Last post related to Peter’s Hill scenario… Just a couple of days before the game, I realized that the terrain setup required a long stretch of rough stone wall. I didn’t have time to order any, so it was time to improvise.
Without having any real concept of how to make the walls, I picked out the materials that made sense:
* PVA glue.
* Medium size tallus I use for basing.
* Small popsicle sticks.
My initial idea was to mix PVA glue and tallus into a thick grout and spread it across the sticks. This turned out to be a completely impractical idea – the stone/PVA glue porridge stuck everywhere but where I wanted it to, but mostly to my fingers.
It was time to regroup. Next, I cut up the sticks into smaller bits and then put a thick wad of PVA glue across their length. Then I just strossled the tallus into the glue.
This approach seemed to work much better, but the ‘wall’ seemed a bit low with just a single layer of tallus. So I waited an hour or so and then repeated the process – I put another blob of PVA glue on top on top of initial layer and more stones were sprinkled on top.
Also, just to make the ‘wall’ a bit more compact, I squeezed the stones together a bit. With the first layer semi-dry I had actually a bit of control when shaping the wall.
I left the walls to dry over the night. I was a bit concerned about possible warping, since there was a lot of PVA glue pulling at these sticks from the top. But, possibly due to the fact that the wood pieces were no longer than 10 cm, they stayed flat.
Painting process started with an overall black coat.
Next, I drybrushed the walls with successively lighter shades of grey. Here’s the final result (althogh I did flock the bases with some green turf).
The entire project took me less than two hours to complete. It’s nothing complicated, but I have to admit that I was surprisingly pleased with how those little walls turned out. Mostly because it was a true scratch build and I don’t do those very often.
Last post related to Peter’s Hill scenario… Just a couple of days before the game, I realized that the terrain setup required a long stretch of rough stone wall. I didn’t have time to order any, so it was time to improvise.
So let’s discuss ‘Guns of Gettysburg’ for a moment. After one game it is hardly possible to draw any definite conclusions, but my initial impression is definitely very positive. However, it’s not all smooth sailing and even this single game disclosed some ‘holes’ that I know will be bugging me in the future.
The ‘game engine’
‘Guns of Gettysburg’ is a derivative of Partizan Press’ Napoleonic ruleset ‘General de Brigade’ and its origins shine right through even after a single game. If one were crass, it could be said that there really is no justification for ‘Guns of Gettysburg’ to have been released as a separate ruleset, since it’s pretty much ‘General de Brigade’ tweaked to work in ACW period.
I have once upon a time posted my thoughts about ‘General de Brigade’ and its game mechanics. These comments are still valid and may serve well readers wishing to get a better insight into that ruleset. Here, I will limit myself with short walkthrough through a game turn and then concentrate on differences between two rulesets.
The turn sequence in ‘Guns of Gettysburg’ is exactly the same as in ‘General de Brigade’:
- Initiative roll where opposing players roll 2D6 who’s gonna have initiative in this particular turn. The initiative give the winner right to be the first to send out new orders to his brigades, declare charges, move his troops and shoot in fire phase.
- Change of orders phase - CinC for each side may attempt to change orders for a single brigade. One brigade commander may attempt to change his orders on own initiative.
- Mandatory moves - all units trying to get away from the battlefield, as well as units in so called pursuit state move at this stage. This is done ‘simultaneously’ by both sides.
- Charge declarations and movement - here things start to get a bit messy. Any charges are declared and if passed, the units so ordered move into contact. This stage is a bit fiddly, as reactions of units on defensive depend a lot on the distance that needs to be covered by the chargers. But in simple terms, if charge can be completed, chargers move half the distance, then defenders choose their actions, which most often is either shoot or evade. Next chargers check their morale and if it is passed, defenders need to do the same. If everyone is still willing, the two sides come into contact and a melee is fought at later stage of the turn.
- Normal movement - pretty self-explanatory. Side with initiative moves first.
- Firing - everyone who hadn’t shot yet, has a chance to do it now. Side with initiative shoots first, the side without initiative does so after reduction of strength due to losses (which may not be to everyone’s liking).
