The First Battle of Gig Harbor – Introduction

A Double Blind American Civil War game using Fire and Fury Rules

The idea for this battle began back in March 2020 when part of my family was driving past a small open area on a “Blue Star Memorial Highway” near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and saw War Memorial Park. My 17yo daughter asked what the park was and my wife teased her, saying it commemorated a battle, which my daughter believed represented an American Civil War battle. This would become known at the Battle of Gig Harbor in our house and was the basis of two games run with gamers in the Northwest Pacific Historical Gaming Society.

War Memorial Park near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, WA

This happened during the beginning of the COVID quarantine in WA when everyone and everything was shut down and shut in. Getting together to game was just not possible and everyone was frustrated about not being able to get out to game. I decided that I would try to run a game via email because I had not heard of Zoom or Discord. Email would also allow me to run a double-blind game where the gamers could only see what their units could see or what they were told by their commanding officer.

The Scenario

I chose to run a standard American Civil War game using Fire and Fury (F&F), Version 1 rules because most of my gaming friends were familiar with them and that was all I had at home. I also owned several scenario books which would make organization easier. I picked first Manassas/Bull Run from the Great Eastern Battles scenario book because there was an overwhelming amount of terrain, a manageable number of brigades that could be broken down into easy to manage commands and it appeared perfect for “green” generals, unfamiliar with playing this sort of game. I would need four Union commanders (McDowell and the three Division COs) and three Rebel commanders (an overall commander to coordinate things and two COs to represent Beauregard and Johnston). I will describe the backstory later on in the article once I go over the administrative parts of the game.

Of course, my friends could also have the scenario books so I decided to alter things slightly by turning the map to the right by 90 degrees. I scanned the map into the computer and, using a basic Microsoft Paint program, erased the actual map names and added my own. I did add an extra road, a bridge and some fords to allow the gamers some different options (and because I found that some artillery pieces would not be able to cross certain parts of the battlefield during the actual game play!) Highways and houses were given “period” style names with a nod to the local area and some gamers (e.g. Bob Demorest was the local patriarch of gaming, Bill was my father’s name and Portland/Spokane are cities in the area). I saved a master map to allow me to copy and paste parts of it as units moved across the game area. In the beginning that was a pretty easy thing to do, however, it got more challenging as units moved shorter distances, when multiple units were moving through different type of terrain and when several different leaders could see other divisions moving on the table. For example, if a Union brigade made an advance that both Union and Rebel overall commanders, the two other Union and two Rebel division COs could see, a total of 7! new maps would have to be drawn.

Brigade names were changed to hide the original commanders, as well, so Sherman became Peabody, Early became Lately, Bee was Hornet and Burnside became Portly. I noted that one Union brigade was listed as part of a command but there was no entry time for him so I added that to the order of battle (OOB). There were several units that did not arrive until after 1700 when the game could end so I brought them in earlier, as well. I understood this could affect the game play but thought “Who wants to play for weeks only commanding two brigades? That is just boring.”

Once I got the OOBs together, I sent them to the respective sides, however, did not let the Union/Rebel sides know what they were facing. I sent a vague message related to the sizes of the armies but nothing exact. I kept the entry points as close to the original scenario based on the new map, of course, but did not let the commanders know when their units would arrive precisely. The players would get rough estimates of when and where their reinforcements would arrive because I wanted this to represent a battle between green commanders, early in the Civil War. All special scenario rules from the battle of Manassas/Bull Run were used (the Fire and Fury Eastern Battles book), as well rules for terrain, scoring and victory conditions. Each player was provided with a general map and the F&F quick reference charts to assist with understanding the game. Several “game/house rules” were used:

