Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On to Nashville!

Looking into some of the deep dark recesses of my other computer's file system, I came across a program I wrote. This program was the "after action" material for an American Civil War campaign that was played by six members of our club. The program is pretty cool, I wrote it in mid-2002 in Visual Basic 6 (yuck) and was given to all of the campaign players on CD's. That way, the guys could look back on the fun times we had!

Well, my CD has been long gone, but I found the compiled program on my machine and ran it. Yep, memories of fun times with the gang. In fact, I am glad to have found it as I don't get to game with some of these guys too much anymore. One has dropped out of the hobby mostly, focusing more on work and family, one has recently moved to Virginia and another - although very active in the hobby - has shifted the majority of his gaming to a different club.

About the Campaign
“On to Nashville!” is the name of the campaign, played it in the summer of 2002. The concept of the campaign was that Matt Grippin and I would set ourselves up as the campaign moderators and place 4 players all on the same team and guide them through scenarios. We used Johnny Reb III and 15MM miniatures.
The CD Cover
By doing this we could have total “fog of war” for the players during the tabletop battles (we played the opposition troops, the Yankees) and avoid some of the typical campaign pitfalls like orders, map movements, grossly uneven battles, etc. In addition, we could link the scenarios and offer the players “command decisions” to make between scenarios that would affect things in the campaign. Also, we shaped the scenarios to challenge the players to different conditions. Defense, coordinated attack, attack on prepared works, etc. Of course, losses in one scenario were never recovered in full before the next – so the players had to fight like casualties mattered.

The only thing was how do we get the players to compete with each other? So, we decided that the players would compete for victory points earned by actions, elan, style and successes on the battlefield. So we concocted the following conditions for the campaign:

“The setting for the campaign is Central Tennessee in the fall of 1862 (September and October). The players are brigade commanders in Connell's Division, Polk's Corps of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. The campaign is not historical, except for Nashville, the place names are fictional, as is the strategic situation in the theatre.”

“General Connell is a fictional character. He is Major General Rupert Connell, a popular preacher with no military experience. His appointment to the command was purely political, owing to his Tennessee popularity and his close friendship with the governor. His style of leadership is decidedly hands-off, preferring to allow his staff to handle the details. He is generally looked upon as an incompetent glory hog, as he as recently claimed successes that were not of his works. While his lack of involvement is good in that it allows the professionals to act, it is also bad in that often the brigade generals lack a clear direction, and squabble amongst themselves as to what the plan of action should be.”

“Given successful scenario outcomes by the players, the Confederate Army will advance upon and attack and capture Nashville with the hopes of causing Kentucky to enter the war on the side of the Confederacy. Beginning with the attack upon the hamlet of Carnack Springs, the players will begin their movements towards Nashville.”

Organizational Chart

The Generals
The players were asked to write biographies for their fictional counterparts – in fact all 4 players and the 2 referees were all actively engaged in writing fictional “letters home”, orders, reports, etc. throughout the campaign. This provided all of us with a wealth of flavor as well as lots of material for the CD to be made afterwards.

The Generals
Above is a portrait of the 4 player-generals taken at the first battle game. The back rank, from the left is Todd Pressley as “Brigadier-General Patrick Augustus Pressley” and Dave Minor as “Brigadier-General James A. Minor”. The front rank, from the left is Binhan Lin as “Brigadier-General Buford Algernon Lynn” and Jeff Lambert as “Brigadier-General Jefferson Lee Lambert”. If you don’t know them, these are four great guys to call friends and play games with (same for the unseen co-referee, Matt Grippin).

I’ll post more about the campaign’s actions and outcome. And, I think I shall, as time goes on, post the fictional biographies that were created by these gentlemen. Spectacular stuff! At least one of these fine generals would be wounded during the campaign, and two of them would mortally fall at Nashville.

Campaign Thoughts
As I think back on this campaign, I desire to do it again – maybe civil war, maybe something else. I like the format of the campaign where all players are on the same side. Sure, there is some work to be done for the organizers, but it is basically done before the campaign starts. Not much to do during the campaign.

Campaigns offer great context to our gaming, as we all already understand. This context can be enhanced by the creativity of the players by involving them in creating the persona of those they are modeling on the battlefield.

If you are lucky enough, the context-based gaming, in a period you enjoy, with gentlemen gamers, will reward your work with some of the most memorable games and times in the hobby. So, my thanks go to the 4 players and to my co-referee. As you can tell, I am still enjoying this, eight years on.


  1. I am pleased to see that our association in the Lost Cause lives on in your memory, and am glad to find that you are well and have come through the late troubles intact. I, myself, have found new prospects in the North, as I found the current conditions in my beloved home, over-run with carpet-baggers and scalawags, too painful to bear. My brothers-in-arms Generals Minor and Pressley have moved beyond our reach, but I am sure that General Lynn and myself would welcome the opportunity to reminisce over a cigar and a glass of whiskey. It is hard to believe that eight years have passed! Remember me to your charming wife, until we meet again for that whiskey.

    I am, sir, your former adversary and always faithful servant,
    Jefferson Lee Lambert, CSA, Retired.

  2. This campaign was a blast. It's hard to believe that we ran it eight years ago. Lifetimes ago, it seems. "On, To Nashville!" still remains the wargaming campaign to beat in my book. Cheers! ~Matt


    Tony, it was a great pleasure to play in this campaign and I would love to play one like this again.

    My CD is a treasured memory of this great campaign! I second your comment on format -- this is the best way to run a campaign game.

    I miss you guys, but this blog does help strink the distance somewhat. I think I had less gray hair in this photo.

  4. Jeff, I am ready for that whiskey, sir!

    Matt, your co-conspiring with me was most enjoyable!

    Todd, yep, you do have more gray hair now - as do we all! We miss you too!