Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy

Friday, July 22, 2016

Solo Campaign Games - First Steps.

Following on from my previous article on solo campaign games, I did receive a lot of positive replies on the various Facebook and other locations to which I posted. Before diving headlong into a full scale campaign game with imagi-nations and fictitious maps, I thought it wise to do a mini-campaign or two, to dip my toes into the water.

Returning to the excellent Wargaming Campaigns by Donald Featherstone, he has actually done a lot of the donkey work of organising a number of mini campaigns set in various eras, one of which is Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. He suggests you seek out a map of the area and place on it a grid of one inch squares in pencil, or cover it in a plastic sheet, which will allow you use a china-graph pencil* to plot the movements of the troops.

* This book was of course written in 1970 and a china-graph pencil was a forerunner of the dry wipe markers used today on whiteboards etc.

I do have a number of books on the American Civil War and one in particular would give me the map I wished to use. The book is the excellent American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. It has the 3D type map/drawings of David Greenspan, which I know inspired many children, and probably adults too, to attempt to recreate the battles he so wonderfully illustrated in this book.

Now of course, I am not going to take a pencil to this wonderful book and I actually like the idea of using the book opened to the map of the Shenandoah Valley to actually move counters representing the forces around. I have included a few photographs of the map, firstly showing the whole area in question and then more selected areas to show the wonderful detail the artist has managed to include.

The whole map covers a two page spread of the book, so is big enough for my needs.

A close up of the southern end of the valley showing Staunton on the Virginia Central Rail Road, which will be the base for supplies and reinforcements for Jackson's confederates.

Section showing the North end of the valley

In the centre it shows not only the towns and roads, but also the gaps through the Blue Ridge Mountains that can be utilised by the troops. As a stylised map it will not be 100% accurate, nor does it have a scale attached to show distances etc. but for sheer beauty I can easily live with that. Besides which I have another atlas to give me that information. Of course I also have access to Google Maps for a very close up of the topography to transfer to my tabletop, wherever a battle may take place. Something Don could never have dreamed about when he wrote the book.

This book will give me most of the missing information from Greenspan's map.

As well as a scale to work out distances between locations, and of course rates of movement for troops traversing the map.

It too shows all the valley but even though far more accurate, somehow doesn't give the same feeling of anticipation of moving troops around on its surface as does the Greenspan map.

So work will be continuing on this little project, I am formulating ways to incorporate ways of hiding Jackson's force, even from myself by using dummy counters on the map! Troops lost in battles can be replaced at a percentage rate as yet to decided upon, as long as there is a clear route back to the main supply depot of each side. These troops and supplies, will of course not magically appear with the army, but must travel at the correct movement rate to join them.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Solo Campaign Games.

I am currently fighting an American Civil War battle on my tabletop. I have done some research and each of the units has been given the name of a real unit that was involved in the Salem Church action. My battle is fictitious, but having the names of real regiments that actually fought with and against each other, in my opinion makes for more interest.

However, I still feel that something is lacking from my games, yes I have given a bit of a back story, created personalised units and even given key areas on the battlefield names. But what happened before and what will happen after this battle? The blunt answer is nothing! There are no consequences either in victory or defeat for either side, and that is where the problem is and the very thing that is causing me to feel I am missing out on an opportunity to enhance my gaming experience even more.

I dug out my Donald Featherstone and Tony Bath books on creating a campaign, I don't believe these two masterpieces have been bettered since they were written in the 1970's. Don not only wrote how to organise a campaign but actually gave some examples of mini-campaigns. Tony took this even further and went really to town creating new fictitious continents and nations to people them. His own Legend of Hyboria, was and still is, a classic. He took the creation to the N'th degree, creating characters, cities, monetary systems, religions etc. A massive undertaking and not one I would particularly want to follow too slavishly as there would be masses of paperwork involved.

One really interesting idea Tony did introduce was that Hyboria had a mix of races and cultures, so at any one time animal skin clad warriors could end up fighting troops who looked amazingly similar to Romans or even medieval knights. It was, as he said, a good excuse to get all his ancient and middle ages troops on the table at one time, without causing raised eyebrows.

Scanning my 28mm armies I too have Romans, Gauls, Vikings, Anglo-Danes, Wars of the Roses, Arabs, English Civil War and American War of Independence troops. A perfect mix for a creation of my own similar to Hyboria. Now that is food for thought for a future project.

