Decision at Danville — Part 5

By Chris Hahn

It seemed appropriate enough to bring my ACW “experiment” to an end at the calendar end of November.

I regret to inform readers that there was no decision at Danville. In point of fact, the last three turns witnessed each side punishing the other with sometimes accurate artillery fire and more accurate volley fire. The bloodletting and disordering of regiments went back and forth while no substantial gains were made.

The dismounted Union cavalry was finally forced to evacuate the one sector of Danville, however. The Rebel horse (over on the Union left), was forced to give up their position in the woods after Ammen’s Brigade finally woke up from its command dice coma and advanced in long blue lines against the outnumbered Confederate troopers.

On the other flank, more than several volleys were exchanged between opposing lines. Initial success went to the “blue-bellies,” but their exposed position eventually told and they were forced to retire toward friends.

Photo 1

Photo 1

Photo 1 shows one part of the larger engagement. Here, two large Confederate regiments (on the left of the frame) are contesting the advance of a Union brigade of 4 units. The Confederates have 3 units (in attack column with skirmishers deployed) in support. Volleys went back and forth, back and forth. Both sides suffered, but no regiment broke under the strain.

Photo 2

Photo 2

Photo 2 shows how many casualties (the red dots) were sustained by the Confederates in their attempt to take Danville from the dismounted Union cavalry. One sector was finally cleared, but at great cost and too late in the battle.

Photo 3

Photo 3

Photo 3 shows Ammen’s units pushing the Rebel cavalry out of the woods and back to their horse holders. (One Rebel regiment did manage to wreak havoc among the Union batteries deployed on the hill, however.)

Once again, I am left without a definitive winner in a Black Powder battle. Granted, the engagement could have been continued two, three, or four more turns, but the repetition of volleys, saving throws, placing disorder markers and then removing them, became a little bit unexciting. On the other hand, I do see how this reflected — at least to a degree — the nature of combat in the Civil War.

While the “counter system” was inexpensive and functional, it did result in a lot of stands sitting off the table during the course of the game. Perhaps this format needs to be reviewed and revised? (I am drafting plans for a Crimean War battle wherein I will be using only attack column and line formations.

I go back and forth on the revised move sequence and the inclusion of various house rules and amendments. While these do add a measure of realism, they can slow do the process of a game turn. (I recently read a post on the BP forum where one member said that his club doesn’t allow attack columns with skirmishers deployed in large games, as it tends to slow the game down. Weren’t attack columns with skirmishers a key part of Naploeonic warfare?!)

My ACW battle was certainly different from the quick battle reported in the BP rule book.

I wonder if this difference is a product of my lack of comfort with the rules, my scenario design (which includes the size of forces involved), some other variable, or a combination of the three?

I recently purchased an online subscription to Battlegames magazine. In the March/April 2010 issue, Mr. Mike Siggins reviews Black Powder. He makes some interesting points, I think. While his conclusion is generally negative, there is no denying the popularity of these rules and their offspring — Hail Caesar and Pike & Shotte.

I wonder if my “struggle” with these rules (yes, I have all three books now — yes … I know) is because they seem much more oriented to wargaming as a social event instead of a solo exercise and experience?

I understand that there are a number of rule sets for playing games set in the Crimean War. I’m not about to spend more money, however.

Here’s hoping that my “cruise” of the Crimea proves more satisfying and memorable than my disappointment in Danville.

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