New Pub Battles: Marengo vid! This one is a little longer, with a little different style. I drop the pure narrative and talk a little more about game mechanics. Also, an example of the Infantry Ranged Fire rule (experimental replacement for Field of Fire) at 5:10
Also, stay tuned for the final text-only wrap at the end where I explain who actually won, and why!
Every once in awhile you play a wargame and it turns out so cool that you’re wishing you had recorded it. Well, this time I did! Pub Battles: Antietam
I mention some upcoming buildings rules. I make them sound much more official than they are. Take them with a grain of salt. That being said, they do work really well. In summary 1. Infantry suffers a -1 when attacking into buildings. 2. Cavalry cannot attack into buildings. 3. Bombardment suffers no penalty when firing into buildings (howitzers). 4. Spent units in buildings cannot recover.
My first Gettysburg video I have clipped rather abruptly. The whole first day is replayed in under five minutes! My Narrative is more typical of an NHL commentator than a analytical description. It seems to be closer to an analytical stop-action movie! Enjoy.
The Pub Battles system played solitaire works great for playing out ‘What-if’ scenarios for two reasons. The first is that it plays so fast that you’re not investing a lot of time if your idea doesn’t pan out. Second, is that balance doesn’t have to be a concern, no one has to play the losing side for the entire game.
This time, I’m using the Stuart scenario that assumes Stuart stayed with the army doing his job, rather than gallivanting around trying to capture headlines instead of vital intelligence. This variation includes Stuart’s cavalry on day 1, instead of Day 2. Adding to this, I’ve accelerated the arrival of Ewell’s Corps by one turn, to reflect the initiative gained by improved local cavalry intelligence. In the Stuart variant, the Union cavalry shows up on day 1 as well, or this would indeed be a complete rout.
Note that retreat distance is 1/3 foot move, no matter who is retreating.It is important to note the difference between what is explicitly shown by the game, and what is implicitly simulated. Explicitly, Buford formed for battle, Chambliss attacked, Buford retreated. There is no follow up by the attacker, Whether they can take advantage of the immediate result is determined by next turn’s chit draw, and the order is not absolutely good or bad. Implicitly, this can be thought of as a fighting retreat, or delaying action.
If Hill is drawn first, he can immediately contact Buford. When Pleasanton is drawn, Buford can either stay and fight (since he is spent, Chambliss’ two dice could eliminate him!), but he probably will move away and choose a new position from which to carry on the battle.
If Pleasonton is drawn first, he could retreat further, or he could rally (cavalry doesn’t need an unpacked Baggage Train to rally). If he rallies then Chambliss would attack him at a disadvantage since he would still be spent. Chambliss could rally and let Heth advance to contact. If this were to happen, then Buford would have the option retreating before combat (fresh cav attacked by foot). All that is explicit. Implicitly, there is a lot going on, even if no actual dice are being rolled. When a unit moves away from an attacking unit it is not as if they waited for the attacker to arrive and then simply marched off. What it shows is that the attacker was not able to bring the situation to a decisive resolution. This can be an example of a skillful delaying action, or maybe there was some of many innumerable reasons the attacker did not get there in time (indecision, faulty intelligence, unclear orders, broken axle, et cetera). This is why I say the chit draw is elegant. Rather than try to simulate exactly why the intended attack was not successful, it merely shows that it wasn’t. Also, recall that the chit draw simulates simultaneous movement. The different chit drawn orders don’t reflect “first this, then this” linear time, but different plays of initiative and the enemy ‘showing their hand’ first. It also shows the benefit of the corps and divisional level officers out thinking/out fighting their immediate adversaries.
This is also where the game removes you, as General, from puppeteering your command structures. You just can’t be everywhere at once!
Onward to turn 2!
With this variant I am accelerating the arrival of the Confederates by a turn. In a meeting engagement where everyone is trying to be firstest with the mostest, this should set the Union up for failure. This is the benefit of solo play, I can try things like this and no one gets stuck playing the losing side for the whole game.
I have advanced the Union Cavalry’s arrival by a turn as well, because I have no doubt what an extra turn beyond the turn they are already getting would allow a little too much mayhem…Maybe save that for a later day.
