Fighting at the Forney Farm – Our Game

Last week, I had Sigur over for a last game before Christmas. We played Sharp Practice, using my Fighting at the Forney Farm scenario. Sigur played the Union, while I took command of the Confederates.

1TableSetup
The set-up.

In this scenario, key for the Confederate player is to push through to the Union Primary Deployment Point while keeping the Union forces coming from the Hoffman house behind the Confederate position in check. With the firepower of breech-loading carbines, it’s a very bad idea to get caught in the back!

I started by deploying a line of three regular groups at the Eastern fence, reading to march towards their objective. At the same time, I deployed some skirmishers at the Northern fence to keep an eye on the Union pickets.

2ConfLineJumpoff
Getting ready for the attack.

Sigur deployed a dismounted group near the Hoffman house to harass my skirmishers. 

3UnionPickets
Union pickets.

Of more concern to me were the two mounted groups he deployed at his primary Deployment Point. Those guys rushed towards the orchard near the Forney farm, dismounted and took position just outside my line of sight.

I wanted to lure Sigur into deploying more units at the Hoffman house, as I hoped that would make it easier to reach my objective, so I detached a group form my line and had it take up position at the Northern fence. The ball opened with Sigur’s pickets shooting at my skirmishers, which took quite a beating and had to retreat.

4BallOpens
The ball opens.

I also deployed my other line and had it march in direction of the Hoffman house. In answer, Sigur deployed the rest of his units there. I got what I wanted – now it was a matter of speed and decisiveness. So my Eastern line stepped off, climbed over the fence and marched towards the Forney farm and the waiting carbines of the Union troopers.

5ConfMarchOff
Step lively lads!

Meanwhile, the Confederate pickets took my poor bloody infantry under fire. A lucky shot hit and instantly killed my Force commander! That was bad news, as my line facing the Hoffman house was under considerable pressure and unable to do much.

6UnderPressure
Under pressure.

However, my other line was making good progress. As it approached the orchard, to my surprise Sigur decided to pull his troopers back. 

7StandOff
At them, boys!
8UnionRetreats
The troopers skedaddle. Also, the barn caught fire.

He later said he was afraid of the line’s volley fire, which is ironic because I was quite afraid of the firepower of his carbines. Anyway, the troopers rushed behind the farm house, but my line smartly wheeled and poured a withering volley into the skedaddling bluebellies. 

9CaughtFromBehind
Caught from behind.

This was a heavy blow – one group broke immediately and the other was badly shaken. This more or less sealed my victory. My line advanced without impunity and detached a group to rush the Union deployment point. A Confederate victory!

10Victory
Victory!

This was one of the best games of Sharp Practice I’ve played in a while. SP always gives good games, but I felt that this scenario worked especially well (if I may say so myself). It was quite balanced, which is difficult when one side has breech-loading carbines, and the game was close-fought – my Force Morale was at 4 when I reached the objective. With the two Union deployment points positioned on either flank of the Confederates it also poses an interesting tactical problem for both sides.

Sigur said that he made one big mistake, and that was to keep his troops at the Forney farm in cover and then pull them back. I’m pretty sure that, had he taken my line under fire, it would have been much more difficult to get to my objective. Perhaps we’ll have a refight one day…

Building Gettysburg in 15mm

Researching scenarios for Sharp Practice from the Gettysburg campaign, I came upon the stand made by the 45th NY during the retreat of XI Corps. Men from the regiment occupied buildings and backyards in the area of the Eagle Hotel and Christ Lutheran Church and fought to buy their comrades time to make it safely to Cemetery Ridge.

This would make a great scenario for Sharp Practice. However, it would need a lot of buildings. Call me crazy, but I decided I would go for it. It’s going to be a long-term project, especially as I want to scratch-build as many of the buildings as possible.

ScenarioMap3

This is the area I want to model on the table. I decided to start with Chambersburg Street, which is the big street leading to the West from the square. Fortunately, I found a historical photograph of the Southern side of the street:

ChambersburgStr

You can see the cupola of the Lutheran Church in the background.

My main material for building the houses is plastic sheet. I also used textured sheets and windows from model railway suppliers. The roofs are made with cardboard tiles – a time-consuming work, but it looks quite good, I think.

This is my view of Chambersburg Street:

Gett_Str1

And here you can see the houses I have finished so far. These are two bases of three houses each. I decided not to base them single, because a common base ties them together better.

Here is a front and back view:

Gett_Street2

Gett_Str3

I made a mistake with the George Arnold shop (the building on the corner), but I’m not sure if I want to build the whole thing again. Maybe, when everything else is finished, I’ll reconsider.

