The Flower of the Confederacy is Wilted

It’s March 28th, and The Scarlet J and I have had our first Civil War battle of the year. Unbelievable!

General George "Scarlet J" McClellan

General George “Scarlet J” McClellan musters his forces. He’d better look out for that fellow in the back, or his thunder will be stolen!

At my friend Frank’s urging, I recently picked up a copy of Neil Thomas’s “One Hour Wargames” book. He said, “If nothing else you’ll like the scenarios,” and boy, was he right! There are no less than 30 scenarios in the back of the book, that cover almost any situation you could think of. Some of the scenarios are adaptations of historical battles, some are adapted from other wargaming publications (largely Charles Grant’s work), and some are completely Thomas’s inventions. These scenarios (obviously) aren’t designed for Regimental Fire and Fury, but it’s easy to adapt them to whatever rules set, of whatever period, you’d like.

In addition to the scenarios, there is a random force generator that sets up the opposing forces. You roll a d6 on a table for the number of units you’ll be commanding. Most of the scenarios have 6 units vs. 6 units, and those units might be infantry, cavalry, elite infantry, or artillery (actually it varies somewhat by period, but for our purposes those are the possibilities). You will always have primarily regular infantry, but you can get some interesting asymmetries from mismatches among the supporting forces. Here were the results of our rolls:

Confederate
4 regular infantry
1 elite infantry
1 cavalry

Union
4 regular infantry
1 elite infantry
1 battery of artillery

The idea is that you have to work with what you have at hand, rather than having perfectly balanced forces. In this particular case the Union has a significant advantage. Artillery is just more useful than cavalry on an ACW battlefield. I have to say, despite the disadvantage, I was tickled pink to be using forces that weren’t mirror images of each other.

We played Scenario 3: Control the River. This scenario was to last 15 turns (given our experiences with RF&F, and the table distances we’d be dealing with, we shortened it to 10 turns), and victory would be gained by seizing two fords that crossed an impassable river. Other key terrain features were some woods in the northeast quadrant of the board, and a large hill in the southwest quadrant. The “red” team would be going first (this turned out to be me), and would be entering the board from the north edge. The Union would enter from the south edge. The battle is meant to be seen as a part of a much larger action.

The battlefield. Take the fords, whatever the cost!! (at least that's what I heard my commander say)

The battlefield. Take the fords, whatever the cost!! (at least that’s what I heard my commander say)

My general plan was to take advantage of my cavalry’s superior speed, and move up to seize one of the fords, establishing a skirmish line on the far side of the bank. Meanwhile, I would install a regiment in the woods on my left flank to cover the other ford (we removed the bridge in the photo above, because it took up too much room).

I should say a bit about the new terrain techniques. I’ve taken a page from War Panda’s book, and started using colored sand (actually model railroad ballast, in the case of the road) to demarcate linear features. It’s super quick to lay out, completely flexible, and to clean up, all you do is suck it up with a hand-held vacuum, and return the contents to the appropriate container. I need to experiment with mixing the sand to get more realistic colors, but I’m liking this way more than my old latex roads.

The Confederates move first. Cavalry gallops in a cloud of dust to take the western ford.

The Confederates move first. Cavalry gallops in a cloud of dust to take the western ford before the approaching Union forces can form up.

So close...but is that the rattle of snare drums beyond the hill in front of us?

So close…but is that the rattle of snare drums beyond the hill in front of us?

Unfortunately, TSJ matched my concentration in the west, and it quickly became apparent that it would be suicide for my cavalry to attempt to seize that ford.

Bluecoats appear, and quickly march into range. Confederate cavalry wheels left, and advances along the river, headed for the eastern ford. The infantry reserve advances to take the western ford. It's never good to commit your reserve on turn 2.

Bluecoats appear, and quickly march into range. The Confederate cavalry wheels left, and advances along the river, headed for the eastern ford. The infantry reserve advances to take the western ford. It’s never good to commit your reserve on turn 2.

So I improvised. My cavalry wheeled left, and galloped along the river bank to try and do some good at the eastern ford, while I quickly committed my reserve who would attempt to punch through at the western ford. I’ll let the pictures take it from here.

Bravely (read foolishly) moving up in field column to capture the ford. Punishing fire is about to be delivered (and I've already taken significant casualties on this wing)

Bravely (read foolishly) moving up in field column to capture the ford. Punishing fire is about to be delivered (and I’ve already taken significant casualties on this wing)

General overview. It's a meat grinder, and I'm not the grinder. I'm going to try to get my cavalry across the ford, and have my way with TSJ's rear (that doesn't sound right, does it?)

