Gettysburg Battle Day

Some time ago, I proposed a Gettysburg Battle Day to the local wargaming community. Inspired by the yearly Battle Day of the Society of Ancients, the idea was to present different games, all of which dealt in one way or another with the Battle of Gettysburg. The aim was to get different perspectives on the battle, not only from the time and area chosen for the scenario, but also from the different rule sets.

To my great joy, many people were interested in participating, so yesterday a bunch of wargamers assembled at the club for the event. When I arrived (a bit late, admittedly, as I had to finish some stuff for my scenario – I was late with preparations this time), the games were already in full swing.

Virago and Sigur had prepared a Longstreet scenario dealing with the arrival of Howard’s XI Corps on the first day of the battle. Following historical events, the game ended with a Confederate victory.

The guys from Tabletop Wien West had three games running. Their main game used Kugelhagel for a scenario dealing with the fighting at Culp’s Hill. As always, they had a very busy table with a lively crowd.

Additionally, they had a Kugelhagel solo game and a game of Battlecry set up.

Nikfu and James had set up a game of Pickett’s Charge, a set of rules that I’m very interested in.

I had prepared a scenario for the skirmishing around Bliss Farm, using Sharp Practice. At the beginning, the farm buildings were occupied by Stephan’s Confederate skirmishers. I managed to drive them out, but the Rebel reinforcements arrived before I could consolidate my position and after a brief struggle, they retook the barn, at which point my Force Morale collapsed.

Finally, a group of people around Helim and Slowik had a game of Altar of Freedom using 6mm figures. They portrayed the whole battle on one 6’x4′ table and it looked spectacular! I fell completely in love with those figures and the way they were presented. This is how a big battle should look like, with mass formations and enough space for manoeuvring. Another great thing about this set-up was that it tied together the other games – you could identify on this table the spots the other games depicted.

I’m happy that the Gettysburg Battle Day was a huge success. Everybody was enthusiastic and all had invested considerable time and effort in their games. For me, it was great to meet friends, to play an exciting game of Sharp Practice and to see other perspectives on the battle. But most of all, it was a very inspiring day which gave me many ideas about how to develop my ACW gaming.

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Ambush! – A Sharp Practice AAR

In the latest issue of Wargames Illustrated (#365), there is a rules- and period-agnostic ambush scenario by Mike Bradford. It sounded fun and like it would work well with Sharp Practice, so K. and I set up a quick game.

We imagined our skirmish taking place very early in the war, with untrained troops bumping into each other at an important crossroads. Both sides had troops from the early force lists, with the Confederates fielding one unit of Zouaves and both sides having cavalry as reinforcements.

The game started with my skirmishers rushing towards the hill (which was one of the objectives) while K. marched her column along the road.

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My skirmishers took some pot shots at the Rebels and even hit some, but my main aim was to secure the hill before K.’s skirmishers came in.

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In their zeal, K.’s column had marched quite far ahead. When my infantry suddenly turned up, they immediately formed line and delivered a volley, giving quite a shock to the Rebels.

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At the same time, K.’s Zouaves rushed forward and charged right at my skirmishers on the hill. They tried to evade but were caught. However, in the following melee, they had luck and got off cheaply, with both sides falling back without taking too many casualties.

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And then came the time when the trap was sprung! Out of nowhere, my cavalry appeared and charged right at the Confederate column. I was lucky and had four command cards after they deployed, so I immediately activated them again, hoping to give the already shaken Rebels the rest. Alas! Things did not go as intended. The Rebels stood firm and gave my troopers quite a licking. They broke, skedaddled and never were seen again. What a blow to the Union Force Morale!

The Rebels decided they had seen enough, turned about-face and marched off, blatantly ignoring my line, which was firing wildly without doing much damage.

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Deftly, K. brought her Zouaves around to screen her retreat, while I couldn’t get my shooting troops under control in time to chase her. I got off one or two volleys, but couldn’t stop her from bringing her boys out safely.

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The Rebels had evaded the ambush and won a victory!

