Category Archives: After Action Report

Tazewell II: The Shellackening

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Me and the Scarlet J convened for our first miniatures game of the year on that blackest of weekends: Valentine’s Weekend (I kid. Sort of.).

We replayed the Battle of Tazewell, a small engagement in Tazewell, Tennessee during 1862. I’ve described the particulars of this excellent small (and, more importantly, quick) Potomac Publications scenario in an earlier post. Go read it, if you’re interested.

In the meantime, here are some captioned pictures for your enjoyment.

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State of play at the beginning of the battle: A lone Union regiment, watched over by a section of Parrot guns, is deployed in extended line just in front of a woods line. Two Confederate regiments are just out of musket range.

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View toward the initial Union deployment.

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Union reinforcements begin to file in by road column. In the distance, Brigadier de Courcy watches over his men.

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Starting off with a bang (or a shout and sound of bayonets being fixed). I take advantage of my early advantage in numbers and charge the single Yank regiment in position to fight. The two Georgia regiments push the bluebellies back into the woods for the moment.

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Elements of Rain’s brigade push into the woods, only to be met with fierce Yankee resistance.

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Rebels massing for the charge.

 

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Defending agains oncoming Yankees. For once my artillery gets the best of the Bluebellies, and managed to damage all three sections of the northerner battery.

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Lots of shooting, as the Yank battery retreats to safety. Notice the disordered Greycoat regiment at the bottom of the screen-they’ve taken 70% casualties, but have somehow managed not to flee the battlefield.

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The Yankee brigade charges en masse from the woods, making contact all along the line.

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The charges do not go well for yours truly. TSJ managed to roll no less than three (3!!!) 10s in a row, while I rolled a 1, 2, and 3. Dismal! That Tennessee regiment toward the top has been flanked, and is in serious trouble.

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For some reason it always lifts my spirits to damage Zouaves.

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The remnants of my line.

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TSJ having to remove casualties. A rare sight, this game!

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The lone bright spot at end game for the Confederate forces. Brig. Rains and a North Carolina regiment capture a wooded hilltop, but wonder where the rest of the brigade has melted off to!

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My brigade essentially ran away after the big Union charge. Here we see the humiliating disparity in casualties!

Obviously this was a major Union victory, and illustrates what a disaster a streak of bad luck can be when receiving a mass charge from the enemy! Despite being bled white by The Scarlet J, I had a good time. This is a challenging, fun, and quick scenario, which is an excellent combination!

 

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Recruits: There and Back Again

My second Recruits convention in Lee’s Summit is in the books. I had a great time, though next year I’m going to make some changes so that I get to play more than two games!

I saw some old friends and acquaintances, made some new ones, AND all my games were victorious. Difficult to beat that combination. On the downside, I spent waaaay too much money, but we’ll just ignore that part.

I apologize for these photographs-they were all taken on my phone, because I was stupid and forgot my camera at the hotel. Also, I did a poor job as a correspondent, and pretty much only photographed games I was involved in.

Recruits at 8:30 AM

Recruits at 8:30 AM

7-Years War Flats

7-Years War Flats

Beautiful flats

Beautiful flats

Undead mammoths! (Dragon Rampant/Lion Rampant)

Undead mammoths! (Dragon Rampant/Lion Rampant)

Fierce Woodland Indians

Fierce Woodland Indians

Fierce Puritans

Fierce Puritans

Made it to the woods-line.

Made it to the woods-line.

Fantastic terrain.

Beautiful terrain.

Excellent terrain.

Teddy bear fur and sticks.

Brigadier Patterson. A FANTASTIC leader of men.

Played a game of Regimental Fire and Fury, based on a portion of Williamsburg. I sat down behind this guy: Brigadier Patterson. A FANTASTIC leader of men. That’s sarcasm. He was rated poor, and with the exception of one trained unit, all his regiments were green. Conservative defensive play saw us through, though, and Patterson’s boys managed to inflict double the casualties (7 to 3) on the Sesh scum.

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Patterson’s brigade covers the right flank of the battle. Fortunately there’s a nice swamp to anchor against.

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Williamsburg

Williamsburg

Soon-to-be-repulsed Rebs charge one of Patterson’s regiments.

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Action in the center

Williamsburg

Here they come again, boys!

The Best After Action Reports, Ever

Every now and then you run across something on this here great world wide web that is so good, you just have to share. I’m using free WordPress, so I can’t embed videos, but the links I’m going to put below are, I promise, well worth following.

The first two videos are 6mm American Civil War game after action reports played using the Altar of Freedom grand tactical set of rules. They are extremely well done (for gamer videos), the action is easy to follow, and the games are gorgeous.

The third video covers the gaming club’s purchase/lease of a piece of commercial property, which they then remodeled into an absolutely fantastic gaming club room. You will drool. You will be jealous.

Enjoy!

