History to #Wargame – 158th Anniversary of the Battle of First Bull Run (Battle of First Manassas) played with Hold the Line: The American Civil War (@Worth2004, 2019)

On July 21, 1861, two armies clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. Heavy fighting swept away any notion of a quick war. In August 1862, Union and Confederate armies converged for a second time on the plains of Manassas. The Confederates won a solid victory bringing them to the height of their power.

“Where Southern Victories Tested Northern Resolve” – Manassas Battlefield Park

THE WEATHER ON JULY 21, 2019 IS SO HOT that the National Park Service suspended all planned activities after noon for the 158th commemoration of the First Battle of Manassas. So instead of going to the outdoor activities, I pulled out one of my newer wargames, Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019). Of course, the first scenario in the Scenario Book is First Bull Run, July 21, 1861. In this battle the Union has to score 6VP by the end of turn 18. In addition to VP for destroying Confederate units, there are two VP-hexes at the south edge of the map that are also scored by the Union if held (representing the road to Manassas).

Unions force Sudley Ford but get chewed up in the process….

My game started out pretty much like history with the Union forcing Sudley Ford and attempting to turn the Confederate flank. Unlike history, the Union got chewed up crossing Bull Run. Having failed to turn the Confederate flank, the Union started a general advance from the North. A Confederate infantry unit on Matthews Hill sold itself dearly and targeted Union artillery as it tried to move past. A Confederate infantry unit in the Stone House proved incapable of withstanding a Union Close Assault and fled, giving the Union a strongpoint to jump off from.

Union takes the Stone House but the Confederates are well-established on Henry Hill….

By now, the Confederates had collapsed onto Henry Hill and the adjoining woods and Confederate reinforcements were arriving. The Union decided to not immediately try and leverage the Confederates off Henry Hill and instead attempted to turn the flank and seize the route to Manassas. However, the Confederate reinforcements moved up and strengthened their flank. The Union offensive sputtered out as casualties mounted.

Union fails to turn the Confederate flank at Henry Hill; casualties mount and the Union is defeated.

Game Observations

The battle was played out over 12 turns of the allotted 18. The Union was behind from the beginning when the flanking maneuver at Sudley Ford was chewed up by artillery, losing two units. A lone Confederate infantry unit on Matthews Hill killed another unit, but more importantly attrited a Union artillery battery to the point it was unable to keep up with the advance or risk being lost. The battle at Stone House cost another Union unit (the fifth). The Union took their best infantry unit (their lone gold “elite” unit) to lead the flanking maneuver past Henry Hill but it was caught in a crossfire and suffered dearly, eventually being destroyed for the sixth Confederate VP and the win.

This game I experimented with using my cross tokens for AP allocation. In a Hold the Line game, in every turn a player starts with an Action Point (AP) value and can add AP via a random die roll. There is a countdown track on the Player Aid Card to track AP expenditure. I find using the track a bit unwieldy and constantly finding myself forgetting which unit expended AP or what my current AP is. This game, I took my cross tokens (aka “tile spacers” from Home Depot) and when allocating AP took that number of tokens in hand. As AP is spent, that number of cross tokens are stacked on top of the spending unit. I found myself using the AP track on the Player Aid Card simply as a tool for tracking the base AP. This method worked really well and it will probably be my preferred method of AP tracking for all future Hold the Line games.

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