This Friday was what we call a “Baker Night” – where the club meets at the Baker rec center from 7 to 12 for good times. Given that, early in the week, I decided to toss down an ACW game using Field of Battle Second Edition. Readers of this blog know I am quite taken with Black Powder – I must say, I think that I am right now equally taken with FoB2!
Playing on the Union side were Rick Stockton (the C-in-C), Doug Wildfong and Nate Forte. On the Confederate side were myself and Dan Gurule (the C-in-C).
The context of the game scenario was this: Late 1863 in Central Louisiana, a hastily assembled force of Confederate soldiers, including less-than-stellar units, are detailed to stop a Federal advance. Even though the troop quality may be lacking, the leadership structure of the Confederate force is quite good. The Yankee force was of good quality, veteran soldiers, but, with less-than-stellar leadership. The troops, command quality and decks were generated ahead of time using the FoB2 rules.
The Yankee army was also larger than that of the Southerners. There were 4 brigades of bluecoats and three batteries of artillery. Opposing them were 3 brigades of Johnny Rebs and 2 batteries of artillery. For simplicity, all infantry were armed with rifled muskets. This would perhaps not be truly accurate for the Western Theater, but we’re learning the rules. For the artillery, both sides employed smooth-bore guns.
In order to set the scenario and ensure a rather long exposure to the rules, I embarked on a little social engineering for the game.
- I gave both armies the maximum number of Army Morale Points for the number of units. So the Yankees had 20 and the Rebels had 14. I thought this was good because the yanks would be attacking. I gave the players their poker chips in cloth sacks. It was fun during the game to see the two C-in-C’s keep the chips a secret from the enemy!
- Of the generals generated, I selected a D8 quality for both C-in-C’s. My thought was to limit the “swing” between dice. I didn’t think I wanted a game – that new folks were learning in – to be rolling a D6 versus a D10 or anything like that. As it turns out, I should not have worried about this. This game played fine, but so would any values for the C-in-C’s. I have to remember that both sides get the points and the idea is to get through the cards. See, I am learning the game too!
- I decided that the Yankees could have a more forward deployment in any one zone. I did this to speed their attack and impress upon them that they were, in fact, attacking. They got to choose the zone.
So, then we got the deployments and the battle. At this point, I let the four players do some social engineering. Since they had no knowledge of the scenario, who’s attacking, size of the forces or even who is on what side, I let them set up the terrain on the battlefield as they wished.
This was really cool to see. I got the party started by laying down a roadway and some wooden fences along it. Then they all dove in and before long we had a cool field set up. It had some woods, roads, fields of corn and of wheat and plenty of wooden fences and stone walls. When Rick started setting up the terrain, the first thing he grabbed was water! So he placed a nice creek across the field!
Regarding the terrain, we called the creek and woods Class II. The wheatfields and the cornfields were Class I but the cornfields blocked LOS at 4” depth. The wooden fences were nothing at all, but we gave the stone walls Class II for combat effects. We employed no town sections and no hills in this battle.
At this point, the player’s decided what sides they’d fight on. I was expecting 2-on-2 with me as the referee – but – 3 players said “Union”. So, I was drafted to play on the Southern side. I happened to ask the Yankees who was going to be the C-in-C right as Rick was raising his arm – so the guys quickly jumped all over him as he had “volunteered”! Dan was appointed the Confederate C-in-C.
The Union was then asked to select the side of the table they would attack from and to select a zone for the forward deployment. They did so, and selected their far left flank as the advanced zone (they could have picked any). We took turns deploying the commands and away we went!
The battle was terrific. The yanks got off to a slow start but the rebels advanced a little to consolidate positions. Soon, the battle was joined and Army Morale Points began leaving the bags.
For the Yankees: Doug’s command got his flank attack working and soon owned that section of the field. Doug’s attack appeared to be the main effort as he was allocated 2 of the brigades. Nate advanced aggressively in the center and lost many men in so doing. He didn’t drive any Rebs out of their positions in the long term, but did bleed them and tie them down – which I suspect is all he intended to do anyway – to stop them from helping fight against Doug. Rick’s command, moved forward on the Union’s right flank. Even though the Rebs had some nice stone walls over there Rick managed to drive into them and had good success.
For the Rebs: I commanded 1 brigade and a battery and attempted to defend against Doug’s maneuver. I held him off for a while, but weight of numbers ruled. When the game ended I really didn’t have a flank. Part of my command got caught up against Nate as he drove through a cornfield. I was able to stop him cold – but those troops were needed against Doug. Dan’s command was busy fighting off Nate and Rick the whole evening. He was in a real dogfight too. At the end, his command was in better shape than mine!
So what interesting things happened during the battle? Several of note (of course the whole thing was interesting)!
- My command’s general (D10) was killed twice during the battle! This hampered by ability to defend against Doug.
- One of Doug’s commanders, not the lead command in the attack, was also killed. This prompted the Yanks to send the C-in-C over – so determined were they to keep the pressure up. But, we just could not get to him.
- There was one of my regiments and one of Nate’s regiments that had a real knock-down-drag-out melee. Over the course of several actions, we fought multiple melee where one side or the other won by 1 point and it took a little to build up to a UI loss. Then only 1 UI loss resulted (so tight were the die rolls) and the loser fell back – only to get involved again and again in subsequent actions. Finally I was able to destroy the Federal unit, but my unit was a wreck too at that point.
- Oh! Army Morale. The Rebels ran out first, but the Yankees only had one or two left at that point. The Rebs survived an Army Morale Test too. For a little bit there, both armies were out of Army Morale and losses gave points back to the other side – but this ebbed and flowed. At one moment the Rebs would have 1 or 2 then none and the Yankees may have 1 or 2. Weird and fun – the suspense about the next Army Morale card coming up was real.
In the end, neither army broke. We called it a game at 11PM after about 2 and a half hours of play – we spent time socializing and setting up and deploying and teaching rules before we actually got down to playing in earnest. Union tactical victory was the call.
The game went well; the fellas and I had a good time. Many good things were said about the rules – they gang would play again. There was a little feedback that maybe I should have given the attackers a fourth “Move” card (or give them a free “Move” card on the first turn) – as the Yanks didn’t get any at first. Fair comment, maybe that is a good idea in a given scenario – but – hey, in the terms of the battle and the game system – the Yanks just didn’t get off on time (how many attacks in history go off on schedule?). Having them move on the first action would have been better for the scenario. This game system has that flexibility.
One new thing I have now come to like about the game – and this was pointed out to me by a person that was not playing in our game – was that there is a lot of player interaction in the game. Even if you are not the active player, there’s no sitting around. You’re either opposing the enemy’s die rolls or using opportunity fire or battling. There’s no down time here.
I think I’ll write a unit generator application for this game. I like coding. That way I can simply “adjust a few dials” on a window and push a button for an army generated to the specs of the game.
Onto the pictures!