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Gettysburg      https://youtu.be/fzsqyGNC6gk

Second Manassas     https://youtu.be/2QCRVBf71E4

Ultimate Man Cave     https://youtu.be/vc_uGY1lFzA

YANKEE INVADER REPELLED! A GLORIOUS VICTORY!!

INTRODUCTION

Ahem. I apologize for the hyperbolic post title, but I haven’t had an ACW victory in months and months, so I have to vigorously exercise my bragging rights when the opportunity arises! In fact, I think The Scarlet J has beaten me (soundly) a half dozen times in a row, before this most recent outing. In any case, on to the battle report….

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AFTER ACTION REPORT

This battle was to be yet another meeting engagement, played using Regimental Fire and Fury; however, there were a few key differences between this game and our usual set-up.

We used random terrain placement, which consisted of strips of paper with types of terrain on them pulled from a hat and laid down on a grid. At that point, terrain was applied to the board as directed by the papers.

Somewhere in Mississippi... The terrain was laid out randomly, using slips of paper pulled from a hat (the Frank the Arkie Method (tm)).

Somewhere in Mississippi…The Yanks over on the right are there temporarily, while TSJ organizes his brigades.

I would NEVER have set up a battlefield with all the terrain in the center of the board. I mean, who would choose to give battle in such a place? Having to deal with whatever came out of the hat was an interesting challenge, and would provide unusual opportunities, as well.

We then rolled a die each, and whomever (or is that whoever) rolled highest had to make a choice: pick your side of the table, or choose who moves first. The Scarlet J won the roll, and chose his side (hereafter called the north side of the table). I chose to make the Yankees deploy first. This would let me see their starting disposition before committing my own forces.

The other significant change was in the order of battle. For these fictional scenarios, we typically put out six ten stand regiments each, with cavalry and a couple of batteries. This time, I wanted to spin things a little differently-we went with 60 stands of infantry, arranged however you like. TSJ stuck with the large 10 stand regiments, but I broke mine down into a mixture of sizes, and ended up with a total of eight regiments. These eight regiments consisted of two ten stand regiments, two eights, and four sixes, all in two brigades. The smaller regiments would be brittle, quickly going from fresh to worn to spent (these three states have significant effects on maneuvering in Regimental Fire and Fury), but I thought having more maneuver elements might prove to be an advantage.

Confederate forces take the battlefield. My right-hand force faces light resistance (two regiments, one of which is cavalry, and a battery)

Confederate forces take the battlefield. My right-hand force faces light resistance (two regiments, one of which is cavalry, and a battery). They’ll attempt to brush this resistance aside, and roll up the Yankee flank. Nothing but 6 stand regiments on this side of the field!

The blocking force is screened by a hill, for now. They'll be fighting for their lives once the Yankees come 'round the mountain.

The blocking force is screened by the central hill, for now. They’ll be fighting for their lives once the Yankees come ’round the mountain. My larger, more resilient regiments are on this wing.

Blocking force sits, while thing heat up on the center and right flank. I really should have dismounted my cavalry, at this point. Later, they'd pay for my dereliction.

Blocking force sits, while thing heat up on the center and right flank. I really should have dismounted my cavalry, at this point. Later, they’d pay for my dereliction. My largest regiment holds the center, and occupies the north end of the wheat field.

A warm action...Weight of fire begins to tell on the Yanks, though I'm taking some casualties, as well.

A warm action…Weight of fire begins to tell on the Yanks, though I’m taking some casualties, as well.  My artillery is considering advancing into the corn field, to take the advancing Yanks on my left under enfilade fire. Note that I’m deployed in depth (well, sort of)? Unheard of!

Thinning them out, before the big push.

Thinning them out, before the big push.

Yanks advance on my left.

The fight in the center.

Over on my right, it's looking mighty thin for Billy Yank.

Over on my right, it’s looking mighty thin for Billy Yank. The cavalry has pulled back (I think they were out of command, and rolled poorly on a rally check.) Time to charge!

At last, the northerners crest the screening hill on my left. Bloodshed ensues.

At last, the northerners crest the screening hill on my left. Bloodshed ensues. Screaming horses!

Fighting all along the line. My poor cavalry is still mounted, and now is within range of a couple of full strength Yank regiments.

Fighting all along the line. My poor cavalry is still mounted, and now is within range of a couple of full strength Yank regiments.

My assault force rushes forward, and pushes the Yankee Zouaves back. Not pictured, tissues for drying TSJs tears.

My assault force rushes forward, and pushes the Yankee Zouaves back. Not pictured, tissues for drying TSJs tears.

Victorioius charge. The Zouaves would route off the table at the next rally phase.

Victorioius charge. The Zouaves would route off the table at the next rally phase.

The main battle line has shifted nearly 45 degrees.

The main battle line has shifted nearly 45 degrees.

The Yanks are doing well on my left, and have pushed me back a considerable distance. You could even say they’re threatening my lines of communication (represented by a supply wagon). Still, I have decent forces there for defense, which are in good order.

Shot from the observation balloon.

