Brother Against Brother – The AAR, Part 1

frontier wars 728x90 KS

Matrix Games just released their new game of the American Civil War, Brother Against Brother. Here’s a play-by-email AAR of the First Battle of Bull Run.

by kwhitehead (of the Matrix Forums), 16 April 2015

I am the Rebel player. Lacresta has the low life Yankees.

The “2-Player” scenario is the wide open do what you want to do scenario particularly for the Union since they start uncommitted to McDowell’s flank attack. The Scenario starts with most of the Union army concentrated along the Warrenton Turnpike between Centreville and the Suspension Bridge over Club Run.

I have used the jump map shown below to illustrate the troop positions. Since the jump map doesn’t show roads and trails very well and is somewhat out of proportion (stretched a bit in the north south axis) I have labeled various important locations in green. I also added the general location of my brigades by adding the names in white. The jump map shows the Rebel unit locations with red and the victory hexes in yellow. Since it is hard to tell what type of victory hexes they are I added a number in purple next to the yellow showing the number of Union VP hexes in that location.

In this scenario the Victory Hexes are rather scattered. I showed the Union ones mostly because they will be the ones the Yankee Player will go for since final victory is based off of who holds the most VP hexes. Victory hexes come in three flavors. They can be for both sides, USA only or CSA only. For example, the CSA player has a victory hex at Poplar Ford at the top of the map but the Union player doesn’t. This doesn’t mean he can ignore the hex since denying Victory hexes to the opponent is important too. It just won’t reward the Union player for sending a unit to occupy it. Some “yellow” areas have multiple Victory Hexes like Centreville which has two. One is for both sides and a second one is only for the Rebel player. The Rebel player has some type of Victory hex in every yellow area but the Suspension Bridge, New Market Crossroad, north of Blackburn Ford, and the one at the bottom representing the road to Manassas Junction.

Looking at the map’s red dots it is obvious that the Rebels only have a small force based around Cocke’s brigade on their far left. The majority of their forces are concentrated around the McLean House on the right with a contingency deployed along Bull Run to their north. The center is a vast empty land with a few cavalry companies covering. The Union player has to decide where to focus the weight of his army based around Centreville. It is about equal distance to Bull Run marching west or south. The problem with a southern drive is their aren’t very many Victory hexes to be taken. Most are Rebel ones. A drive that direction would require destroying the Rebel army to obtain victory. Considering the terrain and the Rebel army already concentrated their it would be difficult.

So like McDowell the Yankee commander will look west. Unlike McDowell he knows the Stone Bridge is weakly held. In addition, he knows that Cocke’s brigade is to spread out and most of Bull Run between Cocke and Bonham is empty. So a drive on the Stone Bridge, Lewis Ford in front Cocke, and Ball’s Ford looks like a sure thing. He could further cover his bets by sending a division around the Rebel flank by way of Sudley Ford which is off the screen shot to the NW.

The Rebel player, in this case me, must guess which way the thrust will be made and the weight of that thrust. The scenario starts at 2 AM so there are two night moves (2 AM and 4 AM) before the first day light move at 6 AM. After that turns are 20 minutes. The bad news for the Rebel is that these are high movement point moves at night. They obviously can’t cover the distance that six 20 minute turns would give but they still can make quite a jump down the road. The Union player obviously knows where he needs to move since he has the initiative. The Rebel must take a leap of faith.

The Rebel does have one advantage, a large number of small cavalry units, usually about 70 men each. These he can throw out as a screen. They will act both as a trip wire for identifying which way the Union is moving and as a speed bump to slow that deployment down buying valuable time for the rest of the Rebel army.


Yogi the Great

Just one comment so others know

Lacresta aka Yogi the Great. A long time ago on Slitherine I used Lacresta as a user name. For whatever reason it just keeps popping up and I can’t seem to get it changed on the Slitherine site. Each time I go into Multiplayer Lacresta pops up automatically and I delete it and put in Yogi the Great. I have no problem if Lacresta is used in the AAR or pops up elsewhere but I thought the other Beta Testers might wonder who the heck Lacresta is.

— Yogi the Great


The Rebel Plan

In the edited screenshot below I have added what I think the Union’s best move is, in blue, and how I will respond, in red.

The Union has better roads going west to the Stone Bridge. The two Rebel brigades there are very weak relative to what the Union can bring to bear. And there are lots of potential victory hexes for the Union. So I suspect the chances of a move south directly into the Rebel strength is unlikely. Also, a move by Sudley Ford as done historically is unlikely since there are plenty of crossing near the Stone Bridge. What I don’t know is the weight that the Union will place on the different approaches and whether he will leave a rear guard around Centreville.

