Noble Knight Games
This session begins with Game Turn 3 (Fall 1861). This week, Gary Andrews is unavailable, so the Union forces will be
controlled exclusively by Harvey Mossman and I will control the Confederates. As mentioned in the last article,
the finally Victory Point tally at the end of our last session was 7 VP for the Union, and 0 VP for the Confederacy.
The formula for Automatic Victory is to subtract the Confederate VPs from the Union VPs
and then compare that result to the Benchmark Number listed on the game turn track for the turn just ending. If the net
VP difference is at least 12 greater than the Benchmark Number, the Union wins an Automatic Victory. If it is at least 12 less
than the Benchmark number, the Confederate wins an Auto Victory. Any other result, and the game continues. In our game, the
net VP difference of 7 was compared against the Benchmark Number of 4, and so the game continues.
The South is not awarded Victory Points for Objective hexes in Border States (i.e. Kentucky, Missouri or West Virginia). The
only way to gain Confederate VPs is to invade a Northern state. A difficult proposition because the Union army is numerically
superior right from the start of the game, and the Confederate forces never seem to be plentiful enough to leave a strong garrison
in Virginia while the main army marches on Washington DC.
At the end of the last session, the Union was pressuring Virginia from the north with two strong forces under the command
of Generals McDowell and McClellan, and from the east with an amphibious expeditionary force commanded by General Burnside.
My "Army of Northern Virginia" was a powerul force of 9 SPs standing directly astride the path of advance of McDowell and
McClellan. (see the map below)
Situation in the Eastern Theater at the start of this session (Game Turn 3)
In my opinion, the Union is in great tactical shape at this point. All the pressure is on me. Harvey is getting dangerously
close to scoring an Automatic Victory, and it's uncertain if I'll be able to prevent it. I'm sticking to my plan of trying to
inflict a crushing defeat on one of the Union forces north of Richmond, with the hopes that that will cause the other force
to scurry back to protect the citizens of Washington DC. Harvey's plan (which I did not know at the time, of course) was to move
aggressively against Richmond, regardless of the actions of the Army of N Virginia, and to begin major combat operations in the
Western Theater. The stage is set, and off we go...
Game Turns 3, 4 and 5 (Fall, Winter and Spring of 1862)
The Eastern Theater
The gods smiled upon me at the start of Game Turn 3, because I got the first activation and did, in fact, inflict a crushing
defeat on McClellan after a failed Interception attempt by McDowell left McClellans 7 SPs to face the full fury of
Joe Johnston's 9 SPs alone. Within a short period of time, the Army of Northern Virginia was in possession of the port at
Aquia Station, right along the Potomac river, poised to strike into the heart of the Union.
Unfortunately, Harvey also stuck to his plan of "making Richmond howl". He reinforced Burnside with 3 more SPs via Ocean Transport, which
made me lose my nerve and counter-march back towards Burnside in an attempt to eliminate the flanking threat once and for
all. Burnside, however, inflicted a tactical defeat on Joe Johnston in between the Rapahannock and Pamnukey rivers. That,
combined with the resumption of Union forces moving south, left the Army of N Virginia in a tenuous position.
The final blow came when Burnside moved against Richmond (with the speed of Rommel leading the 7th Panzer; Hmmmmmmm....),
conquering and destroying the city in one fell swoop. A counter-attack by Joe Johnston failed to liberate the razed city,
leaving the once mighty Army of Northern Virginia with only 3 SPs... and surrounded by Union forces.
Eastern Theater at the end of Game Turn 5
Both sides remained minimally active during the lean Winter months (no reinforcements on Game Turn 4). The Union armies, providing
Harvey the joy that President Lincoln certainly never got to experience, continued their inexorable southward movement down the
Shenandoah valley to Staunton, VA and virtually across the entire state of Virginia. I tried to send General Stuart (cavalry)
on a "thunder run" up north, but he was totally shut down by the solid wave of blue heading south and was finally trapped and
put out of action. Harvey left me no breathing room. Every which way I turned, there was an aggressive Union general who needed
no special prompting to move into action. Hmmmmmmm....