Shot from the observation balloon. Opportunities abound for Johnny Reb.

State of the game, at end of play

State of the game, at end of play. I had pulled back on my left to get a little distance from the Yank onslaught. On the right, I moved a couple of shot-up regiments to deal with the Yankee cavalry (waaaay up there on the right). I was a little concerned that, unattended, they might mount up and make a run on my artillery.

The Scarlet J called the game after four or five turns. I had eliminated one of his regiments, had greatly reduced his cavalry, and was about to take his batteries on the northern hill, or at least drive them away. This would have uncovered TSJ’s supply wagon, and I most likely could have captured it.

Major Confederate victory!!!

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DEBRIEFING

I think having the additional infantry maneuver elements DID help me. At one point I was able to drive a wedge between a couple of Yank regiments, and push one of my small units up to get enfilading fire on a flank exposed by aforementioned wedge driving. This simply wouldn’t have been possible with larger regiments. Plus, I was able to deploy in depth, and could pull (or push) regiments from the second line up into the front to plug holes, or just use them as support in charges. It was very nice to have that flexibility, and made the game much more interesting tactically.

The terrain really worked to my advantage. Having that screening hill in the center of the battlefield gave me a couple of turns to prosecute my attack plan on the right, without having to worry about what The Scarlet J was going to do to me on my left. Once he DID move to contact on the left flank, I knew I’d be able to hold at least a couple of turns. Having initiative, and choosing to let the Yanks go first helped me out with this, too.

If TSJ made a mistake, I think it was in leaving his Zouaves and Cavalry out-of-command the entire game. Those units were in trouble from the start, and it can be difficult to make rally checks, when there’s no commander there to offer support.

Here’s the real reason I won, though: Luck. I started off very hot on the dice, and made at least a dozen good rolls right at the beginning, while TSJ struggled along with a bunch of ones, twos, and threes. AS I KNOW FROM LONG SUFFERING EXPERIENCE it can be very difficult to overcome a streak of luck.

Have Game, Will Travel

An embarrassing number of weeks ago (embarrassing, because I’m just now getting a post up about it), Frank the Arkie (no relation) invited me to play an ACW game with his crew down in Little Rock. Frank supplied all figures, and terrain, and we played using a set of Neil Thomas rules. I believe they were the ACW section from “Wargaming: an Introduction,” along with a few choice house rules.

I arrived a bit early, and we ate delicious pizza and set up the game. Frank has developed an ingenious method of populating the table with random terrain. He divides the table up into sectors (8, if I recall correctly), and develops an equal number of slips of paper. Each slip of paper has a type of terrain (open, rough, woods, water, etc) written on it. The slips of paper are shuffled and placed face down on the table in the appropriate sector. Flip the labels over, and “voila,” random terrain! I dig it.

Frank being Frank, the forces were, shall we say, unique. I ended up commanding a brigade whose general was actually a commodore, and the two regiments were made up of sailors and marines. I had a third regiment from Ohio, and a battery of rifles. I’ve forgotten the Commodore’s name, but maybe Frank will fill us in in the comments. My ally (Rhett. I hope his name wasn’t Brett, and I was just calling him Rhett the whole time) had four regiments and a battery. One of his regiments was the Corps d’Afrique, which has a really interesting history.

Frank and Jeff took the part of the Confederacy. I had made the choice to be the Federals (for a change), so Frank and Jeff got to choose table sides. They settled on the side with all the juicy terrain. Each force had an objective in their area to defend. A cornfield in the center of the table served as the third objective, and became the focus of the fight (especially as time began to run low).

Confederates in the good terrain...

Dastardly Confederates in the good terrain…

The valiant boys in blue form up.

The valiant boys in blue form up.

Rhett had the bulk of our forces, and it turned out that I would be facing the greatest mass of the Confederate army. Interestingly, the Confederate generals decided to mass their artillery on their right. It proved to be effective (as massed artillery often is).

The STEEL JAWS of the Union aquatic forces.

The STEEL JAWS of the Union aquatic forces.

This may be nearly impossible for regular readers of this blog to believe, but I decided to sit tight and defend! Yes, you read it here, first. Arkiegamer defends. General Jeff attacked in depth, and hot fire from my marines and sailors saw him off again and again. The Confederates would try to rally up after taking losses, but this caused a traffic jam that held up the fresh full strength regiments in reserve and allowed my fellows to fight at 1:1 odds, instead of 1:2. This caused the Commodore to cleverly quip “Looks like a dollar waiting on a dime, to me!” Redneck saying aside, I was impressed to see how strong defense when attackers approached across an open field. It felt right!

Eat lead, Sesh!!

Eat lead, Sesh!!

Confederate forces maneuvering, trying to bring their strength to bear.

Confederate forces maneuvering, trying to bring their overwhelming strength to bear.

The Commodore leads from the front! Frank never believes me when I say this, but I really like these block painted figures. Especially the Confederates (which I didn't get a close up of).

The Commodore leads from the front! Frank never believes me when I say this, but I really like these block painted figures. Especially the Confederates (no close-up, I’m afraid). My sailors, who don’t even belong on land, have finally lost a base in the process of killing hundreds of elite Confederates.

Hey, Sailor

Hey, Sailor

In the picture above, you can see my marines waaaaay off in the distance. Dusk was falling (we were nearing the turn limit), and Rhett needed help against Frank’s Confederates, who had taken up position on the south end of the cornfield objective behind a rail fence. My fellow Union general suffered some of the same problems that my opponent faced: attacking with no cover while facing largely static troops. Additionally, Rhett had to deal with a tricky bit of terrain (a pond), and a massed battery. He was never able to bring the weight of his force to bear. Frank’s tactical acumen might have had something to do with it, but let’s be sure not to give him too much credit!

Over on the Union Left

Over on the Union Left

This was the state of the game at the end of play. This shot is on the Union left, where Rhett had four regiments. You can see he’s pushed Frank’s Confederates back all the way to the Farmhouse objective, but energetic fire from the Confederate regiment at the cornfield in the center has forced the Union regiments in that area back away from the objective (and really cut up the Corps d’Afrique, as well).

Yes, we finished the game, with time to spare. It was a Confederate victory, as they held on to the objective in their rear, and also held the cornfield at end-of-game.

The Neil Thomas rules are far less detailed than my usual rules set, Regimental Fire and Fury, but I have to say, I felt more like a general during this game, than any other I’ve played. Not having to worry about a billion different fire factors, formations, different rates of travel, and such, really lets you concentrate on the matter at hand. Playing a low overhead game like this was really refreshing (and fun). And the company was great, too!

Arise, Arise!

It lives!

Sorry for the long delay in posts-it’s been a busy couple of months, and my interest in wargaming and military history has been at a low ebb. Never fear, it will come around again!

I did manage to get a game of Regimental Fire and Fury in this weekend. The Scarlet J and I put on a ‘big’ game for our friend Ron, who has retired, and is moving on to greener, much swampier, pastures in Florida. TSJ and Ron teamed up as the Yanks, and soundly thrashed me (the usual result, as of late). I won’t go into a lengthy AAR, but here are some photos of the game.

 

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The field of battle. It’s a meeting engagement, with both forces starting anywhere on their edge of the table. We’re looking at the board from the Confederate side.

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The majority of my strength was on my right flank. Four infantry regiments, a mixed battery of Napoleons and heavy rifles, and a cavalry regiment.

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On the left flank, I trusted to my brave Danish Texans, who were to take up a position behind a snake rail fence along a creek, and hold at all costs.

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You can tell how long it’s been since we’ve played a game, by the pleats in the mat! There’s no way things are going to go well for me on this flank, with that stone wall for the Yanks to form up behind. Ron was commanding this wing of the Union forces, 

 

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Stone walls, be damned! Moving up for the assault.

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The big clash. Moments later, my cavalry leaps over the stone wall, and drives off a Union regiment. They didn’t do well enough to crash through and run amok, though, and had to recall. As usual with my rare successful cavalry charges, I totally neglected to photograph it. Ugh.

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TSJ moves into range over on my left.

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Danish Texans have nerves of steel, and aren’t half bad marksmen, either.

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My assault on the right falls apart. I had attached my brigadier to my cavalry unit for the big charge. Unfortunately, when you attach a leader, it reduces their command radius, and without the steadying hand of their general, the boys in grey high tailed it for safer ground. I’ve dismounted my cavalry to delay the Yanks that are sure to come over the wall, but they don’t have sufficient frontage to be much of an impediment to the enemy.

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This is Ron. He’s holding my battery that he took by infantry assault. Happy Ron. Sad Tim. 

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This is the regiment that took my battery. They’re in deep trouble, but it’s getting late, and it’s fairly obvious that the Rebs have lost another one.

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The one bright spot is that TSJ’s brigade on the left never crossed the little creek.

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End of game. My opponents declared it a minor Union victory, but it felt pretty major, to me! 

Ok, there’s the game report. Much fun was had by all-especially the enemy. Congratulations to The Scarlet J and Ron!

In other news, I might have just bought a couple of boxes of the Perry plastic War of the Roses figures and a copy of Lion Rampant. I’ve also been watching the Game of Thrones series. Lannisters vs. Starks? We will see.

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.

Der Kaput!

The Scarlet J and I had our second game of Jim Day’s Panzer this afternoon. As you may guess from the bad German of the post title, it was a resounding allied victory. I talked enough trash on poor old TSJ at the actual game, so I’ll be a little decorous here, and not rub it in. At least not too much.

 

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I pursued a ‘hammer and anvil’ strategy. This is the anvil.3 Daimlers, 3 Grants, and two platoons of Shermans move down a desert track in column.

