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6 April 2010

 Products The Guns of Gettysburg Design Diary A Little Learning

A Little Learning

Learning from Example

The last diary entry had a rather heavy dose of theory, probably too heavy for many. People have different learning styles, and not everyone learns well that way. My general approach is to try not to depend on one and only one teaching style, however, so it won’t be all theory.

One request that has come up a lot with regard to my Napoleonic games, and The Guns of Gettysburg as well, is to provide an extended play example. I’ve never done so before, because I think that figuring it out yourself is part of the fun. However, I think perhaps I will try this time, because many people really learn better from example than by any other way. And so, I’m going to use this diary as a vehicle for writing it, with the intent of eventually extracting it from the diary (where it is mixed in with a lot of extraneous material) and putting into its own section of the site.

And here it begins…

Setting Up the Game: Everything but Buford

Before you can play the game, you really need to set it up. With that in mind, let’s get started: Open up your rule book to page 2 and read the first three sections — Section 1: Introduction, Section 2: The Blocks, and Section 3: The Map. All three sections are short and won’t take long. Next, read Section 4: Tokens and Set Up, and while you’re reading section 4, carry out steps 1 through 7. Don’t do step 8 (Buford set-up) yet:. We’re going to talk about that extensively about that step before we do it. When you’re done with steps 1 though 7, you should have something like this:

Set Up

Setting Up Buford (Part 1): Overview of the Situation

Where to put Buford is a problem for the Union player, so we’ll take a Union point-of-view in this discussion, but everything that will be said is of value to the Confederates too, so no matter which army you’re playing, read on.

We aren’t going to do a full analysis here because our focus is on learning the game, but we will hit the high points so that Buford can be deployed in a rational manner. Let’s start with the Confederate army. Somewhere on the time track for the first day there are arrival tokens for seven Confederate divisions (14 blocks), which could start showing up as early as 7:00AM. Five of these divisions will arrive on the Chambersburg Pike, with one more coming down the Mummasburg Road, and one more down the Harrisburg Road. With a 5-1-1 distribution, clearly the main weight of the Confederate attack can be expected to come up the Chambersburg Pike. This, by the way, would be a great time to read Section 11: Reinforcements. Road movement allows them to shoot up a road as far as Gettysburg in one hour, unless there is a Union force to stop them. Now, the Union does have one thing going for them: Confederate road movement can’t be used in the first hour of availability, unless some other unit has already entered at that entry area earlier in the game. What this odd rule means is that the Union gets a one-hour warning before the Confederates can enter by road, and that one hour can be used to get Union forces in place.

By “Union forces” what we mean for now is Buford. If we take a look at Buford it is hard to be impressed. Buford has two blocks, each with a strength of one, and no replacements. So if any Buford block gets reduced, it gets eliminated. Also, Buford has no artillery for the command (although, like all blocks, Buford can use the •ANY• artillery tokens). Now, a Confederate infantry division also consists of two blocks, but those two blocks have a strength of 2, and have at least one 2-strength replacement, and two 1-strength replacements and a +1 Close Combat Attack bonus, and two artillery tokens (though the artillery may not be available to play). Without knowing much about the game, if we surmise that in a stand-up fight even one Confederate division can make very short work of Buford, we will have pretty much hit the nail on the head. And there is one more piece of bad news for the Union player: if we look at Section 17: Night in the rules, we will see that there is a little rule tucked away there, that on the night of 1 July the Union player will need to remove two full-strength blocks from play. If Buford hasn’t been eliminated, the Union player can remove Buford, otherwise the removed blocks will have to be full-strength infantry blocks.

Now so far, things for Buford look pretty dire: he’s too weak to fight and too expensive to lose. One might reasonably think that keeping Buford well out of harm’s way is the only thing to do with him. However, before jumping to any conclusions, read Section 18: Cavalry. While there is some more bad news here (Buford can’t move adjacent to enemy blocks or positions bounding their fields of fire), that isn’t SO bad because it isn’t obvious why Buford would ever do anything so reckless anyway. There is, however, some good news: If Buford stays out of obstructed terrain, he can move an extra step when making march or withdrawal moves. That’s nice, but it isn’t the really, really important rule: the important rule is that Buford can make a voluntary withdraw even when the army is not under Withdrawal general orders. Now, usually, voluntary withdrawal is legal only when under Withdrawal general orders, but Withdrawal general orders are nasty: you don’t usually want to declare them unless you absolutely have to. However, Buford can make a voluntary withdrawal any time he wants to. What that means is that Buford is very, very hard for the Confederates to attack: he can get into dangerous positions, but withdraw before anything bad happens, and do it again and again without penalty. The only things Buford has to watch out for are obstructed terrain (he can’t do his free withdrawals from, through, or into obstructed terrain) and getting caught by Confederate units across his front and rear at the same time, giving him no place to go.

