On Sunday 15th Dec 8 ACW buffs met at our local FLGS, the Hall of Heroes, Campbelltown, NSW, for a reprise of our Fredericksburg game. Long time followers of my blog will know that our last Fredericksburg bash, concentrating on the bloodbath at Marye’s Heights, was something of a stalemate…This time we attempted to widen the scenario to allow a much more challenging and mobile game, giving the Union players the opportunity to avoid the Confederate fixed defences. Certainly a much more exciting and enjoyable game ensued...
Philip did some really innovative and imaginative scenario design for the game, and I can do no better than cut and paste snippets from his scenario:
Union – The Confederates are spread out along the southern bank of the Rappahannock River.
A rapid river assault could break through the Confederate line and open the road to Richmond…
Confederate – You have been following the Union army’s movements along the Rappahannock River. You suspect they are planning to cross the river, but do not know when and where.
Counter any attempted crossing.
Preparation for the battle will occur in the following sequence:
1. Confederate side deploys all infantry units (except Jackson’s reserves) on the table. These units must be spread along the high ground to represent the Confederates being unsure of the Union crossing points.
Whilst the Confederates are deploying their infantry, the Union side sets up all of their units off-table – These should be grouped into the three historical Grand Divisions.
2. The Umpire places 10 markers to represent the real and decoy objectives.
|Left hand assault goes in across Skinker's Neck|
3. All Union players must leave the gaming area whilst the Confederates deploy their Artillery and Cavalry units (Artillery must be deployed on high ground, but the Cavalry can be deployed anywhere >12” from the river). The Union players cannot return until they have decided on the pontoon crossing point and selected the real objectives (See below).
4. One Union player is allowed to return to the gaming area to view the Confederate deployment from the Union side of the table for a short period. This represents observation by the Union Balloon observers. (That player was me, folks!)
|The Confederates made full use of available cover..|
5. Before returning to the gaming area, the other Union players confer with the Balloon observer and advise the Umpire of the following decisions: (1) the position of the pontoon bridge crossing (This must be more than 4 feet from the ends of the table); (2) the two pairs of real objective markers (representing the planned paths through the Confederate lines); and, (3) the Grand Divisions allocated to each crossing point. Whilst the Union players are conferring, the Confederate side sets up Jackson’s reserves on a side table (subject to availability of miniatures).
6. Union players return to the gaming area and, if necessary, move their troops so each Grand Division is placed on the side table near their respective crossing point. They then place the pontoon bridge, deploy their first brigades from the first wave and then have first turn.
|The Rebels: L-R Terry, Jim, Caesar, Cameron, Vic.|
Deciding Who Wins
The Union players win if they control a path through the Confederate lines (i.e. either pair of the real objective markers) at the end of the game. They have forced the Confederates to fall back and the historical battle would not have occurred…
The Confederate players win if they prevent the Union players from controlling their chosen paths through the Confederate lines. Burnside’s pre-emptive strike was unsuccessful. Forced to retreat back across the river he will try again in a few weeks…
The Union players can only force a draw by controlling a special objective marker at the top of Marye’s Heights…
And so it passed. At the Union command pow-pow, we elected (nominated) Bryan as the Union CinC, on the grounds that a. He had read the scenario, b. Philip was Umpire so couldn’t exactly also lead the Union team, and c. I had smartly taken one step backwards when the call for volunteers went out! That left me with the observer role - I spent my few precious seconds in the balloon spotting for Reb artillery concentrations, but had to rub my eyes when it appeared that both Marye’s Heights and Prospect Hill, from which the scenario allowed the Rebs to fire well emplaced and ranged in guns without the usual -1 penalty for overhead fire, appeared denuded of guns!
So with Philip maintaining the tight lipped silence that behoves a player-umpire, Bryan and I debated our options. We had to nominate 2 sets of objective markers delineating our two routes across the table. Since we had troops already landing at Skinkers Neck, and coming on table to the East of Fredericksburg, it seemed logical to nominate these two as our main efforts, and use the rather more hazardous pontoon crossing as a feint in the centre, or at least the right-centre, to the west of the town. However, I was given 2 Corps to make it look like the real thing, with the added real objective of securing Philip's left flank from the considerable Confederate forces in the centre.
|Cameron starts with the sledging...|
|Owing to a shortage of Union players, Bryan, on the right in the black T shirt, kindly agreed to turn his coat for this game - here he appears to be having second thoughts?|
|From Fredericksburg looking WNW|
|A lodgement at Skinker's Neck...|
In the right centre, the usual poor Union command values meant that our reorganisation off the pontoon
crossing was slow and sedate, allowing Jim to bring forward his infantry in a covering battle...
|The Rebs redeploy to meet the Union 'Main Effort' - or is it?|
|The Rebs along the centre of the line had nothing to do and appeared to be forgotten...these guys will probably be the ones featured in the press!|
|The Union centre feint...Of course had it suceeded it might have been renamed...|
|The guns about to speak...|
Bryan was still doing it tough across at Skinker's Neck, gradually inching forward...
|Bird's eye view of the action at Skinker's Neck - the water was pretty shallow here!|
|The Union retakes Fredericksburg...|
So this was now the halfway point of the game, and Philip regenerated as the Umpire once again and asked the Confederate team to nominate which pairs of objective markers they thought we had picked. Well, our feint had worked and they had thought we had chosen the centre pathway across the table, as well as the route at Skinker's Neck, which they correctly divined, no doubt from Bryan's dogged tenacity. With due ceremony Philip revealed that, as well as the Skinker's Neck route, we were aiming to go up the extreme right hand route - where he had been making good progress!
At this stage in the battle they were allowed to start deploying Jackson's Corps, and not unnaturally Caesar nominated a spot directly opposite Philip's forces!
|Phil close - so close - to his second objective...|
|But not close enough...|
This really had been wargaming at its best - lots of great looking troops, fought over, thanks to Terry and Bryan, some lovely looking terrain. Thrilling scenario design had resulted in great opportunities for teamwork, leadership, intel guesswork and strategic assessment, and a cliff hanger result. I think that this scenario is set to become an annual favourite at the Hall of Heroes!