The recently released title from Western Civilisation Games, Brother Against Brother is a turn based tactical wargame at the regimental level, looking into the early parts of the American Civil War. It has quite a unique system for setting up planned movement, and then the AI resolves the combat between the opponents in phases of fire and counter fire from both sides. Command of your units is affected by the entire heirarchical chain of command, with bonuses and effects coming down from above and having implications for your units ability to engage effectively.
Here I take the first tutorial scenario, the Battle of Williamsburg between Hancock and Early. I notch the difficulty up to Seargent level and see how I do. I’ve played this scenario about four times previously, as I learn the games systems – and every play through I’ve managed to get a little better (as expected) but also I’ve been exploring different tactical approaches and I’ve documented my most successful attempt to date here.
Here is the start of the 12 turn scenario (each turn simulating 20 minutes of real time combat) from 3pm through to 7pm on the 5th May 1862. I’ve switched on the NATO symbol counters so that you can see them as distinct units, and I’ve highlighted the expected movements in light blue, column marches to the front in hatched light blue, further pushes after combat in hatched dark blue, and defensive perimeters in red hatch.
There are four available Victory Hexes (VH’s), one top left where the 7th Maine are stationed, one bottom left where the 5th Winsconsin are, one at the bottom where the 6th Maine are, and one at Redoubt 10 to the South (which is a Confederate Only VH that we should take and prevent then getting the score for it).
Ultimately I want to push the Rebels out of Redoubt 9 and then sweep round to assault Redoubt 10, whilst holding the line between the 5th Winsconsin and 6th Maine hexes. I have two artillery Batteries, of the 1st New York, B & E. E being under the direct control of Kussrow. General Hancock presides over the majority of my forces, whilst top far right General “Baldy” Smith has overall seniority. The leaders can have some effects on the battle, by urging their units (slight boost to movement and morale, Hancock and Kusserow), or by ordering a particular area to be of primary focus (Smith). If I can place my artillery in defensible positions, with long lines of sight they will chew the enemy up whilst I push my hardy infantry forward to do the assaulting.
Now this plan was made with some hindsight (having played through the scenario several times previously) – so I know for a fact that the Rebels often scooch their forces through the forests on the left of the 5th Winsconsin’s VH. I’ve been overpowered by Jonny Reb leaking out of the forest and pushing my rear. So my left will be well and truly stationary, with their eyes firmly fixed on those fluttering crackling treelines. Its the main reason I’ve left 1st Battery E with his guns tracking along the forest. There shall be some splintered wood today.
I run the turns through, turning off the super-detailed battle reports, and I position my troops to maximise their firepower. There is no direct control over who the unit fires at, other than placing it appropriately and/or using the General’s focus command. I like this aspect of the game, because it becomes a manoevure plan, and then excited reveal as you watch the action – not quite knowing whether anything will go according to your best positioning. Plus there are the two phases of combat, where your movements and fire execute along with the enemy’s response fire, and then the enemy moves and fires, and you watch your return fire. All good on the expectation front, if you like that plan and see sort of mechanic.
Although there were 12 turns, there wasn’t a massive amount of movement as such, and I thought I’d just present the end of the scenario, with my final positions.
Early on, I took the risky decision to split two of my regiments, the 49th Pennsylvania and the 5th Winsconsin. This way I could push half of their number forward (or spread out to make a line of defense) and the other half I could settle on the two VH locations, holding the score. They split into Right (R) and Left (L) units. The 49th Penn. Left helped take Redoubt 9 with the 6th Maine. With half the number they took a severe battering, losing almost half their morale, but eventually the 6th pushed the enemy out of the Redoubt, and I stationed the 49th in there to recuperate. The 49th Penn Right stayed on the right most VH to secure it.
As need would have it, I swapped the placing of the 7th Maine and the 33rd New Yorkers, so the 7th piled down the center and joined up with the 6th Maine as they swept across the battlefield under enemy artillery fire towards Redoubt 10. The 33rd NY swept left to shore up the split 5th Winsconsin and hold ominous treeline. As you can see all the Rebel units in the trees where revealed when the scenario ended and the 33rd where definitely needed.
I’ve tried to illustrate the arc of fire from the Artillery batteries (these aren’t in the game). I wanted the 1st Battery B to cover the open battlefield South, and the 1st Battery E had the trees. Shredding any troops stepping out.
Anyway, as you can see it was a Union Victory, hard won. The temptation is to always push forward, move on, and make some devastating kills – but sometimes it pays to remain defensive and hold the line. Pushing a unit up to the tree line to musket fire into the trees, is very dangerous. Expect a lot more focussed fire coming out at you. You can also see a feature for turning on the casualties, the red 5 and 19 are Rebel dead in those hexes from the last turn. I like to see these numbers, they help confirm whether you are doing it right. Lots of blue numbers scattered around the hexes, you might want to rethink.
Here’s the same end game screenshot but with the Unit Sprites on show, and none of my annotations applied. Just for some contrast with the NATO counters.
Theres a nice breakdown of the numbers in chart form at the end of a scenario.
Here’s the Casualty History (my favourite graph), as you can see we had a shaky start early on, took a fair bit of artillery losses, and the 49th Penn Left got a bit of a spanking from Redoubt 9 to begin with, but then we started to pick it up a bit, and the defensive positions started to make the Rebel dead multiply.
Next we have an actual breakdown of the kills by Unit – which is very nice to see. You can see exactly where you were most effective. Artillery exacting a heavy toll, along with some standout work by the 33rd New York and the 5th Wisconsin – astoundingly a unit I split in half for more coverage!
Now we can look at the “scores on the doors”. The VH’s are multiplied by a Casualties multiplyer. So I scored 6.
There are other graphs available, but I thought I’d just include some of the interesting ones.
Oh and the Victory one, with the nice flag and Stars.
Well, I know I didn’t give you a blow by blow account of the battle, but I hope what I have shown you is that tactically you can plan out your moves and then have the excitement of the reveal. It really is a game where you can tweak based on events, and shift your decisions, but there are consequences in terms of supply, movement points, readiness, morale etc.
When the bands is playing, and the guns are sounding, and the muskets are cracking it really is an atmospheric experience – even though you’re looking at counters or sprites on a 2d map. You immerse yourself in the battle, because of the plan and see payoff. I’m looking forward to whats ahead in terms of modifications and updates, and new battles all rendered with a fantastic level of historical acuity.