We have finally reached the conclusion of the Ironman Tournament, the last round – Round 7. This round there is more games being offered compared to the previous six rounds, beside ASL (the usual), there are Monty’s Gamble, Tide at Sunrise and Battle above the Clouds (Scenario 4). Of interested to me are both Tide at Sunrise and Battle above the Clouds, since I don’t own Monty’s Gamble. Haven’t played any of those before (beside ASL), naturally, I prefer Tide at Sunrise, because of the easy rules set and faster to table time. But Ken Dunn informed me that I am the odd man out when I submitted my choice. So I change my preference to Battle above the Clouds.
I got paired up with Kevin Ankoviak, another great player and nice guy. Kevin has played the GCACW system before and has all the games of the series, verse me who have never played any GCACW game before, and so I have to do some hard studying and one sample game with my PBEM opponent before I have the confidence to start the Tournament game. We dice for sides which I won and choose the Confederate.
Pregame Comment and Analysis
Scenario 4 – Wheeler’s Raid, of Battle above the Clouds is a very unique scenario, much unlike a lot of the other scenarios in the game series. Basically, it is a Confederate cavalry raid behind Union lines. The Confederate player (me) has only cavalry units and several cavalry leaders, with Wheeler as the Confederate Corps cavalry leader, while the Union setup his wagon train (one of the object of the raid) and cavalry (to protect, stop and chase the fast running Confederate cavalry) hidden. There is also a bunch of union infantry brigade setup on certain important points to protect and make life harder for the Confederates; of importance notice is that the reinforcement of Howard and his large body of infantry which enter randomly later at a train station.
There are quit a lot of scenario special rules for this scenario, and I have to mention a few of the important ones here, so that the reader can understand some of my strategy and why the game goes the way it does.
1) The main and only playing area is on the Northwest side of the Tennessee River (the left hand side), Union units cannot cross to the other (southeast) side, Confederate can cross the Tennessee, but units thus crossed will not gain or lose any VP and will never comeback to the game. All bridges over the Tennessee River are destroyed and only fords existed.
2) Wheeler have to chose a crossing point over the Tennessee River, and this choice will affect how many free turns (to a maximum of two) that the wagon train can move before Wheeler’s force enter the game. First the Union will setup half of his cavalry forces and then Confederate player will announce either Wheeler will be crossing in the North map or the South map, then Union player will setup the remainder of his forces, before the Confederate player announce the exact crossing Wheeler will use (there are quite a number of choices, so it is hard for the Union player to guess where Wheeler will be coming from).
3) Wagon trains, which setup hidden and have three options of setting them up, can only move on roads and RR tracks, and will be eliminated if they extended march and roll a 5 or a 6. They are hidden until a Confederate unit move within 5 hexes of them.
4) Alerting Union Units: basically, beside the wagon trains, other Union units cannot move or activate until they are alert. This is very important to the Confederate player as he have the element of surprise. Units are alert if the Confederate enter the same county they are in or within 5 hexes of them, or during the first recovery phase in an adjacent county. During the second recovery phase after the Confederate river crossing, all Union units are alerted and can activate and move.
5) Confederate units can use off-map movement in the North map, exiting off in the left edge and came back in the recovery phase on the same turn in either hex N0113 or N0118.
6) Confederate units may never move, attack, or retreat into any hex within 2 hexes if N2529.
7) Confederate have two sharpshooter units, which he can choose to use or as a dummy (+10 VP each if used as dummy), and placing on either S1802, S1902, N1930 and/or N2029. Basically, when a wagon train move adjacent, it has a 1 in 6 chance (roll of a 6) to destroy it and slowing the other wagon train down, if destroyed.
8) Insubordinate rules are not in effect for the Confederate side.
Here is how VP are scored: +2 for Union manpower destroyed (except extended march, force march, or moving from one enemy ZOC to another); -3 for Confederate manpower destroyed (same exception as Union manpower above); +3 for each Confederate cavalry brigade exiting the northwest (left) map edge, -2 for each Union cavalry brigade exiting the northwest (left) map edge, but this negative score can only offset in the most, the positive scores of the Confederate cavalry exiting; +10 for destroying each wagon train; -3 for each Union wagon train saved; +4 for each railroad station destroyed; and +10 for each Confederate sharpshooter withheld (not used, see point 7 above).
