Monday, 24 July 2017

Action at Willoughby Run

This is the second in the series of getting a game into a small space using a 6x6 grid. This time, we are doing a historical action using my own ACW hex based rules (Two Flags - One Nation). 

The scenario would be quite suitable for a conversion to the Neil Thomas 'One Hour Wargames' rulebook, by converting each hex to 6",  though perhaps reduce the cavalry staying power down to say 9 hits for those rules.

Please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post.
Firstly, I would just like to thank fellow blogger Jonathan Freitag, who took enough interest in these rules to have a go and to post a series of comments concerning Q&A. Jonathan is possibly the most supportive poster of other peoples blogs out there and many must be grateful to his continuous motivation with regards to their posting. The resource section (below) gives links to his blog and also to my rules blog post that he has added numerous comments to. Thank you.

This slice of action represents part of the opening manoeuvres at the Battle of Gettysburg and is in fact a reduced version of the one of the scenarios included with my hex based ruleset (which are a free download). Archer's Confederate Brigade is advancing toward McPherson Ridge. The first obstacle being Willoughby Run, a shallow waterway that is defended on the far side by Gamble's dismounted Union Cavalry Brigade. The cavalry are buying time for Union reinforcements to move up and strengthen the position.

Here is a graphic of the full scenario layout as given in the rulebook, I have marked out the 6x6 segment that we will be using today.

1000 yards behind the Confederate front line, is an artillery battery (Pegram) in a supporting position, which historically engaged the Union artillery that were located on the forward wooded  slopes of McPherson Ridge. The off board Confederate artillery will be represented in the game and will take casualties from any effective fire by the union artillery battery as though it is actually on the table.

To win, the Confederates must push aside the Union cavalry and move beyond to occupy at least two hexes on McPherson Ridge by the end of the game. Any other result is a Union victory.

EDIT Please Note - as a result of this replay, the rules relating to cover have been amended, so that 'remainder HITs' are carried over - this is discussed in the comments to this post.

Special Rules.
To deal with Gamble's dismounted cavalry, who were in ambush positions, their at start hexes count as giving cover, but only to dismounted cavalry and only until they vacate the hex, after which time the hex no longer affords cover to any unit. Temporary cover terrain can be put into those hexes as a reminder and removed once vacated.

Artillery can set up in difficult terrain (i.e. the wooded ridge) and is assumed to be at the edge of the wood looking out (so can shoot but it does not claim cover). During play, limbered artillery cannot enter any hex that is described as being difficult terrain, unless using a road, so if this artillery battery is ever dislodged (retreats) it will not be able to return to a wooded hex.  

The off-board Confederate artillery behaves as though it is deployed in an open hex. If it suffers a retreat result, it will limber up and go disordered for 15 minutes, just as it would if present on the table. It will obviously need to be unlimbered again before it is available for firing.

For the first 40 minutes (my rules use an ‘in game’ Game Clock, but if using other rules just apply this paragraph to the first 3 turns), the artillery of each side must fire on each other if the enemy battery is still a presentable target, otherwise they can target freely. Artillery for both sides conduct counter-battery fire at long range.

Events - use the Event Table provided with the McPherson Ridge scenario in the rule book.

Admin - The battle starts at 0815 hours and ends as soon as 1100 hours has passed (say around 11 turns in other systems).

The Confederates setup first.
The Union is the 1st Player.

TERRAIN - McPherson Farm is represented by two hexes and can be a combination of building and fields, each hex counting as cover. The rail track is aesthetic and need not be represented.


