Wayne Hansen
United States
Springfield
Missouri
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Battle of 1st Kernstown wrote:

... after winning a foot race for the protection of the stone walls lining the rolling hills, the Confederate infantry poured devastating fire into the approaching Union units. Late in the afternoon, however, overwhelming Union numbers took their toll and the southern soldiers began to run out of ammunition. As the day ended the Confederates were forced to retreat leaving the Kernstown battlefield and Sandy Ridge in northern hands.

"I do not recollect of ever having heard such a roar of musketry", wrote General Stonewall Jackson after the battle. When darkness ended the battle, casualties for both sides totaled over 1000 men. Kernstown was the first battle fought in the Valley, and it launched the great campaign still studied today, Gen. Jackson's famous Valley Campaign of 1862. It was to be his only tactical loss. Union leaders, convinced that the size of their opponent had been near 10,000, cancelled plans to move the bulk of their army out of the Valley. This turned a defeat for Jackson into a strategic victory for the Confederate army.

The following is a DETAILED, and I do mean DETAILED, playthrough of the Scenario #1 (The Battle for the Stone Wall at 1st Kernstown) from the game Kernstown. I will give a blow-by-blow, roll-by-roll, and chit draw by draw account of the action. In between turns, I will show a picture updating you on what the battlefield currently looks like.

Victory Conditions: In the below picture you can see the Confederates 27th VA infantry regiment. To the left of him are two hexes with stars and the number 1 on them, those are two of the victory hexes. He is sitting on another one. And the last is to the bottom right. The Union must control at least two of them by scenario end, for a minor USA victory.

You've read the introduction, you've read the history, you know what I'm going to give you. Let's dive in, shall we?


Beginning Setup

Turn 1 - 3:40PM

Artillery Phase
Confederate artillery, Allegheny, moves through the woods and sets up just behind the stone wall, preparing for the expected Union assault.

Chit Draw/Brigade Activation Phases
Chit #1: CSA Vets (Rebel Event). The Rebels hold the chit.
Chit #2: Fortunes of War (Wild Chit): The next chit pulled is disregarded.
Chit #3: CSA Low Ammo (Union Event). This chit is disregarded. However, during this scenario, the CSA Low Ammo chit is ignored before the 5PM turn, so this is no real loss for the Union.
Chit #4: Rebel Yell! (Rebel Event). The Rebels hold the chit.
Chit #5: Firefight (Rebel Event). The Rebels hold the chit.
Chit #6: CSA Low Ammo (Union Event). See above.
Chit #7: Confederate Brigade Activation Chit, Garnett. The die is rolled and compared to his Command Rating (5). 6, ouch! That means the brigade marker is flipped to activated, and he may only conduct a Limited Activation. A LA is a Fire Combat Step only. Unfortunately for Garnett, his 27th VA regiment is too far away from the Union forces for their smoothbore muskets to be effective at Fire Combat. Looks like a wasted opportunity for the Rebels!
Chit #8: Union Brigade Activation Chit, Tyler. We roll against the Command Rating, and get… another 6! With Tyler’s CR of 4, that means his Union forces can only conduct a Limited Activation. Unfortunately for the Union, only one regiment is in a position to fire at the Rebels, and even then only at “extreme” (25% effectiveness) range. Remember in Blind Swords you target a hex, not a unit. But as that hex only has one unit, it automatically becomes the Lead Unit. Calculating the SP’s, I find even more bad news for the Union. Due to the extreme range, the Union attack is reduced to 1 Strength Point. And because the Rebel unit is in a hex with a wall in it (battle for the stone wall!), there are two column shifts in favor of the defender, which brings the total attacking SPs off the chart. The fire is ineffective.
Chit #9: Command Confusion (Union Event). This chit is best drawn early on, allowing the Union player to try and jump the Rebel’s orders in the Orders Step. Regardless, in turn 1 of this scenario, Command Confusion can not be played on the Rebel player.

