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"First Bull Run/Manassas DBACW" Topic

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©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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vtsaogames04 Jan 2013 12:39 p.m. PST

The Corlears Hook Fencibles tried out DBACW, a DBA based set of ACW rules. It is intended for 12 stands per side, a la DBA. But the rules included an order of battle for First Bull Run / Manassas that was too much for me to resist. The Confederates had 41 stands of infantry, 3 artillery and 1 cavalry, plus officers. The Union had 49 infantry, 4 artillery and 1 cavalry.

We didn't get started playing until 4:30. Bill had the Confederates while Rick was McDowell and Tom was Division CO Tyler. The game started slowly as the Union columns marched onto the field. Porter's brigade formed up and attacked Matthew House Hill after a while. A short sharp fight saw Evans' small brigade routed while Porter's needed some time to reorganize. Meanwhile Cocke's small brigade formed up around the Stone Bridge over Bull Run while Schenck's Union brigade marched further west to a ford over Bull Run. Bee and Bartow's Confederate brigades marched to assist.

Both Tom and Rick had traffic problems, with large forces coming down single roads (and over bridges in Tom's case) and poor officers (few pips) to command them with. Bill started putting up a defense line on Henry House Hill, as Jackson's large and efficient brigade marched onto the field.

Tom's artillery shot up Cocke's brigade and the small Confederate force routed, Cocke being lightly wounded. The Yankees poured over the Stone Bridge (another choke point). The first attempt to cross Young's branch was driven back in disorder by Wade Hampton's small, well-trained legion.

Bill was having a problem. Whenever he rolled for artillery, he was mostly rolling dreadfully low dice. On those occasions when infantry fought each other he was rolling well. The Union was having trouble getting their masses of infantry forward. Meawhile the four Union batteries worked over Henry House Hill. Jackson's brigade came up and formed on the front slope of the hill – a mistake. The raw infantry of the other brigades was having trouble standing under the artillery fire of the trained Union gunners. Jackson's trained troops did better but Bill's lousy dice left his line disordered. If they had formed on the reverse slope, the Yankees would have had to come up the hill first.

Hampton's legion dissolved under fire, Hampton also receiving a light wound. Bartow's small Confederate brigade slowly beat up Schenck's Yankees and pushed across Young's branch after them. Meanwhile JEB Stuart's Virginia cavalry danced around Rick's right flank, requiring the attention of Burnside's brigade. But slowly Rick massed Keyes' and Porter's brigades to attack Henry House Hill. Bee's Confederates were pretty shaken up by the preliminary bombardment. Jackson's brigade was in better shape but still having trouble. At this point all threw in the towel because it was 10 PM. The game had another 4 turns to go but all were tired. Two Confederate brigades (Kirby-Smith and Early) had still not arrived

I had bitten off more than we could chew. DBACW needs to be for smaller battles (or the scale needs to be modified). We took a long dinner break, so we played about 4 hours and 30 minutes – 27 turns, about 10 minutes a turn. That represented 6 hours and 45 minutes of battle time, so we played slightly faster than game time. Nothing ticks me off like playing way slower than game time. We haven't played one of those in years.

On the plus side, the game helped explain what was going on at First Bull Run. It looked good. We had a lot of artillery fire, moderate amounts of rifle fire and absolutely no bayonet/saber fighting, which seems right. It was easy to calculate combat and there was almost no hunting through the rules. All we looked up was brigade morale, risk to officers and once, overhead artillery fire. If I get that printed on the reverse side of the quick reference sheet we won't need to consult the rules at all.

On the down side, the game wasn't over in 4 hours 30 minutes. Perhaps a scenario that started out with both sides deployed and some competent officers might speed the thing along. This scenario was much marching (at the slow DBA pace) and little fighting.

Umpire errors (me): in DBA, combat is not simultaneous. The phasing player (Union during their part of the turn, Confederate during theirs) decides what order the combat takes place in. We would need to use cotton to mark who fired. If someone is knocked back before they get to fire, tough. One Union battery was smoothbore guns, although they were in range of Henry House Hill during the final bombardment. The combat is decisive enough that I'm toying with the idea of doubling movement rates, calling it 30 minutes turns and proceeding from there. Finally, two Union brigades appeared in the wrong place. One of Tyler's brigades appeared with Heintzleman while the other appeared with Tyler. Not a game changer, but more confusion in a game that was already confusing enough.

There are some things in DBACW I wonder about. The rules allow smoothbore muskets, with 2 inch range instead of 3 inches. Smoothbore muskets get a +1 in close combat, supposedly because they load faster. The whole idea of Minie balls was they loaded as quickly as smoothbores. You might be able to argue that the smoothbores could use buck and ball at close range. It also seemed that counter-battery fire was pretty effective. The one time Rick tried it a Confederate battery was sent back badly shaken. In the 12 stand game, all you get are brigade commanders and the CO. the command radius for the brigadiers is 3" while the CO is 16". It doesn't say what happens when you have division commanders in between the brigadiers and the CO. I treated them as 3" radius. Perhaps they need an interim number, like 10" radius.

