Nope, this has nothing to do with 4-wheel drive vehicles. This holiday weekend, I began to wonder about if it were possible and rewarding to play games of Piquet Field of Battle on a small table, 4' X 4' to be precise. My table here at home is 6' X 6'. When we play at Brent's we play on a 9' X 5' table. Those are fine table sizes, I have no qualms, naturally, about them - plenty of freedom to maneuver, lots of opportunities for hotspots on the battlefield. Now, a 4' X 4' is a tight size with less freedom of maneuver with 28MM miniatures than the larger sizes.
So, what would a 4X4 FoB game offer me? Well, I think, several things:
This is the big one. It allows a canvas for creative scenario design. If you’re going to fight on a tight field I believe that you’re going to need a tight scenario. You have to select good actions to game and actions that present challenges to the players.
Focusing on a 4’ X 4’ battlefield makes you zoom in on some portion of a larger battle. Without having to worry too much about the larger battle in general, you can drill into the historical facts and features of the particular focus. This fuels our love of reading and research!
In terms of scenario design, you can detail units and commanders in a manner that attempts to model them in the terms of the game. You can also prescribe “scenario rules” that attempt to force the players to manage special conditions of the actual action.
What if? Variants.
Just like you can prescribe “scenario rules”, you can build in a few twists to provide replay options. What if Ewell’s attack on Culp’s Hill was able to start earlier in the day? Well, at the very least, there would be fewer breastworks to face. What were the movements of the other units near the field and what would their effect on the action be? What if Walker’s brigade could have been committed to the attack?
A requirement for fewer miniatures on the table.
Well, this really is not an issue for my ACW collection as I have gobs of units for both North and South. But, for some players, this may be an issue. Also, fewer miniatures means less set up and tear down time and less time spent rating the units and commanders.
Shorter game time.
This generally is not an issue with me, long games are fine. Also, Field of Battle generally produces games of acceptable length.
A fun gaming session with a good friend.
Sometimes, two people would like to bang out a quick, decisive and fun game. A person does not always have an entire group of folks to play. As much as I enjoy getting together with three to six buddies and gaming, a two-player game is also an opportunity for a fun evening.
Culp’s Hill – July 2, 1863So, I started looking at the action Culp’s Hill as a pilot for making a 4X4 scenario. Read up on various print and online sources and decided that the action should take place on this map:
Each square is 12” inches and the map contains the major features of the action: The two hilltops, the forested nature of much of the area, the contours of the terrain and Spangler’s farm. Spangler’s farm is a 6” square “built-up area” per the rules of Field of Battle.
The key feature of the terrain is the actual contour lines of the hills. In Field of Battle, during movement, units will be delayed in moving up this ridge due to stopping at the contour lines. The important scenario design item to get right with respect to the map is how many contour lines should there be? The danger is having too many and making the game delayed. My map indicates what I think the MOST number of contours should be. I’ll have to playtest and determine what feels like a good number. I believe that all contour lines will be Class-II terrain. The thing is that the slopes up which the Confederates advanced were steep.
On top of the contours, the wooded area is also a hindrance to movement and to visibility. The woods here have some rocky areas and, coupled with the contours, will make the wooded hill areas Class-III terrain. This would mean that movement in these areas is at half-speed. The woods at the extreme southeast corner of the map, would be an exception, those will be Class-II woods.
Rock Creek will be a Class-II feature, but the other streams will be Class-I, they are just there for simplicity and geographical note.
Spangler’s farm would also be a Class-II feature given the nature of a handful of buildings and some fields and fences.
So, what would make the scenario interesting? Naturally, the fog of war that Field of Battle creates would give the players many challenges.
First of all, this is mainly an infantry affair, especially from the Rebel point of view. Any Union guns on the field are severely limited in effectiveness, save any in the open areas on the west of the map – darkness will limit those guns.
Secondly, if we consider the following map as a plan for the initial deployment of forces, we can begin to talk about possibilities.
Turning the Flank
The Union troops are ensconced on the hill behind breastworks; their right flank is a bit in the air giving Steuart’s Confederate brigade a flanking opportunity. This area is the location formerly occupied by men of Slocum’s command. They moved off to counter other Confederate attacks in the center. The Union commander will have to get reinforcements to this area. This is where the scenario’s tension and maneuver should be directed.
Initially restricting the freedom of Union movement will be essential to provide tension in the scenario. Historically, the Union troops facing north were critical to protecting the area from Ewell’s support of the attack on Cemetery Hill and remained in place. Some of the Union reinforcements initially sent to hold Steuart had been battered on the previous day’s fighting. One group of six regiments sent in mustered only about 700 men between them at the time!
Other Union troops are available to enter the map from the western edge, including artillery. The timing of these reinforcements is an important feature of the scenario.
By the time the assault got going, it was dark. Not only does this limit visibility, but offers the possibility of other scenario flavor.
How can one inject some confusion into the game? Units don’t always recognize another as an enemy unit. Maybe some initial “identification” tests can be worked out on the southern end of the table?
Is there any value in representing a small possibility of friendly fire? None of this would be needed in the northern sector. Clearly, along the line of breastworks, if it is on the other side of the logs, shoot at it.
Maybe all Leadership rolls are DOWN-ONE due to the darkness and confusion? This would also be useful to drive the scenario to a conclusion.
Anyway, just thinking out loud. Feedback encouraged...