So Buford can’t fight but he can slow the Confederates down without getting hurt: they can’t use road movement as long as Buford is in the way, and they have to stop when they enter Buford's field of fire. As it happens, time is what the Union needs. They have five of their own commands (15 blocks total) arriving in the first 24 hours, starting at 9:00AM at the earliest. So, given this, we will use Buford to do what Buford does best: slow down the Confederates.

Setting Up Buford (Part 2): Close Analysis

So, in setting up Buford what we’ll try is using one block on the right to watch the Mummasburg and Harrisburg roads, and put the other block on the left to slow down any Confederates coming up the Chambersburg Pike (where we expect the main Confederate effort to fall). Under no circumstances do we plan to have Buford fight: his mission is to slow the Confederates down as much as possible without putting his force at risk.

Let’s start with the right-wing block. The plan is simply to position it half-way between the Harrisburg and Mummasburg entry points so that it can be rushed to either as needed. (If the Confederates have the bad manners to arrive at both, then the plan is just to abandon any forward defense and fall back to the Gettysburg line, taking care to keep the cavalry in the open terrain, avoiding any obstructions where they might get caught up.) Let's take a look at where the right-wing block goes and where it can get to. (This is a good time to read Section 10: Movement, and Section 12: March Movement since it is by march movement that Buford would make either of these moves.) For this illustration, we’ve shaded Confederate entry areas red. (Union units can’t move onto the positions bounding them, and Confederate units making off-road entry can enter in or on the bounding positions of those areas.):

Buford’s Right Block (Covering the Mummasburg and Harrisburg Roads)

Buford's Right

Now, we aren’t going to pretend that the above position is optimal, but it isn’t terrible: Buford can interdict either road once a Confederate force is revealed, and that’s what we want from that block. Of course, in trying to cover two roads with one block, the coverage can’t be as tight as it could be if it was trying to cover only a single entry area. For tight coverage, let’s take a look at what Buford’s left-wing block might do, the one covering the Chambersurg Pike.

To understand the left-wing problem, you should read Section 9: Fields of Fire. You should have already read the rules for movement (reinforcement entry and march) in previous steps, and so have an idea of how the Confederates can be placed in their turn of entry. What we want to figure out for Buford is where he can be placed to cover the entry area most effectively, not only against a road move straight up the road, but also against march moves trying to get around Buford’s flanks. With only one entry point to cover, Buford can get up nice and tight, so let’s look at the most forward entry areas possible that cover the Chambersburg Pike. For each possible position, the field of fire will be shown shaded blue (as before, the Confederate entry areas will be shown shaded red):

Choices for Buford’s Left Block (Covering the Chambersburg Pike)

Position 1 (Open Terrain)

Buford's Left

Position 2 (Ridge)

Buford's Left

Position 3 (Ridge)

Buford's Left

Position 4 (Ridge)

Buford's Left

Position 5 (Open Terrain)

Buford's Left

Position 6 (Open Terrain)

Buford's Left

If we review the above choices, the first thing that should strike us most forcibly is how much larger the field of fire is when we position Buford on a ridge than when on open terrain. The open terrain positions (1, 5, and 6) don’t have any obvious coverage advantages over the ridge positions (2, 3, and 4), and two of the open terrain positions (1 and 6) are a little creepy in the amount of access that they could given an enemy block entering off-road to Buford’s rear, possibly cutting off his ability to withdraw. You would want to be pretty darned experienced before setting up in such a position, because if there’s one mistake you DON’T want to make, it’s losing Buford at the start of the game due to a bad set-up. Even positions 2 and 5 might look uncomfortable for the same reason, although at least they don’t put Buford’s rear area directly adjacent to a Confederate entry area. I’m going to leave it as an exercise for interested readers to try and determine which of these set-up positions could actually result in Buford’s elimination from the game. In any case, for our tutorial there is no reason for Buford to flirt with an early grave. Positions 3 and 4 are perfectly sound, and we have only to choose between them. And the one we’ll choose is… Position 3! There is nothing wrong with position 4, the but position 3 takes away a little more Confederate maneuvering room than position 4 does.

And so, with Buford’s set-up concluded, let’s take a look at the map with both units in place (we’re leaving Buford’s fields of fire shaded, but removing the shading for Confederate entry areas):

Buford’s Setup (Fields of Fire Shaded Blue)

Buford's Setup

Well, that‘s it for now. The next diary entry will take up the first turn.

A New Rules Revision

Another diary entry, another rules draft. That’s just where I am in the development cycle.

Gettysburg Rules

Click on the image above to open in its own window

There is not a lot to say about this rules revision. It is mostly minor touch-ups here and there. Thanks much (as always) to those who submitted feedback! It is greatly appreciated. Even if I didn’t make a change you suggested, I still thank you for taking the time to write in. Feedback on this draft is of course welcome as well.