First Bull Run - ACW Card-and-Counter Game

Evening all!  Think I'm overdue a quick update, so I thought I'd share a very enjoyable game we had the other day.  For a long time we've thought about the possibility of using counters to represent units when playing larger-scale games.  Saves on terrain, time, cost - just about everything.  Of course you loose the joy of painting and collecting, but if you want to replicate army-level encounters (as opposed to the platoon- or company-level battles of 28mm wargaming), collecting a whole army is impossible.

Having said that, given how cheap 2mm models are, I've recently ordered a pack from Irregular Miniatures' Horse and Musket range.  At that scale the effect will be pretty much the same as card counters.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, to Friday.  My brother came round to my new house and we christened it with a game of Give Them The Cold Steel, an excellent (and free) set of ACW rules.  I tweaked them to change the scale, making 1" the frontage of a regiment so we could play on a map of six sheets of A4 paper, with the Trench Raiders plastic sheets to prevent slippage.

Using the Wikipedia page for First Bull Run/Manassas Junction, I created a 1" x 3/4" square for each regiment, and we picked the action round Henry House as the snapshot for our battle.  That gave each player about five brigades (25 regiments) to handle.  To the uninitiated, the rather awful film Gods and Generals does have some excellent battle scenes in it which capture the feel of the battle.

The set-up for the battle - complete with fancy dress.
Union 1st Brigade, Second Division under Colonel Porter.  This brigade, on the Union left, took withering sharpshooter fire and Porter himself was killed.  The unit was so shattered by the time it reached the Confederate lines that a sharp counter-charge soon saw it routing in chaos.
The Confederate line, further back than in real life, extends east from Bald Hill.  Jackson's famous brigade takes the brunt of the Union assault and comes off the worst, but it holds position.
The battle in full swing - the smoke and random event cards made for a very chaotic battle!
Near Stone House, you can see a brigade in column where I made my last desparate gamble.  Forming Sherman's men up in column, I attempt to smash through the Confederate lines in French fashion.  You can see Ollie's hand as he swings Col Evans' brigade round and pours musket fire into my flank.  Ouch!  That didn't work.  Despite my success on the right flank with cavalry, I know I didn't have the infantry in the centre to follow it up so I called a general retreat, leaving Ollie victorious.  Well done!
What a fantastic battle.  I try not to bang on about GW too much on this blog, regular readers know my feelings.  But as we were playing, Kieran got a marketing email through on his phone advertising a new squad of five Terminators for £35.

Total cost of this game?  99p for a pack of cotton wool balls.



  1. Excellent. Just shows what a bit of effort and a modest outlay can produce. Love the hat too.

    I love hats, me. Even when I had hair.

    1. I have a large stash of hats of various periods for full dress-up fun. Don't tell the missus please.

  2. Very cool! I recently played a game of ACW using the Regimental Fire and Fury rules set. It's made for 15mm minis; though as I was just seeing if I liked the rules, we used foam-board counters for Regiments. Far cheaper - I am tempted to just leave the minis aside and play with the counters instead.

    Good to see you post mate.

    1. As I say this is really a stopgap, but it's great for trying out rules or 'dipping your toe' into a period with minimal effort. It does give you a feel of the detatched army-level command as well. What did you think of Fire and Fury? I think Kietan had the rules but he mentioned they were very complicated so I went for these instead.

    2. I enjoyed RFF very much. The rules are not that tricky at all once you get the hang of the basics. I was lucky enough to have a mate run the game who had prior experience so didn't have to trundle through the rulebook....

  3. " if you want to replicate army-level encounters (as opposed to the platoon- or company-level battles of 28mm wargaming), collecting a whole army is impossible."

    - Remind me: have you been to Zzzzzz's house?

    1. Ah yes. I was forgetting. I don't think I've ever had qualms about sending plastic men to their deaths before, until the sheer scale of a Zzzzzz game hit me...


Post a Comment

Popular Posts