Stuart arrives and secures Gettysburg ahead of Hill’s column who march the whole turn to get everyone on the map. Overall, this is a good problem to have, but it limits one’s options to simply marching along the road. There are several minor roads along the way, but they would stretch the line out even longer, and there’s a whole army behind ’em!
Buford races back towards the Union lines as Reynolds deploys his two divisions along the Peach Orchard and Cemetary Ridge. Cemetary Hill is no longer in reach. This will be a very different battle! One thing that does favor the Union is that as they fall back they get closer to their arriving troops, whereas Lee must spend more time marching to the front lines. Things will be worse for the late arriving Hood.
Day 1 will be very interesting.
On turn 3 I make an interesting observation. I always wondered why battles were so set piece. Why one army set up and waited while another army did the same, as if they had seen the “set up diagram” and just filled it in. Now, I see the actual process begin. Two opposing armies move towards each other, then deploy into lines, then attack.
You can also see quite clearly in this photo the march column eighth inch blocks I use to show units in March column on major roads (block on top) and those on minor roads that are forced to be more stretched out (block behind). Rodes’ Division and Baggage Train of Ewell’s corps (coming in from the top) is stretched out over 3 miles! Meanwhile, the first two divisions of A.P. Hill’s III Corps have deployed in attack formation just South of Gettysburg.
Both opposing cavalry commanders are located on the Union left allowing their respective divisions to attack if necessary (thus remaining a threat), while to the East they are taking up more defensive positions.
Reynolds and Howard are planning their defensive strategies and sending off more messengers to Meade, pleading for him to come on at all hazard with greatest expedition.
Turn 4. Meade’s First and Eleventh Corps have set up a makeshift line, but it seems not nearly wide enough! Ewell forms up on the western flank and Hill on the eastern.
Turn 5 In the first heavy combat of Gettysburg Reynolds and Howard have launched an attack in an effort to stun the Confederates fist thing and unbalance them. Starting from the left, Buford’s cavalry charge Hampton’s crack division in an effort to prevent them from freely harassing the attack that is being delivered just below McPherson’s Ridge. Rule comment: As per the diagram on page 6 of the 3.0 rules (flanking), the blocks must line up as close as possible, but are not required to touch.In the photo, all units are considered to line up evenly, even if the actual shape of the blocks don’t allow it. Their real counterpart divisions would have had much more elastic frontages than the wood blocks allow. The determining factor is whether or not at least half the base width is in contact. It would take several pages of examples to show all possible permutations of this rule. Pub Battles merely asks two gentleman if they could agree on what would likely happen.
Note that Lee’s player drew his commands first, which allowed the Union the rare chance to attack without fear of a Confederate maneuver to prevent it. This simulates a well executed attack where everything goes right…At least until combat begins.
In a good example of Confederate elan, A.P. Hill’s troops score three hits on their union attackers whilst the Union only scores two hits. The rebs were flanked, so they needed 5+ to hit, and the Union only needed 3+. Barlow (Union) was eliminated, and Heth’s boys fell back (they should both be spent, I realized after I took the photo). The rules require the first hits to be taken on the front unit, so it would have been required to flip to spent and retreat. Then the unit backing up could have advanced forward and fought another round. However, I did not think fighting another round with being outflanked would bode well, so they both pulled back. The Union unit backing up the eliminated unit advanced to fill the vacated position (this is the only “after combat” movement allowed. Heth’s boys on the right suffered two hits as well and fell back.
Buford’s troops delivered one hit on Hampton, which their elite status allowed them to ignore, whilst they delivered one hit on Buford. Buford’s mission accomplished (denying Hampton), he fell back, electing not to continue the fight on unequal terms.
Turn 6 Here is where the rest of II and III corps arrive. The Union army is pushing up along seminary ridge almost to the day’s starting line. Additionally, it looks as if Reynolds’ Corps will recapture Cemetery Hill.
All of which is accurate, but misleading. Since Pleasanton is over with Buford, facing Hampton and Stuart on the Western flank, the entire cavalry force of both armies on the Eastern portion of the map are without Corps leadership and cannot attack. Furthermore, Wolf’s Hill has been invested by Ewell’s II Corps, and the Union has nothing to fill that gaping hole in their center. Over the next two turns (the rest of the day) the North will get almost no reinforcements, but Lee will be joined by Longstreet’s large Corps, minus Pickett who will arrive fresh in the morning.
