As promised, here’s the AAR of the second take of Iuka scenario, this time with IABSM turn sequence and a bunch of other rules applied correctly. For the background information about the scenario and home rules in play I refer to the first report, since I haven’t changed anything in that department. It is however worth repeating that I planned for the game to run for fifteen rounds, with random extension of of between one and six rounds just to keep everyone on their toes.
This time around it would be a one on one affair, with L. yet again taking the role of Confederate commander, while yours truly would take over the Union troops. Poor bastards…
It became obvious rather quickly that L. intention was repeat his shock and awe aproach and run over the Union troops to his front with a bold frontal charge with one of his brigades, while the other one kept my flanking force at bay.
I must admit that I did spend a bit of thought on my initial deployment in the time that passed since the first game. I finally came to the conclusion that the original plan of Hå. was a pretty good one considering the initial deployment of troops and restrictions on movement imposed by terrain. I did however decide to make one major change – the first brigade of my ‘front’ force would take position at the edge of the woods at the left edge of the road. The second brigade would however not march up the road, but move quickly over the open field on my right flank, then turn left, traverse the woods and smash into the flank of Rebel forces which I suspected would attempt to repeat the events of previous game. The flanking column on the far side would at the same time try to push as hard as they could manage against L.’s blocking force.
Right, let’s move over to the pictures.
We start the game somewhere around turn six or seven. L.’s first brigade has been spotted while still deploying for their intended frontal charge. My own troops are by now safely tucked away in the woods. The attached medium artillery battery is deployed from its blind at the road fork, since its unable to enter difficult terrain As it turned out, this prompt deployment played siginficant role in the events that followed, since this battery took rather severe toll on two of the Confederate regiments in its front and delayed their advance for a crucial round or two.
Couple of rounds later… With L’s assault on its way, I took the opportunity and unmasked my first brigade. Its position on the edge of the woods and supports to the rear would give them a bit of a bonus if Rebels managed to get that far. The effect of the fire of my artillery is already visible, with Confederate left flank starting to drag a bit. Also, it seemed like a good idea to move my skirmishers into a position that would enfilade approaching rebels.
The arrow illustrates my ‘cunning plan’ and the path I intended for my second brigade in its approach toward the enemy.
A bit more complete picture of the situation somewhere in the middle of the engagement. As can be seen, the situation on the flank is quite similar to that which developed in the first game, with both sides having difficulty deploying troops effectively. The major difference was that use of blinds in this game allowed me to freely deploy the artillery attached to that column where I needed it the most, in this case on the road. Once deployed, it started blasting away at the rebels in front of it, with considerable effect I may add. It actually managed pushing L’s blocking force back a bit all on its own.
There was however never any doubt that the main engagement would once again take place at the crossroads which were the target of Confederate charge. Despite suffering serious casualties on their way in, once in contact, the rebels had no problems mauling the green Union regiments trying to oppose them. Initial contact was made on my left flank, due to my artillery battery making the rebels to pay dearly for every step they took and temporarily halting their advance. However, where the contact was made, the rebels threw the Union regiment that took brunt of the charge back into the woods, pulling their supports in second line with them.
On the positive note my second brigade has now reached jumpoff position for its own assault. Also, the fire of my skirmishers on extreme left flank of my defensive line was surprisingly effective.
Whatever optimism I was able to muster from the butcher’s bill payed by the rebels during their advance was sapped away over next couple of turns. L’s seemingly unstoppable grey steamroller smashed into my line across the entire front, with disastrous consequences. My entire brigade was prompty routed, while the artillery battery which punished Confederates so severly was overrun and captured. It seemed like a repeat of L.’s charge in the first game. And indeed it was – once routed, my broken brigade got an unexplainable break and a chance to recover due to lucky unit activation sequence. This was helped by a quirk in TCHAE rules set, which I believe we run into for the very first time - routing troops move fifty percent quicker than troops which are in order. This allowed for my broken brigade to get away from their tormentors for a little while. Next a lucky/unlucky draw of activation chips allowed me to recover most of the regiments (one regiment and crews of the overrun battery run off the table edge and, I presume, of the face of the earth as is custom in tabletop wargames! ).
