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Weekend Games

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Post  Adam02 October 23rd 2014, 11:34

Sometimes you need more that 3 hours to have a game. Is there any enthusiasm for a weekend game, ie play all day Sunday and, perhaps, in due course, if this idea takes off, then both days of the weekend?

Gettysburg of course comes to mind. I don't have enough 2x2 terrain tiles for either a full treatment of day 1 at regimental scale or the whole day at brigade scale, but, now that I see there are some club tiles this becomes possible. It doesn't have to be Gettysburg but that is always a good place to start.

There was a nice article about the challenges of Gettysburg in the now defunct PW in 1993. I was thinking of the whole battle in 15mm using the Brigade Fire and Fury Rules and their scenario

How to wargame Gettysburg, Paul Stevenson, Practical Wargaming Jul 1993

Paul Stevenson suggests ways in which the battle of Gettysburg can be played as a wargame...

"Have it your own way, gentlemen, but Gettysburg is no place to fight a battle in." - Major General George Gordon Meade

As can be seen from the above utterance at a council-of-war called by Meade at night on the second day of battle, Gettysburg was not his first choice of battlefield. Meade had already selected his point of defence along Pipe Creek nearly 20 miles to the south. In fact neither commander-in-chief planned a battle at Gettysburg. The battle just came about as a meeting engagement between Robert E. Lee's Confederate infantry determined to seize a store of shoes and Union cavalry who were equally determined to stop them; and from there the battle escalated into the bloodiest of the war and had the further distinction of marking the highwater mark of the Confederacy.

True, the capture of Vicksburg and the opening of the Mississippi had far greater strategic consequences, but for sheer drama Gettysburg is aptly the most famous of all the American Civil War battles. Gettysburg also ranks as one of the classic battles of military history and can nearly always be found in generalist books of this nature alongside other classics like Breitenfeld, Bleinheim, Leuthen, Austerlitz and Waterloo.

Contrary to the battles quoted, Gettysburg is not in any way notable for the tactical finesse displayed by either of the opposing commanders. Chancellorsville was easily Lee's finest achievement and Gettysburg was easily his biggest failure. He exercised little control over his junior subordinates and failed to co-ordinate the attacks of his three corps, allowed Stuart to go off glory riding with all his cavalry, yet failed to take the sound advice of his most senior corps commander, James

Longstreet, who advocated a flanking manoeuvre of the Union position which would put the Confederates between the Union army and Washington DC and force the Federals into attacking them. In short, Lee, at Gettysburg, was over-confident and plain bloody minded. "...the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there."

Meade, the Union commander, was uninspiring, almost defeatist at times - he did little more than react to Lee's moves. How can this great and well-documented battle be brought onto the wargamer's table? The simple answer might be to buy a boardgame - for there are a wealth of such games available ranging from a simple divisional level representation to the magnum opus "Terrible Swift Sword" which deals with the battle at regimental level. Several small level tactical games concerned with distinct actions of the battle are also available such as "Little Round Top" and "Devil's Den".

Undoubtedly Gettysburg has a certain attraction and most wargamers would like to play Gettysburg as a wargame with figures, for this medium is about the closest one can get to being there without actually being there.

I intend here to outline some ways in which this great battle can be brought to the table top.

Doing the whole thing
If you refer to the map which shows the area over which the battle took place, it can be seen that an area some 8,500 yards by 6,000 yards is necessary to contain the action over the three days. On a table of the usual maximum wargame size, say nine feet by six feet, this gives a ground scale of 1000 yards to the foot; or one inch represents just over 80 yards. This translates as a rifle musket range of six inches and a cannon range of 18 inches for smooth bores and 24 for rifles. A regiment of average size at Gettysburg was 350 men, which would occupy a frontage of 120 yards. This translates as a frontage of 1 1/2 inches on the table. In terms of figures this allows for two 25 mm figures, four or five 15 mm figures and ten to twelve in 6 mm. Clearly, the smaller figure scale looks visually more attractive to depict a regiment.

Of course this does not mean 25 mm figures cannot be utilised at all. Many people will be familiar with photographs of the late Peter Gilder's wargame reconstruction of Gettysburg which have appeared in various books and was featured on the Tyne Tees Television series "Battleground" many years ago. This was little more than a cameo of the battle, yet the sculptured terrain and representations of some of the buildings gave the game the right atmosphere and was recognisable at Gettysburg, despite the scale distortions. Atmosphere is the essence of figures gaming.

