Below are reviews from wargamers who attended Historicon 2015 in Fredricksburg, Virginia.
I had a great time at Historicon. Dean, your Champion Hill table with smaller scale terrain was GREAT. It captured the perfect feel for the size of the battle, and Dean, you were right, everyone was engaged from the get go. The battle lines stretched 3 miles across width-wise, from one side of the table to the other. The tweaks you added in like the adding a victory location and making the bridge a decisive location really changed and improved the flow of the game. I missed your mentioning the new VC’s, so I was thinking of a Confederate counter-attack at the start as the sort of nominal, ad hoc commander-helper of the Confederate right-wing. Jim and Dan, it was nice to meet you guys, and you guys did a great job positioning your brigades in excellent defensive tactical positions. Grant, Perry, and PJ were aggressive and adept Union commanders, and they certainly kept us on our toes !
Well, after consulting with Confederate Major General Clint, who told me of the revised victory conditions, I immediately saw his wisdom in sending Tilgham’s Division of 2 brigades to support the Confederate left-wing, so off they went and I was happy to turn their command over to Patrick LeBeau, cause I knew they would be in the hands of someone who would make the most of them, AND THEY WERE. That shift left the Confederate right-wing to play defensively with some local regimental counter-attacks, to try and keep the Yankees off balance, especially as it became clear that the Yankees were going to have artillery dominance at least on the right. 3 sections to a battery, greater FP numbers vs. 2 section of CS and lesser FP numbers, counter-battery was tough going. It was all we could do to stay alive with the artillery and take out as many US infantry as we could. And Jim, that was a great regimental counter-attack you made to punch threw the Union attacking lines and throw them off balance. Fortunately, I was able to cover for Dan and his brigade, as he had some selling to do in Wally’s basement. Union commander Perry, not lacking in aggressiveness, did a fine job of keeping me guessing and his 3 regiment charge into the small patch of light woods, nearly punched clean threw and was a thorn in my C.S. side for quite a few turns. It was excellent though working with CS co-commander, Jim, and I think we did a good job coordinating our defenses. It would’ve been nice if we could’ve kept it set up to finish out the last 5 turns the next day b/c the Union certainly were going to have their chances to capture that bridge if we had played the full game out. I think if everyone had more experience, we would’ve gotten closer to completion, and also they layout of the battle lines at least on the right, kind of made it necessary for players to alternate moving b/c of space limitations…. there was really only one location at the table edge which was convenient for the commanders to move their brigades on the right… b/c of the need to reach into the middle of table… so we had to alternate. Dean, it was a GREAT game, nonetheless, and I knew when I saw Union commander, Curt, bearing down on that bridge en masse right out of the gates, that it was going to be close… and it certainly wasn’t over when we called it for the night. I think we reached a lull in the battle, and it just so happened that the CS happened to be holding 2 of the victory objectives at that time. Given another 5 turns, I’m not sure that would’ve been the case.
Dean, Patrick, PJ, Curt,Grant, Clint, Jim, Dan, Don, Perry, Aaron, and anyone else who’s name I didn’t catch… thanks for a GREAT game. Whichever convention Across A Deadly Field (ADF) is going to be at next, I’m certainly going to try to be there.
BTW, Patrick, your AWI table looked GREAT, and I would’ve liked to have gotten into the game. But I wasn’t looking for ACW, not AWI, in the brochure, so I didn’t see it !
And Dean, THANKS for the book. It looks REAL INTERESTING.
One of John Hill’s longtime friends, Dean West, also commented and replied to the incredibly detailed above review of Historicon 2015:
Hi Jim,I appreciate your review of this long day of battle at Historicon.I was impressed with your generalship in this game, as I was last year when you were victorious over regulars with Jenkins’s rag tag WV Confederate cavalry. Champion Hill was no pillow fight -haha.Champion Hill was an ambitious and potentially disastrous game to host at a convention, where many new Across A Deadly Field (ADF) players would by necessity be involved. In fact, it’s size would be daunting for even experienced players. It is more suited to a group who plays fights big battles in one of their basements on the weekend. However, I was blessed to have a fine group of war game generals signed up to play. Everyone remained throughout the day, even after I gave the weary an escape route by calling a one hour lunch break. Many could have scampered off into the “woods” and never returned.I had considered a two-session game to allow player replacement and suggested we do that at one point, but every single player (as I recall) voted to retain command and press on. Thanks to you all for making me feel very good about that!Counting batteries, there were 70 maneuver elements on the Confederate side, and about 80 on the Union side. One thing for certain sure, every player had plenty of troops to manage. Nevertheless, thanks to the great gamers who signed-up to play, it went every bit as good as I had hoped it would, but feared it would not.Finally, thanks to the many who pitched in to help me pick-up the game – that in itself was a big job – and special thanks to you, Jim Korten, for helping me to the bitter end. Because of you, the right units got put back in the right storage boxes.Also thanks to Curt Daniels and Aaron Silverman for taking on the challenge of leading Logan and Hovey’s divisions in the initial assault on Champion Hill and the adjoining ridge. On the table, it looks like that should be easy, given that the two divisions number 10,000 men. But it is not easy (as you two found out), and in several play tests, the attack failed. If it fails, the game is over for all intent and purpose. I also want to thank George and Don for struggling with the horrendous terrain on Boles HillI keep thinking of things to write about…Jim, you mentioned the superiority of the Union artillery. When I was designing the scenario i worried about this disparity from a play balance perspective. However, when researching the battle, I found surprisingly little reference in primary or secondary sources regarding effective Union artillery. The only mention in most sources is the massed battery that helped repulse Bowen’s remorseless Missourians & Arkansans just short of Grant’s HQ (attack almost turned the tide), Also, the arty. duel on Coker House Ridge, where the Reb batteries were no match for A. J. Smith’s rifled guns. Having done all this research, I became confident that this failure of Yank guns to dominate is due to the it difficult terrain in this part of the world. The terrain in general is simply not suited to guns- few good lines of sight. So I made a point of making the lay of the land on the tabletop similarly difficult. Several union players complained to me about this during the game – I was gratified to hear these complaints.Before ending, I want to thank my friends Patrick Lebeau and P. J. from the bottom of my heart for co- moderating. Could not have done it without them. These two know the ADF rules better than anyone.Finally, I hope those who played learned a little more about this rather obscure historical battle. Had Grant lost at Champion Hill, which he almost did, the course of the war would have been very different. Champion Hill deserves to be far more famous than it appears to be.Best to All,Dean
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