Baggage Train Strategy

Managing baggage trains can seem overwhelming at first.  As wargamers, we aren’t used to thinking like this.  Does it sound tricky?  It can be but that’s what makes it so fun!!!  It is worth the effort. 

Here is the basic rundown:

1. Combat flips your pieces to Spent.

2. Only Unpacked baggage can rally them back to Fresh.

3. Unpacked baggage can’t move.

4. If your baggage gets sacked, you lose.   Game over.   


Here are a few basic tips to get you up and running quickly:

When to Unpack Your Baggage?

The Baggage Trains are critical to victory.  Here are a few tips to get you started and keep you out of trouble:


Don’t unpack too soon.

Don’t unpack too far forward!


Let’s say we’re running the Feds at Gettysburg, Day 1.  We deployed Reynolds’ I Corp along McPherson’s Ridge.  The Confederates launched their first assault.  We drove the Rebs back and mostly held.  Fantastic but our line is now Spent. 

At this point, it is very tempting to unpack.  We are off to a good start.  If we unpack we can now rally this line and maybe hold much longer!!  Sure that’s true but it’s not good enough. 

Don’t marry the first girl you kiss!  Yes, you need to have commitment issues!!

Unpacking is a huge commitment.  Don’t unpack because things are looking good right now.  Sure you may be able to hold for another assault.  Especially if you start rallying.  Maybe you can hold for another couple of turns.  Still not good enough. 

Here is the key question you need to ask yourself: 

If you unpack, can you hold this for the rest of the battle?

Yeah, not a few turns.  Can you hold this line for the next 3 days?  Come what may?  What happens when Ewell comes storming down out of the north 2-3 turns from now?  What if Jackson and Stuart unexpectedly show up?  Can you still hold that for 3 more days?  I didn’t think so.

With Baggage Trains, you need to think very long term.  The whole battle depends on it, so think in terms of the battle.

The beginning of a battle is the trickiest part.  You need to be constantly asking yourself these questions:

Where is the enemy’s main threat?  How strong is the enemy?  Where can I delay?  Where and when will reinforcements arrive?  Where can I fall back to?  Where can I make a stand and hold for the entire battle?  How can I minimize casualties until then?

Blow by blow, as the battle is developing, all these answers will be changing.  You need to constantly reassess the situation.  Where can you fight?  Can you even fight here at all?  Maybe the best solution is to never unpack.  Just fight a delaying action for a day and then bug out.  Sometimes that’s all you can do.  Is this really a battle you can fight?  Is it a battle you can win?  

Once you unpack, things get much more simple.  None of that matters anymore.  You’re all in.  Now the question becomes:  How on earth can I possible hold this line?  How can I take pressure off and distract the enemy?  Where are his unpacked trains?  Can I get to them before he can get to mine? 

Did the enemy break through?  Can you counter attack and drive him back?  How much longer can you hold out?  Is it time to give up and pull the plug?  It is much better to voluntarily bug out than let your baggage trains just get sacked.  Pack up and go home.  You can fight another day.    


For Offense, unpacking is more simple.  Two key questions:

Has the enemy unpacked yet?  Where?

Do NOT unpack unless you are sure the enemy already has.  If you unpack too early, you will be hopelessly overextended for the rest of the battle.  You will never be able to mount a serious threat.

Once you are sure the enemy has unpacked, you need to formulate your overall strategy for the battle.  Where is his line going to be?  How can you crack it?  What is the weak link?  Where are you going to make your main effort?  Think long term:  For the whole battle, not just the next turn or two.  You need to plan ahead for this.

Wherever your main effort will be, your trains need to be able to effectively support that.

Where to Unpack Your Baggage?

Now that we know when, the next question is where?  Where is the best place to locate your Trains?  This is fairly simple.  It just requires a little careful planning. 

Work this backwards.

Defense:  Where is the line you plan on holding? 

Offense:  Where is the defender’s committed line?  Where will your line be to assault that? 

Ok now, where will your troops be when they retreat off that line?

Your Baggage Trains need to be able to rally this spent line efficiently.  Simple place them where their range will extend over most of this area. 

Rally range is 1/3 Mounted move.

Finally, don’t worry too much.  You don’t have to be perfect.  The enemy won’t be perfect either.  Just dive into a battle and try something.  Experience is the best teacher.  “Ah, now I see why I shouldn’t have unpacked there.”  Yeah, well the upside to making a big mistake with baggage trains is that the battle will be over soon.  Now you know.  Now you’ll remember.  Now you have plenty of time to start a new battle. 

9 thoughts on “Baggage Train Strategy”

  1. Yes! The first couple of games I unpacked as soon as I figured I needed to start rallying troops. That was way too soon. Reactive instead of proactive. Now after a few more games, I getting a much better feel.

  2. Agree with you. I will try it soon.
    But some questions : how many dispersed units do you think use ? 1/15 unit ? 1/10 unit ? 1/5 unit ?
    Are Destroyed dispersed units allowed to re-enter the game ?

    • It is a fixed amount per scenario. The new scenarios specify. Send us an email for updated scenarios. Usually it’s about 3-4 per side, per battle.

      No, they don’t return per say. I suppose you could bring them back as a casualty recovery.

  3. I was thinking about the “Dispersed” block name question. They might accurately be called “Detachments.” I think this could be what you are going for. It could represent regiments sent out to protect flanks, or provide a rear guard. This would include various small forces sent to scout, protect flanks or to intentionally demonstrate in view of the enemy. It might also include regiments held in reserve. Thus they would screen your movements, add depth to a position and thus cause the enemy to be uncertain of your actual deployment. If this is the intention, then in my humble opinion they should be limited in number and/or attached to specific commands. Perhaps one per Union Corps and two per Confederate Corps. It wouldn’t take but a few of these blocks on the map to cause confusion and uncertainty. It actually reminds me of the OP’s from the original Gettysburg game. Once destroyed they should not come back until a night turn.

    • I really liked this at first! But then it starts making me think of detaching Divisions and reassigning them to another Corps. lol… It seems like there is always something people can get confused.

      Still, this seems to be the best option so far.

      The new scenarios specify how many on each side for the battle. Usually about 3-4.

      Should they all come back automatically at night? Or only half of them as recovered casualties?

    • I agree : In His book, the famous Antoine Fortuné de Brack, Avant poste de cavalerie légère, ( light cavalry out-posts), the authors use the word “détachements” for those units (bigger than piquet).
      But i know the difficulty of finding the right name.

      • It is a French term. I think that is more how the French use is.

        The Americans use it more to describe transferring a unit to another command.

  4. Comments are closed at time of writing on the blog post calling for Dispersed units wording! So I’ll add to this thread for now.

    My 2p: If I understand it right, the block is used to represent a deception/outdated info/far fewer and less organised troops than the opposing side think?

    Then, are you looking for a word to capture a) the number of troops actually in the unit, b) the deceptive or bluffing nature of the unit, or c) the idea that there were once troops there, but now few remain?

    Most suggestions aim at capturing a), but the original term ‘dispersed’ suggests the other meanings too.
    I thought of ‘ersatz’ for b) (but it’s a proper name for German units in WW2); ‘quondam’ or something for meaning c)? Or ‘reported’ to capture b/c)? ‘Remnant’ or ‘rump’ if c) is meant?

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