Sunday, 15 August 2021

Gettysburg Hexed!




My Two Flags - One Nation hex based rules have had a 2021 version update to keep them aligned with the non-hexed version that I have currently been working on.

The rest of this post discusses those few changes and includes a replay of the McPherson’s Ridge scenario.

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


This year I have created a sister rule set for the TF-ON hex based game, that takes the system to the open table. At the same time a couple of new features and a general tidy up of the rules were introduced.


I have now gone back into the hex version set to bring them up to parity. I have always appreciated how much work goes into updating a single set and making sure that each tweak does not unintentionally impact on another area of rules, but doing that to two rule books at the same time, while everything is fluid and fresh in my head to prevent unwanted divergence of the sets, has been surprisingly time consuming and I’m not even sure an amateur set of rules are worth that level of preciseness, but anyway, the work is done.


As well as a tidy up and a few tweaks, two main new rule areas have been added. Firstly Skirmishers are now a ‘real’ formation that are physically represented on the table. In the previous versions, the basic formation was Line and we allowed the player to assume that the local commander was taking care of whether the engaged troops were using line, skirmish or the rarer assault column.


Secondly, units can now accrue multiple disorder markers rather than the old way of a unit’s disorder being represented by one marker. It is still the case that a unit is either disordered or not disordered, so in combat a unit is still only suffering a single penalty for disorder, but when it comes to rallying off disorder, a unit that is very disordered by the accumulation of disorder markers will likely take longer to sort themselves out.


The two new rule areas sound quite simple, but they have a potential to have an exaggerated impact on the game and I have been keen to ensure that the nature of the game itself should not be shoved around too much.


The McPherson’s Ridge scenario in the rule book has had a long standing presence and has been robust enough to withstand several big changes to the rule set ever since day one. It provides reliable bench marking to change.


This will be particularly true for todays replay as the scenario opens with a defence by dismounted Union cavalry, which under the 2021 version will now count as skirmishers instead of line. So we need to see whether the tweaks fundamentally change the nature of cavalry in the game and whether any changes have become problematic.


The headline changes that skirmishers bring are; They only fire with 1D6 (cavalry carbines fire with 2D6) and no modifiers. They ignore difficult terrain penalties when moving (and don’t collect a Disorder marker). When fired upon, they cannot suffer more than 1 hit. In Close Combat they do not inflict casualties, but do suffer as many hits as are rolled against them.


Units taking a Capability Test to charge skirmishers get a +2, which increases their chance of delivering a full charge and reduces the chance of putting in a ‘half hearted’ charge. This is somewhat balanced by skirmishers that receive a charge and pass their own Capability Test now having a ‘response’ chance to reform back into Line before the charge is met (note, dismounted cavalry cannot use line, their only formation change is to re-mount).


While all of those traits sound fairly straight forward and perhaps expected qualities, it is surprising how deeply the changes permeate into the rule set, changing many areas of text.


There is an overlap of the two new rule introductions in which skirmishers can move through ‘difficult’ terrain without collecting Disorder Markers, while other units now automatically (i.e. no longer take a Capability Test to see whether they do or don’t) collect Disorder Markers and so the ACW battlefield, which so often has difficult terrain, can now see moving non-skirmishing units accumulate disorder in that terrain.


While I think the two new areas of rules are good for the set, they also help move the rules into a direction that will help with future sub-sets for Napoleonics and AWI.



Anyway, what does our McPherson’s Ridge game look like now? Our commentary will give some focus to the Union Cavalry, since this is where changes will be more obvious. As for the rest of the battle, unless something of note happens, it will get a more superficial overview.


Archer’s Brigade start off board and are about to get their boots wet, splashing through Willoughby Run (difficult terrain).


Greeting them are Gamble’s dismounted cavalry in skirmish order on the other side of the watercourse. The Union also have an artillery battery on the forward wooded slopes of McPherson’s Ridge, while the Confederates have Pegram’s batteries 1000 yards to their rear (remaining off table, so always be firing at long range).


On turn 3, Archer will be joined on his left by Davis’ Brigade, who will advance along the road / railroad construction.


The Union have reinforcements racing to the scene. Cutler’s Brigade, Hall’s artillery and Meredith’s Brigade (The Iron Brigade). Can the cavalrymen delay the Confederates long enough for those reinforcements to gain the initiative?


Winning is based around part occupation of McPherson’s Ridge, McPherson’s Farmhouse and the railway cut (between the high ground at hex E8).



 

Turn 1. Archer’s Brigade enters the table in Line formation at Willoughby run. Being difficult terrain, this only allows movement of 1 hex, so they end their movement in the waterway and (now) automatically each regiment gets a Disorder Marker.