What a fun little game this was! It was surprisingly quick for a game of Sharp Practice (we played for around an hour), but full of unexpected turns. In this scenario, you don’t know beforehand who will get reinforcements and therefore who will be the ambushing player, which contributes greatly to making it interesting. Also, the victory conditions change for the ambushed player, as bringing at least half of their troops out will also achieve a victory – an option K. chose to take.

The game also had a decidedly early war feeling to it, with undisciplined and half-trained troops all around, the cocky Confederates marching a bit too far forward and the impetuous Union cavalry botching the ambush by recklessly charging the column. Of course, this was my main tactical mistake – I would have badly needed the cavalry for the pursuit of K.’s retreating troops. I was sure I could beat the already shaken Rebels, even if I know that ACW cavalry is not made for shock tactics. I dearly hope that I have finally learned my lesson!

Gaming Furniture

In the last years, it seems that (board)gaming furniture has become de rigeur for the urbane and affluent nerd, with companies such as geeknson offering bespoke gaming tables and other appurtenances. Now, I’m not sure how urbane I am, but I know that I’m not affluent, so although I found the idea alluring, this was always beyond my reach.

However, I once saw a sewing box on wheels that would be perfect for storing gaming paraphernalia. Unfortunately, it was not for sale, but since then, I’ve been looking for such a piece. This week, I finally found one for a reasonable price!

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As you can see, it’s from the 50s and it still looks ok. I threw out the old and musty sewing threads and gave it a good cleaning, and the wheels will get a drop of oil, but on the whole, it’s in a very good condition. Of course, I couldn’t wait to fill it with my stuff:

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The top drawer contains the dice, the second diverse cards and cotton to mark smoke, and the bottom drawer holds the measuring implements as well as a variety of counters. The newspaper rack beneath the drawers will be useful to hold QRFs or smaller rulebooks.

This, of course, are not all of my gaming utensils. For Sharp Practice counters, dice and cards, I’ve got my own box which I made out of a book-style box I found at a flea market:

 

Stuff for specific board games is stored in the games’ boxes.

The trolley contains general wargaming stuff as well as all the dice needed for wargaming and roleplaying. It saves me the work of carrying lots of boxes to and fro – I now have everything handy and, if I need an obscure counter to mark some special event or status, I can just grab it from one from the drawers.

So, don’t discount flea markets and antiques dealers – you never know what gaming furniture you might find!

A Weekend of Gaming

I’m very happy that I had several great opportunities for gaming during the last days. The opening was two games of Zombicide I had with an old friend from Germany, who stayed for a couple of days at our place. Not only did we have a great time in general, but we also had two very dramatic games, one of which we even managed to win! He enjoyed the game a lot and I hope we will have another opportunity for gaming soon.

On Friday, I went to the club for a game of Kugelhagel. Kugelhagel are German rules for miniature wargames during the 19th century. They have a very active community around here, so naturally I was curious. We played a game set during the ACW, using the impressive collection of Gand-Alf, who also explained the rules. He was a patient and enthusiastic host and we had a great evening.

I’m not completely convinced by the rules: Although I like the activation system (card driven), I find movement a bit too free-wheeling, leading to some strange situations. I guess this irks me more with a period I know a bit about, such as the ACW. But the game is a great option for multi-player club games – I find it more engaging than Black Powder, as I prefer the card driven activation to IGO-UGO.

Yesterday, another friend came to play Sellswords & Spellslingers. He was interested in the character creation process, so we made a small party of adventurers. While I created two equally strong heroes, he decided to take a different approach and made one hero (a barbarian) and three minions (archers with negative traits). We had a great time playing the first scenario and managed to escape from the Orcs. While the archers did very well, the poor barbarian was knocked out pretty soon and had to be dragged to safety by my halfling girl. The shame!

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Finally, today I continued with playtesting scenarios for Sharp Practice. As K. was away, I played against myself. At first, the scenario did not look very interesting – basically, one side has to storm a fieldwork fitted with artillery. The game, however, turned out to be extremely tense and dramatic, which again shows how great a set of rules Sharp Practice is. There are enough decisions to make it interesting and the game flows along in a way that creates a very immersive narrative.