Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Battle for Seminary Ridge: July 1st, 1863

Dave was over yesterday and we played the entire Confederate assault against Seminary Ridge late on the afternoon of July 1st, 1863 at Gettysburg.  I was able to teach Norm's excellent "Two Flags - One Nation (TF-ON) rules to Dave in a turn or two and we set about playing.

Readers will remember a few weeks ago I crafted this scenario from Scott Mingus' "Enduring Valor" Gettysburg scenario book for "BattleCry."  Since the troops were already on the table, an outing with the hex-based TFON rules was called for!

Dave serving as General Pender positions his troops on move 1
In  TFON speak - all troops for this scenario are "seasoned."  The Iron Brigade are not elite to reflect their exhausted status on the afternoon of July 1st, 1863.  The Rebels must inflict 40% casualties and capture one of the 2 geographical objectives by Turn 10!  This stipulation would create an intense nail-biter of a scenario that could easily have gone either way.

General Pender with the assaulting Regiments of Scales' Brigade in the cornfield south of the Cashtown Road.
 Dave chose a slightly different plan from his predecessor, Brian, who weighted his entire assault on the Union left.  While Dave did select the Union left as key terrain, Scales' Brigade was certainly not idle during the engagement.

I learned my lesson from 2 previous walk throughs of this scenario, and reinforced Biddle's Philadelphians as well as shifted the Iron Brigade down to try and cover the gaps.

Note 2 Regiment-Deep defense on the left with Biddle's troops.
Dave had a bit of trouble coordinating the advance of Perrin's Brigade on his right and the command rules ensured the advancing troops had to wait for their comrades to catch up.  This exposed them to fire from the Union units on the hill.

Dave's advance in line abreast against the Union positions!  Note the single, lonely regiment of Confederates lower left, awaiting the advance of their comrades

Holes start to open up in the Union line as troops from Biddle's Brigade retreat under pressure from the intense firefight breaking out along the line.
 After 3 or 4 turns, Dave gets the hang of it and is "dangerous" now!  He starts assaulting Seminary Ridge and goes in with the Cold Steel.  Wadsworth's troops are pushed back in the center and Dave claws his way onto the ridgeline in the center!

Scales' North Carolinians break through in the center!
 The battle see-saws back and forth with the Rebels pushing forward onto the ridgeline, and swift Yankee counterattacks pushing them off.  The combined 2/7th Wisconsin is suffering greatly and almost routes off the table until they are put back in the line by Meredith!

Fighting around the Lutheran Theological Seminary is particularly fierce!
Dave and I are loving the back-and-forth struggle for the ridgeline and now that close combat has been joined the game gets even more tense and exciting as casualties mount on both sides.  As expected, Rebel casualties are particularly high but the decision making becomes nerve wracking for both of us!  Do you shoot and try to inflict even more casualties?  Or do you move to consolidate your position?

Dave has multiple regiments in reserve and commits them to the assault!  For a number of turns, the Rebels grab a toe hold on the hill, only to be pushed off.  By turn 7, Dave has 3 Regiments already on Seminary Ridge who, by taking their capability test all route off of the ridgeline and back into the cornfield!

Rebels are now on the backside of Seminary Ridge!  This single South Carolina unit is on the objective, but the Rebels are close to taking 40% casualties!  The tension is mounting!

Rebels also breakthrough at the Lutheran Theological Seminary!

Attacking the 19th Indiana now, my last remaining fresh unit!

Rebels pushed back up the hill off of the objective, for now!

come on boys, they're gonna break!

Rebels pouring up the hill!

General Pender directing his men personally!

Gaping hole torn open in the Union line as Biddle's men give ground

More rebel assaults up and down the line as the yankee troopers consolidate their position on the backside of the hill.
 2 Brigades are intermingled on the backside of the hill due to retreats and the command situation becomes confused with Iron Brigade troops mixed up with different commanders.  Doubleday is needed to sort it out, but he's sorely needed on the left to back up Biddle's men who are fighting for utter survival!

On the end of turn 9, Dave has a single, unsupported Regiment physically on the objective.  If he can hold it one more turn and I can't force him off, the Rebels will clench a victory.  If I can push him back, the Union will "win" the day and would likely have retreated off Seminary Ridge in good order, having bloodied Pender's Division and blunted the all-out assault.  What will happen next?

