Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fire & Fury: Gettysburg day 1 in 6mm

An overview of the field
We had a big Gettysburg game last Saturday with yours truly as the proud host. After the Bull Run game we played last summer and the Port Republic demo I organized in the autumn, I had a good base collection of miniatures and terrain for Gettysburg. I only did some cavalry for the Union, some infantry for the confederates and some small terrain work. The scenario is from the Fire & Fury rulebook with the portion north of Carlisle road omitted. This scenario would not see Ewell attacking the XI Corps defending Blocher's knoll, but I wrote the events into to scenario so depending on die rolls, the XI Corps would fall sooner or later and a confederate brigade of variable strength would appear from the north edge. Being generous, I made it possible for the XI Corps to hold their ground with very good die rolling and even send one of their own brigades to support the Union. I think this created a bit of uncertainty regarding the table edge and gave the players a reason to steer clear of the fighting going on off map.

The generals plot their movements
I was hoping I would get some new people to participate in this game and I was a little worried as before the con I hadn't received any messages from people wanting to join in. To my relief people started coming to me asking about the game and expressing their interest during the convention and on Saturday morning we got a visit from an eager group of wargamers from the nearby town of Varkaus. In the end we had 9 people taking up roles on the battlefield during the day, and only three of them had ever played Fire and Fury before! This meant that the two most experienced players including myself took up the roles of Corps commanders and acted in semi-umpire roles concentrating on advising the new players how to make their moves rather than plotting our own.

a view from the seminary at 10 am.
The scenario started at the 10 am turn (1 pm IRL time) with Heth's division facing Buford's cavalry division. Reynolds had just arrived on the field and Wadsworth's Iron Brigade was sneaking behind Herbst Woods to attack the Confederate flank at McPherson's Ridge. The Confederates started with an aggressive push against the Union cavalry. Buford's carbine wielding soldiers proved more than a match for them and sent them back to McPherson's ridge after some disorder results and casualties. Heth couldn't do much more than attempt to flank the union line from the direction of Oak Hill, but Union reinforcements blocked that approach also.

The union generals assemble. We've had a house rule that generals may not discuss strategy unless their "avatars" are physically close on the field. Often it results in an officer's club meeting that looks like this.
Pender's division arrives to support Heth.
The iron brigade holds the union left.
After some waiting Pender's division arrived on the field with some muscle and the attack on seminary ridge began anew. In a terrible hailstorm of lead the division was badly damaged on the approach and couldn't mount enough forces to throw the Union forces out of Seminary Ridge. At this point, the confederates had failed two charges on the ridge and the Union defenders were yet to lose a single stand! It wasn't looking too good. To make matters worse, The Iron brigade sent Pettigrew running back from Herbst Woods and was threatening the Confederate flank. If they could muscle their way through the Confederate artillery line, it would all be over.

Pettigrew and Wadsworth battle it out in Herbst woods. And yes, I know the Louisiana Tigers aren't supposed to be there! I ran low on stands!

At this point, the Confederate flank attack began. Rodes' division from Ewell's Corps arrived from the direction of Oak Hill and began a steady march towards Gettysburg. Heth was waiting on the Northern part of Seminary ridge just outside musketry range for Rodes to flank the Union defenders.

Rodes arrives and begins to turn the Union flank
Heth moves on Cutler.
 Seeing they would be soon be attacked from two directions, the Union generals made a risky decision. Heth and Pender were in bad shape on McPherson's ridge and the Union forces on the Seminary were still fresh. If they could rout the Confederates of A.P.Hill's Corps, they could then concentrate a larger force against Rodes. The Union attack slammed into the Confederate line and sent Pettigrew back. The Iron Brigade marched out from Herbst Woods and found itself the target of every Confederate gun on McPherson's ridge. From the Seminary, Buford's cavalry charged (while dismounted!) down into the depression between the two ridges but was sent running. One of Doubleday's brigades was shot so badly on approach that they broke and ran, leaving a gap in the Union line.

Union forces counterattack the ragged rebels.
The iron brigade drives Pettigrew all the way to McPherson's farm but expose themselves to rebel artillery in the process.

 The Confederates were quick to exploit this gap and charged the exposed batteries on Seminary Ridge, forcing them to retreat. The Union line was now cut in half, but A.P.Hill's Corps was in no shape to take advantage of this. Buford's cavalry and the Iron Brigade were still in good shape and a constant threat on the flank, even after the Confederate artillery forced the Iron Brigade to retreat back into Herbst Woods.

With Rodes' division pushing the flank, the Union line begins to turn towards Gettysburg.
 The Union generals' gambit had failed however, and they were running out of time. A couple of brigades marched to stall Rodes, but he sent everyone in his way running. The remains of Heth and Pender pressed the defenders on one side and Rodes was sweeping the flank. The Union line tried to refuse their flank to stop Rodes but it couldn't be helped.

At this point the Varkaus crew left and four generals remained to finish the three hours of scenario we had left. A tally of victory points showed that the Union was in a good lead at this point.

Rodes couldn't be stopped. The Union flank was too open and the forces were too few to stop him. The rest of the scenario was spent with the Union forces conducting a fighting retreat towards Cemetery Hill. Buford's cavalry and the Iron Brigade attempted to make it to Cemetery Ridge for a last defense, but the pursuing Confederates caused severe casualties during the retreat, including Buford himself, who caught a musket ball and fell to the ground.

Rodes pursues the Union forces relentlessly towards cemetery ridge.
Off map, XI Corps held long, but collapsed eventually. Rodes' division was joined by Doles' brigade, which had suffered during the attack on the Germans but was still in fighting condition. Rodes marched past Gettysburg towards Cemetery Hill scattering Union brigades whenever he could catch them. The line of Union defence was hastily arranged on the foot of Cemetery Hill, and the Union cannons tore great holes into Rodes' division. In this storm of lead, Pender fell, leading the remains of his division. The Confederates were finally getting worn, but managed a final charge on the line, capturing the Union guns and leaving the way to Cemetery Hill nearly open. Reynolds too was captured at this point, having averted his historical fate earlier.
The final engagement between Gettysburg and Cemetery Ridge
The scenario ends with Union troops just barely holding onto Cemetery Ridge.
At this point the scenario ended as Ewell didn't find it practicable to continue the assault. The players found it a sound decision as it was 1 am IRL time and the generals were quite spent. In the end, the Confederates won with 34 victory points against the 33 points of the Union. A close victory for Lee. The events proceeded more or less historically, but the Union forces did fare better than their historical counterparts in my opinion. Especially Buford's cavalry continued to be Reynolds' best asset throughout the game. The -2 "shooting at dismounted cavalry" modifier made them all but impervious to musketry, especially in woods, and in close assaults they were equal to line infantry (which made me think whether a stand of dismounted, skirmishing cavalrymen should equal a stand of formed line infantry at close range).

The game was a great success because of all the great generals we had controlling the forces. Everyone seemed to be in great mood and eager to play in the spirit of the period. The usual quotes were heard and we had a blast. I'll take the opportunity to thank the Varkaus group for showing up. We had a great time and I hope to see you at the Officer's Club in the future! Also worthy of mention is Janne, the overall commander of the Union forces, who couldn't help but expose his avatar, Reynolds to danger again and again, feeling the call of his historical fate. I'll hopefully meet you in the Shenandoah Valley next!


  1. What base size do you use for 6mm Fire and Fury?

    1. 25mm * 19mm for infantry (very close to the standard size in f&f), cavalry and skirmishers. 25mm*25mm for artillery, 25mm*50mm for limbers. Commanders are either on 20mm or 25mm round bases.

      For infantry, I use ten models per stand, three for cavalry.