Archers Brigade - Leader Archer
13th / 15th Alabama Infantry regiment - rifled musket - Seasoned
1st Tennessee infantry regiment - rifled musket - Seasoned
7th Tennessee infantry regiment - rifled musket - Seasoned
14th Tennessee infantry regiment - rifled musket - Seasoned
Artillery Battery (off - board) Pegram - rifled 12pdr - - Seasoned


Cavalry Brigade - Leader Gamble
8th New York cavalry regiment - carbine - Seasoned
8th Illinois cavalry regiment - carbine - seasoned
12th Illinois / 3rd Indiana cavalry regiment (combined) - carbine - seasoned
Artillery - Calef's A Battery - rifled 12pdr - - Seasoned

Union reinforcements from Meredith's Iron Brigade (enter immediately after 0915 hours).
7th Wisconsin infantry regiment plus leader (Meredith) - rifled musket - Veteran
2nd Wisconsin infantry regiment - rifled musket - Veteran

Setting up.

Confederates - they start off board. The four infantry regiments must all enter on turn 1 by entering Willoughby Run itself, with 1 unit per hex (if using other systems, my brigade leaders have a command radius of two hexes). The artillery is available to fire from turn one, but throughout play will be kept off the table to represent its position in the distant rear.

Union - the three cavalry regiments start play dismounted on their side of Willoughby run in any hexes adjacent to the waterway (row 5). The artillery starts on any wooded hill hex. 

The 7th and 2nd  Wisconsin Regiments stay off board until after 0915 hours and arrive on the far left corner hex of the Union baseline (i.e. not the railway end). They will arrive with a leader (Meredith).

Optional, before play, all leaders may use the optional rule to see whether any of their commanders have special characteristics. I would suggest not using the optional Brigade Cohesion rule, due to the Confederates only having a single brigade in play.

The replay.
At the start of play, each leader tests for special characteristics. Meredith (nicely) gets Superb Tactician, which essentially increases his command radius to 3. The two other commanders remain ‘ordinary’!

0815 hours.
Union artillery opens with counter-battery fire, causing 2 heavy casualties. The Confederate artillery reply, also causing two heavy casualties. Both sides nervously test their Capability following the casualties as for either to have to limber up and retreat at this stage would immediately hand the other a chance to redirect their artillery onto the regiments. Both pass.

The Confederates enter the board, splashing into Willoughby Run.

0828 hours. 
Union artillery inflict a further 2 heavy casualties on the Confederate guns, so with 4 heavy casualties, the Confederate Capability Test now gets a +2 and the test is failed. They limber up and go disordered for 15 minutes. They will not be ordered again (so will lose a fire dice) until after 0843 hours. They will need to unlimber before being useful again.

The dismounted cavalry fire their carbines at the exposed men in Willoughby Run. Their fire is abysmal. This is when I make an amendment to the scenario (which I later regretted and so have withdrawn it from the scenario info) - but basically, once the Confederates enter the Run, they cannot leave the next turn, so in effect they spend the next turn firing from the Run and can then leave in the turn after that.

The return fire is generally poor, except that in the centre, 8th Illinois Cavalry are forced to re-mount and  retreat 1 hex. They go disordered for 15 minutes and by abandoning an ambush hex, the temporary cover terrain is removed.  See below photo.

0844 hours. Special event number 5. Due to actions elsewhere, Reynolds, the Union Army Commander (off map) is shot in the head and dies, every union unit including reinforcements yet to arrive have to test to see if they suffer a Heavy Casualty. Good rolls mean that it only affects the Union artillery - perhaps they saw the incident form their vantage point on the ridge!

The Confederate artillery is suffering terribly and is now at 5 Heavy Casualties. They again fail their Capability test following casualties received and have their disorder extended until 0859 hours.

Cavalry fire is sloppy. The retreating 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment dismount in front of the ridge, ready to cover the other cavalry regiments that must surely be about to fall back!

13th / 15th Alabama (Confederate left flank) and 7th Tennessee (centre right) charge out of the Run, while the other two regiments give covering fire. It becomes a fiasco. The fire is not effective and the left charge gets ‘half hearted’ status, while the 7th Tennessee actually receiving 3 Heavy Casualties (by rolling 1’s), while inflicting none! But their tenacity must have unnerved their foe, who (in the post Close Combat Capability Tests) fall back and disorder for 15 minutes. The 7th Tennessee follow up and push forward, but Archer (leader) was with them and his enthusiasm for the attack will put him out of command contact with his left wing.

