Yesterday we played another ‘back to basics’ ACW game, using floppy plastic figures and hexified Brother against Brother. The game was based on scenario n° 2 Threat to the Flank from Scenarios for all ages (Grant & Asquith), with the Union troops being the attacking troops in the face of Confederate resistance.
The Union troops needed to throw the Confederate forces off a hill on the way south ‘before nightfall’. Said hill lay behind a river, the part of which immediately in front of the hill was fordable, while the rest was uncrossable, except by a bridge off towards the edge of the table. To accomplish their goal, the Union had sent a sizable force (2 infantry units, two cavalry squadrons and a gun battery) on a flanking march towards the bridge with the intent of outflanking the main Confederate position. Unlucky for them, a Confederate scout had detected the flanking movement and the Confederate commander had responded by sending his own detachment of 1 infantry unit, 2 cavalry squadrons and a gun battery towards the same bridge. That was the starting point of the scenario.
In our game, the Union side was played by Eddy and Phil, while Koen and Bart played the Confederates. As one of the Confederate players, I’ll describe the battle from that viewpoint.
Our plan was fairly straight forward. We wanted to defend the hill slightly forward of it, behind an angled row of hedges (soon to become a Bloody Angle of our own) with an artillery battery on the hill behind it. The flanking force was to deploy its battery well forward to a spot where it was covered by woods on the flank and with a clear field of fire to the bridge. The infantry unit (the 7th Georgia) was to provide fire support on the flank of the battery, while the cavalry squadrons would charge anything crossing the bridge.
The initial turns of the game saw our planned deployments developing satisfactorily: the infantry units moving up to the hedge at ‘The Angle’ received some long range musketry but reached the hedge more or less intact while the artillery battery on the hill inflicted some casualties on the opposing Union troops. On the flank, the artillery and infantry quickly reached their appointed positions, while the cavalry cautiously moved up to a stream on the way to the bridge.
The Union advanced fairly cautiously, making good use of intervening hedges for cover on the way to the central hill. On the flank, two Union cavalry squadrons rushed over the bridge, while their infantry attempted to infiltrate in the woods across the river from our artillery battery.
The Union artillery deserves special mention in this phase. Both batteries were virtually wiped out without firing a shot by turn 3. The battery on the Union left side (opposite the main hill and The Angle) was devestated by Confederate musketry causing 80% casualties with one volley of one infantry unit (go 1st Maryland!), while the flanking artillery attempted to set up on a hill opposite the Confederate 7th Georgia, which wiped it out of existence with two volleys. Some of the loudest cheers in the game thereafter were heard when the two remaining gunners of the hill battery managed to load their gun and let of a shot :).
Also deserving special mention was the 2nd New Jersey Infantry which, in a mad display of inspiredness, charged out of cover, across the river and up to the hedge at The Angle while the rest of the Union troops were still moves away. Amazingly, the 2nd New Jersey would survive till just before the end of the game, always being the furthest advanced northern unit in the game.
All of this preparatory maneuvring led up to the crunch a few turns later. On the flank the Confederate artillery and infantry eventually redeployed to help their beleaguered colleagues near The Angle, but the real fight there was between gentlemen: the four cavalry squadrons (two on each side) got into a big swirling cavalry melee lasting a few turns. When the dust had settled, only two horsemen on each side were left standing, being out of command or retreating.
In the center, The Angle became the Bloody Angle. Union infantry moved up close and started reducing the Confederate infantry behind the hedge by fire (although they also took casualties proportionally from the return fire). When the line was weakened enough, a Union cavalry squadron charged in to break the line. It succeeded, destroying the last remaining Confederate infantry, but was itself promptly counter charged by the Confederate cavalry squadron that had been deployed behind the infantry line all game patiently waiting for this opportunity to counterattack. Add in another Union cavalry squadron and after a few turns the space behind the hedges resembles nothing less than an abattoir. Bloody Angle indeed.
Unlucky for the Union troops however, the various cavalry charges and musketry exchanges going on had knocked out all three of their officers, leading to the entire army being out of command and having to take a forced pause.
At this point, it was near midnight real time, so we decided to call it a day.
As to the result of the game, the consensus was that the Union would probably have succeeded in getting over the hill (there was by then only one full Confederate infantry unit left on the hill — the redoubtable 1st Maryland), although given the fact that they had some reorganising to do and they were currently leaderless, they would not have succeeded ‘before nightfall’. The exact definition of ‘before nightfall’ is not mentioned in the scenario, however, so there is some room for discussion there :)
It was a very enjoyable game, with particularly the swirling cavalry melee on the flank and the bloody fighting around the Angle ‘feeling right’. I think everyone had great fun (of course, Phil’s bottle of champagne before the game might have helped there). The BaB rules have proven their worth again, and with a small bit of tweaking in the cavalry hex conversion rules and a rather larger bit of tweaking in the melee rules (which can be cumbersome), they’ll serve us well for many games to come.