- Melee phase - any melees are processed at this stage.
- Morale checks - any units and brigades that need to make a morale check, do it at the end of the phase. Failed checks may result in anything from formation disruptions to ordered retreats and complete routs.
Any dice rolls in ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ are done with two six-sided dices. The game engine is pretty dice-heavy - all morale checks, firing and melees are decided with dices and even with few units, the amount of rolls does mount up. At the same time, once one gets the grasp of the basics, the game moves along rapidly, without major hick-ups. Consistent use of 2D6:s throughout the ruleset simplifies things and the amount of dice modifiers is kept within reason.
The new stuff
As already mentioned above, ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ isn’t really all that different from ‘General de Brigade’. Here and there one can spot small tweaks in the ranges and casualty tables. Some modifications have been done to the dice roll modifiers (some of them are a bit surprising and maybe even questionable, more on that later on). If anything, it’s the parts that have been removed from ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ that are making the biggest difference in my opinion - a lot of fiddly rules related directly to Napoleonic period have been yanked out of its ACW derivative. Ironically, in my opinion, these removal seem to have a positive effect of providing much smoother gameplay!
There are two significant changes that need to be mentioned. The first is related to formations; squares are no longer available for infantry - a reasonable and hardly surprising decision. Two new formations have also been added. The first - open order - allows the regimental lines to extend their width. This is clearly an attempt to reflect more flexible character of linear formations during ACW and a very justified addition. Addition of second formation - brigade attack column - is a bit harder to justify. It allows regiments of a brigade to ‘stack’ one behind the other, with bonuses to morale when casualties are taken. Clearly, it’s an assault formation intended for brigades with orders to charge the enemy. To my best knowledge, such battering rams were organized on few occasions during the conflict and were hardly a standard modus operandi for ACW armies. Therefore, I’m not entirely convinced that this addition is really necessary.
The other significant change when compared with ‘General de Brigade’ is of far more importance. Section regarding skirmishers has gone through significant overhaul. In ‘General de Brigade’ there are three options to use skirmishers - throw out light companies as screens for individual battalions, create a brigade screen of combined light companies of a brigade or use light battalions as skirmishers. In ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ options for use of skirmishers have been significantly extended. Individual regiments can deploy into skirmish order either completely or with half of its strength. Brigade screens can consist of up to fifty percent of strength of regiments, with variable number of troops committed from individual units. Perhaps most importantly, skirmishers are no longer regarded as separate formations, but can be deployed and recalled by parent regiments at will. This change is yet again reflecting differences in tactics of the two periods. Added choices deepen the complexity of tactical deployment and I suspect it will take me a while to understand cons and advantages of these new options.
Other changes to the ruleset aren’t all that dramatic, but couple of things did provoke a reaction from me. On the positive side, the ‘double-six’ rule has been modified and expanded upon. In ‘General de Brigade’, any roll of two sixes in firing or melee phases could cause additional effects on units and generals. In ‘Guns at Gettysburg’, this mechanism extends to all rolls in the game and may give the players ‘bonus cards’ that can be played at subsequent stages of the game. Player may for example move a brigade of his choice at double time, add a one time bonus modifier to his fire/melee dice-roll or call for a morale check with negative modifier upon an enemy unit of his choice. All such actions are ‘one time events’, gained randomly after a roll of a double six. While this game mechanism in itself strikes me as rather gamey, it’s obvious it adds to the fun factor.
On negative side, few of the modifiers did make me raise an eyebrow in wonderment. One I’m very sceptical to deals with effect of overall losses in regimental morale checks. As default, for each ten percent losses a -1 is added to the morale check dice roll. But… Confederate regiments have here a maximum cap of -3, which definitely gives them an edge in a prolonged firefight. As a compensation, Confederate units rout do suffer a -2 modifier when attempting to rally. And since the rally from rout can only be made once with either success or dispersion of unit as possible outcomes, it is a significant penalty. The designer, apparently aware that these modifiers will be discussed, addresses them specifically in his notes and explains that it’s a simple attempt to differentiate both sides from each other. But at the same time, in his opinion at least, this difference is justified by historical performance of both sides. Well… I will be honest and admit that I am not at all convinced by that explanation. Luckily, it’s an aspect of the ruleset that can be tweaked to one’s heart’s content.
