Sunday, 1 December 2019

Working on a McPherson Ridge scenario

This is intended to be a small scenario for a small table that I can use to test out different rule sets. In the first instance, I have been running it with Black Powder II.

It is the morning of the first day of the three day Gettysburg battle and Archers brigade (Confederate) is about to cross Willoughby Run with McPherson Ridge beyond as their objective.

They are up against dismounted cavalry using the scrub cover behind the far bank to delay the Confederate advance, while Union reinforcements make for the position.

Please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this unusually short post :-)

I have been designing this scenario to play as a kitchen table game with my 12mm ACW figures. After the first trial, I packed away most of the table and then thought that I would run it again, but in 28mm and I thought the small table v scale issue was something that might be of interest.

For the 12mm game, I put out the table that I thought I needed for the action and the scale. I ended up with a 3' wide play space. This was plenty of room and gave the Confederates an open right flank and McPherson Farm on their left flank, both spaces that would be unlikely to see action, so 3' was a plenty of room for a Confederate force that is attacking 2 regiments wide by 2 regiments deep.

The figures are on 40mm bases and 3 bases are used to make a regiment, so regimental frontage is 120mm.

When I set the 28's up, my units are quite small, they are based to 50mm and 3 bases make the regiment of 18 figures, so although they look much bigger than the 12's on the table, actual regimental frontage was only increasing by 30mm.

I made the table 4' wide, but smaller would have been fine. Where the scale thing looked different was that the ridge now didn't feel so significant. Likewise, Willoughby Run didn't feel so wide and could only hold 1 regiment deep rather than 2, so the regiments crossed one at a time.

For the 12mm, Black Powder was converted from inches to centimetres and for the 28mm, it was converted from inches to half-inches. Both games played as well as each other.

I did a write-up of the 12mm game, but this can wait for another post in case I tweak the scenario so much, that it become irrelevant - in the meantime, here are a few of the 28's.

The game had originally been set at 7 games turns, with the Union reinforcements (2 regiments from the Iron Brigade with Meredith) having a 50% chance of entering on turn 2 or else with automatic entry on turn 3. Here is Meredith, as seen through a Confederate spy glass, making good speed to the ridge. 

The first problem in the game seems to be that Meredith will almost certainly reach the ridge and will do so while Archer is just ending his entanglement with the Union cavalry below the other side of the ridge.

So Archer doesn't get enough time to get onto the ridge and if he reached the ridge, his mauled troops would be meeting the fresh elites of the Iron Brigade - so actually getting onto the ridge would be unlikely.

What I think would make for a better game would be to see Archer have a tough fight against the cavalry and then actually get onto the hill as he inevitably would and then for it to be the timing of Meredith's arrival to matter and for the pressure of winning to switch to the Union with them having to eject Archer.
Union guns looking a bit big on the ridge feature

The victory conditions are that Archer must end the game with two regiments on the ridge for a Confederate win, anything else is a Union win.

So it seems that Archer needs more time to get onto the ridge and that Meredith has been arriving too quickly - though we have to accept that Black Powder gives us variable movements and that good or bad fortune controls Meredith's ability to intervene.

Anyway, for the next playing, the game turns can be extended from 7 to 8 and Meredith's arrival will be delayed. The turn 2 arrival die roll can go and we can just say that the lead elements of the Iron Brigade will arrive on turn 4 if they pass their command roll.

Another factor in all of this is that Black Powder only allows infantry in Skirmish order to enter woods and then at half movement, so both Archer and Meredith will need to spend a precious move order to go into skirmish formation.  

Also interesting is that skirmishers cannot charge formed line, but can charge other skirmishers, so there is room for some game nuance here. In that regard, if Archer can just get onto the hill, amongst the trees, then he has a good chance of winning within the time frame and that would put the game tension where it needs to be. 

When I have run a similar scenario with my own rules in which the skirmish thing doesn't matter and so the Iron Brigade just typically attack through the woods and sweep all before them!

