PICKETT'S CHARGE! ACW RULES PEACH ORCHARD PLAY TEST
Early December saw a trip to Nottingham for an almost final
play test of the new Pickett's Charge!
American Civil War rules. The players included both Perry's, Rick Priestly and
various other rule writers and wargamers, thus a tough group to please! Any
issues or gaps in the rules would surely be ruthlessly exposed!
We played a scenario from Gettysburg, the attack on the
Peach Orchard and played on a 14 foot by 6 foot table with 28mm figures - see
the photos, which my poor photography really doesn't do justice to the superb
figures and terrain. (For more pictures log into the Perry Miniatures Facebook
page and look for 6th December. https://www.facebook.com/perryminiatures/)
The opening moves went well for the Confederates, through
good command rolls and availability of Staff Officers we were able to punch
forward on the left, hoping to execute a significant left hook, while one
brigade and the artillery held the centre right, hoping to pin the Federals in place
while the left hook went in. Staff Officers are required to permit brigades to
Double Quick, (take extra movement) hence the Confederates paced all their Staff
Officers with the left hook brigades to permit this rapid advance. The Union
generals content themselves with holding the line until their reserves could
come on table and potentially launch a counter-attack.
So how do the command rules work? Command is split between two
separate command mechanisms: Staff Officers and Brigade Activation.
These represent the C-in-C's physical ability to influence the battle - how he
manages his battle plan, maintains his brigade's momentum, keeps the initiative
and ultimately wins the battle! Staff Officers are the key to command and
control in the game. They can be seen as
a combination of the C-in-C's command ability, how he controls his brigades as
well as the physical use of his staff and ADC's as messengers and organisers. Staff
Officers are posted to a limited set of command orders per turn - these can be
anything from assisting a brigade to "activate" through to bringing
on off table reserves or launching an all out assault. However there is a catch
- players cannot be certain as to how many Staff Officers they will receive per
turn - thus command in this area can be limited and is not guaranteed
The second aspect of the command system is a simple brigade activation method. As
previously mentioned this was brought about due to numerous games under other
command systems (including at times GdeB itself), that saw an army or division
marching in perfect unison, each brigade carefully coordinating its approach to
the enemy with fellow brigades. Despite the friction brought about by the GdeB
order system this did not seem realistic. Under the new system brigades are not
a guaranteed to "activate" each turn. And of course less experienced brigades
or damaged brigades are less likely to advance than fresh or steadier brigades.
And this is where Staff Officers also plays their part - they form a vital link
between the C-in-C and his brigades ensuring that they keep moving under the stresses
and strains of battle.
Under this command system the Confederate used their Staff
Officers to ensure their left flank advanced rapidly before any federal reserves
could intervene. They advanced quickly upon the Emmetsburg rail fence - but
were met by particularly concentrated and accurate volleys and artillery fire
from the union regiments and batteries holding that flank. This resulted in confusion
in the lead confederate brigade and further worsened next turn when two out of
the three Confederate brigades refused to advance, (temporarily classed as Hesitant
under the rules).
Over in the centre the Confederate artillery brigade played
merry hell upon the defenders of the Peach Orchard with one Federal battery
quickly reduced to 50% casualties but despite a morale check the Federal
gunners remained at their posts, replying as best they could.
The next few moves saw the Confederate left struggle to
regain order and its forward momentum (not helped by a lack of Staff Officers) while
the union commander used this time wisely to bring on his off table reserve and
swing them into the line opposite the Confederate left just short of the
Emmetsburg road. With his reserves now on and his right flank looking more
secure the Federal general now went over to the offensive and launched his far
left flank brigade (Switzer) forward in a lightning attack upon the sole
Confederate brigade holding this flank. The union advance was so sudden and unexpected
that the lead Confederate regiments were caught in skirmish order, rolled up and
flung back by Switzer's men. The remainder of the brigade broke and fell back
on their gun line which pivoted through ninety degrees just to hold the Federal
forces at bay.
The Confederate left hook, despite some belated charges, was
stopped dead at the rail fence and the prospect of pushing forward into open
ground was met with sullen looks by the respective brigade commanders,
especially as the right flank appeared to be crumbling by the minute. At that
the game was declare a federal victory! (I rather optimistically pushed for a
draw but no one was having that!!)
So how did the rules work? The command rules did need one
tweak - but a good one- we decided that a separate rule that determined the
initiative could be removed and simply replaced with a system that determined
the initiative advantage through Staff Officer availability per turn. A follow
up play test saw this work extremely well and of course, made for a simpler and
faster command system.
Finally the ability to concentrate command effort in order
to spur forward attacks or shift reserves to plug vital gaps worked well and
fitted within the realm of wargames realism, though was also subject to the
vagaries of brigade command rolls which added friction to a command system that
players struggle to control each turn.
Charges have been combined in one set of opposing dice
rolls with the usual defensive fire and modifiers; results can include halting to volley,
including a point blank volley, retiring, retreating (referred to as whipped in
the rules) or of course routing. Melees only occur if the charge combat is a draw
- which is almost as rare in the game as it was in reality.
The fire and combat system worked well with players
picking up the basic mechanics very quickly, especially as there is no figure
counting or physical figure removal. The fire charts have just one basic entry
that of a standard line of battle for infantry or a battery for artillery and everything
casualty wise is taken from this. If you are in column, double line or a small
regiment (therefore producing less firepower) the unit incurs a negative modifier.
Elite and larger regiments gain casualty dice (a simple mechanism where a 1D6
roll determines whether an extra casualty is caused on a result of 4, 5 or 6.)
to reflect greater firepower. This system means players do not have to stop and calculate
various "plus" and "minuses", so effectively
"stalling" the game working out maths for each regiment in turn as
it fires. There are only minuses and Casualty Dice - which is a faster and more
Finally morale - there is only one morale check in the game which
is for receiving significant casualties in one turn. All other forms of morale
have been incorporated in either the charge combat or commands mechanisms. There
are no rallying morale tests. If your brigade obeys orders in the command phase
then all broken units rally and may reform. If the brigade fails to obey orders
units remain broken in position, or as seen above badly beaten brigades may
well fall back or even disintegrate.
In the New Year I'll follow up with a full AAR report
highlighting in greater detail the game mechanics.