  • Division commanders could only write to the Game Master (GM) who would pass it on to the Overall commander. This forced the players to coordinate their attacks through the CO (it seemed more realistic and gave the overall CO something to do!) While not a part of the original F&F scenario, an overall Rebel commander has been included to offer some level of coordination between the commanders. The Union army has three divisions and the Rebel two.
  • While off board, commanders could communicate as much as they liked. Once on board, the overall CO could send four messengers per Union or Rebel turn; Division COs could send two. Messengers could move like cavalry, 18in per turn. Commanders needed to know the general area in which to send the message and be within 18in or else the message would be delayed or lost.
  • Cavalry were brittle and the loss of a single stand would result in the unit being destroyed. This seemed to make them useless on the table as no player would risk losing them to enemy fire with the resultant victory points being gained by the other side. In this game, cavalry losses would not result in points being scored for one side or the other. They would then be able to be used as recon units, reporting back to their commander with information they had gathered. They would act and independent units and, once out of sight of the CO, the GM would control their movement/reactions based upon the original orders of intent.
  • Players could roll the die for movement but I would roll the die/dice for fire and melees. Each player would then be told of damage to their own units but would not know exactly what happened to their opponents unless they could actually see something happen (e.g. the loss of a stand might be described as “you see men dropping” or “you see holes develop in their lines”).
  • Low on Ammo: traditionally, this die roll occurs on a D10 roll of 10, however, in order to keep the fog of war, the GM rolled a D10 to determine the “Low on Ammo” die roll for each turn. It may seem harsh for a unit to go low on ammo on a die roll of 1, but this was done to keep players from knowing exactly what was happening to the other side each turn. I did keep the die roll for a “wounded” officer at 10, again for fog of war.
  • Orders needed to be written or drawn on a map to explain where players wanted their units to move.
  • Once notified, the players had three days to respond with their orders. The GM would often nudge the player to remind him of the impending deadline or their turn would be lost. In practice this was employed only twice with players losing a turn, however, it followed at least a week, almost two of no reply in response for a request for orders.
  • Brigade sizes were based on the actual unit size and in scale with the map and, as casualties were taken, would be kept about the same as the original size as infantry would be fed into the front lines until the unit was significantly smaller than what it was at the start of the game. The GM would tell the opposing commanders rough estimates of the enemy it was opposing, giving comparisons of size based on what that CO knew his units to be. Units seen moving through gaps in lines of sight would be told the general direction of the movement, however, units that moved out of the sight of the opponent would not be revealed until they were spotted and then, only the part of the unit that could be seen would be placed on the map. The COs were expected to keep track of their unit losses, however, feedback was provided during the game as units approached critical numbers, like becoming “Spent”.
  • The overall CO had access to two “reserve” 5/3/2 brigades (Union: Abeeze, Linkin; Rebel: Geoff, Davies) that can be brought on during any move their side has. For each brigade brought into the game, the other side gained 1VP. Because of the risk of running into unknown units with the resultant bad outcomes, this allowed the CO to have some sort of reserve as an emergency .If a disaster occurred on turn 1, that side’s game would not be ruined because a small reserve was available.
  • To represent the “Green” nature of the armies and command, the Commanders could only provide their command bonus when attached to the unit it wished to influence (this was taken directly from the F&F scenario book).

Victory Points:

  • 1 VP
  • – Each Worn enemy brigade
  • – Each wrecked or captured enemy brigade
  • – Each killed, wounded, captured Corps, Division or Exceptional Brigade CO

2 VP

  • Each Spent enemy brigade

4 VP

  • Each enemy brigade that “quits the field” or is destroyed

Victory Conditions

  • Have a 3:2 advantage in Victory Points at the start of the 1700 turn.
  • Have possession of the hill to the Northwest of the Toll House (Toll House Hill) at 1700.

If both of these conditions are met, the game ends with that side winning the game. If not, the game continues until they are met or the end of the 1930 game turn.


Major General James Miller, Commanding (US in Royal Blue)

Division Commanders

Brigadier General Scott Williams (Sky Blue initially then Grey Blue)

Brigadier General Scott Murphy (Royal Blue)

Brigadier General Dale Mickel (Navy Blue)

Union View of the Map


Major General Gene “Jumpin’ Mad” Anderson (CS in Gray)

Division Commanders:

Brigadier General Bruce Meyer (Gray)

Brigadier General Scott Abbot (Brown)

Rebel View of the Map – note the Entry Points are listed a K-N so the Rebel players did not know how many Union Entry Points there are

The Battle of Gig Harbor

It is late September 1861 and discontent is brewing in the Washington territory. The Civil War on the east coast is an expensive venture for the Federal government. Unionists in the Seattle area need increased revenue to support the war effort back east and have introduced a number of new taxes. Growing resentment of these new costs comes to overflowing with the institution of new a tax on the road systems in the territory. A new Toll House has been built at the crossroads of the Portland and Spokane Turnpikes has caused widespread protest which erupted into full rebellion in the summer of 1861. Two factions have been formed, however, the lack of experienced officers and soldiers has limited their effectiveness. A disordered Rebel faction has risen and taken control of the Toll House, a position about halfway from Seattle and Olympia. The Union command has commissioned a force of about 16,650 men called the Army of the Puget Sound with three divisions of soldiers, a few pieces of artillery and a very small cavalry unit to move south to recapture the Toll House and restore order. Olympia, the center of the rebellion has learned of this through their network of spies and has quickly put together a force of similar composition and slightly smaller than the Union force, fielding 13,650 men. This force has been christened the Army of Northern Puyallup. As the warm dry weather is about to give way to the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest, thus ending large unit operations, these two forces clash in a meeting engagement at 1000 with the Rebels moving first.

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