How does Command & Control work at Antietam? Instead of explaining the rules, here is a good example to show you:
Burnside attacked across the bridge in turn 2. He was driven back but Jones is now spent. We are at the beginning of turn 3.
In this case, Longstreet and Burnside both want to move first. Half of Burnside’s Corps is spent but he still has 2 fresh units to attack with. If Longstreet can move first, he can rally Jones BEFORE Burnside can strike.
If Burnside attacks first, Jones can’t rally. He must either fight against 2 fresh divisions (good chance of dying) OR fall back. Falling back is sensible but you would also be giving up your good defensible terrain and allowing the Potomac a bridge head across the Antietam. –A very bad position to be in on turn 3!
Should you roll now to move first? No. This will waste your HQ roll. Better to sit tight and see what happens:
Wouldn’t you know it, Burnside gets picked to move first. Disaster for the Rebs? Not yet….. This is where the HQs come in. Longstreet can roll to jump ahead of Burnside. He needs a 1-4.
Wouldn’t you know it, he fails. It happens. Now what? Game over? Nope. Keep your shirt on. That’s why you keep your Army HQ in range of your Corps HQs. Lee can do this easily at Antietam. He has relatively short interior lines. He also only has 2 Corps to deal with.
Lee now rolls to Jump Longstreet ahead.
Success! Now Longstreet will move first, THEN Burnside.
Ok, disaster averted? Not so fast. The Potomac command hasn’t weighed in yet. Their HQs can roll to alter this too. It is harder for the Federals in this battle. They need 1-3.
Burnside swings a misses. Good. Are we in the clear now? Nope. McClellan can roll just like Lee did for Longstreet. Well, not just like Lee. He needs a 1-3.
He pulls it off!
Note what makes this roll possible is that McClellan is both Fresh and in range of Burnside. It is much harder for McClellan to pull this off than Lee. McClellan has 6 Corps on the board now with a 7th arriving later. They are also scattered along a much bigger frontage. McClellan is able to roll for Burnside now because he is nearby.
Also note the opportunity cost of this. Staying close to Burnside, means that McClellan is out of range to influence the whole right side of the field.
Ok, so now where are we? Can’t we just have Lee roll again? No. Only Fresh HQs can roll. Rolling causes your HQ to become Spent. It will become Fresh again at the beginning of next turn but that won’t help you now.
So does that mean we are done and the poor Rebs are about to have a bad day? Not quite. There is still 1 more trick up our sleeve. It just so happens that DH Hill is east of Shaprsburg. He is in range to help Jones. The key thing here is that DH Hill isn’t in Longstreet’s Corps. He is in Jackson’s! Jackson’s HQ is still Fresh, so he can roll and he does:
Success! This allows Jackson’s II Corps to jump ahead of Burnside.
What will this do for us? Jones will still move after Burnside but this allows us to move DH Hill forward to block for Jones.
Next Burnside will move. He will attack with his lead units and rally his reserve.
Finally Longstreet moves. Since he’s not in contact, Jones can now rally. The tables are turned! Instead of attacking 1 spent defender, Burnside runs into to Fresh Divisions, across a bridge, on top of a hill. Not good for the poor Federals.
Alright you say, clever trick. What about the Potomac? Can’t they just do the same thing? Can’t they just roll in another Corps to jump ahead of Jackson? Theoretically, yes they could. The problem is in this case, there are no other Federal Corps in range that could get there. I know, it’s that darned interior lines advantage again!
One more thing to note here. What about the opportunity cost for Jackson? Yes, this was a clever little trick. The ANV has used their superior C&C to out position the Potomac once again but this does not come without a cost. Jackson is now spent and this is only the first couple of chit pulls for the turn. What is going on in his half of the line?
If a critical emergency like this develops for Jackson’s Corps, he and Lee can do nothing about it. They’ve been tied up putting out Longstreet’s fire. Jackson’s boys are going to have to deal with whatever the chit pull gods throw down on them. I hope they are already in a good position to handle it.
Imagine if they weren’t? Imagine if they were also facing possible disastrous pulls like this on their side of the field? What does Jackson do then? Does he let Longstreet get whacked and save his HQ roll for his own troops? Which emergency is more important? Time for the Scotch.
This is why Pub Battles makes such a great solitaire system. Look at all the head scratching decisions this forces you to deal with. Struggling with all of these conundrums is very interesting and rewarding as a solitaire game.
Surprisingly, it makes for a great multiplayer game as well. Imagine playing through this same situation with other live players. Imagine that a separate live player is Longstreet. You are Jackson. You can watch and see all these events unfolding with Burnside. The only problem is: You can’t communicate with Longstreet!
You can’t strategize and work out the best course of action here. He can’t say, “Well, don’t worry about me. Your problem is much more pressing. I think I can handle this on my own.” OR “I don’t care what you have going on, if you don’t help salvage this now, the battle is lost!” Which one is he thinking? What is your assessment? Agonizing fun!
I know it’s hard to get other wargame players. It is way worth the effort here. You also have 2 big advantages working in your favor:
- It’s easy to learn.
- It plays fast.