Scenario 1 - Battle of Greenbrier River 1861.
While I hope that all readers enjoy this post, it has been specifically written for the newer gamer who has just opened up their Warlord Games ACW EPIC starter set and are facing a lot of content!
With two and a half thousand figures in the box and regiments generally composed of 5 x 20 man bases, the new player might well feel a bit overwhelmed by the painting work that needs to be done before getting a game in.
The fastest way in, is just to set a game up with unpainted units, so that you can be learning the rules in a practical way, enjoying the system and getting your painting done at an easier pace.
The figures happily come in blue and grey plastic, which gives us a quick start capability while we get the painting queue going, plus we can use fewer bases to represent the regiments.
I am also trimming down the width of the bases slightly, so that the gaps between the bases are less eye-catching to me.
We will get scenario 1 from the starter set straight onto the table and use that as our discussion point.
If any of that interests you, then please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.
In some quarters, playing with unpainted figures can bring anything from mild to heavy condemnation, but let’s get real, this is a great starter set and it would be a shame if the first barrier (painting) to a new player saw the box staying unopened and just left sitting on the shelf ..... I mean what’s the point in that!
There are plenty of figures in this set to be able to use them straight away, while having another group being processed at the painting table (if that’s what you want). These can then be cycled into play bit by bit, so that over time, everything gets painted up, but along the way you have used the Black Powder rules that come with the set and played some games.
The first scenario that we get in the support material is the Battle of Greenbrier River. It is a new scenario, the only one not previously published in Glory Hallelujah. It has the advantage of being fairly small and as the scenario suggests, the order-of-battle can be used to set up a number of other small actions (and I have used similar in my Mill Creek scenario played a few weeks ago). Also, the units are generic in size and armament and don’t have special attributes such as ‘Rebel Yell’ etc, so although we will not see the full nuances of the system, neither will they get in the way of initial learning.
Cut enough figures and bases from the sprue to make the required order-of-battle .... well not quite, I am only using two Infantry bases per regiment and calling that a regular unit. You can grow it to three units or more in the future, but this is a good place to start.
For artillery, I am using 2 gun models per battery and just remembering that the Confederate 4 gun batteries are smaller than the Union 6 guns.
The figures need attaching to the bases (2 ranks of 10 men per base), but if we are to paint them, we don’t really want to permanently fix both ranks at this point, nor to add flags.
I paint the mounted commanders and the front rank on the bases, so I have permanently glued the front rank in place, but the rear rank and the artillery have been attached using a removable putty, so that they can be removed after play and kept loose for painting.
Before doing that, I am reducing the width of each infantry base, as I am not keen on the gap between the bases that the design has used. This is a personal thing to me and there is no need for anyone else to worry about this. But if you do cut and want to retain the positions where the pins on the figure strip locate into the base, then we need to ensure that the units will still look aligned in column, so an equal amount of base should be removed from each end.
I have seen others simply remove the pins on the figure base and then just cut the base to 55mm, which will take the figure strip. Since the pins are not critical to fixing, some may prefer this method, making a single cut instead of two, however, I prefer to keep the locking pins.
Above - On the underneath of the base, a raised rim runs around the base edge. I have found it useful to cut just inside the line created by the rim at each end of the base. It serves as a guide to help keep the cut straight and roughly takes off enough base to get the look that I am after. I have used a small razor saw with small teeth, with the base resting on some scrap wood. It is important to test the first cut base, as different cutting tools will also remove the blade's width.
To get our game to the table, we need a total of 16 infantry units (32 bases), 4 artillery batteries (8 bases) and 7 commanders (7 bases).
If we look to our scenario map, the battlefield is very simple. The road can actually be ignored if you wish. The high ground can be formed by placing tea towels on the table and then covering with a game cloth.
This just leaves a river to be constructed, which can be made from card or crafting foam rubber sheet or craft felt. The single building is not a problem, as we get one with the kit and this can be put together with some PVA or wood glue (note, the photographs show a resin building because I have not built the Sarissa one yet).
Since we are only using 2 bases per regiment, we can fit our battlefield into a 4’ x 3’ space and convert all Black Powder distances to centimetres. Taking all of these things together, the new player should find this a manageable way to get into EPIC.
We are ready to go!
The Battle of Greenbrier is an encounter falling out from Union forces descending from Cheat Mountain to attack Confederate forces near camp Bartow. The river is fordable, but units lose half of their movement allowance when crossing. The building (The Traveller’s Repose) is too small to be occupied by a regiment, but it does block line of sight.
Above - the battle field looks a bit sparse, so I have added the odd tree, just for looks, they are ignored for play. The camera is not picking up the high ground under the cloth (left), but it is there and can be clearly seen with the naked eye, I have marked some of the sloped edges with lichen, just to help the camera (and the viewer).
As per the Scenario, the deployments of Confederate and then Union forces are made on their respective sides of the table. Victory is based upon destruction of the enemy force.
Above - my painting process has started, so today you will see a painted Union infantry regiment, a gun base and a commander Another infantry regiment is on the painting table now, having their trousers put on!
The Union is player 1 (Commanded by Brigadier General Joseph Reynolds). Their plan is to send 1st Brigade towards the bridge to seize it and for 2nd Brigade to cross the Greenbrier River, climb onto the heights and then swing to support 1st Brigade at the bridge.