End Phase
Although the Confederates have several event chits they could play, they choose not to, as they wish to remain in their defensive position behind the stone wall. The Union doesn’t have any event chits that would be applicable. Brigade markers flipped back over, event chits are gathered, and the turn marker advanced to 4:00PM.

Turn 1 Recap: A poor showing for the Union forces. The scenario starts with only two Rebel units on the map, and the Union likely missed a big opportunity to advance and take ground, before Rebel reinforcements arrive. That’s a consequence of the poor command and control available at the time… along with a bad die roll!


End of Turn 1

Turn 2 - 4:00PM

Artillery Phase
Confederate artillery unit Allegheny activates, and decides to Fire. He targets a hex containing the 7th Ohio infantry. Allegheny starts with 2 SP, the targeted hex is light woods, so a column shift to the left puts his final SP at 1. He rolls 3-6. Looking at the CRT under 1 SP, that results in ineffective fire.

Chit Draw/Brigade Activation Phases
Chit #1: Union Fatigue (Rebel Event). The Rebels hold the chit.
Chit #2: CSA Fatigue (Union Event). The Union holds the chit.
Chit #3: Firefight (Rebel Event). The Rebels hold the chit.
Chit #4: Confederate Brigade Activation Chit, Burks. The die is rolled with a result of 1. Success! Burks’ brigade receives a Full Activation. Burks 21st VA Infantry regiment enters the map at hex 2139 as reinforcements. The Rebels give them a Maneuver Order. Interrupt! The Union plays their “CSA Fatigue” chit on the 21st VA. This event can produce stragglers, and reduces the movement of the affected unit. The Union rolls a 5-3. The 5 means no stragglers (a break for the Rebels), but the 3 is the 21st VA’s new Movement Allowance for the turn. Under the Maneuver order it would have been 6. Ouch! The Rebels, slowed by their apparent fatigue, are only able to move 3 hexes closer to the stone wall.
Chit #5: Fortunes of War (Wild Chit). The next chit pulled is disregarded.
Chit #6: Union Brigade Activation Chit, Tyler. This is terrible luck for the Union. With the Fortunes of War wild chit in effect, the Union’s brigade activation chit is disregarded.
Chit #7: Fog of War. A 1 is rolled on the Fog of War chart, with a result of “Union Battlefield Chaos”. The Rebel player places the chit on the 7th OH regiment. This chit reduces their combat effectiveness for the rest of the turn.
Chit #8: CSA Low Ammo (Union Event). It’s still before the 5PM turn, so this chit has no effect.
Chit #9: Rally! (Union Event). Must be played immediately. Unfortunately for the Union, none of this chits effects will help them currently.
Chit #10: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Garnett. A 3 is rolled, passing Garnett’s Command Rating of 5, and allowing a Full Activation. However the Rebels will effectively pass this turn, as they are too far away for effective Fire Combat, yet don’t want to leave their defensive position along the stone wall.
Chit #11: Brigade Reserve Movement (Rebel Event). The chit must be played immediately. The Rebels have no problem with that! They use the chit to bring Fulkerson’s brigade (scheduled as reinforcements this turn) onto the map, and then move the units 6 MP (I’ll be honest, I'm not 100% if you can move them after placing them on the map, the event description isn’t clear, but that’s how I’m playing it until corrected). Fulkerson’s brigade moves up, and settles in at the stone wall.
Chit #12: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Fulkerson. A 5 is rolled, above the Command Rating of 4, meaning only a Limited Activation is possible. Fulkerson’s smoothbore muskets are out of range of the Union forces, so they stand pat.

End Phase
The Confederates forgo playing their event chits, as none of them would be applicable at this time. Brigade markers flipped back over, event chits are gathered, fog of war chit removed, and the turn marker advanced to 4:20PM

Turn 2 Recap: The timing of the chit draws, with Tyler’s brigade activation being negated by the Fortunes of War chit, was devastating to the Union. This is the second turn in a row that the brigade has remained frozen in their starting positions. They will need to make up a lot of ground, and quickly, to have any chance at seizing the stone wall and winning this scenario.


