Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Bloody Big Battles! - Gettysburg game overview

The 2D battlefield was not only uninspiring
but unexpectedly awkward to use.
My friend Ian and I played the Gettysburg scenario as we were keen to see how BBB played for the American Civil War and because I have always had a particular interest in this iconic battle. As usual I took a lot of photos during the game and will post a blow by blow photo report in due course. However, such AARs take a long time to write so I’m starting with an overview which is arguably more interesting.

The game is divided into three days. In real time we took about ten hours (with breaks) getting through deployment, 8 full game turns, 2 night intervals, and an assessment of turn 9 probabilities. We could have gone quicker if we knew the rules better and played them more often.

We diced for sides as we both wanted to play the Confederates, but I ended up with the Yankees. On Day One the Confederates swarmed onto the table to surround my advance guard on three sides. The situation in the north was bad enough, but further south the early Rebel advance was later to deny me the southern end of the ridge which the Union army occupied historically. When my reinforcements turned up they were boxed in and, crucially, I was not able to include the superior Federal artillery in my defensive line. I never recovered from this early setback and the Confederates enjoyed an overwhelming victory.

An attack in depth pushes Union forces out of Gettysburg.
Now for some specific points:
  • Commands. When making the unit ID labels I included the line of command where relevant. I worked from the OOB list. On reading the accompanying notes, however, I discovered that all Union units (except the cavalry) have line commanders able to influence movement rolls.
  • On Day Two the objectives may change. Unfortunately, a dice throw determined that I needed to hold Gettysburg, i.e. it became an objective, even though I had already lost it. I think the scenario may need amendment here.
  • At different times in the game we both managed to establish L shaped killing grounds. As noted before, this is a real winner!
  • Neither of us made best use of our artillery, partly because we both made mistakes in failing to notice blocking features on the 2D battlefield! We have also both noted that it is difficult to get artillery into position without it suffering from small-arms fire when unlimbering.
At this level of representation I feel the Kriegspiel-type
 blocks look just as good if not better than 10mm figures!
And now some reflections on aspects of how I organised this game:
  • Playing on a 2D map required quite a lot of mental adjustment. Hills are not so obvious, and features often disappeared under the figure bases which we had to keep lifting up.
  • The game was played on a 2/3-sized map and used 20mm units for measuring instead of inches. Converting between inches and 2cms (especially when making reductions for crossing terrain) was confusing and just added more stress to the burden of command. Even if using a 2/3 map size, I would in future just measure in inches and live with the distortion. (In any case, BBB has a fairly elastic approach to figure, ground and time scales.)
  • For a game at this level I didn't feel that the 10mm figures - beautifully painted though they may be - were any improvement on the blocks.
The rules worked very well overall and as a test of their usefulness for the American Civil War they were in our opinion a big success.

8 comments:

  1. Very nice! Looking forward to the AAR!

    Chris
    Bloody Big BATTLES!
    https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BBB_wargames/info

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    1. It's in preparation, but even with a full photographic record it requires a bit of detective work to piece everything together!

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  2. Very interesting report and comments on using a 2D map. I have thought of doing something similar with 6mm Napoleonics figures, and this is helpful in imagining the potential pitfalls. Looks like a good kriegspiel exercise if not an enthralling wargame.

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    1. BBB is always an enthralling wargame, and the blocks work very well in my experience. The 2D map could be improved if you 'coloured in' the woods and 'thickened-up' the contour lines. Overall I think the loss of 3D terrain is more problematic than the absence of model figures.

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  3. It was a very enjoyable game and proved what I really wanted to know which is that BBB is a great set of rules for large ACW refights.

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    1. Hi Ian, that's great to hear! We've certainly had a lot of fun with ACW BBB games. A couple of my favourites have been The Wilderness and Chickamauga - on battlefields which are essentially 2D, and with woods everywhere, so the LOS problem is much simpler ...

      Chris
      Bloody Big BATTLES!
      https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BBB_wargames/info

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    2. It was a well-deserved victory. You can whistle Dixie and embroider "Gettysburg" on your battle flags!

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  4. To make measurements on a different scale map, Simply Xerox a ruler(s) at the new scale. Works ell for using 15mm figures for rules intended for 25/28mm figures.
    Dick Bryant

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