Tuesday 25 November 2014

Battle of McDowell - turns 5-7

Ian has allowed me to write up the last few turns, as the game swiftly turned into a Confederate victory! Any set of ACW rules worth it's salt must surely favour the static defence in a firefight - and in this case the Federals (under time pressure to gain ground) were expending command points on movement and recovery while the Rebs tactical order sheets simply read 'load - fire - load - fire' with results familiar to wargamers everywhere !

The scenario required Union forces to control this hill by 4:30pm - quite a tall order.
The 12th Georgia had been forced back to the base of Sitlingtons Hill, but despite losing 4 stands out of their original 14 and spending most of the battle either disordered or with wavering morale - they didn't break ! Over their heads the 25th and 44th Virginia blazed away at the enemy without let up.

'Man Of The Match' award - The 12th Georgia shrug off massive losses and rollercoaster morale !
But then, over on the Staunton Turnpike, the cracks began to appear in Milroy's brigade. Rebel skirmishers worked their way up the wooded slope on the Union left flank and took out the undefended two gun section of the 12th Ohio artillery. These had been the only guns in action, and despite minimal strength had taken their toll on the Confederate line.

Reb skirmishers get in close and drive the gunners away.
The Yankee 3rd West Virginia, positioned astride the turnpike below the guns, had been trading volleys with the veteran Rebel 31st Virginia since the engagement began. Ian sensed they were about to give up the ghost and diverted the 32nd Ohio, his only uncommitted regiment, to go to their rescue - but it was too late.

Milroy personally urges the rather 'green' 32nd Ohio towards the shaky flank ......

...... but it's all over before they get there! The West Virginia boys rout (I know the flag is wrong!)
On the opposite side of the battlefield the 75th Ohio had been edging forward hoping to turn the Confederate flank, but as they closed the distance the withering fire from the hilltop sent them skedaddling as well.

A second rout on the other flank - the fleeing men of the 75th Ohio.
Our standard victory conditions kicked in at this point. Coupled with overall losses, the two broken Union regiments gave the Confederates a VP total of 11 while the Yankees could only muster 5. Game over in conclusive style!

Schenck's brigade unused at McDowell.
Each game turn is ten minutes of real time and is subdivided into six phases. Command points based on the quality of each regiment's colonel are then calculated and used to purchase actions which can be inserted into the phase grid as required. Players declare their actions phase by phase - fire too early in a turn and your target may not be close enough yet! Stop to restore order and the enemy may get in an additional volley. Absorbing levels of micro-management make these games great fun to play, although visually they may not be particularly dramatic! And still no bayonet charge !

Sunday 5 October 2014

Battle of McDowell – turns 1-4

As our forces were already quite close together at the start of the game it was no surprise that the opposing skirmish lines were soon popping away at each other trying to get control of the ground between the main battle-lines. I had a fair bit of success in the initial phase of firing but Dave eventually found a dice that would give him enough sixes to gain the upper hand and it was my skirmishers who gave ground.

The Union skirmishers push forward eagerly!

The 75th Ohio cross the Bull Pasture River.

Men of Schenk's Brigade wait in reserve at McDowell.

The 31st Virgina deployed ready to contest any advance by the enemy along the Staunton Turnpike.

 General Schenk's HQ at McDowell.

I realised that there wasn’t going to be much room for tactical finesse in this scenario, my men had to push forward quickly and try to overwhelm the enemy line if I was to get any units onto Sitlington’s Hill and win the game. To that end I pushed the 82nd and 32nd Ohio straight at Dave’s 12th Georgia who had advanced slightly from the base of the hill and now looked to be in an exposed position. This negated the advantage I had in rifle range over the musket armed 12th Georgia but my men were soon deployed in supported line and concentrating their fire on the Rebels.

The Union battle-line advances towards Sitlington's Hill.

 The Rebs stand ready to resist the attack.

Dave wisely chose to withdraw the 12th Georgia just as I issued the 82nd Ohio with charge orders (we may have to wait for another game to test the melee rules properly) and they fell back again to the base of Sitlington’s Hill. We had decided to designate the hill as a ‘steep hill’ (in some accounts it is described as a mountain) and this meant that Dave could deploy the 25th Virginia in line along the crest and fire over the heads of the Georgia boys below. This of course effectively doubled the weight of fire the Confederates could throw at my line.

The 12th Georgia retire as my Ohio boys push forward!

