- (Arcology)United States
This is why I got into wargaming
After playing several shorter scenarios from SJWII and BAC, I decided to finally play a full campaign or “Advanced Scenario” solitaire. If you’re interested in GCACW at all, SJWII is a great place to start. The smaller scenarios have been a good introduction to learn the system. Scenario 9 is also a good introduction to the longer campaign scenarios, and it’s only 15 turns, whereas some of the other campaigns in other games run 40 turns. While haven’t found the short scenarios in SJWII too exciting, Scenario 9 provided everything I look for in a wargame.
Every turn, each side was faced with difficult decisions. These decisions ranged from the big -- such as, “Should I fall back to the Rappahannock?” or “Which path to Fairfax County should I take?” -- to the tactical, like choosing whether to press an attack or keep moving even though you’ll end up at Fatigue 4, vulnerable for the rest of the turn and weaker the next ones.
Too, the random events provided constant variety, and I’m sure these will vary from playing to playing, providing high replayability. In these Advanced Scenarios, Confederate corps leaders can die in combat, and supply becomes a factor for both sides. All of this chrome is well thought out and adds excitement to every die roll.
A Pyrrhic victory
At the start of the game, the USA pulled back to the Rappahannock. The CSA decided to skirt them, heading east. It soon rained, which slowed movement, and before Turn 6, some CSA units slipped back into Spotsylvania County to get supply.
Over the next 5 turns, the Army of Northern Virginia traded body blows with the Union in eastern Prince William County, eventually forcing a crossing over Cedar Run. The CSA forces successfully concentrated in Fairfax County, but the USA rallied and effectively contained them. Still, the Union effort wasn’t enough to prevent a significant embarrassment, with Lee’s army at the gates of Washington.
Diagram A. Final positions in my solitaire game.
The CSA scored 97 points for a Substantive Victory. Those points broke down as follows:
+5 Union panic
+3 Depot eliminated (1)
+18 Hexes controlled (Culpeper, Warrenton, Falmouth, Aquia Creek Station, Front Royal, Leesburg)
+36 Confederate divisions in Fairfax County (10 total; 6 within 4 hexes of the DC Defense Zone)
+45 Union manpower lost
+21 Union routs inflicted
-29 Confederate manpower lost
-2 Confederate routs inflicted
Percentage wise, the casualties were similar. The USA suffered 18% losses (45/253), and the CSA 19% (29/156). The CSA didn’t seem to have extraordinary luck. Notably: Jackson died in Fairfax County; Longstreet rolled successive sixes in attempting critical assault actions; and McLaws’s division, a strong end-game reinforcement, rolled a bunch of ones trying to find its way to the battle.
The Turn 11 supply phase also constrained the South. Unless the Southern forces take the Union Depot at Manassas Junction, and every unit stacks on it, most will be out of supply and have to roll for forage in unfriendly counties. This basically will keep them disorganized, which limits their movement options and combat power.
Despite these difficulties, the CSA still won. The USA player needs to keep its force intact and in between the CSA force and Fairfax County. This is hard to do, as the USA forces are generally inferior wherever the CSA chooses to concentrate. Too, an untimely Command Paralysis or Union Panic can slow down your movements or cause your entire force to unravel at the wrong time.
Far from the main battles between Lee and Pope and Lee and McClellan, the CSA was able to send some of its small, 7-strength reinforcing divisions to control victory locations. By the end, Ripley even passed through Leesburg on his way into Fairfax County, arriving (despite his share of rolled ones, too) four hexes away from the court house. (Pleasonton was on his way to slow down this intruder but, true to historical form, he lost several initiative rolls in this interesting last-turn sideshow). I had considered that the USA can divert some brigades and other units to these victory locations, but with lower tactical factors and combat values, it didn’t seem worth throwing away these units to only give the CSA more than the 3 VP each location offers. This is exactly what happened to a Federal cavalry unit in the course of things. If anything, these smaller battles, where single units fight each other and take up an entire initiative roll for their respective sides, make for interesting stories. At the same time, with victory locations spread all over, the whole map will probably get used.
On to Washington!
The victory conditions are involved and should be carefully read and considered before play. On the upside, they provide a lot of options -- more great decisions -- as to how to accumulate victory points. Note that casualties and routs will need to be tracked, and that there are two types of rout rewards depending on the size of the force. While the game conveniently comes with VP markers and a box for tracking casualties, I use pencil and paper, simply because it’s easier and prevents a serious mistake if one VP counter gets bumped. Routs will have to be tracked on paper anyway.
This VP tracking can slow down combat a bit, but overall the victory points provide multiple ways to achieve victory. For example, if the USA player decides to play turtle and hide in the DC Defense Area to avoid casualty points, the CSA player can burn train stations and occupy Fairfax Court House and other key locations.
