Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Black Powder and the War Between the States

I've been itching to try Black Powder for the American Civil War. (That's what I call it; if you personally use another term for that dust-up, feel free to do so... somewhere else. I'm writin' here.) Last Saturday at the Hamilton Road Games Group, I got my chance. I laid out terrain with the help of Martin and Andy and those two worthies, as well as Derek and Bear and later Kevin, took the field. Andy and Bear (or I should say Beauregard) generaled the Confederacy while Derek and Martin commanded the Federal forces. Kevin came in a bit later and Andy graciously gave him his seat. I served as gamesmaster.

The forces consisted of two infantry brigades, each of 4-5 regiments and two cannon, and a cavalry regiment each. Each side had two brigadiers and one medium tall general as over-all commander.

(All photos are by Andy or myself with my dinky little pocket camera, since I forgot my wife's nice camera.)

An homage to my friend, Irwin back in Pennsylvania, who did ACW reenacting with a signals unit.
This is actually a pretty cool little vignette.

Part of Andy's brigade advances -  a brass Napoleon and a rifled cannon, Wheat's 1st Louisiana Special Battalion (Louisiana Tigers) and the 7th Georgia. (Old Glory 15mm artillery and crew, Minifigs infantry)
More of Andy/Kevin's Brigade - the 1st Maryland and a Virginia regiment.
The white yarn denotes the edge of the forested area.
Andy and Beauregard got the initiative and advanced first. Andy dismounted his cavalry and walked the horses through the woods. This move might not have been rules "Kosher" but it made a lot of sense. The eight Confederate regiments were all of a large size. I tend to make the Rebs in big units since their SOP was to provide replacement and reinforcements to the regiments. The Union recruited new units in order to provide more political placements which led to veteran regiments dwindling away without replacements while new, green units were thrown into the battle with untried commanders. Only the state of Wisconsin and the US Federal regiments went against this tide. Both sides advanced toward each other, although Beauregard's troops - Texans and Mississippians - refused orders at least once. (That's how Black Powder works; command can be infuriating!)

Another view of Andy/Kevin's brigade. You can see the flags of Beauregard's Texans in the background.

Derek's troops - Michiganders and the Irish Brigade (formed into one eight-stand regiment rather than 4 two-stand regiments) storm across the creek. The Irish were armed with smoothbores and were subject to the "Ferocious Charge" rule.

At one point, the Tigers did not receive an order, and the Virginians passed through them.

Derek's troops again, now deployed into line. The 39th New York (the Garibaldi Guard) and a regiment of Federal Regulars are in the foreground with the Irish and the Michigan boys just beyond.

The Union line of battle approaches the enemy. Martin's Zouave brigade decided to to through the woods on the far side of the battlefield. (Troops by Minifigs, Falcon, Old Glory, and Essex)

Derek's artillery  (More Old Glory 15's)
A lot of fire from both muskets and artillery was exchanged. Derek deployed his cavalry on his right along with two stands of Berdan's Sharpshooters. (Each Union brigade had two stands as small units.) They dismounted and passed through a woods to cross the road and take up a defencive position on a small farm.

Derek's unit of Berdan's in the woods to his front.

Derek's dismounted cavalry move into the farmed area. The command and guidon remained mounted because I hadn't painted enough dismounted cavalry!

The Virginian Cavalry infiltrate the woods.

Andy/Kevin's Virginia cavalry at the edge of the woods. They had attacked the dismounted Federals in the farm yard and were thrown back. The Bluecoats were behind a stone wall.

Here they are, taking up their defencive positions around the farm yard.
Meanwhile, on the other flank, Martin had broken his troops into skirmish order to get them into the woods. This was to cause some rules consternation later but at this point they were exchanging fire with the Texans and began to take casualties from the Rebel artillery. As it was they stayed in the woods, and held a firefight when the Texans came up to the edge of the woods and began to volley against them.

In the centre, things began to heat up as the Louisiana Tiger (Properly pronounced "Loozy-ana" as Beauregard reminded me. I'm just a silly Yankee anyway.) prepare to charge the Irish Brigade. The Gaels took it hard and were destroyed. The Garibaldi Guard exchanged a lot of fire with the Virginians, who also took a pounding from the Federal artillery.

Martin gestures mystically over the woods battle. You can see Wallace's Zouaves and the Philadelphia Fire Zouaves in the woods as well as the two stands of the Sharpshooters. The 146th NY Zouaves were there but were cut up in a firefight with the Mississippi regiment and left the field.

A better non-mystical view. Wallace's are Essex figures, Berdan's are Old Glory, and the Fire Zouaves are Minifigs.
Andy/Kevin's artillery and brigadier. Kevin always has the right frame of mind for ACW Black Powder. I quote: "The Fust Mary-land will chaage the enemy with the bayonet and carry the position, Suh!" At one point, he began to quote verbatim the inspiring speech to the Virginians at Pickett's Charge from the movie, Gettysburg. We beat him senseless with sandwich rolls and chocolate bars. 

A close-up of the brigadier and the artillery over the bayonet of the 1st Maryland. (Both are Old Glory)
The Rebel command is in the background.
As time rolled on, we saw that the woods on the Union right was going to give way but slowly. The farm and the woods on the Union right was solidly in the hands of Derek's cavalry with one regiment of infantry coming to their aid. In the centre, the Irish brigade had broken and left the field. The other Union regiments were smaller but in decent shape. It really was a toss-up. Since my goal was to actually try an ACW battle using Black Powder, it was a success. It was a hard-fought battle but I can't say who was the actually winner.
The rules work well for the ACW. What was lacking has to be laid to my fault. Next time, I need to have a roster saying which units are veteran, "normal", or green, with some extra things like sharpshooters, ferocious charge, and skirmish specialists. Walking the horses trough the the wood worked without unbalancing things. As I said, I don't know if it is entirely "Kosher" according to the rules, but it makes sense and it works. Since my troops are mounted 4 to a base, breaking an entire unit into skirmish is a problem. (I'm NOT rebasing!) It gives the skirmishing unit a great advantage, effectively doubling the number of men firing in one space. Cutting the number of firing troops might be the way to go. I'm going to paint skirmish stands up, but that takes time and it is Advent...
We'll do this again, bet on it. I like how clean the Black Powder rules are and how flexible. They even had the right "feel" for the ACW in my opinion. We may have made the mistake of going longways on the table which made us take a long time to get to grips.
Live and learn.

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to mention that when the Confederate cavalry attacked Derek's dismounted cavalry in the farm-yard, Derek rolled four d6 for his small arms firing. Darned if he didn't get FOUR SIXES!! That's right; not just "box cars" but the entire freight train! No wonder the Rebs beat feet a turn later!