I figure that I can reverse my move much easier than I can risk not arriving in time to slow the Union attack on my left. So much of my army starts on the move marked in red on the first turn. Longstreet will move toward Centreville to both confirm and see what the Union is doing from that end. But the main advantage the Rebel has is lots of cavalry which I will use to fan out to both screen my army and determine which direction the Union is moving. The purple dots on the map show the general outline of the screen I hope to have in place before dawn.


The Night Turns and Dawn

The game starts at 2 AM and has two night turns, 2 AM and at 4AM. My army marches through the night trying to reach the vulnerable left by dawn. Meanwhile my cavalry scatters out along the various roads and trails that the Union might move to both find them and slow them down. No contact is made in the darkness but dawn bring news of sightings.

Cavalry on the turnpike detects movement toward the Stone Bridge. Looks like Sherman’s boys leading the pack.

The 6 AM turn is the first daylight turn and my cavalry scouting up the eastward trail from Ball’s Ford makes contact with the enemy. I suspect from what little I can see during the replay that they are Richardson’s brigade taking the short cut to Ball’s Ford from his initial positions below Centreville. His leaving his start positions is confirmed by Longstreet but I still don’t know the size of the force. As you can see in the screen shot there are a lot of flags but no identification. This is how the game presents Fog of War. But I do know there are more flags than Richardson has regiments so he has some help.

It looks like a major commitment toward my left. Luckily Beauregard has some “Speed Division” orders to pass along and give one to Johnston. This gives Johnston’s brigades of the Army of the Shenandoah a 25% movement boost. In the game the AoS is treated like a division. The push ahead of the other brigades in my bid to get to the left in time.

Turn 4a – 620

My cavalry is out delaying the enemy and determining who is approaching. Unfortunately, for my cavalry it gets a little too up close and personal. Yep, that is Sherman coming down the Warrington Turnpike and oh *%#@ it looks like we are just a speed bump.

Turn 4b – 620

I sent Longstreet by a shorter road to see if he could catch up with Richardson’s rear and slow his move on Ball’s Ford. To take advantage of this move I need to put him into “Assault” mode by issue the order shown below. This order would make Longstreet’s next move shorter but would allow him to close with the enemy and inflict more damage. Unfortunately, Longstreet being Longstreet failed to change his orders. Some BS about his boots.
Turn 4c – 620

And to top this turn off with bad luck, a number of brigades in Johnston’s command failed their activation last turn. Guess they wanted to stop for breakfast but Jackson should have done better. You can tell this happened to you when you look around the map and start seeing a bunch of you units with reddish circles around them. Not only lost a move but used up Beauregard’s last “Speed Division”.


Turn 5a – 640

Things are developing quickly as far as the Union is concerned. It looks like Miles’ 5th division plus Richardson’s brigade are pushing toward Ball’s Ford. I have various cavalry units deployed to slow their advance down but they have little combat ability. I have Longstreet closing on their rear and plan to also send Holmes’ brigade to support but it is still far away and Longstreet is still refusing to put his boots on.

I did get one break as can be seen by those red circles around many of the regiments in the screen shot below most of Miles’ division didn’t activate. Only Richardson’s brigade closed but that is enough to put Madison’s cavalry in real trouble. Luckily I was able to give the cavalry an “Advance” order overriding its “March” order. This opened up movement paths out of the trap as shown by the green arrows in the screen shot.



Turn 5b – 640

Meanwhile the Union is pushing in strength toward the Stone Bridge while my army is strung out trying to get to the left using a path that leads to Greenleaf Branch near Island Ford. This will bring them up behind Cocke’s position. Luckily Beauregard gets another “Speed Division” option shown below. It will allow units like the 27th Virginia shown to increase their movement allowance from 28 to 35. Hopefully I will get a lot more soon if I am going to get there in time. So far I have Tyler’s powerful division deploying to take the Stone Bridge where Evan’s two regiments stand guard. I still haven’t seen units from Hunter’s or Heintzelman’s divisions.


Turn 6a – 0700

We have had an hour of daylight with mostly skirmishing as the Union tries to turn my left before I can get anything in front of them. Casualties have been low, USA 8 and CSA 103, but for the Rebel they are almost all cavalry.

Army morale is still about the same as at start. The Union has a morale of 2.70 with a minimum of 1.30. The Confederate has a morale of 3.17 with a minimum of 1.15. While in no danger for either side if the Army Morale falls below the minimum their army will collapse ending the game. The minimums will change during the battle so they must be watched as heavy fighting draws down the morale.

The battle is now changing from a cavalry delaying action to an infantry fight. The Union is now deploying against Evans’ position at the Stone Bridge and has the strength to destroy Evans’ three demi-regiments. So far I have identified Union regiments from Howard, Wilcox, Franklin and Porter. Wonder where Sherman wandered off too?

Here is the position at the beginning of the turn. I tried to give Evans a “Withdrawal” order to cut his losses and let him pull back slowly but it failed. Also things don’t look good for Evans’ two supporting cavalry.