0859 hours.
Confederate artillery remains disordered, but they are able to unlimber and be ready for firing in the next turn. Union artillery would have loved to fire at the ‘now getting closer’ 7th Tennessee, but Union troops are in the way. So they continue with counter-battery fire and extend the Confederate disorder status out to 0909 hours.

Though disordered themselves, the still mounted 12th Illinois / 3rd Indiana Cavalry Regiment see the distressed state of 7th Tennessee (5 Heavy casualties) and decide to charge, but they fail their Capability Test and instead put in a ‘half hearted’ charge. They start with 6 x D6. Losing one for being disordered, and three for being half hearted, so only end up with two attack dice and neither side receives casualties.  Photo below.

In the post Close Combat tests, 7th Tennessee’s high casualties start to tell and they fall back disordered and increase their casualties by one (now up to 6). The cavalry are not allowed to charge again for another 30 minutes. The retreat brings Archer back into command radius of his whole brigade, with all four regiments still stuck in the Run and 7th Tennessee now a spent force. They spend the turn firing ….. poorly, it has to be said, but a lucky shot struck Gamble and killed him, causing all elements of his brigade to go disordered until a replacement is found (automatically during the Union Rally Phase).

0914 hours.
None of the Union are in command (no leader), so where they can, they content themselves with firing. Retreating cavalry on the wooded ridge dismount to prepare a second line of defence. Gamble is replaced with Perkins (who does not gain any attributes).

The Confederates charge again on the left and though they don’t create any heavy casualties, in the post Close Combat test, the dismounted cavalry roll cats eyes (Oh Dear!) - they must have had enough of being in the front line and isolated, while the rest of their brigade is now up safely on the ridge. The cavalry (8th New York), who have so valiantly held their ground, failed their test by ‘4 or more’ …. so rout back, picking up the road towards Gettysburg!

At last the Confederates are out of the water, on the two flanks at least and pressing towards the ridge, but even the sight of this is not enough to keep 7th Tennessee in the battle. Their exhaustion sees them leave the table in the Retreat Phase.

0930 hours. Event ….. How lucky is this, Iron Brigade (they arrive this turn) get double movement without suffering casualty penalties. This actually gets them onto the rear slopes of the ridge.

8th New York Cavalry Regiment do not recover from rout status and leave the table.

The sight of McPherson Ridge bristling with blue uniforms, including the arrival of the veteran Iron Brigade coming onto the crest, is enough for the Confederates to halt and pull back to Willoughby Run. For them, further attack is pointless, they will leave the table on the next turn.


Well, a few things came out of that for me. I enjoyed the scenario, though it obviously didn’t work as a balanced piece of work. We were just using 5 - 6 units per side in a small space, but there were enough twists to maintain interest and once again proving that you can get good gaming in small spaces.

It can be tough to simulate small light forces (dismounted cavalry) adequately delaying a larger force and in that regard, I thought the cavalry and the ambush rules did what they were meant to do …. but perhaps too effectively. I think I will increase the attack dice in close combat against skirmish type troops. A bigger problem may be that cover is just too effective. I like the way it works, but requiring two hits on a single attack to produce just one Heavy Casualty can make things too resilient. It may be an idea to retain fractions from each fire, so that single hits at least have a chance to accumulate rather than be written off.

The Union reinforcement is very strong, with both units being veteran. Usually in this scenario, the Confederates are on the ridge by the time the veterans arrive and their job is to eject the Confederates from what is now their defensive position. We were a long way off from that in this example of play, so it will need a few more games to see whether recent rule changes have caused some undesired effects. I will also keep an eye on whether one of the reinforcement regiments simply needs dropping, though gently reducing the effect of cover may be enough anyway.