 

This game is the debut of the new desert mat I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. It looks ok-still needs some work. Overall it’s a bit too dark and brown. It’s a little tricky getting the right amount of grit in the caulk mixture, when you’re intending to use the mat for 1/285 gaming. Kitty litter is enormous at that scale, but playground sand is a little too fine to get excellent texture out of. I may add some grass tufts, although that might prove difficult at this scale, too. The new mat is 6’x9,’ and took around 13 tubes of acrylic caulk to coat! The tarp I used as a backing material was around $7, and the caulk was around $50. Add in miscellaneous supplies and paint, and you’re looking at around $75 to do a similar mat. Of course, the cost goes up if you’re doing something that will require flocking.

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The hammer, light, agile, but hard hitting. Crusaders advance over a hill on the left flank. Erwin’s not-as-bright brother, Elwin, looks on.

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More Crusaders, because they’re fun to look at.

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The Scarlet J’s column of panzers. These roads need work. In fact, I may just start using some sort of fine model railroad grit for roads. I don’t think the caulk roads are ever going to look decent at this scale.

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More of the allied column. The Daimlers are pulling away in the distance, trusting to their speed and agility to keep them safe. Or safe-ish.

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The panzers deploy from the road, but the plucky (they’re always plucky, right?) Brits draw first blood.

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But the Germans return the favor, with interest. Quickly knocking out a Crusader and a Grant.

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Said knocked out Grant. But here comes trouble for the Germans.

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These are the sort of angles you want. Crusaders preparing to take some side shots into the mass of German tanks.

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Another view.

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This little wheel measures the shot angle, and is placed on the target tank. The blue shaded areas are side shots, obviously. The Sherman is a pretty tough tank in 1942. The Germans had a very tough time penetrating her armor, particularly with any sort of oblique shot.

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Things go very badly for the Germans, as the Shermans get into the action. Ironically, TSJ won the initiative at the critical moment, but at least a half-dozen hits on the Shermans pinged off into the distance, instead of causing damage.

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More Crusaders, keeping watch and taking the occasional falling shot onto weak German top hull armor.

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Even more damage is done to the Germans.

This game turned into a disaster for The Scarlet J. The Brits got position on him, and his Mk IIIs just couldn’t deal with the Shermans’ heavy armor. His long-barreled PZIVs were quickly knocked out by the concentrated fire of my Crusaders and Shermans. Without their hard hitting canons he didn’t stand much of a chance. Final score was two knocked out British tanks, and one disabled vs….um….all but three of the German tanks. Great fun for me!

TSJ and I haven’t played a game in quite some time. I’d like to develop a greater understanding of these rules, so we can begin to incorporate some of the more interesting elements, like force quality, morale, hidden movement, offboard artillery, AT guns, infantry, and, well, you get the idea. It’s all in there, and we will start adding the various sections of rules over time. I’ve also got a lot of work to do on terrain. I have the supplies for palm trees and some desert-appropriate buildings. I think we need to have a fight over an oasis, next, instead of these boring old crossroads!

Panzer Day

Boy meets Panzer…

I finally got to use some of that Microarmor I’ve been working on the past few weeks, as we had our first game of Jim Day’s Panzer this weekend. I will do a full review of the rules once we’ve played a few games, but my first impression is quite favorable. The game has lots of chrome, but moves along at a decent clip, and both players are fully involved at every step of the game (which is SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT, YOU MINIATURES RULES WRITERS. Seriously).

I’ve complained in previous blog posts about slow moving, overly detailed games, but I really don’t mind a detailed game, if I feel like I’m being rewarded for engaging with the detail. Well, I felt rewarded! We didn’t use all of the advanced rules, and didn’t have any infantry, indirect fire, towed guns, or air support (can’t wait to paint a couple of Hurricanes or P40s up in a desert scheme!), so I certainly haven’t gotten the full broadside of Panzer goodness, yet. In the state we were playing the game, I’d say it’s about 80% of the complexity of the basic infantry portion of Squad Leader. Which is a very sweet spot for me, as long as my caveat about detail being rewarded is applied.

As stated above, I’ll do a full review at a later date, but I feel like I should give a little background on the rules. Panzer was originally developed as a miniatures game, but was published in 1978 as a hex and counter board game set on the East Front, because the publishers (Yaquinto) weren’t complete idiots, and wanted to make a little money. 88 followed Panzer, and moved the action to the North African desert. These two games are made of unobtanium, and go for ridiculous money on Ebay. Fortunately The Scarlet J has a copy of Panzer, and has a good assortment of the useful bits and pieces of 88.

Fast forward to 2004, and Jim Day published a new version of Panzer, known as Panzer Miniatures. Which was, obviously, intended as a miniatures game. Panzer Miniatures was set on the East Front, and has a multitude of supplements. Two of the supplements cover various aspects of the campaigns on the Eastern Front, another two cover from Normandy to the end of the war from a UK/Commonwealth, and US perspective, respectively, and I think there’s even a supplement for ’39-’40.

