The Battle of Second Manassas

Welcome to the latest episode in our Two Splendid Lines 6mm campaign.  This is a series of linked battles, following all the battles of the Fourth Texas through the Civil War.  We've already fought Eltham's Landing and Gaines' Mill, now it's time for Second Manassas, or Second Bull Run as it's known up North.  Roll call, for the officers of the Fourth Texas Infantry...



We are using our own rules, called Two Splendid Lines.  These are still in development, but aim to replicate some of the challanges of handling a regiment of men on the battlefield.  For that reason, these are very small 15-minute snapshots of larger battles.  There's been some interest from the blog's followers over these rules, so I'm going to dispense with my usual Battle Report method of doing some general overview pictures.  I'll go into a little more detail about how the turn is broken down and how things are worked out, then for those who are interested I'll follow up with some detailed e-mail notes and a copy of the rules.  

(I stress heavily that, at time of writing, these rules are still in development and there's no 'master rules' PDF.  They are also quite advanced rules, in that they require some interpretation and improvisation.  Hopefully with some additional playtesting from my generous followers we can polish this up to be a great (and free) game for everyone to play.

Rules Overview

The player commands ten companies of infantry.  Each is individually based, and the regiment must move according to certain preset drill commands.  For instance, in Line of Battle, a long thin line is formed.  There are about twenty commands for moving troops, changing direction, or changing from line to column and vice versa.

Each command is different.  It has risks - when marching in Line of Battle, for instance, there is a risk that the men will start to drift apart and lose cohesion.  Each risk is weighted to encourage players to stick to contemporary tactics.  There is no 'risk' for marching in column, one company behind the other, because it's such a simple movement.  This is why it was so common on the battlefield.

Each regiment has a combined order/morale level (this element is inspired by the excellent Cold Steel rules, on which TSL is based.  Ed McKie wrote these, and has generously made them freely available for download):
  • Disordered
  • Shaken
  • Shattered
  • Retreat
  • Rout
A key mechanic is that regiments don't just 'break' and run away.  Before they get to that stage they'll begin to break down and lose cohesion.  Perhaps they'll back off a bit, devolving into a firefight - as Paddy Griffith put it, 'too proud to retreat, too scared to advance closer'.  If the regiment doesn't pull back and regroup, it will eventually lose knots of men who slink off to the rear, and of course finally break and run.

Shooting and casualties are remarkably simple.  Each weapon has a range factor, which is combined with other modifiers (such as for moving, being Disordered etc) to provide a Shooting Factor.  A casualty chart cross-references this with the number of regiments firing to give a certain number of casualties.  Each company has ten 'wounds', each wound representing five men.

The Battle


The battlefield... our scenario represents the beginning of Longstreet's flanking attack in the evening of August 30th.  Hood's men were the vanguard of the attack and quickly broke through the fragile flank defence.  The large hill is Chinn's Ridge, with Chinn's Run beyond it (near Henry House Hill, where General Jackson won his nickname at First Manassas).

In our scenario, the Fourth Texas spill onto the field after having been separated from the rest of the Texas Brigade, chasing the fleeing 10th New York.  We have to do as much damage as we can before the Federals start rushing reinforcements to the area.


The opening moves of the battle.  The Texans begin in column, marching up the road, and you can see a couple of scattered companies of Yankees beyond.  In column, there is much less chance of your troops getting mixed up; it's such a simple formation that you don't have to roll any mishap dice.

Unfortunately, that single stand of Yankees fired a scattered volley which was lucky enough to strike down the colonel at the head of the regiment!  It was just an arm wound, so nothing terrible, but I was rushed off the field and as lieutenant colonel, Ollie had to take command.


You can see how the Texans deploy from column into line.  This is a tricky manoeuvre, but one which we managed to pull off by avoiding a 1 on a D8 'mishap' roll.  We were helped by the road - as in real life, regiments deployed either side of, or up against road, to aid in keeping alignment.

