Fort Stephens Day one (Part two)

part two.

In the centre of the table French advanced. Clearly they wanted to hold as much land as possible beyond the objectives while at the time of securing it with irregular forces. Their Militia unit nearest the enemy stared to come under concentrated fire. The French flank was looking fragile. If the infantry  go they will lose their artillery.  Urgent messengers were sent off asking for support from the central reserve holding the villageConfederate lines extend.jpg.

One aspect of Bloody Big Battles that I particularly like is the way little dramas unfold across the table top. On the south side of the battlefield, next to the lake, there were only two units on each side.

Lakeside close up.jpg

The Louisiana Militia were able to engage their Mississippi counterparts and drive them off. Having skirmishes proved to be a significant advantage.  They ended up perfectly poised for a flank assault on some regular CSA troops. Their target also had French veterans advancing on them through woods to their front.  Despite being outnumbered and flanked the CSA regulars were able to bounce their attackers. The breathing space gave them time to retire and regroup, able to take their place in the overnight battle lines.

Critical Swamp encounter.jpg

Things had reached a critical situation in the centre swamp. The French and Louisiana troops had committed to a strong defence. The Confederates were positioning to apply concentrated fire. It looked like one of the Louisiana Militia units was getting the worst of it.  In fact, the Militia unit on the north side of the swamp soon ran off as a result of a failed test. The French regulars held their ground under a withering fire from many units. To start with their skirmishers were driven off. This made them more vulnerable during the next round of shooting.

At the end of the game, night fell and the two forces separated. They each tried to: recover lost stands, remove disrupted markers and replenish low ammunition.

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We are still very much new to these rules and learning all the time. I used the point system produced by someone on the Bloody Big Battles Yahoo group. Force size was 500pts each. Any less than this and we think there will be less flexibility for manoeuvre. More than this and things would slow down too much. If there had been two players per side then 500 points might be too much. We are thinking of trying 500 points for the first to arrive and then 400 points for players who arrive a little bit later.

We found that the benefit of skirmishes to be quite significant and wondered if the points cost should be a little greater.  I think perhaps we will try that and see how it works.

Close combat is quite random and deadly.  I like that it makes it decisive but risky enough that it needs good preparation before contact.  You can mitigate the risk by making sure you have numerical advantage, you’ve reduced your opponent to spent, you’ve disrupted them and ideally flanked them as well. Even then, you’re probably going to win but there’s always the risk of the dreaded   6 : 1 roll.

That concluded day one of the battle. Day two of the battle will find the forces starting in their overnight positions. (Using the BBB night time rules.) It will also find two additional forces arriving. The French force will arrive along the Baton Rouge Road.  The CSA force will arrive along the road either from Mobile or Jackson.  I plan to take more photographs and share the results.

In conclusion, I would say I am very happy with the Rules and the progress so far with the narrative.

Bigger picture..

A decisive victory for the French with their Louisiana allies would secure the territory on this side of the Mississippi. The French commander has been tempted to abandon all land east of the Mississippi as being indefensible.  The problem with this approach is that Baton Rouge just happens to be on the East Bank of the river. With the French minor victory during the first day, the stage is set for a decisive French victory.

This AAR has been the first entry in the narrative campaign of A71 (Alternative history 1871.)

Details of the full alternative history should be ready to post soon.



Fort Stephens day one. (Part one)

Fort Stephens day one. (Also known as the Battle of Ponchatoula) 

Word of the arrival in New Orleans of French forces had spread fast. Militia units from Mississippi and CSA regular units from Alabama moved quickly to block the bottleneck between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas in LA. Field fortifications were rapidly thrown up in an effort to block passage Northwards. The forces were deployed, waiting for the invading French forces to arrive .

The French commander sent to clear the road was met by the local commander of the local Louisiana Militia who suggested an alternative approach. He identified a route around the north of Lake Maurepas, bypassing the bottleneck and arriving behind the defenders.


The battlefield was on a 6′ by 4′ table. To the West was Baton Rouge. To the East was Mobile, To the North was Jackson. New Orleans was to the South. There were victory points for each road exit from the table and 2 Victory points for holding village of Ponchatoula.

FortStephens Pre game.jpg

The table before the start of the game. North is on the left hand side. Half of the South table edge is covered by the edge of Lake Maurepas  and is impassible. Streams are passable by infantry (-3″) and impassible to artillery.  The dark green templates with trees are woodland. The light green templates with ponds are representing Marsh.

The road running north to south has a stream on it’s southern edge and swamp on it’s northern edge. In the the distance on the right hand side you can see confederate forces deployed, along with field fortifications. The Louisiana Militia and French forces will be approaching from the west. (Still sitting their box.) There are additional forces prepared for any other players that arrive later. One is a French force arriving from the West the other is a Confederate force from the North (Jackson) or the east (Mobile). The additional forces were not required.

French Arrive From the West.jpg

The French crossed the river, advanced to the small town and deployed ready to advance on the Confederates or hold the centre. The red markers in the village show the locations to be held for Victory Points. Closest to the camera is a unit of militia which has skirmisher stands (Cajun). The  French regulars deployed on either side of the village and expected to carry the bulk of the fighting. The French also brought had one piece of rifled artillery and a Mitrailleuse machine gun.

Confedeartes abandon Fieldworks.jpg


The Confederate forces abandoned the field fortifications when they realised they’d been outflanked during the night. They redeployed on a broad front heading towards the village.

The mixed force of Militia, State Regulars and CSA regulars spread out. Some headed for the woodland cover while most splashed through the swamp.

end – of- part – one