Moving on to 2012, Panzer was published AGAIN, this time by GMT, in the form of a boardgame with their typical high quality components. This version of Panzer, following pattern, was set in the Eastern Front. There are several supplements out for the GMT version, which add additional detail for the Eastern Front, and late war on the Western Front. The base game is currently out of print, but is on GMTs P500 list for reprint. Notice that I didn’t mention the desert after talking about 88? That’s because the desert hasn’t been covered since! There are plans for a North African expansion for the GMT version. I kind of doubt it will ever happen for the miniatures game, but I’d love to be proved wrong. Panzer’s miniatures roots run quite strongly through all three versions, so conversion shouldn’t be all that difficult, but if you’re interested in giving Panzer a try, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to develop your project for the Eastern Front.

You can pick up the miniatures rules in PDF and Print-on-demand form from Wargames Vault.

Boy plays Panzer…

On to the game. I’ve been working on some desert terrain, and have twenty, or so, feet of roads done, but I haven’t made a desert mat, yet. I tried laying out the desert roads on my existing mat, but it just looked totally crazy and wrong. So…instead of being in the serious desert outside of El Alamein, we take you to some lovely not-so-desolate portion of Tunisia, where there are fragrant olive groves, and funny looking evergreens. And, for some reason, the locals have built their homes from stone and stucco, rather than mud brick. And they have pitched roofs. And it looks a lot like France in 1944. Ok. The terrain is completely wrong, but I wanted to give the game a shot, so I rolled with what I had. Note that I’ve hacked up my usual roads for ACW and Chain of Command to work with 1/285 scale. It’s ok, I never really liked those roads, anyway.

This battle is a meeting engagement at a crossroads (how many times have I typed that sentence over the past couple of years? Sheesh!), which is occupied by a sleepy village of olive tree farmers. Coming to disturb this idyllic scene are tons upon tons of fire breathing armor.

I fielded.

10 Sherman IIs
3 Crusader IIIs
3 Daimler Armo(u)red Cars (portrayed by Humber IIs)

The Scarlet J had

5 PzIIIs of some variety. Js, maybe?
5 PzIVf1s
5 PzIVf2s

The observant among you will note that the TSJ cleverly decided to bring 15 real tanks against 13 British tanks and a handful of armored cars, which have tin foil mantlets and paper hulls. No comment from me on this, though!

The terrain setup. I forgot to notate the 'scrub' area, which is indicated by the scattered clump foliage on the front slope of the level 1 hill at the upper left corner.

The terrain setup. I forgot to notate the ‘scrub’ area, which is indicated by the scattered clump foliage on the front slope of the level 1 hill at the upper left corner. The fields don’t cause any trouble for tanks. Obviously.

My current mat is roughly 6’x4′, and we ran this game long-ways, so that we’d have room to maneuver a little. When I make the desert mat, I will make it 6’x8′, because 4′ was too narrow for the amount of equipment we had on the table (about a company of armor each).

Shermans roll out...The red pennant is supposed to be the squadron commander. The yellow pendants indicate troop command tanks. I need to do some more research, but I don't believe that Panzer really deals with chain of command in detail.

Sherman IIs roll out…The red pennant is supposed to be the squadron commander. The yellow pendants indicate troop command tanks. I need to do some more research, but I don’t believe that Panzer really deals with chain of command in detail.

Panzer uses order markers to get units to move, fire, fire and move, go on overwatch, and so on. Limited command and control is modeled by the fact that you don’t have enough order markers for every unit in your force. For instance, I had 16 vehicles, but only 10 order markers. Tanks within 3″ of each other can share command markers, so this encourages the player to use formations. Recon units have tremendous initiative, and their orders do not count against the total number of orders. Which is pretty cool, I think!

The Scarlet J's assortment of panzers take advantage of road movement...

The Scarlet J’s assortment of panzers take advantage of road movement…My next game mat will NOT have all of these undulations and wrinkles. They’re infuriating, at this scale.

Moving to contact...

Moving to contact…

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The squadron command tank, plus one of the three Sherman troops takes up position on a hill on my right flank, while the rest of the squadron moves into position at the olive grove.

Perhaps I’ve been playing too many infantry games, because the very first thing I did was send 3/4 of my Shermans straight for the olive tree grove, and the cover contained therein. One troop actually moved into this grove, which slowed them way down. Moving through a grove/orchard/light woods costs double movement points. I also moved some Shermans up onto a hilltop, which wasn’t really all that great of a move…everything on the board, practically, can see you, and the MkIV tanks that are armed with the long 75mm gun can easily punch through a Sherman’s armor at long range.

Crusaders move to the crest of the level 2 hill, where they'll attempt to control the left flank with shots from their 6lbers.

Crusaders move to the crest of the level 2 hill, where they’ll attempt to control the left flank with shots from their 6lbers.

My Crusaders, however, had the advantage, at least in terms of guns, of the PzIIIs they were facing. So the hill strategy wasn’t such a bad idea, in that case.

Crusaders do some damage and get the first kill of the game. That's The Scarlet J placing a cotton ball to indicate a KOd tank. There are also brew-ups which cause a column of smoke, which can affect line-of-sight.