What seems to be missing
Actually, ‘missing’ may not be the right term here, but the rules dedicated to cavalry do strike me as a little bit funny. They are very detailed and a lot of space is dedicated to charges, formations and so on… but they all seem to be a carry-over from ‘General de Brigade’ and as we all know, the role of cavalry was very different in ACW from that during Napoleonic Wars. And so, I find it peculiar that cavalry charges are dealt with in detail, but behavior of dismounted cavalry is barely touched upon. This oversight was starkly illustrated in my game, where Union troopers were charged by Confederate infantry. This situation isn’t even considered in melee rules - charge and melee procedures between infantry/artillery on both sides and cavalry as charging party are described in detail, but there is nothing about charges against dismounted cavalry troopers. A slight gap in otherwise solid ruleset, but annoying nonetheless.
As already said in my reaction immediately after the inaugural game, my initial impression of ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ was very positive. The ruleset is comprehensible and detailed, but didn’t get in the way of the game flow. Some glitches did occur, but nothing major. One thing that I liked very much was in the formating of the ruleset - on a couple of occasions I needed an answer to some very specific questions and every time I found a clearly labeled section dedicated specifically to that aspect of the game. On the other hand, lack of printed number pages in the ruleset is seriously annoying.
At the same time it must be remarked that ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ is a stripped down and slightly altered version of ‘General de Brigade’. So in it’s core it is still a very formulaic ruleset based on traditional and old-fashioned game mechanisms. So why did I like ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ so much, while ‘General de Brigade’ failed to impress me? I must be honest and admit that my initial reaction to ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ may very well be simply caused the fact that it is something of a relief to use something different than TCHAE for an ACW game. Further research is needed, so stay tuned...
Allright, just as an interruption in ongoing series about my latest ACW game and ‘Guns at Gettysburg’, here’s my latest modelling effort – Mig-3 from Zvezda. I could claim that it was a quick and dirty build, without much effort put into it… except it took me more than six week to glue on the antenna and put the canopy in place. Anyway, here’s a couple of pictures of what turned out to be a basic, but nifty little kit.
And so, after long period of thinking about it, I finally pulled the trigger and switched over to “Guns at Gettysburg”! Last weekend L. and I gave this ruleset a chance and used it with Peter’s Hill scenario from… well you guessed it, “Hearthland” scenario book by Caliver Books.
At first glance, this particular scenario looks very interesting – not only is it a meeting engagement, but the entry time for vast majority of different brigades is decided by dice rolls at the beginning of each round. Majority of Union brigades enter on 5+, while Confederate brigades enter on 6+ once first Union reinforcements enter the field. Further caveat for the rebels consist of the fact that their cavalry removes itself from the battlefield on a subsequent roll of 4+. I found it a bit harsh and increased this condition to a 6 roll only.
Initial dispositions are as follows – Confederates have Liddell’s brigade on the table at the start of the game. One of its regiments is deployed on Peter’s Hill itself in skirmish order, while the rest camps at the opposite edge of the field, behind a dry river bed. Federal troops enter along the road from the opposite side of the field; McCook’s brigade enters on first round, with the rest of brigades appearing after rolling 5+ at the start of subsequent turns.
Confederates are heavily outnumbered, but compensate for it with their troop quality – Liddel brigade is elite, while Johnson’s are regular troops. Vast majority of Union units deployed in line are green, while their skirmisher screens and artillery are regular.
Following the by now well-established tradition, I’m illustrating development of the game with pictures and complement with short descriptions.
Hardly surprisingly, L. ordered McCook’s brigade to take posession of the hill. In reaction, I moved skirmishers of 7th Arkansas to the crest and engaged blue-clad columns in an attempt to slow down their advance. I managed to draw first blood, but without any noticeable effect on their pace. At the same time, the remainder of my only brigade currently present on the field was quickly scrambled into columns before being directed toward the sound of guns.
