Thursday, September 21, 2017

Action at Willoughby Run

Two Flags - One Nation ACW Rules
After getting soundly trounced in a recent Friday Night at the Fights match against Jake in the Action at Mill Creek, I moved on to a solo game of Norm's hex-based, Two Flags - One Nation.
Confederates overrun Federal positions
 to declare victory in Action At Mill Creek
The battle refought in this showing is the Action at Willoughby Run as presented on Norm's Battlefields and Warriors blog (see Action at Willoughby Run).
Initial Deployments
Norm lays out the scenario specifics in detail on his blog for review, so my overview will be brief.  In the opening action at the Battle of Gettysburg, Archer's Confederate Brigade is attempting to dislodge Gamble's cavalry from the banks of Willoughby Run and take McPherson's Ridge.

The gaming area is quite compact at only six hexes by six hexes and definitely fits within Norm's "Gaming in Small Places" motif.  The force composition for this action is compact too.  Four Confederate regiments and Pegram's artillery against Gamble's three Federal cavalry regiments and Calef's guns.  As reinforcements, the Federals can expect to receive regiments of the Iron Brigade to appear sometime mid-morning.  Confederates begin off board and Pegram's artillery remains off board throughout the game.

08:15 Having the first player turn, Calef's guns target Pegram's guns scoring one hit.  With all Rebels off board, that is it for Federal fire.  Pegram's guns return fire on Calef causing one hit which the Federal guns coolly ignore.  Situated in woods, Calef's casualties are halved.  Archer's brigade splashes into Willoughby Run.
8:26. Calef's guns continue counter battery fire against Pegram at long range.  Again, Pegram is tagged with a single hit.  Then the carbines of Gamble's cavalry erupt all along the line.  The 13/5 AL takes a hit while the 1 TENN suffers withering fire taking four hits.  Not able to stand up to the hot fire emitted from the carbines, 1 TENN falls back in disorder.  
On Archer's left, fire from the 13/5 AL fires into 8NY causing casualties but halved due to the cover of the terrain.  On Archer's right, the 14 TENN charges out of the creek to come to grips with the Federal cavalry blocking its advance.  As it climbs the banks of Willoughby Run, 12 IL/3 IN cavalry fires into the approaching Rebels causing light casualties.  The Tennesseans do not falter.  Neither do the Federal cavalry.  In the close combat, the Tennesseans get the worst of the exchange suffering two more hits to none for the Federals.  Both sides are locked into a close range fire fight, neither giving ground. 
8:45. Calef's guns cannot silence Pegram as Federal cavalry continue chipping away at the Confederate resolve through small arms fire.  Pegram, however, can find his target and scores another hit on Calef.  Even with one of the Confederate regiments out of the battle line, Rebel fire is telling on the Federal troopers.  The Federals stand firm despite rising casualties.

9:02. Calef continues having no luck against Pegram's guns but the Federal cavalry make up for their artillery's inefficiency.  The 13/5 AL, on the Rebel left, suffers two more hits and loses its resolve falling back disordered.  On the Rebel right, the 14 TENN having suffered at the hands of Federal troopers only moments ago, is hit yet again from the deadly Federal carbines.  It loses its nerve too and falls back disordered.  The 7 TENN, now alone in the creek, takes another hit but remains fixated to its position in a precarious position, isolated from support.

Although at 5 Heavy Casualties, the 14 TENN is not required to take a Capability Test during the Retreat Phase since the Union player is the Phasing Player.  In its half of the turn, 14 TENN will test for retreat.  Being on the board edge, it will be considered as routed off table if it fails the Capability Test.
With the Rebel assault in shambles and three of the four regiments at least down to 50% effectiveness,  Archer calls off the attack.

Well!  That was a cracking little game!  Unfortunately for the Confederates, a quick and bloody affair resolved against them.  Archer's brigade took heavy casualties in its attempt to come to grips with Gamble's dismounted cavalry.  Gamble did not even need to call upon the Iron Brigade for support.

Having to move onto the map on the first turn meant Gamble would get to fire first.  In that first fire, the Rebels had a hot time.  Not only that first fire but the cavalry kept the hot fire throughout the action.  Even in Close Combat, the 14 TENN threw two '1's to no 5's or 6's.  That meant the 14th took two casualties to the cavalry's none.  Ouch!  

