Friday, February 11, 2022

Richmond is a hard road to travel - Seven Pines

This past week, myself, Chris, Ed and Mark got together to re-fight Seven Pines/Fair Oaks from the Peninsular Campaign. We used Altar of Freedom, a brigade-level ruleset intended to be used for big battles, we've been using this recently and it is definitely rewarding to play an entire battle in a 3-4 hour span. In the case of Seven Pines we got through both days, May 31st and June 1st of fighting. 

Mark took the reins as the Union commander, Brig. Gen. Heintzelman with myself acting as Brig. Gen. Sumner, arriving to support his Corps. 

The Confederates were run by Ed as Gen. Joe Johnston and Chris handling Maj. Gen. Longstreets corps that started on table leading the attack.

Although Altar of Freedom always for ahisotrical deployments, we kept to a general historical deployment of forces to see how it would play out.

Beginning of May 31st, 1862

Heintzleman and Keyes' Corps deployed on table to begin with Casey and Couch's Division forming the front rank of defenses and Kearney's division beginning in reserve, quickly deploying to the Union left in anticipation of a Confederate attack. 

In Altar of Freedom Generals have traits tied to their historical performance, in Longstreet's case he risked not activating on any given turn with a Roll of '1', when the battle stepped off at 1 PM, Longstreet blinked and failed to advance. This allowed the Union forces to begin to dig in and adjust their line. 

Anderson's division advances on the Union right 

Throughout the first day of fighting the Confederates focused their attack on the Union left, guarded by a Couch's division of Keye's command, stationed near Fair Oaks station. Numbering three brigades and a battery of guns, the Confederate division under Anderson had six brigades and a battery operating against them.

Anderson smashes through Couch's line

While the Union left remained relatively quiet in the opening hours, Anderson decisively smashed through Couch's division, routing one brigade and throwing back two more.

Sedgwick's Division arrives

By 4 PM on the 31st, Sedgwick's divsion had arrived on the Union right and began to deploy in support, this forced the Confederates to pause their assault. Meanwhile, Johnston arrived on table alongside Gustavus Smith's Corps.

D.H. Hills' Division comes to life

Knowing their time is running out on the first day, Longstreet decides to finally send D.H. Hill's division forward against Casey's division around Seven Pines. A brutal fight for the Union breastworks follows with the Rebs being able to push the Union back before nightfall.

Evening falls on May 31st

During the night phase, the Union shore up their line, and Hooker's division arrives in support of Heintzelman while Richardson's division along with Bullhead Sumner arrive on the Union right. Confederate reinforcements during the night is Huger's division under Longstreet, who followed his historical failure to arrive on the first day. They deploy on the Union left, ready to attack at dawn.

Confederates renew the assault on June 1st
Sumner gallantly leads a charge...and is grievously wounded!

As dawn breaks on June 1st, the Confederate forces launch an all-out assault against the Union left, pushing back Heintzelman's division and almost killing Heintzleman multiple times! Mark rolls well and manages to keep his General alive in two back to back combats. 

Meanwhile, Sumner attempts to pressure the Confederate left near Fair Oak's station while they are preoccupied with Seven Pines. His progress is limited and manages to break one Confederate brigade, but a swift counterattack by Chris' forces stops the advance and wounds Sumner causing him to be removed from play.

Dispositions at the end June 1st

Into the afternoon of June 1st, both forces remain locked around Seven Pines and Fair Oaks station. The result of the battle is a Confederate tactical victory, three Union brigades and one artillery battery were broken at a loss of only one Confederate brigade from D.H. Hill's division. Johnston avoided being wounded in our refight, meaning Lee will not be taking command of the Army of Northern Virginia for the time being...

Seeing Little Wars TV tease their Peninsular Campaign series inspired me to put on Seven Pines, and I am hopeful I can get the forces together by this Summer to refight the Seven Days Battles for their 160th Anniversary as well.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Fistful of Lead - Horse & Musket

It's been a while since we've posted something up, so time to fix that!

Mark, Dan and I got together last night to try out a new game (for us).  I've been an inveterate rules collector for ages and ages, and the advent of Wargames Vault has only made it worse.  One of the series that I've picked up along the way is Fistful of Lead (FFoL) by Jaye Wiley of Wiley Games.  It started as a wild west cowboy game, but as of recent years, he's been expanding the reach of his game system by creating what are essentially versions dedicated to specific eras.  I think his first release after the original cowboy version was Horse & Musket.  Since then, he revamped and released the core rules and has been rereleasing some of his early works so they all align with his core rules.  H&M was re-released in 2021.

At it's heart, FFoL is a skirmish game.  You create detachments of around 5 or so figures for each player.  Each figure is equipped with weapons and assigned one or more traits, which generally upgrade or enhance the figure in some manner.  There are in excess of 75 different traits, although most are very simple in application.

