EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bent but not broken


 Ever since Kinch's Brigade paraded, ready for service, I have been itching to get them into action but it seems that playing solo games and painting troops are mutually exclusive activities so ten days have slipped away (yeah I know, that's not actually that long but until I checked just now I could have sworn it was two or three times longer and I am better known for impatience than patience.)

I also wanted to give Hearts of Tin another work out since Huzzah is fast approaching. I have to reset the 5 game counter since last week I finally figured out how to incorporate forced retirement for shaken units into the normal play sequence. To avoid any confusion between scenario and rules issues, I decided to try something I haven't done a lot of recently, a straight up attack/defence. Having noted that in a surprising number of early ACW battles the attacker had little or no advantage in numbers, I just laid out some terrain, two opposing ridgelines, some farmland and roads with woods off table in all directions, and set out all of my Confederates to defend and all of my Federals to attack, the assumption being that there was a strategic advantage to be gained by forcing the Confederates to retreat. Once again the lack of appropriate terrain was keenly felt when laying the game out. Obviously as the armies get flushed out, this is rising to the top of the Todo list

The defenders laid out first, dice being used to choose between various defensive options. I then allowed the Federal commander to survey the Reb position and make his dispositions, again aided by a die to decide between options when needed. The Rebs deployed 2 brigades forward in the valley, supported by artillery on the ridge behind them with the 3rd brigade in reserve near the center. The lone cavalry unit was deployed to guard the far left flank. The Yankee plan was to advance up the left with 1 brigade with a second supporting while the 3rd brigade pinned the Reb left and supported with fire. The cavalry was detached to guard the far right and stall any Reb attempt to advance.
 View from behind the Confederate Right as the Union army appears. 

To reflect the often disjointed nature of some of the early battles, I chose to use card activation by brigade for this game. As I started playing, it occurred to me that having game orders for the brigadiers might add to the game but I see that as a game/scenario issue rather than a rules one. Its the sort of thing best handled by multi-players but which could be loaded onto any rules system for solo play but in the event, my past experience was vindicated that the rules make it just awkward enough to keep changing your mind that it pays to stick as close to your original plan as possible even if you aren't technically forced to do so.

As I laid the game out, I was surprised to find myself feeling slightly apprehensive. Last week I had enjoyed a game of Charge! which, despite being quick and simple to play, has  a greater tactical feel to it with skill in the handling of individual units often being critical. Was I going to find the more generic Morschause inspired Hearts of Tin as engaging in its own way? Especially after having stripped it back down again?

The view from the Confederate Left as battle is fully joined.

The Federal advance started smoothly enough even though their gunners couldn't hit the proverbial barndoor. The Conderate artillery was well served though and with the cards also falling just right, on turn 2 one Yankee regiment was shaken and heading for the hills. It took the CinC riding across to bring them to their duty on Turn 4 as they were about to leave the field for good. He had to urge them to rally after they failed the first order check and then only managed to remove 1 hit marker by the minimum result with all bonuses applied. The gap they left in the line caused the 2nd Brigade to hang back a bit and then once engaged made them vulnerable to a flank attack which soon routed another regiment. An advance by the cavalry almost flanked the Reb flankers but again a card at the right time let them sort themselves out and that flank died down which each side eyeing the other warily and taking long range pot shots.

The Federal attack drives in the right of the Confederate 1st Brigade.

On the Federal left, their line was able to overlap and drive in the Confederate right. As the Confederate reserves began to be brought forward, (some rather reluctantly), the Federal General decided to pick up the pace to capitalize on his early success and avoid a battle of attrition between equal forces. He also committed his 2nd line and ordered a series of bayonet charges. To his chagrin, an attack by fresh units against a smaller number of shaken ones, was held and in part thrown back, largely due the example of the reckless courage of the Rebel Brigadier.

A charge from the flanking regiment on one of Kinch's regiments was held at first but upon being renewed the Rebs fell back in disarray and the triumphant Yankees surged forward into the flank of the next unit, shattering it leaving General Kinch alone to stare down the Bluecoats before calmly retiring to bring up his next regiment (he won his escape capture toss).
General Stuart Roger Kinch, sometimes known as States Rights Kinch, staring down the Yankees.