The general rules follow the sequence of play, but there is still a sense of awkwardness in rule finding / application. And some of that may be due to the number of processes … which I like, but for sake of smooth play, may need culling or at least fashioning into something a bit more intuitive. I will think on that one.

Anyway - a long post, thanks for staying with it.


Blog link to the wider battle and played out with Neil Thomas based rules - LINK

The downloadable (thank you DropBox) Two Nations - One Flag rules LINK

Jonathan Freitag’s blog - LINK

The post on the rules in which Jonathan has added a range of observations in the comments section and which might provide interest to the reader in terms of the design process. LINK 


  1. Thanks for the effort in posting this Norm:). Lots of useful info there and once again great to see a small game being played.

  2. Norm, Willoughby Run is a nifty little scenario. Your recounting of the action is first rate too! I really enjoyed you photos and reading of the exploits of the Confederate attacks out of the creek. The Rebels were roughly handled in this one beginning with the devastating counter battery fire from the Federals.

    As for the rules and number of processes, number of processes seems fine and not burdensome at all. After I went through the rules and built a QRS for myself, it all came together for me with little searching for rules and exceptions.

    I am ready to take a second crack at Mill Creek and looking forward to it. Before I tackle Willoughby Run, I need to field a few more dismounted cavalry.

    One rules thought: As I mentioned before, I found it difficult to track unit disorder time as well as time before next charge. Since the turns are variable anyway, why not simple make a unit's disorder or charge restriction turn based rather than time based? I think that would ease my tracking since I could simply place markers on the table to denote number of turns under restriction?

    Nice job!

  3. Yes, I had wondered whether the clock is actually worth it's admin effort. I do like the idea of real time, but of course a turn is time by any other name - though here it does bring some randomness to events, such as when reinforcements will exactly arrive and when disorder will exactly end.

    I note time on the battlefield by putting a small note with the unit concerned, so D > 0913 just means the unit disorder status will end any time after 0913 hours. C > 0842 is the unit will be able to charge again after 0842 hours.

    Every time the clock is advanced, I just remove all those bits of paper that have a time shown that is BEFORE the new time. Some will not like the clutter, but it's OK to my eyes.

    Steve, this could so easily be a 1 Hour Wargame from the Neil Thomas stable. I think in the small format, you don't take anything for granted .... everything matters, which perhaps gives you a closer connection to the play.

    1. Hi Norm, I really like the notion of the game clock you have introduced and think it a very clever mechanism. It does provide an interesting and unknowing variability into the game. With game clock (and Turn) variability already built in, why have the time under disorder "fixed" at say, 15 minutes? Will disorder always last exactly 15 minutes? These response restrictions ought to be variable as well and could be based on the variable game clock. Time under disorder could now be variable but easily tracked by the advancement of the game clock.

      Really a great little game you have developed.

    2. Thank you - The disorder was set at 15 minutes (plus 10 minute extentions if repeatedly disordered) for two reasons. Firstly the Game Clock advances randomly at 2xD6 plus eight. Since two D6 should most commonly produce the number 7, then then the clock will most commonly advance by 15 minutes, so disorder, although fixed at 15 minutes, is in fact intended to sit on the cusp of that clock change and has an equal chance of falling on either side of it depending on how the clock die roll goes, so in effect the disorder itself becomes perfectly randomised to either end in the next turn or the turn after that. (if the disorder itself was randomised, then the effect of two randomisers i.e. the clock and the disorder randomised, would tend more often than not to mitigate each other because of the bell curve nature of 2xD6). Anyway, nit sure if I have explained that with enough clarity, but essentially the fixed 15 minutes is in fact not fixed because 15 minutes of clock time is not of itself fixed. Disorder expressed in another way would be, it lasts for one or two turns depending on how quickly the clock advances.(I think I am digging this hole deeper :-) )

      Also, by fixing at 15 minutes, it allowed me the scope to make a more substantial disorder to be 30 minutes if the fail on the post Close Combat Table was worse for the tester and I thought that around 30 minutes of disorder seemed to feel right for the top end of this sort of thing. After that we are in the world of Rout etc.

