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4 August 2009

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary Of Rodes Not Taken, An Early Attack

Of Rodes Not Taken, An Early Attack

For two diary entries in a row, I’ve ended the entry with a teaser about a future entry that would actually show how attacks work in the game. No more teasing; this is it. Now, if you haven’t read the diary entries for 20 July 2009, 25 July 2009 and 27 July 2009 entries, you really should before reading this one. They describe the blocks, the map, movement and fields of fire, and artillery.

Be forewarned, this is a pretty rich attack example and shows off just about every aspect of the attack rules that a single attack can show off, the most important exceptions being a few special rules regarding attacks in obstructed terrain.

I admit that this presentation is something of an experiment for me. I’ve never attempted to present so much in the way of rules by way of an extended example of play. I don’t really know how well it will work. Will people like this method and find it easier to learn this way than just from the rules? Harder? Different for different people? I honestly don’t know, but I am curious to find out. So if you’re still game, let’s go.

Historical Background

In the actual battle, by the late afternoon of 1 July, The Confederates had broken through the Union defense north of Gettysburg. With heavy losses and with units in varying degrees of disorganization, the Union army fell back to Cemetery Hill, just south of the town. Lee, wanting to follow-up, sent a message to Ewell, commander of Confederate II Corps, to take Cemetery Hill if he found it practicable. After looking at the situation, Ewell decided that it was not practicable, and declined to press the attack.

This decision has long been regarded as one of the great might-have-beens of the battle. Jubal Early, the senior divisional commander in II corps, objected strenuously to Ewell’s decision and urged that the attack be continued. Now, there is simply no way to know what would have happened had the Confederates done so. Hancock (the commander of the Union II Corps) thought the Confederates would have succeeded had they made the attempt. One of the problematic aspects of this is that we don’t really know what a Confederate attempt would have looked like. Would they have attempted an attack against the west face of Cemetery Hill? The north face? Would they have attempted both? I think, from what I understand of Early’s comments, that what he was proposing was something different than either, to swing to the east, and then drive southwest to take the position by way of Culp’s Hill, rather than making a straight assault across the open ground in front of Cemetery Hill. Had Early’s plan been followed, they could hardly help but have encountered a freshly arrived Union division from Slocum’s XII Corps, which was coming up east of Culp’s Hill. What would have happened then? The might-have-beens pile up and there is just no way to know.

Although we can’t know what the Confederates would have done had they attempted an attack on Cemetery Hill, we can at least game an attack, which is what we will do here. I would not want you to think that the attack set up here is what the Confederates would have actually attempted (I don’t know what they would have actually attempted) or that this is what would have happened had they made the attempt (I don’t know that either). Also, my intent here is to illustrate how attacks work in the game, not set up the best possible historical model, so I have also made some deliberate changes from the historical situation in order to simplify it. (Not all of the units actually in the area historically are shown here.) Anyway, with all that out of the way, let’s go on.

Units and Fields of Fire

Cemetery Hill 1

In our little scenario, we have two Confederate divisions: Rodes and Early, set up to make an attack on a Union defense of Cemetery Hill. On the Union side, we have rather battered remnants from Reynold’s and Howard’s corps, and, way off to the right, too far to be of any use, a division from Slocum’s corps. Each occupied position has been marked with a number (1 to 3), and for each position the fields of fire are shown. For example, the front area field of fire of Confederate block 2 is marked with 2F. For fields of fire, F is used to denote front areas, and S to denote special line of sight areas. (The field of fire from Union position 1 consists of 3 areas, its front area and two adjacent special line of sight areas.)

Fields of fire are of great importance in attacks in several different ways, but the one that concerns us right now is that they determine basic attack eligibility. A friendly block can usually attack an enemy block only if the enemy block is adjacent to its field of fire area, or if the friendly block is adjacent to the enemy block’s field of fire. (There are a couple of exceptions that deal with fighting in obstructed terrain, where blocks have no fields of fire, but these don’t affect this attack.) Anyway, if we look we see that Confederate block 1 can attack Union block 1, because it is adjacent to the Union block's field of fire area 1F. Other possible attacks are Confederate block 2 against Union block 1 because Confederate block 2 is adjacent to Union field of fire 1S, and Confederate blocks 3 against Union blocks 2 because they are adjacent to Union 2F (and because Union blocks 2 are adjacent to Confederate field of fire 3F).

Oh, yeah, before going on, I’d like to say that in these illustrations, the blocks are face-up, but in the actual game they wouldn’t be, except in specific situations, almost all of which are in combat. I will point out the situations when blocks will really be face-up.