End of Turn 2

Turn 3 - 4:20PM

Artillery Phase
Confederate artillery unit Allegheny activates, and Fires. He targets the hex containing the 7th Ohio infantry. Allegheny starts with 2 SP, the targeted hex is light woods, so a column shift to the left puts his final SP at 1. He rolls 1-4. Looking at the CRT under 1 SP, that results in ineffective fire.

Chit Draw/Brigade Activation Phases
Chit #1: Fog of War (Wild event). A 6 is rolled: Tactical Event. This is an optional table. We’re going to use it. Another roll gives a 5: USA tactical bonus. The Union will be able to apply a 2 column shift (positive or negative), in any combat this turn. The Union will appreciate that, assuming they can close with the Rebels!
Chit #2: Rally! (Rebel Event). Unfortunately it is of no use to the Rebels this turn. Discarded without effect.
Chit #3: Confederate Brigade Activation Chit, Burks. A 6 is rolled, which is greater than Burks Command Rating of 3. All his brigade can do is a Limited Activation (Fire Step only). Which is bad luck, because Burks had a regiment ready to enter as reinforcements. It won’t be able to now with a Limited Activation.
Chit #4: CSA Fatigue (Union Event). The Union will hold the chit.
Chit #5: Fortunes of War. Next chit drawn is disregarded.
Chit #6: Union Brigade Activation chit, Tyler. You can’t get any worse luck. Once again, the Union player will be unable to activate their brigade. Perhaps fate has determined it’s just not their day.
Chit #7: CSA Low Ammo (Union Event). A low ammo marker is immediately placed on a Rebel unit. The Union chooses Garnett’s 27th VA regiment, the regiment closest to the Union. A unit with a low ammo marker involved in fire combat suffers a -2 column shift.
Chit #8: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Garnett. A 6 is rolled, which is greater than Garnetts Command Rating of 5. Limited Activation. This is good news for the Union, as Garnett had two regiments scheduled as reinforcements this turn.
Chit #9: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Fulkerson. A 5 is rolled, which is greater than Fulkerson’s Command Rating of 4. Another Limited Activation. No units are within Fire range of the Union, so they do nothing.
Chit #10: Command Confusion (Rebel Event). This chit will be held.
Chit #11: Good Ground (Union Event). This chit will be held.
Chit #12: Rebel Yell! (Rebel Event). This chit will be held.

End Phase
The Confederates and Union forgo playing their event chits. Brigade markers flipped back over, event chits are gathered, and the turn marker advanced to 4:40PM

Turn 3 Recap: Another disastrous turn for the Union. Although the Rebels did little to fortify their position, thanks to some Command Rating failed rolls, the Union had made absolutely zero progress. They did manage to inflict the Rebel’s 27th VA regiment with a low ammo marker. Will they start turning things around next turn? Let’s see…


End of Turn 3

Turn 4 - 4:40PM

Artillery Phase
Confederate artillery unit Allegheny activates, and Fires. He targets the hex containing the 7th Ohio infantry. Allegheny starts with 2 SP, the targeted hex is light woods, so a column shift to the left puts his final SP at 1. He rolls 4-6. Looking at the CRT under 1 SP, that results in a possible hit. If the 7th OH is at a 0 or 1 Cohesion Rating, we will roll on the Routine (Green) Cohesion Test table. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the Union is made of sterner stuff, and that regiment has a CR of 4. Ineffective fire.

Chit Draw/Brigade Activation Phases
Chit #1: Command Confusion (Union Event). The chit is held.
Chit #2: Rebel Yell! (Rebel Event). The chit is held.
Chit #3: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Barnett. A 5 is rolled, equalling his Command Rating of 5. He has a full activation. He gives a Maneuever order, to get his pending reinforcements on the map. Interupt! Before the Manuever order takes effect, the Union plays their Command Confusion chit, forcing a roll on a chart. A 6 is rolled. That means a different order must be assigned to the brigade, USA player choice. The Union chooses the Regroup order. Garnett’s brigade is unable to move (Regroup gives no MP’s), including the off-map reinforcements.
Chit #4: Fortunes of War (Wild chit). Next chit pulled is disregarded.
Chit #5: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Fulkerson. More bad luck for the Rebels, as this chit is ignored, and his brigade is activated without effect.
Chit #6: Union Brigade Activation chit, Tyler. A 3 is rolled, less than Tyler’s Command Rating of 4. Finally! Tyler’s regiments spring into action. He gives an Attack order. None of the units are close enough to engage in Fire combat. They move closer to the Rebel line. The 7th OH regiment (a & b units) and 7th IN (b unit) regiment assaults the Rebel line in Close Combat! The final CRT column (after modifiers) is 12-13. A 5-5 is rolled.With the 27th VA’s 5 CR, that results in a Routine (Green) Cohesion Test. The dice are rolled again, with a result of 2-1. The 2 results in no effect under the Depletion table, and under the Skedaddle table the 1 results in the attacker taking a Morale Hit (assigned to the unit with highest SP from the Assaulting Hex). The 27th VA regiment of the Rebels holds strong behind that stone wall, and repulses the Union attackers!
Chit #7: Firefight (Union Event). The Union chooses the hex containing the 7th OH regiment (a & b units) to engage in a Fire Combat against the hex containing the 27th VA regiment. The final CRT column (after modifiers) is 4. A 6-2 is rolled. With the 27th VA’s 5 CR, that results in a Routine (Green) Cohesion Test. The dice are rolled again, with a result of 2-1. No effect from either Depletion or Skedaddle roll! Now the Rebels get to fire back! The final CRT column (after modifiers) is 2. A 3-6 is rolled. The Rebel’s return fire is ineffective.
Chit #8: Rally! (Union Event). This chit is used on the hex containing their only broken unit (7th OH a), and the Shaken marker is removed.
Chit #9: Brigade Reserve Movement (Rebel Event). The Rebels use this on Garnett’s brigade to bring in the off-map reinforcements.
Chit #10: Fog of War (Wild chit). A 2 is rolled, Rebel Battlefield Chaos. The Union places the Fog of War chit on a stack of Garnett’s units.
Chit #11: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Burks. A 2 is rolled, less than Burks’ Command Rating of 3. Full Activation. He issues an Attack order, and brings in the off-map reinforcements. All of the Rebels reinforcements are now on the map.
Chit #12: Rally! (Rebel Event). The chit cannot be used, so it is discarded.

End Phase
Final Held Event Chit: The Rebels play their Rebel Yell! Chit on Garnett’s 2nd VA regiment. The 2nd VA charges the Union line and engages in Close Combat! A 4-2 is rolled. That results in a Routine (Green) Cohesion Test. A 6-3 is rolled. The 6 on the Depletion table results in D2 (Depletion to two units)… both Union units in the defending hex are flipped from their Fresh to their Battleworn sides! The 3 on the Skedaddle table results in RA2. All defending units must retreat 2 hexes. The Union regiment, after being whooped by the Rebels, is only glad to retreat from those howling devils! The charging Rebels stand strong, and don’t pursue the Union. They take up position behind the stone wall. Brigade markers flipped back over, event chits are gathered, and the turn marker advanced to 5:00PM.

Turn 4 Recap: What a turn! Finally both sides were able to engage each other. The Rebels definitely came out ahead this turn. They were also able to get the rest of their reinforcements on the map. Let’s see if the Union can get their troops up and assault the Rebels up and down the line and force a decisive confrontation.


End of Turn 4

Turn 5 - 5:00PM

Artillery Phase
Confederate artillery Allegheny activates, and Fires. He targets the hex containing the 7th IN (b unit). There is a friendly unit in an intervening hex, so the shot is obscured. He does get to use canister (150% of SP) due to being a smoothbore cannon within 2 hexes. He rolls a 5-2 on the CRT under the 3 SP column. This causes a Routine (Green) Cohesion check. The dice are rolled again, with a result of 6-2. The 6 on the Depletion chart causes a D. The 7th IN-b is flipped to its battleworn side. The 2 on the Skedaddle chart has no effect. The 7th IN is bloodied, but standing.

