Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Battle of Prescott's Mill - Aftermath: Part 2

If you haven't already, you can read Part 1 of this battle report here. After the first four turns, the Union and Confederate Cavalry were engaging near the large forest on the flank. In the center, the Union Infantry brigade was slowly advancing towards the Confederate defenses.

Union Turn 5
Custer finally got the 1st Michigan Cavalry regiment through the ravine and out into open ground. They deployed into line, dismounted, behind the 5th Michigan. They fired off a few shots at the far Confederate Cavalry regiment, and then supported their comrades in the hand-to-hand fighting. The Horse Artillery battery also managed to make it out of the ravine, but not in time to unlimber and deploy their guns. In the hand-to-hand combat, both sides now had a regiment in support to back them up, but the dismounted Union cavalry was still at a disadvantage against the mounted Confederates. The Confederates got +1 to hit because they won last round, but that was balanced out with the -1 for being disordered. Still, the Confederates would roll 6 dice, and the Union regiment only 4. Despite the disadvantage, the Union boys fought hard, and their high morale allowed them to absorb the many casualties without panicking. The fight was pretty even, but both sides had taken a lot of punishment and couldn't keep it up. The Confederates were the first to break, fleeing from the field and scattering. The Confederate regiment in support saw their friends flee the battlefield, and withdrew to a safer distance. The combat was a draw, but since both regiments in the fight had more casualties than their stamina value, they both had to take a break test. The Union regiment passed theirs, but the Confederates rolled that the unit broke and was removed from play. When a unit breaks from combat, any supporting units also have to take a test. The result for the supporting Confederate Cavalry regiment was that they fell back one move segment. Note that at this point, we switched which models we were using for that supporting Confederate Cavalry regiment so we could use the mounted ones. The Union Infantry brigade again plodded forward at minimum speed.
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Confederate Turn 5
With the Confederate right flank suddenly looking a little shaky, General Hood sent one of his Infantry regiments forward a little to hold off the Union Cavalry. Forrest had his one remaining Cavalry Regiment form up to their right to cover their flank. The Union plan was starting to work, as the threat of the Cavalry had drawn an Infantry regiment away from the main defense, evening the odds a little in the center of the battlefield. Unfortunately, the Union Infantry was not yet in position to attack, due to their slow advance.
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Union Turn 6
Speaking of the Union Infantry, they once again advanced slowly forward toward the center of the Confederate defenses, but were still not yet in range. It was all Custer could do to maintain order after the chaotic hand-to-hand fighting, and he wasn't able to get his regiments moving again very quickly.
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Confederate Turn 6
The rebels were able to recover quicker and take advantage of the lull. One of Hood's Infantry regiments, the 4th Texas, moved forward into rifled musket range and opened fire on the already depleted Union Cavalry regiment. Despite the mounting casualties, their morale held. Forrest's remaining Cavalry regiment again formed up to the right of the Texas regiment to protect the Infantry's flank. Another Confederate Infantry regiment, the 18th Georgia, wheeled slightly to the right, ready to support the 4th Texas if things went badly. In the center, the Union Infantry was finally within range of the Confederate Horse Artillery battery. It opened fire on the regiment to the far right of the Union line, but the long ranged shots had little effect on them.
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Union Turn 7
The cannon shots did, however, have an effect on their commanding officer. Brigadier General Meagher, upon coming under fire from the artillery, got a little nervous and decided to pull his Infantry brigade back out of range. Perhaps he wanted to wait for even more of the Confederate Infantry to be drawn off by the Cavalry attack. Rolling double 6 on a command test results in a Blunder, and a roll on a chart to determine what order is issued. As usual, I ordered the brigade to advance straight forward, but blundered. The result on the chart was fall back one move segment, so the entire brigade fell back, giving up the ground I had gained the previous turn. Just when I was almost at grips with the enemy, this happens! Elsewhere, Custer moved the 1st Michigan Cavalry regiment to the right of the other, and had them form up in line, dismounted. He had his Artillery battery unlimber slightly behind his Cavalry regiments. Custer then rode amongst the ranks of the 5th Michigan Cavalry regiment, rallying the men. Officers can give a rally order which, if successful, removes a casualty from the unit. This requires the officer to join the unit, which puts him at risk of being wounded. The whole brigade opened fire, with solid results. The artillery battery fired on the Confederate Cavalry regiment, causing two casualties. The two Union Cavalry regiments fired at the enemy Infantry, causing two casualties AND disordering them. Pretty successful shooting!
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Confederate Turn 7
Custer was busy rallying the battered 5th Michigan Cavalry regiment, so they hadn't had an opportunity to pivot to protect their left flank. Forrest saw the opening and seized it, ordering his remaining Cavalry regiment to charge. This required them to charge across the front of the Horse Artillery battery, which enfiladed them with devastatingly effective canister fire. The charge, though disordered, did continue on and reach the flank of it's target. If a charge move takes a unit across the front of another unit, that unit can fire at them. In this case with close range artillery fire in the flank. Even rolling pretty bad, I disordered the Confederate Cavalry regiment and caused two more casualties. Unfortunately for me, we had forgotten about the two casualties that unit already had, as the casualty marker got left behind (you can see it in the picture). This should have caused a break test and halted the charge, but instead the charge hit home. Elsewhere, a vaguely worded order was willfully misinterpreted by Hood or one of his subordinates, resulting in the 18th Georgia Infantry regiment charging forward across the battlefield into the stunned 1st Michigan Cavalry. My opponent ordered the Infantry regiment to advance a little bit and form a line to the left of the other Infantry regiment. He failed the command roll, but because of Hood's high independence trait, he could choose to re-roll, but if he did any failed roll would result in a blunder. He failed the second roll, and for his blunder he had to charge the nearest enemy, rolling D3 to determine how many move segments he could use. He got three segments, and manage to charge all the way into combat with the fresh Union Cavalry regiment.
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The 18th Georgia Infantry charged home, their shrill rebel yell piercing the air. The stunned Union Cavalry were easily overwhelmed, and they quickly scattered. The other Union Cavalry regiment, having already suffered significant casualties, amazingly held their ground against the charge in their flank. However, in the vicious close quarters fighting, General Custer was badly wounded and would take no further part in the battle. If a commander is attached to a unit and the unit suffers casualties greater than their stamina value, there is a chance the character will fall as a casualty, which is exactly what happened. The unit lost the combat, but managed once again to pass their break test. They were then allowed to reform to face their enemy, but became disordered in the process. The easily victorious Confederate Infantry unit, having swept one regiment from the field, turned to face the remaining Union Cavalry regiment. The tough but beleaguered Union Cavalry unit was becoming surrounded.
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Union Turn 8
The Union Infantry brigade started back in the right direction again, regaining the ground they had previously given up when they fell back. The remaining Union Cavalry regiment, seeing their beloved Custer fall wounded, redoubled their efforts. The sudden ferocity shocked the mounted Confederate Cavalry, who wavered, broke, and fled the battlefield in the face of it. The quick-thinking Colonel of the regiment immediately reformed his men and fell back, putting their backs against the forest for protection. They had just barely avoided being surrounded. The Union Horse Artillery battery, now left somewhat exposed, held their nerve and fired effective shots at the Infantry regiment farthest to the Confederate right, causing casualties and disorder in their ranks.
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Confederate Turn 8
The two Confederate Infantry regiments on the right flank, both too disorganized to attempt any maneuvers, opened fire. One fired on the Horse Artillery battery, the other inflicted yet more punishment on the implacable 5th Michigan Cavalry regiment. In both cases, the Union morale held strong, but the heavy fire, smoke, and casualties caused confusion amongst the targets. Both the Artillery and Cavalry units were disordered by the shooting, but neither suffered casualties from it.
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Union Turn 9
Seeing that the battered remnants of the Cavalry brigade were leaderless and in trouble, Major General Hancock rode over to their rescue, bringing an Infantry regiment, the 69th New York, which he detached from the Irish Brigade. While the already depleted 18th Georgia Infantry regiment traded shots with the ragged Union Cavalry regiment, the Union Infantry came up behind them and let loose a volley at close range. Having previously known only easy success with their headlong charge that broke the other Union Cavalry regiment, the rebel Infantry was unnerved by the suddenly mounting casualties and they broke and fled the field.
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Confederate Turn 9
Now left alone on the far right flank, and already having suffered significant casualties, the 4th Texas Infantry, the Confederate regiment farthest to the right, pulled back a little towards the rest of their brigade. The Union Infantry brigade in the center was once again back in range of the Confederate Horse Artillery battery, which opened fire on the rightmost Union regiment. They didn't cause any significant casualties, but the cannon fire was enough to slow the regiment down.
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Union Turn 10
The 5th Michigan Cavalry really could have used some time to reorganize and recover from their ordeal. However, Major General Hancock had not been there to witness everything the Cavalry regiment had already endured, and so ordered them forward to continue the fight. He also had the nearby Infantry regiment, the 69th New York, wheel right and move forward, closing in on the Confederate right flank. Brigadier General Meagher ordered the other regiments of the Irish Brigade forward, though the one on the far right was disordered from artillery fire, which in turn slowed the regiment behind it. Three Infantry regiments and the dismounted Cavalry were in range, and opened fire on the Confederate line. The long range shots had little effect.
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Confederate Turn 10
Hood ordered the rightmost regiment in his Infantry brigade to fall back further to close the gap in the line. The entire Confederate line, three Infantry regiments and the Artillery battery, opened fire on the Union line. They caused few casualties, but did manage to halt the advance of two of the Union regiments, who faltered as they were fired at for the first time that day.
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Union Turn 11
General Hancock ordered the 5th Michigan Cavalry forward to re-engage the Confederate Infantry regiment that had fallen back, pushing the exhausted Cavalrymen nearly to their limits. General Meagher could not continue to advance his brigade, seeing that two of his Infantry regiments were too disorganized to move forward. He did move another regiment up to take it's place at the right of the Union line, an kept his final Infantry regiment in reserve behind the line, ready to fill in for any regiment that faltered. The entire line opened fire, but with most of their targets being behind defensive positions, they did little damage. The success of the Cavalry battle earlier had given the Union forces a slight numerical advantage, but they'd still be hard pressed to chase the rebels out of their prepared defenses.
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Confederate Turn 11
Brigadier General Hood still had one regiment in reserve, and he made use of it. He sent 1st Texas to the far right of the line to relieve the battered 4th Texas as the anchor at the right of the line. Both Texas regiments fired at the 5th Michigan Cavalry, who had been through a great deal that day, and could take no more. General Hancock would now pay the price for trying to stretch them beyond their limits, as the devastated Cavalry regiment routed in the face of the withering fire. The remaining two units of Confederate Infantry and the Artillery battery all fired on the Union line, but did little to deter the attackers. The Union still had a numerical advantage, with 4 nearly fresh Infantry regiments and one in reserve, facing off against three relatively fresh Confederate regiments and one badly mauled and nearly broken.
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Union Turn 12
Not wanting to advance forward into canister range, or assault the Confederate positions before softening up the defenders, the Union Infantry stayed still and continued to fire at their enemies. Casualties were starting to mount here and there in the Confederate line. The 4th Texas couldn't take the punishment, and fell back in disarray, but their colonel managed to get control of them before the routed completely, and reformed the regiment.
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Confederate Turn 12
Knowing that the 4th Texas couldn't take any more punishment, Hood ordered the 1st Texas to move to the left to get in front of them. The Confederate line was shrinking now. They all continued trading fire with the Union Infantry. All of the front line Union regiments were now starting to be affected by casualties, but none has suffered any serious damage.
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I didn't take any more pictures, but we played one more turn. The Union Infantry regiment in reserve in the back moved to the left and forward to fill the gap in the Union line, and the entire line fired again. The long ranged fire caused a few more casualties, but nothing serious. The Confederates didn't seem to have been softened up enough to be able to rout them in an assault. The Confederates fired back on their turn, with about the same results.

At this point, we were about ready to wrap things up. We decided that, regardless of what might happen from this point on, the Confederate defenders seemed to have stalled the attackers long enough for the main army to begin their retreat. So it was considered a Confederate victory. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have started the forces so far apart, but I had in mind the possibility of moving three times a turn so I thought things would move faster. In reality, getting three moves is pretty rare. Then again, I should have started my Infantry in march column, which would give them a bonus on the command roll, and the benefit of getting to move once even if the roll was failed. So I'll know better next time.

All in all, it was a fun game and I enjoyed the rules. I think it will be even more fun with a more interesting scenario that would require more maneuvering, instead of me just marching straight forward against a mostly static defense.

I've also been thinking about other ways to incorporate officer personality into games. I thought of another possible attribute, though I don't know what you would call it. The result would be that if it was high, the officer would get +1 on his command rolls when giving a brigade order (giving the same order to more than one unit at a time), and -1 when ordering a single unit (including giving Follow Me orders or Rally orders). If the attribute was low, it would be the opposite, so -1 to brigade orders, but +1 when ordering a single unit. A low value would represent officers who were more disposed to leading from the front by taking personal command of one unit at a time, while a high value would represent officers who were better at hanging back and orchestrating their regiments to move in unison. I just need to come up with a name for such an attribute, so let me know if you have any suggestions, or if you've thought up any of your own officer attributes for your Black Powder games.

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