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"11 days' battle in 3 hours - Spotsylvania!" Topic

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American Civil War

1,111 hits since 11 Sep 2016
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2016 4:29 p.m. PST

I believe that, after Gettysburg and Chickamauga, Spotsylvania was the third bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, the two sides suffering about 30,000 casualties – nearly a quarter of those involved. It was more extensive than either Gettysburg or Chickamauga in time and space, comprising several distinct episodes spread over 11 days on a battlefield more than 10km across. It's a challenge to capture the whole battle on a 6'x4' table in a single evening's game, but we did it.

And it was an absolute blast. One helluva game. We got so raucous that even some of the tournament gamers at the other end of the club had to come over and take a look!

I reported earlier playtests of my Bloody Big Battles scenario for Spotsylvania here:
TMP link

After those I revised the scenario significantly and it produced a truly memorable game. I won't give a blow-by-blow. Instead I just want to highlight a couple of features I was really pleased with.

The historical battle was characterised by a series of Union assaults on entrenched Confederate positions, punctuated by lulls of several days while Grant shifted his forces around to try to outflank the Rebs and/or assault a more vulnerable part of their line. The scenario really captured that feel. It allows the Union players to call a couple of "Night Intervals" when they feel they need that pause to regroup their forces and to use strategic movement to shift the focus of their efforts. This worked really well. It meant that the players had opportunities to change the shape of the battle dramatically. A die roll determined who got to do their strategic movement first, meaning there was a chance of stealing a march on the foe, or a risk of being exposed to some strategic countermove. It definitely added a dynamic new dimension to the game.

The game also brought out the very different characters of the opposing armies. The Rebs were few in number but full of grit(s), tough to kick out of their rifle pits, and agile in responding to Union moves. The Union army by contrast was a clumsy giant, moving ponderously and poorly coordinated, with more than a few raw fragile units prone to panic, but a fearsome steamroller when it could bring its numbers to bear.

With 5 players we fought the whole game – 12 turns and 3 Night Intervals – in just 3 hours, and it was 3 hours of constant tense excitement. So many BBB AARs seem to finish like this: on the very last turn, the Union held 3 objectives, needing one more to win. They had a chance to (re-)capture Spotsylvania Courthouse and claim the win; but the Confederates were also in a position to drive Burnside off another objective and overturn the game for a Confederate victory. In the end neither of these succeeded, so it was a draw, but an incredibly exciting one and everyone went home happy.

Any scenario that generates that much entertainment and that kind of climax can't have much wrong with it, so I'm now satisfied that the scenario is good enough to share with the world, and I've posted it in the BBB Yahoo group as usual; and also on Flickr.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

vtsaogames12 Sep 2016 7:30 a.m. PST

I'm interested in this. So many battles, so little time.

donlowry12 Sep 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

In the end neither of these succeeded, so it was a draw …

Kinda like the real thing!

Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2016 8:01 p.m. PST

Fantastic --I agree these rules often go down to the last turn. Its all about the six-sided dice !

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