Friday, January 24, 2014

The Battle of Iuka (1862): A Classroom Project

My school gave me permission to offer a no-credit mini-course on "simulation games." Given that this was an additional time commitment to already over-scheduled prep school students, I was pleasantly surprised to see that two students were able to fit it into their schedules. Neither has any experience with wargames, so I wanted to start them out simply.

I chose as our first game the ACW Battle of Iuka, which took place in 1862 between two armies blundering around in northern Mississippi, trying to outmaneuver each other.  Rosencrans thought he had Price trapped, since ord was moving up his own division to support him. However, Ord never responded to the sound of the guns (citing an acoustic shadow), and Rosencrans ended up facing a force about the side of his own commanded by the Confederate general Price, who was in turn waiting for support from Van Dorn which never arrived.  The confederates had just over 3000 men on the field, the Union had 4,500.

I'm surprised that Iuka doesn't get more love for wargamers.  It is small--I scaled it down to eight regiments on a side, but even with that I have more than 50% of the historical forces deployed on the table.  It is basically a meeting engagement, with two deployed brigades facing each other and reserve brigades moving up to support them.  Terrain is simple--an area of woods blocking the Union advance and the town of Iuka itself in the Confederate rear.    Lots of room for maneuver and plenty of opportunities for commanding generals to make meaningful decisions that would effect the outcome.

For rules, I chose Black Powder.  Despite its flaws, Black Powder is a great entry into wargaming, offering a fast simple way to resolve combats. In my experience with other students, novices can pick up the rules in two class periods and adjudicate most situations as they arise on their own. With some rule sets, i would hesitate to unload a full division on a novice player

So, each side starts with the same basic forces at their disposal: Two brigades of four infantry regiments each (there was some cavalry at Iuka but they appear to have fought dismounted), with three sections of 12lb Napoleons to support them.

The Rebs prepare to receive what the Union dishes out.

The Yanks prepare to advance.  These are my 10mm ACW figs that I painted two years ago, mostly from Pendraken.

The view from Iuka looking towards Federal lines.

So, we were all set up...and one of the two students missed the first class!  So now we await our first official session next Tuesday.

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