Monday, January 14, 2013

Battle for Henry House Hill - AAR

Terry hosted an ACW game using his old Scruby 9's and Regimental Fire and Fury (RFF) on Sunday.  The chosen scenario was Battle for Henry House Hill out of the rather newish Regimental Fire and Fury Scenario book.  We fielded three players per side with Terry moderating.  For two of the players, this was their baptism of fire.  I was entrusted with commanding the Federals while John M. commanded the Rebs.

Initial dispositions show only two Federal regiments and two batteries holding Henry House Hill against Jackson's large command.  In the photo below, Stuart's cavalry can be seen attempting to flank the Federal positions on the far right.  Back beyond the Confederate lines are several broken Rebel units that begin the game routing from earlier combat.  Some of these regiments would never participate in the upcoming battle. 

As the game began, Wilson had only one of his regiments deployed on the Federal right. His other two regiments were log jammed with Franklin's brigade leaving poor McDowell to unsuccessfully sort out the mess.  Heintzelman took direct command of the two regiments and guns around Henry house.  In opening artillery exchanges, Confederate guns pounded Federal guns at Henry house severely mauling the U.S. battery

and then launched an assault against the Federal battery deployed on the left of Henry house.

One gun was lost with the remaining sections limbering and moving towards the rear.  Marines, supporting the guns, withdrew back down Henry Hill.  Coming up to support the Federal center is one of Franklin's regiments deployed in field column.

The Federal setback was brief.  With Heintzelman leading the charge, the marines counterattack both weakened Rebel regiments forcing one to flee the field and the other to become worn and disordered.  Franklin begins to bring his brigade on line as he prepares to attack the Confederate right flank.

"Heavy Casualties" level was reached by the Confederates so in an attempt to partially offset the negative modifier, Jackson orders an advance on Henry house to take the "Key Position" of Henry house.  The entire Confederate line steps out from the cover of the woods and advances on the Federal positions thus masking the Reb guns.  Finally, a reprieve from artillery!  Without the momentum to carry the advance fully into the Federal positions, the Confederates halt and a severe firefight erupts.  Federals pour fire into Jackson's men.

With casualties mounting, Confederate formations in the center break off and withdraw out of the hornet's nest of fire.  

With the center secure for now, Heintzelman gives Franklin the order to press onto the Rebel right.  Franklin accepts cheerfully!

Franklin hits the Rebel right and drives the lead regiments back onto their supports with heavy losses.

At this point, the Confederates throw in the towel and choose to retire from the battlefield just as their reinforcements on the left begin to deploy.

As in my two most recent games of RFF, casualties were decidedly one-sided.  Confederates suffered 68 total stands lost to the Union's 8.  Yes, that is correct; 68:8.  Now, 24 of those Confederate stand losses were due to regiments not rallying and running off map but still a very decisive victory by the Federals.  

What is inherent in RFF that tends to produce such lopsided games?  Is it our style of play? Is it the use of a D10 for fire and combat resolution?  In all three games, the attacker was butchered.  Perhaps, we need to relearn the lessons that our historical counterparts learned only after great cost?  Only time and more games under our belts will tell...


  1. I have been thinking about the same thing, and I believe we are trying to use BoFF tactics (hit 'em soon, hit 'em hard, chase 'em off the table) instead of period appropriate tactics.

  2. Could Civil War infantry, unsupported by artillery, reasonably hope to break an enemy of equal stregth through frontal attack?

    With the brigade level game, such an attack might succeed. There are enough little things that may have gone right that the rules have abstracted a result. With Regimental, it seems that Rich wants the attacking player to engage the enemy, disorganize him, break up his line, win the artillery duel, and gain overall fire superiority. Then you can try to push him away.

    I like the regimental game a lot, and we definitely need to play it more! I think as we get more experience with the rules, we will be more patient with our attacks.

    1. From my readings, very unlikely for an attacker to carry a position in such a manner. In this game, the Confederate guns in the center really played havoc with the U.S. artillery. Once the Federal artillery was neutralized, perhaps the Rebel guns should have turned their attention towards the Federal infantry to soften them up for the attack.

      On the other hand, most of the Federals remained behind reverse slope of in dead zones to prevent just that situation. That may have frustrated Jackson and prompted an attack before the enemy had been properly softened.

      We need to change tactics of the attacker to soften the defender before launching an attack. If the attacker is faced with enemy artillery, those guns must be neutralized before an attack might hope for success. Artillery is very powerful in RFF and maintains a long range.

    2. Yes. In the games we have played, I have though artillery may be overpowered. But then every time I read an account of a Civil War battle, the guns do indeed seem very powerful. Individual batteries sometimes hold up a brigade, at least until the brigade can all swoop in at once.

      My school gaming group went through this process with Battlefront: WWII, where the attacking players just wanted to charge everything on contact and were butchered by the defenders. It took some time, but eventually my junior generals figured out that they needed to soften the defenders up before going in for the kill.

      Well now I am eager to get in another game!

    3. Let's get another RFF game on our schedules!

  3. ** comments below posted for Lowell D. Hamilton **

    Interesting AAR on The Battle of Henry Hill. It sounds like the Rebs advanced before they won the counter-battery battle. "Preparation of the Battlefield" is most important in the ACW and RF&F. If it’s not done first and you advance before the enemy is softened up, you risk having the charge checked in front of the enemy where they can pound you for several fire phases before you can recover to attack again or skedaddle.

    It looks like the Reb attack was in full force and not done in a piecemeal manner. Most new (and many old;-) gamers are defeated in detail as they send in uncoordinated and unsupported attacks against an enemy that can bring to bear superior firepower at the point of attack and not have to coordinate anything.

    The best advice I can give you is the advice I gave myself years ago when I started playing the original brigade F&F; read and reread the rules, learn the rules and understand the rules because they are full of nuance and elegance that can make your play superior to your opponent.

    ... I might also mention that it is much more difficult to organize and carry out a successful attack than it is to stand on the defense. It takes patience and practice to make a successful attack in reality and in RF&F.

    Best, Lowell D. Hamilton

    1. Lowell, launching a sustainable and successful attack is much more challenging than a passive defense. In this game, my thought is that the Confederate player neutralized a major advantage by masking their formidable gun line too early. Another critical, influencing factor to the outcome was that the Rebs dropped to "Heavy Casualties" early in the game. After that point, coordinating an attack became a crapshoot.

  4. Excellent AAR and a great-looking scrum. It's been years since I gamed ACW and I think you guys have it figured out.

    Our Ancients group has been playing Maurice regularly since August and we had to learn that you don't fight 17th century like you fight BC battles. Obvious but still...


    1. Thanks, Monty. The Federals had the tactics figured out but the Confederates did not have as an enjoyable day at the gaming table.

      Not only do we have challenges adapting tactics between periods but when we game frequently using many different rulesets, we even get confused as to which rules are applicable to which game!

  5. Very nice table folks. Sounds like you had a great game.

    If I may suggest, assuming you might want a wider notice for your games, post a notice here prior to your games with contact information:

    We currently have 43 members in the Yahoo group with a wide range of interests.

    1. Thanks for the comments. Terry gets credit for the table aesthetics. Not sure the Confederate players would agree this one was a great game! Perhaps great game; bad outcome?


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