Tuesday, 6 April 2021

An EPIC (Warlord Games) battle for the beginner



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.


Tea towels under the mat give decent hills

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).

Note the Union regiment next to the building

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.

The Union charge!

The heights;

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.

Taliaferro fires down into the river


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.

Union 1st Brigade are whipped and fall back across the river.


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.

The writing is on the Union wall!

The retreat;

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.



The Pursuit;

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.


Conclusion

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!


Resource Section.


My sister webspace COMMANDERS has a collection of shorter AAR’s. Link.

https://commanders.simdif.com


30 comments:

  1. This is a great report Norm and once again, I can see the attraction of these smaller figures. Looking at your painted examples, I see no real reason one could not reduce the unit scale even further, and call each base a unit.....that way, unit production time could be reduced and larger actions played in the same space....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Keith. When I first saw this being advertised and they had 5 bases to the regiment, it popped into my mind that the 5 bases could be dealt with as a brigade, with each of the 5 bases acting as regiments within.

      Delete
  2. A very good post Norm which really should encourage us to get units onto the table to 'test' the rules as we also paint in tandem. It's something I should have done years ago which would have avoided wasted units that looked good but I never really used in a game etc. Also you might find that the rules in question don't work for you and so you can avoid the seemingly perennial problem of re-basing for the next ruleset you want to try!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Steve, fully agree. I think I have always ultimately re-based everything I have owned (at least once!), partly that is down to my fickle nature, but practising with units on temporary bases is a good way to get both rules and basing right early doors.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good stuff Norm. I'm such a cheapskate I'd be chopping those bases in half. Ten figures on a 30mm front is plenty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Martin, I do think 30mm bases would have been a better option, especially for the many gamers with smaller tables who don't want a unit to be 30cm long, but since big units was the initial goal, I can see why they went with 60mm. The current gap between bases is something I don't understand, because it disrupts the look of the regiment.

      Delete
  5. I do like the mass effect, nice scale...and splendid table!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Phil, the tight ranking does look good and something that we typically don't see with our 15mm scale in general. It does help with the 3 - 4 foot viewing distance of the player.

      Delete
  6. Well done Norm for getting the figures out for a battle. I don’t think I had realised you had plumbed for the epic warlord stuff, or at least forgotten, they will allow for some really big games as people collect more stuff. But Lot of painting 100 man units ! I can see a lot of people playing big games with a base per regiment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks Matt, I have been on the line with this, twice I have ordered it and twice cancelled it with WG. In the end I caved in and ordered from a Bricks & Mortar store, by which time I obviously lost the option to get the free pre-order generals.

    The problem for me is one of distraction, I already have kallistra 12mm, some Peter Pig 15's and some Perry 28mm ACW, so it was more the 'concept' that interested me. In my mind I am trying to figure how I would feel about this set if it were napoleonics or trying to gauge whether Epic has a future outside ACW,that is not so much an issue for me because I am already terrained for 10mm / 12mm games, but some gamers may not want to add another terrain collection just for one era.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A splendid post Norm, if I come across anyone who has dived into this and is overwhelmed by the volume of stuff I shall direct them to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Phil, when this was in the pre-order phase, I came across an internet comment, where someone thought the starter box would sell loads and then just sit on shelves. - I hope not.

      Delete
    2. This sort of post should be in one of our hobby magazines in order to teach an even wider audience. Top stuff Norm...as usual.

      Delete
    3. Thanks JB, I think the advertising power of Warlord Games will ensure future content in Wargames Illustrated magazine, but I think it will be at the wargame shows, where product on demo games and support widely available with 3rd party sellers, as well as WG, will almost certainly produce some impulse sales and interest.

      Delete
  9. Well I wasn't expecting that Norm, excellent post! The Blue and Grey sprues make it an easy matter to set up and play a game as you have and surely part of the concept that I missed, what a great introduction for newcomers. I know that the coloured sprues reminded me of the old Airfix days.

    I have never played Black Powder so can't pass comment on them, but will say that the A5 copy that came with the set I find impossible to read! I can paint 6mm figures without the need for glasses or magnifiers but I'm damned if I can read that text!

    I really like your mat, can I ask where you got it from? It's much brighter than my Tinywargames mat. Another thing I like are the hills UNDER the mat, much prefer the look so noted. I have a load of S&A hills that would sit nicely under a mat like that.

    The closed up strips look better too. Because I'm a fussy old so and so the only issue I would have with the 2 base units are that I like my flags in the centre of the unit, but there are ways round this.

    All in all Norm a lot to think about there and another enjoyable morning read so thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks Lee, the mat is from Geek Villain (£60), they have a wide range and I am very happy with the product, it is a sort of fleece material. It is just over 6 x 4 and terrain can go underneath without the cloth leaving folds.