On the positive side (for me, anyway), Game Turn 5 (Spring 1862), brought me much needed reinforcements along with the General
of Generals... Robert E. Lee, who was expeditiously put in command of the reinvigorated Army of Northern Virginia. After some transfers
and reconfiguration, subordinate generals Jackson and Longstreet were added to the army, which promptly set off to inflict retribution
on the enemy.
Before attempting to recapture Richmond, I sent Lee up to eliminate Union General Sigel and the threat he posed to the Confederate
line of communication between Lee's army and Lynchburg. I figured an easy win would be good for troop morale, and would leave Lee in
position to either move northeast toward Fredericksburg, west toward Staunton, or southeast to Richmond. Unbelievably, General Lee, et al,
were fought to a standstill by General Sigel and his 3 SPs and had to retreat back to the combat entry hex!!! Let me repeat that...
Generals Lee, Jackson, Beauregard, and Longstreet (although only Lee and Jackson actually contributed their Attack ratings to the battle) and
a 3 to 1 numerically superior force, were fought to a standstill (read: they lost) to Union General (now called "Bugsy") Sigel.
An unexpected turn of events for sure. Hmmmmmmm....
This will likely portend "the end" for Virginia. As we enter Game Turn 6 (1st half of Summer 1862) both sides will be able to reinforce
but the Union position is much stronger. The Confederates can risk an assault on Richmond, or can start moving northeast towards Fredericksburg,
hoping to defeat all the Union armies up there piecemeal, making the occupation of Richmond untenable. Neither sounds like a great option.
The most likely Confederate course of action will be to try to hold a line from Norfolk to Petersburg to Lynchburg, keeping the Victory
Point gap from widening any further. Harvey is likely to just keep doing what he's been doing; an irresistable wave of movement southward.
One thing that Harvey has not done at all, is to start picking off coastal forts and ports, thus squeezing off my ability
to create new SPs. I strongly suspect that Summer of 1862 is going to see a bunch of Union activity along the coasts.
The Western Theater
All hell has broken loose in the West! The furious Confederate digging and entrenching was all for nought as the Union forces
have gone through them like a hot knife through butter. In rapid succession, the Entrenchment along the Mississippi River near
New Madrid, the Entrenchment in between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers southwest of Clarksville, Clarksville itself,
and the F2 Fort that was built in Nashville have all fallen without much of a fight.
The arrival of Union General Grant in the Winter spurred things into action and Harvey put him right to work. In no time at all,
my Confederates had been chased all the way south along the Mississippi River into Memphis, TN, all the way south into Decatur, AL,
and all the way southeast into Chattanooga, TN. What a rout! In this game so far, Grant is behaving like Grant in the West (even if Lee is
not behaving like Lee in the East...).
The final positions you see on the map, below, came about as follows:
- Curtis came barrelling down the Tennessee River (amphibious style), clearing the Entrenchment at the port of Dover.
- Curtis then proceeded along the river down to Muscle Shoals where the river becomes non-navigable.
- Grant came down the river to Clarksville, TN, and destroyed the force there.
- Grant then proceeded to burn Nashville, TN, and then moved south through Murfreesboro, Columbia, Pulaski, before capturing Decatur, AL.
- Confederate General Hardee fled southeast to Chattanooga, TN, in the face of Grant's onslaught, intending to make a stand there.
- Harvey had originally planned to have Grant meet up with Curtis and then proceed east into Mississippi and then on to the River.
- Harvey instead had Grant turn east to capture Huntsville, AL and Winchester, TN en route to an engagement with Hardee.
- Hardee had an opportunity to move quickly north back towards Nashville before Grant could interfere and I decided to do that.
Western Theater at the end of Game Turn 5
I'm not sure if Harvey will have Grant follow Hardee north to Nashville, or if he will leave Hardee for General Buell to take care of.
I'm not going to say which I prefer because Harvey will be reading this, but honestly I still haven't decided myself what to do with Hardee.
