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"How do you wargame the Wilderness battles." Topic

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Personal logo D6 Junkie Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2015 12:40 p.m. PST

Seems like any battle in the Wilderness is going
to have a lot of unknowns out there. Any suggestions for
playing out the battles?
At the moment, i'm thinking lots of blinds.

vtsaogames08 Jun 2015 12:56 p.m. PST

I'm thinking of using Bloody Big Battles, which requires units to activate via a 2D6 roll. All units get -1 in woods. Give the Union a further -1 for passivity of the Army of the Potomac. That's my idea, not near being tested. Oh yeah, a further -1 for Burnside ' s corps.

darthfozzywig08 Jun 2015 1:01 p.m. PST

Altar of Freedom (where stands are brigades) doesn't allow support bonuses for friendly units in base contact, which is a pretty simple yet effective way of showing the difficulty/inability to coordinate attacks.

I also recall a game using randomized movement for units in woods. Given that the Wilderness is basically nothing but woods, that seems a bit too chaotic, even for that battle. :)

Trajanus08 Jun 2015 1:45 p.m. PST

Depends on what level you are playing the battle at in terms of the details but keeping commanders in the dark is key. However I'd have to ask if you were doing a refight or a what if?

The AoP should reflect the problems of Corps commanders being left to their own devices when they don't know where the enemy is until they are hit. The ANV should be vunerable to counter attack at a local level, they couldn't see what was going on any more than the opposition.

I've run the entire battle as a Kriegsspiel with the players acting as the AoP commanders and the umpire team running the Confederates which was very enjoyable. Its a treat to watch players performance when they really can't see what the hell is happening!

Dan Beattie08 Jun 2015 2:13 p.m. PST

I have planned someday to game the Wilderness. First, only the umpire has a real map. The players may have maps that are somewhat askew of the (fictional) terrain being fought over.

They can ask directions of other friendly generals they meet, prisoners, local farmers, and runaway slaves. In other words an excellent chance they will receive erroneous information. Some roads will sound like other ones: e.g., Granny Harper Pike is near Harper House Road. During the actual battle there was confusion about the Brock Road and the Brook Road. Players are allowed to draw maps of the terrain and roads they find.

Today, little is left of the dense, second-growth woods of 1864, But about 20 years ago. I walked across a wooded portion of the existing park and went off-course (by 90 degrees!)walking about a mile, even though I had given tours of the area and could hear traffic in the distance.

In a Wilderness game there should be a chance that units head in the wrong direction.

Martian Root Canal08 Jun 2015 2:36 p.m. PST

Greg Novak put one together many years ago that involved an entire club. Each section of the battle was in its own room with its own referee. Terrain was simplified to butcher paper with features drawn on with markers. The game was in 15mm and we used Johnny Reb II, with some modifications to speed play.

We could send troops to other sections and messages, but they were subject to delay or loss. Maps were rudimentary and sometimes wrong. The game (which took the better part of a day) felt very confused, tense and exciting…

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2015 2:48 p.m. PST

We played this in our club many years ago. The two sides were in different rooms with their own game table, and all the woods represented by felt cutouts so as to be able to move the minis through. Had a few trees here and there to give it the "feel" of the real areas.

Anyway, in a 3rd room, the umpires (2 of them) had a large table with the battlefield drawn out on kraft paper taped down. The two sides were represented on the umpres' map by cardboard counters which were the same size as the mini's bases.

Both sides sent in orders and pushed their troops on their own table. When the umpires saw that troops could see each other, or came into contact with each other, then the minis were placed on the respective tables. We used lots of generic bases for both sides, so that we had plenty to go on both tables.

It was a lot of fun and although it took the better part of a day to play, it was always interesting. We had plenty of snacks, sandwich stuff and soft drinks on hand so there was no need to take a break for lunch, dinner, etc.

Moe Ronn08 Jun 2015 3:30 p.m. PST

Use a grid or terrain tiles 12" to 24". Except the squares don't connect in the way they are laid out. You need an umpire with a master map, but only the one table. As the game progresses players will get (or map) an idea of how the squares match up.

Note: not just location, but also orientation is changed for the squares.

Square LEGO (2x2) numbered, with colored pegs works well to make a master map along with carpet squares with colored dots (and numbers) in the corners that match the LEGO squares.

