Thursday, December 27, 2018

AAR Plains of Abraham 1759

The last Fencible game of 2018 was the 1759 battle of the Plains of Abraham, using Keith Flint’s Simple Seven Years War Rules, a work in progress. I took the role of the French Montcalm, seconded by Andrew in charge of the Indians and militia on the right flank. Jay took the part of the British Wolfe. We played slowly, since the rules are new to me and newer still to Jay and Andrew. Also, I printed the first version of the rules while Jay had the new version. This caused confusion until the problem was detected. I must delete the old version from my files. Because I didn’t use the small lamp with a slight blue tint, the game mat looks much browner in the photos than it should. I must remember to use that lamp in the future. Ah, the joys of digital cameras.

My final excuse: since the scenario is a work in progress, I decided to do exactly what Montcalm did and attack the British promptly, to see if I got the same result.

The left shows my unimpressive representation of the stunning escarpment along the Saint Laurence River. The wooded areas on the right represent the gentle downhill from the Plains.
All non-brigaded units were treated as out of command, needing 4+ on a die roll to advance towards the enemy (or their side of the table). This cooled the flanks down. We got the initiative and made the British move first. They stood. We advanced and then fired first, not that much of an advantage during the first exchange of shots. Markers show the number of hits each unit has taken.
On the next two turns the British gained the initiative and made us move first, so they could fire first. Once units were close to being weakened, this hurt us. Red markers show weakened units, yellow markers show units with bad morale. Each marker counts as half a unit routed towards that army’s breakpoint. The French breakpoint was 6, the British 7. Hmm, I did fuzzy math. They should both be 7. Next time.

After the second turn we broke for dinner, accompanied by the fine wine Andrew had brought. Jay brought a bottle too, but that will wait for next time.
The third turn saw the French front line savaged by British musket fire. We also realized that we had been making some mistakes with the new version of the rules and began applying disorder hits for seeing friends in bad morale. The French line would have been in even worse shape if we had done this from the start.
Also, the inferior morale rating on most French regulars (they had lots of drafted militia) made it harder to rally them.
Andrew's skirmishers caused some damage to the redcoats on our right.
It was for naught as French morale collapsed at the end of the 3rd turn, with two battalions routed, 4 weakened and with bad morale. Only the weakened Bearn battalion and Montcalm were still in line. Everyone else had given way.
I was pleased that following Montcalm’s tactics had given the same result, with the exception that no officers were hit. In the actual battle all three high ranking French officers were killed, Wolfe died and one of his three brigadiers was badly wounded.

We played three turns in about 90 minutes. I attribute the slow speed to using a new version of new rules, the foul up about which version we were using and the effect of wine on post dinner play. Everyone liked the game. This most European of the French and Indian War battles was quite a treat for the eyes. We should play some actual Seven Years War battles too, since we also have Prussians, Russians, Austrians and some Bavarians.

The scenario right now heavily favors the British, which seems right. They did stomp the French. To balance the scenario perhaps Bougainville’s force (1 regular, 1 inferior light cavalry and 3 militia) arriving on turn 4 or 5 behind the British should be included. Counting them towards the French breakpoint would increase the breakpoint to 9. This might well be too much. I hope to tinker with this, although some games with our usual Bloody Big Battles beckons too. I recently received a scenario for the 1808 battle of Bailen. So many battles, such little time.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

AAR: The Monongahela 1755

We played a game of the 1755 Battle of the Monongahela, better known as Braddock’s Defeat last Thursday. We used Keith Flint’s new work-in-progress Simple Seven Years War Rules. These are designed for the European theaters of that war but I suspected with properly rated troops they would work for the conflict on this side of the pond called the French and Indian War (at least below the 49th parallel). The Monongahela is my acid test for rules in this period. The British were shot up and routed in that battle. If they have a rough time in the game, the rules are doing something right. Our figures were 15mm as usual. All of the British and Indians were Rick’s, augmented with my Canadian Troops de la Marine regulars and militia. The game sees a force of line infantry with a few guns against a all-light infantry force in deep woods, without a single clearing. The underbrush had been burnt off since it was an Indian hunting ground. Braddock decreed that the Foot regiments should have another company of grenadiers. I figure decreeing them that wasn’t the same thing as having twice as many elites, hence the “grenadier” designation in the photos.

Bill opted to play the British General Braddock. I played French Captain Beaujeu with Rick as Pontiac, leading my right flank. The British column below has just collided with the French (off camera to the left).

The left unit of the advanced guard charged; the Ottawa evaded. Bill noted how isolated the charging troops became. I noted that the 6 lb. artillery section was now unsupported. The guns hit the militia and got Captain Beaujeu. Had we been using the risk to leader rule as written, Beaujeu would have been dead. He was slain early in the fight in the actual battle. But our house rules determined that someone next to him was killed and Beaujeu took the rest of the turn to wipe the gore off.

