Thursday, August 10, 2017

GdC: Battle of Mateitna

Once more back into the fray! Doug (of Dots of Paint) hosted his annual wargaming bash. Once again we were treated to a Guard du Corp mass battle (fast play convention rules set which sounds as though it's getting *very* close to being finalized). We were teased with 'it's a historical battle, but not a napoleonic one'. At least one of our American comrades puzzled it out and Doug briefed us. The battle is Anteitam (spelled backwards as the map is reorientated on the compass).....the french are the confederate defending a town just over the river, which includes a set of fortifications/sunken road, against a much superior force. The russian/prussian force is the union who historically was led by McLellan.....not the most aggressive or daring commander. The troops are activated progressively during the day. I'm not sure if this was due to space limitations to advance, or an intentional 'echelon' type attack, or foolishness (my history on ACW being pretty weak).

 French in the lower right. Defending the corn/wheat fields to the left, and two river crossings on the top.

 My own command was on the right, guarding a hill just behind the river crossing. I attempted to hide behind the ridge from enemy artillery and wait for them to advance. It turned out that my opposing force was activated quite late (closer to midday?) so I didn't do too much except exchange in limited cannon fire.

The hammer fell hard on our left flank. Oudinot was punished with cannon fire and driven back from the wheat field. The Russians towards the top activated fairly early and started their run down the middle towards Eugene.

 Despite it looking fairly unengaged, the left flank has been pretty bloody. It wasn't the farthest part of the table from me, so I didn't get too many photos.
 It's a bit more apparant here that our left has started withdrawing quickly (partly from discretion and partly from poor morale checks). This resulted in Eugene (centre) shifting left to relieve Oudinot (left). My own large command (Friant) was shuffled toward the centre to help fill the hole there. The enemy now begins to force the bridge in my zone (right flank). Perhaps this plan of attack isn't actually terrible?
Another point to note is the sudden appearance of fortifications in the centre. This was the infamous 'sunken road' of Antietam. It might be a surprise for some, but our opponents cooly continued to feed troops into the grinder.

 This shows the stretched frontage of my command (Friant) on the right. I'm busy doing local counterattacks on the hill to drive off the Russians before they gain a height/attack advantage. Each time I do so I come under heavy cannon fire. Counter battery figured heavily here as well as we furious tried to wipe out the opponents means to hurt us at range.
 Oudinot has fully withdraw to a secondary line to the left of the town. We started ignoring these troops as they were all strength one....a single fight and they'd go poof. If you ever need these guys again, things have gone sideways. Fortunately, some clever work by Eugene has forced back the attack on the left at long last. Friant has fully taken up half the fortications in the's looking pretty thin.

 A better photo of Oudinots '1' command in the second line. The attack up the middle has driven defenders from the fortifications. This side of the defenses flipped at least 3 times in heavy fighting.

Typically Dougs games reach a very clear conclusion in a timely manner. 3 hour con games are completed even with a slow start, a briefing on the history of the battle, and learning by most participants. This game was a slug fest with incredibly lucky morale checks.
You can see the french force is incredibly denuded. Even the Russians in the centre (2 commands) are facing tough checks, and both sides fail to advance, and fall back single moves many times......but no one breaks. 
This represents the 'egg shell' french defense. A complete line of '1' strength fight will pop them. Oudinot actually moved back into the frontline as Eugen didn't have enough troops.

The attackers are in a similar position. Ever loss will cause a risky morale check. On the left the stands are stuck in square, on the right One stand of friants troops (top right) with 5 pips heads is ready to harass them (but to cross the ridge will expose them to artillery fire).

Very historically, a reinforcing column showed up to save the flank. This happened for us as well. Drout took over the right flank for Friant as he was forced to the middle and had no strength left on the hill.

A highly enjoyable game. We banged through 24-26 turns (~12-13 hours) in about 6 hours (including lunch and chatting). We ended up with historical results of the French/Confederates holding but some pretty brutal fighting. Doug finds the historical insights most interesting. He notes that you often wonder why the commanders choose to march straight forward in an attack on a fortified line.....but you can see with a game like this that there simply isn't the space to choose to do anything else, and failure to attack and pin the enemy will result in failures of attack on the other fronts.


  1. This looked really interesting mate. The units were visually appealing too, that's a LOT of minis!

    1. Doug put in a lot of thought to the visual aesthetic for his game. Interestingly, it's not THAT many minis though. Each stand is 8-10 figs (or 3 for cav), and a corp/command is 4-10 bases.

      It's one of the things that he's used to pull his friends into his convention games. He convinces us to paint a command and get to use our own painted troops and have a guaranteed spot at the table. A single plastic box of 40 figs is pretty close to most commands. You look at the density of troops for many black powder games and you'd need a whole lot more.