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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!