Crusaders do some damage and get the first kill of the game. That’s The Scarlet J placing a cotton ball to indicate a KOd tank. There are also brew-ups which cause a column of smoke, which can affect line-of-sight.

Which is proved by me getting the first kill! <does a little happy dance>

I advance my Daimlers (played by my Humber MkIIs) in the face of a bunch of PZIIIs and start to pay the price. Even moving at top speed, armored cars are quite vulnerable.

I advance my Daimlers (played by my Humber MkIIs) in the face of a bunch of PZIIIs and start to pay the price. Even moving at top speed, armored cars are quite vulnerable. I’ve had one armored car knocked out, and the other has take a track (wheel) hit, which immobilizes it.

Using armored cars in a responsible manner (responsible meaning in a manner which encourages their survival) is going to take some work on my part. I’m not really sure what to DO with them. They move fast, and have tremendous initiative advantages, which makes them really good for spotting enemy units, but tanks have a tough time killing anything at 24″, or more, in this game. ACs that are way out front aren’t going to survive contact with the enemy’s tanks. Maybe they’re more useful when you have off-board artillery, some serious AT guns, or other long range assets. Or maybe I’m just an idiot. The latter is the most likely answer.

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My last Daimler makes a suicide run to try and get a flanking shot on one of the German tanks. I don’t quite have the movement to get a REAL flanking shot, though. The Armored Car is immobilized by the PZIII, but seconds later manages to return the favor. If we had been using the morale rules, there’s no way this little guy would have thrown himself to the wolves. I admit, it was very unrealistic play. But, hey, first time out with a ‘new’ set of rules!

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The engagement is heating up. One troop of Shermans has advanced to the edge of the olive grove, only to be met by a platoon of PZIVfs. I’ve come off of the hill with my Shermans on the right flank, as those panzers way up there in the upper right corner of PZIVF2s, and they can really reach out and touch someone with their high velocity 75mm guns. Fortunately TSJ rolled really poorly for them the entire game. Poor Scarlet J.

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Knocked out tanks everywhere! The point blank fight in the olive grove is going badly for me, but in the meantime, my flock of Shermans there at the bottom of the orchard have killed three German tanks.

We ended up with some quite close range engagements, especially in the now-infamous Olive Grove. Ranges in the Grove were down around 150′. The Sherman vs. MKIVf2 fight was taking place at ranges of around 1500′, which is also quite close. Predictably, the casualties began to mount. I’m pretty sure gung-ho charging Shermans is NOT the best tactic for WWII armored combat, though it worked out ok, in this instance. I’ll work on it.

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Meanwhile over on the left, a PZIV takes advantage of road movement to try and come up on the flank of my hill-topping Crusaders. He puts a round through the compartment of one Crusader, damaging it, but then pays the ultimate price when two of the three Crusaders turn their attention his way. Not sure why The Scarlet J didn’t take advantage of the little village, and use it to screen his advancing tank and get into a 1 on 1 situation with a Crusader. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be so sloppy with my tactics. No. Never.

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Looking back into the olive grove from the German side. Those IVf2s are sitting on top of a hill, and taking falling shots at my Shermans. This increases the chance of getting a top of hull hit. Which is very bad for the shottee. Almost as bad as TSJs luck when firing with his IVf2s!

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State of the game at end of play looked something like this, minus my left flank. We had killed an equal number of each other’s vehicles. I lost 4 Shermans and 3 Daimler armored cars, and TSJ lost 7 panzers of various flavors. We called it a draw. We certainly could have finished this game, had it not been our first time playing the rules.

Boy likes Panzer…

So….yes to more Panzer. I had a great time playing the game, and am looking forward to more of it. I’ve got a lot of work to do on terrain. Goodness me.

Slaughter in Mississippi

'Ol Mattie Harris's farmhouse

The view from ‘ol Mattie Harris’s farmhouse midway through the battlefield. Her turnips never grew so good as in the years following this battle.

The Scarlet J and I put together a fictional meeting engagement game of Regimental Fire and Fury this past weekend. This battle was set in northern Mississippi, and was centered around a four-way road intersection. We fight a LOT over road intersections. Maybe we’ll expand out to railroad intersections some day?

We each had two brigades, one of four regiments and one of three, plus a couple of batteries of guns, and a regiment of cavalry. Two brigadiers and a divisional general were on the field for both armies.

We did add a couple of interesting twists to the setup. We divided up the road entries between the two forces, and prior to deployment of each brigade, the commander had to roll to see which road they were coming in on. Additionally, we had a scouting roll before the game happened, and the winner of the roll would get a free move with their cavalry. Since we were in rebel stomping grounds, the Confederate cavalry received a +1 bonus to their roll. Which I handily won, thank you very much!

