Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Battle of Second Manassas

Welcome to the latest episode in our Two Splendid Lines 6mm campaign.  This is a series of linked battles, following all the battles of the Fourth Texas through the Civil War.  We've already fought Eltham's Landing and Gaines' Mill, now it's time for Second Manassas, or Second Bull Run as it's known up North.  Roll call, for the officers of the Fourth Texas Infantry...

We are using our own rules, called Two Splendid Lines.  These are still in development, but aim to replicate some of the challanges of handling a regiment of men on the battlefield.  For that reason, these are very small 15-minute snapshots of larger battles.  There's been some interest from the blog's followers over these rules, so I'm going to dispense with my usual Battle Report method of doing some general overview pictures.  I'll go into a little more detail about how the turn is broken down and how things are worked out, then for those who are interested I'll follow up with some detailed e-mail notes and a copy of the rules.  

(I stress heavily that, at time of writing, these rules are still in development and there's no 'master rules' PDF.  They are also quite advanced rules, in that they require some interpretation and improvisation.  Hopefully with some additional playtesting from my generous followers we can polish this up to be a great (and free) game for everyone to play.

Rules Overview

The player commands ten companies of infantry.  Each is individually based, and the regiment must move according to certain preset drill commands.  For instance, in Line of Battle, a long thin line is formed.  There are about twenty commands for moving troops, changing direction, or changing from line to column and vice versa.

Each command is different.  It has risks - when marching in Line of Battle, for instance, there is a risk that the men will start to drift apart and lose cohesion.  Each risk is weighted to encourage players to stick to contemporary tactics.  There is no 'risk' for marching in column, one company behind the other, because it's such a simple movement.  This is why it was so common on the battlefield.

Each regiment has a combined order/morale level (this element is inspired by the excellent Cold Steel rules, on which TSL is based.  Ed McKie wrote these, and has generously made them freely available for download):
  • Disordered
  • Shaken
  • Shattered
  • Retreat
  • Rout
A key mechanic is that regiments don't just 'break' and run away.  Before they get to that stage they'll begin to break down and lose cohesion.  Perhaps they'll back off a bit, devolving into a firefight - as Paddy Griffith put it, 'too proud to retreat, too scared to advance closer'.  If the regiment doesn't pull back and regroup, it will eventually lose knots of men who slink off to the rear, and of course finally break and run.

Shooting and casualties are remarkably simple.  Each weapon has a range factor, which is combined with other modifiers (such as for moving, being Disordered etc) to provide a Shooting Factor.  A casualty chart cross-references this with the number of regiments firing to give a certain number of casualties.  Each company has ten 'wounds', each wound representing five men.

The Battle

The battlefield... our scenario represents the beginning of Longstreet's flanking attack in the evening of August 30th.  Hood's men were the vanguard of the attack and quickly broke through the fragile flank defence.  The large hill is Chinn's Ridge, with Chinn's Run beyond it (near Henry House Hill, where General Jackson won his nickname at First Manassas).

In our scenario, the Fourth Texas spill onto the field after having been separated from the rest of the Texas Brigade, chasing the fleeing 10th New York.  We have to do as much damage as we can before the Federals start rushing reinforcements to the area.

The opening moves of the battle.  The Texans begin in column, marching up the road, and you can see a couple of scattered companies of Yankees beyond.  In column, there is much less chance of your troops getting mixed up; it's such a simple formation that you don't have to roll any mishap dice.

Unfortunately, that single stand of Yankees fired a scattered volley which was lucky enough to strike down the colonel at the head of the regiment!  It was just an arm wound, so nothing terrible, but I was rushed off the field and as lieutenant colonel, Ollie had to take command.

You can see how the Texans deploy from column into line.  This is a tricky manoeuvre, but one which we managed to pull off by avoiding a 1 on a D8 'mishap' roll.  We were helped by the road - as in real life, regiments deployed either side of, or up against road, to aid in keeping alignment.

A couple of volleys, and the Federals soon skedaddle.  They begin the game at Shattered, because they're just remnants from the retreat.  This means that they only have to fail one morale check - initiated by any casualties from shooting - before they drop to Retreat.  Because of how close we are, they don't get a chance to regroup and they're effectively out of the game.

