Rebel Yell had been on my "to play" list for years, so when I learned a long-time PbEM buddy, Kevin Treese, was likewise interested, I seized the opportunity to play Lone Jack using the game's Vassal module. In Kevin's own words, "I had also been wanting to give Lone Jack a try since the DTP version came out and I read the article, "All Shot to Pieces". I was happy to see that One Small Step was going to publish it as a folio, and ordered it as soon as it was up for pre-order."
Lone Jack has been around in a DTP edition for years, but One Small Step published it as a "folio" only in 2015. The Vassal module's graphics are those of the DTP edition. Although entirely functional, they don't compete with OSS's folio for esthetics.
But hey, I wasn't looking for an esthetic experience -- I wanted to learn how to play Rebel Yell. Richard Dengel, the designer, readily states that RY is complex. I agree in the sense that there's a lot to absorb, but not in the sense that any of the rules are somehow beyond the comprehension of anyone familiar with tactical wargaming. As Kevin and I were rookies, that meant a lot of on-the-job training for both of us and a few goofs along the way, but a little persistence and patience ultimately paid off.
Lone Jack pits Confederate irregulars against three Missouri State Militia (MSM) regiments and the 7th Missouri Volunteers (MOV). Everyone is from Missouri, and the special rules for the scenario suggest the two sides are pretty steamed at each other. Those with a "politically correct" orientation may feel a little squeamish playing the Rebs, because none other than William Quantrill's guerillas show up as reinforcements. Their lack of training shows, however, and they'd have to be pretty lucky to prevail, even against Union militia.
The original DTP edition was subtitled, "A Missouri Street Fight". That's because the action does indeed swirl around the town's buildings, which cluster along a north-south road running straight as an arrow through the map. The buildings afford excellent defensive advantages, and the Rebs are tasked with flushing their opponents out of them. A cornfield lies east and south of town, and an overgrown prairie lies to the west. A fence separates the town's cleared area from the prairie, while an osage hedge demarcates the town's east edge from the cornfield beyond. (Note that north is to the right of the map.)
Whoever controls the Union headquarters hex at the end of the game wins. The HQ must be placed in the Blacksmith's shop, and Kevin picked the building's southwest corner. As the Yanks, his strategy was to occupy the buildings and try and set up overlapping fields of fire to keep the Rebs away from the HQ unit as long as possible. As the Rebs, I was looking for a soft spot in the defenses.
In the words of the Designer, Rebel Yell is all about "the problem of Approach" -- get too close to the enemy, and he starts blazing away. Complicating Confederate Colonel Jeremiah Cockrell's problem is the fact that his men are armed with smoothbore muskets and shotguns, while most of their Union foes, who are all cavalry fighting dismounted, carry rifled muskets and carbines. Not only that, but the Rebs have a limited supply of ammunition. Thus, they cannot count on shooting their way to victory. Instead, they must put their heads down, close with the enemy and assault, depending on bayonets, fists, knives, and musket butts to settle the issue. And when they do, they must go all in. If they go in piecemeal, they'll be shot to pieces.
But enough background -- on to the action. Here's how things looked at start.
The Yanks holed up in the various buildings (grey hexes), but with a significant gap between 7th MOV and Foster's three other regiments. Although Cockrell sent Hunter's regiment around the Union left, most of the Rebs took position behind the fence and decided to await reinforcements. Luckily for them, Hays' regiment entered that same turn, ensuring Cockrell a favorable balance of forces.
The Yanks unlimbered two rifled field pieces just in front of the Blacksmith's shop. Major Foster, the Union commander, positioned himself with his artillery and stayed with the artillery for the duration of the game, as Reb fire kept disrupting them. He was able to rally them automatically (no dieroll) and keep the Rebs at bay.
With Hays' regiment now abreast of Tracy's, Cockrell sent Hunter against the Union left, while Jackmann's regiment, the largest Cockrell has, plunged more deeply, looking to close quickly on Foster's HQ. Some Reb companies adopted Skirmish formation, while another was "Driven to Cover" by Union "Advance Fire" (i.e., opportunity fire versus approaching enemy units). Cockrell left Tracy and Hays to their own devices, counting on them to use some initiative while he led the drive with Hunter's and Jackmann's regiments.