Biddle's men fighting with the South Carolinans on the objective.  Another unsupported assault will have to go in!   "you men are on your own - take that ground now!"

Pennsylvanians steeling themselves to assault!

South Carolinians preparing to meet the assault!
 The assault goes in and the Union carry the position!  The South Carolinians retreat off of the objective on Turn 10!  Talk about a nail biter right down to the bottom half of the last turn!

A photo finish and we had a great time.  Norm's rules are very good at delivering a fun and plausible battle with tension, drama, and excitement.  Dave really enjoyed these and is now counted among the Norm-o-philes who have played and immensely enjoyed Norm's Napoleonic, World War II, and his American Civil War rules!  A couple questions did come up during play that I wanted to post in case Norm sees this:

1.  Do enemy units block command distance?  In the final assault, Biddle was physically with the 80th New York Regiment, however there was a Rebel Regiment of South Carolinians in between Biddle and one of his Pennsylvania Regiments.  The command distance to go around those Rebels was more than 2 hexes.  We played this as "out of command." but I thought I'd ask here since I couldn't find it in the rules (doesn't mean it's not in there - just that during the heat of battle I couldn't find it!)

2.  A unit going into charge takes fire from the defending unit who successfully passed their capability test and issue a volley of 4D6 at the charging unit.  The charging unit takes casualties - does the charging unit have to another capability test right before the close combat?  If it fails, does it have to break off the combat?  Or does it just go into close combat with -1 D6 for disorder?

3.  Can an artillery unit pivot within its hex prior to firing?  i think the answer is yes.

4.  When taking a capability test immediately after being fired upon, do you count the Heavy Casualties that you just incurred in this bout of firing?  (I have 2 HC markers, and take 2 from firing this turn and now have to take a capability test.  I am not disordered yet.  Is my capability test -1 or -2?)

All said and done, this was a GREAT game and a perfect way to spend a relaxing Saturday afternoon gaming.


  1. These rules look so good, and a great scenario too.
    I really need to have a 'year of Norm's rules' on the blog I think.

    1. Cheers, Darren. The TFON ACW rules are excellent. They really give an exciting and tense game. You should definitely give them a shot. I personally like ACW rules where the basic unit of maneuver is a regiment so I am clearly biased!

      The TFON rules have a great smaller intro scenario to try and have a bigger McPherson Ridge scenario (that would be the precursor to the seminary ridge scenario we played).

      Give them a try! None of Norms rules have given me a bad game yet, and if you're strapped for time, the WW2 rules give a full game in an hour or 2.

      Also I'll point out that the Eagles at Quatre Bras rules are literally perfect for commands and colors napoleonics scenarios.

      Now if I could only get norm to write an AWI or SYW set of rules! ;)

  2. Steve thanks very much for the shout out, your table looked fab and the scenario went down to the last attack / dice roll - perfect!

    As for questions;
    1. Do enemy units block command distance?
    Answer - Yes. It is not explicit in the rules and it should be.

    2. A unit going into charge takes fire from the defending unit who successfully passed their capability test and issue a volley of 4D6 at the charging unit. The charging unit takes casualties - does the charging unit have to another capability test right before the close combat?
    ANSWER - Yes. (Page 17 under FIRE - apply results with all consequences including Capability Tests.

    If it fails, does it have to break off the combat? Or does it just go into close combat with -1 D6 for disorder?
    ANSWER - Bottom page 11 (Finally) if charging unit still in contact after receiving fire results, it executes attacks with all associated Close Combat procedures and penalties etc, so the disordered unit would still charge but pay a penalty.

    3. Can an artillery unit pivot within its hex prior to firing? i think the answer is yes.
    ANSWER - Bottom page 1, under Formations, unlimbered artillery can only move to change facing in the Movement phase. In the Fire Phase they can only fire directly ahead into their frontal arc (i.e. no pivoting immediately prior to firing). Since firing is before moving, they may only change facing in their movement phase if they have not fired that turn in the earlier phase - since firing expends their action for the turn. essentially movement costs them a turns worth of fire.

    4. When taking a capability test immediately after being fired upon, do you count the Heavy Casualties that you just incurred in this bout of firing? (I have 2 HC markers, and take 2 from firing this turn and now have to take a capability test. I am not disordered yet. Is my capability test -1 or -2?)
    ANSWER - the things that cause the test always influence the test. So you would test as having 4 Heavy Casualties.