I did find an online scenario for Fort Donelson, where the Confederates attempted to break out while Grant was off meeting with Commodore Foote. It's a moderate sized battle, slightly smaller than First Bull Run, with both sides already deployed. But who knows…

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member04 Jan 2013 1:08 p.m. PST

Sounds fun. Too bad you started late. That many stands in a DBx game is going to take time.

My suggestion is that you only double the movement rate when outside of a certain radius of the enemy, rather than doubling all movement always. That throws the ratio of fire to movement out of whack once you get in engagement range. Easy to justify, even keeping the 15 minute turns.

Who asked this joker04 Jan 2013 1:25 p.m. PST

I wonder if the +1 close combat with a smooth bore musket is for being able to fire "buck and ball" like Meager's brigade did?

Thanks for the report. BTW, does this game account for attrition from combat like DBN does?


vtsaogames04 Jan 2013 2:42 p.m. PST

DBACW has four morale states: good order, shaken, badly shaken and gone. For a pip you can remove a shaken marker. But a badly shaken unit can not recover to good order.

We used yellow markers for shaken and red for permanently shaken. So a unit with red and yellow was badly shaken and on the verge of collapse. Only yellow markers could be removed.

I might see the +1 for buck and ball. I don't agree with the stated rate of fire. There are also factors for Gatling guns which I see no need for. I don't recall a battle where they were used. Breach-loading small arms are anther story.

Prince Alberts Revenge04 Jan 2013 6:41 p.m. PST

Own it, never played it but bought it thinking I would try Bull Run (in 6mm) with it. After seeing that I'd need 90+ bases, I thought maybe a variant to DBN would be better suited for my constraints.

John Leahy04 Jan 2013 10:06 p.m. PST

Are stands a regiment each? If so, I'd bump them up to a Brigade per stand. Turns are an hour.

I do VnB for the ACW in 10mm. Stands are a Brigade. I have 7 Union and 3 Confederate Corps. Haven't had them out in a while though.



vtsaogames04 Jan 2013 10:36 p.m. PST

DBN, by the same designers, has each stand = ~ 2,000 infantry. DBACW has each stand = ~ 4-500 infantry, on the same ground scale as DBN and the same 15 minute turns.

I'm thinking of messing with the scale one way or the other, since I'd like to put all of Shiloh on the table and resolve it in 3 hours or less.

Personal logo Toy Soldier Green Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 11:04 a.m. PST

Yes try the KISS DBN-ACW rules.

vtsaogames06 Jan 2013 11:17 a.m. PST

That is the set we used.

Dave Gamer06 Jan 2013 10:40 p.m. PST

I have the DBACW rules from KISS and I remember reading that a standard pick-up game was 30 points per side – which means around 30 stands per side given that an average stand is 1 point.

Figuring that we're playing DBA rules here, the time it's going to take is roughly going to be the same as a DBA game, maybe a little longer because of the morale state rules. So I'd allow an hour per 12 stands in an army – with 49 stands 4.5 hours sounds about right.

What I was going to do with DBACW was use it to fight out scenarios from those scenario books The Last Square sells, which were made for Johnny Reb II. I figure in DBACW using 40mm wide bases, 1 inch is about 100 yards. In JRII 1 inch is 40 yards so maybe just chop the battlefield size in half (a lot of the games are on 6'x5' tabletops so make that 3' x 2').

Yeah, if you want to do Shiloh and such I'd probably just go with DBA-HX (Humberside Extensions) using the optional limited recoil rules. 1 stand is a brigade. 1 inch = 200 yards. Use Volley & Bayonet scenarios with the table size cut in half. So you could do Gettysburg on a 4'x3' table.

True Grit24 Feb 2013 4:53 a.m. PST

I believe the +1 for 'Musket' fire is mainly a reflection of the use of buck shot and makes the use of Muskets a feasible army selection option. Divisional Commanders work the same way as a CinC with its own PIP dice. Also DBACW is a supplement to DBN and states that 'all DBN rules apply unless stated otherwise' therefore I would recommend that the DBN counter battery rules should be used, this will greatly reduce the effect of counter battery fire. Also the DBN rules for 'subsequent movement' should be used in any DBACW battle, this will greatly speed up the movement of reserves and new arriving troops, that's what that rule is intended to be used for. I hope this is of help.

True Grit24 Feb 2013 5:08 a.m. PST

I'm also working on Gettysburg with DBACW, I have used one base to represent a 1000 men (750 for Cav), because as you probably know a ACW Brigade varied in size considerably, however any scale seems to work. The 'Brigade Commanders' are now the historical Divisional Commanders with their intrinsic CAPs. My gaming group have play tested this several times and it works the same!
As an example the USA First Corps at Gettysburg looks like this:

1 Corps – Reynolds (G) + Baggage + Caisson
1st Div – Wadsworth (G): 4 x Inf (incl, 2 Vet Iron Bde)
2nd Div – Robinson (P): 3 x Inf.
3rd Div – Doubleday (P): 5 x Inf (incl, 2 Raw and ‘Bucktails')

'Bucktails' fire as Vet.

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