The Canadian militia charged the guns and defeated the crew in a melee that lasted two turns. We decided the crew abandoned the guns. The militia halted in place, looting the dead. The Chippewa and the Troops de la Marine shot down Grenadiers, who flinched.
The Troops de la Marine charged with bayonets and tomahawks. The Grenadiers took to their heels, spreading disorder into the 48th behind them. The beaten gunners fled the field. The French pursued into the lead supply wagons.
Part of the 44th charged and the French evaded before they could loot the wagons.
The “grenadiers” retreated under fire and also spread disorder in the ranks behind them.
The gun crew had routed and 5 British units were weakened; British morale was shaky.
The 48th came forward, pushing the Indian left before them.
Elements of the 44th routed. Another part of the 44th retreated under fire. Two routed and 5 weakened units (counting as half a unit each) and one retreating (half unit) totaled 5 units for the British breakpoint; the British army collapsed. 
The French/Indian force had two weakened units; 1 towards their breakpoint of 3. It was closer than it looks. Several French/Indian units had 3 hits, very close to being weakened. On a late turn in the game Bill rolled 24 dice needing sixes for hits. He got none. He figured his morale would have broken anyway but he’d have weakened more of our units if his luck hadn’t gone south.

We played 8 turns in 2 hours and 12 minutes, about 16.5 minutes per turn, counting photo time. Not bad for our second game and changing theaters of operation. We had some errors, of course. Not until late in the game did we check morale for the hit that made units weakened. We did check for hits taken after being already weakened. I don’t think it made a huge difference. I do wonder about a fairly fresh unit being assured of closing frontally against unsupported artillery. Perhaps if the guns get two hits the attacker should check morale. It also occurs to me that Indians should check morale when hit by artillery.

The French/Indians took 16 hits. The British took 39 hits, though I think 6 of those were disorder hits from units retreating through friends. I’m quite pleased that the game worked as well as it did. There will be some more French and Indian battles in our future.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Monongahela 1755 scenario

We tested this scenario on 11/29/2018. I didn't get around to posting the report until early December. It uses the work-in-progress Simple Seven Years War Rules by Keith Flint. Due to the reduced scale and the game being entirely in the woods, we used the original movement and ranges for 25mm figures even though we use 15mm figures.

Monongahela July 9, 1755

History: an expedition under Major General Braddock was sent to capture Fort Duquesne the year after young George Washington’s failed attempt sparked an undeclared war. Struggling with supply problems, the force advanced through the wilderness, cutting a path as it went. As the British neared the fort, the French and Indians sallied out to meet them. Both columns collided in the woods. Gage’s advance guard shot and killed French captain Beaujeu (who seems to have gone native); the Canadian militia recoiled at first. The Colony regulars (Troops de la Marine) engaged Gage’s troops while the Indians moved around both flanks. 

Braddock rushed his main body up to assist the advance guard but fell into disorder as Gage’s men retreated through them. The French and Indians closed in a semi-circle, firing from cover into the disorganized mass. Many accounts say that British troops fired on each other in the confusion. Officers went down one after the other. When Braddock was mortally wounded the troops began to give way. Then the Indians attacked with tomahawks. In the general collapse, Washington put together a small rearguard. The panic stricken survivors ran back to their camp and the large body of troops there were infected with panic and retreated. The fort would not be taken until the Forbes expedition of 1758. This battle is often described as an ambush, but it was a meeting engagement that went terribly wrong for the British.

And my version of this on the table: 

and poorly focused:

French and Indians each unit = 150 troops or Indian warriors
6 units, breakpoint = 3


Captain Beaujeu C-in-C KIA

Troops de la Marine
1 light infantry unit
Canadian militia
1 light infantry unit (Beaujeu attached)

Ensign Langlade attached to Chippewa band

1 light infantry band (Langlade attached)
1 “ in command within 3” of commanded band
Chief Pontiac attached to Ottawa band

1 light infantry band (Pontiac attached)
1 “ in command within 3” of commanded band

British and Colonials each unit = 150 troops or 2 guns
11 units, breakpoint = 5, British -1 for initiative due to inexperience in wilderness combat 

Major General Braddock C-in-C KIA
Attached to 12 lb guns
Lt. Col. Gage WIA advance guard
Attached to one of the two units below
1 line infantry unit, superior morale, melee
1 line infantry unit
6 lb guns         
1 section independent
12 lb guns
1 section independent
Col. Halkett KIA
Attached to a 44th Foot unit
44th Foot
3 line infantry units
Lt. Col. Burton WIA
Attached to a 48th Foot unit
48th Foot
3 line infantry units
3 wagons
each wagon lost counts as a unit lost
Colonial (Provincial) infantry
1 line infantry unit, inferior morale, melee

Scenario rules: 

The British were cutting a trail. The trail negates terrain penalties for troops moving in column. Wagons (inferior in all respects) may move on this trail at infantry speed. They may not move off the trail. Wagons may not pass through other wagons. Wagons that are weakened, retreat or routed count against British break point as though they were a combat unit. Wagons may not fire or fight back in melee. If a wagon routs, the teamsters have cut the traces and ridden off with the horses, leaving the wagons to block the trail. Mark the wagons as burning and a unit lost. Same if wagons try to retreat through other wagons. Wagons are out of command unless attached to Braddock. Wagons need to be able to advance towards enemy to move at all, even to retreat.

