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Subject: Epic Stones River Scenario rss

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Pete Belli
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This month will mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War battle of Stones River, fought between December 30, 1862 and January 1st, 1863. This scenario is not the ultimate Murfreesboro simulation because I created it for my own entertainment, like a kid building a model train display. It uses several of my special brigade-level rules (For example, infantry fires a 3-2 pattern on the battle dice.) with terrain types including woods, river crossings, hills, rough terrain, fortifications, and town hexes. Multiple sets of Battle Cry miniatures were required to depict the 20+ infantry brigades in each of the armies.





This painting of the battle was created after the war by an eyewitness. It conveys a good impression of the terrain and the gloomy winter weather. General Rosecrans is shown as the mounted officer on the far right, holding the field glasses. Infantry brigades have three movement points and a woods hex cost two movement points to enter... the battlefield at Stones River was a mix of woods, fields, and low hills. The river was fordable in several places. Unlike some ACW combat arenas, the features of the landscape (other than along the river, of course) did not block movement.





This period map was one of the sources for my 40" x 28" board. The hex grid is 21 x 17 with each space representing about 1/4 mile of actual terrain. The final version used in this scenario is a composite of several maps; like the source material for most ACW battles, multiple interpretations are available depending on which rock a researcher looks under.





This photgraph shows the beginning of the scenario. The compass would point North to the right side of this image. The scenario begins with the first major Confederate assault near dawn. Many of the Union brigades are on the march in response to the plan Rosecrans developed to hit Bragg's right flank. The pugnacious Rebel commander also intended to smash the Union right flank, and the Confederates struck the first blow. The four Federal units positioned along the northwestern map edge represent formations which have not entered the game at this point in the struggle. The reinforcements will be released by an event card during play.

Bragg's objective at Stones River was to inflict as much damage as possible on the Federals before the Union reserves could be moved forward from the Yankee base at Nashville. Rosecrans was also eager to attack and he had actually planned to hit the Confederates on the previous evening. While the historical narrative at Murfreesboro creates a three-day battle this scenario only covers December 30th. This forces the Rebel commander to come out swinging and prevents the Union commander from using a turtle strategy.

Both generals anticipated a turning movement. For this reason it was important for Rosecrans to retain control of the road network leading to Nashville (marked with a Union flag token) and for Bragg to hold the town and its crossroads. Remaining in position near the fords would not help the Rebels if the Union army advanced, and Rosecrans was known to be an aggressive officer.

The scenario uses a "hot" deck with a mix of just 36 cards. Several unnecessary or unwanted cards (cavalry hit and run, entrenchments, supply shortage, etc.) have been removed. To speed play all of the skirmish cards and most of the probe cards have been taken out of the deck. A few special order cards have been converted into random event cards. For example, the original counterattack card requires the active player to immediately draw the top card from the deck and play it at once, reflecting the chaos on that battlefield. The fog of war was heavy at Murfreesboro. The original rally card signals the arrival of sunset. This card triggering a special twilight game turn is placed in the bottom quarter of the pile before the deck is assembled and will appear randomly.





With a large map and more than 40 infantry brigades in action it is obvious that the ability to conduct additional maneuvers is essential. Each player has a headquarters unit which functions at the center of a leadership web that includes staff officers, couriers, and division commanders.

Bragg's headquarters is shown in this photograph... the standing figure with the sword and revolver represents the grumpy general. This unit never moves and if it is forced to withdraw when the enemy approaches the special command ability of the headquarters is lost for the following turn. Bragg can send a courier to activate a single formation within six movement points (not six hexes) and he can rally any adjacent Rebel units.

Rosecrans could be an energetic but easily excitable battlefield leader. The special rules for his headquarters will be discussed later. At the beginning of the scenario the Union player receives four command cards while the Confederate player receives five cards.





In this photograph Confederate staff officers (with field glasses) have been attached to the Rebel brigades hitting the Union right flank. A formation accompanied by a staff officer does not require an order from a command card during this turn. In most cases a staff officer can be sent anywhere on the map. However, to reflect the high priority Rosecrans placed on his turning movement no Yankee staff officers may be assigned on the Union right flank during the first turn. Each player receives three staff officer miniatures and the figure can be reassigned at will. They are never "killed" in battle.

The miniature on horseback represents a Confederate division commander leading a reserve brigade into action... probably the superb Patrick Cleburne.