The restriction here is the size of table and six feet width is about the most people can stretch across to reach the centre. If you have enough space parallel tables can be set up with walkways between to allow transference of units from the table to another. In 25 mm, this means a great expense in collecting enough model soldiers to fill the orders of battle. With a representation of 1 figure to 50 actual men, the wargamer needs something like 2,500 figures and about 70 model guns to do proper justice to the forces involved. An obvious answer to the problem is to find a fellow spirit or persuade members to tackle the battle as a club project.

However this kind of set up is not available for the majority of gamers. The purist will want to reduce the distortions of scale as much as possible and for this reason 6 mm is the best bet for re-fighting the whole battle. Besides, a six inch musket range in 6 mm scale looks more acceptable than at the other figure scales.

Those gamers with a copy of "Fire and Fury" rules will be aware of the Gettysburg set-up in the rules for 15 mm. Here a 14-foot table is used. The width problem is solved by a central add-on table. The scale here is 1 inch to 60 yards. The appearance of units is got round by considering the brigade as the smallest tactical unit. The rules give a full order of battle down to brigade level with brigade strengths for each day of the battle. For those of more modest means a game on an eight foot by three foot table in 6 mm is easily attainable, but the size of forces may not be.

If you re-fight the whole battle, then the rules used have to be simple and the amount of units represented cut down to a manageable level. I found this out the hard way. When I went into 6 mm, I set out to represent each regiment with the intention of re-fighting the second day of the battle on the Union left, taking in the Round Tops, Devils Den, Wheatfield and Peach Orchard. I combined the strengths of depleted regiments to make one wargame unit and still found I had more units on my hands than I knew what to do with. I found that I could not cope with so many! The whole project was shelved and I re-based the figures for "Fire and Fury". This was not a decision I took lightly, due to the amount of time such a laborious process would take. Once done, I no longer had to worry about regimental strengths and keeping track of such minutiae on the table then making sure that each unit was packed away properly at the game's end. It was necessary to only mark the command base with the brigade and vision designation. By changing labels on the underside of the base I was able to set up for the big battle of the West, Chickamauga.

Another consideration about playing the whole battle is the time factor. Since the actual battle lasted three days, it is likely that a long weekend might have to be set aside to do a re-fight. Setting out the terrain would have to be done in advance and this will be time-consuming if starting from scratch. For those with module terrain I can suggest drawing out the battlefield on squared paper and this will facilitate the accurate positioning of terrain features and troop dispositions.

Finally, Gettysburg is ideal for a multi-player game. If the table is arranged as an inverted and reserved "L" shape with, for the third day another table set off for the cavalry battle to the east (see diagram) the game can be accessible to several players. If there are an odd number, it is best that there should be more Confederate players for two reasons: firstly, the Rebel commands were less co-ordinated than the Union and secondly, there is more physical space around the table for the Confederate players.

The whole game scenario can involve more and more players as the game progresses. For example, let's say you wished to play the first day's action on a Friday evening - a notoriously difficult time to get anyone to do anything; but you might be able to arrange for one or two friends to come around to take the parts of the opposing commanders for the first day's battle. The second day could involve more people as more commands came to the field. On the third day, players with depleted forces may be given new commands to keep them active in the game. Rules for some night movement and the building of breastworks must be incorporated into the game. Troops on the attack should be pulled back some distance to consolidate their gains.

Doing it Day by Day
There are several good reasons for tackling Gettysburg on a day by day basis and these iron out the difficulties explored above in tackling the whole game in a oncer.

Time is no longer a problem to the same extent. If the first day's action is not finished, then it can be restarted later. At the end of the first day, regardless of the outcome of the fighting the second day's fighting is set up using the historical dispositions. In this way each-day's action must be seen as a separate start and a new challenge. Players can switch sides if they wish. In this way the actual historical context of the battle if maintained. As a wargame does not acknowledge all the factors and tactical constraints of the actual battle, the further the game progresses, the more it moves away from its real limitations. By dividing the game up in to three separate days action, some restrains is placed on the players but because of this they are made to become more aware of the problems the actual commanders were faced with at the start of each day.

