Any comments on the rules mechanics that need mentioning I will place in italics, to separate them from the descriptions of the action. The rules result in a fair amount of randomness and uncertainty in how your units act and react. This allows the imagination to fill in reasons for units whose actions are particularly impressive or particularly unimpressive, even though these reasons aren't specifically spelled out in the rules. This is an aspect of the rules that I like, and my descriptions of the battle will include a fair amount of invented explanation for events that were really the result of some particularly lucky or unlucky rolling.
Here are the initial deployments of both armies. In the center is a pile of wood representing the mill and it's supply of lumber. During the night, sappers from both armies had snuck forward to construct rock walls on nearby hills to provide cover in the upcoming battle.
The Confederate line at the start of the battle.
The Union line at the start of the battle.
As with the previous day, the Confederates woke up early and were on the move and advancing while the Union army was still milling around having breakfast. Once again, Forrest's cavalry regiment was particularly enthusiastic, advancing far up the Confederate right. The battery of 12 pound Napoleon guns deployed behind a rock wall on a hill, and the infantry advanced.
In Field of Battle, both players roll off to determine a number of cards each one will draw. The winner of the roll off chooses to go first or second. Each player in turn then draws the number of cards rolled, and performs the actions on the cards. At the beginning of the game, the only card that is useful is the move card, which allows all of your units a chance to move. The rest of the cards are pretty much useless until you're in contact with the enemy, so sometimes you have to go through a lot of cards before anything happens.
After a while, the Union army finally got moving. The Infantry brigade on the Union right moved slowly forward, towards the lumber that was the objective. The heavy artillery battery moved up behind the rock wall, and Custer's cavalry regiment moved to support them.
When getting a move card, each Brigade commander rolls based on his leadership ability. The result determines how far each unit in the bridage can move on that card. This can be no move, or one, two, or three times their movement distance. In this case, the Union Infantry brigade only got one move segment, so they advanced slowly.
Forrest's cavalry again advanced quickly, and with no warning was around the small hill on the Union left. They dismounted and opened fire on a very surprised cavalry regiment, causing serious casualties and some panic.
Once again, the cavalry regiment rolled three move segments and got to move pretty far. Casualties to a unit and damage to unit morale are represented together by loss of Unit Integrity points. This is determined by an opposed die roll for the firing and target units, based on combat ability and unit rating. In this case, the Union cavalry regiment suffered a loss of 2 UI points, which we kept track of by removing two stands from the unit.
But Custer gave an inspirational speech to rally his men, restoring their nerve. They dismounted and deployed in a skirmish line. They fired back at the enemy cavalry, and the unexpected counter-attack drove the Confederates back in some confusion. Meanwhile, the heavy artillery deployed behind the rock wall.
There is a card, the Leadership card, that allows all brigade officers to attempt to rally any units in their brigade. If successful, it can rally routing or out of command units, and take away previous UI losses. In this case, Custer rolled well and removed both points of UI his cavalry regiment had previously lost. The Union army seemed to roll really well for rallying their men all day.
Custer's Cavalry regiment, smelling blood in the water, mounted, formed into an attack column, and charged the dismounted Confederate cavalry. The confederates weren't nearly beaten yet, however. They drove off the Union cavalry with few casualties on either side.
There is a separate card that allows changing formation, mounting/dismounting, limbering/unlimbering artillery, and wheeling or otherwise changing the direction the unit is facing. Units in line can only move straight forward or at the oblique on a move card, they can't change direction. Units in march column formation can change direction while they move, making them easier to maneuver. Here, on a maneuver card, the Union cavalry mounted and changed formation from line (technically skirmish formation, since light cavalry are considered to be in skirmish formation when dismounted) to attack column. They then got a Move card, and were able to move into melee.
Meanwhile, the Union heavy artillery battery behind the rock wall opened up on the leading Confederate infantry regiment. The regiment was driven back by the fire, but the rebels had already advanced to around the lumber supply mostly unopposed.
Fire in Field of Battle is resolved with an opposed die roll: the attacker's Combat Die against the defender's Defense Die. The amount the attacker wins by determines how many UI points the defenders loses. It is often the case that the defender loses no UI points, but even in those cases the defender may be driven back a couple inches. In many cases, the fire may have no effect at all.
The Union infantry brigade continued it's ponderous advance towards their objective. Unfortunately for them, the Confederate infantry already occupied positions around the lumber pile, and had one regiment moving around to outflank the boys in blue. They would need some serious luck to get out of this predicament.
Forrest's cavalry mounted back up and counter-charged Custer's wolverines, but were in turn driven off with few casualties on either side. It appeared neither regiment was yet softened up enough to shatter with a charge. This swirling back and forth cavalry melee continued for quite a while, the two units charging each other again and again, with neither side gaining a decisive advantage.
Like fire combat, melee is resolved with opposed dice rolls, and can often result in a unit being driven back a bit with no loss of Unit Integrity.
Around this time, the impressive Confederate infantry advance ground to a halt, perhaps due to the difficulty of coordinating a simultaneous advance with units spread so far apart. Their cleverly planned flank attack was too complicated to time correctly in the face of the approaching enemy, and both the main group of Infantry and the flanking regiment halted, waiting for the other to make the first move.
Rolling a 1 on the die roll to determine how far a brigade can move its regiments means that you can't move at all. My opponent had an unfortunate run of ones at a crucial moment in the battle.
This marks the approximate midpoint of the battle, at least in terms of number of photographs. So check back here next week for the exciting conclusion!