Chit Draw/Brigade Activation Phases
Chit #1: Fog of War. A 3 is rolled. Wayward Union Move. The Rebel player can select a Union unit to move one hex. He chooses the 7th IN-b. This triggers Opportunity fire from the adjacent Rebel units. Fulkerson’s 37th VA regiment fires first. He rolls a 5-4. This forces a Routine (Green) Cohesion test. He rolls a 6-3. The 6 on the Depletion chart forces a roll on the Break Test Table (since the unit is already on its battleworn side). A 2 is rolled. Since this is equal to its current Cohesion Rating of 2, the unit is not broken, but is given a Shaken marker. Now the hex containing Garnett’s 27th VA and 2nd VA combine their fire. He rolls a 3-4. This forces a Routine (Green) Cohesion check. He rolls a 2-4. The 2 for Depletion is no effect, the 4 for Skedaddle forces a R1 (retreat 1 hex). The movement is cancelled, and the one hex retreat goes into effect.
Chit #2: CSA Low Ammo (Union Event). He places the low ammo marker on Fulkerson’s 37th VA regiment, as that unit and their 8SP has been causing havoc.
Chit #3: Rally (Union Event). He uses it on the 7th IN-b to remove the Shaken marker.
Chit #4: Firefight (Rebel Event). The chit is held.
Chit #5: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Burks. A 1 is rolled, below Burks’ Command Rating of 3. Full Activation. He gives an Assault order. His two regiments are farther than two hexes from a Union unit, so they can’t Fire. They do move up closer to the Union. They hold behind a section of stone wall, and do not engage in Close Combat.
Chit #6: Find Ammo (Rebel Event). They immediately use the chit to remove the low ammo marker from Fulkerson’s 37th VA.
Chit #7: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Barnett. A 6 is rolled, higher than Garnett’s Command Rating of 5. Limited Activation. With only being able to Fire, and the distance they are from the Union units, they will refrain from engaging.
Chit #8: Brigade Reserve Movement (Rebel Event). The chit is played on Garnett’s Brigade. Since not all of the regiments are adjacent, he picks the hex containing the 4th VA and 33rd VA. They are effectively given a Maneuver order. The regiments move up, adjacent to the stone wall.
Chit #9: CSA Low Ammo (Union Event). A low ammo marker is placed back on Fulkerson’s 37th VA. I guess they shot their ammo resupply off in celebration.
Chit #10: Confederate Brigade Activation chit, Fulkerson. A 4 is rolled, equalling his Command Rating of 4. Full Activation. He gives an Assault order. Both units refrain from Fire combat at this range. The 23rd VA moves up, adjacent to the 7th IN-b. He does not engage in Close Combat.
Chit #11: Union Brigade Activation chit, Tyler. A 4 is rolled, equalling his Command Rating of 4. Full Activation. He gives an Assault order. The 7th IN-b fires down onto Fulkerson’s 23rd VA. He rolls a 5-4. Looking under the 1SP column, we see no effect. The 7th IN-a fires at Garnett’s two VA regiments. A roll of 5-1 under the 1SP column means no effect. We enter the Movement step. We then enter the Close Combat step. The 110th PA a & b, along with the 29th OH a & b, assault the hex containing Garnett’s 33rd VA and 4th VA regiments First, Garnett’s regiments give Defensive fire to the OH regiments. A 6-6 is rolled. This results in a Tough (yellow) Cohesion test. A 4-2 is rolled. This gives a D, and R1 result. The Close Combat continues A roll of 2-3 on the CRT Table results in Close Fight (white). A 4-3 is rolled. The 4 on the Depletion table is no effect, the 3 on the Skedaddle table is AMH. The Union suffers one Morale Hit. They place a Shaken marker on their Leader unit, the 110th PA-a. The 7th IN a & b, along with the 1st WV a & b, assault the hex containing the 21st VA and 1st VA regiments. The VA regiments first give Defensive fire at the WV units. A 5-4 is rolled. This results in a Tough (yellow) Cohesion Test. A 5-1 is rolled. This results in D2 on the Depletion Chart, and no effect on the Skedaddle chart. Both Union units are flipped to their battleworn side. The Close Combat continues. A 3-5 is rolled. That results in a Close Fight (white) Cohesion test. A 3-1 is rolled. The 3 is no effect, the 1 is AMH AR2. So the attacker leader unit suffers a morale hit, and all attackers must retreat 2 hexes. Tyler’s brigade activations are over.
Chit #12: Fortunes of War (Wild). Since there is no next chit to draw, there is no effect.

