This month saw our traditional end of year big game at the Devon Wargames Group where all members present take part in a single game. The club wheeled out its large collection of 28mm American Civil War figures with three members fielding their collections on the table amounting to just over two-thousand figures.
The scenario selected modelled the fighting towards the end of the Battle of Chancellorsville just outside Fredericksburg in May of 1863 as General Lee moved his Confederate forces to attack and destroy General Sedgwick's VI Union Corps astride Marye's Heights. Our battle was constructed around twelve generic Confederate brigades and eight Union brigades each of three, eight base regiments with an attached two gun battery (Confederate) or three gun battery (Union). All troops for convenience were classed as Trained, all guns were treated as "light rifled". Each Division had an eight base cavalry regiment attached.
The Confederate Army of North Virginia was:
McLaw's Division with Wofford's, Kershaw's, Semmes' and Barkdale's brigades.
Anderson's Division with Wilcock's Mahone's, Wright's, Posey's and Perry's brigades
Early's Division with Gordon's, Hoke's and Hays' brigades
The Union VI Corps was:
1st Division (Brooks) with Brown's, Barret's and Russel's brigades
2nd Division (Howe) with Grant's and Neil's brigades
3rd Division (Newton) with Shaler's, Browne's and Wheaton's brigades
The rules used for the game were Regimental Fire & Fury which always give a fun game with, some might say, the occasional extreme swing of fortune, but are easily picked up and allow a large game like this to played fairly seamlessly. As you can see, we adopted a generic approach to the scenario that allowed the rules to perform even better with minimal complexity, with the simple mechanism of standardising all regiments at eight stands making the process of identifying "Fresh", "Worn" and "Spent" troops a quick process for noting the condition of the various units.
The picture below shows the parameters of our battlefield, with the Union escape route off table, centre top. The blue lines mark the set up positions of the various Union divisions with a corresponding Confederate force set to enter the table from the three approach directions.
The scenario was a straightforward withdrawal in the face of the enemy whilst holding ground to enable that withdrawal to happen - perhaps never straightforward!
|Table set up with the troop dispositions indicated|
Playing in a game of this size whilst stopping occasionally to do circuits of the table, snatching conversation with commanders on other parts of the battlefield and catching pictures of the action makes reporting on a game like this an interesting exercise in memory management. It makes you appreciate the job of the senior commander in any sizeable action of the period having to write a report home to his political masters attempting to do the same thing, pretty much, only on a much larger and even more complicated scale with often greater consequences for not capturing the essential details.
So what I propose is to give an over view of the day's game coupled with examples of the battle as seen by this general officer in the Confederate ranks (note the implied bias)
|Players arrive and are briefed by Chas our "Gamemeister" for the day. Plenty of festive snacks are available on the table far right|
|The briefing over, time for the opposing sides to decide their tactics for the day|
|The Union Command team, otherwise known as that famous boy band, "The Three Steves"|
|The first Union defenders are placed on table by Jack and Charlie, as Brooks' division sets up on the road to Scott's Ford|
Nathan and myself were commanding General Early's division attacking the Union left flank, and our plan was simple; drive the blue bellies from the field, capture and hold the road to Scott's Ford and let the the other chaps round up the prisoners. I like a simple plan, it makes it so much easier to explain it to the men.
|With General Howe's Union Division set up and a skirmish line pushed forward, General Gordon leads forward his Confederate brigade, two up one back with his guns in support|
These attributes allowed my General Gordon to pull off some nifty marches across the table resulting in some well timed charges but inevitably lead to my character taking a light flesh wound from some ill-directed Federal musketry. All the players had selected other such chits before play and added that little spicy piquant to our game during the day. A piquant that matched the Madras spicy peanuts that accompanied the early play.
|Red Butler and Scarlet O'hara look on from the Union line|
|General Gordon raises the "Rebel Yell" as his brigade advances into the battle|
|Howe's skirmish line prepares to confront Early's advance|
It was then revealed that Steve M, my Union opponent for the day had the option as his special attribute to make the occasional re-roll of firing and combat die rolls. In the end he decided to stick with the damage inflicted on my ranks and hastily summoned an ammo wagon to replenish his stocks. He was less fortunate later in the day when cancelling a well hit shot with another ammo busting ten die roll, re-rolled a two!!