Looking north as the first Confederate brigade begins to occupy the battlefield

Looking north as the first Confederate brigade begins to occupy the battlefield

I rolled for the entry point for my first brigade, and came in from the west, basically midway along the north-south axis of the battlefield. The other possibility was to enter from the southern road point. My cavalry got their free turn, and had an interesting conundrum. They could move very far to the east and seize a strong position on a wooded hill, but there was a possibility that the Union could come in from the eastern road behind the cavalry. It’s easy to imagine how that might have turned out. In the end, I decided the possible good outweighed the possible evil, and moved to take that hill.

Next we rolled for normal initiative, and I won that as well. I’m not used to winning dice rolls! Now I began the long process of moving my largest brigade onto the table.

Faaarwaaaad 'Arch!

Faaarwaaaad ‘Arch!

Moving one brigade onto the table takes some time, but when I rolled for the entry point for my second brigade, I got the same entry point. Now that brigade would be stacked up behind their larger brethren, and might not see the table until the third or fourth turn, and wouldn’t be fully deployed until after that! I could have been in really bad shape, depending on how the Yanks’ rolls went.

This was my lucky day, as the Yank brigades BOTH came in from the north. This meant they would be coming onto the table in the face of a partially deployed Confederate brigade which also held the better ground. The bluebellies decided to come on the table in line, and a couple of regiments advanced up a funnel caused by a small forest and some cornfields. This was a bad move.

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Sausage maker…

I managed to get two regiments in place (one of them behind a stone wall) before the first Union brigade began to shake out, and, since I could easily concentrate my fire against an opponent advancing in the open, I was able to cause four or five stands of Union casualties in short order. Which always feels good

The smarter portion of the Yanks...

The smarter portion of the Yanks…

Seeing the effect of the reb fire, the Yankee commander was smart enough to deploy the bulk of his remaining troops where they were screened by a wooded hilltop. In the center, Yank casualties continued to mount.

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Numbers always tell in Regimental Fire and Fury. Concentrated fire is deadly.

My cavalry maintained their position on the wooded hilltop, and took a little fire, but no real casualties. They were able to withdraw and re-mount, as a Reb infantry regiment moved up to take their place, after making the long march from west to east.

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The second Confederate brigade needs to get deployed. And quick!

Meanwhile, the Yanks moved up on the western side of the table, having used a wooded hill to screen their movement. My second brigade was just getting on the table, and only one regiment was in place to protect the batteries arrayed on the hill in that area.

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Swarms of Yanks. Foolish Zouaves attempt to charge across an open field in the face of a full strength rebel regiment supported by guns. Repulsed!

The Yanks moved quickly, hoping to take advantage of their numbers advantage in the west, and were even bold (read foolish) enough to charge across an open field at a gun-supported fresh regiment of Confederates. They were repulsed with heavy losses!

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Finding the flank…If I can turn it before that Yankee battery causes too much damage, I’ll be in good shape.

My large, first brigade, fully deployed, I began to push at the Yankee left, and as you can see above, was able to wheedle my way around his flank. My cavalry began to muster deep in the woods, looking for an opportunity to smash into the side of a Yank regiment (or maybe those juicy looking Parrott rifles).

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Warm work on the Union right. I’m taking a licking on this side of the road.

In the meantime, over on my left, the Yanks are shooting like devils. My famous Danish Texan brigade is facing the Yanks in that quarter, and they’re used to dishing OUT punishment, but they were to take more than they gave on this day.

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Final state of the battle: Yanks swarm over the hill, and my second brigade on the left is in real trouble, but the Yank left, to borrow a modern expression, is royally screwed, and is in the process of being rolled up.

I can’t BELIEVE I forgot to take photos of the glorious moment when my cavalry regiment charged out of the woods with the sound of a blood-curdling cry and thunderous hooves to take the Yankee rifle battery. Of course, the Yanks always have one eye towards the rear, and the mounted up and scurried off before my boys could get into shotgun range, but then the cavaliers continued on to strike a Union infantry regiment in the flank, and drove all before them with heavy losses.

It was getting late at this point, and The Scarlet J called the game. I had four of the five victory point locations (3 road entry points and the road intersection), and had done 22 stands of damage, compared to the Union’s 16 done to me. So, we called it a minor Confederate victory. I’d have liked to have played longer, to see if I could rescue my Danish Texans, but we simply didn’t have time.  This was an extremely bloody game. 22 stands is 880 casualties, which would have been over thirty percent of the Yankee infantry (and I wasn’t all that far behind). Great fun. Especially since I won.

Keys to the victory? Coming in so close to the Federals AND having the initiative. If the Union had had the initiative, I would have been in deep trouble. As it was, the Yanks faced a withering fire whenever they got within range. Getting in on the open Union flank was key, as well. TSJ was concentrating on his right, and that’s the only reason his left WAS in the air. I was committed with no reserves, which is always a risky thing, but it paid off in this case.

I think we were both hoping to split our brigades between our two entry points, but the fates didn’t allow it. Trying to get all those forces onto the table made for a fun, frustrating, nail biter of a game.