For their part, the dismounted cavalry must (now) be treated as skirmish line (note in the above photo, a third cavalry regiment is in McPherson's Field field just off camera to the left).


In the previous version of the scenario, to represent their ambush, each cavalry unit was placed behind temporary terrain that provided cover until they fired, at which point the ambush was revealed and the temporary cover was removed. (Now) the cavalry simply get a +1 fire dice on their first fire to represent ambush.


This is because skirmishers get reduced fire dice of 1D6 (or 2D6 for carbines) while under the old system, close range fire would have given them 4D6, the scenario special rule at least allows their opening fire to be increased from 2D6 to 3D6.


As it happens, on this occasion the cavalry fire is pretty useless, causing just 1 Heavy Casualty point along the whole line!


Turn 2. The Union artillery (Calef) on the ridge gets very effective fire against Pegram, essentially causing casualties and making them fall back. They have to limber-up to do this, so Calef will be left alone for a bit while Pegram sorts his batteries out, returning to his firing positions and unlimbers etc (even though this is off table - it is represented). This will be bad news for Archer’s Brigade, which will no doubt now get Calef’s full attention!


Archer’s Brigade charge forwards to flush out the dismounted cavalrymen. The cavalry test for responses. At McPherson’s field, the cavalry fail their Response Test, so will just stand and take the charge, however the other two regiments pass and they decide to mount up and fall back one hex. This (now) seems to be better representing the screening nature of cavalry.



Surprisingly, at McPherson’s field, the cavalry manage to repulse the charge against them, the attackers fall back into Willoughby Run and pick up 2 Disorder Markers, one for the Close Combat and one for entering the water.



Turn 3. Archer has managed to bring another regiment up to assault McPherson’s field ….. but! that unit exposes its flank to Calef’s artillery, up on the ridge, which gets bonus dice for the enfilade fire and the Confederate regiment runs back with 2 Heavy casualties and picks up a couple of Disorder Markers for their trouble.


The two Union cavalry units that fell back earlier, dismount. That is all they can do because that is classed as movement, but it doesn’t matter, they are once again in the way of the Confederate infantry …. doing their work! Again, the new tweaks are giving us better cavalry.


The Confederate infantry would do well to charge again, but units cannot charge on two consecutive occasions, so they content themselves by firing instead. This natural pacing will give the cavalry a reprieve from the charge and being constantly shoved out of place and give them chance to fire, so again the rules are helping the skirmish elements ... a bit of fire, a bit of blocking and a bit of falling back.



Above -the second Confederate brigade (Davies) has arrived on the left and his three regiments are advancing towards the rail cut (objective).



Turn 4. Hall's artillery arrives and travels up Chambersburg Pike towards the rail cut. He is followed by the 5 regiments of Cutler.


The Confederate infantry can charge again this turn. They do, in an attempt to clear the skirmishers, but 7th Tennessee, supported by 14th Tennessee roll a ‘half hearted charge’, encouraging the opposing dismounted cavalry to choose to stand and fire …… a mistake as it turns out as they in turn suffer 3 Heavy Casualties from the supported charge.


The Confederates take McPherson’s Field. All Union cavalry units are now mounted and have pulled back.



Turn 5. Meredith (Iron Brigade) arrives with 5 regiments in the area of Hagerstown Road (upper right in the photo). There are now a total of 10 fresh Union regiments moving to the front.


Hall deploys his artillery along the part constructed rail line, blocking the Confederate advance.


Pegram continues to fire at and hit Calef’s artillery, which despite slowing gaining losses, stands firm, much to the misery of Archer’s brigade below.



Davis must get to the cut to control it (objective) and he needs to do this before Cutler deploys in strength. 2nd Mississippi charge through the cut, onto the deploying guns, but their charge is only half hearted and not supported and heavy artillery fire forces them back. The Confederates may have just reached their high point.


Turn 6. Some mounted cavalry had they been better positioned might have now been tempted to charge a couple of Archer’s regiments that are teetering on collapse  (the cavalry wouldn’t suffer penalty against such units).



There is a sea of reinforcing dark blue uniform moving towards the front line.


Davis captures the farmhouse (objective), but on his right, things are unravelling for Archer's brigade. Archer loses his first regiment in the Retreat Phase (where heavily damaged units must test to see whether they fall back). They leave the table, forcing the rest of his regiments to test for Brigade Cohesion.


Nightmare! Another regiment already in the waterway fails that test and also leaves the table. A third regiment (already on 6 losses) also fails and retires back to Willoughby Run. Archer’s attack has totally disintegrated, largely due to Pegram not having dealt with Calef’s artillery threat.


