Saturday, 9 March 2019

Fox Gap 1862 on a smaller grid

Some time ago, fellow blogger Jonathan Freitag put together a scenario on Fox Gap to work with my hex based Two Flags - One Nation rules. Last week Jonathan replayed the scenario, moving from 2” to 4” hexes, while at the same time shrinking the size of the grid, providing a tighter focus to the action. He has blogged his account and I have put a link to that post in the Resource Section below.


The action is interesting because it is limited to equivalent of a large brigade on each side and both players have all three arms represented on the field.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.



To start with, there are a couple of admin matters to deal with. Jonathan has put his battlefield into a 6 (wide) by 5 (deep) hex matrix. My tiles are fixed into groupings of three hexes deep, so my battlefield needs to be 6x6. The spare row sits behind the ridge on the Confederate edge. The problem with this is that if a Confederate unit is forced to retreat back 2 hexes, it can use this new row and will still be on the table, whereas on the Union side, units that sit near the edge would retreat off the table and be lost, so to counter the Confederate advantage, I will allow an ‘imaginary’ row of hexes on the Union baseline, giving an equally safe haven for those troops to retreat into.

Secondly, when this scenario was designed, the system ran a game clock and the scenario was set to work from 0900 hours to 1100 hours. With the clock now gone, I will set this as an 8 turn game and just see how that goes (i.e. akin to 15 minute turns in the older format).

Situation - the Confederates line a ridge that is protected along its front by a stone wall. The Union victory conditions require them to capture the middle section of that ridge (3 hexes). Below the ridge is a farm that is heavily fenced.

Setting up - I have replicated Jonathan’s table, with the exception that I have added a track that runs through woodland from the union baseline to Wise Farm up on the ridge. The heavily fenced farmland counts as difficult terrain for movement purposes, but will only provide cover against a charge (not fire). The scenario has Player 1 being determined randomly - on this occasion, the Union is player 1.

Turn 1 - The Union getting Player 1 status was critical, since their dismounted cavalry start adjacent to Bondurrant’s artillery, located in the fields.  They fired their carbines, causing 1 Heavy Casualty amongst Bondurrant’s men, but the artillery passed its post casualty test and their return point blank fire inflicted horrendous casualties on the cavalrymen ... 4 Heavy Casualties. They mounted up and fled, moving into that imaginary hex row that we set up.

Elsewhere, the Union right is out of command and just stands still, while the left advances through the woods. Union artillery plays its cannonade along the ridge, pushing 5th North Carolina ‘b’ back over the ridge, but the plucky raw and small 5th North Carolina unit, even though taking 3 Heavy Casualties from the guns, stood its ground. Pegram (Confederate) moved his two guns into the vacant ground left by 5th NC ‘b’, but were slow to unlimber (failed Capability Test).

That was a very action packed turn and is a great example of just how much game can come out of a small area.

Turn 2 - The Union continued to inflict grief on the defenders. The Ohio Light Artillery fired on Bondurrant’s artillery, who suffered 3 Heavy casualties and were forced to limber up and escape from the enclosed fields and up onto the ridge, only pausing when they reached the reverse slopes. Casualty levels were seemingly high in this replay.

23rd Ohio ‘b’, supported by 23rd OH ‘a’, charged on the left, but they were hampered by the woods. In the centre, 12th Ohio surged forwards into the fields, aiming at the gap on the slope created when 5th NC ‘b’ retreated, but Pegram’s artillery and 12th NC just manage to get back in position to shore up the defence.

Turn 3 - The Union artillery was now hampered by the fact that their own troops were just below the slopes of the ridge and too near the enemy to be able to safely fire. The 12th NC (Confederate) on the ridge were nursing 5 Heavy Casualties, so 12th Ohio (Union) seized the moment and charged up the slopes against their walled position .... what a mess! they took 3 Heavy Casualties on the way in (3 pesky 1’s were rolled in the close combat) without inflicting losses, but at the end of the close combat, it was the 12th NC who currently had the higher accumulated casualties and so they were forced to give ground, but their retreat turned into a rout from the field. The exhausted 12th Ohio (Union) took the slope, but were immediately forced back by Confederate musket fire.

Turn 4 - 30th Ohio (Union) on the right were thrown up the the ridge slopes, but against a solid position with fresh troops, they were easily repulsed in disorder. Gibson’s artillery (Union) succeeded in causing  Bondurrant’s artillery to limber up (again!) and retreat, but they left smashed guns behind and that retreat also turned into a rout, causing them to leave the field. Still, overall, the Confederate position remained strong, with enough men on hand to defend the ridge.