The battle could look very different in a couple of hours…
Turn 7. Well, Now we have jumped ahead to turn 8. I have been working on this for awhile and have gotten quite tired. I have forgotten to snap a picture of turn 7 when Lee’s I Corps arrived. The thing to not is that the last division of Hill’s Corp had to leave the road to allow them to pass.
Turn 8 movement ends with Lee finally gaining some initiative. Longstreet swings wide to the left and Hill makes an attack in the center as Ewell is poised to take his deep into the Union right where the Union cavalry delays their southern counterparts on the right. I am once again tired and making mistakes. Pleasanton is over with Buford leaving the rest of his Corps out of command. That cavalry could not have attacked.
Turn 8 after combat. Suddenly, the Union position seems weak with most of I Corps and all of III corps spent. Next is a night turn, with movement, but no combat.
Whoops! Except I realized I had forgotten to bring on Slocum’s XII Corps, and this would have changed things dramatically, With Hancock’s II Corps and all the Union Artillery arriving in the night.
So I decided to call an end to my experiment, for now. I see that it is possible, with the right circumstances, for the Union to hold out.
But what if Jackson had survived the last engagement, and what if Stuart’s cavalry had remained in place… That’ll be my next game.
This is a handy guide to bringing you up to speed with the scenario in general, and the 3.0 play in particular.
In the photo below, I have shown the river crossing points available to the Austrians. Of note is the Monte Castello crossing at the top of the map. This crossing was not used historically, but it did exist. Also of note is the fact that six of the blocks for each army are either unpacked Baggage Trains or Detachments, which means that neither army is quite so numerous as first appears. Also, French reinforcement are placed near where they will appear.
The situation, at first glance, is pretty straight forward; the Austrians need to breakout and reach their supply lines by nightfall (end of turn 8). There are however, some complications.
First off, is supply. At the end of turn 8 any units unable to trace a supply line are considered eliminated for victory point purposes. Alexandrie is an Austrian supply source during the game, but after turn 8 the Austrians must have captured one of their supply lines or they lose.
If a Baggage Train cannot trace a line of supply to a supply line, they cannot recover spent units.
Secondly is the time crunch. Austria gets a surprise turn 0 that allows them to get a jump on the French. They need this. If you measure in 2/3 inf move increments from the crossing east of Alexandrie to the eastern map edge, it will take them almost all game to reach their supply lines. The French don’t need to defeat them so much as delay them without being defeated themselves.
In the game setup I have pictured, the Austrians are investing the northern route heavily. I want to see if they have any better luck moving up the road in column and cutting out over half the time to get to their nearest supply line. I have artillery massed in the center with some infantry escort in hopes of drawing off some French responsiveness, or make them pay for abandoning the center. In the south I am threatening the French supply lines, again to drain off the critically overstretched French army. I want to have something to distract Desaix when he appears!
The question I have about this strategy is whether or not having to snake the Austrian army out in a long road column is going to be their undoing.
For the first time ever, I am playing a second day at Brandywine. The British were trying to avoid heavy casualties and underestimated the colonial’s tenacity. Knyphausen’s smaller wing, instead of demonstrating across the Brandywine, drew the short straw and had to march the nearly twenty miles around to come in and outflank Washington. This left Cornwallis watching and waiting with the Sledgehammer of the British expeditionary force.
Predictably, this got hung up, helped by the Colonist’s stalwart defense. Toward the end of the day, Cornwallis launched his assault and suffered heavy casualties. His right wing collapsed and the intrepid Greene crossed Chadd’s and Pyle’s ford in a brilliant envelopment that left the Grenadiers falling back in disorder as night came.
That night Greene recovered his command’s losses and was able to refresh one division. Cornwallis was able to reorganize his best troops, under Mathew, and was ready to put an end to this congressional nonsense.
The bandaged hearts show the recovered units. If Greene gets activated before Cornwallis all he needs to do is send General “Mad” Anthony Wayne forward to make contact with the bags (arrow) and the Rebels will win. If Cornwallis is drawn first, then Mathews (the recovered British unit) will be able to block Greene’s exhausted troops, giving the Knyphausen time to break the American lines.
Nothing is a sure thing, but whoever is activated first will probably win. In a solitaire game, I may not even bother fighting this out (Ha! Yes I will!), but imagine how exciting this would be with an opponent. You’ve fought all of day 1 and the British were almost winning (but getting frustratingly denied) until the last couple turns. Suddenly, with Green across the Brandywine, everything has changed.
