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Subject: The First Day, a fragmentary AAR rss

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Iain K
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I've been playing this while finishing Cozzen's book of the same name while posting thoughts and pictures on CSW from time to time. Thought I would share here as well.




It's a tale of Bad to Worse for the Union in my session of The Gamers: "No Better Place to Die" (Battle of Stone's River).

On the Union Right, Hardee's Corps was making progress, at a price. The rate of attrition was generally in favor of the Secesh, save the wounding of Cleburne.



Then in the Center, disaster. Robert's Brigade of Sheridan's division rolled spectacularly badly on a morale check, 66, the worst possible. They routed, opening a gaping hole in the Union line near the Harding house. Worse still, this was a result of defensive fire by the CSA on the Union turn, so the CSA essentially got to "exploit" the gap, East Front style as the brigades of Cheatham's division poured through the hole to the limit of their MPs. The situation after the CSA turn (7:30am) wasn't pretty with Thomas displacing his HQ, now under a Sh marker in hex 27.15 and almost pocketed.



On the Union Left, little has happened. Van Cleve's division has crossed Stone's River and advanced on Wayne's Hill, per its orders. Volley's have been exchanged with Breckenridge's division but little blood split.



I'm enjoying the game a lot. The history is plausible and at the same time an engaging narrative. I still regularly look up rules, which are well written but just a lot to absorb. I look forward to seeing if the Union will be able to recover. Another turn remains until Rosencrans will be able to begin issuing orders. Here's hoping Thomas and Sheridan roll well for initiative as the Union portion of the 7:30am turn begins.

------------------



The whole battle field looking SE


It's the 10:00 turn (Dec 31st), just before Confederate movement.



The Union right and center, looking East

The Union has finally dropped back from "Gresham's Crossroads, where Sheridan's stout defense was about to be flanked as the rest Johnson's Division finally disintegrated. Bad news for the CSA as a massive assault on Sill's brigade put three of their healthiest brigades out of ammo. Two can be replenished before he wagons have to trundle back to Murfreesboro. The Union wagons have already left the area, and with them out of the way, McCook once again called for a General retreat to the positions we see now. I expect Hardee's corps to continue under its orders. You can see that a few brigades have paused to pick up stragglers, particularly those of Polk's most battered division.



The Union center and left, looking East

On the East side of the battlefield, things were quiet last turn. An artillery dual between Union guns by the Round Forest (they are under Palmer) and a CSA battery on a hill on the extreme right of Polk's line has managed to wear both batteries down to just two guns apiece. East of the river, Van Cleve continues to ignore his orders to fall back and protect the Ford. He also continues to pass his Corp attack check (his is a division acting independently). His men continue to assault Hanson's brigade on the Hill. They are just one hit from breaking Hanson who has stood like the proverbial Stonewall. Bragg has just issued orders for Breckinridge to advance and take Hoover's place and McFadden's Ford for some decent VPs. Now remember that Crittenden is under orders (which he hasn't accepted yet) to advance his remaining two divisions (Van Cleve being the other) against Polk's flank anchored by those annoying guns on the hill. Bottom line, we could have the last fresh Union formation moving into battle right when it needs to move to Van Cleve's support on the East side of the river. Granted that force could probably drive to Bragg's headquarters ... The astute reader will notice that I have kept Crittenden in conference with Rosencrans. Until he accepts his orders, I want to be able to issue him new ones ASAP. I'm willing to bet Van Cleve breaks Hanson, just before Breckinridge goes on the offensive, sweeping Van Cleve out of the way. Crittenden .. who the hell ever knows what he'll do?

Can you tell I'm enjoying the system? It does an excellent job of capturing, creating, those messy situations oh-so-common in history wherein the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Successes narrowly avoided, and disasters blindly achieved.

As things stand for "points" If Hardee's cavalry moves west and takes the bridge at Washington's Cemetery, we'll have a draw. The CSA has taken simply too many casualties. however, if they can wreck one more brigade in McCook's command, they'll score 5 vps and have a marginal victory (the historic result).
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Robert Hawkins
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Microbadge: What a Tanker!Microbadge: Root fanMicrobadge: ATS - Advanced Tobruk System fanMicrobadge: Saga fanMicrobadge: Parent of Two Boys
Good stuff - thanks for sharing. A few years ago I set up the opening Confederate attack scenario and played through it solo. Like you, I found the narrative very compelling as the boys in blue tried their best to slow down the reb thrust. It ended with several brigades on both sides bloodied to the exhausted level.
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scott shaffer
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Wonderful! Thank you for posting this.
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Ernest E. Brown
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Looks like Chickamauga's coming a bit early this time around!
 
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Iain K
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It's 12 noon and the CSA turn has just ended in my game of “No Better Place to Die”. For the past hour (2 turns) the action has been confined to the flanks of the two armies. Polk has been content to lick his wounds and Thomas has watched and waited.