Next up is the Eagle Hotel, then some more houses and the Lutheran Church.

A Dark & Stormy Night – Sharp Practice AAR

On July 4, 1863, the Union cavalry was in hot pursuit of the Confederate army retreating from Gettysburg. Judson Kilpatrick’s division had information about a rebel wagon train making its way through the South Mountains and set out to capture the wagons. Due to a rainstorm, the Union troopers arrived at the approaches to Monterey Pass in the evening. When they slowly made their way up the pass road, a lone Confederate cannon opened fire.

Thus started the Battle of Monterey Pass, one of the most dramatic small cavalry actions of the Gettysburg campaign. The unusual circumstances – a fight at night, in very difficult terrain, while a torrential rainstorm was raging – made this “a night never to be forgotten”, as one participant in the action later wrote.

For Sharp Practice, I have decided to divide the action into three parts. This was a playtest for the first part, the approach to the pass road and the Confederate ambush. The results of the game will have an effect on the next scenario.

The Union had four groups of well-trained cavalry, armed with breechloaders as well as sabres and revolvers. The Confederates had three groups of cavalry and a single light gun. They also had three deployment points, two of which were hidden (marked in a map), and the ‘tactical’ characteristic, which allowed them to make ambuscades with two command cards.

1

The Union command approaches to road. A narrow road, heavy woods to both sides and reduced visibility due to it being night, as well as the driving rainstorm make this a dangerous looking place.

Nevertheless, K., who plays the Union commander, pushes on and deploys her cavalry in column on the road.

2

Suddenly, a cannon opens fire! However, due to the difficult circumstances, the firing is less than spectacular (distances were halved to account for the weather and I was unlucky with the dice…). Although slightly shocked, the cavalry immediately charges the gun.

3

The gun crew breaks and runs into the woods. Now this was quick! Buoyed by their success, the troopers push on.

4

A lone group of Confederate cavalrymen decides to mount a desperate charge to hold the Union column. However, after a short struggle, they are pushed back. The Union immediately countercharges and in the resulting melee, a sabre hits the Confederate leaders, who drops from his horse and lies dead on the ground. Things do not look good at all for the Confederates.

5

One of the Union groups dismounts and heads into the woods to catch the gun crew, which is milling about. The rest pushes forward.

Suddenly, a salvo erupts from the woods – finally, a group of dismounted Confederate troopers had managed to lay an ambush. The Union troopers in front are dazed, but one group from behind charges forward at a canter and crashes into the rebels. Now it’s their turn to be surprised, and completely overwhelmed by the relentless horsemen, they throw away their arms and surrender (we have a house rule that, if one side in melee has four times as much dice as the other, the side with less dice immediately surrenders).

6

With the Force Morale down at 1, I concede defeat. K. has lost a couple of men, but not one single point of Force Morale! An overwhelming Union victory, which will make if hard for the Confederates to save their precious wagon train…

This was a fast and furious game. I have to admit that K.’s aggressive attack caught me on the wrong foot – I had thought she would dismount and methodically work her way through the woods, giving me the chance to perform an ambuscade or two and get my gun out in good order. Let’s see how the story unfolds – the Confederates have a second line of defense at the pass’ summit near the Monterey hotel.

ACW Camp Scenes

I’m researching and preparing yet another scenario for Sharp Practice. This one is going to be about the Union cavalry raid on Port Republic during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign in 1862. This was one of the few moments when the Union showed aggression and they almost managed to capture Stonewall Jackson himself.

The Union cavalry surprised the encamped Confederates, so I need some camp scenes for the game. I procured tents from QRF/Freikorp15 and stacked muskets from Irregular Miniatures. Incidentally, Irregular Miniatures have great stuff, but some of it is well hidden – the musket stacks are in the 15mm napoleonic section. Add a couple of crates and spare figures, and I had two camps.

 

As the Confederates were surprised, I wanted to convey frantic activity. In this scene, a drummer is beating the long roll while soldiers hurry to get into formation:

While tents look nice, I’m actually not sure the Confederates camped at Port Republic had them. Maybe they only had bedrolls and slept under the open sky like this guy:

sleeping

So I made another scene where I tried to model sleeping soldiers with green stuff. The results are, I have to say, somewhat mixed. But they look ok is looked at from a distance, like it is usually the case when actually playing a game.

It’s been fun making those scenes and I’m looking forward to testing the scenario.

Oh, also painted up the strange man himself – Stonewall Jackson from Peter Pig’s new range of ACW generals. I painted him in his old blue VMI coat, so this is a portrait from early in the campaign, which is strictly speaking not correct for Port Republic. But at least he is mounted on Little Sorrel!

swj