I haven't posted for a while, due to a wry neck putting me out of action for a week. The doctor diagnosed it and used the proper medical name, torticollis, which I thought sounded rather like a type of pasta-shape. Oh well, the end result is: I'm fine now, but wargaming went on hold for a few days! Now I'm back, I'd like to cover an area of the campaign I've missed before now: the grand-tactical level.
On the strategic map I've got area boxes which cover the nominal town or city, plus a fair bit of the surrounding countryside, which have to get transferred in a realistic way to the tabletop. On official campaigns you regularly get randomly generated battlefields, which is perfectly acceptable, but I personally like to have a 'real world' for campaigns with numerous possible battlefields that can be selected and marched to, avoided, flanked, etc. I think it adds a whole lot more. The drawback is that I don't want to map an entire country as I'd spend all my time on map-making rather than playing!
So, enter the area box - in close-up! Each area on the strategic map is split up into an 8 x 8 grid of smaller squares, each of variable 'real-life' distances but of 1ft x 1ft on the tabletop. Out of this, there are potentially 49 different DBA-sized battlefields in a single area. Here's an example:
The Union has a reasonably active August 1861, and sends it's cavalry to occupy Greenock, securing the Rebel-sympathising southern bank of the Clyde estuary leading out of Glasgow. Sadly, the city's shipyards don't yet have total access to the sea, as the northern shore is firmly in rebel hands - for now. More serious is the movement unfolding against the Rebel army that has siezed Falkirk. The trained core of the Union army is at Kilsyth to the west, and attacks them - but in a surprise move, the large army of militia troops in Edinburgh marches in from the east! It's a grand plan, Napoleonic in scope, which will no doubt earn the promising officer George McClellan a command if it should succeed. Now for a closer look at the Falkirk Map Area.
And here it is, drawn on an 8x8 grid! In terms of accuracy to reality, I'd say the map is 10% Reality and 90% Fantasy, but that's all that's needed! I've used the actual town names, placed them relative to each other, and drawn the only significant physical feature, the river Carron, on quite accurately. The road network, woods, hills, and railways are all invented. Pretty much the only modifications for 'reality' came when I looked up some towns on wikipedia and learned some minor fact, but adding in anything like this is pure whimsy - just for the fun of it! It's also worth pointing out that certain thudding inaccuracies will simply be ignored. Stirling, for example, will be mysteriously going without a medieval castle over it's town centre, as 19th Century America tended not to have too many of these!
Anyway, I didn't have time to detail this before the earlier first-encounter battle by the river Carron, but marked on above was how the armies first approached and engaged. The union occupied a slight salient in the river and blocked the main road routh to Falkirk from Stirling (the fictional road network does link in with the strategic map's connections to other areas.) Alas for them, the wily Beauregard souted them out with his superior cavalry and flanked them on the Grangemouth road to gain his close-fought victory. Now though, he is in posession of Falkirk and needs to fall back fast from the Blue pincers, if he doesn't feel like taking on odds of three to one!
With his cavalry watching the roads, he immediately detects the rival Federal army from Kilsyth as it approaches Larbert, plus shortly after this his other cavalry screen detects the larger Federal army coming from the direction of Livingston. Cavalry screens are shown above as dotted red lines, can see 2 squares, plus roughly a half-square if on a hill (I arbitrarily decided.)
Faced with this, Beauregard abandons Falkirk in record-time and begins pounding up the Stirling road, his position folding up like a collapsing bag. Movement on roads is twice as fast as movement across country, so the closest Union army takes Larbert and then sees it's movement slowed, not to mention the cavalry skirmishers slowing things yet more. All movement is simply done relative to each other, so as the Union move 'x' squares, so the rebels move 'x' squares. As such, without the need for a tabletop battle (and I'd been half-expecting a fighting retreat one around Larbert) the rebels escape. No doubt happy at winning a battle and escaping, they can be quite pleased with the disruption caused. Likewise no doubt General McClellan will be happy that he has beaten a rebel force which his spies inform him doubtless outnumbered his own several times.