Attack Declaration

Attacks occur in your turn, but before you actually carry out your attacks, you first must declare them. (The procedure is to first declare all your attacks, and then execute them one-by-one.) Anyway, technically in the game, attacks are a form of movement. Normally, blocks move one at a time, but you can combine attack moves together to form group attacks. The attacking blocks can start from any number of positions, but must end their attacks against either one position or against two adjacent positions. There are a LOT of combinatorial possibilities in a situation like this. All of the following, for example, are legal attacks that could be made in this situation:

Cemetery Hill 2 Cemetery Hill 3 Cemetery Hill 4
Cemetery Hill 5 Cemetery Hill 6 Cemetery Hill 7
Cemetery Hill 8 Cemetery Hill 9 Cemetery Hill 10
Cemetery Hill 11 Cemetery Hill 12 Cemetery Hill 13
Cemetery Hill 14 Cemetery Hill 15 Cemetery Hill 16

The above is actually a simplification of the actual possibilities. First, it assumes that only a single group attack will be made, but each Union position could be attacked separately in two different attacks. Second, attack moves do not necessarily have to be made against enemy-occupied positions. In making a group attack, attacking blocks can also move to an empty position adjacent to an enemy position, although the limit of two positions total per attack still applies. (An attack move to an empty position can be extremely useful to threaten the flank of the enemy: we will talk more about this later.)

It would be tiring, however, to review all of these possibilities, so let’s pick one of the above and push on. Being in a pugnacious mood (the only mood in which the Confederates would attempt to direct assault on a position as naturally formidable as Cemetery Hill, however weakened the defenders might be), the Confederates will send everybody and declare the attacking blocks and their attack paths as follows:

Cemetery Hill 17

Incidentally, there is one other thing the attacker needs to declare, and that is his leading unit for each enemy-occupied position he is attacking. Leading units must have a strength of 2. An attack cannot be made if there are no 2-strength blocks to lead it. In this example, the leading units are marked with an ‘L’.

Attack Declaration, part 2: Support

An attack declaration is not complete, however, with just the attacking blocks and their attack paths, it must also include any supporting battle tokens the attacker wants to use. Now, if we look at the Confederate battle token tray, we see the following:

Cemetery Hill 18

It is mandatory in an attack to allocate at least as many tokens as there are enemy-occupied positions under attack. As it happens, we need no mandate by the rules to allocate tokens in this situation; in an attack like this we will want all the help we can get.

The useful tokens in an attack are artillery tokens that are organizational matches for the attacking blocks. Here we have several: we have a 2-strength token for Early, a 2-strength token for II Corps (which is Early’s and Rodes’ corps), and an Any token, which can be played to support any Confederate block. The other tokens are not useful: two are artillery tokens for Hood and Pickett, neither of whom is even on the field, much less available to make an attack, and the other is a march/field works token, which is not artillery at all.

Interestingly, we can allocate tokens even if they are not useful to the attack, even the march/field works token. Why would we do such a thing? Well one reason is can’t attack with zero tokens, so if we don’t have one that is useful, we will have to allocate one that isn’t. Another reason might be to bluff: to make our attack look stronger than it is. The downside of allocating tokens is that all tokens allocated to an attack are expended; that is, they are out of the game for good and we have only a limited supply of tokens, which reflects a limited supply of ammunition. (The Confederates actually used up almost all their artillery ammunition in the historical battle.)

All this is very nice, of course, but let’s get on with it and allocate some tokens. The magic number for artillery in the game is 3: you need 3 points of artillery to do anything. Having 1 or 2 points is the same as none, and 4 and 5 are the same as 3, and so on. We have 5 points we could allocate, but let’s save 2 for later and just use 3, putting the tokens on the map near our attacking blocks:

Cemetery Hill 19

I will point out that, just as the blocks would not actually be face-up as shown in this example, so too the tokens would not be face-up at this point. In an actual game, the defender would know that the attacker allocated two tokens to support the attack, but would not know what they were.

Attack Resolution

At this point, we have completed attack declaration. The attacker has indicated what blocks will be making the attack, where they will be attacking, and what tokens he is allocating for support. Once the attacker has done this for all his attacks for the turn, we move on to attack resolution.

Attack resolution is an 8-step process. The steps are as follows:

  1. Defense artillery support
  2. Attack artillery support
  3. Reveal tokens
  4. Artillery bombardment
  5. Defensive artillery fire
  6. Final advance
  7. Close combat
  8. Withdrawal (Attacker)

We will begin, not surprisingly, with step 1.

1. Defense artillery support

In this step, the defending player will play artillery tokens to support the defense. He will take them out of his tray and put them on the map in front of the positions he wants to support. Let’s take a look at the Union player’s battle tray:

Cemetery Hill 20

The defending player has three important restrictions on his use of artillery: First, he can only play organizationally matching tokens. Second, he can play artillery on a position only if there is at least one Confederate attacking block crossing the position’s field of fire. Third, only 3 points can be used in defense of a single position. (More than 3 points can be placed on a position, but only 3 count). So, with that in mind, let’s review what’s in the Union tray. The playable tokens are the two tokens for Howard, the one Any token (Any tokens are always organizational matches), and the one Reynolds token. The remaining tokens are not playable. Sykes isn’t even on the map, Reserve isn’t playable yet (the Union must have 4 corps on the map before he can play his Reserve artillery tokens, and at this point there are only 3 Union corps on the map), the march/field works token isn’t artillery, and no attacking block is crossing Slocum’s field of fire.

Now, there is a big difference between offensive and defensive use of artillery: tokens used by the attacker are always expended; but tokens used by the defender are expended only if hit by enemy artillery fire, so the defender has far less reason to be conservative in his artillery use than the attacker. In any case, this is a major attack and the Union infantry is weak. As the Union player, let’s play everything we can. (In an actual game, these tokens would be face-down: the Confederate player would know how many tokens were played and where, but not their strength.)

Cemetery Hill 21

There is one more thing worth noting about defensive artillery, even though it doesn’t come up in this example: the defender can play artillery on a position even if it is not directly attacked, providing that an attacking block crosses its field of fire. Anyway, on with our show.

2. Attack artillery support

In this step, the attacking player plays his artillery tokens. He can only play tokens that organizationally match, he can only play them on a position where he has attacking blocks, and can only use 3 points per position. (Not that that is a problem here.) There is not much of a choice to be made: it takes 3 points of offensive artillery to do anything, so the 3 points that were allocated have to be kept together, and one of them can only go in support of Early. So as the Confederates we make the only sensible play:

Cemetery Hill 22

Incidentally, if the Confederates had allocated any tokens that they couldn’t actually use in the attack, those tokens would now be expended, never to return to the game.

3. Reveal Tokens

The artillery tokens played by both sides, which in an actual game would have all been played face-down, are now revealed.

4. Artillery bombardment

It is at this point in the attack procedure that the rubber starts to meet the road. The attack conducts his artillery bombardment. Every 3 points of artillery bombarding a single target scores one bombardment hit. (Indicated with the yellow explosion marker.) Bombardment target selection is limited to positions that are adjacent to the bombarding artillery’s field of fire, or those whose field of fire is adjacent to the bombarding artillery. In addition, the target must be either a position declared as a defensive position in the original attack, or a position where the defender played defensive artillery. (Remember, the defender can play defensive artillery on positions not themselves under attack.) In a target position, hits can be placed on defensive artillery or on enemy blocks, but can only be placed on enemy blocks if there is no defensive artillery in the position.

To avoid having too many arrows, I’ve temporarily removed the arrows showing the paths that the attacking blocks will take. The arrows in the picture show the bombardment.

Cemetery Hill 23

After bombarding, the attacker’s bombarding artillery tokens are expended.

Before going on to the next step, let’s remove the attacking artillery and the bombardment paths, and restore the attacking block’s attack paths.

Cemetery Hill 24

5. Defensive artillery fire

Before resolving defensive artillery fire, the attacking blocks are advanced to the mouths of the guns.

Cemetery Hill 25

For each position under attack, we calculate the number of points of defensive artillery fire available to support it. Let’s start with position 1. There are 3 strength points of tokens (2 Reynolds, 1 Any), and we add to that the artillery bonus for the position (the number of cannons printed on the map). Note that the bonus we use is the one on the attacker’s side of the position, not the defenders. Not also that the attacker, during his bombardment, did not get a bonus: the bonus is for defensive fire only. Anyway, the total is 6 points: 3 points of artillery plus 3 points of bonus. For every 3 points, a reduction is scored on the attacking blocks, so the total number of reductions inflicted is 2. Reductions must first be applied to the leading unit in an attack. Whenever a block has to take a reduction, it is turned face-up so the opposing player can see it.