Mac163809 Jun 2015 3:55 a.m. PST

A number of years ago we played a number of densely wooded games.
Marked out the roads, streams and a few small clearings the rest of the 6" x 8" was heavily wooded.
We where using Fire & Fury.
If your Brigade was unable to see an enemy unit at the start of your turn with your command die you rolled two D6 of different colours(red and blue),
if the two D6 rolled was a double (ie red 2, blue 2)the unit moved as the commander wished.
if the two D6 rolled and the red die is larger than the blue die the unit moves 45deg to the right,
if the blue die is larger than the red die the unit moves 45deg to the left,
if unit leave the table they have got lost and take no more part in the game.

If you are looking for a good laugh give it a go.

PS They are also the most frustrating games I have ever played.

donlowry09 Jun 2015 8:06 a.m. PST

The table consists of nothing but woods – you can't see the miniatures at all.

John the Greater09 Jun 2015 10:55 a.m. PST

We have tried using index cards with the unit written on the face down side and they are revealed when within sight of an opponent. To mix things up each side had a number of dummy cards (the number decided by secret die roll, so the other side didn't know if you had 1 or up to 10 dummies)

I like Mac's idea. Maybe we'll try again blending both ideas.

ChrisBBB09 Jun 2015 12:19 p.m. PST

I'm not convinced the Wilderness is such a big deal as to need special rules. Looking at maps of the battle it seems that at the division and corps level it was pretty well organized and conventional: everyone is well sorted out into the usual lines, facing enemy formations in equivalent lines. Yes, there is the odd tactical surprise, and yes, there is the odd hesitation and uncertainty – but the same is true of most battles of the period.

Vincent, I agree, the standard BBB rule of -1 on the Movement Roll for being in Difficult Terrain, and a -1 for the AoP for being Passive, should cover it just fine.

Bloody Big BATTLES!

Personal logo D6 Junkie Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2015 4:43 p.m. PST

Hey Guys, thanks for all your ideas.
I made notes and hope to try it out by the end of the year.

Trajanus10 Jun 2015 8:44 a.m. PST

Looking at maps of the battle it seems that at the division and corps level it was pretty well organized and conventional: everyone is well sorted out into the usual lines, facing enemy formations in equivalent lines.

Yes that's true and a lot of the real confusion was at Regimental level but it can't be solely treated as any other action – with more trees.

The ground cover was appalling and often hid swampy areas, gulleys and ravines which completely broke up formations and delayed advances.

A read though Rhea's book on the battle is an experience to make anyone question what they think they know of the action.

49mountain10 Jun 2015 1:13 p.m. PST

Whole heartedly agree, Trajanus. The maps you see really only show the approximate areas where the units were located. In truth, the units were scattered all over the place within their respective Division or Corps areas. Even the brigades were broken up by the lay of the land. Total chaos as far as movement went. Either side could blunder into each other.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jun 2015 9:52 a.m. PST

There were a number of clearings scattered around the Wilderness, so it wasn't all trees.

I think John Michael Priest (who visits TMP from time to time) wrote a book about the Wilderness, breaking the action down to the brigade and regimental levels. His maps make for great wargame table terrain guides.

vtsaogames29 Jun 2015 8:00 a.m. PST

I'm thinking of using Bloody Big Battles, which requires units to activate via a 2D6 roll. All units get -1 in woods. Give the Union a further -1 for passivity of the Army of the Potomac. That's my idea,not near being tested. Oh yeah, a further -1 for Burnside ' s corps.

ChrisBBB09 Aug 2015 1:11 p.m. PST

Inspired in part by this thread, Vincent and I took up the challenge of "how do you wargame the Wilderness" and created a Wilderness scenario for "Bloody Big BATTLES!". This has now been playtested repeatedly, to the point where we are happy to post a final version for anyone who is interested.

You can see Vincent's report from one of the playtest games here:
TMP link

The scenario itself is in the files of the BBB Yahoo group, and I have also posted it openly on Flickr.

It's a really interesting and fun game, which we think both captures the distinctive flavor of this important battle and gives players real insight into how and why it took the shape and the course that it did.

Working on Spotsylvania now!

Bloody Big BATTLES!

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