    3. Norm, your rationale makes perfect sense! I had noticed the expectation for a 15 minute disorder lasting 'on average' one turn. That is why I suggested making disorder last one Game Clock 'Turn.' I will get out my scraps of paper...

    4. If something disorders for 15 minutes, then it does not become ordered until at least 16 minutes have passed and I think that just tip the odds ratio into the chances being two rather than 1 turn, but by a very small margin. In todays game, the clock was fairly stable in the mid range.

      When I was tinkering with the same sort of thing for my Napoleonic efforts (Eagles at Quatre Bras), the turns were bigger, around 1 hour. The arrival of Wellingtons 5 PM reinforcements became somewhat critical. The randomised clock advanced but just fell short of 5 PM. The French player breathed a sigh of relief and Wellington had to hold on for dear life for a further turn - I do like that sort of thing, as it tends to bring emotional responses from players into the game and that emotional involvement brings its own sense of realism. What a great hobby :-)

  4. Hi Norm - That was a great read, you packed of lot of play into a small game in a small space but it worked well. It's something I would like to try once I get my ACW forces up and running. The concept of the Game Clock I also think adds something different to the set of rules, I'm really keen to try it.

    All in all a great little scenario, just goes to show you don't need hundreds of figures to play a challenging ACW game, I think this may well become my starting point.

    1. Hi Lee, thanks for visiting. You are already off to a head start with your large hex mat, it will easily make a 6 x 6 workable in your space. I also did a set of WWII rules (also uses a clock and called Tigers at Minsk) that were originally designed to work on a 8 x 6 grid, but would be fine with you using your full mat. I only mention this because I know you have the WWII forces for east front games at hand.

  5. IMPORTANT - the rules have now been amended so that in General Fire and Charging, units that can claim cover and thereby only suffer 1 Heavy Casulaty per two hits, WILL NOW KEEP REMAINDER HITS, which will contribute to another Heavy casualty the next time the unit receives a single HIT.

    1. Casualties for units claiming cover are halved. Fractions retained. To clarify, suppose a unit with no hits in cover takes hits. In cover, three hits become 1-1/2. Taking another one hit in cover causes 1/2 hit leading to two hits total for the unit. Had the unit in cover suffered two hits in the second fire rather one hit, total hits on the unit would be 2-1/2 (1-1/2 from previous fire plus 1 hit from current fire), yes?

  6. Yes, the remainder is always carried forward until some point at which it can be used by combining with another single hit.

    I think easy ways to manage it would be to use something like a red counter to show a remainder, or units carrying a half hit use a totally different coloured dice as their casualty dice. So white dice might be for standard Heavy Casualties and using yellow dice instead likewise shows the current casualty rate but serves to remind that the unit is also retaining a remainder.

    In my game recorded here, each turn there were single hits scored against the cavalry that were just simply ignored. If this is repeated over a couple of turns or so, we are left with regimental fire doing nothing at all. At least this way, the accumulated effect with lead to degrading of a unit albeit a bit more gently .... as it should be.

  7. Norm, a couple of additional questions for you:
    1. A unit suffers its 5th HC in Fire Phase and fails its CT. It falls back one hex and becomes disordered. Having 5+ HC, does it take a second CT during the Retreat Phase? Failing that, does it take one HC and fall back one more hex?

    2. Is the one HC suffered for CT failure during Retreat and/or Rout Phases halved if the unit is currently in cover or is it 1HC regardless of cover?


    1. Hi Jon - thanks for still being with this.

      Re 1. Yes to everything. I like that units can absorb some damage, but that there comes a tipping point and once that has been reached, units can become non-combat effective quite quickly. So by the time a unit reaches 4 heavy casualties, it has the problem that tests are starting to get harder to pass and then 1 more HC and the value of 5 becomes the tipping point and the unit compares VERY unfavourably with something that might be considered 'fresh'.

