Sunday, April 30, 2017

War Between The States - Game Turns 49 to 56

The war has now been going for a year and there has been a few potentially defining moments amongst not much happening.

The first event is the appearance of Lee in the 6/62 Confederate Leader pick.

The build trickle for 6/62
I converted 3x2-2 militia to 2-3 infantry, 
converted a 5-1 garrison to 5-3 infantry and built another 5-1 garrison.

Slim pickings for both sides

For the Union, Wilson makes repeated attacks on Winchester

In the West the Union gunboats run the forts and suffer 60% losses.
However they now disrupt Confederate supply.
I should have done this much earlier.  Doh!
Before the rebs could build their forts and before they could get their supply depots established.

Disaster as the Rebs hit McClellan hard winning a major victory, 
further damaging Union political aspirations.
It could have been worse as the Rebs had an opportunity to continue the battle but failed.
However, this might have been the deciding battle of the war...

McClellan escapes.

The fighting for Winchester continues.

The Union initiative chits for this sorry turn were 1, 0. 0. 1.  It was that last one that allowed McClellan to escape.

The Union rebuild their river flotillas.
I also augmented a 7-3 to a 10-3 and with my last personnel point built a 1-1 garrison

The Rebs build an ironclad.

Smith is sent to reinforce Savannah.

Rosecrans captures Morehead City, but is rather exposed as General Lee is heading his way with a much bigger army.  At least that hex between the two cities is unfriendly territory for the rebs which may cause Lee to think carefully about force marching to attack.

For 7/62 cycle the chit system has changed and the Union draw was 1,2,3,3 compared to the Confederate 5,1,2,1.  It makes a difference.

Some rule observations

We failed to realise Railroad repair units required initiative to move and make their repairs [5.27]. We will now do so.

We failed to realise that when a general is appointed to a infantry corps he can no longer command cavalry [15.11].  This doesn't seem right and we will not be imposing this restriction.

River supply is definitely blocked by forts, but it is unclear that enemy flotillas also block.  They certainly stop naval transports and so it is reasonable to think they also stop supply.

Political Points for major victory don't take into account the size of an action, but maybe this means that HQs should not be used to move around small forces.

The optional rules we are using are retreat after combat (enables a large force to brush aside a small blocking force, but we are yet to use it), Confederate Initiative pick and Entrenchments (if we get to 1864, but I'm dubious about this rule given it is counter limited).  Even though it is recommended we are not using initiative reduction for commanders out of a line of communications.  While it sounds reasonable, the supply system already limits the wisdom of getting beyond your LoC and generals initiative values already seem to take this into account (also noting that General in direct command often didn't do their political leaders bidding).

One aspect of the rules that concerns me is Attack from march.  It is kind of like overrun, but really just seems a way of causing attrition.  Hasty attack?  If so why not use supply and also require general to use initiative.  I can see without it you could shield your front with tiny forces that would require initiative and supply to attack.  As it is, if the defender is just 1 point you need to get better than 5% to eliminate it.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

My First Game of DBA 3.0

I'd been hesitant to move to the new DBA rules, but with a bit of encouragement from Kaptain Kobold and a handy acquisition of the rules, I thought it was time to give them a go.

Mark B took the Thebans and attacked my Athenians.  I'd gone for two classic armies in order to keep things simple (and historic in case James F is watching).

My camera decided to switch to manual rather than automatic.
Luckily I realised with the first shot of the deployment.
I like the coast line, road, wood and marsh. 
Sheep may safely graze...

Perhaps disturbed by the stomp of feet and the blowing of trumpets.

Having pushed my light horse out on my right, 
I find it overwhelmed by the Theban cavalry.

My cavalry in the red cloaks are ready to protect the flank,
preventing any Theban encroachment round the marsh.

The battle lines approach.
The Thebans have thrown their Thracian auxiliaries forward.

This should be an easy victory for the Athenians,
but it was not to be.
However it had caused a shift as DBA still requires elements to line up.

The Thebans now attack.
On the threatened right flank the Athenians lose another unit.
I am now two down...

The view from the Theban side.

The Thebans have the advantage.

The tide turns.  
The Athenian refused flank holds off the enemy (while I check the rules about flank attacks).
More importantly my cavalry have beaten their opponent.

The Thebans decide to attack the refused flank.

And get themselves in trouble.

The fighting is intense in the centre.
It was around this time that the Theban commander complained about the dice 
(he'd rolled four ones in a row).  
I did admit he was using my cursed Burgundian dice and agreed to swap.

The dice come good for me and I kill some of the Theban psiloi on my left.

And after some toing and froing my general kills a fourth Theban unit,
securing victory.