    The problem with photography is that very often such hill are blown out and virtually impossible to see, which is why I included the ground level shot, but to the naked eye on the table, the high ground is very obvious. I think a mat that had fields, hedges and furrows would probably make the hills look more obvious to the camera, because the straight lines on the cloth would curve with the contours of the tea towels etc underneath.

    I do prefer the bases closes together. I think 3 bases would look good, though moving to a 5’ x 3’ table would probably help with that.

    The print in the book is small, but I have the big rulebook and for this game, that is what I used, though really the quick reference sheet is enough. I think they originally planned a slightly cut down BP book, but this looks like the whole thing, so hurrah for that. The booklet you get has the essential bits of Glory Hallelujah.

    Glad you enjoyed the read, the whole thing is delivering something a little different and your 600 painted figures would have proven quite the spectacle in this game.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! They look great on the table, Norm. The 2 x stand units are perfect and give a good impression of regiments. This was great and I have NO qualms at all with playing using the bare plastic. Gives a delightful "toy soldier" look to the action. Your painted strips look great and you brought out the individual character of the models perfectly. Also I agree re cutting the bases down. The gap would bug me, too.

    Definitely more, please!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks Steve. I think a lot of gamers build their ACW units with a ragged look, so the base joining is seldom noticed, simply because of the already present irregularity. Here, each strip of 10 is in a straight line, so across that 60mm distance, even with the bases cut, you do see the join of bases, but it is more a discussion point than a practical issue once play starts. These remind me of your AWI / SYW units that you are putting together.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Norm,
    Great report and I have convinced myself I will try the BP rules, I quite like Bonnie Blue flag. Even unpainted the figures look impressive, I have a few Geek Villain mats and find them very good. I bought the Gettysburg one and will be using one base per 400-500 men ( regiment) looking forward to more

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks Graham, Bonnie Blue Flag sound very interesting and were on my list for a while, but things get over-taken as I flit from one thing to another :-)

    The combo of the GB mat and a base per regiment should make for some pretty meaty battles.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Very nice battle report Norm. I didn’t realize that you had gone in for the epic miniatures. They do look nice on the table and I like the closeness of the infantry being shoulder to shoulder. If I didn’t already own hundreds of 18mm ACW miniatures I’d be all over these guys. As it is they don’t fit with anything I have so I’m able to resist the temptation. 😀
    I hope that folks will see this and be encouraged to get their new troops onto the table. Painted or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hundereds of 18mm ACW figures? Clearly you have only begun. Plenty of time to switch to a new scale.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Stew, I think there are a lot of people collecting 15’s / 18’s who would have a natural inclination to these figures, but are too heavily invested in what they have, which won’t match up.

      I hope the figures act as either a draw to new players or to revitalise others who perhaps have not collected in the period.

      Delete
  16. A really interesting post Norm which is of great use to folk just getting into the little chaps. I may try the scenario with Phil in 28mm when we can stage F2F games safely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks David, it will be interesting to see what inventive types do as demo games at the wargame shows when they get started, perhaps a club project done big!

      Hopefully F2F is not too far away.

      Delete
    2. David, used the same battlefield today and put the 28’s up ... great fun and only a slightly tighter fit!

      Delete
  17. This is a very useful post for those contemplating the Epic figures. Don't you have Kallistra 12s already? With thousands of 10mm ACW metals, I won't be tempted. Well, not yet anyway...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks Jonathan. Yes, I have Kallistra 12’s and a good case could be made for me doubling their size instead, rather than equalling it with a different collection (Epic). I wanted to get an impression as to how these would look in the field and my exercise did that. next I will look at what 3 base regiments look like when used in anger - Interesting, that would produce a unit frontage bigger than my 28’s!

    I am intrigued as to where Epic might lead, if indeed it is going to be anything other than a one-off product. Time will tell on that score. If we could have napoleonics, that would be swell, but I suppose it depends on the viability and possibilities of doing limited hard plastic sprue types for the fairly big variety in napoleonic armies.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Interesting, informative and entertaining post as always! Obviously I won't be joining the 12mm band wagon but you've painted them up nicely, lkke Lee I am taken back to airfix union and Confederates, similar vintage I guess, sensible to play unpainted, I should do it but I seem to want an entire army painted before I try a game! I think it's the painter in me , the games a bonus not the main event!
    Best Iain

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks Iain, I think the CEO at Warlord Games would be pleased to hear people feel the spirit of an Airfix link, as I get the sense that that is the direction that he is coming from.

    In this instance, I think unpainted play for part of the audience will be important because these figure strips take longer to paint than one first assumes and it gives you a ready sense of how this will pan out for you and hopefully motivate to get that painting done. There is nice detail in the figures and they deserve due attention.

    ReplyDelete