|Grant's and Neil's Union brigades hold the front line as Early's Confederates start the advance|
|Brown and Barret's brigades line up astride the main road to Scott's Ford|
|Grant's brigade look on as Gordon's rebs move up to the first fence line - steady lads!|
|Howe's cavalry are held in reserve ready to plug any gaps, and snatch the odd pig given any opportunity|
|The other Union line is Newton's Division held by the men of Saler, Browne's and Wheaton's brigades|
|My word, now that is a big gun!|
|The forward elements of Brown's and Barret's brigades, supported by Brook's divisional cavalry and brigade artillery|
|The wagon behind Newton's line is the ammunition wagon, not just for show but often needed to replenish units that fired off their last shots in desperate attempts to stop the attacks.|
|The rear area of the Union lines consisted of reserves and units preparing to leave|
|Newton's Division en mass with the divisional cavalry nearest to camera|
|The view south towards General Brooks line, with Newton's reserves closest to camera|
|As Gordon's brigade advances on the right General Early masses his guns and sends in his third (Hays') brigade, as the Union skirmish line is driven in|
Two regiments slammed into the Union open order line using cold steel to add emphasis to the attack. Amazingly the Federal troops won the first contact and my men recoiled three inches in surprise.
|The front units of Gordon's brigade suffer the first casualties from the Union lines, as the Confederate guns help drive off the Federal skirmish line|
|Grant's brigade hold their ground as the first units of Gordon's brigade contact their skirmish line and close with the bayonet.|
Hoke's brigade can be seen following up top left.
|The bayonet fight as Gordon's men close on the Union open order line using "cold steel"|
|Anderson deploys en mass as he moves on Brooks' Union line|
|The view of the Union line as Anderson gives the order for Wilcocks' brigade to advance|
|General Early, closest to camera oversees his left as Hays' brigade closes with the Union line supported by the divisional cavalry. Scarlet O'hara watches in amazement and Red turns away proclaiming that frankly he doesn't give a damn!|
|The remnants of two regiments in Gordon's brigade keep up a ragged fusillade as Hoke's brigade move up to maintain the momentum and drive in on Grant's Union troops holding the fence line ahead|
|An overview of the battle as the pressure builds on the Union left, top left whilst the other two lines top right and nearest camera have not yet come to grips.|
|Overview of Early's attack as Hay's brigade can be seen pressing hard top left and with Hoke's men, nearest camera about to hit the fence line to their front.|
|Hoke's brigade accompanied by Gordon's reserve regiment sweep the Union guns off the fence line as other units in the brigade hit the forward skirmish line as it attempts to close on the fence ahead.|
|The Reb attack looks irresistible especially with a bit of atmospheric gun smoke provided by Nick "vaping" over the figures as the camera timer clicked. No effort spared to entertain at the DWG|
The decision was taken to draw the Confederate attack closer together to enable better support to both wings and thus a rather unique event occurred that in all my years of wargaming and playing the odd ACW game I can't remember seeing, namely a successful charge in the saddle by cavalry.
|Meanwhile Anderson's Division push in the forward elements of Brook's Division|
|With Union resistance collapsing in front of Early's division, the cavalry move forward looking to exploit any gaps and opening up with pistol and shotguns on a nearby Federal gun battery.|
|Mr Steve can be seen performing some sort of shuffling movement, not strictly covered in the rules, as the first Confederate attacks hit his Union troops on and around the fence nearest to camera.|
|Anderson's Confederates close on the Southern Union line as the pressure starts to build|
|As Hoke's Brigade clear the fence of Union troops(centre right) that tape measure being used by Steve M. indicates him working out if he can get Grant's remaining regiments out of the way|
At the same time Early's divisional cavalry slammed into their dismounted enemy who were broken and swept from the position. In the subsequent breakthrough charge, they then slammed into the flank of the Union infantry behind sweeping them away also.
As if to rub salt in the wound, the Union troops in reserve attempted to fire on the victorious Confederate masses on the edge of the tree line but due to another well timed special attribute were persuaded not to when the Confederate commander revealed himself as the gentleman who had saved the Union brigade commander from a very embarrassing incident during their time at West Point.
|Now here is something you don't see often in American Civil War games - a successful mounted cavalry charge|
|A hard battle as the Union division under Newton puts up stiff resistance to the advance of McLaws division|
|The rear area of the Union position as the battle grows in intensity. Civilians gather all their prized possessions, like the odd cannon on their roofs? Well it is the former colonies! Only joking, it is Xmas|
|Brooks' Union troops fall back behind the stream as Anderson's advance becomes irresistible|
|Confederate cavalry victorious in routing two Union regiments are cheered on by Gordon's regiment as the Union line drops back.|
|The club line up; Front seated left to right Ian, Chas, Steve L,|
Centre standing JJ, Jack, Charlie, Nathan, Steve H and Mr Steve. Back standing Steve M and Andy
Highlight of the day was surprisingly not the Confederate cavalry charge, but the discovery that Mr Steve does bake exceedingly good cakes as he turned up with a prize winning coffee sponge that went down very well with a mug of tea in the afternoon.
So that is it for another year at the Devon Wargames Group. We all wish everyone a very happy Xmas and lets pray, a more peaceful New Year and we will be back in January with a play-test game of Dr Phil Hendry's Ancient rule set "Augustus to Aurelian", "Chain of Command", Battle of Mirbat 19th July 1972 and "Black Powder" AWI.