Thebans repelled!

I am glad to see that not much had changed from DBA 2.2 which I thought was adequate (especially if using 2.2+).  The "closing the door" tactic has been replaced with stricter conditions on flank attacks.  The spear flank support is new as is the psiloi not suffering from overlap.  These worked well giving both troop types more resilience.

I like the BW movement.  Terrain set up and deployment is simpler and satisfactory.

All in all a positive experience.  It helps to win.

War Between The States - Game Turns 39 to 48

Today we completed ten turns and two strategic cycles on SPI's monster boardgame, War Between The States.

McPherson secures Harper's Ferry,
but has a hard time making progress down the valley

The Confederates complete their withdrawal 
in order to conserve railway capacity and supply

Union invasion of Arkansas inches forward.

Builds have become a trickle.

For both sides.

The Rebs return.
The last two turns had 0 initiative for the Union.  
4/62 starts out the same way,
but Crouch again comes to the rescue.
Longstreet hesitates to attack...

Curtis is roughly handled by Gordon.

Longstreet retreats as does McClellan

The Union invasion of Arkansas is called off.
The last three Union initiatives for 4/62 were all 3s.
Good for fast getaways.

Hard to see in the bright sunshine, 
but the lack of counters tells us not many reinforcements should be expected.
The 4/62 builds were 1-3 and 10-3 infantry, a river flotilla and river transport.
The 5/62 builds were 1-3, 3-3 and 10-3 infantry and a naval transport

The rebs are building with the same manpower as the Union.

Lyons strikes back.
It's a battle of attrition the Rebs are not prepared for. 

The Rebs again advanced and retreated.

As they did in the West.

The Initiatives chits for the Union had been 1,0,3,3 for 5/62.  More importantly they have been able to implement some corps structures for their leading generals and this will help them form an offensive in the future.

It is also now summer and the initiative pool is about to improve.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

War Between The States - Elephants

The Lynchburg Listener

Eye witnesses confirm that the newly arrived General McClellan received a telegram from General Scott that read “The general-in-chief, and what is more, the Cabinet, including the President, are charmed by your activity, valor and consequent successes. ... We do not doubt that you will in due time sweep the rebels from ...Virginia, but we do not mean to precipitate you, as you are fast enough.”410

The citizens of Lynchburg are proposing to have the words carved in stone and presented to the General as part of a lengthy program of feasts and jubilations to be held in his honour over the coming months to which they insist he attends in person.

The Butler Bugle

General Butler, the Bugle’s proprietor and sole subscriber, has condemned the senseless slaughter and damage to property that occurred at Fort Monroe by the rash action of General Crouch who had descended from the sea with all the subtly of a tsunami.  What the former property of Southern gentlemen who had taken refuge in the fort thought of such shenanigans cannot be imagined.

Furthermore, General Butler has advised General Crouch to stay put and fortify and wait for General McClelland to bring reinforcements.  Quoting from General Scott “He has no brigade of elephants: he cannot by any possibility get a brigade of elephants.”468 General Butler is satisfied that General McClelland will make a speedy crossing of the mountains to join General Crouch by way of Richmond.  This will permit General McClelland to take the mighty host of rebels assembled before General Crouch in the rear where it will do them the most good.    

Vainly Flair Quarterly

In this week’s edition of the monthly periodical further speculation is made on the increasing trend for Northerners to head south.  It cannot just be to escape the cold.

Washington DC Comics

An order is believed to be about to be raised for the construction of a large vessel that will be loaded with hay and other food suitable for elephants for a long voyage, with tanks holding a sufficiency of fresh water, and arranged with stalls so that the elephants can both stand & lie down in the ship

Official Correspondence of the President

To King Mongkut, Siam.
I appreciate most highly Your Majesty’s tender of…a stock from which a supply of elephants might be raised on our own soil. This Government would not hesitate to avail itself of so generous an offer if the object were one which could be made practically useful in the present condition of the United States.

Memo from Naval Docks

The transport of elephants by sea can be somewhat problematic.

The Coming Fury

When Simon and I started to play War Between The States I was struck by my imperfect knowledge as to the causes of the American Civil War and the ill-preparedness of the two sides.

Years ago (probably decades) I had purchased the three volume set by Bruce Catton on the American Civil War.  Now was the time to read it, at least the first volume which I hoped would give me the background and understanding I needed.  It did.