This is an interesting tactical point.  There are two Yankee guns on top of the hill, so rather than charging them frontally Ollie halts the regiment and begins marching 'by the flank'.  This is when the whole regiment (of two ranks, one behind the other) simply turns left or right and snakes along like a column of men two wide.  Again, this manoeuvre is so simple it was very common and there are no 'mishap dice' rolled.

Here Ollie uses it to get around the flank of some Yankee guns and bring the regiment into better protection, since the area in the bottom left of this picture isn't visible to the guns.

Just as he does this, however, Federal reinforcements appear.  In this picture, the guns are on top of the hill, off to the right, and a column of infantry has just appeared in the top left.  Ollie snakes the regiment round to face off this new threat - again, staying in column to facilitate movement.  Simply wheeling round to face the enemy looks easy, but as reenactors and modern-day soldiers will know, in practice wheeling is incredibly difficult and in TSL it is fraught with mishap dice and penalties.

Here, you can see two companies of skirmishers on the road.  They drive the Federal gunners away with some accurate rifle fire, and also manage to drive off a company trying to flank us from Chinn's Run.  On the left you can see both battle lines deployed - it's an uneven contest.  The Federal line is chaotic, since their left hand companies are struggling through the woods while their right are marching in open ground.  This causes the whole unit to drift off course and gives them a Shattered marker.

Ollie obliques left a little, meaning his right-hand companies avoid the same fate.  He gives the Federals one good battalion volley and a charge, but they are in such poor order that they soon back off.  It's a good example of the key TSL mechanic - a smaller unit in good order is much better than a huge one that's in chaos!  It goes to show that drill was not mere military 'bull' - it was a key way of inculcating order and preparing your men for the melee of battle.

So, that concluded the battle!  The 4th Texas soon pulled back, wary of being surrounded by growing Yankee reenforcements, but we certainly came off better with a mere 30 casualties out of about 400.  Bloody, but not crippling.

I hope you were able to follow the detail in this battle report, and that it gave you some insights into the specifics of the rules.  As I say, for those who are interested I'll send out more information and a trial set of the rules for you to have a go.  Any questions, post them below.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, 11 January 2016

The Battle of Gaines' Mill

Welcome to the first proper game of Two Splendid Lines, our 6mm regimental-focused ACW game!  I think I'll let the pictures (properly captioned) do most of the talking.  This was a small snapshot of the 4th Texas attacking the Federal positions on top of Turkey Hill at Gaines' Mill, June 27th 1862.  As part of our campaign we are playing every battle in which the 4th Texas participated in, in order.  We had a minor skirmish at Eltham's Landing last week, but this is the regiment's first pitched battle...

The basic situation.  The Texans start in the gulley on the right, and have to advance up the hill and take the defences.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Franco Prussian War Supercampaign - The Bridge of Blood

General Corbeau
Welcome to the latest Supercampaign!  Set in the Franco Prussian War, this immersive map campaign pitted Ollie (Prussians) against Kieran (French).

For those who haven't yet seen our supercampaign series, we did an American Civil War and English Civil War campaign earlier this year and had great fun.  Check the supercampaign tag out for more information.  I also wrote a book describing the action as it unfolded, in the style of an Osprey book.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Two Splendid Lines

Today I'm going to share a playtest of the 6mm regimental game I'm writing - tentatively named Two Splendid Lines, from a Union officer who observed Pickett's Charge and so described that fateful advance.

The aim aim is to represent command and leadership of a regiment in line warfare:
  • Your regiment cannot 'just stop' or 'just turn round'.  
  • Proper commands must be used, just as in real life
  • As well as casualties, order and cohesion is tracked.
As my last post described, I've done a lot of research on the proper drill commands.  Using my Baccus 6mm ACW figures, I playtested an attack on a Federal position using my 4th Texas Infantry.  Each stand is one company of about 50 men.

I was going to wait until I'd painted and built all of these, but instead I've decided to go for a 'warts and all' look at writing a wargame.

The regiment approaches in double column at half distance.  Two companies wide, and five deep - 'half distance' is a good compromise between compactness and space to manoeuvre each company.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

New Painting Area

Hope everyone had a good Christmas!