Confederate player have to score at least 23 VP to win a Marginal Victory and any thing lower is a Union victory.
Game Setup and Play:
The reason that I choose the Confederate side is because it seem a lot of fun to run a raid, I know that it will be challenging to the Confederate as running an offensive is not easy especially with such a small force. But I like fast units and my playing style suits more on maneuvering, out-running and out-flanking the enemy… So off I went…
I plan to use the Alerting rules to the fullness (see #4 above on that rule) and thus choose to run the raid from behind in the North. I announced using the North map and then choose “Off-map in Rhea County” as Wheeler’s river crossing hex-side. Since the Union cannot setup in Rhea County, there will be no opposition and no activation on the turn that Wheeler’s forces entered, further I planned on running the cavalry down in the back countries. I hope that by time that my cavalry arrived, they still have a chance to do something to the wagon trains. The +20 points on not using any sharpshooter is too attractive that I decided to set up all as dummy units. That way, I just need to bust two wagon trains and then burn one rail station on the way out. Sound easy right?
Note on how the turn to turn AAR is written: I will try to describe the condition of each unit as accurate as possible; conditions of the unit will be listed in parenthesis right after the unit name. The Fatigue level will be at the level after the unit activated (i.e. increased). “F1” means Fatigue level one, “Ex” mean exhausted, “DM-1” means demoralized level 1, “Disorg” means disorganized. “<C>” means Confederate initiative and “<U>” means Union initiative.
Turn 1 and 2: By choosing “Off-map in Rhea County”, the first two turn will be free movement for the wagon trains. I hope that they did not go too fast and the dice roll for them seem average the most, so if Kevin is not pushing them hard, they should not be going too far.
The start of turn 3 all my units enter in N0701 and the two decoy sharpshooters are setup in N2029 and N1930 respectively.
<C> Activate Wheeler and roll a 7 + 3 for movement. And all of them move along the road N0701-N0703-N0602-N0107 and exited off the left side of the map (see special rules #5 above), now they are all at fatigue level 1.
<U> Activate wagon train and roll a 6 for movement. It moved into N1830 right next to my dummy sharpshooter, revealing itself in the process. Since it is a dummy, it is removed. The same wagon train further moved down the road to N1929, right next to my second dummy sharpshooter, and since it is again a dummy unit, the second sharpshooter is removed from play. That wagon train ended its move in N2228 very close to the safety zone (special rules #6 above).
Since all my units are now off map, the Union player continues moving his hidden wagon trains.
At the recovery phase, I place all of my cavalry units back in N0118 (Lamb) (special rules #5 above). The good thing about this move is only Union units in Rhea county (which there is none), Hamilton county and Bledsoe county will be able to activate in Turn 4 (special rules #4 above).
Union succeeded in rolling for reinforcements and get Steinwehr appeared at the railroad station in S1915 (Bridgeport), remember R.Smith-A was setup there too. Minty also arrived (chasing after Wheeler), in N0801.
Comment: Well, the Union called my bluff that early in the game, those other wagon train should be right behind. Hmm, maybe I should have setup at least one real sharpshooter that way, they can either brave the fire or use a different rout and delay their progress and give my units a chance to catch-up… Can my units catch up in time? It will be an interesting Turn 4.
Turn 4 (The Big Hunt):
Note: since this is such an action packed and import turn, I have used a more detailed approach to describe the action… Thus it took longer to write and will seem like a long read. I hope it did not get too boring for the reader…
Union had the first initiative and active Minty (F1), moving him down to N1407. Confederate got the next initiative and activated Wheeler and moved the group down to N0723, N0624 and N0526 respectively (all of the confederate units are at F1 now). Union get next initiative revealed and moved Wilder-A (F1) to N1926. Union got the next initiative again, and this time Kevin revealed Long and Crook (leader) at N1313, force matching Long they ended up in N1820, Long now at fatigue level 1 and disorganized.