The 25th Virginia deploy into single line along the crest of Sitlington's Hill.

Our playing session finished at the end of turn 4 and we were both surprised at just how much action had taken place. On the face of it a few units slugging away at each other in line should be quite boring as a game but somehow the tactical detail of the rules are making for yet another gripping little fight. So far the VP totals are low – 2VP’s to the Confederates and 1VP to the Union – but it will probably change fast when we resume play.

The situation at the end of Turn 4 (click on the image to zoom in).

Monday 29 September 2014

Battle of McDowell

Battle of McDowell – 15mm ACW Scenario
May 8th 1862, 3.00pm – 4.30pm (9 turns)

Following his defeat at Kernstown, Jackson takes his command down the valley in an effort to destroy the Union forces advancing from West Virginia. On the morning of May 8th he comes up against Milroy’s brigade barring his way across the Bull Pasture River and orders his men to occupy Sitlington’s Hill.

Meanwhile Schenk arrives at McDowell with his own brigade and being senior to Milroy takes command. Concerned that the Rebels may try to place guns on the hill that would dominate the river crossing, Schenk and Milroy agree to launch a spoiler attack. In reality Jackson decides that it is impractical to place any artillery on the hill and his guns are left in the rear.

The action starts at 3.00pm as Milroy personally leads the Union forces in an attack on Sitlington’s Hill. The Union player must achieve a victory by 4.30pm or the Confederates will receive substantial reinforcements and the game will end in a Rebel victory.

 Initial deployment of the forces - click on the image to zoom in.

Order of Battle

Union Forces
Milroy’s Brigade
3rd West Virginia – Thompson (8)
82nd Ohio – Cantwell (12)
32nd Ohio – Swinny (10)
25th Ohio – Richardson (12)
75th Ohio – McLean (8)
12th Ohio artillery (2 guns)

Schenk’s Brigade (all units in fixed positions)
55th Ohio
73rd Ohio
1st Ohio artillery (5 guns)

Confederate forces
Stonewall Jackson
Gen Johnson (Conner’s Brigade, Army of the North-West)
12th Georgia – Hawkins (14)
31st Virginia – Jackson (10)
25th Virginia – Smith (10)
44th Virginia – Cobb (12)

(number of stands in brackets)

Victory Conditions
Sitlington’s Hill – 2VP’s are awarded for each unbroken Union regiment on the hill (all stands must be on the hill to qualify).
2VP's for each enemy unit routed.
2VP’s for each enemy brigadier killed
1VP for each enemy stand removed.
The first player to amass 10 VP's wins the game. If there is no clear winner by the end of Turn 9 the game ends in a Confederate victory.

Troop Experience Levels
Each player secretly rolls a D6 for each regiment at the start of the game and allocates experience levels as follows:
Confederates: 1,2,3,4, = hardened, 5,6 = veteran
Union: 1,2 = green, 3,4,5,6 = hardened

Leader Ratings
These are diced for by both sides as follows:
1 = poor (Confederate = unpredictable) 2,3 = unpredictable 4,5 = dependable 6 = bold

Special Rules
1. The 12th Georgia are armed with smoothbore muskets – normal firing rules apply but they are restricted to a maximum range of 200yds.
2. The Union artillery and infantry on and around Cemetery Hill and are tasked with defending the river crossings and may not move.
3. Milroy led the Union attack in person – to represent his exposure to danger Milroy must be attached to a unit at all times (he can change between units and can still exercise normal command of the whole brigade. If the brigade he is attached to is broken and he fails to rally it his command figure becomes a casualty).

Thursday 25 September 2014

Kernstown – turns 5-8

Dave’s artillery continued to shower the 1st West Virginia with canister but despite this their morale held and the lads were able to reply with close range rifle fire. In the end it was the artillery whose nerve broke first and the guns were forced to limber up and retreat back down the Laurel Grove Road.

The 1st West Virginia see off the West Augusta artillery (you can just see a limber sneaking off between the buildings!).

 The 37th Virginia having turned the Union right flank settle down behind a rail fence to exchange shots with the 7th Ohio.

Meanwhile the battle in the centre of the field was intensifying and Dave took the decision to carry out a passage of lines by pulling back the worn out 4th Virginia through the advancing ranks of the 27th Virginia. At this point Dave revealed that the 27th were a 'veteran' unit and they were at full strength having been shielded from shot and shell by the ranks of the 4th.