Turn 7. Random Event #9 occurs, this is the first event in the game. It allows Meredith to Double Time his regiments without penalty. He is now running up the far side of McPherson’s Ridge.


Cutler’s regiments start to put in a couple of attacks, one on the hill and one against the farmhouse, both are repelled. The Confederates have lost all offensive capability and are now just trying to hold the line.


14th Tennessee, badly shot up (7 Heavy Casualty markers) fail their Retreat Test and leave the table. That is 3 of Archer’s 4 regiments that have now left the battle. The remaining regiment, 13th / 15th Alabama at the farmhouse lose heart, fail their Retreat Test and fall back to Willoughby Run.


I play through the next turn simply to get the Confederates off the table, their attack has failed and it will take them a couple of hours to organise a fresh assault, which is pretty much what happened historically, except in our game, Meredith was left with little to do! The cavalry, greatly assisted by Calef's artillery, had done their job, though they were fairly exhausted, with each unit having picked up around four heavy casualties already.


A fresh Confederate brigade (if only one had been available!) would not doubt have seen them off and been well placed to absorb the initial attacks from the Iron Brigade.


Conclusion.

The scenario is a tough one for the Confederate player, but it is not uncommon for them to get two out of the three scenario objectives during the game (which is all they need to win), forcing the Union to work during the last half of the scenario to re-take those hexes.


In our game today, it was the Union artillery that became the problem for the Confederate advance. Often Pegram’s artillery will force it to retreat and once it does so, it cannot re-enter the difficult terrain on the ridge, so must spend time on a circuitous route around the ridge to again bring the Confederates into their gun sights.


That reprieve from cannon fire can usually see Archer’s brigade getting onto McPherson’s Ridge with a subsequent, and frequently, one sided contest with Meredith’s Iron Brigade following.


Overall, the rule changes seemed to be doing okay in this action. The accumulation of disorder became problematic around the difficult terrain of Willoughby Run, which felt right and the skirmisher rules, which also apply to dismounted cavalry, brought a bit more nuance and interest to their behaviour on the field.


I have updated the DropBox page with the 2021 version of the rules.


Resource Section.

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.


https://commanders.simdif.com


Two Flags - One Nation hex based rules version August 2021 are available here LINK. I retain copyright, but they are free for personal use. If you enjoy them or use them, please consider putting some coins in a charity box.


https://www.dropbox.com/s/u6qjqlnjsdpel28/TFON%20rules.pdf?dl=0


31 comments:

  1. Thanks for your work on updating the hex-based rules, Norm. Printing off a copy and will give them a look. I may put these out on the table in one of my remote game rotations for the UK group.

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  2. Hi Jonathan, if catch any 'oops'! please let me know, cheers.

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  3. Thanks, Norm. What I'd like to know is why these 2 changes (you hinted at being useful for AWI and Naps versions, but that can't be the only reason...)?

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    1. Hi Renaud, units could pick up a disorder marker and then lose it in the same turn in their rally phase and so the effects of disorder could feel a little arbitrary.

      Going with accumulated disorder helped with that. In the initial draft, a unit could only ever attempt to recover from one of its disorder markers, but entire forces quite quickly took on a semi-permanent disorder status. The next draft allowed multiple accumulation and also multiple recovery, that worked and also held the potential for a unit to be disordered across more than one turn, reducing player certainty. I quite like the gamer’s control being loosened.

      Skirmishers went in, more because I felt that there was an expectation that at regimental level, they should be represented. While playing a scenario with the system on an open table, the table was described as being covered with woods with some small clearings. Without skirmish movement the game both felt and looked a little odd and then the interaction between units in the woodland and clearing likewise wasn’t nuanced enough. I put in some skirmisher rules, which grew and then needed to be retro fitted to the hex set.

      The system is quite dice heavy and I am always looking for ways to reduce them, having units automatically going disordered in difficult terrain was a way to that (instead of testing), but with a lot of ACW scenarios having difficult terrain, the need for the option of skirmish formation became more compelling and so it happened.

      Once I made that leap, the relationship between skirmish movement and the accruing of multiple disorders for units not using skirmish order in difficult terrain, became somewhat symbiotic.

      The napoleonic rules will increase the focus on formations because square and assault column will get drawn into them, so increasing formation versatility now seemed sensible.

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  4. Thanks for an interesting read Norm. Your rules seem to be doing all the right things.

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  5. Thanks, in the past they have felt a little awkward in places, but hopefully some smoothing out over the past couple of years has reduced that, while keeping the narrative part intact.

    They are just some ideas that I am happy with and also happy to share, I would certainly not promote them as being anything special or better than other rules, they just suit me and at the moment, there is not a great deal of choice for gamers using hexes.