Fortunately, the Confederate gain initiative and activated Wheeler again, but unfortunately enough, the movement roll is a 4 + 3 and they don’t move too far along this time: Joe Wheeler with James Wheeler-B (F2) at N0829, Wharton with Harrison (F2) at N0928, Martin with Morgan (F2) at N1028, Davidson-B (F2) at N0930 and Morrison (F2) at N0931, they are all at fatigue level 2 now…
The next initiative roll, Confederate won again and this time, I activated Wheeler with only Davidson-B (F3) (transferring Joe Wheeler to Davidson-B), and Morrison (F3) activated, I plan to send them ahead and try to find some of the hidden wagon trains… Rolling again a 4 + 3 (another bad movement roll) and increasing their fatigue level to a 3 (all passed on their extended match roll). On Morrison’s movement to S1301, he successfully found two more wagon trains in N1732 and N1733. And when Joe Wheeler with Davidson-B (F3) moved, on the way to N1430, two more wagon trains were found in N1830 and N1831. Not bad for such a scout action.
Union won initiative this time and moved the wagon train group ahead, trying to escape their fate…
Confederate gain initiative this time, seizing the moment, activated Joe Wheeler with Davidson-B (F4), this time the movement is an 8 + 3 (enough to reach and kill some wagon trains). Davidson-B (now at fatigue level 4, pass extended match check with a 1), moved to N1831 and attacked the last wagon train at N1830. Combat result was a “Dr” (enough to kill the wagon train) for the defender and “Fa” for the attacker. Davidson-B (F4) advanced to N1831.
Union gain initiative next, trying to moved the wagon trains out of harm’s way, Kevin rolled a 3, and moved the wagon trains ahead.
Confederate gained initiative and passed and so Union moved Wilder-A (F2) to N1826. Union retained initiative and this time moved Crook and Long (F2, disorg) to N2026. Confederate won initiative and chooses to pass again and Kevin activated Spears-A (F1) and moved to N2424. Union retained initiative and moved Spears-A (F2) again to N2228.
Confederate gained initiative and decided to move Morrison(F4) (find out what is still there in the South) to S1401 which revealed a wagon train in S1705, moving down the road revealed more wagon trains in S1706 and S1707 and decided to attack in S1704. E McCook with Campbell was revealed in S1807 and a sub cavalry unit revealed in S1709. The attack was successful (get a “DR”) and another wagon train is destroyed.
Union won initiative next and move E McCook with Campbell (F1) to S1706 trying to protect the remaining wagon trains there. Union retained the next initiative and moved the sub cavalry unit (F1) in S1709 to join with Campbell in S1706.
Confederate gain initiative next and activate Martin with Morgan (F3), rolling 7 + 2 for movement, but rolled a 6 in extended march check and got disorganized in the process. Martin with Morgan (F3, Disorg) is now in S1401.
Union gain initiative and revealed another sub cavalry unit (F1) and moved to join E McCook with Campbell in S1706.
Confederate gain initiative next and activate Martin with Morgan (F4, Disorg) again (now at fatigue level 4), rolling 11 + 2 for movement (pass extended march check with a 1) and moved to S1607 to attack another wagon train in S1707, obtaining a “Dr” in the process and destroyed another wagon train and advanced into S1707.
Now Morgan, Morrison and Davidson-B was at fatigue level 4, and with 3 wagon trains destroyed (30 VP total), I was not planning to push my units any harder, and thus I passed when I won initiative from this time forward. The remainder of the turn saw the Union player try to activate E McCook for an assault, but failed two assault roll in a roll (one with a 6 and another with a 5), pushing their fatigue level to 3. McCook’s assault finally succeeded, and Martin with Morgan retreated to S1406. Afterwards, Union made a bunch of moves to try to catch up to my cavalry units.
In the recovery phase, Kevin successfully rolled for reinforcement and Howard and Schurz joined Steinwehr and R. Smith A in S1915.
Comment: That was a good turn; I have scored a total of 50 VP (3 wagon trains and withholding the two sharpshooters). If the Union can get all the remaining wagon trains (a total of 5) to safety, I am still at an advantage of 35 VP which is somewhat short of a Confederate Marginal Victory. I should either start retreating to the Northwest a sure marginal victory or try to get one more wagon train for a better victory (plus a better buffer for the Union to catch back), either way it should be fine right? So on to next turn...