French and Indians all count as superior moving through woods. The militia has inferior morale. Indians who are weakened (4+ hits) have inferior morale. Indian light infantry who are not weakened may charge weakened line infantry. Indians who take hits from artillery must check morale.

Except for the trail, all terrain is wooded and visibility and weapon range is restricted to 6”. One unit may fit on the hill. That unit gets +1 when firing. (Accounts mention the deadly fire from the hill)

Langlade may command Chippewa or Ottawa bands. Pontiac may command the Ottawa band. Other Indians within 3” of a commanded band count as in command control. They may only be rallied by Beaujeu.

All officers must be attached to a unit, due to the small scale of the game, the restrictive terrain and the high mortality rate among officers in this fight. If an officer is badly wounded or worse, the attached unit must check morale with a -1 modifier. Officers who are wounded badly (or worse) are not replaced, with the exception of Braddock. If Braddock is badly wounded or worse, he will be replaced after a turn by Washington, who is bullet-proof. If hit, his horse is hit instead and Washington will be out for a turn while another mount is found. (He was never hit during this war or the next, and he was shot at plenty of times.) Officers (and chiefs) on foot treat horse shot as aide is hit instead, same procedure.

Edit: checked my map, moved the hill a little closer to the trail. Too lazy to go back and redo the photos.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Lutzingen, Seven Years War action

Last evening we played a hypothetical scenario “Lutzingen” designed by Keith Flint, author of “Honours of War”. The rules used were his new work in progress, Simple Seven Years War Rules, along with our 15mm figures. Table size and all other distances were scaled down by 1/3. We used our house rules for leader casualties (moot since there were none). Ken (later aided by Jay and then replaced by Andrew) commanded the attacking Prussians and Rick commanded the defending Austrians. I umpired. (Austrians and Bavarians will be in italics here and in photos.) We didn’t use any national modifiers since this was our first try with the rules and we wanted to keep it simple.

This obscure battle featured small forces (under 10,000 each) led by commanders of the first rank; King Frederick II (the Great) and Marshal Daun. The Prussians made a forced march around the Austrian left and headed for the enemy depot at Lutzingen. Daun moved to stop this attack. (In lieu of a curtain, each side was given a map and drew their deployment.) The collision occurred at the cross roads south of the depot. The row of trees along the road, the plowed fields and the white fences have no tactical significance and are only window dressing. The bright yellow strips (without brown markings) are the edge of the playing area. Abandon hope of rallying, all units that enter this. Hits are indicated by cardboard markers, red discs indicate weakened status and yellow markers indicate retreating units. Cotton smoke shows units that have fired. The large white polyhedral die was used to indicate what turn was being played.

Both sides deployed evenly across the front.
The Prussians advanced, cavalry moving ahead on both flanks.

The Prussian Dragoon Brigade cannot be seen but they are working their way through the woods on the right.
On the 2nd turn things heated up. We decided that pass-through fire would be treated the same as firing in support of a charge; a 50% chance of the unit firing.

The third turn saw the Prussian Hussars in a pickle. The Austrian infantry had no pressure from the front and emerged from the woods behind them. On the Austrian right, the lack of a reserve was causing anxiety. I had made errors with firing modifiers in the the early turns and tried to recover from these.

The fourth turn saw the Hussars try to extricate themselves while the Dragoons began a romp past the enemy flank.

We broke for dinner.

Turn 5 saw mixed results for the Hussars. The Austrian cavalry charged with mixed results; a badly shot up Garde battalion ran through their supports, which then sent the cavalry about their business. A Dragoon regiment was beaten by a steady (and untouched) line battalion. We opted to have units winning the first round fight contacted supports in the second round rather than continue the melee into the next turn. A badly shot up Austrian battalion quit the field, without having run through any supports.

We had been counting weakened, retreating and routing units at the end of each turn. The 5th turn saw both armies with a lot of red and yellow markers. The Prussians had a total of 4 points, more than halfway towards their breakpoint, without a unit yet off the table. They were about to lose their first. But the Austrians were headed for trouble. Edit: just noticed that the Bavarians should not have been able to retire in good order, as they were rated inferior and such moves are beyond them, It didn't make that much difference considering what the next turn held for them.

