Saturday, August 28, 2010

Closing Wilmington Revisited

Today was the last of our Truants wargaming days I'll be able to attend. I'm back in the classroom on Monday with students arriving on Thursday.  There's little question I'll try to organize another Truant session next summer all things being equal.

I tweaked the ACW naval game from July and ran it out on the table.  Fellow truants expressed their interest, and the game was successful enough that I wanted to try it again.  Two changes were suggested for the scenario.  One was forcing the Union ships to the middle of the table.  The other was changing the already simple infantry rules to forego the roll for command pips.

I addressed both those issues in the scenario redesign.  First I added a partial across river shoreline and stuck a two gun battery on it.  I believed it would force the Union vessels more toward the middle of the table and give them more to think about.  It would also give the Confederate gunners better opportunities to engage Union ships at more effective ranges. I also did something daring and near the far end of the table put an island surmounted by a Martello tower mounting a Blakely rifle.  I know Martello towers were not common to the United States, but there was one on Tybee Island guarding the approaches to Savannah, so it would not be out of the question to have one guarding Wilmington.  Besides, I had one, it looked cool, and it is just a game. The tower could fire into the center of the table, and once again give something else for the Yankees to think about.

I made two additional changes.  First I simplified the command for the infantry rules.  Each brigade commander had a four inch command radius rather than rolling for pips a la DBA.  I also wanted to make the Confederate naval presence a bit more formidable.  In the previous game the Richmond class ironclad was accompanied by two small Maury gunboats and a torpedo launch. Though the ironclad gave as good as it got the escorts were easily dispatched at a considerable distance.  I replaced the three small vessels with the gunboat Morgan from Mobile Bay.  I figured it would be a bit more of a challenge, and rightfully so as it turned out.

There was one complication to the game and that was the light attendance. Mark Waddington, Al Rivers, Tom Bieker and Darin Howard made their truant excuses and escaped to play.  It happens, it's nobody's fault.  The game is designed for 7-8 and we only had four.  I figured I could fairly play a Confederate gunner, so I let Tom Bieker run the Confederate squadron and most of the guns. Al, Mark and Darin ran the Union vessels.

I actually love this scenario because it puts the Union players in such a tizzy.  The decision making is all on them.  The Confederates have few choices to make.  The timetable decides for them. With all decisions made and the table set up, the Yankees moved their vessels on to the table.

With two batteries facing the entries, the Union fleet decided to capture one with their naval landing party, and pound the other to rubble.  In this they were pretty successful.  By turn six of the game, the two batteries were either silent or nearly so.  The naval landing party was on its way to capture the western battery, and the Union fleet was headed for the middle of the table. Most of the rebel fire targeted the leading Union vessel, the double-ender Miami.  Though the gunboat suffered some light pecks and pokes, nothing serious seemed to slow her down. The two rebel ships, however, were also moving downstream to engage the leading Union vessels, and that's where things got interesting.

First, Darin, commanding the three 90 day gunboats in the squadron, made a boo-boo and stepped into the clearly marked minefield with USS Huron.  He made a couple of die rolls, and struck a mine which was, happily, a dud.  Unfortunately, his movement didn't take him safely out of the field.  A second turn of moving through the danger zone didn't turn out so well and turn seven saw the Huron engulfed in a bright flash and disappearing rapidly to the bottom of the Cape Fear River.

Turn seven also saw the loss of USS Miami's good luck charm.  Two telling shots from the Martello tower and the Brooke rifle in Fort Anderson did significant damage.  However these were followed by a shot from the Morgan that exploded in Miami's magazine, resulting in the instant sinking of the vessel.  Not an easy shot by any means, and one we rarely see in the game. We played through turn eight, as the luck decisively turned in the Confederates' favor.  The monitor Montauk had a waterline seam opened up and suffered flotation damage, and the Union fire could not seem to shake loose the last gun crew from Battery Trimble at the mouth of river.  Despite hitting the battery ten or twelve times, the fire would scatter off the remaining gun (only a 33% chance of it doing so.)

It was agreed that with the loss of two ships and accumulating damage to others the Union would pull safely back and concede a Confederate victory. The game actually started out very much like the first game.  The Union fleet seemed completely capable of dispatching the Confederate batteries, then their die rolling went cold.  Though the Confederates occasionally hit the Union vessels, they seemed incapable of turning the hits into something decisive against the wooden vessels.  About   turn six the Yankees went south and the Confederates got lucky.

This is a game I'd like to run at Enfilade, but I'd like to play test it some more.  I started out with the idea it could be a twenty turn game.  However, it's more likely to be something on the order of twelve turns, so I'll need to rethink the objectives and victory points a bit.  Maybe allow the Union to set up on the table rather than move on, which might require some change in battery placement.

No comments: