Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Black Powder ACW on a Sunday Afternoon

Last Sunday Tim and I got in a small ACW Black Powder game.  We had a few goals in mind for this game the main one being reacquainting ourselves with the rules.  It has been nearly a year since our last game.  We also wanted to try some more of the Glory, Hallelujah! modifications.  Finally we wanted to test the concept of getting in a fun game on a relatively small table. See Tim's write-up of the game on his blog for more cool pictures and a distorted Confederate view of the action.

We decided to keep this battle rather simple.  Each side had two brigades each of four standard size units and one gun.  We each had one division commander.  All units were basic stats straight from the Black Powder rule book with no special rules.  All units had rifled muskets and we used the modified ranges from the GH supplement.

The table was setup with a river and some roads that formed the main features.  We wanted to try the cornfield and orchard rules from GH so we had some of those as well.  We also had some light woods and wheat fields.  We did not have a specific scenario so this was basically a pitched battle.  I had selected the river crossings and the crossroads as my objectives.

The Union plan was to split the right brigade (brigade 1) in half with two regiments and the gun holding the center and two regiments and the brigadier pressing the Confederate left flank.  It all went well the Confederate left and center would be rolled up and quickly destroyed.

The Confederates were deployed in force in the center and had a numeric superiority on this part of the battlefield.  This fight would prove to be the heart of the fight.

Two Union regiments quickly cross the river and move to the edge of the fields and near the road.  So far the plan was moving well.

Things are about to get bloody...

On the Union left both sides quickly advanced to either side of the road and obscured by the fields.  A single Union regiment attempted to press across the road but was quickly pushed back.

Two Union regiments take up a defensive position in the woods near the crossroads.  The Confederates move three regiments up to the road.  The fire along this road would soon be hot and heavy.

The Union right flank force is bogged down in the fields and engaged in a heavy fire-fight with a single Confederate regiment.  The fresh Union regiment behind would repeatedly fail to pass through and continue the attack.

Back on the Union left the Confederates have three regiments on line as well as one gun and effectively face two Union regiments with one gun in very ineffective support.  The bridge is solidly in rebel hands.

In the center the rebels have broken on Union regiment and pushed the second out of the woods.  The position of the Union regiment has fouled the line of fire of the Union gun taking it out of the fight.  The division commanders has been pressed to rally the remaining Union regiment.

The battle by the bridge has stalled into a bloody slugging match.  Neither side has an edge and both sides are starting to show signs of stress.

Confederates moving in for the kill in the center.

The combination of fire to the front and enfilading fire from the left would be too much for the lone Union regiment to bear.  They would end up braking and that, in turn, would brake the brigade.

Flank attack stopped and the brigade was broken.  The Union attack is over.

The slaughter on the Union left was huge but all for nothing.
This game was a blast.  In all the battle took about 2 1/2 hours and had a definite resolution.  I think we managed 7-8 turns in that time.  We had movement and lots of shooting.  We both had several rallies as units went Shaken.  Neither of us had or attempted a charge.  The game worked just fine on this size table with these size forces.

As for the rules most everything went well.  We did make some mistakes with how Shaken units behave but nothing that would have changed the outcome of the battle.  We intended to use the GH restriction on units shooting after 2 ore more moves so we will try that out in the next game.  I think all the GH terrain rules worked well and we will likely keep using those.  I think the charge restrictions from GH are just to much.  I think we will use the requirement for a specific charge order to each regiment but will not use the -2 command modifier for charging the front.

For our next game I would like to try out the army list functions from GH.  The idea of building a point matched force for use in more casual games is very appealing to me and will help get this game on the table much more often.


Tom O said...

Great report on a great looking game.

Robert said...

Thanks Tom!

Tim Kulinski said...

Distorted, I think not Yankee!

Norm said...

Nice post, I am always interested in games that step down to a more playable level in terms o table and force size.

re the penalty for charging. It seems they are trying to re-create the tendency of not charging to contact in this period as much as in say the Napoleonic period (also covered by the same BP rules), but I think a better representation would be to allow the charge (i.e. not penalise it) and then reduce the chance of contact by having one side or the other break away before actual contact. this would likely see charge attacks fail against resilient defence and flighty defenders run away from a determined charge.

Robert said...

Thanks for the comments!

Norm, I think the aversion to charging in the ACW is a bit overstated. The GH author seems to feel this is due to a lack of resolve or courage on the part of the combatants which is silly. It seems to me if there is a tendency to avoid close combat it is a doctrine and training issue. I also feel the increase in the power and effectiveness of the rifles made it more challenging than in previous wars. In the end I feel that forcing an individual order test for a charge is sufficient to slow down and limit close combat for the period. It also keeps the games from bogging down too much which the -2 to the order test would do. That is really the beauty of Black Powder - you can mix and match rules elements until the game 'feels right' to you and your players.