He's going to have a supply problem very shortly and I'm not sure what the best course of action is. I'm open to suggestions; just drop
me an email. :-)
The Trans-Mississippi Theater
This theater has settled down. The Confederates have picked up two new 2-star leaders, Generals Van Dorn and Hindman, but I'm not
sure what to do with them! Basically, we're in the same positions we were at the end of our last session, and we have both reinforced.
I have consolidated my forces in Little Rock, AR, and now have 4 SPs there along with an F2 Fort (we haven't been idle). The Union
have beefed up Curtis's force from 1 SP to 4 SPs, with a 5th SP on the way from Missouri. I expect there will be a battle there soon,
but it will be up to Harvey to initiate it; I'm not moving from my cozy fort in Little Rock!
Trans-Mississippi Theater at the end of Game Turn 5
The Gulf Coast
I added this final image for completeness. From Vicksburg on down there isn't much going on, but my Confederates have been digging
furiously and I hope to have Vicksburg and New Orleans well fortified within the next turn or two. Let's see if General Kirby Smith
can hold a fort any better than his contemporaries...
Gulf coast states at the end of Game Turn 5
Spending three full turns of just about everything going wrong (excepting the very first action of the turn), it's easy for
me to psychologically drift into defeatist mode. Lee's failure to dislodge Sigel just completely crushed my confidence.
However, we have to keep things in perspective. For example, his Victory Point position now, at the end of Game Turn 5,
is slightly less rosy than it was at the end of Game Turn 2. After Turn 2, I was running calculations (detailed at the end
of the last session article) that had Harvey realistically within reach of an Automatic Victory in Game Turn 3! I think
the situation is still quite Union-friendly at the end of Game Turn 5, but maybe a bit less so. Let's review:
After 5 turns of play, the Union has accumulated 16 Victory Points:
- Fredericksburg (1), Strasburg (1), Harper's Ferry (1), Staunton (1) and Richmond (4) in Virginia.
- Grafton (1), Charleston (1) and Wheeling (1) in West Virginia.
- Fayetteville (1) in Arkansas.
- Clarksville (1) and Nashville (3 - 1) in Tennessee (net 2 points for Nashville because it has been recaptured).
- Decatur (1) in Alabama.
The Benchmark Number for Game Turn 6 is 15, meaning that the Union must have a net VP advantage of 27 VPs to secure an
Automatic Victory. Which means he needs 11 more than he has now, while preventing me from accumulating any VPs at all.
Completing the conquest of Tennessee will bag him 9 VPs (remember that he's only get +1 back for recapturing Nashville).
Capturing Petersburg, Lynchburg and Norfolk in VA adds another 3 VPs to his total. A few amphibious assaults on coastal
VP hexes or coastal forts than guard VP cities, and he's well above the required number of VPs. Unlike Game Turn 3, however,
I now have two reasonably powerful forces on the map: the Army of Northern Virginia in VA (8 SPs) and Hardee's force in
Nashville, TN, with cavalry General Morgan supporting. So it's not like I have to stand idly by and watch Harvey devour
Victory Point cities.
Confederate prospects for accumulating any VPs are dreary. I can send Hardee north into Kentucky, but Kentucky Objective hexes
will not get me any VPs (only BPs for building new troops). I would have to defeat Union General Buell and his 6 SPs in Kentucky,
then make a beeline for Indiana's Objective hexes in order to get any VPs on my side of the score card. All the while trying
to somehow keep my force supplied enough to prevent from withering on the vine. Not likely, I must confess.
Any level of victory is going to require aggressive play by Harvey and his Union army, and I must remain watchful for any
screw-ups on his part that may present an opportunity that I can capitalize on to keep myself in the game a bit longer.
As of this moment, I'm predicting my own defeat in the Fall of 1862... which is longer than I've personally seen any Confederate
player last in this game. We'll see. This weekend, our schedules conflict so the next game session will be held on the
weekend of Jan 23/24, and I will post an update within a week after that.