General overview. It’s a meat grinder, and I’m not the grinder. I’m going to try to get my cavalry across the ford, and have my way with TSJ’s rear (that doesn’t sound right, does it?)

A lone union regiment marches by the flank to the east, blocking any rear-romping by my cavalry. On my right flank, casualties continue to mount. And damn that Union artillery!

A lone union regiment marches by the flank to the east, blocking any rear-romping by my cavalry. On my right flank, casualties continue to mount. And damn that Union artillery!

My impetuous cavalry splashes into the deep ford. It will take them two turns to get through, if they can manage it, at all.

My impetuous cavalry splashes into the deep ford. It will take them two turns to get through, if they can manage it, at all.

The Confederate high water mark, of this battle. My valiant brigadier attaches himself to the center regiment, and leads them up out of the river, to smash the Union in the mouth.

The Confederate high water mark. My valiant brigadier attaches himself to the center regiment, and leads them up out of the river, to smash the Union in the mouth.

But they smash back. Repulsed! Meanwhile, some of my regiments have shaken out into extended line to take advantage of the meager cover along the river bank (there's a -1 modifier for shooting infantry in that formation).

But they smash back with vigor. Repulsed! Meanwhile, some of my regiments have shaken out into extended line to take advantage of the meager cover along the river bank (there’s a -1 modifier for shooting infantry in that formation).

Miracle of miracles, I manage to drive off TSJ's blocking infantry regiment. The way is open for my cavalry!

Miracle of miracles, I manage to drive off TSJ’s blocking infantry regiment. The way is open for my cavalry!

This was an exciting moment in the game. I had managed to disorder TSJ’s blocking force at the eastern ford. They were out of command, and being out of command can be a precarious state in RF&F. While attempting to rally, TSJ rolled low, and his blockers were forced to retreat to long range (roughly 8″). There was an opening for my cavalry!

Casualty after casualty. Pretty much everyone is in extended line.

Casualty after casualty. Pretty much everyone is in extended line.

This river should be running red by now, rather than cerulean blue. Way off in the distance, you can see that blocking Union regiment giving my cavalry a fierce volley.

This river should be running red by now, rather than cerulean blue. Way off in the distance, you can see that blocking Union regiment giving my cavalry a fierce volley.

Unfortunately, that Union blocking regiment managed to disorder my cavalry, and I was unable to rally them up well enough to get out of the river and onto the Yankee shore. Ok. Back to the pictures.

Still a-fighting. Trying to work my way back up to defend the western ford.

Still a-fighting. Trying to work my way back up to defend the western ford.

Gee it looks empty over here...One of my regiments has disintegrated in the face of overwhelming Yank fire.

Gee it looks empty over here…One of my regiments has disintegrated in the face of overwhelming Yank fire.

My cavalry has been driven out of the ford, and was never able to cross. The remnant of the Confederate forces is decidedly on the defensive at this time.

My cavalry has been driven out of the ford, and was never able to cross. The remnant of the Confederate forces is decidedly on the defensive at this time.

All that's left to protect the right. What's McClellan waiting for?

All that’s left to protect the right. What’s McClellan waiting for?

My cavalry has dismounted to make a last-ditch stand on the north bank of the ford. It's not looking good.

My cavalry has dismounted to make a last-ditch stand on the north bank of the ford. It’s not looking good.

Why yes, there's only two stands left from my veteran infantry regiment. Chewed up.

Why yes, there’s only two stands left from my veteran infantry regiment. Chewed up.

The Union regiment on my left flank forms column and splashes into the ford on the very last turn. They take the objective. I have no doubt they would have kept it, had the game continued beyond turn 10.

The Union regiment on my left flank forms column and splashes into the ford on the very last turn. They take the objective. I have no doubt they would have kept it, had the game continued beyond turn 10.

TSJ miscalculates, and is unable to get any troops into the eastern ford. Somehow I think he could have overcame this problem with a couple more turns. (it's about 38 stands to 6 stands over here!)

TSJ miscalculates, and is unable to get any troops into the eastern ford. Somehow I think he could have overcame this problem with a couple more turns. (it’s about 38 stands to 6 stands over here!)

These rifles did murderous fire against my left.

These rifles did murderous fire against my left.

Along the river.

Along the river.

Final state of play. Somehow the Rebs still hold one of the fords.

Final state of play. Somehow the Rebs still hold one of the fords.

Those are my losses on top of the book. TSJs are scattered below. Embarrassing!

Those are my losses on top of the book. TSJs are scattered below. Embarrassing!