Scenarios focus in on certain aspects of the whole battle. They have to consider not just the action to be depicted, but how other tactical considerations shape the actions of the units in the scenario. Scenarios can be limited to a few units on each side to a whole army corps. In designing scenarios extensive research into the dispositions, numbers, and timing of events is required. Some specialist reading is called for to do it justice. The generalised map dispositions one often sees of blocks representing divisions is necessarily stylised and quite often a distortion of the true picture. The true picture is often to be guessed at, but in the case of Gettysburg a great wealth of documentation exists. Some of this detail has been examined right down to regimental and company level.

A scenario needs to be well defined and must be as complete an entity in itself as possible. A situation which presents a tactical problem must be carefully worked out to gain maximum advantage and the players left to solve this in their own way within certain historical constraints but acknowledging inherent military possibilities determined by extrinsic factors.

Many opportunities for scenarios exist on the battlefield of Gettysburg, such as the holding action of Buford's Cavalry division against Heth's Confederate division in McPherson's Ridge, the assaults on the Peach Orchard and Devil's Den by Hood and McLaws' divisions, the night attack on Culp's Hill by the Louisiana Tigers, the cavalry battle on Rummel's farm and of course, Pickett's charge.

Finally, a scenario approach does not require the masses of model soldiers that the re-fight of a major battle requires. It allows the wargamer to explore the tactics in greater depth and to this extent provides a microcosmic view of the type of engagement going on all over the battlefield.

Terrain Description
The battlefield was one of the most open of the war. The line of low ridges to the west and south of Gettysburg also made the country ideal for defence. Large areas are also suitable for cavalry operations, but Lee did not have his until the third day and if properly used the Union cavalry can cause serious problems for the Rebels. During the first day's fighting, Buford feigned a cavalry charge on Ewell's advancing Confederates and forced a large proportion of his command to form squares which gave time for the defeated Federals to rally on Cemetery and Culp's Hills.

These hills formed the `hook' part of what has been described as the "fishhook" shaped Federal line. The line extended from these hills along the slight rise of Cemetery Ridge to the Devil's Den area which Sickle's occupied with his corps in contravention of Meade's orders when he advanced to the Emmitsburg Road. The later occupation of Little Round Top was brought on by arriving troops of the V Corps, when it was realised that Hood, also in contravention of his orders, was bringing his Alabama and Texas brigades down on the Union right flank. Big Round Top was occupied at the close of the second day when the Rebels had been repulsed.

The road network is very important in determining command control and the easy shifting of troops from one part of the line to another. This Meade was able to do successfully, since he had interior lines and more men. He was able to keep a large reserve on hand throughout most of the battle, although these were sometimes mismanaged with the result that the Union army.


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Post  Dave Toone October 23rd 2014, 21:17

Love the idea Adam (And we've started painting both Union and Confederate troops here!) but it's a none starter for me as I work Saturdays (And the boss is a tosser and won't give me time off!) and Sunday is the sacred ground of SWMBO. Shocked


But, I'll be up for a regular game of RFF as soon as the good guys are painted up Wink

Dave Toone

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Post  Adam02 October 24th 2014, 09:41

Hi Dave

I think I have met the boss and know what you mean and where would wargaming be without the SWMBO factor - don't suppose she wants to be JEB Stuart? You get to make a colourful entrance and be fashionably late?


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Post  steve row March 1st 2015, 09:31

like the idea of a weekend game . or ,failing that, at least a whole days gaming .we must have loads of armies/figures between us that don't get used due to time and space constraints.
as mentioned in my post about 10mm ww2 gaming , i have an idea for refighting el alamein. it is probably some years off ( it is definitely some years off!) but would be good to do over a weekend . would be multi player game. if some people could only make the first day they could take the front line units that would be overrun/destroyed/ worn out at the beginning of the battle . if players could only make the second they could takeover some of the above units and/or reserves that have not been committed yet .
do we know much about cost and availability of the hall . how far in advance would we have to book ? or would we consider an alternative venue

steve row

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Post  Adam02 March 1st 2015, 10:02

But what are we going to do for Waterloo 200? Can we really let it pass ungamed?


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Post  steve row March 1st 2015, 16:37

i noticed on another post by pete some time ago he mentioned nigel and myself doing something with 1/32 plastics . the only contribution i could currently make to a waterloo based game would be to field a couple of dozen prussians in this scale . nigel was going to be painting up some french and we were going to use the sharpe practice rules . not enough for waterloo though , obviously .
who has the relevant types of figures and in what scale ?

alternatively we could just go up to the train station . there is a bar there and we could toast our gallant victory

steve row

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