Turn 6b – 0700

Beauregard got another Speed Division action so I used it to get my reinforcements moving. Meanwhile Longstreet and his slow pursuit of Richardson got a boost when he finally got his boots on and made an Assault order. But now he is too far away to close.

I decide to give Cocke’s brigade a “Hold” order. I don’t like this order since the Rebels can take heavy losses trying to hold a position when they should retreat but for now it’s okay.


Turn 7a – 0720

Things at the Stone Bridge are heating up but Evans did take a Withdrawal order so he pulls back some. But only one of his cavalry units manage to escape entrapment.


Turn 7b – 0720

If Evans can just delay things an hour my reinforcements are pushing north to save him. The screen shot shows them at maximum zoom out, which renders the units as NATO style counters. They are stretched out over considerable distance along the trail to Cocke’s position. Units at the top are approaching the Greenleaf Branch crossings just west of Island Ford. Trails don’t improve movement much in clear terrain which is the reason so many are marching through the fields.


Turn 8 – 0740

Those reinforcements better hurry because the Union is pushing my cavalry screen aside and fast approaching Ball’s Ford. Looks like Blenker’s brigade in the lead with parts of Davies’ brigade and Richardson bringing up the rear. My pursuit by Longstreet and Holmes so far hasn’t closed with them.

Elsewhere on the field the surrounded cavalry, Company I of Evans, surrendered.


Turn 9 – 0800

My troops took some heavy hits over the last hour but got some pay back along the way. Casualties are now up to 379 for Union but the Rebs are taking it hard with 696.

It looks like they are responding to Longstreet’s approach. Some of the 5th Division and a lot of artillery have formed a line facing him. Meanwhile Beau got another Speed Division pushing Johnston’s troop move so the lead units are now crossing Holkums Branch behind Cocke’s position.

But Evans is having a hard time of it. One of his regiments has panicked and run away leaving only two facing a heavy Union line that is now across Bull Run.


Turn 10 – 0820

Johnston’s lead regiments have finally reached Youngs Branch and are close enough to help Evans but it is to late of Evans. His brigade collapses under the heavy assaults. Johnston will now try to cover his retreat to limit the damage.

Back on the trail to Balls Ford the Union has formed a solid line behind a small stream with lots of artillery. But finally Longstreet has arrived and deployed to confront them. But the fire is much to heavy from those guns so I plan to back off on Longstreet’s advance shifting more north to turn the left flank of the Union line. Meanwhile Holmes is moving to the left of Longstreet to strike the line on the right side. On the Ball’s Ford side not shone I am moving Bonham’s big brigade to the ford and also on the right of the ford on the other side of Bull Run. I am also sending Early when he arrives to Balls Ford.


Turn 11 – 0840

Finally spotted Sherman trying to sneak around my cavalry screen from the north toward Ball’s Ford.

On the Turnpike it looks like Burnside’s brigade is trying to get around my left where only Hampton’s Legion is holding the Wooden Bridge across Young’s Branch. Young’s Branch is my intended holding position but Bee, Bartow and Jackson move forward to the small hill below the Turnpike to try to help Evans’ remains get away. However, Evans’ 1st La Special Battalion is in serious danger of being surrounded. Maybe the Tigers can fight their way out.


Turn 12 – 0900

In the race for Ball’s Ford, the Rebs when by a hair. Early gets two of his regiments plus a battery into position reinforcing Bonham’s two regiments already there. But judging by the number of Yankee flags they will have a fight on their hands.


Turn 13 – 0920

The fight along the turnpike heats up as both sides feed more troops in. Unfortunately I am getting the worst of it. The Rebels are always at a disadvantage with these medium range fights. Most of my troops have muskets and 6 pounders for artillery. No match against Union rifles and parrot guns.


Turn 14 – 0940

My line near the Turnpike is stabilizing by the fighting is heavy. Now that Evans’ last regiment had rejoined the line I will pull it back to Young’s Branch.

Ball’s Ford fight isn’t going to well. The Yankees are bringing in troops faster than I am. I have regiments from three brigades trying to get there but they straggle in one at a time. The Union has regiments from Sherman, Blenker and Davies already in contact.


Turn 15 – 1000

I finally have all of Evans troops within my lines but saving them has been costly. The hour and twenty minute fight cost me over 1000 casualties compared to just 600 for the Union.

Jackson has formed a solid line on the left behind Young’s Branch but at the cost of Jackson who sucked on a lemon a little too close to the action. Preston replaces him. The rest of my line will fall back to the other side of Young’s Branch now anchoring my right on Bull Run.

Total casualties now stand at 1130 USA to 1883 CSA.

Come back for more all weekend!

 Discuss this AAR below, or in our forums >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *