Guns at Gettysburg deluxe rules playtest

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Guns at Gettysburg deluxe rules playtest

Post  Adam02 on August 22nd 2014, 10:03

Thank you again chaps for letting me experiment with the new Guns at Gettysburg deluxe rules. With just a playsheet it did not go as smoothly as I had hoped but I felt we were getting somewhere.

The scenario was Peter’s Hill, one of the Paul Stevenson’s scenarios from Heartland (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/35826/guns-gettysburg-scenarios-1-heartland-battles-kent). Appropriate in a way as was partly about Sheridan exposing troops to this new way of fighting battles. It was also a small action with all arms.

We expected GaG to be fairly familiar as an extension of an existing rule set and being based on General de Brigade which has recently been through a similar metamorphosis. It has lots of surprises. One of the most delightful is the new melee system which is very radical in its approach. An infantry charge where the attacking force has a preponderance of tactical factors causes the defender to run away without causing any or many casualties. The attacking force gets the ground and the defender has to rally but that it is. It is only when the tactical odds are even and there is no particular advantage to the attacker that the defender stays put and casualties are taken.
This flies in the face of ‘wargame logic’ as we know it (although the early WRG Napoleonic rule set had a flinch system that was a little similar http://www.wrg.me.uk/WRG.net/History/OLDWRG/1750-1850.pdf) but I am not only inclined to think this is the right approach I also feel henceforth I am going to be a little dissatisfied with other rulesets.

The late and lamented Paddy Griffith pioneered the approach of ‘tactical snippetting’ – looking at accounts of actions to try and deconstruct what was really going on.

In Forward into Battle (1981). Paddy offers this Napoleonic account by Col Landmann (engineers) reporting on Anstruther’s attack at at Vimeiro 1808. There is a lot going on here – British arty and skirmishers had been pouring fire into the French and the British had advanced to the crest, fired and then charged and cheered. The effect of the charge was that the French ran away, not at the start of the charge but at the point the British ‘were within ten to twenty yards from them’

"The enemy’s column was now advancing in a most gallant style, the drum by the side beating the short taps, marking the double-quick time of the pas-de-charge. I could distinctly hear the officers in the ranks exhorting their men to persevere in the attack, by the constant expressions of ‘en-avant – en-avant, mes-amis’, and I could also distinguish the animated looks and gestures of the mounted officers, who, with raised swords, waving forwards, strongly manifested their impatience at the slowness of their advance, and to which they also loudly added every expression of sentiments, which they thought best calculated to urge their men to be firm in their attack and irresistible in their charge.

In this way, the enemy having very quickly approached the guns to within sixty or seventy yards, they halted, and endeavoured to deploy and form their line, under cover of the Voltiguers. I was then by the side of Anstruther, to whom I said, @Sir, something must be done, or the position will be carried.’ When the general replied, ‘Your are right;’ and, .without a moment’s delay, he called out to the 43rd and 50th Regiments, as he raised his hat as one about to cheer, ‘Remembers, my lads, the glorious 21st of March in Egypt; this day must be another glorious 21st.’ I have no doubt that this appeal had its effect.

Walker immediately advanced his gallant 50th to the crest of the hill, where he gave the words, ‘Ready, present! and let every man fire when he has taken his aim.’ This order was most strictly obeyed, and produced a commencement of destruction and carnage which the enemy had not anticipated. Then Walker called out, raising his drawn sword and waving it high over his head, ‘Three cheers and charge, my fine fellows!’ and away went this gallant regiment, huzzaing all the time of their charge down the hill before the French recovered from their astonishment at discovering that the guns were not unprotected by infantry.