By the rules of the scenario, this battle would have been a draw – each force held one ford and the game was up (night fell, I suppose). However, one has only to look at the photo above to understand why we called it a Union victory. This is, by far, the worst shellacking I’ve ever taken playing Regimental Fire and Fury. It was also the most fun I’ve ever had when being whipped into oblivion. Honestly, I have no idea why TSJ didn’t make his move a couple or three turns earlier-he had me on the ropes at least half the game and could have finished me off with ease. That’s why he’s McClellan, this time around. I tease, but he did a great job.

The scenario was really challenging. I was foolish to be so aggressive in the situation presented, but there was a ton of drama and story inherent in trying to seize and hold these fords. I can’t wait to have another crack at it!

I’m excited to try more of these scenarios. If you find yourself mindlessly playing meeting engagement after meeting engagement by default, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Thomas’s book.

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Comments

  • Frank  On 03/28/2015 at 9:54 pm

    That looks like a great game – glad you like the scenarios! I need to get cracking on my Mexican-American War units so I can take a spin with these. What did you think about the OHW rules, otherwise?

    • arkiegamer  On 03/28/2015 at 10:01 pm

      Well, obviously they’re very simple, and I’d want a little more period chrome to each set, if they were going to be by main rules. That said, I’ll reserve judgement until I get a chance to play them. They may be the Command and Colors of the miniatures world, for all I know.

  • dave2718  On 03/29/2015 at 12:45 am

    The sand looks great but do you suffer from the risk of cyclones or similar when doors open?

    • arkiegamer  On 03/29/2015 at 6:57 am

      We joked about not playing in hurricanes! I’m sure a stiff breeze, of whatever source, would cause problems with the sand.

      • dave2718  On 03/30/2015 at 5:10 am

        Well I guess it is no worse than pets, small children or errant (beer) stubbies! And it does look good.

  • Tichy  On 04/03/2015 at 6:50 am

    One-Hour Wargames has interesting ideas for scenarios – I like the way they are laid to bare essentials, albeit anyone could say that all presented situations are familiar. I always thought that someone should do something like that – universal scenario book that could be adopted to any era, or any game system. I thought about that for Signal Close Action (adoptable to any other naval game) some time ago and perhaps I should renew the effort.

    • arkiegamer  On 04/03/2015 at 9:44 am

      I think a set of generic, asymmetric, scenarios for naval wargaming is a fine idea!

  • tinpotrevolutionary  On 04/11/2015 at 6:50 am

    Great looking game as ever Mr. Arkie! The sand road and river idea looks fantastic and really sits on the terrain mat very well.

    • arkiegamer  On 04/11/2015 at 7:00 am

      Hey hey hey! Good to hear from you Sir TPR. Glad you like the sand. I’ll be a bit happier with it when I get a river sand mix that’s a little less Octopus’s Garden and a little more I Want to Hold Your Hand. If that makes any sense.

      • tinpotrevolutionary  On 04/11/2015 at 7:07 am

        It has been a while, life and my broken computer have kept me away from blogging for a while. I’m sure you’ll get the right colour mix eventually, your terrain just gets better and better.

  • Rob  On 07/13/2015 at 7:54 am

    Just read this AAR and went ahead and purchased the Thomas book from Amazon, so thanks for the tip! While it’s en route, I do have one question…in terms of determining the experience level and number of bases in each regiment, how are you making that work with F&F rules? ie. Veteran, trained, spirited, crack, etc.

    I’m in the process of playtesting a set of random army creation rules for RF&F that I’ve designed to create random sides that are still competitive and I’m interested to see how Thomas’ rules handle the same challenge.

  • arkiegamer  On 07/13/2015 at 8:13 am

    Hi Rob, thanks for the comment, and I hope you enjoy the Thomas book!

    It’s been a minute, but I think we were using 10 stand regiments across the board. All troops were trained, with the exception of zouaves, which we rated as veteran, and, at least in the case of the confederates, weren’t zouaves, at all. We gave everyone rifled muskets.

    I think you could easily tack on some sub-tables to the Thomas scenario generation rules, and use them to handle the greater variety in morale, training, and weapon types that you find in Regimental Fire and Fury.

    Don’t expect the Thomas scenarios to be completely balanced. Some of them will give a game that will pose significantly greater challenges for one side than the other. Also, you’ll likely have to increase the table size in many cases, as regiments in RF&F cover ground more quickly than Thomas’s units do.

    I’d be very interested in seeing your army creation rules, and would be happy to playtest them, if you’d like some outside opinions.

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