Sunday, 23 June 2013

ACW Black Powder - Gettysburg Blocher's Knoll scenario

A couple of weeks back Will and I played out a Gettysburg scenario using Black Powder.  As ever, when playing Will, the scale used was 20mm and the figures mainly plastics from his extensive and comprehensive collection.  He had selected a scenario from "Wargames Soldiers and Strategy" Issue 66 by Mike Evans and Don Effinger entitled "The destruction of 11th Corps".  This scenario involves quite substantial forces on both sides and recreates the fight for Blocher's Knoll, now known as Barlow's Knoll, a site I had the privilige of visiting back in May.  The federal player gets 5 brigades, four deployed on table and one in reserve arriving on turn 3 (the reserve brigade historically never made it but the scenario allows it to deploy as a "what if").  The confederates get 4 brigades, all on table at the start.  The scenery is dominated by a north-south wooded brook, Rock Creek, to the east with a knoll (Blocher's Knoll) offering a good artillery platform (except for a strip of dead ground around the knoll where artillery cannot depress sufficiently to cover) just to the right of centre.  One confederate brigade (Doll's from 3rd Division) and artillery battery are deployed in line to the north, while the other three brigades (from Early's 1st Division; Gordon's, Hay's and Avery's) plus artillery batteries come down in column along a road east of the brook, which crosses via a bridge and contines south past the knoll.  Rock Creek is a minor obstacle to infantry with stands required to halt at the banks, cross on the next successful order and advance beyond on the third order.  Artillery can only cross at marked bridges.  The federal troops deploy in line with, from west to east, Schimmelpfennig's, Krzyzanowski's, von Gilsa's and Ames' Brigades.  Schimmelpfennig's Brigade had deployed two regiments (45th New York and 61st Ohio) as skirmishers in front of the federal line west of Blocher's Knoll.  Federal artillery were concentrated in Blocher's Knoll.  Most federal leaders were rated 7 while the reb leaders were 8's with a couple of 9's.  Black Powder rules were used largely as written except that we changed the firing so that opponents fire after active player moves, to prevent an advance to close range and delivery of a devastating volley without receiving fire.

The confederates pushed Gordon's Brigade across Rock Creek under cover of an artillery battery, while Hay's Brigade moved down the eastern bank of the brook along with another artillery battery.  On the reb right flank, normal range artillery fire began to take a toll on the 45th New York skirmishers.  The federal response was to concentrate fire from von Gilsa's and Ames' Brigades and artillery on the east side of Blocher's Knoll onto the lead regiments of Gordon's Brigade.  The federals then moved Ames's Brigade forward.  In response, reb fire was limited in effect, although Gordon's front regiments assisted by artillery support began to hit home on von Gilsa's Brigade.

Next turn, Gordon's follow-up regiments advanced to the front while Gordon and Early attempted to rally the original flont line regiments.  Hay's Brigade continued down the left flank reaching a point opposite Ames' flank, as did the accompanying artillery.  Avery's Brigade followed up to the bridge.  Firing was particularly bloody between Gordon's and von Gilsa's brigades, while long distance artillery fire from the western side of Blochers Knoll and the west flank of the rebel lines again took a toll of Dole's Brigade and the 45th New York in particular.

In the next rebs turn, Hay's Brigade forded Rock Creek and formed a line facing the flank of Ames' and von Gilsa's Brigades.  Ames' Brigade swung to face the new threat, but close range volleys took their toll.  Gordon's Brigade was pretty much spent, but so too was von Gilsa's.  Avery took this opportunity to blunder and headed back up the road away from the action.  Over on the reb right flank Dole's Brigade and the supporting artillery broke the 45th New York.  At this point Costers Brigade began to appear behind Ames' Brigade, although attached artillery blundered, delaying them for two turns.  Unfortunately, next turn these came under effecitve fire from Hay's Brigade, albeit doing damage themselves in return.

In turn 5,  Hay's and Gordon's Brigades pretty much spent themselves, although at the expense of breaking Ames' and von Gilsa's Brigades and effectively neutralising most of the reinforcing Brigade of Coster.  Over on the rebel right flank, artillery exchanges did for one of Doll's regiments and one of Schimmelpfennig's leaving honours even.

By the start of turn 6, where we had run out of time, the rebels had broken Ames' and von Gilsa's Brigades, leaving just one effective regiment in each brigade.   Schimmelpfennig's Brigade over on the federal left flank had lost 2 of 5 regiments, while Krzyzanowski's Brigade was effectively unengaged throughout so remained at full strength.  Although not broken, both Gordon's and Hay's Brigades were no longer effective, but Avery's Brigade had made their way back to the bridge and were in the position to flood across and assault the federal artillery on Blochers Knoll with support from a number of rebel artillery pieces.  We therefore agreed that the confederates would have been able to force the three union right flank brigades to flee the field, probably then allowing them to mop up the two remaining federal brigades from the flank while pinned to their front by Dole's Brigade.  Although the rebels hadn't lost 50% of their infantry at the time we had to finish, we suspected they would reach that level, so, according to the scenario victory conditions it would be classed as a draw.

The difference between the rematch and a historical outcome seems to have been the arrival of Coster's Brigade to bolster up the federal lines.  In reality, Coster was ordered forward in support far too late in the day to do more than to fall back with the routing 11th Corps into the outskirts of Gettysburg.  In the rematch, at the point where they appeared Gordon's and Hay's Brigades had pretty much defeated Ames and von Gilsa.  Without Coster, the rebs would have been free to sweep around Blochers Knoll and attack along the flanks of the federal line, pretty much the historical outcome.  Instead, they traded fire with Hays, degrading them at their own expense, but effectively neutralising the threat on the left flank until Avery's Brigade was able to come up.  All in all a really fun scenario, played in a great spirit, Will kept smiling despite my glee at watching yet another federal regiment failing it's morale and fleeing the field.  If this is an indicator of the fun in playing the other scenarios in the issue, we'll be in for a good time.  There is even an option to amalgamate all the scenarios into a large scale refight of the whole of the first day at Gettysburg on a giant L-shaped layout.  Something to think about with at least three players per side and a club games weekend to give enough time.

Aplogies but no camera, so no piccies.  I will definitely have to remember it for the next scenario as over 20 regiments per side, each made up of four stands of four 20mm figures, makes an eye catching spectacle.

Some photos of the real terrain from previous posts.

Barlow's statue on Blocher's/Barlow's Knoll.  The trees behind line Rock Creek.
 Federal artillery positions on top of Blocher's Knoll with Rock Creek in the trees behind.
 Looking more or less due north from Blocher's Knoll into the dead ground where artillery couldn't depress the guns sufficiently.

Thanks for looking.

1 comment:

  1. "Always look on the bright side of death" to paraphrase Life of Brian.

    The scenario worked out well, though I'm not sure enough room was allowed in the scenario for Early's brigade to deploy.

    Great fun game, roll on the next