Anyway, this is a scenario that has 4 infantry regiments and 1 off board artillery for the Confederate and 3 cavalry regiments, 1 artillery battery and 2 infantry regiments for the Union - making this an interesting mix of units that can be played in a small space and be completed in double quick time, making it ideal for kitchen table gaming, for small collections and for time strapped gamers. 
McPherson Farm in the 12mm game

Hopefully I can get the scenario working for a tighter result and will certainly bring this subject back to the blog.


  1. When I played this scenario from your TF-ON rules, the Rebels did not even manage to brush aside the Federal troopers in the scrub. No chance of reaching the ridge. The Iron Brigade was not needed.

  2. Oooh, now you make me want to go back and try that. The thing with small games is that dice rolls can be everything of course. Under the Black Powder rules, I am making the cavalry regiments small units. The effects are that they drop from 3 to 2 fire dice and from 6 to 4 Hand to Hand dice ....... but when fired upon they benefit from being skirmishers but suffer from being skirmishers when in close combat. I have also given them the benefit of cover while in their ambush position. All-in-all, I was surprised in both of my games how resilient the cavalrymen were. The artillery duel didn’t get anywhere fast, other than causing some Disorder results.

  3. Great little scenario Norm, with interesting observations as always. As you say, the down side can be that some unusual die rolls can adversly affect the game. I look forward to seeing how it plays out with other rulesets.

  4. Thanks Steve, the balance point of when Archer / Meridith reaches the ridge will no doubt differ by degree with different rule sets, so that part of the scenario will be the area of interest.

  5. Thanks Michal. fast play for anyone busy with youngsters :-)

  6. Thanks, Norm. Interesting point regarding skirmishers; the skirmisher rules in W&C ancients was one aspect I disliked and eventually stopped playing them altogether. I have the 1980 boardgame, McPherson's Ridge, but have never got it to the table.

  7. Kevin, that boardgame sounds like a ‘rare’ item. It would be an ideal topic for the S&T to pick up for a new audience, but boardgames would need to be very tactical in nature to make a game out of a single Brigade (or two brigades if we add in Davis) situation.

  8. Norm, Amarillo Design issued the original 1980 game as a pdf in December 2018 and it's available at Wargames Vault and elsewhere for $2.95. Apparently it's well researched historically and the OOB is supposed to be very good.

  9. Thanks Kevin, looks interesting At 150 yards to the hex.

  10. Great topic for an ACW scenario! Should be fun to explore.
    I was very surprised to read that the 28mm miniatures really didn’t need that much more space than the 12mm. I picture them so much bigger.

    As for the scenario; perhaps have Archers brigade just square off against Meredith without the cav engagement first. Kinda like a meeting engagement. Perhaps give Archer a slight advantage initially so that Meredith has to be aggressive.

    Very interested in seeing what you come up with. 😀

  11. Hi Stew, as an aside,I have just picked up some Peter Pig ACW to make some comparisons. In 12mm, my frontage of 12cm has 12 figures and in 28mm, a frontage of 15cm has 9 figures.

    interestingly it is always assumed that the smaller scale gives a better impression of mass, but when frontages are as close as this the shear volume of the 28's brings a mass of it's own.

    Interesting idea of Archer V Meredith, perhaps that should for a second 'linked' scenario, in which Archer has to carry his loss and tiredness forward and Meredith's order of arrival becomes more relevant.

  12. Played this scenario also but some time ago and used JR3, the arrival of Meridiths brigade is a little too early I think and you will need to delay or at least dice for entry, otherwise the confederates will fail to make a dent really as the creek is a major obstacle. I have not replayed it yet using Black powder but I suspect a similar result would occur.


  13. Thanks Matt, I am going again, but with Meredith slowed down and indeed a turn 4 entry might be better as a variable to put more pressure on the Union. of course the thing with Black Powder is they could get lucky and get a few multiple moves .... or unlucky and get none! I have rated Meredith command level 9 to try and prevent that :-)

  14. Sounds interesting, there is a high degree of variability in black powder I find which can be a benefit or a curse, you just have to accept and go with it!
    Best Iain

  15. And probably much more impactive on a smaller scenario, which of course the rules were not really designed for. I am okay with it as ‘the game’ is the thing and I like rules that reduce player control.

  16. Great scenario with the use of beautifully painted ACW troops, Norm.

  17. Thanks Dean, the figures do have a charm for sure.


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