Turn 5 (Trying to finish up some more wagons…):
Note: the action slow down a bit here, but still it is exciting. I will start to use a more concrete style to write on the initiative and movement, starting this turn.
Union attaches back the two sub cavalry units to Cambell, and transferred Crook to Lowe during the leader transfer phase, while the Confederate did not do any leader transfer.
Confederate gain the first initiative and activated Morrison (Ext, F2, Disorg) (rolling a 6 on the extended march, which disorganized him), rolled a 4 + 1 and moved to S1402.
Comment: I was debating whether to activate Joe Wheeler and try another attack on another wagon train (this time protected by J. Mitchell), but the odds seem not in my favor, thus I choose to retreat Morrison away from E. McCook and his gang of cavalry units.
Union gain initiative and moved the wagon trains in the North to safety, he retained initiative and moved Tillson (F1) to attack Morgan (Ext, F1, Disorg) with Martin in S1406, causing them to retreat to S1303. Tillson (F4) and Morgan (Ext, F4, Disorg) get to fatigue level 4 in the attack process.
Confederate gain initiative and activated Wharton with Harrison (F1) and moved to S1401.
Union gain initiative and moved Minty (F1), then retained initiative and moved Minty (F2) again to N1321.
Confederate gain initiative next and moved James Wheeler-B (F1) to N0933.
Union gain initiative and moved Wilder-A (Ext, F2) to attack Joe Wheeler with Davidson-B (Ext, F1, Disorg) in N1830, got a lucky attack roll and got a “DR” result, Davidson-B (Ext, F4, DM-1, Disorg) got demoralized-1 and retreated to S1401 stacked with Wharton and Harrison (F1). Lucky there is no man-power lost in this attack…
Union gain initiative again and activate Howard who commanded his gang of large infantry unit: Schurz (F1), Steinwehr (F1), and R. Smith A (F1) and moved into S1613.
Confederate gain initiative and moved James Wheeler-B (F2) to S1503.
Union initiative, activate E McCook with Campbell (Ex, F2) attack James Wheeler-B (F2) in S1503, causing 1DR (first manpower lost), James Wheeler-B (F4, Dem-1, Disorg) retreated to N1231.
<U> wagon train in S1706 (F1), moved to S1901
<U> wagon train in S1901 (F2), moved to S2201
<C> Joe Wheeler leader activate, choose Morrison and Harrison as target. Harrison (F2) with Wharton moved to N1833, ready to attack the wagon train if I get next initiative, while Morrison (Ex, F3, Disorg) moved to N0933.
Comment: Seeing E McCook have moved away from the wagon train to make an attack on James Wheeler, I see a gap and an opportunity to attack that wagon train. If I do get initiative (50% chance) then I will be able to destroy one more wagon train and escape through the ford at S2201/S2301…
<U> Wilder-A (Ex, F3) moved to N1832 to attack Harrison (F2) with Wharton, get another 1DR, Harrison (F4, Dem-1, Disorg) with Wharton retreated to S1706.
Comment: Too bad, didn’t get that initiative. In this case, I am preparing for a full retreat/escape to the northwest. I can still burn one train station if I can get the chance to.
<U> wagon train in S2201 (F3), moved to N2233.
<U> J Mitchell (F1) moved to N2028.
<U> J Mitchell (F2) moved to N2031.
<U> Howard activated Schurz (F2), Steinwehr (F2), and R. Smith A (F2) they all moved to S1410.
<U> Lowe (F1) with Crook, moved to N2126.
Seeing that all of my units beside Morrison (F3) were at fatigue level 4, I will pass for the remainder of the turn and let the Union player activate his units. The Union player finishes up with a bunch more moves, trying to trap the Confederates in.
Comment: So far, my VP is still ahead. I have only lost 2 Confederate manpower points thus far. I can manage to lost 2 more before I gave up a victory…
Turn 6 (The Great Escape):
<C> Harrison (Ex, F2, DM-1, Disorg) with Wharton moved off to the east side by ford at S1907-S2006 (see special rules #1 above)
Comment: This was a planned move as Wharton and gang get almost trapped there. I would rather not gain any VP and run the chance of giving up 3VP for each manpower point lost.