Cemetery Hill 26

Now here we get to one of the more interesting parts of the game. You may have noticed that one of Rodes’ blocks is both reduced and has a strength of 2, yet there are no 3-strength blocks in the game. So you might wonder: How then did it ever get into play? The answer is that when a full-strength block takes a reduction, it will not necessarily be replaced with a block with a strength of 1; it might instead be replaced with a reduced block with a strength of 2. The likelihood depends on the number of 2-strength units in the block’s parent formation: some have more than others. The way it works is that when a full-strength block gets reduced the player owning the block picks two possible replacement blocks. Depending on the parent formation, they might be two 2-strength reduced blocks, two 1-strength reduced blocks, or one of each. Next the player, hiding the strength, let’s his opponent pick the one to actually use. The player then puts the replacement block in play without letting his opponent know the strength of the block he picked.

Where multiple reductions apply, as is the case here, they are done sequentially. So let’s do the first one. First, Rodes’ full strength block is eliminated, and the Union player is offered a choice between two replacement blocks. Now Rodes is a fine division, and has two 2-strength reduced blocks, but one has already been used as a replacement, and so the result is a 50:50 chance:

Cemetery Hill 27

This time the Confederates got lucky and the Union player picked the 2-strength replacement. However, we still have to do another reduction. When reducing blocks that are already reduced, 2-strength reduced blocks always replaced to 1-strength reduced blocks, and 1-strength reduced blocks are not replaced. So the result is a 1-strength replacement:

Cemetery Hill 28

We’re all done with defensive fire from position 1, so let’s move on to position 2. Here the artillery strength calculation is a little more complicated, but not too. Although there are a total of 4 points of artillery tokens here, more than 3 are never counted from a single position, so the effective strength is 3. Next, subtract 1 for the bombardment hit. That leaves a strength of 2. Now add the ridge bonus: normally this would be 3, but the ridge bonus can never exceed the strength of the artillery, so only 2 points count. This makes a total defensive strength of 4, which causes a single reduction.

Cemetery Hill 29

As before, this is a reduction of a full-strength block, so a blind choice is made.

Cemetery Hill 30

The Confederates were not so lucky this time and got a 1-strength block. (Early’s 2-strength reduced block might still come into play later as a replacement for Early’s other full-strength block. It might also never come into play.) We’re all done with defensive fire so let’s clean up the defending artillery. The token with the bombardment hit is expended; the others are set aside for now and will be returned to the Union player’s tray after all Confederate attacks are completed. (As a historical note, defensive artillery ammunition expenditure was typically much less than offensive expenditure, unless the defenders could be forced/provoked into counter-battery fire. Defensive token expenditure reflects both actual losses to the defending artillery as well as ammunition used in counter-battery fire.)

And here is what the situation looks like after all the Confederate losses have been assessed and the Union artillery has been removed:

Cemetery Hill 31

6. Final Advance

The Confederates have taken heavy losses, but are still coming. Their surviving blocks advance to the defense positions they are attacking.

Cemetery Hill 32

7. Close Combat

The heart of the rules are the attack rules. The heart of the attack rules are the close combat rules. Like Bonapate at Marengo and Napoleon’s Triumph, non-artillery combat is essentially differential-based. The attacker will need to get a differential of +1 to win, and +2 to win without taking losses. With a narrow strength range (blocks all have a strength of either 1 or 2), the outcome is largely determined by modifiers. This attack will show most of them.

In close combat, positions are resolved one at a time. The attacker choses the order. The Confederate player chooses to resolve position 1 first. Now the defender chooses his leading block. (The defender’s leading block does not have to have a strength of 2.) The leading blocks of both the attacker and defender are turned face-up and the strength of the defense leading block is subtracted from the strength of the attack leading block. Since both are equal, the strength differential here is +0.

The first applicable bonus is a +1 Confederate attack bonus. (In a previous diary entry, I expressed the view that the Confederate infantry at the battle was qualitatively better than its Union counterpart; this is partly expressed in the game by giving the Confederates more 2-strength reduced blocks than the Union, but also through this bonus.) The second modifier is a –1 penalty for an attack up a steep slope. The end result is +0, which means that the attacker loses at this position. (The attacker, however, can still win the attack as a whole by winning at the second position.)

Cemetery Hill 33

Before moving to the second position, though, we need to apply losses. At a differential of +0, each side takes one reduction. Reductions must come from leading blocks first, and blocks with a strength of 1 are eliminated when they take a loss, so both sides lose their leading block and neither gets a replacement.

