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Battle Cry - Game Report
As fortune had it, a gaming friend of mine called over yesterday afternoon just as I was inspecting the Battle Cry contents. His curiosity was roused and within half an hour we had gone over the rules, made coffee and set up the scenario recommended for beginners, First Bull Run, July 1861. The winner is the first to capture 6 enemy flags, ie destroy 6 enemy units.

Historically, both commanders intended to attack each other on the same day but McDowell (Union army) awakened his men in the early hours and began his manoeuvre to outflank the Confederate position whilst the Rebs slept in. By waiting until dawn, Beauregard (Confederate army) surrendered the initiative and soon the Rebs were being driven back in some disorder by a strong Union assault. The arrival of Jackson’s brigade stabilized the Confederate position as his men defended the Henry House Hill in the face of several Union assaults. As the Union troops tired, Confederate reinforcements arrived and counter-attacked resulting in a Union rout. Both armies were inexperienced and totally exhausted after the battle, thus the Rebs failed to exploit the victory. Anyway, that’s the history and here goes the re-fight…

The scenario starts around 2.00pm with the Union troops of General Hunter’s 2nd Division massing at the Henry House, preparing to take the important defensive feature of Henry House Hill (HHH). A little way behind the HHH, Brigadier Jackson has arrived with his own Virginian brigade and is rallying other units pushed back by the Union advance. In this scenario, the Union player (Hunter) takes the first move. The Union had the advantage in infantry numbers but the Rebs had 2 cavalry units to the Union 1. I have written the Command Card names used by the players in italics.

Realizing the advantage of gaining Henry House Hill first, Hunter plays Forced March to advance 5 of his mostly New Yorker regiments 2 hexes instead of the usual 1. Some open fire at extreme range causing a single casualty…first blood to the Yanks! Jackson responds by ordering 2 regiments of Virginians to Attack in the centre and they reached the foot of the hill whilst Pendleton’s Battery unlimbered on the spur, gaining an excellent field of fire.

Hunter was not deterred and pressed his Assault to the foot of the hill whilst his battery under Griffin advances in support. His infantry fired upon Pendleton’s battery to very good effect, scoring 2 hits (it requires 3 hits to destroy a battery), whereupon the Reb guns immediately Fight Back (this card allows a unit that is attacked to immediately return fire…provided it survives the attack!). This is the only time you can fire in an opponent’s turn. The artillery unnerve an advancing New York unit, scoring 1 hit and driving it back 1 hex.

Encouraged by his artillery, Jackson orders them to fire again (Scout) and is rewarded by even greater execution amidst the ranks of blue as a second unit is also driven back 1 hex after suffering 2 hits! However, his own infantry advance in the centre has clearly stalled (basically he has no Command Cards for the centre sector!).

Unknown to Jackson, the forcing back of his New Yorkers has discouraged Hunter and he decides he needs to Attack with his left flank units to support his centre. Although firing at long range, the Yanks get lucky and score a hit on the Reb gunners, finally destroying them…first Victory Flag to the Union!

Jackson responds to this threat by ordering an Attack with his own right flank and enfilades the Union regiment on the extreme left of their assault on HHH. The result is devastating for the already weakened Yanks and they are destroyed…Victory Flag to the Rebs!

Hunter keeps the pressure on by ordering a Probe in the centre and 2 infantry units gain the crest of the hill. They totally surprise the Rebs the other side and devastate them with some (amazingly lucky!) accurate volleys. One of Jackson’s Virginian regiments is destroyed and the one he is personally leading also receives 1 hit. This is very bad news for the Rebs…if only they had a Fight Back card available!

In true historical tradition Jackson calls on his men to Hold Position. The concentrated fire of his remaining Virginians drive both Union units back off the hill with losses.

Realizing his centre needs more support, Hunter opts to try and Outflank the Rebs by advancing on both flanks. His artillery unlimber on a small hillock on his right and his reserve infantry on his left advance and join the fray, inflicting 2 casualties on the Rebs.

Seeing an opportunity as the Union guns unlimber, Stuart’s cavalry charge forward in Hit & Run style…and promptly throw a total of 6 infantry hits on their dice! Unfortunately, as he was fighting artillery these had no effect! This failure proved highly significant.

Hunter launched a combined cavalry/infantry Attack on that flank in response and the Union forces inflicted 2 hits on a Reb cavalry unit (1 hit from the dice and a second because they received a ‘flag’ symbol but couldn’t retreat which changes the retreat to a casualty).

Stuart’s pride was on the line and he ordered another Attack, this time hitting the Union cavalry, inflicting a hit and driving it back 2 hexes. Southern honour restored.

Hunter refused to be distracted by this manoeuvre and decided to pitch his main effort into destroying the isolated Confederate right. He again ordered a Forced March on his left and quickly destroyed one rebel unit whilst inflicting 2 hits on the other. However, the remaining Rebs proved stubborn and Fighting Back they inflicted 3 losses on the Yanks, driving a unit back another hex. So another Victory Flag to the Union.

With the Rebs clearly on the back foot Stuart again pressed his advantage (Scout) to finally destroy Griffin’s guns and gain a second Victory Flag for the Rebs.

Sadly, for the Rebs anyway, this could not stop the Union steamroller Attack over Henry House Hill, inflicting further losses along the rebel line.

In a last desperate act, Jackson led a Virginian regiment to Probe up the Henry House Hill and actually succeeded in breaking the Union line in some style but this proved too little too late and the Union confirmed their victory with an Assault to complete the destruction of the Confederate left, thereby gaining 2 more Victory flags. A comprehensive victory of 6 Victory Flags to 2 for the men in blue and clearly I’m no Jackson!

So what went wrong for the Gentlemen of the South? Basically it was a lack of cards allowing attacks in the Centre Sector, where the dominant Henry House Hill was. The couple of Centre Sector cards that did find their way to the Confederate deck only allowed piecemeal attacks, which could be dealt with by the superior Union numbers. This resulted in a lot of Confederate instigated action on their left (under Stuart) where although they were ultimately successful, they failed to destroy enough Union units to distract the Union Commander. Hunter had a good Centre Sector deck to start with and was able to seize and hold the initiative in that area despite some successful Rebel defence. He was also able to bring Union numbers on his left flank into play and overwhelm the Rebel defenders in that sector before help could arrive from the centre. One of the most frustrating events for the Confederate Commander was him possessing a Reinforcements card, which would gain him an extra unit, but due to the constant Union pressure he could not afford taking the turn out to play the card!

This game highlighted one of the problems facing players in that their Command Card deck will heavily influence their plan of battle. Unfortunately for Jackson, the Henry House Hill was such a dominant feature that it had to be contested, albeit at a considerable disadvantage. The Rebs were fortunate to draw some good Tactical Command Cards which at least allowed for a stubborn defence in the centre. Although the victory margin was significant, the Union army ended the battle with 4 units reduced to a single model, so would have been destroyed by suffering a single hit, whereas only 1 Confederate unit was in such a condition.

The casualty list actually reflects how close the battle was with Confederate losses being 2300 to the Union’s 2100. This was at a scale of 1 model = 100 men.

Despite my defeat this was the most fun I've had with my clothes on in quite a while!
Submitted by Richard on 14/06/2013