Sunday, 8 May 2016

First game of Sharp Practice - the Battle of Old Macdonald's Farm

So, today was the big day. The first game of Sharp Practice with my ACW forces. The battle was a straightforward Encounter Scenario between two early war forces and the location was an area of scrubby landscape similar to the Virginia Wilderness.

The battlefield was bisected by a fordable river and a road ran from north to south. South of the river the landscape was dominated by an area of trees and north of it was Old Macdonald's farm itself. Just to the north of the river was an area of scrub with the ruins of an old, abandoned farmstead, now reduced to a few lumps and bumps.

Neither side was particularly strong, with both sides being predominantly made up of volunteers and conscripts.

The Confederate force consisted of three groups of Virginia infantry with rifled muskets, led by Captain Gaylord Ravenal (status II), of whom we shall hear more in the future, and two groups led by Cpl Cooter Davenport (status I), one group of the local Hazzard County Militia with smoothbore muskets, led by Lt Nahum Pierce (status II) and a group of skirmishers, led by Cpl Rufus Breaux (status I). They were supported by an additional status I NCO, Sgt Elmore Huckleberry and a bugler, attached to Capt Ravenal.

The Union side was led by Capt. Gardiner Haskins (status III), commanding four groups of the Arkham Volunteers, with a fifth group led by Sgt Scotty Mackenzie (status I) and two groups of the Miskatonic Volunteer Zouaves. One was a group of skirmishers led by Sgt Patrick O'Malley (status I) and the other was a group with rifled muskets led by Lt Decimus Dewey (status II).

Union support came in the shape of a colour party and a secondary deployment point.

The Confederate deployment area was at the far end of the table, marked by an encampment. The primary Union deployment point was the red cabin at the bottom of the picture, with the secondary one where the picket fence leaves the table to the right.

The scrub land and remains of the old farmstead can be seen where the road crossed the river.

The first deployment came in the form of the Confederate skirmishers who quickly took up position in the thinly-forested area south of the river.

The Miskatonic Volunteer Zouaves were next, with their skirmishers screening the larger group.

The skirmishers took up position in the scrub while the others pushed on to the river. It was at this point where they were first fired upon by the Confederates, causing some shock.

The rest of the Rebels seemed unwilling to leave their camp, but the Union's main force began to deploy along the road, led by the single group under the leadership of Sgt Mackenzie.

As Mackenzie reached the ford, the Confederate main body finally got moving, led by the Hazzard County Militia.

There had been little more than some ineffectual firing between the Zouaves and the skirmishers at this point, but the Rebels finally started to deploy into a tightly bunched defensive posture as the Miskatonic Zouaves waded through the shallow sluggish stream

The leading elements of the Arkham regiment began to cross the river, but were fired upon the Hazzard Militia, causing casualties. However, they persevered and eventually forced the militia back, which caused a disruption in the main Confederate lines.

This allowed the Union infantry to cross the river and start to form up into a firing line which began to advance towards the trees. On the Union right, the firefight between Zouaves and the Rebel skirmishers was causing casualties and shock on both sides but eventually the Rebels were forced back in disarray.

The Union troops began a general push forwards across the river , but moving through the wooded area was a risk that Captain Gardiner Haskins seemed unwilling to take. Deployed into a firing line, he seemed happy to trade shots through the wooded land, with both sides taking few casualties.

Eventually, the militia took the almost insane decision to wheel left and cross the front of the main Confederate line in an attempt to hold back the Miskatonic Zouaves who had broken the skirmishers and were now threatening the Confederate left. One can only assume that Lt Pierce had been at the moonshine.

This didn't turn out well and the hapless militiamen took heavy casualties and, extremely shocked, broke and ran back in the direction in which they had just come, preventing the Confederate from shooting at the Arkham infantry, who were still unwilling to enter the woods.

Things began to stabilise and both lines exchanged bouts of uncontrolled fire, causing shock and casualties, which led to the main group of Miskatonic Zouaves fleeing the battle back across the river, taking Lt Dewey with them. However, the Miskatonic skirmishers were made of stronger stuff and began to take their toll of the Confederate left. The main Union line was less effective, though. Shooting through the trees meant that many of their bullets had no effect at all, but the group under Sgt Mackenzie worked itself around behind the fences along the road and opened fire up on the Confederate right flank. Unfortunately, a Make Way! random event occurred to Sgt Mackenzie, which I interpreted to mean that he had tripped over a stump and got a bit dazed. It meant that on his next activation he would be unable to do anything, which took the edge off of the flanking advantage the Union had managed to acquire. Both sides saw their force morale drop a bit, but it affected the Rebels more than it did the Union side.

But, as their casualties mounted, and their force morale plummeted due to the elimination of the militia and the skirmishers, things began to look bleak for the Confederacy.

At this point, Capt. Ravenal decided that the game was up and began to withdraw in good order. The Union commander, Captain Haskins, who had been cautious throughout decided not to press his advantage, no doubt thinking that his green troops wouldn't really want to risk any more dead and wounded by getting entangled in the forest in front of them.

So, there we have it. Game One over and done.

My impressions of the game was that neither side really imposed itself. This was hardly surprising, as neither side had any seasoned troops and the accumulation of quite high levels shock meant that the low status leaders were always struggling to remove it fast enough to stop their men from getting away from danger. Troops tended to get stuck in bouts of Uncontrolled Firing, and the dice rolls went against the leaders who tried to stop it happening.

The other thing that happened quite a bit was that the Tiffin card didn't get played until after most of the leaders had been activated. However, because the troops were accumulating quite a lot of shock, the command cards were often all used at that point boosting the command statuses of the leaders so that they could try and get the shock levels down and get their troops to do useful things.

Still, it was a fun game. I am already looking forward to the next one.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the report. This is a game our group are looking to try soon (spurred on by our like of Chain of Command) and I suspect we'll be trying it with our ACW forces, so it's useful to see other people's experiences.