For a moment it seemed like a crisis was here for the defending Confederates but heavy casualties from flanking fire from the rebel reserve into the pursuing blue coats had brought them up cold and before they could rally, a Louisiana regiment had advanced on their flank and pouring a hot flanking fire, swept them away. With his army on the verge of breaking the Federal commander was forced to order a retreat along the line.
End of day. The Rebel line has been driven back a foot on the right and they have suffered heavy losses but their line is holding in a strong position and the Yankees are only one stand from breaking.

So, my fears were groundless, once again this played out like one of the original Morschauser Meets MacDuff games and was good fun and engaging. With 15 units a side, the game, which was about as simple and straight forward a scenario as could be, took about 2 or maybe 2.5 hours to play not counting a 1/2 hour or so to set up and 15 minutes to take down. The balance shifted several times during the game but despite some lucky/unlucky die rolls which tilted the end result slightly, they would not have done so if the Union attack had been better planned and executed. The right hand brigade suffered almost as heavy losses as the attacking brigade on the left but it was never seriously thrown into the fight so did almost no damage in return. Instead it sort of wandered into a firefight piecemeal, almost by accident. What was meant to be a weighted attack straggled into a 1:1 assault all along the line. The decision to abandon fairly safe shooting for risky bayonet attacks didn't help in retrospect despite the possibility of higher rewards if they had worked.

The big question now is whether or not the rules will work for the smaller 40mm battles. Since Huzzah is coming up fast, I will have to put the ACW boys away till late May. When I get back to them, since I am now happy with the rules and the organization and I have enough troops for small to medium games. I am about ready to start naming regiments and Generals adding some flags and to start working on scenery. Apart from several miles of rail fences, I need a way to show the sort of open woods that cover so much of the Western battles. Some sort of template with a few loose trees I think. Once I get the regiments named, I will also have to decide on an easy way to mark them. The Union in particular having had problems figuring out which stands belonged to which regiment where 2 brigades came together. I also want to paint up some of that heap of Airfix crawling guys as hit markers.

14 comments:

  1. Sadly from the photos is seems like the Confederates are not doing well at this point.

    Hopefully this will turn around by the time the battle ends and we get an after action report.


    -- Jeff

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  2. Jeff! I was just getting ready to preview the post when your comment came in! I must have accidently posted a partially written version. Its been fixed now.

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    1. Yes, I see that now. Adding some comments instead of just the photos makes a world of difference, doesn't it?

      If you are going to have relatively "set" brigades, you might mark the back edges of the units with colour . . . varying shades within each brigade to pick out regiments.

      One brigade could have regiments marked in various shades of blue; another of yellows; a third of reds; and so forth. That is one of many reasons that I have for thick bases (beside making them easier to move without touching the figures).

      I've also used different coloured flagstaffs to differentiate units brigaded together . . . but since you don't have flags with each regiment, that won't work for you here.


      -- Jeff

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    2. Thanks Jeff, my first 16 regiments have a colour coded roman numeral on the back of their base but I have trouble seeing them. It didn't matter at first because I could tell them apart by make and pose but I'm into duplicates with the Yankees.

      I think maybe a broad stripe of the brigade colour with white bands for the regiment number.

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  3. Hi Ross

    Excellent AAR. Good to see those Southern boys sending those Bluebellies running. So it seems its safe to download the latest edition for a campaign.

    Thanks

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    1. Dave, I think its safe. (Of course I also think that they couldn't hit an elephant at this range ). In the unlikely event that they no longer work for my 40mm games, I'll have to write a different set or rules for those games.

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  4. Exciting game thanks for posting it.

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  5. A great looking game, your table looks nice!

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    1. Thanks, should look even better by this time next year.

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  6. "If you are going to have relatively "set" brigades, you might mark the back edges of the units with colour . . . varying shades within each brigade to pick out regiments." suggested Jeff.

    I do that with my volley and bayonet units and also highlight the name of the units with the same colours on the order sheets.

    The latest iteration of HofT work nicely for me - many thanks. Hope to run out a Sudan game today.

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    1. Good idea, I have some of the units marked with a unit number but they don't stand out enough these days. A solid band of colour is my next step.

      I'd love to hear how the Sudan game goes.

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  7. I look forward to seeing your rail fences-I have a similiar job to do myself!

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    1. I'm looking forward to seeing them, just not looking forward to doing them! Glue and I don't get along.

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