Monday, December 13, 2010

Antietam Battle Report 1

This is my first play test of the Antietam scenario I posted on this blog.

The Union did pretty well for impetus, but most importantly, the Union avoided losing large amounts of impetus to the two Command Indecision cards in their army deck. These cards wipe out all of your current impetus.

Quick Piquet explanation. In Piquet, you never know when you'll be able to move your troops or what you'll be able to do. These actions are determined by the impetus you get and the quality of your army's unique Sequence Deck.

In my Piquet games, we use a poker deck to determine how much impetus each side gets. When a black A-9 card is drawn, the Union gets the Initiative and depending on the poker card, 1-9 impetus pips to spend. Red cards give Initiative and impetus to the Confederates. 10-K cards add 10 to the impetus gained, but only if they are followed by a A-9 of the same color. This system generates between 1-19 impetus per Initiative. Jokers end the turn.

The impetus pips are used to flip cards from your army's sequence deck. The player can then use his impetus pips to act on the flipped cards: Move on an Infantry Move card, Reload Muskets, etc. Firing a unit costs 1 impetus pip. Keeping units in command is important because an entire command can pay for movement and move its "in command" units for 1 or 2 impetus pips, the same price as a single unit. Each side also can store a few impetus pips to use for opportunity fire and cavalry charges during the other side's Initiative.

Combat, shooting, morale checks and all other challenges are determined by opposing dice that change size from d4(the worst) to d6, d8, d10,d12, d12+1, etc. Circumstances on the battlefield modify the size of the dice up and down. For example, shooting at long range (DOWN2) would make your d10 shooting die a d6 instead, but if you also had First Fire (UP1) because your infantry had not fired yet in the game, you would end up at a d8.

Morale chips measure your army's will to continue the fight. Your army loses morale chips for a variety of reasons, but mostly when your units take casualties, fail morale tests and lose melee combats. The commander in chief can move morale chips between commands and bolster a weary command with fresh morale chips during an Officer Check card. When a command reaches zero morale chips, it is broken, it must take more serious morale tests, and its losses to enemy attacks become much more severe. A command with no remaining morale chips can quickly disintegrate under heavy combat pressure.

I've learned that when you have a bad deck, you really want to use all the impetus on the table when you get it. Cycling through your deck just increases the chance you'll flip a card that will hurt you. Once you're down to 1 or 2 impetus, then you can start flipping cards because drawing the Command Indecision card doesn't hurt you as badly.

For this particular battle, McClellan intended Hooker's initial opening attack to be a heavy hammer blow against the Confederates, so he gave that command a large share of the morale chips from the army's morale chip reserves. On two occasions during the fighting, McClellan had to send more morale chips to Hooker in order to keep the momentum of his corps' attack going.

By the end of Turn 2, Hooker was pretty spent. Turn 3 ended almost immediately. Turn 4 started with a large Union impetus streak and an Officer Check card that organized Mansfield's and Sumner's corps. An Infantry Move card then let Sumner launch an assault that crushed the Confederate center. By the end of Turn 4, even Mansfield was through the East Woods and putting pressure on Lawton's Division near Miller's Cornfield.

R.E. Lee was well-placed between the front and Sharpsburg and was able to use his considerable charisma to rally the Confederate brigades who routed early in the game, but as the game progressed, the Confederates couldn't draw an Officer Check or Brilliant Leader card to help get the fleeing rebels back into line. Instead there were a series of Confederate Infantry Move cards that just made the routers flee toward Sharpsburg even faster and drain impetus while they fled.

By the end of Turn 4, things look very dangerous for the Army of Northern Virginia. Burnside could become available in Turn 5, and once he crosses Antietam Creek, Burnside can really endanger the entire Confederate position.

Turn 1.
This is a view from behind Hooker's Union I Corps. Hooker is opening the battle by attacking the Rebel divisions of J.R. Jones and Lawton. Hooker's mission is to seize the West Woods, the Miller cornfield, and unhinge the Confederate left flank. Hooker starts Turn 1 in musket range of the Rebels. Can you see Hood's Texans lurking in the woods to the right?

Those sneaky Louisiana Tigers are waiting for Hooker's bluebellies in the corn.

