As an amateur historian of the horse and musket era I often read various histories of the great commanders and their defining battles. In doing so I find myself pondering the issues of command and the variable “moments” that define the various key items that mark a significant battle.
Currently I am reading Gordon Rhea’s excellent book “The Battle of the Wilderness”. As I read I often pause and ponder the critical moments that defined the battle. For example, what if Meade had pressed earlier his attack at Saunders Field? What could have occurred if Getty was delayed on the Brock Road?
As a wargamer I am challenged to refight these battles out on the table. I find it fascinating the degree that such games assist me in understanding the terrain, the period and the challenges of warfare in the period. Sometimes the decisions on the table result in the historical course of the action being followed, yet others see alternate outcomes develop.
This time last week I was fortunate to refight the Battle of Shiloh, a photo of which is shown below. This refight provided, as I expected, a fascinating evenings game as well as an ability to explore some interesting historical alternatives.
While some wargamers are interested in the modeling aspects or small unit tactics I have a preference to refighting the larger battles of the period. I have been fortunate to refight a large number of battles from the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War. The rule set that for the last 20 years that has enabled me to do this is of course Volley & Bayonet. Frank Chadwick, author of Volley & Bayonet explained some of his thinking in his design notes:
“…what interested me most about the Napoleonic Wars was the army-level view of the battlefield. When we think about the Napoleonic Wars, I believe that most of us think Waterloo, Austerlitz, Marengo, Borodino, Leipzig, Jena-Auerstaedt, etc., as opposed to the charge of the Zastrow Cuirasiers at the Great Redoubt, or the breaking of the 4th Ligne’s square by the Russian Garde Du Corps on the slopes of the Stare Vinohrady. So my viewpoint of the import aspects of the Napoleonic Wars shaped the scope of the game decisively.”
Since the refighting Shiloh I have been considering the aspects of Volley and Bayonet that hold particular appeal. Firstly, as mentioned previously I’m interested in refighting large battles, rather than regimental actions. Given that each stand in Volley & Bayonet represents 1500 to 3000 men large battles are clearly possible. Then of course the level of the rules ensure that the games focus on the big picture, after all each turn represents an hour. The fact that with the same general rules, modified by period specific changes, I can refight battles from the Seven Years War to American Civil War as a significant advantage. Yet each period has a totally different feel.
Unlike many I’m not focussed on a particular figure scale. So while my Horse & Musket miniatures are all 6mm I’m just as happy to use Volley & Bayonet with miniatures ranging in height from 2mm to 25mm. Each scale has its advantages and while I enjoy the visuals of 6mm other scales can be equally excellent. Take for example this refight of Hastenbeck refought with Volley & Bayonet and 30mm flats which can be found here.
I have of course rambled somewhat in this evening’s post. However, I would ask a couple of questions. Firstly, do you enjoy refighting historical actions, or do you prefer fictional encounters? If you enjoy refights which aspects do you find of particular interest?