Stopping the CSA player will be the USA player’s key objective; where and how to do so is the tough part. It seems that the USA player will want to keep the CSA divisions out of Fairfax County. If that had happened in my game, and the CSA had been contained in Prince William County, the CSA VP score would have been approximately 20 points lower, making for a much closer game. Still, stopping Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson may be a tall order, as the CSA has lots of room to maneuver, is usually faster moving, and also has an edge in combat wherever the plentiful USA units do make a stand. This is the central challenge of the scenario.
Diagram B. CSA attack routes.
For much of the game, the CSA player will hold the initiative, driving forward and attacking toward Fairfax County. Diagram B shows 5 possible routes to get there. The CSA player can gain VPs by getting infantry divisions into this county, and a further possible 20 points can be gained from controlling Fairfax Court House and Falls Church.
Route A, which I took in my game, offers the CSA the cover of woods. Woods terrain negates USA artillery, and division-for-division, the USA has an advantage in artillery strength. The downside of this route is that many USA reinforcements can enter at Aquia Creek Station and thus will enter the fray sooner. Also, the CSA needs to cross several creeks and rivers to get into Fairfax County this way. Another disadvantage of this route is that there is little room to maneuver; the water, board edge, and DC prevent further movement east, so once you take this route, you are committed to making it work.
Routes B and C are probably more direct. Using the turnpike can come in handy if it rains in the first 8 turns. Note that units can move for 1.5 MP on roads in rain. Route C can also skirt some of the rivers and creeks, which provide good defense lines for the Union troops. Bridges are important for crossing rivers in the rain; a flooded river will essentially eliminate the fords, preventing a crossing that way. Also, advancing along the rail line via Route B leads naturally to some VP possibilities, as stations can be burned along the way east. These routes also provide some flexibility; if one route doesn't work or is blocked by Union units, you can shift north or east. However, there is more open terrain along these routes, which favors the Union artillery in combat.
Routes D and E also offer routes into Fairfax County. Route D, especially, avoids many of the river and creeks encounter along other routes. However, marching on these two routes may take longer to get into Fairfax County, and the mountain gaps may be hard to force clear if the USA player gets blocking units in position. So, D and E may be good optional routes for a fast-moving flanking force. A CSA force moving through here can get behind a Union force further west, threatening them directly or cutting their supply routes, and ultimately forcing them to retreat eastward.
Altogether, this was one of the best wargaming experiences I’ve ever had. At 15 turns and with a sprinkling of chrome, Scenario 9 provides a great introductory campaign scenario for GCACW. Having started with the smaller scenarios and now working my way up to this one, I feel like I can take on greater challenges, maybe even one of those 40-turn campaigns.
Too, this scenario had many of those small, priceless wargaming moments. For example, around turn 6 it started to rain. Lee and Jackson had just crossed at Scott’s Dam Ford. Pope’s force, who seemed to roll a lot of sixes for movement, got units in position to block. Then the rivers flooded. As a result, Longstreet was separated from the rest of the army. Both sides took a breather, and I could imagine these immense, sullen armies, only a few miles apart, reorganizing and resupplying for the next round. All of these little moments added up to a great, unique narrative.
What’s more: No two games will tell the same story. Take one of the other routes I’ve suggested above. Press your luck, take that division to Fatigue 4, and launch a Hasty Attack. See what Random Events come up differently next time, or see if Pleasonton can stop Ripley this time. All of these elements will make Scenario 9 tense every time and worth playing again and again.
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- Thibault Nguyen(drago74)France
- Thanks for this great AAR. This campaign is probably one of the best to play: shorter than those of the other boxes, each side has the possibility to attack. Usually when all the AOP corps arrive in Fairfax, it is very hard for the CSA to stand.
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- Steve(garysax)United States
Arizonacome read articles and talk games on therewillbe.games
Amazing AAR. Kudos.
Playing full campaigns in this series is outstanding, I regret that I've only played 1-2 most of the way through. It is a COMPLETELY different experience than scenarios because you finally deeply care about fatigue and strength numbers. In many GCACW scenarios there is no penalty for flogging your units to 4 fatigue and losing huge numbers of troops to fatigue (no VP loss, typically). In a campaign however, attrition is dangerous. Losing 2-3 strength outside pf combat will reverberate throughout the rest of the campaign. There's no false "end of the world." This also has the knock on effect of making turns shorter and cagier, which is a good thing.
I hate to make hyperbolic statements, but if you haven't played a campaign in this series but have only played scenarios, you've played a great game but not the real game (which is even better).
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- Randy C(Calxx55)United States
IllinoisRobert L Howard (Medal of Honor recipient)
I have most of the games but have only played the basic game scenarios over the last few years.
I am in turn 6 of the advanced game now, and it is so much more.
We are using the limited intelligence rule, and suddenly cavalry units have become very important.
Thanks for the AAR
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