Division commanders like Cleburne and Phillip Sheridan performed crucial roles during the battle at Murfreesboro. Bold officers directed assaults or added weight to an attack by bringing forward reinforcements. This photograph shows a mounted Union division commander (probably "Little Phil") shifting a Yankee brigade after an adjacent unit has been forced to retreat. A Union staff officer is directing artillery fire from a hilltop in the background.

A formation led by a division commander requires no order from a command card and rolls an extra battle dice during combat. Each player has one division commander figure. The general is never "killed" and can transfer from brigade to brigade (the officer miniature does not represent a specific general) at the end of a turn.





Incredible luck for the Union commander during the first Rebel assault led to overconfidence. Rosecrans decided to execute his original plan and cross the river, as shown in this illustration.

The rules place an emphasis on maneuver. A crossed-sabers result only hits if the target is adjacent. Units can be displaced during a retreat, so a division won't be wrecked because it was performing a typical ACW tactical move like advancing in a line of brigades two deep. There is also a special rule for stragglers. When a player's formation has been reduced to one figure that unit can be removed from the board as "stragglers" by expending an order. These formations never return to the game but only count at 1/2 value for victory point scoring.

Army morale is an important element of the scenario. A system used in classic wargames has been adapted for Stones River. The first player to lose 8 brigades is demoralized and suffers severe command restrictions. During a special command event triggered by a card depleted brigades can be rallied and gain an extra miniature if a roll of the dice favors the player. I prefer a slow escalation of losses instead of sudden casualties which sweep units from the map.





This photograph shows Rosecrans (standing figure, pointing at his troops) attemting to rally a Union brigade which has been forced to withdraw from the Round Forest after a Confederate artillery barrage. The rough terrain of the Round Forest offers defensive advantages and it is a crucial location.

Rosecrans moved across the battlefield in bursts of raw energy in 1862. He often interferred with subordinates but his presence was an inspiration to the Union soldiers. Unlike Bragg's HQ, the Federal commander can move at will. However, to reflect the rollercoaster element that was part of the Rosecrans psyche a special rule is in effect. The first time Rosecrans is moved the Union player must dump his entire hand and draw six new cards. This gives the Yankees a one-card advantage at the cost of throwing the general's initial plan out the window.





The Union commander's luck soon ran out. The defenses on the Federal right flank collapsed and that entire wing was forced to retreat. In this image a couple of Union reserve brigades from the divisions under Thomas are attempting to make a stand amid a torrent of fugitives. The turning movement on the other side of the river was halted as Rosecrans evaluated his options.

The confusion and chaos found on a typical Civil War battlefield is frequently a good match for the random nature of the Battle Cry system. However, the left-center-right format of the game created a painful dilemma in the Stones River scenario. As in the historical campaign all of the action gravitated to the center of the board, leaving both flanks nearly empty. My epic scenario turned out to be an epic fail.

This was a disappointment but I had a good time setting up the scenario and playing with my army men. Doing the research is half the fun anyway. I'm not going to expend more energy on Murfreesboro because I'll need a few months to create the massive two-map (40" x 56") Chancellorsville scenario by May 2013.
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Steve Duke
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Did you play this solo?
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Pete Belli
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Yes.

I use a solitaire system adapted from an old set of miniatures rules to determine which command card will be played. This keeps the tension level high.

However, in this session I made a sincere effort to execute the turning movement Rosecrans had planned in 1862.
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Dale Hurtt
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That really looks good! Thanks for posting.
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Pete Belli
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Here is the solitaire system I use to determine which command card will be played:



Select three cards from your hand.

Your first choice is the card which (in your opinion) offers the best option.

Your second choice is a good option, but probably a less effective maneuver than the first card.

Your third choice might be a stinky card, or maybe just the least attractive option.



Now roll a standard six-sided die.

If the result is 4, 5, or 6 play your first choice.

If the result is 2 or 3 play your second choice.

If the result is 1 play your third choice.
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Steve Duke
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I am tremendously impressed by your research!

I've got 3 sets of the figures painted up and think they would look great on your map.

Can you go into some detail on how you made the map and how easy/difficult it was, what material you used, etc?

Thanks, I may host an event at my house on the actual day of the battle (one of the days) this year and might try and make your map.

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Pete Belli
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I'll post an image of the map this weekend.

It was drawn by hand.
 
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Pete Belli
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Here is an image of the map:




I would suggest shifting the section boundary on each side so that all three sections (L-C-R) are seven hexes wide.
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