I only got one picture of the 6th turn (taken the next morning). Perhaps the fine bottle of wine with dinner might account for the lack of vigilance by the photographer.

Unseen, the 2nd Battalion Moltke Regiment charged and beat a badly shot up Prussian battalion, advancing deep into the Prussian center without any support. But the Prussian Dragoons put the hammer down.
Austrian Hussars and both Bavarian battalions quit the field. The Hessen-Darmstadt Dragoons rallied on the edge of the table, narrowly avoiding the Austrian breakpoint (5.5 against the breakpoint of 6). We called the game at this point. The Austrians needed to rout three more Prussian units for a win, while avoiding having one more of their own units either get weakened or retreat. It seemed a forgone conclusion and the hour was getting late. So the game went to the Prussians, who sacked the depot and forced Daun to withdraw from the immediate area.

The Prussians had 1 unit routed off the table, one weakened and retreating, and 4 weakened for the equivalent of 4 units routed against their breakpoint of 7. The Austrians had 4 units routed off the table, 1 weakened and 2 Prussian units (the Dragoons) on objectives for the equivalent of 5.5 units routed against their breakpoint of 6, hovering on the precipice.

It took 3.5 hours for us to play 6 turns, about 35 minutes a turn. We proceeded at a leisurely pace and everyone was new to the rules. I’m sure this will go faster in a few tries. The game is good, simple without being simplistic. We did have to make some quick decisions mid-game but it is a work in progress.

Each turn initiative is determined and the side with initiative decides who goes first. The sequence is; first side moves, second side moves, second side fires, first side fires, melee, rally. It seems to me that unless you have an imperative reason to go first, going second is better. You can adjust to the other side’s moves and you get to fire first. This impression may change as we play more games. I do have some questions and suggestions for Keith that I’ll forward on his online forum. 

If everyone’s schedules agree we hope to have a game in later December. I intend to use the same rules transported across the pond for the battle of the Monongahela, better known as Braddock’s defeat. Break out the tomahawks and war paint.

Friday, October 26, 2018

First Bull Run BBB

We returned to the modified First Bull Run scenario yesterday using Bloody Big Battles rules and our 15mm ACW armies. I played the Union McDowell, seconded by Ken as Tyler and Bill played Confederate Joe Johnston. Jay arrived later to be given command of the reinforcements. The Union has lost every game we’ve played so far (as they did the real battle) but I thought perhaps a really aggressive try night succeed. The games have all been fun. The Union needs control of three of the objectives below for a win, two for a tie.

Confederate leaders and units will be in italics in the text and the photos. Burnside advanced against Evans while Porter rushed down the road towards New Market in column, gambling that Bartow and Bee would not catch him in that fast, vulnerable formation.

Burnside would advance and refill cartridge boxes.

Bartow and Porter were both spent, and Wilcox soon joined them.

The picture below has an error: Howard did eradicate Bartow, and then defeated Bee, but the artillery was a new arrival and not involved in the charge. Johnston was hit.
Burnside stormed onto Henry House Hill. Off camera to the left, Schenk’s brigade occupied the Stone Bridge and we had the makings of a tie, one objective away from a victory. Since most of the Union brigades on the right were spent, taking another one was highly unlikely. We would do well to hold what we had. We broke for dinner, with Ken’s bread, Jay’s wine and Bill’s dessert. The next part of the game is a little fuzzy, perhaps due to the wine.

Ken had finally rolled high enough to activate his division. One unit captured the Stone Bridge, another had the misfortune to encounter Stonewall Jackson’s brigade.

On the last turn of the game Burnside’s spent brigade headed off camera to the left. I had been planning on giving them a unit award before this.

At the absolute last moment Kirby-Smith had stolen our tie and produced a Confederate victory. We had played 9 turns in 3.5 hours, and all had a good time. It was unusually bloody. Most of our replays result in 6-7 infantry bases lost per side with the odd cavalry or artillery base thrown in. This time, the Union lost 11 bases (of 37) with 2 run off. Confederate losses were even higher, 15 infantry bases (of 35) with3 run off, Stuart’s cavalry dispersed by artillery in a late attempt to charge Schenk’s flank, and Joe Johnston down with a flesh wound. Curiosity had us check Stuart: his horse was shot and he escaped on foot. We nearly ran out of spent markers. We all remarked that the actual green armies at this battle would have stopped going forward or even routed with these losses. But hey, it’s a game.

I really liked the feel of the game when most units were spent, making fresh troops more potent. Jay opined that it was a fun game but the Yankees have a hard row to hoe. While appropriate since the Union did lose that day, we questioned how to make it a closer game. Ken thought perhaps no die roll to activate Tyler’s division, just let them march on the third turn. I guess I should hit the books and see when Tyler finally did let Schenk advance. Or else just say it goes forward around Noon. A good time was had by all.