Posties Rejects gathered on Sunday for an American Civil War game using the Fire and Fury rules. Ten of the Rejects were in attendance including our leader and umpire for this game, Postie. To accommodate nine players the games table was a massive 6ft by 12ft long with nine whole divisions of troops on the battlefield. The game that followed was challenging and tough on both sides but was ultimately much more decisive than it looked. As usual keep an eye out for other (better) reviews of this battle on Fran and Ray's blogs over the coming days.
The game started with both forces having encountered each other the day before. They had skirmished and then both sides had pulled back with the intention of re-joining battle the next morning. Both sides had to roll to see if any casualties had to be removed for the previous days skirmish and Ray (the Union Commander) rolled a massive six casualties, one from each of his regiments!
The terrain however was probably some of the most challenging we have encountered for some time. Across most of the centre line a series of ridges blocked line of sight to both sides. Worse still each ridge also had a face of impassable cliffs on one side effectively reducing the centre 6ft of the table to just three narrow choke points. It was towards this ridge line that the Confederate and Union forces were marching towards when the game commenced.
|The centre hill had a sheer cliff facing the Rebels while the two either side had cliffs facing the Union troops. Two crucial passes through these hills can be seen here.|
Most of the Union and confederate infantry faced this ridge or were to the left of it (from the Confederate point of view). On the right the troops were thinner spread but roughly equally matched. The extreme Confederate right was held by a small division of cavalry.
|The Confederate right flank|
Both the Confederate and Union forces moved to take and hold the hills in the centre of the battlefield but the cliff faces made manoeuvre and positioning quite difficult. One hill in particular was heavily contested throughout the whole game with the front line ebbing and flowing across its crest all day.
|Those Union Zouaves were a pain in the posterior! It took the whole game to get the buggers off that hill and they definitely earned some accolades in this battle.|
The critical battles however centred on one narrow valley between this hill and the next. Because of the cliff edges this was the only passable route for infantry and was therefore fought over for the entire duration of the game. Initially the Union forces held the valley but multiple assaults by the Rebels forced the Union troops back and by the end of the game the confederates held the valley and the hill to its right. But the cost in terms of worn and spent units (earning victory points for the Union) was too high and had the battle continued the Rebs would have been pushed back again I'm sure.
|The Valley of Death. This narrow pass saw the fiercest fighting in the game.|
I'm sure there will be some dissenting voices from within the rejects but with these rules I think the Confederate forces have no choice but to attack vigorously and hope to knock out the Union forces in melee rather than in a fire-fight. The Union regiments are so large their massed firepower would quickly reduce Confederate effectiveness to nil and the only way to counter that is to get in close, quickly, and beat them in Melee. The odds still seem to be stacked against the Confederates but in some respects this is a historically accurate scenario that was repeated throughout the war.
|The Rebels finally took the Pass but at a very heavy cost.|
Meanwhile on the Confederate right flank little was happening. On the far right neither side felt strong enough to launch into hand to hand fighting and therefore remained in a stand-off throughout the game. However one area that could have seen more action was the centre left area where half of my Division held the second of the narrow passes in the cliff lined hills. From the opening turn I had decided to split my division and left a token force (plus my artillery) here. I felt confident in doing this as I was facing Surjit, a player who I know from previous games to be fairly cautious, and particularly artillery phobic. True to form he held back from a frontal assault and I held the pass with two understrength regiments to his four.
|Two regiments and a battery of artillery hold back a whole division of Union blue bellies.|
Unfortunately he had to leave early and handed over command to Richard who was much more aggressive player and immediately moved more regiments into the unoccupied ground before me. Within two turns I was retreating back through the pass and preparing to defend this choke point with another unbloodied unit which I had moved into position. Fortunately the game ended at this point and my weakened defence of the pass was never tested, but the whole episode just showed how a situation can change dramatically with a change in command.
In this game the battle ebbed and flowed, as it always seems to do with these rules. Although the confederates were winning ground on their left and were steadily pushing the Union back this was a false hope. The Rebels may have taken much of the battlefield but they were unable to hold it. The end result was an unqualified victory for the Union, 20 points to 13, although it felt a lot closer than that from my view on the rebel side of the table.
Once again I found myself on the loosing side, but you know what, I didn't mind at all. For a start my dreadful luck with the dice seems to have burned itself out after the last game. I had some good luck on the dice and one of my regiments outdid itself winning two melee pretty much on the dice rolling along despite the modifiers stacked against it at the time.
The other reason I enjoyed this game was the atmosphere. All the rejects were able to make the game and the banter was passing across the table thick and fast throughout the day. I'm not sure what Posties neighbours think happens in his shed but I suspect the roar of a dozen wargamers cheering the result of a melee dice roll must carry a long long way!