Tuesday 5 January 2016


Well, it’s been the Christmas holidays, so like many, a few days-off seem a good chance to squeeze in a wargame or two. The first of my Christmas battles was the 6th battle of my on-going Longstreet ACW campaign. So far in this campaign I’ve won the first 3 battles (in 1861-62) and built-up a solid lead in Epic Points, only to lose the last two games (both 1863), one very narrowly, the other a solid Confederate win. My early lead had been cut, so this was a big game, a win for 'Johny Reb' would see their comeback complete and back on parity, but if I could win then my lead would look solid again with only 3 more games to go until the end of the war in 1865.

This battle would be a ‘flank move’ scenario, and the randomly generated terrain produced a stream running across the battlefield (Hobson’s Creek), and after the Scouting roll, I would be defending with the Reb’s choosing to be on the attack.  I would have to deploy first and go second, handing a huge initiative advantage to the Reb’s. We’ve played enough Longstreet now (this is battle number 16 or 17 in all I think), to know that if I deployed as a single solid defence line across the field then the Rebs would pick one flank and attack hard in great force, forcing me to redeploy or leave half my force sitting doing not much, and thus get beaten.

The field of battle, cut by Hobson's Creek. Confederates attacking from the far edge. Yankees holding this end. 

Blue-belly's odd deployment. Mostly in column waiting to respond, a few units are out front to slow the enemy long enough to allow me to manoeuvre. Two gun batteries are dug-in.

This has been a re-occurring feature of both sides in attack in our games, and with two objectives to hold my problem was that I couldn’t be strong on both flanks. So, looking at the lay of the land, it seemed to me that, if I attacked, I would come through the cover of the woods, against he defender’s right, aimed at smashing through and getting that objective, whilst just ‘demonstrating’ on the left, to hold his forces there long enough to win in detail on the other side of the battlefield. 

The 41st Maine as a forlorn hope behind the big wood, about to face the main Reb assault.

 My howitzer battery, not well positioned in the centre and out ranged by the enemy guns - doh!

 The Rebs advance swiftly in column into the woods. 

Assuming my opponent would do something like this too, I deployed my best infantry unit (the 41st Maine), veterans with sharp-shooters, to face the woods, with the intention of swiftly digging in to fortify their position and make them a tough unit to shift. Their orders were to hold as long as they could, to the last man. With my best, largest infantry on the right, the risk of an attack on the left would be mitigated by placing my artillery to cover the open fields. That flank now looked like a long march under a lot of artillery fire for the enemy, very punishing given I also have an artillery officer to make the fire more accurate, and some heavy rifles with the long range to start hitting any bold Rebs from turn 1. My opponent well knows the power of these guns, dug-in against counter-battery fire because my commander is also an Engineer officer as well, so I can start with extra fortifications. Sensibly, he baulked at the prospect of another hammering from those Yankee guns.

The rest of my force I deployed at the back, still in column of march in the centre, they would react to where the Reb’s deployed and quickly march to form a defensive line against his main attack wherever it fell, left, right or centre. It was a flexible defence plan, I’d have to move quick, but in column troops do, and then change formation before the Reb’s arrived. The forward deployed ‘forlorn hope’ infantry and guns would hopefully buy me the time to do this behind them.

The rear-most battery on my right, again, no targets would force them to limber up and move-out. 

Reb guns in the centre, in range and causing me some concern.

Having hopefully set my enemy a few problems with my deployment, he went with the plan I’d also have used in attack. A strong, quick smash and grab on my right, through the woods, and avoiding all those artillery guns on the left. My enemy also placed his artillery in the centre, with just enough range to hit me (with rifles and Napoleons) but with my own howitzers out of range themselves, cunning thinking. Hmmm!

On his right (my left) were a few southern infantry and a weak cavalry unit, but enough to stop me just ignoring that flank and not defending it with anything, thus freeing my guns to move to the right. The enjoyable early mind-games of the deployment phase complete, the battle was on…

Early Turns

The Rebs began, long infantry columns streaming towards the woods, veteran cavalry moving up just behind. It looked like a lot of men for the 41st Maine to meet alone. In response they dug-in behind piled rocks and branches to face the coming storm. The Reb guns began a long range bombardment, to little effect, but to which currently I had no response at all (counter-battery fire being something of a doctrine for me, winning that duel before starting on his infantry or cavalry, but not this time). 

Rebs crowd through the woods.

Still more, the attack looked overwhelming. 

In response my reserve columns moved right, to line Hobson’s Creek with rifles and my third artillery battery. In the centre, the howitzers were in a useless position, so they limbered up and moved forwards to get into range, giving up their cover, but by moving they could get to the edge of the swamp in the centre and get into range to take-on the enemy guns in an artillery duel. They lost a gun to enemy counter-battery fire whilst on the move (drat) and another as they deployed (double drat), leaving just one gun to return fire, ineffective until it too was hit and dismounted from its carriage, the end of one battery which had scored, erm, no hits! A waste of good artillery and a first victory for the Reb artillery in the counter-battery duel (for the first time ever I think). 

In the woods, the Reb infantry changed formation into lines, ready to attack, whilst the skirmish fire took its first casualties from the veteran 41st Maine’s sharpshooters in the woods. It wasn’t a skirmish firefight the Reb’s would stand for for long and they quickly charged, without any volleys to try and weaken my infantrys line a bit first. My veterans put up a solid defence in the melee and threw back this first Reb charge, phew! Behind them I was quickly building a second line along the creek, with far more firepower, but my forlorn hope out in front where doing a great job in buying me the time. They had to keep it up.