Also, the casualties that L. suffered in his brave, but perhaps a bit reckless advance did start to have tangible consequences -his best regiment having suffered more than 50 percent casualties became permanently defeated, while another was just two casualties from reaching same state. In plain language, two out of L.’s regiments had quite enough excitment for the day.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the battlefield, things took remarkably similar shape as in the first game. The activiation chips for forces involved here were few and far between, making any decisive action impossible.
By now we have reached round fourteen out of ‘regular’ fifteen and L. decided to call it a day. Somewhat exhausted after over four hours of gaming time, I readily agreed.
I was however a bit curious about how things would turn out if we continued and decided to play the game to its conclusion on my own. It took me a week to find the time and energy, but today I finally run the last couple of rounds.
The situation at the time L. and I decided to call it a day was rather peculiar. Union brigade on the receiving end of L.’s bold but costly charge was decidedly shaken, but still useable. At the same time my second brigade was finally in the position for its own assault into the rear of L.’s decidedly bloodied assault force. Aware of that fact, he switched the orders of his second brigade, calling upon it for support. Also, his artillery was in perfect position to blast into the backs of my ‘rescue force’ as soon as it came out into open. So the situation on the battlefield looked like a blue-grey-blue-grey-blue sandwich, with each layer posed to attack somebody.
Before taking on the role of CinC for both sides, I decided that Confederate artillery on the high ground could not be ignored by Union side. I therefore split my second brigade into two parts – two regiments were to advance against Rebels to the left, while the remaining regiment and skirmishers would engage the artillery batteries to the right.
The first two rounds (final one of ‘ordinary time’ and first bonus turn) went pretty well for boys in blue. Rebel guns weren’t silenced, but I did manage to mask them and cause some casualties among the crews. Also, my ‘assault force’ of two regiments seemed to gain upper hand against the single Rebel regiment that opposed them. Then second bonus round started and ended abruptly with first activation chip drawn being a ‘Coffee break’. This was followed by a roll of six on a check for next bonus round, bringing a rather anticlimactic finalé to this game.
Musings after the battle
Right… let’s start with a quick explanation regarding the reason for me and L. wanting to replay this scenario. As already stated, first time around I bungled several crucial sections of the ruleset, such as sequence of play and what ‘mandatory’ effects close combat had on participants. I also managed to ‘forget’ the fact that units can move multiple times under certain circumstances and refrained from using the ‘blinds’, which theoretically at least allowed for more rapid movement. L. and I suspected that if the ruleset was applied correctly and with the blinds in play, we’d be able to move more often, providing a more rapid game.
It is safe to say that our expectations were not met – the contact between L.’s first brigade and Hå.’s defening troops in first game took place in round eleven, in our game in round ten. The action on the flank was as inconclusive as in the first attempt. My flanking force arrived to its jump-off position about the same time as it arrived to Hå.’s rescue in previous game. In other words, correct use of movement rules and taking advantage of supposed advantages of ‘blinds’ had no effect in this particular game. On the other hand, applying correct turn sequence certainly did make some of the rules more logical, but without influencing the ‘feel’ or course of the game in any significant manner. L.’s assault was in most respects a repetition of what happened in our first game, main difference being that he took much more severe casualties while charging my line. This was due to my deployment of troops, not because of the ‘corrections’ to the rules we used this time around.
The ironic thing is that paying careful attention to the rules in TCHAE led me to a couple of new insights about this ruleset and none of them is very positive. The ‘blinds’ mechanism, while providing intended fog of war, is also in my opinion something of a can of worms as soon as partial deployment of units is attempted. It is also the only the ruleset I know of where line of sight rules are not clearly defined. This omission forces players to make their own judgement calls when trying to comply with restrictions applied to multiple unit moves in same round. Also, both L. and I were a bit dumbfounded by realization that movement rates between line and column formations (for units deployed on the table) are exactly the same. I’m sure that the rules designer has good reasons for this decision, but the explanation for this rather odd choice would be welcomed.
I’ll be frank and admit that all the ambivalencies and question marks that pop up every time I play a TCHAE game are starting to bother me more and more. At the same time it is without a question a tabletop games ruleset I am most familiar with and therefore most comfortable with. The dilema I find myself with is therefore somewhat peculiar – do I stick with TCHAE despite all of its annoyances or do I, for lack of better word, dump it and start hunting for a replacement ruleset?
Now, where did I stash that copy of ‘Guns at Gettysburg’…