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  6. Norn -
    Interesting to see the way your rule sets are developing. I was a little curious to see Calef's battery (presumably 6 rifles) outshooting Pegram's battalion (5 batteries, presumably 20 cannon). I might have expected part of the CS gun line to give way - but all of it? Just a thought. Possible, I guess - one of those heroic sub-narratives within the greater story - like L Battery at Mons.
    Cheers,
    Ion

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  7. Hi, Ion, that might be an area to put in a balancing rule if the player feels the Confederates need some help to prevent Archer being too mauled to ‘greet’ Meredith. The scenario represents Pegram’s batteries by simply dealing with them as a ‘large’ unit, which in games terms just makes them a little more robust (in terms of size, artillery fire is only modified when a battery is small and classed as a section).

    If they were represented individually, it is likely that their firepower in game terms would too quickly overwhelm Calef for game purposes (that is a fault of the rules no doubt), I had them at 4 batteries (probably wrong and will check other sources), but even so, that, at long range would give them 4 x 3 dice in a firing. Against Calef that would likely see them off on turn 1. Though giving the Pegram 4 (or 5) ‘small’ batteries might help smooth that out.

    they would then turn their attention on the cavalrymen, here their effect is much less, as skirmishers per firing can never suffer more than 1 hit, though the dynamic with the cavalry is that they will mount to fall back - mounted they are much more vulnerable to artillery.

    It would however make for a very interesting scenario, as it would leave Archer more often in charge of the ridge and relatively fresh to receive Meredith’s attack.

    The way it is at the moment there is a bit of tension and a bit of breath holding when rolling the dice to see whether the Union or Confederates can cause the enemy artillery to limber up and fall back. The consequences for the Union are worse as Calef can not re-enter the wooded forward slope, so removes him from battle for several turns, while a fall back by Pegram exposes archer to Calef’s attentions - so that tension helps the scenario.

    Anyway, good shout and I think perhaps giving Pegram an optional 4 ‘small’ batteries would be a useful special rule and bring the scenario closer to historical constraints. Done :-)

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  8. The new rules tweaks seem to have worked well Norm. I liked the cavalry shooting and scooting to slow down the Confederate advance, which felt right. Keep up the good work:)

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    1. Hi Steve, there is always the worry that changes, especially incremental changes made over a few years will alter things too much from the initial intentions, but these changes seem to have kept on the right side of that line … I hope!

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  9. Don't know your rules but the changes seem to in the right direction for what you are trying to achieve. Enjoyed the write up immensely, I shall take a look at the rules.

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  10. Hi Phil, glad that the write up hit a good spot, I always worry that these sort of things can become a bit dry or wordy.

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  11. Interesting to see rules evolve as you try to simplify whilst maintaining historical aspects, never an easy task :-)

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    1. Hi Gary, it is also interesting to see how an idea on paper does not always translate to good vibes on the table or jump the play test hurdle.

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  12. Thanks Norm I’m going to take a closer look as my view of hex games is improving all the time 👍

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    1. TF-ON could be scheduled for a remote game to provide an understanding of the mechanisms. I am working on revising my QRS with these latest updates today.

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  13. Hi Matt, you could do worse than ‘tinker’ with your Command and Colors board, which is pretty much the same dimensions as used in this scenario.

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  14. I know shamefully little about the Civil War (despite that for much of my life I was a day trip from Gettysburg and now live in Atlanta), but I love the depth of thought you put into your rules and posts and the AAR in this one was engrossing.

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  15. Hi John, I appreciate you dropping by and giving a thumbs up.

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  16. This was a joy to read, Norm. I have TFON on the table now, but with AWI troops(Freemans Farm) and no hexes in sight! I'll send you my observations so far. Skirmishers are fun and a rather annoying presence. I suppose that's what you were looking for!

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  17. Thanks Steve, and as always, thanks for supporting the rules. Skirmishers have quite a lot of attributes, which I hope makes them interesting …. But if they are contacted, they will likely suffer. Since you have a hexless game up, I will send you a draft copy of the rules, so at least you have access to the three Quick Reference Sheets, which may help, especially with measurements.

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  18. Interesting post and I like the effect on your skirmishing cavalry, it seems appropriate to period!
    Best Iain

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  19. Thanks Iain, the cavalry did have a better feel.

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  20. Very good read Norm! And that Hexon terrain is unbeatable if you ask me.

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  21. Thanks Mike,it is very versatile once you start using slopes etc. I like it on your table as your table has the depth to give a good sized battlefield.

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    1. Thanks John, I should get this to the table more often.

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  23. Thanks Aaron, an oldie, but a goodie :-)

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  24. This all looks really good sir! Well done!

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  25. Thanks, i do enjoy the hex / figure crossover and Kallistra do a good job.

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