Eager to slow down the Federal troops and unfamiliar with the rules, I made an early mistake in not taking full advantage of freedom of movement allowed to skirmishers in “Guns at Gettysburg”. Instead of keeping my distance, I allowed L. to get into effective small arms range and cause grevious casualties on 7th Arkansas. As result, the went to ground. In subsequent rounds, unable to retreat and exposed to fire of three regiments in line, they were quickly wiped out.
Situation around round six. McCook’s brigade is about finished with 7th Arkansas by this time and L.’s second brigade (under command of Laibolt) has also made its appearance. On rebel side, the remainder of Liddel’s brigade starts its climb up Peter’s Hill’s eastern slope while Johnson’s brigade enters the field. To the north-east, Confederate cavalry makes a very brief appearance – in very next round I managed to roll the dreaded six and they briskly rode back to wherever they came from.
In contrast to my useless cavalry, L’s troopers made a strong appearance with one huge regiment thundering into the woods that covered northern part of Peter’s Hills. They were accompanied by another cavalry regiment, dismounted and acting as skirmishers.
As Liddell’s brigade advanced over the crest of the hill, it was met by withering fire from compact Union line. 2nd&5th Arkansas on my left flank was especially hard hit. Lashed by extremly effective cannister fire from Barnett’s battery directly in front of it and infantry line to its left, it lost one fourth of its strength in two rounds. It didn’t break, but was forced to go to ground. Both sides suffered serious casualties in this intial clash, but it became clear to me that sticking my nose into this hornet’s nest was my second mistake of the day. Green or not, the Union line was just too strong to penetrate with just two regiments.
However, I wasn’t the only one who made mistakes in this game. After inital successes, L. apparently decided to deal me a knock-out blow. He pushed Laibolt’s brigade, coming into line established by McCooks troops, to the right of Barnett’s battery and ordered it to assault my line. Somehow he managed to manouvre 2nd&15th Missouri right in front of my only artillery battery engaged at this time… and still in march column nonetheless. Green 73rd Illinois was to accompany them and charge my hard-pressed 6th&8th Arkansas. Upon achieving this somewhat questionable deployment, L. decided it was enough excitement for one day (we’ve been at it for about four hours by then) and left for home. Before he left, he described his plan for me. Myself, unable to resist the temptation and unwilling to prematurely waste all the preparations for this game, I decided to continue the engagement on my own.
It took however until next weekend until I gathered enough enthusiasm to carry on. After my failed attempt to withdraw Liddell’s brigade to the foot of the hill, L.’s charge went in. The result was a perhaps predictable disaster. 2nd&15th Missouri was shreded by point blank range salvo from cannons of the battery they tried to overrun. Crossing the field turned also to be much of a challenge for inexperienced 73rd Illinois. The Missouri regiment routed decisevly. As a result, rest of Laibolt’s brigade failed their brigade morale test and was forced to hastily retreat from Peter’s Hill.
This is the situation on the top of Peter’s Hill after the failed Union assault. Immediate threat to Confederate line has disappeared, but my situation was still grave. The only logical move was to withdraw Liddel’s brigade, wait for Johnson’s troops and try again with combined forces.
I expected for next couple of rounds to be spent by both sides on reorganization and catching a breath. It was also a good opportunity for Union cavalry to improve their position. Knowing the plans for the rebells (after all, they were formed in my head), I decided to introduce a bit of uncertainty and exploit ‘solo’ aspect of this game. I came to the conclusion that there were two logical courses of action for Union cavalry regiment to take – a) move to the foot of the hill, possibly saddle up and attack Johnson’s column in the flank as it moved up to support Liddell, or b) deploy along the road, taking up enfilading position in preparation of Confederate attack. I rolled a dice – 1-3 would be alternative a), 4-6 would be alternative b. However, I waited with ‘uncovering’ this dice roll until I decided what order to issue to the rebells. In the end, I went with the do or die frontal assault on Union line occupying Peter’s Hill. Only then did I reveal to myself the die roll result dictating actions for Union cavalry – they were to move to the road!