<C> Joe Wheeler got activated and selected Davidson B and Morgan to match, Davidson B (Ex, F2, DM-1, Disorg) moved to N0832, while Morgan (Ex, F2, Disorg) with Martin moved to N0433.
<C> James Wheeler B (Ex, F2, DM-1, Disorg) moved to N0832.
Comment: This burst of Confederate initiative is a godsend, this make sure that the raiders can move to safety and guarantee a victory.
<U> Crook got activated and selected Lowe and Long to match, Lowe (Ex, F1) Long (Ex, F1, Disorg) both moved to N1032 to attack Morrison (Ex, F3, Disorg), who retreated to N0533 without any manpower lost.
<C> Joe Wheeler got activated and selected James Wheeler-B and Davidson B for match. James Wheeler-B (Ex, F3, DM-1, Disorg), before marching off rolled a 6 on extended march and disintegrate into thin air, while Davidson B (Ex, F3, DM-1, Disorg) (passing his extended march test) moved to S0202.
<C> Martin got activated and selected Morgan and Morrison for the match, Morgan (Ex, F3, Disorg) moved to S0202, while Morrison (Ex, F4, Disorg) moved to S0102,
<U> Crook got activated and selects Long for the match. Long (Ex, F3, Disorg) moved to N0632.
<U> Minty (Ex, F1) activate moved to N0623.
<U> Minty (Ex, F2) moved to N0626.
<U> Howard and gang - R. Smith A (F1, Disorg), Schurz-A (F1), Steinwehr (F1, Disorg) moved to S1306.
<U> Howard and gang - R. Smith A (F2, Disorg), Schurz-A (F2), Steinwehr (F2, Disorg) moved to S0704.
<C> Joe Wheeler got activated and selected Morgan with Martion and Davidson-B for match. Morgan (Ex, F4, Disorg) with Martin rolled a 6 on their extended match check and disintegrated (again), while Davidson-B (Ex, F4, DM-1, Disorg) pass his check with a 2. Martin then attached himself to Morrison (his last remained subordinate unit). Davidson-B (Ex, F4, DM-1, Disorg) with Joe Wheeler moved to Tracy City S0108 and then moved off the map.
Comment: Well, I was debating with myself whether to have Davidson-B stay another round or not, mainly to try to burn the RR station in Tracy City, but the condition of the unit and the risk of it staying behind prove too much of a disadvantage. Thus the logical sense is to move off map.
Since all I have left was Morrison who was at Level 4 fatigue, all I could do was passing and the Union activated his remainder units until he was done.
I gain initiative and moved Morrison (Ex, F2 Disorg), with Martin to S0103.
Union win Initiative next (with a 6 verse my 5), activated Howard with Schurz (ex, F1), using a match to attack Morrison, and eliminate Morrison (1 more manpower lost).
Comment: I should have conduct a cavalry retreat with Morrison as Schurz is infantry. But I was too tired to think at that time, further more, this does not affect the game much as it will not change the victory level.
VP point calculation – wagon trains eliminated 3 (30 VP), sharpshooter not used (20 VP), wagon trains moved to safety (-15 VP), Confederate manpower lost: 3 manpower points (-9 VP). Total VP = 26 VP. Note: for VP on moving off map, we figure that the Union player should be able to run his cavalry off map to balance out my VP gain, therefore they are not counted.
Result: Confederate Marginal Victory with 26 VP
GCACW is an amazing system; I am totally mesmerized by the simplicity of its presentation and execution. The beauty of the system is the concise rules and the variety of Civil War situation and campaign it can simulate and with a high accuracy. The feel of play is great, It is fun to play and hard to master, with a high excitement level. No wonder it got such high acclaim and have such a big following.
This is my first time learning the system and I already have a blast with it. I got spellbound by the system and cannot wait to play the other games in the series which I already have (SIV, SLB, RTG, GTC and the others in skirmisher #1 and #2). I can hardly wait for the reprint of Stonewall Jackson Way and the reprint of the other games that I do not have… ACW is not my expertise, I am more of a WWII thread-head, but GCACW is a series that I can vote for.
Thanks Kevin for playing with me and for being such a challenging opponent. Thanks MMP for this Ironman tournament in which I have been able to meet with so many great guys to play against. I will be trying to contact those guys and see if I can get an email VASSAL game or two out of it.