Cemetery Hill 34

Here is the situation after assessing losses, and before resolving close combat for position 2. There is no longer a Union block in position 1, so there are no longer Union fields of fire projected from that position. More importantly for this attack, the Union blocks in position 2 now have a threat to their left flank. A flank threat is an adjacent enemy block that has an unimpeded path to the rear of a friendly block. Along with the Confederate +1 attack bonus, it is one of the most frequently used and the most important bonuses in the game.

Cemetery Hill 35

Now we can resolve close combat at the second position. The modifiers and result are the same as before, except for the flank threat bonus. The flank threat bonus, however makes all the difference and converts the +0 attacker loss into a +1 attacker win. The Confederates have taken Cemetery Hill!

Cemetery Hill 36

We still, however, have to assess losses. At a +1 differential, both sides takes a reduction.

Cemetery Hill 37

8. Withdrawal (Attacker)

There is only a withdrawal in this phase if the attacker lost. (If the defender loses, as is the case here, the defending blocks withdraw in their next turn.) With nothing else to do in this step, we can take a look at the situation at the conclusion of the attack. I’ve gone ahead and added fields of fire for the victorious attacking blocks. (‘F’ for front areas, ‘X’ for extended front areas.) The surviving defending block in position 2 still has a field of fire into 2F, and will have until it withdraws in the next Union turn.

Cemetery Hill 38

Next Turn Union Withdrawal

Technically, the previous step finished the attack procedure, but it is seems right to finish this example by showing the Union withdrawal after the attack. The rule is that when the defender loses an attack, in his next turn any of the defending player’s blocks that are in the same position as a winning enemy block, or adjacent to one have to withdraw. (Adjacent blocks must withdraw even if they themselves were not defenders in the attack.)

In this case there are no adjacent blocks, so we just have the one block to withdraw. Withdrawing blocks can move 2 steps and in each step must increase their separation from the enemy if possible. (Separation values are: 0 if in the same position as an enemy block, 1 if adjacent to an enemy block, 2 if in a position bounding a field of fire of an enemy block, and 3 all other cases.) The following shows the options for the first Union withdrawal step. (Incidentally, we‘ve shifted the view to show the Union rear area.)

Cemetery Hill Rear 01

The black numbers are the separation values for each position. Separation for a position, incidentally, is always measured from whatever is the nearest enemy block, which is not necessarily the attacking block.

After this step, Howard gets to move one more step. A question here for the Union is whether or not to retreat Howard out of attack range. As mentioned at the start of this diary entry, attack range is keyed to fields of fire. If Howard retreats to the left with his first step, he won’t be able to get away from either Rodes’ or Early’s field of fire with his second step. Similarly, if he retreats to the right, then he pays a +1 penalty for the obstructed terrain and can move no farther, and would still be vulnerable to attack (although he would get defensive benefits for defending in obstructed terrain). Only by dropping straight back can he reach a position that would take him out of attack range. There is one attraction to dropping straight back: he can reach Power’s Hill on his second step, a good defensive position, and so that’s what he’ll do.

Cemetery Hill Rear 02

Even though we’ve already decided to head Howard for Power’s Hill, the above illustration shows his other options. As before, black numbers indicate separation values.

Now let’s show the move itself.

Cemetery Hill Rear 02

To close, we’ll show Howard‘s final position, with his field of fire marked (F for front area, X for extended front). Observant players might well wonder about the fate of Slocum, who has been pretty much abandoned by Howard’s withdrawal. Others, more Confederate-minded, might wonder at the best way to attack Howard, and whether to keep Early and Rodes together or to split them up and send one after Howard and the other after Slocum. Questions on topics such as these, however, takes us beyond what we will be covering in this example and will not be answered. (Now, now, you knew we had to stop somewhere.)

Cemetery Hill Rear 04


Well, that about wraps up this diary entry. If it has been long, I at least hope it has been interesting, and I hope that given enough time you will eventually learn to forgive the atrocious double pun in the title for this entry.

As you can see, while the combat rules for this game do bear some resemblance to those of the Napoleonic games, they are in most respects quite different. In terms of complexity, I would put them between those of Bonaparte at Marengo and Napoleon’s Triumph, I think much closer to the latter than the former.

I have not decided what the next diary entry will cover, but I do know that I haven’t yet talked about the structure of the game as a game: there has been no discussion of objectives or operational considerations. Bonaparte at Marengo was primarily a delaying action; Napoleon’s Triumph was an ambush. No diary entry has covered the important question: what is The Guns of Gettysburg?