Next, a strangest thing happened. As Johnson’s brigade came into vicinty of the hill, its numerous skirmisher screen run up the hill and started taking potshots at Barnett’s battery in front of them. Those potshots turned out to be quite effective, causing enough casualties to force the battery to take a morale test. This it failed, badly! I must admit that it was with certain glee that I placed ‘Routed’ marker beside it, as it was this very battery that cut my Arkansasians to pieces! But the freak event didn’t end with the rout of Barnett’s battery! In unexpected ripple effect, its sudden collapse caused a brigade check for McCook’s brigade. It too failed just as badly and in a blink of an eye, the southern part of Peter’s Hill was completely clear of Union troops!
Only now did I start reorganization of both sides. On rebel side, 2nd&5th Arkansas, with its casualties approaching 60 percent, was a spent force. I detached it to the farm at the foot of Peter’s Hill. Remainder of Liddell’s brigade would take on Union cavalry line, which was about to take up its extremly well-situated flanking position. Johnson’s brigade was ordered to make one final attempt to break main Union line.
Sheridan, acting as overall CinC for the federal troops, had his own problems. McCook’s brigade was relatively easy to sort out – it halted at the foot of Peter’s Hill and even Barnett’s battery managed to recover from its temporary stampede. Laibolt’s brigade however refused to move from its spot for a couple of turns. And the last brigade under Sheridan’s command, that under leadership of Fry, still hadn’t even turned up on the battlefield!
After about twenty turns, the time for final showdown has arrived. Once both sides reached the top of Peter’s Hill, salvo after salvo of musket fire and canister swept across the field in both directions. Severe casualties were suffered by both sides! On Union side, unlucky 73rd Illinois was pounded by close range fire from Sweet’s battery and went to ground. On the opposite side, both regiments of Johnson’s brigade suffered from the fact that they were equipped with smoothbores, while Union troops wielded rifled muskets. To add to their troubles, Barnett’s battery seemed to try its best to make up for its temporary panic and poured cannister shot into rebel line as fast as its crews could manage. With casualties mounting rapidly both rebel regiments were forced to ground, unable to close the distance.
Along the road, the fight was equally vicious, if not more so. 6th&8th Arkansas’ fire was extremly effective and swiftly reduced numbers of 9th Pennsylvania . Union troopers gave however as well as they received. Taking advantage of the fact that they were equipped with breach-loaders, I risked depleting their ammunition and gave order to really pour it into Confederate line as it reached the stockade. This sudden increase of rate of fire from the wood’s edge had however a perhaps unexpected outcome – realizing the deadliness of these breach-loaders, I ordered my Arkananians to charge Union position. With Union trooper’s position just across the road, once the charge started, the rebels were upon them in a blink of an eye!
Union troopers would not stand and broke away from onrushing rebels, trying desperately to get away. To no avail though! Rebels caught up with fleeing troopers in the wood and scattered the entire regiment in a couple of minutes!
While these dramatic events took place, Fry’s brigade finally decided to turn up and do its duty for the flag, Union and mamma’s apple pie. One can only speculate what words were said once this Johnny come late came eye to eye with Sheridan after the battle.
Fry needed not to bother appearing though, as the writing was already on the wall for the Rebels. Despite the somewhat unexpected success in smashing Union position in the woods, it was plain to see the the Confederate assault has stalled. There were simply too many soldiers clad in blue on that hill! With both regiments in Johnson’s brigade hugging the ground and taking a pounding, I’ve decided that the only logical course of action was to give order for general withdrawal before Confederates were completely overwhelmed. The battle for Peter’s Hill was over and the hill itself was firmly in posession by Union troops.
Musings after the battle
I intend to write a detailed review of ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ and about my initial impression of this ruleset in a separate post. My post-game comment will therefore be brief. In simple terms, it was a blast of a game. In fact, I would go as far as claiming that it was the most fun I’ve had with ACW wargame ever since I’ve decided to engage into this period.