The Confederate (Commanded by Brigadier General Henry Jackson) plan puts Taliaferro’s Brigade on the high ground (left), Rust’s Brigade in the centre to take the bridge and Johnson’s Brigade, with only two regiments to the right for support.
Important rule from the ACW supplement - if a unit moves more than once in the turn, it cannot also fire in the same turn (firefights page 12).
The meeting engagement;
The engine of Black Powder rules relies on a brigade commander directing one or more of his regiments to do something and then rolling a command dice (2D6) to see how successful the issue of orders has been. The two Union brigades got very different openings.
1st Brigade on the Union left rolled low enough to execute their three move orders, which got them onto the bridge and to the water’s edge, while 2nd brigade on the right, not only failed their roll, but scored ‘12’ which is a blunder. The roll on the Blunder Table (1D6) sent the brigade off one move to it’s right. No real harm was done other than badly delaying the advance of the brigade, which will come to matter!
In contrast, the Confederate left flank (Taliaferro) rolled well and that brigade bound forward, covering the heights and getting close to the northern edge. At this rate Taliaferro would catch the Union 2nd Brigade still trying to cross the river.
The Confederate centre was tardy and did not really get going and their artillery on the high ground repeatedly failed in their bid to unlimber. However, out on the right, Johnson was successful in getting his two regiments into flanking positions at the bridge.
The Union push too far too quickly;
At the bridge, 1st Brigade got their first regiment over the bridge and pushed on beyond the building (The Traveller’s Repose). Somewhat isolated, they found themselves facing Johnson’s two regiments and also their right flank was exposed to the Confederate centre (under Rust).
The Union were very lucky, they took few casualties in the firefight with Johnson and when one of Rust’s regiments tried to launch a flank assault, which needed two movement orders to reach the enemy, they rolled badly and only got one move, so their attack fell short.
1st Brigade restore the situation;
Above - The rest of the brigade catch up. Now fully located on the south bank of the river, 1st Brigade have extended their line, allowing one of their regiments to charge (below) towards Johnson. The attack is not decisive and both sides fight on.
Taliaferro has gained the northern edge of the heights and is able to pour fire down onto 2nd Brigade below them, who are still mired at the river. Considering his position of advantage and now having the guns deployed, Taliaferro fails to deter the Union.
Below - the two right hand Union regiments in column of attack, run up the hill and put one of Taliaferro’s regiments to the bayonet, seeing them off (in the ACW special rules, page 13, units that ‘break’ are not immediately removed from play, they are ‘whipped’ instead, which will essentially see them break contact - these units will be marked with a red counter to show whipped status).
The Bridge - The Confederates get the upper hand;
Sustained musket fire sees one Union regiment whipped, followed by another (to the viewers right of the bridge). With two units in this ‘broken’ state (50% threshold), the remaining two regiments (left of the bridge) also automatically become whipped and 1st Brigade start to fall back across the river. The Confederates are slow to pursue.
One last hurrah;
With 1st Brigade reeling backwards on the left, 2nd Brigade make one final attempt to dislodge Taliaferro from the heights, but their units are repulsed and shaken. The heights will remain in Confederate hands.
With the ‘whipped’ 1st brigade in full retreat, 2nd Brigade to decide to withdraw as well, they are simply not strong enough to take the heights.
Above - a rather half hearted Confederate pursuit from their centre, fails to maintain contact with the retreating Union, but their advance does secure the river line.
I am familiar with the Black Powder rules and it was good to be able to get a smallish game to the table from this starter set so quickly and of itself, that does make me want to get more units painted and added to the next game, which of course is the point of the exercise.
The gamer could quite easily remove the high ground and river from this table and add a couple of woods and a farm, using the same forces and have an equally entertaining but quite different game. This sort of thing allows the new gamer, once some core forces have been put down, to grow their armies at their own pace, without feeling rushed or pressured.
Units of two bases, giving a frontage of 120mm, worked fine here and will allow painting production line to quickly get a core force done, which can then be easily jacked-up for a regular regiment to be represented by 3 bases instead of 2 (if you have the space), giving the formations a more linear look.
The dynamic nature of the Black Powder system gave us our opening narrative to this battle with Taliaferro fighting at the forward slopes of the heights and 1st Brigade getting across to the far side of the river. Play it again and one would likely get a different situation develop, even in this small space with relatively small forces.
In this game, the Union generally failed to handle their artillery well, it was either in the wrong place or firing at long range. In some respects, this was balanced by the fact that Rust (Confederate centre) consistently rolled poorly for his brigade’s command roll, otherwise Union 1st Brigade might have been very roughly handled.
All told, this is a good starting scenario that can easily be modified to add in some of the more advanced features, such as varying the command ratings of the commanders, having some units being smoothbore musket armed, as this is 1861. It could be justified to make one or both Union brigades ‘Uppity’ and perhaps giving one or two Confederate regiments the ‘Rebel Yell’ attribute would add something.
Anyway, I hope new players give this one a go at an early opportunity. Thanks for reading this far!
My sister webspace COMMANDERS has a collection of shorter AAR’s. Link.