Jackmann's and Hunter's flanking pressure prompted Foster to pull 6th MSM closer to HQ, while 7th MOV began moving toward the center. Meanwhile, Hancock's cavalry and Quantrill's guerillas entered via the southwest corner of the map. Tracy's regiment took the bull by the horns and threatened the Union artillery, but Hays was "out of command" and able to do no more than shield the Rebel left.
Don't mind the markers with the fiery-looking stars. We used them to mark firing units and their targets. Their real function will become plain later on.
Jackmann and Hunter ground their way toward Foster's HQ. They managed to rout part of the 6th MSM, but Union fire drove both Tracy and Hays back. Quantrill and Hancock tried a diversion against the Union rear.
Foster's 8th MSM counterattacked south from the Cave Hotel, but Jackmann and Hunter gained further ground. Tracy and Hays traded shots with the Union artillery, while the 7th MOV completed the hedgehog around the HQ. Quantrill and Hancock continued to ride, looking for a soft spot.
Worsting the 6th MSM, Jackmann and Hunter cleared the southern end of town and pulled adjacent to the Cave Hotel. Tracy took some heavy fire, but Hays kept the Union right occupied. Quantrill and Hancock were unable to mount any serious threat. Foster posted the beaten 6th MSM to keep an eye on them.
Hunter's men set fire to the Cave Hotel, sending part of the 8th MSM fleeing for their lives. The fire is bound to spread, meaning the Union hold on the hotel is doomed. But elsewhere Foster's men kept the Rebs in check.
As the rest of Cave Hotel went up in flames, Cockrell was finally able to form a coherent line around the Union strongpoint. But heavy fire from the 7th MSM, now Foster's strongest regiment, disrupted three of Jackmann's companies, delaying a concerted rebel push.
Cockrell managed to rally and marshal his forces for a coordinated push. While Tracy was no longer in fighting condition, Hays, Hunter, Jackmann, Quantrill and Hancock all charged the Union line, Cockrell himself leading three of Jackmann's companies. Quantrill failed to penetrate the Osage hedge, Jackmann came up short against 7th MSM's unit in the southeast corner of the Blacksmith shop, and Hunter likewise couldn't budge 7th MSM's unit in the clear. But Hays broke into Foster's line, destroying one of 8th MSM's companies, and most importantly, Cockrell seized the Union HQ!
It wasn't over, however. The Union had the final Action Segment, and fortunately also had a fresh, full strength company from 7th MSM adjacent to the space. It could thus counterattack during this last segment of the turn and game. Foster didn't waste any time, and 7th MSM's color bearers led the way. Cockrell and a company of Jackmann's regiment, disrupted following their advance into the Blacksmith's shop, held their own at first, but Cockrell fell in a hail of Union lead, and his men broke and ran. Foster had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
I suspect my Rebs were a little on the timid side and should have launched their big push a couple turns earlier. Kevin's assessment of Yankee strategy was, "It worked out fairly well as I was able to keep the rebels from massing for a big push until the last turn of the game. The yanks are the easier side to play in Lone Jack, as they mostly are blazing away at the rebels for most of the game."
We learned plenty from this first play, but there's also plenty we barely explored, like intentional "Skedaddle", Skirmish formation, voluntarily taking "Cover", and Cavalry charges.
Our game went down to the wire. You really can't ask for better in terms of balance. Reminds me of the first time I played Huzzah!'s Iuka scenario (Huzzah! is Rebel Yell's "lite" version.) It, too, was decided in the last phase of the game. Yeah, it's coincidence, but it's the kind of coincidence that will keep me coming back for more. Kevin's verdict was similarly positive: "A very enjoyable game, and as Bill implied, not as complicated as it seems. Now my turn as the rebels."
Looking forward to the journey. My thanks to Kevin for contributing to this AAR.
- Last edited Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:44 pm (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:44 am