The funny thing is that my opinion about ‘General de Brigade’, the Napoleonic ruleset from which ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ is derived, is that it’s quite traditional and maybe a bit boring ruleset. But for some odd reason though, this ACW rendition of the ruleset managed to tick off all the boxes for me. It seems to provide a fun, fast-flowing and easily manageable game. And while it may be to early to draw any definitive conclusions, the ruleset has at least on this occasion managed to deliver ebbs and flows in the game which I never experienced with TCHAE.
Needless to say, I am quite impressed by this initial tryout of ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ and really look forward to next game.
Allright… so while the battle for Peter’s Hill is still ongoing (will explain later), I want to take the opportunity to talk a bit about the bits and pieces of terrain that I had to provide for this scenario.
Beside the hill itself, perhaps the most prominent terrain feature of this particular board is a large wooden area that covers the entirety northern half of that hill. There are different ways to represent wooden areas, but in this particular case I decided to try the technique I’ve already shown in one of previous posts – caulk mixed with paint, spread on canvas and then covered with flock.
I used exactly the same technique that I’ve tested here. The difference between the test piece I did on that occasion this time around was the size. I started by cutting off suitable piece of painting canvas and pinning it to the table. Next I outlined the shape of the wooden area. This helped me to keep track of the shape of the terrain piece as I spread thin layer of caulk and paint mix on the canvas. Finally the ‘painted’ canvas was covered with liberal amount of ‘Nadelwald boden’ ground cover mix from Buch. Once this was done, I left everything to dry for two days.
After two days I unpinned the mat and cut out the covered piece. Despite it being pinned to a table, the edges of the mat curled upward during the drying process. This was expected, but caused a bit of concern.
On a whim I decided to try to fix this problem by simply painting the edges of the mat with same acrylic paint I used of ‘original’ mixture. This turned out to fix the curling problem and at the same time resolved the issue with the rather unseemly white edges, which would otherwise disturb the visual effect on the gaming table.
Another thing that I wondered about was how well the ground scatter material would actually stick to the caulk/paint layer. In the much smaller test piece I did earlier, the adhesion as well as flexibility of the finished piece was really very good, but this piece was much larger. I didn’t have to worry though, size of the mat didn’t make any difference at all and the flock sticks to the caulk as if it were glued there.
Since this piece of terrain is really rather large (about 60 x 60 cm), the question of how to store it became a bit of an issue. Obvious solution here is rolling the piece together. I was however a bit worried about friction agains flocked side. To give it a bit of protection I simply picked out four pieces of baking paper, taped them together with duct tape and used them as top cover for the mat.
Overall, I am quite happy with both the mat itself as well as with how useful this techinque is turning out to be. I am quite sure that I will be using it in the future for different types of area terrain that need to be flexible. Roads, rivers and other linear obstacles is another area where this technique could turn out to be quite useful after a bit of experimenting.
‘Short and sweet’ post with quick preview of terrain setup for tomorrow’s game. Yes, imagine that! I am actually having a game tomorrow! And it’s not just any game, but a first try at ‘Guns at Gettysburg’ from Partisan Press.
Anyway, by the time I’m done with tomorrow’s game, you’ll probably be bored to death by me milking it for all its worth, so here are just two quick snapshots of the scene of the drama… evening before the drama. Being ‘one man band’ when it comes to terrain, I must admit… I’m quite proud of this setup.
Work on miniatures for Teugen-Hausen scenario continues. New addition to Austro-Hungarian force consists of two 3-pounder batteries – perhaps not overwhealming firepower, but better than nothing.
To be completely truthful, these are 4-pounders standing in for 3-pounders, which are missing in Adler’s range, but at 6mm who’s gonna notice. And while we’re in the ‘honest mode’, these guns are intended for the Grenzer force present at the field, but once again, Adler has no Grenzer artillerymen, so regular artillerymen in caskets it became instead. Sometimes one has to compromize.
In any case, here they are and if I may say so myself, they look properly ‘artilleristic’ to me. Next, a shedload of Austro-Hungarian infantrymen, as I need another five battalions of those guys to meet the ‘specification’ of OOB. Better make sure I have good supply of white paint!