The veterans of the 27th Virginia prepare to swop places with the rather jaded men of the 4th Virginia.

The 23rd Virginia belatedly get to grips with the 1st West Virigina near the Glass Farm.

 The Rebs got the best of a duel between skirmishers on the Union left flank but this had little impact on the outcome of the battle.

I was a bit nervous about being confronted by fresh ‘veterans’ particularly as both my regiments lining the wall opposite them were ‘green’. However I needn’t have worried because the Virginians stepped forward into a cauldron of fire from 13 infantry stands and my artillery and they were soon dropping like flies.

 As the 27th Virigina advanced they were greeted with a solid wall of flame from the Union line (+1 for resting weapons!).

As we moved to the morale phase at end of turn 8 it was crunch time with all the front line units having to test. My 1st West Virginians broke under the flanking fire of the 23rd Virginia but Dave suffered a worse result with both the 33rd and 27th Virginia taking to their heels.

The Rebel line starts to crumble...

...and then breaks completely (Dave has even added the correct regimental name to the flag of the 33rd VA - nice touch!).

So at the end of turn 8 the Union had amassed 11 VP’s (2 broken enemy infantry units, 1 broken enemy artillery battery, 4 enemy stands removed and possession of the Stone Wall) whilst the Confederates had only 4 VP’s (1 broken enemy unit, 2 enemy stands removed) – a convincing win for the North!

 The positions of the units at the end of the battle - turn 8 (click the image to zoom in).

Next game will be another of these 15mm ACW ones as we have been enjoying playing them and the rules are now 99% there. Meanwhile the flocking of the 1/300th armies continues – we hope it will all be over by Christmas!

Sunday 31 August 2014

Kernstown – turns 1-5

As this was to be an encounter battle we started the game without specific orders issued to individual regiments and with all units deployed in field column. We agreed that orders could only be issued once the two sides had spotted each other, which under the rules would occur at a distance of 1,000yds, line of sight permitting.

Tyler's brigade on Sandy Ridge.

Garnett's brigade hurry forward 'on the double'.

"Come on boys, lets get them Rebs!"

I quickly moved my columns down from Sandy Ridge with the intention of heading directly towards the stone wall whilst Dave pushed his Rebels forward from the opposite direction. By the end of turn 1 most of the troops were visible to both sides and we began to issue orders.

Garnett's brigade occupies the high ground south of the stone wall.

 The Union troops move forward towards the stone wall.

I ordered the 110th Pennsylvania and 7th Indiana to form line and then to press on quickly to take the wall where the skirmishers of both sides were already in action. To my surprise though Dave halted the bulk of his forces on the high ground south of the wall and deployed the 4th Virginia into a single line.

Tyler deploys his brigade into line.

 The 4th Virginia deploy into a single rank opposite the stone wall.

Dave's decision not to advance further gave my forces an important tactical benefit as my troops would receive a morale bonus for ‘hard cover’ as well as increased fire power for ‘resting weapons’. The Confederates on the other hand would receive a morale bonus for ‘high ground’ and were able to bring maximum fire power to bear from the 4th Virginia whilst keeping their reserves intact.

The battle-lines now fully deployed are starting to engage in a fire-fight.

General Garnett (looking suspiciously like Robert E Lee) takes up position behind the 4th Virginia.

Meanwhile Dave had ordered the 37th Virginia supported by the West Augusta artillery to advance into the wheat field in an attempt to turn my right flank. It was a bold move to bring artillery so far forward (something I had tried successfully in the last game) and soon the Rebel guns were blasting the ranks of the 1st West Virginia regiment with canister.

The West Augusta artillery unlimbered by the Glass Farm and about to fire cannister at the 1st West Virginia.

 Meanhwhile the 37th Virigina are trying to sneak around the Union right flank.

The situation at the end of our playing session half way through turn 5 (click on the image to zoom in).

To be continued.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Battle of Kernstown

Battle of Kernstown - 15mm ACW Scenario
March 23rd 1862, 3.00pm – 5.00pm (12 turns)

Jackson advances directly up the Valley Turnpike with the aim of surprising and defeating what he believes to be a single Union brigade at Kernstown. In fact the town is defended by an entire Union division under the temporary command of Col. Nathan Kimball.

During the morning Jackson attacks the Union line in front of the town but is checked and pushed back. Realising he can make no headway by a direct assault he decides to shift the bulk of his forces to his left in an effort to turn the Union right flank. This scenario is based very loosely on the action that followed.