I've been a bit quiet of late as I unexpectedly had to move house - I still work in south Wales but now live in North Yorkshire, making for some interesting commuting.

I have two overdue posts with the results of our Franco Prussian War campaign, and the work on an immersive 6mm Regimental 'Simulator' game for ACW.  Both will follow this week - I promise!

In the meantime, I thought I'd quickly share this picture of my new painting area.  Without being to gloaty, I have managed to secure a box room to use as a hobby zone.

Monday, 30 November 2015

6mm Baccus ACW

Hello again!  First off, apologies for not being on all the way through November; I've been living in a dusty hole all month in Cyprus.  But fear not, wargaming was never very far from my mind and with my latest purchases I have an idea for another ACW game.
I recently read Civil War Tactics by Earl J. Hess.  This book looks at regimental-level tactics and is a real eye-opener for wargamers.  We have some conception of different manoeuvres and formations used in battle, but this book goes into detail about how and why each formation was used.  How colonels changed their formations in battle, and why drill was important even in the fabled 'Age of the Rifled Musket'.  I supplemented this with a pamphlet called Casey's For Reenactors.  This translates the contemporary drill manuals into understandable English for a modern audience, with plenty of diagrams.

I want to create a wargame where you are the colonel of a regiment, and you have to give proper orders to your men and lead them in battle.  Not just 'move', 'shoot' etc, but give the proper drill commands.  Random dice might mean your men bunch up, spread out, drift off centre while marching, or simply not hear your commands.

It's all very embryonic at this stage, but I've gone far enough down the rabbit hole to get some 6mm Baccus ACW models.  These are going to be based on a 1:3 scale, so the regiment will be about 100 or so figures.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

How To Run a Supercampaign - Part III

Afternoon everyone, and time for my (belated) Part III in the series, How To Run a Supercampaign.  In Part I, we looked at how to prepare for these campaigns and Part II saw a delve into the mechanics of administering them.

For the third and final part, I'll be exploring how to add character and fluff to your games, bringing them to life.  Although the mechanics of a map campaign in this level of detail are perhaps unusual, they're not unique.  Player feedback has told me that the fluff is the best part of a Supercampaign.  I don't want to tell people how to write fluff - many of you are already experts on creating it.  This is more on how to make simple, easy fluff that doesn't take hours.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

How to Run a Supercampaign - Part II

My last post was the first in a three-part series, looking at how to plan and prepare a Supercampaign.  This week, I'll be exploring how you can administer the campaign with a gamesmaster - as well as some thoughts for how you could do it without one.

The Campaign Map

A real map of the area around Nancy, we're using it at the moment for our FPW game.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

How to Run A Supercampaign - Part I

How much you get into character is up to you...
You may remember the two supercampaigns we've run in the last year - American Civil War and English Civil War.  Prompted by a recent comment on one of those, I'm going to do a series of guides on exactly what a supercampaign is, and how to run one:
  • Part I - planning and preparation
  • Part II - map moves and battles
  • Part III - write up and feedback
How are they different from normal campaigns?

First off, a recap on what a supercampaign is.  It's essentially a fancy map campaign, where players make their moves in secret.  A gamesmaster administers random events and feeds confusing information and intelligence reports to players, who then sift through them and create a real plan of action.

It consists of two parts - the campaign map, where generals move round their armies; and the tabletop, where battles are fought between armies which meet each other.  Anyone who's played the Total War series of PC games will be very familiar with that.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Tutorial: FPW Prussian Jägers

It's been a long time since I've done a tutorial on here, so I thought I'd share a step-by-step on painting a Prussian Jäger of the Franco-Prussian War.

It's mainly up here for passing interest, since most readers are already accomplished painters, but also serves as a useful reference for me in case I want to paint the same models in years to come.  Also, perhaps it will serve as a detailed example of my painting style, which usually runs like this:

  • White undercoat
  • Flat colours
  • Army painter wash
  • Flat colours again as a highlight
  • Detail and ligher colours for final highlight
I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on this method; I've been thinking a lot about other painting methods and techniques ever since I saw some of Dai's lovely RPG figures.

1.  The figure (a Foundry model) is superglued to a 2p coin and then undercoated with a white spraypaint.