Now the chit draw becomes very intense. If Greene’s chit is drawn first, Cornwallis will need to roll 1-4 to jump ahead. If he fails, Howe is near by and can try to roll himself. If either of those rolls is successful, then Greene can roll to jump ahead of whomever got the jump. Greene’s only disadvantage is that Washington is out of command range, and so can’t support the way that Howe can. If Washington were to be drawn ahead of Cornwallis, then he could move within command range of Greene and support him (Actually, I just measured and he comes up about an inch short, so he can’t). The Rebel player would have needed to anticipate the possibility of needing to support Greene, and moved Washington during the night turn.
This is why I am so enthusiastic about the chit draw mechanic. It is so simple, yet the opportunity to Alter Turn Order can have deep strategy that takes time to master (read about it here). In this case the players wanted to go first, but even more frequently the attacking command will want to go after the defending command.
As a player, you can see right where the British Baggage Train is unpacked. Greene would not necessarily know where it was, or whether or not is was vulnerable to a sudden attack. Cornwallis might not be able to organize Mathew’s troops, or recover the Grenadiers in time to counter a rebel effort. Rather than endless charts, rules, and tables, that try to limit the player’s god-like knowledge of the battle; Pub Battles simply uses the chit draw.
Instead of the instant Victory Washington could have got, we instead envision Cornwallis getting the jump and activating first. Knyphausen and Cornwallis get their way…And pay dearly for it!
Knyphausen’s attack is bloodily repulsed, but Ferguson and the Hessians fall back to their own supply caissons and are able to recover, unfortunately his line troops are too decimated and join the ranks of the Glorious dead.
Meanwhile, Mathew and the Grenadiers reform and dare Greene to come att’em. Greene declines the invitation and bugs out, hoping to make it back to their own lines to recover and join the main defense.
Turn 4 of Day 2 sees the American cavalry outmaneuver their British counterparts when Washington’s chit goes first. Even if they had not captured the British Baggage, Washington’s dice had been too hot for Howe. British casualties were far too heavy for what should have been a British cakewalk.
After I cam back to pick up the game, I thought I might go ahead and see what might have happened if the colonials hung on and didn’t abandon the field before dark. What if they tried to hold on instead on turn 6. Turns 6, 7, and 8 are a long time to hang on when there is almost no room left to retreat. The edge they have, and the only edge that could make this workable, is they can unpack their baggage train right behind the line, whereas the English have their baggage unpacked a couple miles away across the Brandywine.
With the new 3.0 scenario, Washington is given Maxwell’s brigade as elite troops. One must note that light troops were the elite troops of the Napoleonic era. They were trained in marksmanship, whereas the rank and file were just drilled on reloading. Actually having troops practice with live fire was very expensive. Maxwell’s light troops were self-trained marksmen of the frontier.
Here among the glorious dead you can see the Hobbits of the Shire under Bilbo Baggins (actually commanded by a Took) fell in a distant land.
This is a good example of chit draw affecting the battle. Abercromby’s troops were not able to attack before Maxwell and Strand could draw fresh men and equipment from their Baggage Train and recover. With only one turn left, there is no way Howe can reach the American bags. He needs to inflict 50% losses or he fails.
This was really close and not decided until the last combat of the last turn.
Too keep it random, I setup and then rolled a die (1 or 2 and the British come in from the left, 3 or 4 in the center, and 5 or 6 on the right). I rolled a three so that means two things: 1) they come in right behind Knyphausen 2) The game start on turn 1, which means it’s going to be a long day for the Colonial forces.
The question isn’t whether Howe can beat General Washington’s ragged army, but how easily he can do it. The British want to brush aside the rebel army like it was nothing. Too many casualties and Washington will declare a Colonial Victory. The catch is that the British can Unpack Baggage Trains and recover from spent without fear of colonial depredations. The colonists risk their baggage being overrun if they Unpack their bags, but how long can they last as more of the army becomes spent?
The casualties from turn one are seen in the lower right hand corner. I am using my homebrew rule that allows casualties to be absorbed by either unit if one is supporting. Since Mathews and the Grenadiers are both elite, they absorb two hits before one (Mathews has to flip to spent, when the Virginians roll 3 hits. Nevertheless, the Virginians did manage to stop two of his Majesty’s finest units, and live to tell about it.
