Open for Discussion: Specific Games
Union Tactics for Terrible Swift Sword!


Discussion Menu

Previous Discussion

Next Discussion

Back to SPI Games

Post your thoughts!

Russ Gifford  writes:

Union Tactics for 'Terrible Swift Sword' (2nd ed.)

The Union player clearly has the difficult choices at Gettysburg. Even with the hindsight of history, and knowing that by the battle's end, they will outnumber the CSA, it is a matter of surviving to reach that third day with their army intact.

Thus, the Union has to make some hard choices when planning their strategy for the Terrible Swift Sword. They have some big things stacked against them - not the least of which is the fact that the CSA spies have told Lee everything he could ever hope to learn on the eve of battle. In TSS, someone has given the CSA commander a complete order of battle, but also a detailed timeline of WHERE and WHEN the USA troops would arrive! (No word if these battle plans were wrapping a set of cigars!)

Obviously, in TSS, Stuart came through for Lee, and let him know the detailed battle plans of his opponents! From that Point of View, we can see the havoc that could have resulted in reality if Stuart hadn't gotten sidetracked in his ride around the Union!

So, on to my thoughts on playing the Union in TSS will follow in individual postings.


Russ Gifford  writes:

Session 1: Using Skirmishers Effectively

Rule 1: Don't blow it with Buford.

Trade space when needed with Buford. Keep him whole. The VPs the CSA gets for bagging these troops is really a game tool trying to make it clear to you that you'll have more need of these fine troops later - so keep them alive!

Realize they can run, so you can hold longer, but DON'T STAND! Use the free out to get them out of the way.

Remember, as Skirmishers, they have:

bulletExtra beneficial CRT shift on defense!
bulletThey can qualify for 3 column shifts, not the normal 2.
bulletNot enfiladed during Withdrawal Fire!
bulletRetreats 2 hexes when it fails a Pin result! (Same on P/R if it passes the Morale Check).
bulletMay Freely Retreat Before Melee, and if it only moves only one hex, no morale check required.


bulletDon't overlook that retreating and routing Skirmishers will not displace other non-Skirmish friendly units that they pass through!
bulletAnd if they have to rout through another friendly Skirmisher or a Routed unit, the units are still not displaced - but they might be, since they have to make a morale check.

There are a couple of negatives for Skirmishers:

Skirmishers lose an SP if they get into melee.
(That should be another hint - DON'T stick around for melee!!!)

If routed, skirmish units are no longer in skirmish order at the end of their rout movement - so all the above benefits go away.

AND that means when they rally, they come back as line or dismounted troops! (Another hint - DON'T STICK AROUND!)

Also see Mr. Berg's fine article in Moves 29, "The Importance of (Being) Buford."

Skirmishers sound pretty good to you?

Well, two things:

1) Having all these benefits are great. But you still have to use them well. It takes some practice to get it right.

2) Even with these options in play, the Union still has their backs clearly against the wall.

Which will bring up the next point in "Playing the Union in TSS" - Don't fail your own personal morale check!"

By the way, this is using the optional Skirmish rules in TSS 2. Don't be nasty, CSA players, give them this optional rule. The Union will need every one of these little benefits and STILL more, so don't hold out!


Russ Gifford  writes:

Session 2: Staying in the Game

Rule 2: Don't Fail your Morale Check!

TSS is a long game. Realize there will be times you are getting battered - don't experience a personal morale failure!

That means more than just continue playing. What I am also saying is, 'keep your head on straight.'

Easier said than done when every single battle goes against you.

And then, adding insult to injury, the dice will turn on you, too.

Try to ride over it. A major factor in playing wargames is the choice of playing the game, or the opponent. I try to play the game, since I find I like playing. But many people - almost a majority, as far as I can see, play the opponent. Meaning, looking for the win, they kick you while you are down, hoping you'll quit!

Or, even if you don't, they hope you'll get mad and do something stupid!