Willoughby Run proved to be an intense and vicious little scenario.  Perfect for solo play even played from either side.  The Confederates step into the fire on turn one.  In game time, this action was over in less than an hour.  Real time might have been about the same if I had not stopped for a few photos and note taking.  This action deserves another attempt to see if Archer's brigade can make a more competitive showing.  Without division commanders on the field, Archer did not have the ability to call in his superior to attach to one of his regiments.  Attaching a division commander to a unit allows that one unit to fire and then move.  That might have made a difference in assaulting out from the creek.

Given the state of Archer's Brigade, I thought it sensible to call off the attack.  At 9:02, the Confederates seemed incapable of mounting a viable attack against Gamble's cavalry any time soon.  With the imminent arrival of the Iron Brigade, Archer stood little chance of success.

On a rules note, I moved away from the 15 minute disorder duration and the need to track each unit's disorder duration on slips of paper.  Instead, I computed equivalent probabilities and translated disorder to either one or two "turns" of disorder determined by the roll of 2D6.  Worked well for this game and simplified tracking and resolution.  Perhaps, more about the 15 and 30 minute disorder simulations and outcomes from this study in another posting?


  1. A great looking 'little game'!

    1. Thank you, Phil! "Little game" is key but a lot action and fun packed into a 6X6 playing area.

  2. A very smart looking game and a good report. I'll have to take a look at Norm's system (thanks for pointing that out!).

    1. Thank you, Ed!
      Norm has a number of interesting design elements within this game. Definitely worth consideration.

  3. Thank you once again for spending time with these rules and doing a superb write-up.

    As much as I like the Game Clock, it does not add as much to the game as it does for my WWII rules, so for administrative reasons, the move to a turn based 'disorder duration' is a most reasonable step.

    Once I get back in my stride, I will pick the rules up again and design a couple of scenarios from the Shenandoah Valley campaign 1862 (my current reading). My mind is already thinking about the distortion that the sequence of play has on the disorder impact on Player's A and B (as previously discussed).

    1. Pleased to see you enjoyed the write-up, Norm!

      While I made a change in the way disorder interacts with the Game Clock with respect to units needing to track disorder time separately, the Game Clock adds an element of uncertainty that provides an interesting twist. We never really no with certainty the number of Game Turns that will fit into the allotted playing time. I like that.

      The change I introduced in this game carried the same effect on a statistical basis as does the disorder time tracking in the original. The difference is that no more scraps of paper are needed to reference the original disorder time. With an easily identifiable marker on table, I am less likely to overlook an expiring disorder status.

      Having played at least a half dozen games, I am nearing readiness to evaluate the rules and the game produced. I also have a few questions, clarifications, and comments I plan to toss into the mix. If I put these thoughts into in one blog post, I am less likely to either misplace or forget the answers. I will describe the switch up to disorder "turn equivalents" too. Disorder status was still reduced one level at the beginning of each game for both players.

      As for scenarios, I have been re-reading accounts of both Pea Ridge and South Mountain for inspiration for actions at a divisional level. Elkhorn Tavern looks especially well-suited for TF-ON sized action. South Mountain offers a good introductory game similar in size and scope to your Action at Willoughby Run.

      Since the Valley Campaigns are of special interest, I look forward to seeing your work on scenario development in that theater. Port Republic is another that might lend itself very well to your system.

  4. Look forward to all of that :-)

  5. Replies
    1. It was surprising what an interesting game a four BMU per side force can produce. I got an interesting narrative as well. That is a mark of a good design.

  6. Interesting little game Jonathan. An interesting variation would be to extend the game to the east, where Davis' brigade extended the Confederate line. I suspect in that case the arrival of the Iron Brigade would have been crucial for Union success.

    1. That an interesting extension to consider. The arrival of the Iron Brigade would then be very important. Thanks for the suggestion!

    2. To my mind the first day of Gettysburg, thanks to the staggered arrival of troops, offers a whole bunch of intresting scenarios, better than the second and third days.

  7. A very tidy, attractive little game!


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