On the right you can see a detachment across the Brandywine in the woods. This is Greene’s Forlorn Hope mission sent across to cause problems. In a regular game, the British wouldn’t know it was just a detachment. In any event, if they just ignore it, Greene’s men could capture a Baggage Train and give the Americans a decisive victory. Given this risk, Knyphausen takes no chances and sends Ferguson’s elite Scotsmen with their broadswords to do a little bushwhacking.
At this point I could have unpacked some colonial baggage and might have held off the beleaguered Brits, now well away from their own Baggage Trains, but with rioting beginning in nearby Minneapolis and heading my way, I decided to play it safe and wrap it up, so I could attend to my own affairs.
I like the way the easy to see rivers look and play, but I totally understand if you treat your expensive maps with more care.
If you’re not real close to the map you can’t really even notice the colored rivers. If you decide to do this, you have to take time to make sure it is a river and not a road. It is not always obvious. On maps with more hills I will frequently draw a contour line along the top side of the slope lines with a regular pencil. This helps when the map is covered with blocks and it becomes hard to determine where the upslope is. On the Marengo map the slopes are few and so is the piece count, so I don’t touch the map.
The Austrians must breakout to the North or East and It will take them almost the full game to get there, even without the French in their way. If they get too held up (likely) they will have to use column to gain some distance, but that means the French can really put them in the hurt locker. The game can last into a second day, so the French must ultimately stop them. Instead of waiting for Godot, they are waiting for Desaix (who shows up turn 5)! Desaix’s arrival can be decisive IF the Austrians are too exhausted.
This battle is a pressure cooker every time!
I have gotten notice that my 3.0 kits (Available here) have shipped, No doubt to arrive tomorrow! You can imagine what 3 extra blocks could do for French Fog of War. As well, the Austrian detachments could look like Ott’s light troops had taken the Northern road. When playing solitaire, they make effective speed bumps, forcing the Austrians out of column as they race to reach their LoCs.
The 3.0 rules clarify that the Northern road crosses the river at Monte-Castello, and that optional Northern route is pretty good for one of Melas’ other commands, as it draws off units the French can ill afford to spare. It is not a sure-win strategy, or the game would be broken, but it is an option. I chose to go with a more historical start, “Hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle!” After all, the Austrians have the strength of numbers, why not concentrate?
The Austrians start on turn 0 with a free, unopposed move. I used this to get my artillery within range of the French lines so I can start reducing units to spent on turn one. If I can wear the French down, he will have to deploy his baggage trains early and that would be great for the Austrians.
The French try to buy time because on turn 3 Murat gets another cavalry division and Turn 5 Desaix appears. I do not have the 3.0 upgrade kit yet, so I have made some temporary Baggage Trains with my column markers. On one side they say “Mobile” and on the other “Set” to show them unpacked.
The Austrian dragoons are moving up with the Grenadiers to create some combined arms breakthroughs in the French line. If the French cavalry can force the Austrian cavalry to protect the Baggage Trains, they might ruin the Austrian plans.
In the night, both sides unpack one Baggage Train and try to recover some spent units. The Austrian Baggage is safe, but only because the Austrians are protecting it well. Protecting it with troops that are desperately needed elsewhere!
Turn 1 sees more rallying and repositioning of exhausted troops, but turn 2 finds Desaix doing Desaix things and driving back the Austrian flying wing under O’Reille that was Pushing for the Northern LoC. In an attempt to force a decisive issue, Melas commits his Grenadiers and the Kaiser’s Dragoons against the French Guard and the Corsican usurper of all that’s good in Austria.
Note that here I elected to use my cavalry breakthrough rule to create a quick end to the game. Ordinarily, the retreat of the Guard would have ended the combat and given the Guard a chance to survive, pending chit draws and Alter Turn Order rolls. If I were playing against somebody, that’s the way I would have went. But it was just me, and I like the dramatic ending. When I’m playing solo, I rarely care to fight it out to the bitter end, versus a human opponent, it’s “Never Surrender!”
What do you think, do like the breakthrough rule, or do you prefer the official rules that leave the outcome to the following chit draw? I can’t really decide, I like both for different reasons.