Thursday, June 27, 2019

Chaos, Confusion, and Casualties

Once again, I have drifted off into miniature wargaming because I enjoy it and because it actually facilitates interpreting actual historical events. This year, I am finally getting back into wargaming with HMGS East. My grandson and I are attending Fall-In at the Valley Forge Convention Center where I will be delivering two presentations at the War College on Friday and Saturday at 10:00 a.m., entitled “Chaos, Confusion, and Casualties: Simulating a Civil War Battle in 54mm.

The gaming area will have 2 set up tables for the opposing armies and a gaming area 12 feet by 5 feet. Each side will have three brigades comprised of 5 regiments apiece with the sizes of the regiments ranging from 300 to 800 men, and two - 3 artillery section commanders.

The idea is for each player to be responsible for his/her own area of the field and work with the artillerists to gain domination of the adjoining fields if they are occupied by hostile forces.

The players will introduce their troops to their randomly plotted areas of the field within the first three – four turns and they are not required to commit their entire brigades at the same time.

The sequence is rather simple: Movement which will be simultaneous and then Firing which will generate smoke. Level playing fields might or might not exist.  Some areas of entry are going to be difficult to navigate.

Visibility on the field might be limited based upon terrain features like walls, buildings, smoke and high terrain.

When the fighting breaks out the defenders have to decide if they will fire or flee. Did the Rebels announce their advance with their famous, blood curdling yell? How did the Yankees react to it? In the smoke and noise did the one side see the other flank them. In the retreat or panic did a unit collide with a friendly unit or a hostile unit? If so did what kind of reaction did that generate? During the melee did your brigadier find himself caught in the crossfire? Did the skirmishers pop away at the officers and hit them? If so, how did the affected regiment react?

The idea is to create a noisy, fun game with unexpected twists in it and then to relate it to what happened in a real engagement. This is a game where officers and generals have limited control once the shooting starts, where artillery can accidentally “drop short” or overshoot. Where there might be too many troops in the area to adequately maneuver them.

In designing this I reflected a great deal about the Battle of Antietam, where Confederates on the Smoketown Road got lost in the smoke and ended up in the East Woods. Where General Joseph Mansfield rode into the Woods and mistakenly thought the 10th Maine was firing into their own men. Where the 19th Indian and the 7th Wisconsin, having gotten lost on what later became Confederate Avenue got lost and ended up coming up through the West Woods and fired into the Confederates along the Hagerstown Pike while inadvertently hitting their own men on the opposite side of the road. 
The game promises to be surprising and quick moving.
Once again, positive and constructive comments are always welcome.

The following  photograph  illustrates a solitaire version of one phase of a practice battle.

A federal regiment in the road in the background has fires into the Confederate flank while a small rebel battalion, unobserved in the smoke, heads toward the Yankee left flank this side of the stonewall.


  1. Sounds intriguing and a great way to explore the chaos on a battlefield. Good luck with your games. 😀

  2. Love the confusion and chaos aspect when we play your games. It adds that level of friction / realism that is needed to make the game more realistic in capturing the elements of abattle.

  3. Playing it solitaire I managed to flank the Confederates at the church. The rebel column trying to slip by the Federal left ends up getting seen and engaging skirmishers.

    A lot of the responses depend on how the defender reacts to the attack. I had a Confederate regiment left wheel in front of one of its own regiments, which was firing at the time, not knowing if I would be seen and thereby avoid friendly fire. They lucked out.

    With six or more players, each with their own area of deployment it is bound to get noisy and unpredictable. Rules lawyers need not apply.