Turn 5 - Scammon (Union Brigade Commander) rode over to the left to personally direct 23rd Ohio ‘a’ with ‘b’ in support, to push aggressively up the slope and see off 5th NC ‘a’, which they did, but in a moment of unbridled enthusiasm, he also ordered 12th Ohio to charge uphill frontally at Pelhams artillery, positioned behind the wall. The charge effort was half hearted by the 12th, who had already suffered 4 heavy casualties and the guns shredded the attackers ranks, taking 12th Ohio to 6 heavy casualty markers. Unsurprisingly they were heavily repulsed.

5th VA cavalry (Confederate), still mounted and positioned in the woods on the Confederate right, found themselves somewhat boxed in and in danger of being roughly handled, so were compelled to pull back. This created a confused scene in which suddenly the Confederate right flank and Pelham in particular was exposed! 5th NC ‘b’ turned in an effort to shore up the flank, but surely, this would be where the Union would seek to turn the battle.

Turn 6 - 23rd Ohio ‘a’ duly charged Pegram’s pair of guns frontally. The charge took heavy losses on the way in (another pesky three 1’s rolled!) and like the previous assault, was bloodily repulsed. 5th NC ‘b’ (Confederate) tried to take advantage of that and relieve Pegram’s discomfort by charging down the slope into the 23rd Ohio, but they in turn were repulsed. The fight was intensifying, with losses building and both sides determined.  

Turn 7 - Then there was ‘one of those moments’ the Random Event Table directed that a Confederate unit in woods should fire on a neighbouring Confederate unit also in woods (friendly fire). There was but one candidate, the Confederate cavalry fired into 5th NC ‘a’, who fled backwards, once again leaving the Confederate right flank exposed!

Taking advantage of that, 23rd Ohio ‘b’ charged uphill into the flank of Pelham. One of the guns managed to turn to get some fire off, but it was not enough, the artillery was forced to limber up and was chased off, with the 23rd taking the position (the first victory point hex). But they were isolated and the rest of the brigade was falling back in a series of collapses.  With severe casualty levels, 23rd Ohio ‘a’ had failed its compulsory retreat test and left the field, followed in the same manner by 12th Ohio.

Each time a regiment flees the field or is otherwise removed from play, all remaining regiments of the brigade must test for cohesion, with a -1 for each regiment already lost and with failure causing a 1 hex retreat and an additional loss to the testing regiment. The domino effect of the 23rd ‘a’ and then the 12th leaving the field caused several other units to suffer retreat and loss results. Even the just victorious 23rd Ohio ‘b’ on the ridge lost confidence and skedaddled back to J. Beachley Farm.

The truth was that the Union had lost the momentum of attack and it would be several hours before they would be ready to ‘go again’, the battle was called. The Confederates had held.

Conclusions
We can certainly point to two of the Union charges that by fate of the dice, went to rats and inflicted significant harm on the attackers. (All those 1’s rolled). That together with two turns of very poor shooting by the Union artillery and the Union army being spread to far out so that command was ineffective, all played their part in a Union defeat.

It is the case though that the Union player does feel there is a fight to be had and typically has a genuine hope of success, so this scenario holds enough to have players wanting to return to it.

It is a small battle, in which replays continue to hold much interest and game value, with both sides fully engaged throughout play. The playing area probably needs a little bit more room for the sides to be able to breathe properly, perhaps going to an 8 x 7 grid rather than the 6 x 5 would likely give an optimum format for a balance between a compact footprint and giving the scope that the system needs to operate as intended.

A thank you is of course due to Jonathan for putting the time in to getting this scenario up and running. His blog link is below.

The scenario gives a lot of game for a small gaming space and a modest troop collection.

Resources.
My sister web space called ‘COMMANDERS’ is more ‘snippet’ based than here and updated more regularly LINK.



Jonathan’s blog and AAR for his Fox Gap scenario LINK



An earlier post when the scenario was first played on an 11 x 10 grid LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2017/10/battle-for-foxs-gap-1862.html

17 comments:

  1. Norm! The Federals really experienced a lot of low probability results. Throwing all of those 1's in Close Combat coupled with heavy casualties from Confederate fire were too much to handle.

    I am about ready to replay the scenario as well. We will see if the Federals can muster a win. I have a plan...

    I have a question regarding your first turn in which the Federal right (out of command) remains stationary. Must out of command units remain stationary? The version of the rules I have states units out of command "cannot voluntarily move in a direction that would take them further away from their own commander." I interpret that statement as they can move as long as the distance from their commander does not increase.

    You game layout looks superb!

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    1. Thanks Jonathan, No, Out of Command are free to move as you describe, in my turn 1, when the Union Movement Phase occurred, the artillery and the cavalry were still in place (the cav would only flee in the Confederate part of the turn when their artillery fired) so they were in the way and the right could not move closer to their leader.