But returning to a more reachable goal, Don gave examples of mini-campaigns for a Viking Raid on Britain, Agincourt, English Civil War, French Indian War and American Civil War among others. It adopts a similar system to the 'Scharnhorst Campaign' system used in Sam Mustafa's 'Blucher' rules. a larger map that can be divided up into a number of gaming tables. The forces would move on the map and when contact was made, the table would be made to look like the area on the map. Simple but elegant. The large map could be ruled off into one inch squares, each square on the map would be one foot on the game table, so in my case, with 6 x 4 available, the area to be set up would be six of the map squares. Units not on the table would continue to move on the map and may arrive on the table at some point in the battle.

This mini campaign, would then give me that consequence I was looking for earlier, the what happened before and after, could now be played out. Casualties would be missing from future battles and the terrain lost by one side, would now be occupied by the other. The battles on my tabletop now really would be satisfying and include that final missing element.

Of course doing this solo, will be slightly more difficult, a system of hidden movement would have to be devised as well as one or two other minor tweaks applied to make it suitable for solo play. I feel this would be time well spent and intend to investigate this topic further.

Could all of these troops meet each other on the battlefield in a continent similar to Hyboria?

A selection of ECW, Anglo Danes and WotR. A distinct possibility I think!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Battle Report

I am currently fighting a fictitious battle on my table. It is using my 6mm American Civil War troops. I have used the Order Of Battle (OOB) or Salem Church obtained and cross referenced from a number of internet sources. I am using the ACW version of the Blucher rules, though I am taking it down to regimental level as opposed to brigade level. Hence the need for the OOB, as all the units on the table actually represent units that actually fought at Salem Church for my fictitious battle.

I have played the first eight of 30 turns, and what follows is part one of a battle report of the proceedings. I am also posting a turn by turn report on You Tube and links are available on the Tabletop Commanders Facebook page.

The Battle of Paytes County, Virginia.
April 12th 1863.

The battle of Paytes County was among a number of actions fought in early April of 1863. We shall be looking at a small part of the battle which involved two divisions from each side. They fought over two farms, a hill and a ridge line.

Order of Battle – Confederate Army.

Overall Commander: Major General Lafayette McLaws

McLaws Division

Brigadier General William Wofford's Brigade
16th Georgia
18th Georgia
24th Georgia
Cobb's Georgia Legion
Phillips' Georgia Legion

Brigadier General Paul Semmel's Brigade
10th Georgia
50th Georgia
51st Georgia
53rd Georgia

Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw's Brigade
2nd South Carolina
3rd South Carolina
7th South Carolina
8th South Carolina
15th South Carolina

Anderson's Division – Major General Richard Anderson

Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox's Brigade
8th Alabama
9th Alabama
10th Alabama
11th Alabama
14th Alabama

Brigadier General William Mahone's Brigade
6th Virginia
12th Virginia
16th Virginia
41st Virginia
61st Virginia

Manly's North Carolina Battery
Read's Georgia Battery
Georgia Artillery Battery 'Coulton's'
Norfolk (Virginia) Light Artillery
Lewis' (Virginia) Light Artillery
Huger's (Virginia) Light Artillery

Fitzhugh Lee's Brigade
1st Virginia
2nd Virginia
3rd Virginia
4th Virginia

Order of battle – Union Army
VI Corps Army of the Potomac.

Overall Commander – Major General John Sedgewick

1st Division – Brigadier General William Brooks

1st Brigade – Colonel Henry Brown
1st New Jersey
2nd New Jersey
3rd New Jersey
15th New Jersey
23rd New Jersey

2nd Brigade – Brigadier General Joseph Bartlett
5th Maine
16th New York
27th New York
121st New York
96th Pennsylvania

3rd Brigade – Brigadier General David Russell
18th New York
32nd New York
49th Pennsylvania
95th Pennsylvania
119th Pennsylvania

3rd Division – Major General John Newton

1st Brigade – Colonel Alexander Shaler
65th New York
67th New York
122nd New York
23rd Pennsylvania
82nd Pennsylvania

2nd Brigade – Colonel William Browne
7th Massachusetts
10th Massachusetts
37th Massachusetts
36th New York
2nd Rhode Island

3rd Brigade – Brigadier General Frank Wheaton
62nd New York
93rd Pennsylvania
98th Pennsylvania
102nd Pennsylvania
139th Pennsylvania