The Confederate brigades of Fulkerson and Garnett are advancing with the aim of gaining the high ground of Sandy Ridge. At the same moment Tyler’s Federal brigade arrive to shore up the Union flank. All units begin the game in field column with artillery batteries limbered.

 Initial deployment of the forces - click the image to zoom in.

Order of Battle

Union Forces 
Third brigade (Col. Erastus Tyler)
1st West Virginia – Thoburn (10)
110th Pennsylvania – Lewis (12)
7th Ohio – Creighton (10)
7th Indiana – Cheek (14)
29th Ohio – Buckley (8)
4th US artillery

Confederate Forces
Fulkerson’s brigade
37th Virginia – Carson (10)
23rd Virginia – Taliaferro (12)
West Augusta artillery
Garnett’s brigade
4th Virginia – Ronald (14)
27th Virginia – Echols (10)
33rd Virginia – Cummings (8)

(the number of stands in each unit are given in brackets)

Victory Conditions
The Stone Wall – 2VP’s are awarded for control of the wall.
Glass Farm – 2VP’s
Sandy Ridge – 2VP’s for each Confederate brigade that reaches the ridge.
Marcauley House – 2VP’s for each Union brigade that reaches the house.
2VP's for each enemy unit routed.
1VP for each enemy stand removed.
The first player to amass 10 VP's wins the game.

Troop Experience Levels
Each player secretly rolls a D6 for each regiment at the start of the game and allocates experience levels as follows:
Confederates: 1 = green, 2,3,4,5 = hardened, 6 = veteran
Union: 1,2 = green, 3,4,5 = hardened, 6 = veteran

Leader Ratings
These are diced for by both sides as follows:
1 = poor
2,3 = unpredictable
4,5 = dependable
6 = bold

Sunday 10 August 2014

Henry Hill – Conclusion

In the centre of the field the 2nd Wisconsin and 5th Massachusetts were now side by side and able to trade volleys with Dave’s 2nd Virginia on equal terms. The 2nd Virginia had started out as the largest unit on the table with 14 stands and I would have to bring every available Union rifle to bear if the Rebels were going to be shifted from Henry Hill.

Still standing like a stone wall - Jackson with the 2nd Virginia by Henry House.

The two sides blazed away but it was my Federals who blinked first as the 5th Massachusetts failed their morale test at the end of turn 9 and headed for the rear. With my left and centre in disarray any hope of a victory now shifted to the outcome of events on the right.

 The 5th Massachusetts break under the fire of the Virginians.

Since the start of the game I had been painstakingly manoeuvring the 79th New York forward on the extreme right of my line. They had experienced more than their fair share of disorder, firstly as a result of crossing Young’s Branch, and then due to the steadily rising number of casualties inflicted on them by the Confederates (for each 5 casualties suffered a unit must test for possible disorder). Now at last they were in a position where they could start to exchange volleys with the 13th Mississippi near Chinn Ridge.

The 79th New York square up to the 13th Mississippi near Chinn Ridge.

It seemed that the battle would be decided in this final fire-fight between the New York ‘highlanders’ and the southern boys from the ‘Muddy Miss’. In the end it all hinged on the round of morale throws at the end of turn 10 and it was the Rebels who emerged victorious as the 79th took to their heels in the last skedaddle of the day.

Game over - the 79th join the great skedaddle!

"Hey boys, last one back to Willards Bar is buyin'!"

At the end of turn 10 Dave had amassed 13 VP’s to my 7 VP’s a convincing win for the Confederates. Almost half of my infantry were now in full rout and they didn’t look as if they were going to stop running until they reached Capitol Hill. It was starting to look as if this would be a very long war.

 As the sun sinks over the horizon the Union army is in full retreat - this will be a long war...

We both felt that the rules had delivered an excellent game in what was a very simple scenario - basically one brigade in line advancing against another. The tactical detail involved in manoeuvring units and trying to get to grips with the enemy offered us a completely different experience from the army level 1/300th games we are used to, which was the whole idea. The only down side was the amount of paperwork we found ourselves doing but we have already had ideas about how to streamline that. We intend to try another scenario with the revised rules soon but I will probably write it up as a single post as I’m aware that the slow pace of a game like this makes multiple posts less interesting to the reader!

The positions at the end of the game - turn 10 (click the image to zoom in).