Bruce Catton portrait from the 1960s, Library of Congress

The book was written a hundred years after the war (and I liked the synergy that I was reading it fifty years after it was published).  This has allowed plenty of time for analysis, research and the dissipation of bias to occur, to give me confidence that what was written was accurate (as far as these things can be). Whenever in doubt Bruce stated so and also included a few diversions into what might have been at the various early stages of the war: some profound (Texan's imprisoning Lee) or perhaps not as significant as they otherwise seem (events around Fort Sumter - it was merely one of many matches that would have ignited the tinderbox of public/political opinion).

The real catalyst seemed to have been the election of the Republican President Lincoln.  This had South Carolina seceding almost immediately.  That he was elected was helped by the Democrat Party meeting in the same state that had resulted in the party splitting and running two candidates.  My takeaway from the book is that the South Carolinians wanted to preserve their way of life, by stopping even the remotest chance of change.  And of course by way of life that meant slavery.  I was surprised to discover that some of the opposition to slavery was just opposition to coloured folk. There was also the belief that the industry of the South, i.e. cotton, could only be supported by the use of slaves.  This is of course nonsense and was just a distortion of a working man's worth something that I felt was still ongoing in the 1930s based on my recent reading of The Grapes of Wrath and I reckon continues today, but I'm getting well off topic (except that I reckon the initial use of slave labour in the Americas has an ongoing effect with industrial relations with bosses not valuing their workforce).

Then it was all State pride and the folly of old white men (and some young ones too) ably supported by their women folk.

My reading of the start of the Spanish Civil War (via Anthony Beevor's complex book) was a similar overheating of public/political discourse boiling over in to open and vicious violence amongst otherwise civil human beings.  Perhaps that is the case with most wars.  I am remembered of the quote that "war is an extension of diplomacy by other means".  You could say that Germany didn't invade Poland in 1939, it was just being diplomatic.

The other, more disturbing observation is the similarities to some of the world's current political dynamics, notably Brexit and the recent US elections.  There would not appear to be the moral issue of that "peculiar institution" to fire up people's passion today, but there is the mounting divide between haves and have nots and that is a well trod path to revolution. Climate change may also be a sleeper issue as the effects become more wide felt and blame begins to levelled.

I really enjoyed this book.  My limited knowledge of the US and its political structure made the first part a little challenging, but I was able to follow it without too much "who was that again?"  The style is rich and rewarding.  There is humour and sad reflection over various events and lost opportunities.

Once secession commences the book picks up pace covering everything that was happening and the snowballing effect, particularly on how it all hardened each side's opposition to the other and (of course aided by hindsight) on how bloody an affair it was going to be.

As to my question of both sides being ill-prepared?  The talk of secession was considered a political move.  No one thought of the consequences and this was further, almost delightfully, mixed up in consideration of what was legal.  Secondly the US army had been very much run down.  The Southern aristocracy (which tells you something that such a term could be used to describe them) may have had more of their people at West Point, but they had less people and to me, where they needed or would have had the manpower supporting their industry or rather agriculture (i.e. cotton) they used slaves.  The North had the business men (good and bad) and the industry (railways, shipbuilding, and attendant iron works etc) and an abundant workforce supporting them that was not enslaved.

There is an unreferenced unattributed chart that appears in the back of the book giving the 1860 population numbers and industry establishments.  It is very telling:
In the population figures for the Border and Southern States
the proportion of the population that are slaves is shown by the coloured bar.

For those who prefer numbers I found this, a JPEG with the delightful name of Statepops:

There were those who foresaw the rising tide: moderates who formed committees to further discuss the issues and look for compromise and military men who called for reinforcements (and I was surprised to learn that General Scott was so prescient, but was not heeded as his advice cut across the politics of the time - I'm guessing similar such foresight existed in the Generals prior to the recent Middle East wars and was equally ignored by the politicians of the time as being "unhelpful").

I am looking forward to reading the next volumes, but will have a little rest first.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Elephant

A long time ago, when I was just starting to build my first serious ancients army based on the Tin Soldier Hellenistic range, my friend Myron Shipp gave me a present of an elephant that was professionally painted by someone called Callan.  This would have been around 1985.

The other day I saw on Facebook group, The Australian Historical Wargamer Trading Post, the following for sale: 

15mm Napoleonic Russian Artillery and Command. Painted, based, good condition.
Old Glory, 7 x Russian Artillery bases, gun and 4 crew,  2 x Cossack Artillery bases, gun and 3 crew (since sold) and 8 x Command figures (the Cossack single command since sold).


I thought I better act to secure them.  

The seller was Peter Callan and so I asked him, if he was painting back in the 1980s and he said he was (also that the figures currently for sale were not painted by him, but that doesn't matter).  So a nice bit of serendipity.

And it got better.  When I was telling Simon that I had bought some more figures and the story of my elephant, Simon told me that he used to have some armies painted by Peter Callan.