Here they come! Emerging from the tree line, and the volleys let fly as the Rebs charge home with barely a pause. 

Behind, deploying on the Hobson Creek, in force. 

After that charge was repulsed the Rebs began a long firefight, picking off the occasional infantry stand to weaken me, as I vollyed back into the woods and took a few enemy stands as well, in a very even fight. The initial impetus of the Reb’s storming charge had gone, the 41st Maine veterans had done their job, behind them I was now in place to stop the main Reb attack.

On the quiet left I sent out one infanry unit to hold the isolated objective. I did this so I could redeploy my artillery and not leave the objective undefended against a cheeky lightning cavalry march to seize it unopposed. His weak cavalry wouldn’t face my infantry head to head, and that meant I could redeploy the big guns and not leave them tied down guarding the objective from nothing, and out of the main fight. 

The new firing line complete with guns, enough to make the Reb's baulk at taking on an assault over the creek.

Middle Turns
We had already been through our action card decks once, in all my manoeuvring and
the Rebs big attack through the woods and artillery fire. Now we began whittling through our second decks as the firefight in the woods continued for turn after turn, the Rebs still not judging their attack had enough of an advantage against dug-in veterans in cover to make a second charge, yet! Stalemate… for about 7-8 turns of firing in the woods, until the Rebs played a special event ‘Confusion’ on the 41st Maine, who somehow thought they had to advance and moved forwards out of their nice fortifications into the open, and so promptly got charged by a lot of Rebs. Screaming their ‘Rebel Yells’ (I hate that card - but only as much as my opponent hates the Yankee Guns cards), he won the melee easily and overwhelmed the 41st Maine, as I lost the last 4 stands of the 7 stand unit… the forlorn hope was gone. 

41st Maine, dug-in and still holding on. 

Then suddenly gone after a 'confusion' card, and the Rebs have the fortifications.

Now the Rebs faced a new advance against my potent second line, he was outnumbered by rifles and I had artillery in close support as well (he had none). Would he press on and face the slaughter to try and get the objective? (Given he hadn’t moved on my left either and he wasn’t going to win without at least capturing 1 objective, he had to try somewhere). 

The Rebs baulked in the woods, deeming that pressing the attack would be carnage, trying to cross the creek in the face of bristling yankee guns. They formed back into columns and marched back into the woods, heading back into the centre. That bold move threw me a curveball, suddenly the entire Reb attack shifted to my left, and I didn’t have the forces their to hold them. The Rebs were fighting a cunning tactical battle, but it was costly in cards, his deck was used up again and he was well into a third hand, he might well run out of cards and lose by default.

The Reb right flank springs into action, infantry, cavalry and guns coming forwards at last.

The Yankee response, back into columns and marching at the quickstep. This felt like dancing to somebody else's tune...

Later Turns
Seeing the danger I used my last mobile reserve, my under-employed cavalry, which had waited in column in the centre all game, to move quickly and form a new emergency blocking force. Losing them would be worth it, if again they bought me some time to move my infantry across the battlefield. The Rebs were already hurrying across the stream in column, under some artillery fire from me, and going as fast as they could. Their cavalry was like the wind, suddenly appearing on their right and coming forwards fast. Eek, the objective looked weakly held now, by a single isolated infantry unit of new recruits.

More Reb cavalry arrive in column, having flown from the far flank, with infantry on the way too.

The foot race was on, and I got lucky, timely ‘quick step’ cards coming into my hand allowing my infantry columns to move extra quicky and deploy into place on my left. My cavalry raced into the centre, dismounted and took cover in the area of rocky ground out front. There they opened fire on dismounted Reb cavalry who had had the same idea but lost the race to the cover.

But my dismounted cavalry steal the cover of the rocky ground and get the first volley in.  

The Rebs threw me another curved-ball, suddenly about facing an infantry unit and coming back through the woods on the right, forcing me to leave the 12th US Coloured Infantry to guard that objective. The Rebs suddenly thought they might get that objective, as my infantry and guns streamed away to hold the left… my eager recruits would have to hold alone, I couldn’t turn around again.

The End
The Rebs were very low on cards, he had to attack now or run out in a few more turns… so his infantry boldly pressed attacks on both of the objective. On my right the 12th Coloured won their fight and inflicted severe losses, but on my left, the enemy deployed from line, fired a volley, then charged in. My recruits own volleys had been pretty ineffective, and suddenly, they were beaten in the melee too, forced to fallback and vitally concede the objective. 

The last face-off. A very even fight that I managed to lose badly, being pushed back off the objective and costing me the battle. 

The Reb cavalry charged too, but ran into a stoic unit of veterans that threw them back with heavy losses.

The losses on both sides were mounting, both sides were rolling to win the game (I needed a 6 though, and if I got it, it would seem a very flukey win). With an objective in his possession, my opponent rolled 2D6 and my forces Shatter Point was easily exceeded. Game over… the Yankees had to withdraw and give up the field, the Rebs had now won 3 straight and evened up the campaign again. 

It was a close, and very long battle, I thought I had it in the bag after the 41st Maine’s long resistance… the Rebs sudden withdrawal and second attack was a good (and brave) move (not many game rules would allow a player to try such a move with any hope of success), but even then the Reb's cards got perilously low... if I’d have held out a turn or 2 more he’d have lost by default. Great game, as ever with Longstreet… with 3 battles left to fight the campaign is back in the balance, I need to up my game a bit or the Rebs will win it again… noooooo!