      Re 2. Good catch, those things (rout / retreat) are explicit FULL casualty losses regardless of terrain - I suppose those rule sections need to state that, now that I have gone over to cover causing remainders to be carried over.

      When I edit a page, I try really hard to make sure that the edit does not cause page formatting to change, so that just the amended page can be printed off, without the rest of the document being affected.

    2. Thanks for the clarifications, Norm. I got in a second game of Mill Creek with a much, much different result than the first game. I will write it up when time permits.

    3. thank you, I look forward to that.

  8. Hello Norm,

    Slowly catching up on blog posts. Thanks for the great report. It is interesting how small a space you can get an interesting game out of. 6x6 is about the smallest I think you could go for single units in a hex. I think you proved easily that it works.

    1. Thanks Shaun, I think we both appreciate what can come out of a small space. In some ways the grid makes for less nuanced use of space compared with free movement, but it certainly works in the same way that the Neil Thomas 1HW rules work on a 3' x 3' with 4-6 units per side on 6" frontages and some of his scenarios are quite engaging.

  9. Thanks Jonathan - Sorry, I deleted your post in my awkward efforts of getting rid of the 3 spam posts that came in on 3 separate articles. I had wondered about the poster and passed the mouse over 'his link' which showed a wordpress account, so I let it go. Appreciate your sharper eye. Cheers Norm.

    1. Norm, my sharper eye was wholly attributable to experience. I had a similar episode about a month ago. My helpful commenter was promoting a casino. I sent it to Blogger SPAM and haven't seen him since. Hopefully, Blogger blocked the user. One can hope.

  10. Norm, I am working through this scenario and at present the Federal cavalry are tearing up the Rebs as they wade Willoughby Run.

    I have a question on timing wrt removal of disorder. In the "Passage of Time" Design Note, it states that a unit disordered for 15 minutes at 11:42 remains disordered unit the Game Clock has moved beyond 11:57 (11:42 + :15). That suggests that all "qualifying" disorders are removed when the Game Clock is advanced. Is this the situation? I can see a unit becoming disordered during the 2nd Player Phase and then reverting to good order if the following Game Clock time passage is great than 15 minutes. Disorder would have little or no effect on these units disordered in the bottom end of a "turn." Is that intentional?

  11. Hi Jonathan, I am shooting a bit from the hip as I am on vacation at the moment and without notes .... however, is essence, yes you are right.

    in a typical boardgame, which of course is the lineage of my hex based stuff, a unit carrying any such penalty will typically remove their penalty in their own Player Turn, so both players might at the end of their own part of the turn have a 'Remove YOUR OWN disorder makers' and that works well and would totally address your point.

    However, by going with a game clock, I hit the administrative problem that there can only be one ‘time’ and once time moves forward, it moves forward for everyone. So essentially when the clock advances, everybody is influenced by the new time and all units that have picked up disorder timings that now precede the new time, would have those markers removed and so their is a game advantage to player two in this regard.

    The formula used for setting time has a SLIGHT tendency to give results that last for two turns rather than a straight 50/50, though of course player B (usually the defender in my small and localised scenarios) is still the most advantaged.

    The effect could be dampened down by always giving results for player B a ‘loading’, so for example if player B goes disordered, to their disorder time they also add the result of a D6 per 15 minute period of disorder - or their disorder is always set higher at a fixed rate, such as +3 minutes, but mathematically, one has to be careful of not pushing player B into then typically having to suffer disorder for two turns most of the time - especially as the bell curve of 2D6 (used to advance the clock) will dramatically change effects for each additional value of 1 that we alter minutes by (against the formula of 2D6 plus 8 working against a value of 15).

    It has just turned 6 am, so I am probably talking rubbish :-)

  12. Spelling .... there (their is a game advantage) - sorry.



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