Here Sumner's Union Corps starts facing the Confederates defending the Sunken Road. On Sumner's right, Mansfield's Corps can be seen further north in the East Woods. Both corps start the game out of command.

The battle was well underway by the beginning of Turn 2. Fighting Joe Hooker himself can be seen trying to rally one of his routing brigades at top left.

Smoke marks units that fired and are unloaded. The two casualty figures behind the closest Union brigade tells me it is disordered. For some reason I used two rebel figures. Aaargh!!

One casualty figure marks a brigade as out of command. The router has one red arrow in front of it. If it had 2 red arrows, it would be routing and unrallyable.

Here's a view of the battlefield from the South. Sharpsburg is to the left in the foreground. The smoke is rising from above the treetops of the West Woods as evidence of the intensity of the struggle. Yet the Union corps of Sumner and Mansfield (right side) still dawdle and waste time organizing their commands for action.

Feeling the pressure from Hooker's attack, R.E. Lee gets his reserves moving.

Anderson's Division hits the turnpike.

McLaws' Division moves up behind the Dunker Church.

And Hood's Division charges through the West Woods and into the 1st Corps.

The clash of the elites. A column of Hood's screaming Texans burst out from the woods and fight a melee with the Army of the Potomac's Iron Brigade. The Texans are sent routing 6-3.

At this point, Hooker's Corps was out of morale chips. McClellan sent Hooker more ammunition, artillery batteries, and spare regiments in the form of 10 more morale chips, but the fighting was so ferocious that Hooker spent the extra reserves in no time. His corps' attack began to stall and both sides settled down to lick their wounds.

Turn 3 ended after 5 minutes and only one impetus draw. The beginning of Turn 4 saw a big Union impetus run that allowed Sumner and Mansfield to get their assaults underway. Sumner's lead brigade nervously approached the Sunken Road. The raw volunteers lined up and fired a devastating volley into their Confederate opposition. The shocked Rebels broke and ran in spite of all the best efforts of their officers to stop their flight.

Sumner's men entered the Sunken Road and after a lucky Maneuver card, wheeled and began rolling up D.H. Hill's flank. The flanking brigade crushed the flank of another defending Confederate brigade before D.H. Hill was able to enfilade the victorious mob of Union soldiers with his artillery and the Confederates last opportunity impetus pip.

"Bull" Sumner's blood was up and he drove his corps over the Sunken Road. His victorious troops advanced up the slope toward Sharpsburg while D.H. Hill desperately coordinated the timely arrival of the reinforcing divisions of D.R. Jones' (left) and Mclaws (right).

By Turn 6, Sumner was starting to run out of morale chips and Sumner was screaming for support.

(ABOVE) DR Jones' Confederate Division marched up to help DH Hill and routed Sumner's leftmost brigade. Jones then turned his brigades and caught Sumner's troops in the flank as they attempted to reorganize in the Sunken Road. (CLOSEUP BELOW)

(ABOVE) Sumner's Corps began to waver as its supply of morale chips ran out. Where was Burnside? As Lee sensed Sumner's attack waver, the Virginian threw in McLaws' Division to put extra pressure on the Union. Sumner's troops had enough of the fighting and his brigades began to break and run.
(ABOVE) Sumner as least had the decency to die while trying to rally his routed corps. The battle was over. Hooker was spent. Sumner's corps was wrecked and Mansfield didn't have the strength to fight alone. Burnside never did get across the bridge. Game over by Turn 8. Confederate decisive victory.

(Edited 12/30/2010 to include all of the turns of the AAR)


  1. Nice looking table. Can you tell me who made the worm fencing, roads and cornfields?

  2. Thanks.

    The fences and corn came from BTC. I assembled the fences from their kit. The corn is awesome.

    I bought the roads from Miniature World Maker years ago. They're nice too, but located in Australia.

  3. Your way of doing initiative is very cool. Have you tried the domino method? The side how wins the initiative flips over a domino and gets to use the higher side of numbers as points and the opponent gets to use the low side of the domino. If a double blank shows up we end the turn.

  4. Victor,

    It sounds interesting , but it doesn't screw the initiative loser as much as I'd like. The domino method is a little more warm and fuzzy, but not as bad as Field of Battle! Too gentle by far! :)