East of Stone's River, Hanson's brigade was finally broken as it defended Wayne's Hill, but the Union commander on the scene, Van Cleve, was wounded in the final assault. Then Breckinridge received his orders from Bragg to switch to the offensive, and immediately did so. Two of the three Union brigades immediately fell apart leaving Price's brigade to stream back to McFadden's Ford where they've joined Morton's Pioneers a defensive line. At noon, Breckinridge's fresh brigades threw themselves against the Pioneers' line, with casualties to both sides. Price's battered brigade, on the right of the line, rolled a 66 on their morale check, the worst possible, and their flight to the Ford continued.



In the West, Hardee's advance continued to grind against the remnants of the Union Right. Sheridan's division in particular fought bitterly for Gresham's crossroads, a vital link between Hardee and Bragg's HQ. At 11:30 they finally pulled back, but kept the road under fire. Rather than press on however, with all three of the divisions (including Wheeler) under his command wrecked, and all three of their commanders wounded, Hardee finally rolled poorly on the Corps Attack Stoppage check. He's decided he'll go no further until ordered to. Bragg has already ordered him to do so, but with a D2 acceptance roll, it could be some time before he complies. And so the only shots fired at noon were on the east side of Stone's River, between Morton and Breckenridge.

It's been a brutal morning for both armies. Polk's Corps in the Confederate center has suffered 4,100 casualties. Wither is wounded and the brigades of Anderson, Chalmers, Maney, and Stewart are wrecked. Hardee's Corps (including Wheeler's cavalry but not Breckinridge) has suffered 5,500 casualties. All divisional commanders are wounded (Cleburne, McCown, and Wheeler) and all but two of the birgades are wrecked (Johnson and the just arrived cavalry of Buford). Breckenridge as a detached command has suffered 1,400 casualties but only Hanson's brigade is wrecked. So total CSA casualties (not including stranglers) are 11,000 even.

If anything, the Union has weathered a greater beating, but has done so while falling back in good order. In McCook's Right wing, 6,300 casualties, with all the brigades in Johnson and Sheridan's division wrecked. Davis' division is in remarkably good shape, while forces on his flanks have been mauled, only Post' brigade of Davis' division has any appreciable casualties (and it's wrecked). In the Center, Thomas' two divisions are equally disparate. Both brigades of Negley's division were wrecked by Polk's advance, but the late arriving Rousseau hasn't a single casualty. The Center has suffered 1,700 casualties total.

On the union left the divisions of Wood and Palmer have been relatively inactive. Palmer beat off Polk's right flank while losing only 600 men, and Wood has yet to be in action today. Van Cleve on the other hand was as severely wounded as his division with 1,600 casualties and all three brigades wrecked. Zahm's brigade is wrecked, but the other two brigades of Stanley's cavalry haven't seen action yet either. At noon total Union casualties are 10,800 men, two hundred less than the Confederates.

I remain impressed by the system. It's ability to capture the ebb-and-flow of the Civil War battlefield is impressive. It's all very organic, the way that localized actions rage while firing on other points of the line sputters and dies out. Combatants are forced to stop and 'catch their breath', regardless of what the players might desire. The history is plausible, and the gamers far from omnipotent. By this point I've internalized most of the rules and play is flowing quickly. When this session wraps up, I won't immediately play another, like a fine meal the system is best savored, but I know this will hit the table again, and there are many scenarios to explore.

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Iain K
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I'm about to wrap up my session. Along Stone's River, Breckinridge has driven the Pioneers and the remnant of Price's brigade back across McFadden's Ford.



On Hardee's flank, the Union cavalry under Standley obeyed their orders immediately and moved to defend the bridge at Washington Cemetery. Hardee had ordered Wheeler to take it hours ago, but Wheeler was wounded, and his replacement rolled Dt ... losing or ignoring the orders. Bragg ordered Hardee to take it, but Hardee still hasn't accepted those orders.




As things stand now, the Union has a marginal victory. Although the CSA has captured several VP sites, none are worth much and the CSA losses in achieving them were simply too great. I blame that on my own inexperience and on the initiative of Phil Sheridan. As the Right Wing withdrew, he took the initiative to defend the Wing from Cheatham's dangerous incursion from the East and then pivoted to blunt Hardee's advance from the south. Much of the action centered on the Gresham place and the crossroads nearby.



The VPs from the wrecking of McCook's Right Wing was offset by the wrecking of Hardee's Corps. VPs from casualties, which are remarkably close to the historical result (itself an amazing thing in a wargame), are in the Union's favor. The net result is +4VP for the Union. I could play the rest of the day, but at this point, barring capture of some place like the bridge at Washington's Cemetery things are unlikely to change. The CSA is unlikely to recover faster than the Union and the Union still has a great defensive position which includes several completely un-bloodied brigades (1 brigades of Davis' division on the Right wing, Rousau's division in the Center and Wood's division on the Union Left). Bragg could order Breckinridge across the Ford and into the Union Left, but to what end, he'd face four fresh Union brigades. In fact, I wonder if the Union could counterattack without exposing itself to danger. Regardless, I plan on wrapping up this play but I look forward to my next session of CWB with I suspect, Thunder at the Crossroads.
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