Home Forums Horse and Musket American Civil War ACW Campaign using The Shenandoah Valley Campaign System

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Author
  • #2963
    Avatar photoBandit


    My local wargaming group started playing an ACW campaign using The Shenandoah Valley Campaign System last October. As a whole the group has a low attention span and there is a large focus on the social aspect of out meetings. As a result our method for campaigning is two volunteer generals manage the armies while the bulk of the players are mercenaries.

    The Shenandoah Valley Campaign System is played over 30 game days, each turn representing 2 hours. It is a double-blind system that is meant to be sans umpire. That said, our group benefits heavily from umpires and is aghast at simpler solutions like just rolling off dice to end disputes… so umpire I became. Each player is provided with a map and OB for their forces. The OBs are based on the Union Gettysburg organization (I, II & III Corps plus Buford’s cavalry) and the Confederate Chancellorsville organization (Jackson’s corps, reinforced by Hood’s division and two cavalry brigades). Players then move their forces on their map in UGOIGO turns, initiative is rolled off for each day as is weather which simply impacts march rates.

    To counteract the attention span issue within our group, the tabletop battles for our ACW campaign are fought out amongst our regular one-off games. Thus, we will play a couple nights of ACW games followed by several weeks of other things before returning to the ACW campaign.

    We have had three battles to-date and are a quarter of the way through the campaign. The battles are being played out using Johnny Reb 2 and are quite large. The smallest was two opposing divisions with the largest being six opposing divisions. Each battle has been played over a couple of nights. The battles of day seven will be resolved in September.

    There are two battles to fight out, Birney division of Sickle’s III Corps is attacking Hood’s division which was recently expelled from Strausburg and is sitting just east of it and Gibbon & Humphreys divisions of Hancock’s II Corps and Sickle’s III Corps respectively striking south from Strausburg against Ewell’s division.

    We started out doing the campaign via e-mail but this became more and more complex as players were e-mailing me a spreadsheet denoting where each brigade was at the start of the turn and where it ended the turn and what order it followed during that time. I would then update the spreadsheet and send it back after confirming the actions were legal and the fatigue statuses of the forces. Eventually we moved to just meeting every couple months to execute a couple days worth of map turns until a battle was joined when we’d break and schedule the tabletop resolutions.

    So far this has worked quite well. While very old at this point, The Shenandoah Valley Campaign System was published by Potomac Publishing back circa ~1990 or so, leaving it about 25 years old. It is fairly simplistic. There are no supply lines, fatigue restricts how well your troops perform in battle and how many actions they may perform before requiring rest, there is little command & control. Our reduction of the players to just two, one for each side, essentially removes the command & control all together. The Shenandoah Valley Campaign System is very light compared to other campaign systems of the era, if you have used common campaign systems of that time like Empires in Arms or other Avalon Hill board games often used for campaigns – this is radically more simplistic.

    For the group who wants the campaign to be a game just as fulfilling a game as the tabletop battles, i.e. a campaign game that could stand on its own as “the event” then I would not recommend The Shenandoah Valley Campaign System. But if you are looking for a straight forward system that will allow context for your tabletop battles, it is simple and easy to execute.

    Following our September games I’ll try and get some photos of game play posted but as it is normally a dozen players or so with em hosting / umpiring, I rarely have opportunity for taking pictures.

    Avatar photohas.been

    I wish you, and anybody trying to run a campaign, the best of luck. I love campaigns. I have tried many, many times during my 48 years of wargaming to achieve the kind of campaign described by Donald Featherson. His was set in the ECW. Each player could have a 3 choices from;- A Cavalry Reg.; An Infantry Reg,; An Artillery battery or a unit of Dragoons. It was permissable to mix & match. e.g.player A might have two Cavalry reg.s & a Dragoon unit, while player B chooses two Infantry reg.s & an Artillery battery.

    The fun would come on club night. The Umpire would have worked out the scenario & scenery in advance, e.g. The smaller side defends the Village & tries to deny the bridge & ford to the enemy. You can imagine the scene, all the ‘Prince Ruperts’ realise they have to attack a defended river crossing. “Where is George” (chose all artillery)? “Daughter’s wedding”  “What about Mike (chose all Infantry)?”   “On a course down south somewhere”.     I must say I have never (yet) managed this. I have run many campaigns, with varying degrees of success & had much fun and not a few frustsrations. Having painted an entire Confederate Corp for a fellow club member ” so I can take part”  only to have him leave the area before move one of the campaign, closely followed by the other three Reb players. I and the other Union owning gamers left high & dry. Three months painting down the drain.

    As said best of luck to you, I fully intend to keep trying to campaign.


    Avatar photoBandit

    Keeping players in the game is generally one of the big struggles wargamers face in running campaigns.

    This is largely another benefit of the way we are running ours. Since there are only two players running campaign moves the others do not have a vested interest in how the overall campaign is going, thus, they have no motivation to quit when things get bad on the map. These players just roll off for sides for each tabletop battle. At battle one you could be playing Union, at battle two, could be Confederate…

    Keeping the two campaign generals in the game is of concern still though. One of ours doesn’t handle losing particularly well and he is prone to decide he is losing before shots have been fired. He quit the campaign at the start of our second battle but another player stepped forward and has a longer view of the strategy involved. So far, so good.

    Avatar photoHenry Hyde

    This is really interesting, guys. I’ve just started writing a book about wargaming campaigns and I can see that maintaining player interest is a key point. And painting all those figures for someone who then moved away must be one of the most gutting experiences I’ve ever heard about!

    My recent campaigning has revolved around planned weekend get-togethers, with map moves building to a climactic series of encounters, which has helped keep everyone focused.

    Editor, Battlegames
    Battlegames on Patreon
    Author, The Wargaming Compendium

    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    We’ve done any number of campaigns with various home-brewed and boardgame systems like House Divided and Soldier King [The latter which works well to produce interesting battles.] However, because the table top is our main interest, we have created a ‘mini-campaign’ system.

    It is simply meant to generate an interesting table game with a minimum of effort and a maximum of interest.  A historical campaign is chosen and a map created of the area 20 miles X 20 miles with a grid of half mile squares.  The general locations of the forces are set according to their positions 24-48 hours before the battle, but a Napoleonic campaign could use ACW forces.   There is hidden movement a la Battleship and such, but no supply or weather  We have found the campaigns of 2nd Manassas, 1806 Jena and the start of the Franklin Campaign to be the most dynamic. Turns are 2 hours and play can be done over the phone or by email.  With about an hour of play, we can have a battle. The squares determine the tabletop area and where reinforcements come in. [The distances on the campaign map determining when and if they come in.]

    Our rules were published in MWAN ages ago.



    Avatar photoChris Johnson

    Our problem hasn’t been a lack of interest in continuing the campaign, it’s been trying to get enough of the group together often enough to conduct the battles in the first place!  Damn real life–it keeps intruding on what’s really important.

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.