This rush forward was awfully grand; the enemy remained firm and almost motionless, until our men were within ten to twenty yards from them; then discharged a confused and ill-directed fire from some of their front ranks, for the line had not yet formed to its full extend, and the rear were already breaking up and partially running off. The whole now turned round and started off, every many throwing away his arms and accoutrements." ( Landmann, Recollections of my Military Life (2 vols., London 1854) vol 1, pp 212-214)

Paddy picks up the same theme in Rally Once Again: Battle Tactics of the American Civil War 1987
‘At Gaines’ Mill A.P. Hill’s troops had stalled before the strong Union position when Whiting’s division was fed through them in one of the war’s more successful examples of the passage of lines. General Law tells us that his brigade was told not to hold at that point, but to take up the charge

“in double-quick time, with trailed arms and without firing. Had these orders not been strictly obeyed the assault would have been a failure… [A thousand men were hit as they advanced, but] not a gun was fired in reply; there was no confusion, and not a step faltered as the two gray lines swept swiftly and silently on;; the pace became more rapid every moment; when the men were within thirty yards of the ravine, and could see the desperate nature of the work in hand, a wild yell answered the road of the Federal musketry and they rushed for the works. The Confederates were within ten paces of them when the Federals in the front line broke cover, and leaving their log breastworks, swarmed up the hill in their rear, carrying away their second line with them in their route” (Battles and Leaders Vol 2 p 363).

Paddy’s point, which seems completely convincing to me, is as follows:

‘Shock action’ s a much misunderstood terms in the Civil War context, and the bayonet had been mercilessly mocked ever since Gen Sherman first realised that his army was shy of Johnson’s trenchwork. In the high handed verdict of history these traditional instruments have been derided as representing a theory of combat which no longer worked in practice, a theory relegated to the scrap heap by the supposedly more ‘scientific’ conceptions of engineers [the fire fight]…

The key world, for both attack and defence, was not so much ‘bayonet’ as ‘shock’. The defender would hide himself as best he could until the enemy was close, then spring up, shock him and charge into him., chasing him away. Conversely the attacked would attempt to come close to the defender, shock him into flight and then – once again - chase after him. This is what the British in the Peninsular War had generally understood by infantry tactics… Wellington had seen that the important thing was to keep up the forward impetus of a formed body, regardless of whether their shock effect was gained by the bayonet along, or by cheering or by both of those allied to a short, sharp volley. This concept was perfectly familiar to the teachers at West Point, and it had worked well in Mexico in 1846, but the lack of theoretical explanations in the drill manuals meant that it was rarely properly understood by the hastily improvised officers of the Civil War’… A great deal of misunderstanding has arisen from the fact that a ‘bayonet charge’ could be highly effective even without any bayonet actually touching an enemy soldier, let along killing him. One hundred per cent of the casualties might be caused by musketry, yet the bayonet could still be the instrument of victory.’ This was because its purpose was not to kill soldiers but to disorganise regiments and win ground’ (Rally Once Again p 141).

Adam02

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Re: Guns at Gettysburg deluxe rules playtest

Post  Gwin on August 22nd 2014, 22:17

Yes I agree this gives the feel for what, in my limited experience of, the ACW charge should feel like.

Another realistic thing that occurred was the quick rally and recovery of the shocked unit still in close proximity to the original action. These we're elite Rebs and should/ would recover quickly ready to respond in kind back at the union troops. Where as my green union troop when met by the shock charge, with a rebel yell, should break taking the supporting, very close, units with it.

I feel a lot of fighting, by it's nature in east coast continental America, occurred in some sort of cover or obstacle. This would lead to troop surprising, shocking, each other. To take it one step closer I would have liked to see almost a type of hidden movement in the cover, woods. Maybe not have as many figures or more than unit size figures used until close up. Shock.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game. My sons on the way back did remonstrate me for too much arguing. Apparently I could have had more fun Smile Out of the mouths of babes hey. But anything with rules Recce and I is gonna end up questioning the placement of commas in the correct font for 18th century continental war gaming Wink

For the real feel to the rules we need to get some insight into those period action terms mentioned on the sheets. These would add the realism and understanding of the way of warfare during the ACW we didn't have. Just look at how adding bayonet charge to the AWI British grenadier has influenced the way a British player plays.

I for one look forward to getting more to grips with the rules on many other occasions.

Simon.
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Gwin

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