      Yes, that was a lot of 1's rolled, more than I have seen before in a game in single attacks, but of course that is just the way it goes and it does encourage me to think that on a 'better day', the Confederates may find themselves under greater pressure, especially in the sector covered by raw troops. Look forward to your plan working :-)

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  2. Interesting variation on Jonathan's game, similar result, I said on Jonathan's game that I thought it was quite a tough call for the Union player,I still think it is albeit they would always think they're in it!
    Best Iain

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  3. Thanks Iain, totally agree, the player still gets a good game, but would count themselves lucky to prosecute a win, it is just fun trying :-). I think the burden of doing that falls to successful Union artillery fire in the opening moves of the game.

    A ridge with a wall must be a tough old thing to face in reality.

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  4. Great to see your game compared with Jonathan's. Both certainly full of action and lovely looking terrain. Nice to see the scenario plays out well on a small board, which appeals to me:).

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  5. Thanks Steve, This was in the region of the 2' x 2'board that you have been tinkering with recently and was definitely action packed. Because the forces are small and combined arms are on the table, I am tempted to push the situation out to other rule-sets, just for comparative purposes.

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    1. As you know I've tried BKCII on a 2' x 2' table, which does give very different challenges to my normal 4' x 4'. I'm currently making a 2' x 2' board for 'The Portable Wargame', but will use it with other skirmish games and maybe even bigger games, such as a Brigade level BP. Not sure how it will work out, but will be fun trying.

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  6. Very nice game and table Norm. Comparing notes to Joanathan’s two games, would you say that the Fed’s failure boil down to wrong tactics or to plain old bad luck with all those bad rolls?

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  7. Thanks Mike, inherent within the scenario is the fact that the two forces are similar in size (Brigade v Brigade) and that the Confederates enjoy a strong defensive position in which the cover (the wall) does reduce non-artillery fire, so the Union have their work cut out to start with.

    Add to that the fact that the forces at hand are relatively small, therefore brittle, so it doesn't take a great deal of adversity, before the casualty rate effectively removes offensive capability away from the units and without reserves, the kind of dice rolling seen in my game was enough to stall the attack. Once a unit reaches 3 - 4 heavy casualties, it will start having problems and be vulnerable.

    As for tactics, I think in Jonathan's most recent game, his move to outflank / unhinge Bondurrant's artillery via the right, while the Union artillery bombards the ridge during turns 1 - 2, is an improvement in the tactics used so far. It clears the way for an early infantry assault up the ridge ... aimed at the raw troops on the confederate right wing.

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  8. As Jonathan shows, repeated playing leads to improving tactics which the feds sorely need in this scenario: with equal strength and the defense fortified. That and some good die rolling in the beginning. Otherwise set backs become very hard to overcome bc the attack stalls. In your replay the poor feds certainly had some poor luck.
    Still, I think this scenario has some great legs and good replay value. You did a great job designing it. ­čśÇ

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  9. Thanks Stew, the scenario design is all Jonathan’s work, I just managed to crash it with my usual cack-handed dice rolling :-)

    The situation has a lot going for it, not least perhaps is to make it a benchmark scenario for trying out other rules, as it is a small and tight episode.

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  10. Most interesting to see your report and Jonathan's: how often does that happen? Seems at first glance to not be much of a game: storming uphill into reinforced positions during the ACW. But the game reports indicate sufficient tension to warrant replay, which is a testament to the scenario and rules. In other news, I searched for an email, but couldn't scare one up, so I'll go off topic just for a bit to let you know that my miniatures on a grid system, Baroque Battles, has (finally) been posted. You had dropped a comment showing interest.

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  11. Thanks Ed, the scenario gives a relatively short but immersive game. I think the Union comes so close, that it drives interest to replay to crack the scenario.

    Thanks for the heads up re your grid play, will be checking that.

    I am not sure how to set up a contact button here, but I have a contact page over on my sister webspace, COMMANDERS, link here;

    https://commanders.simdif.com/

    (something else I can't do ....get a live link in comments! :-) )

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  12. Another enjoyable read Norm, I never fail to be impressed by how much challenging wargaming you manage to fit into such a small space.

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  13. Thanks Lee, it is surprising how even on such a small battlefield, there is still a sense of flanks, with something different going on with each flank at the same time. In boardgame terms, you could shrink a 6 x 7 grid down to postcard size with half inch counters, incredible really.

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  14. Great looking game, Norm. I've not played enough hex based games, and yours certainly makes me want to try more.

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  15. Thanks Dean, there seems to be an increasing warming towards grids, helped I think by systems such as Commands and Colors boardgame and To the Strongest rules.

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