Massachusetts Light Artillery
New Jersey Light Artillery
Maryland Light Artillery
2nd U.S. Artillery Battery 'F'
2nd U.S. Artillery Battery 'G'
1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery

3rd Indiana
8th Illinois

The first indication of the close proximity of forces occurred the evening before the battle. Just as daylight was about to give way to dusk a Confederate cavalry regiment, the 2nd Virginia and a single Union cavalry regiment, the 8th Illinois, met and exchanged fire on the road close to Von Ketteringham's Farm. The firing drew the attention of a second Union cavalry regiment from the same brigade, the 3rd Indiana, who were on a parallel road at the other side of Palmer's Ridge. They quickly crossed the ridge to investigate the sound of shooting.

The rest of the Confederate cavalry brigade under the command of Fitzhugh Lee and consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 4th Virginia, had also been travelling along the same parallel road and they too crossed the ridge to investigate.

It soon became apparent to the two union regiments that they were outnumbered and both made off the way they had come, hotly pursued by the rebels. The light was by now fast failing, but not before Fitzhugh Lee was able to see the tents and wagons of what was at least two divisions of Union troops. He had actually stumbled upon the camp of the Union VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He quickly made good his escape and relayed this information to Major General Lafayett McLaws, commander of two Confederate divisions, camped just seven or eight miles from the Union Corps.

McLaws ordered Lee to take his brigade and occupy Von Ketteringham's Farm, Clay's Farm and Payne's Hill and to hold them until he could bring up his two divisions at first light. This was done, and the troopers not on sentry duty tried to get some sleep in their tents.

The following morning, the troopers were up before dawn and prepared to take up positions to engage the enemy should he appear. However, before the troopers at the two farms could actually occupy the hedge lines, they were beaten to it by the same two Union cavalry regiments from the evening before. At Von Ketteringham's Farm the situation was not too bad as the 3rd Indiana had dismounted behind bushes to the South of the farm. However, at Clay's Farm the 8th Illinois had dismounted and quickly moved up to the hedge line surrounding the field only yards from the 3rd Virginia. These latter two regiments would be engaged in a firefight among the hedges for most of the morning.

As daylight arrived, so did the first of the Confederate forces. Wilcox's Brigade moved up to Von Ketteringham's Farm and took up positions behind the northerly hedge line, whilst at the same time Wofford's Brigade advanced to the summit of Payne's Hill with their two batteries of artillery. Semmes' Brigade, was delayed starting their march and so the Clay Farm was not occupied and it was left to the two battling cavalry regiments to contest the ground.

If Semmes' Brigade had caused the Confederate command some concern, it was nothing to what the Union command was facing. Only the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division under Brigadier General Russell had actually made it to their allotted starting point on time. The rest of the brigades from the two divisions were still slogging along to the rear, late leaving their camps. Brigadier Russell could only look on in dismay as first Semmes' Brigade moved up to the Clay Farm and Mahone's Brigade occupied Palmer's Ridge. Every good defensive position was now occupied by the rebels, only a sole cavalry regiment still fought its duel with a Rebel cavalry regiment at the southern end of the Clay Farm.

Finally, 1st Brigade of 1st Division appeared on the field, but that was all, too late to contest any of the good ground before it. In the rebel lines, Mahone had plenty of time to leisurely adjust the disposition of his regiments to give excellent fire arcs against the Union Army, should it eventually appear in numbers.

It would be almost 11am before the whole of the Union Corps had arrived on the field and began to push forward. 1st Brigade, 1st Division advanced toward Payne's Hill. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division headed for Palmer's Ridge whilst 1st Brigade, 3rd Division headed for Von Ketteringham's Farm. The regimental fire fight between the dismounted cavalry continued in the hedges surrounding the field of Clay's Farm.

Eventually, the Confederate cavalry brigade was ordered to mount up at all three locations. As this was occurring, the Rebel artillery opened up with devastating results. Carlton's Georgia Artillery caused casualties to the 23rd New Jersey, as did Read's Georgia Artillery, also perched on Payne's Hill, hitting the 15th New Jersey. Huger's Virginia Artillery on Palmer's Ridge caused casualties to the 36th New York, whilst at Von Ketteringham's Farm, Manly's North Carolina Artillery engaged the 122nd New York, reducing that regiments elan by one.

                                                 To be continued.