    Hope I have answered in a way that makes sense and again thanks for being a vocal supporter of the rules. Cheers Norm.

    1. Hi Steve and Norm.

      For (2), I want to make a clarification. An attacker failing a Capability Test during the Charge Phase conducts the attack with -3D6 for Half-Hearted Charge and not -1D6 for Disorder.

    2. Wait- so if the unit passes the first test, takes a volley, and fails its SECOND capability test, it then becomes a half hearted charge?

      We only test for half hearted charge once.

    3. Thanks Norm! I appreciate your timely reply and the clarification.

    4. Any attacker’s CT during charge is either Pass (full dice) or Fail (half-hearted -3D6). Here is what I do: after charge declared and attacker moves then defender takes CT response. Only after defender’s CT (and possible volley) does attacker make his CT. Charging Attacker only takes one CT when closing with the enemy.

    5. I understand that perfectly. I'm talking about the second Capability Test after the charger receives the defender's fire. If that volley causes casualties, the charger has to take a SECOND capability test.

      If he fails the "second" capability test, we did NOT assume a half hearted charge.

    6. I only have the attacker in a charge take ONE CT and that is AFTER the defender’s CT and any defender response. No double jeopardy for the attacker; only one.

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. Typo’s out :-)

      The charging unit may end up taking two tests.

      The sequence is;
      Declare charge and move to contact.
      Test Capability of the charging unit (this is the compulsive test that will always happen).

      If pass then normal close combat - if fail then half-hearted close combat .... this is the ONLY time that the charge is evaluated as being a full or half-hearted charge.

      The defender then takes a Capability Test to see how they will respond.
      If they fail they stand and do nothing. If they pass they can react ... usually with fire.
      If that fire causes casualties to the charger, it will take a 2nd CT but that is only to establish whether the charging unit is driven off, making it fall back disordered if it fails the test.

      If the charging unit for whatever reason is still in contact with the defender (obviously not if it has been driven off) a Close Combat is resolved with appropriate modifiers.

      So in your question 2, YES, if taking casualties from the defenders fire, the charger must take an IMMEDIATE second Capability Test as per the the requirements of fire and casualties and if the test is failed, the charger must FALL BACK 1 hex and be DISORDERED, if this is the case, then the charge process ends as the charger ‘by the end of all that’ does not remain in contact with the defending unit. (My answer at 2 should have reflected that).

    9. Thanks, Norm. With this sequence and the attacker rolling a Half-Hearted Charge, shouldn’t the Defender’s response CT have a higher probability (+ DRM to CT) of reacting with a volley (more likely to stand and volley vs Half-Hearted Charge), and, if successfully causing a casualty, result in the attacker less likely to close (- DRM to CT since an attacker Half-Heartedly charging is less enthusiastic to close)?

    10. Thanks for the clarifications, gentlemen! I cannot wait to play these rules again! Jonathan, your QRS was outstanding. I do not have any feedback for altering it - it worked perfect.

    11. Good to see the QRS is working as expected! Thanks for the feedback!

    12. Jonathan, I don’t see any reason why that would not make an acceptable house rule, but from the design perspective, I wanted the charge to reflect that moment when one side, to take ground or avoid withering fire, tries to impose itself on the other, likely believing that it can and the charge is a mix of forward action, close range firing and pressing the enemy ever harder, possibly closing to bayonet contact, though one side or other would often yield before ‘charge’ in the wargaming sense of ‘to contact’ occurred.

      The defenders CT test is based purely on the defenders state of mind and experience. I felt that their belief (or lack of) in themselves and their snap decisions about their predicament was something different than individuals trying to work out how determined the charging enemy actually were and then the player being able applying that to a defence mentality as a cohesive whole. I think what would happen is that those first few individuals that ‘bottle it’ and run would have the greatest impact on the decision making of the men stood next to them .... domino effect.

      Even if the attackers make a half-hearted charge, they are still coming at you, showing some self belief, but at some point and for whatever reason their vigour becomes weaker and they are less likely to prosecute a violent charge - so the half-hearted charge penalty, that in effect does less harm to the defender (and themselves!) is probably a reasonably measured design decision to encompass ‘all of that’. Plus a half hearted charge against disordered and fatigued defenders may still be enough to do the job!

  3. Coming down to the last die roll is an intense ending, for sure. Your game looks great and I enjoyed your BatRep.


    1. It was an awesome game, Jonathan! Super fun, tense, and exciting!