Having finally finished painting my Peter Pig Western Train, naturally I wanted to play a scenario featuring it. We settled for a train robbery: The Union train, transporting a siege mortar, is halted by logs placed on the rails, and the Confederates spring an ambush.
Set up saw the train in the middle with its escorting troops still embarked. I gave K. the choice of where to place her troops and she decided to keep them together and enter from the Western table edge. She kept two of her infantry groups in Extended Order, with her cavalry on her left flank and the less-well equipped guys with smoothbore muskets on her right. I started by disembarking one group and heading towards to front of the train – I wanted them to remove the obstacles as fast as possible. My leading Big Man disembarked one group from the box car and headed towards the rough terrain in front, trying to establish a perimeter. The rest of my guys shot at the cavalry, which was shocked by the lively fire and flinched.
For the moment, everything was going to plan. K. was making slow progress across the open terrain, coming under appalling fire, and her cavalry almost lost nerve and fled. At the same time, my detachment working on the obstacles was doing fine.
However, the Rebels were pressing on and soon a lively firefight ensued.
My working party had finished its job and I began to pull my troops in. However, K. had finally managed to rally her cavalry and charged right into my working party, which took to its heels immediately.
The cavalry didn’t finish at that – they stopped right in front of the engine driver’s cabin and took over the engine. And K.’s infantry had finally arrived and charged in. The situation was deteriorating fast for me!
Melees broke out all along the train, but I still hoped that I could get one group to take back the engine. However, when a stray bullet hit the boiler and caused a leak (we rolled the random event ‘Broken Axle’ and decided to interpret it in this way), I knew the game was over – the train was lost, and the Union troops either surrendered or sought refuge in flight.
This was a fun game with a dramatic narrative. At first, everything was going well for me and I was pretty confident that I could pull my train out of this trap. When the obstacle was removed, I could have started immediately but I decided to wait until all the troops were on board – it seemed rather cruel to leave my working party behind. However, K.’s cavalry used this delay to seize the moment, drive away my guys and take over the engine. In the end, I couldn’t stand the pressure of all of her troops attacking and was losing men fast. At this moment, the skirmish deteriorated into a series of melees. This could have gone on for a while, but there was not much chance that I would capture back the engine, so the random event provided a nice closure to the game.
The most interesting insight of the game concerned the cavalry. I was quite afraid of it and peppered it with bullets at first, but made the mistake of ignoring it as soon as it was sufficiently shocked to stop and linger about. I guess I should have finished it off, as in the end it saved the day for K. For both of us, the cavalry was an unknown quantity and quite unpredictable throughout the game, as it was brittle under fire but could move very fast when it managed to activate. Next time, we’ll try out cavalry for both sides and see how that works.