End Phase
Final Held Event Chit Step: The Rebels play their Firefight event. Garnett’s 33rd VA and 3rd VA regiments fire at the adjacent Union units. A 2-5 is rolled, resulting in a Routine (Green) Cohesion test. A 2-4 is rolled. The 2 has no effect, the 4 results in a R1. Tyler’s Union regiments retreat 1 hex away.

Turn 5 Recap: This turn was a real ass-kicking for the Union. They suffered up and down the line. In fact, I consider the Union to be in such a bad place, I’m going to call the scenario as a Union loss. See the final picture of the battlefield, and my scenario recap below.


End of Turn 5 - End Scenario

Final Thoughts: Conceivably, the Union could take a victory hex (where the stone wall is), but they would need to capture two hexes for even a Minor USA victory. I don’t see that happening. They suffered horrible luck to start the battle, and when they finally started rolling, the Confederates were too entrenched behind the stone wall. A few lucky/unlucky rolls (depending on your perspective) later, and those hopes were dashed on the stone wall and the strong Confederate defenses.

I hope you enjoyed reading, or more likely skimming, this playthrough. There were times I hated to stop playing, knowing I had to pause to write down the action, because I wanted to roll the dice, draw another chit, etc, and see what would happen next. The Blind Swords design remains a modern classic, and Claude Whalen (and everyone else involved) has done a fantastic job bringing Kernstown to life with this gem of a game.
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James Cribbs
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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Great session report! I agree, the Blind Swords system is outstanding. And, boy, do those counters with the state outline look great sitting on that beautiful Rick Barber map!

Have some well deserved Geek Gold, sir!
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Ron Freda
United States
Indiana
Pennsylvania
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My play was a decided Union victory! That's what is neat about the BS games - ya never know how the game will turn out.
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Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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I have this set up on my table and will be playing through tomorrow. Good stuff!

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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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New York
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Wonderful report Wayne! Thanks so much for posting it. Claude did a great job with this game.

Hermann
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Claude Whalen
United States
Sewickley
Pennsylvania
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Wayne: In turn #2, you correctly used the Rebels Brigade Reserve Movement chit. The units can enter and move. Think of the BRM chit as a potential turn saver whenever your commanders fail their rolls.

Those first two turns put the Union in a hole but they still had a chance. As for pausing to take notes, you really do want to keep the action going.

Thanks for the kind words and I think Tyler wants a rematch!
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Rick Barber
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New Cumberland
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An epic AAR, and you seriously need to join Claude and Steve as a playtester - this is exactly the sort of AAR we've been treated to for several years and several games!

I've played many systems over many years, but Herm's Blind Swords system delivers a level of variability and narrative that I've never encountered before. One that matches the actual battlefield accounts that you can read if you're doing the research. He got this much out of the simplest and smallest scenario in the box!

I'm finishing up the proto map for First Bull Run in the BS system this week, and I guarantee that one will produce exactly the same narrative and mayhem you see described here! sauron
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Roy Theisen
United States
Wayne
Michigan
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Great AAR. I like the detailed report. Great job. I felt tension as the battle played out just reading this.
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Steve Carey
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West Coast
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jameycribbs wrote:
And, boy, do those counters with the state outline look great sitting on that beautiful Rick Barber map!

Indeed, the map is truly gorgeous.
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