A couple of volleys, and the Federals soon skedaddle.  They begin the game at Shattered, because they're just remnants from the retreat.  This means that they only have to fail one morale check - initiated by any casualties from shooting - before they drop to Retreat.  Because of how close we are, they don't get a chance to regroup and they're effectively out of the game.


This is an interesting tactical point.  There are two Yankee guns on top of the hill, so rather than charging them frontally Ollie halts the regiment and begins marching 'by the flank'.  This is when the whole regiment (of two ranks, one behind the other) simply turns left or right and snakes along like a column of men two wide.  Again, this manoeuvre is so simple it was very common and there are no 'mishap dice' rolled.

Here Ollie uses it to get around the flank of some Yankee guns and bring the regiment into better protection, since the area in the bottom left of this picture isn't visible to the guns.


Just as he does this, however, Federal reinforcements appear.  In this picture, the guns are on top of the hill, off to the right, and a column of infantry has just appeared in the top left.  Ollie snakes the regiment round to face off this new threat - again, staying in column to facilitate movement.  Simply wheeling round to face the enemy looks easy, but as reenactors and modern-day soldiers will know, in practice wheeling is incredibly difficult and in TSL it is fraught with mishap dice and penalties.


Here, you can see two companies of skirmishers on the road.  They drive the Federal gunners away with some accurate rifle fire, and also manage to drive off a company trying to flank us from Chinn's Run.  On the left you can see both battle lines deployed - it's an uneven contest.  The Federal line is chaotic, since their left hand companies are struggling through the woods while their right are marching in open ground.  This causes the whole unit to drift off course and gives them a Shattered marker.

Ollie obliques left a little, meaning his right-hand companies avoid the same fate.  He gives the Federals one good battalion volley and a charge, but they are in such poor order that they soon back off.  It's a good example of the key TSL mechanic - a smaller unit in good order is much better than a huge one that's in chaos!  It goes to show that drill was not mere military 'bull' - it was a key way of inculcating order and preparing your men for the melee of battle.

So, that concluded the battle!  The 4th Texas soon pulled back, wary of being surrounded by growing Yankee reenforcements, but we certainly came off better with a mere 30 casualties out of about 400.  Bloody, but not crippling.

I hope you were able to follow the detail in this battle report, and that it gave you some insights into the specifics of the rules.  As I say, for those who are interested I'll send out more information and a trial set of the rules for you to have a go.  Any questions, post them below.

Thanks for reading,

Ed


Comments

  1. Looking good Colonel Scipio! I wonder how the game would have turned out with less room to maneuver. If you have two more confederate Regiments someone would have to face the artillery head on. I am looking forward to seeing the rules once you have them worked up. I like how the games are going, it would be good to have a picture of the Union Commander in Blue not just the confederate commanders...lol! It is fun that you all dress up for the game, it does add some flavor to the games!

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  2. Thanks! Yes, we were certainly helped by the fact that we were basically independent (as the 4th were in real life, the attack having degenerated by this point).

    One thing I failed to mention is that these team games are against NPC opponents, who are 'preprogrammed' to carry out certain defensive actions. This allows everyone in our group to have a role in running the regiment on and off the field. We do have some shots of us in Union blue from our last campaign, for balance!

    Dressing up is just a fun aspect of it, but we do try to encourage an RPG feel to the game by insisting on drill commands being given in the proper voice, and inspiring speeches at the appropriate points!

    Email to follow with the rules as promised...

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  3. Interesting about regiments electing to hang around an shoot the bejesus out of each other instead of doing something to force the issue. People do the funniest things....

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    Replies
    1. Given the remarkably low casualty rates from those sorts of firefights I think it's an automatic self-preservation thing. I think I would rather either run away or one charge and finish it, but that's my armchair perspective.

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  4. Way different sounding from my usual wargaming experiences. Love that you all have uniforms too! English Southerners rally?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks mate - yes it's a bit new for us too, but this immersive RPG small scale game seems to be where we're going! Next plan is to do a Federal regiment...

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