So, try to avoid dice rage! And the same is true with 'revenge.' This is a three day battle. You will play for a long time. As the Union, after some brief victories in front of Gettysburg, you might have an entire DAY of GAME TIME before things start going your way again. DO NOT fall prey to "I have to make something happen NOW."

Your job in this game is to husband your resources, pick your battles, and try to inflict casualties without losing much yourself.

Again, all of this is easier said than done.

To achieve it, like Meade and Lee, you MUST have picked your strategic targets and recognize you might have to change them.

I say all this, because in this game, as the players, we all know those targets. They were ordained in history, and consecrated on the field of battle. Seminary Ridge. Cemetery Hill. Devil's Den. Little Round Top.

Realize YOU should have different objectives - ones that make strategic sense for you. We'll see those as the game unfolds, but don't lose heart - or your cool - because these 'landmarks' fall in your game.

And don't sacrifice troops just because the history said that's where it should happen. (That happens often enough in this game without our help! The first half of Day One often feels like a history lesson!)

So stay cool, and let's move on to the next key - recognizing our strategic and tactical needs.


Russ Gifford  writes:

Session 3: Making the Strategic Choices

Rule 3: Strategic Choices, Tactical Considerations

In TSS, the Union has to have a clear plan of what they want to accomplish. If they are looking to re-fight the battle of Gettysburg, they may want to mix it up with the CSA and let the chips (and monuments) fall where they may.

However, if they want to prove they are a better general, and could have changed history (which is what most of their CSA counterparts are seeking) then the Union player needs to do exactly what the CSA generals have already done - picked new strategic targets.

The overall target is simple - both sides want to control the battlefield at the end of the game.

As a bonus, and more importantly, they'd like to have destroyed their opponent's ability to conduct offensive actions in the field for the future.

In other words, they want to dominate their opponent.

But that requires different actions on each player's part.

The CSA, since they have an advantage in troops the early hours, will do this by carrying the battle to the USA.

The CSA Goal:

As they will bring on more troops in the early part of the battle, attempt to defeat each Union Corps piecemeal and leave the first day's Union troops unable to contribute to the battle over the coming days.

To be successful, the CSA needs to do this while not inflicting too great a loss on their troops in the process. Easier said than achieved, but as the attacker, they have a HUGE advantage - when troops approach their Brigade Combat Effectiveness level, as the attacker, they can let them stand aside, and bring in the fresh troops.

As the defender, the Union player will often not have that opportunity, and will watch their brigades and Divisions ground to dust as they take attack after attack.

The CSA Objectives:

The CSA will also want to attempt to reach the best defensive areas so that when the Union does gain the numbers they need to contest the battle and wish to counter attack, it is on the best possible terrain for the CSA.

These objectives of the CSA will define and drive the Union's strategic choices, since giving all the ground to the CSA will result in a Union loss.

The USA Goal:

Thus, the Union's choices are essentially, "deny the CSA their targets on Day 1 and hope to be in position to counterattack on Day 2 and/or Day 3."

But there is a further point we need to understand: the road network. If the CSA can wrest control of the road network above Gettysburg from the Union, including the  'v' between Cemetery Hill and the main hill mass, the Confederates that arrive in the night can go ANYWHERE, since they can use road movement at night. That is a de facto win, since the Union could then be forced to fight from off board, again unable to join up their troops for effective combat.
So there is a limit to how much ground the Union can give. The road network is too great an advantage to cede to the Rebels.

Thus, we have seen that the CSA choices now define the USA's responses.

The USA Objectives:

bulletThe Union will seek to preserve their Army as a fighting unit.
bulletThey will try to hold enough of the battlefield to allow their troops to join and become more effective.
bulletAnd they will try deny the Confederates terrain which may make them too powerful or too costly to dislodge.

Next, we will look at the tactics the Union needs to consider to achieve these goals.

Want to add your thoughts? Click here!

Return to Tactics Menu Page | Return to SPI Games | Return to

This site was last updated 01/13/13