Gameplay is via a standard deck of 52 cards.  At the start of a turn, you give each player one card for each figure they have on the table.  Order of figure activation is determined by the cards, starting with Kings, then Queens, then Jacks and so on.  Whomever has a King puts it down, and order of figure activation is further determined by suit, starting with the Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and finally Clubs.  So if one player has the King of Hearts and another the King of Clubs, the player with the King of Hearts would pick one of his un-activated figures and perform two actions from those available.  Once that figure resolved its actions, the player with the King of Clubs would pick an un-activated figure and do the same.

There is one twist which makes the card activation more interesting.  There are some cards that give special traits or abilities on the figure played.  For example, the Queen of Hearts used to activate a figure also removes one wound for free.  Playing a 7 on a figure allows it a re-roll on a single die during its activation.  And finally, an Ace allows the player to use it as any card!  It makes you really think about what you need to accomplish!  Actions are your standard skirmish fair with Moving, Shooting, Aiming, Reloading, Switching Weapons, etc. So much for the background, onto the game.

Retrieve the Letter!

There would be three detachments, each playing for themselves.  There were two Cossack, and one Polish Haiduk detachments.  Each detachment had a leader, a second and three regulars.  There were a variety of weapons, mostly swords, pistols and muskets based on what the figures were actually equipped with.  The picture below was the starting positions.  This is facing North (for future reference).  My Cossack detachment started in the South, and included the only mounted figure.  Dan and the Haiduks were in the East, and Mark and his Cossacks were in the North West.

Each building (including the shed at the top left, and the chicken coop at the top right) had something to be found.  In order to find whatever was in the building, you had to perform a "hard task".  Which meant spend one of your actions in the building and roll an 8+.  There were 6 different things that could be found based on drawing from a set of 6 cards that were faced down:
ace - Peasant treasure worth 1 point
2 - Peasant treasure worth 1 point
3 - Peasant treasure worth 1 point
4 - Village treasure worth 3 points
5 - Church silver worth 4 points
6 - Letter!!!!  worth 6 points

If you drew an ace through 5, you called for a treasure chest.  To claim your loot, you had to carry it off the board in the chest.  If you drew the 6, no chest. So everyone knew when the Letter was found.

If you rolled a "1" while searching, some bad happened and you would be immediately attacked!  Roll a D6 and refer to the chart:
1 - Dog attack.  1 wound, D8 attack.
2 - Angry villager w/Rock. 1 wound, D8 attack.
3 - Angry drunk revelers. 1 wound each, D8 attack armed with beer steins (as Club)
4 - 2 Dogs attack.  1 wound each.  D8 attack.
5 - Angry villager w/Rock. 1 wound. D10 attack.
6 - Angry Cossack w/Sword. 1 wound.   D10 attack.

Sadly, we never rolled a 1 during searching (or at least didn't notice while playing).

Each detachment pushed up towards its nearest buildings, taking an occasional pot-shot at each other but doing no damage.  Early on you can see the Haiduks facing down Mark's Cossacks and plinking back and forth between the buildings and cart.  Chests were found rather quickly in this area, but no Letter.

While that was going on, I pushed my leader up towards Mark and his Cossacks.  That ultimately ended rather poorly for me as my leader got knocked off his horse, and finally cut down as he got mobbed.  Luckily all was not lost as my Second found the Letter!  I like to think that my Leader was buying time for him to run with the letter!!!

Maybe a coward, but I took the letter and ran for the safety of the board edge.  Mark chased, but the Bluderbuss (Orange guy) didn't have the range to reach, and his other figure wasn't loaded.  Score 6 points for the good guys!!!

Unfortunately things were starting to look grim for me.  Mark and Dan were both flooding south.  You can see Mark's Cossacks in the foreground and Dan in the background.  I already had 2 figures taken out (you can see one next to the building) and another off-board.  The Blunderbuss of doom had taken out the guy behind the building, as well as wounding Dan's leader.  By this time he had already crawled around the other side of the building.  Mark had 2 chests, and had already killed 3 or 4 figures so my 6 points from the Letter weren't looking quite so good anymore.

The last few turns ended up in an orgy of destruction with three more of Dan's detachment and two more of Mark's biting the dust in a swirling melee of death.  At that point we called the game.  It was going to be a near run result between Mark and I, but we didn't bother tallying things up.  

We agreed the game was a complete success.  FFoL H&M gave a very fun and engaging game.  It gave a really nice feel for the period, with having to consider what to fire, when to swap between loaded weapons and when to swap to sword and charge with a weapon advantage.  We did all this in just over 2 hours without having previously played the game.  This is definitely a keeper and I'll be bringing it out again, and possibly running something at a convention.