up a line there, the Union had to thin out its island defences. But the narrow front along the northern riverbank was proving something of a problem for us.

    The scenario ended with both bridges in Confederate hands, and the woods. Union forces in and north of the town were under heavy assault, and they could not much longer have kept the road open north of the river.

    So: a drawn scenario, but I reckon that had we been advised, as we ought to have been, two moves earlier of the ford's presence, half the Union army would have found itself trapped on the island. But I wasn't too unhappy with the result at all. It had started very badly for the Confederates!

    As it was, if this had been part of a campaign, in the closing situation I would have invited the players to carry on with it as a night action, as battles occasionally did when hotly contested come nightfall. It was that sort of battle.


    1. It can be a tricky scenario, esp as the scale, period and rules change.
      One of the unknowns from a campaign pov is why the attacker needs to exit troops. Is it a breakout from a besieged fort or town that can't hold out? or an attempt to breakthrough to cut off the defenders or seize an objective off table?

  3. Superb very interesting Scenario- a good choice ROSS. Also the figures and terrain look great- great photos too. I have saved the pictures and should refer to them at a latter date for ideas for a 28mm Scenario for Fictional game of 1856. Regards. KEV.

    1. The Grant scenarios are a great source of ideas. Steve the Wargamer did a brilliant job of collecting the original Tabletop Teasers and making them available to us.

  4. A video camera on a tripod in the corner (out of the way) will often work to capture all of the action and can quickly be reviewed for the high-points of such a fast moving game.

    I did it for a 12 player version of a SHAKO game in 2004 and the movement captured did a great job of telling the tale of the battle.

    1. I can see the value of the idea. Back in the 90s we once filmed a Waterloo game in 15mm but in between periods not continuously. Even if I had a video camera though, and found a spot, I'm not sure such a small game would wartent it or reveal much unless I remembered to mutter a commentary ad I played. Something to think about though.

  5. Sounds and looks terrific, Ross. I look forward to reading these rules if you plan to share them. ;)

    1. The rules are posted here: the-plastic-army-of-potomacl

      but I must confess to having an internal (so far) philosophical debate over my return to the use of a disorder status as a game mechanism .

    2. The rules are posted here: the-plastic-army-of-potomacl

      but I must confess to having an internal (so far) philosophical debate over my return to the use of a disorder status as a game mechanism .

  6. Behind in my blog reading...this is the one that's originally laid out with two islands and seven bridges? I've been wanting to do it as an NQSYW one of these days...

  7. No, that is #17 Bridge Assault. There are some simularities but the goal for the attacker in that one is to control a crossing.