Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Hamilton at Yorktown Matrix PBEM, Turns 5, 6, 7(!) and 8

The fight rages on, two minutes at a time. Hamilton's Light Infantry fight hand-to-hand at the parapet of Redoubt 10. The French Deux-Ponts have recoiled from British bayonets at Redoubt 9 and are in the ditch. Spelling, etc. of orders and arguments is as submitted by players.

Turn 5 (8:08 PM)

Hamilton: Order: Continue hand to hand combat
Argument: +1 for Continental morale
1. The Americans see how much they outnumber the Brits
2. The Americans are standing on the parapet over the Brits and have the advantage of height
3. Hamilton is quite inspired in leading his me, seeing glory dance in front of his eyes.
Umpire: argument is rated average.
Die roll 3, argument fails

Redoubt 10:  Orders : Drive them off!
 Arguments 1- Hamilton’s orders to block the rear of the Redout were not followed.
                    2- Cornwallis hearing gun volleys sends reinforcements to Redout 10.
Results : Morale goes up on Parapet.
Umpire: argument rated very weak. Scenario states that the Redoubts cannot be flanked, hence the rear cannot be blocked. The short time this fight lasts makes it unlikely that a messenger from Cornwallis could reach reinforcements before it is over, much less allow time for such troops to make their way in the dark to the fight. This is the 18th century, things move slowly.
Die roll 1, argument fails (if it’s any consolation, a very strong argument would have failed)
Since this argument failed, any further arguments for reinforcements will be rated impossible.

Deux-Ponts: Bah, a minor setback. Charge the parapet again!
We'll have +2 to morale because:
- Christian Graf von Forbach himself is leading the charge, with a rousing monologue cribbed from Shakespeare's "Henry V."
- The success of Hamilton's attack encourages our attack. If these amateur yankees can do it, certainly a bunch of professional soldiers will have no problem.
- Our leader is clearly a genius as evidenced by his idea for us to climb quickly out of the ditch into the redoubt by standing on each others shoulders.
Umpire: Argument rated average, downgraded to weak because of large increase to morale. Argument also rated highly amusing. Umpire tips his hat.
Die roll 4, argument fails

Redoubt 9:   Move: fire at the Deux-Ponts regiment
Argument: +1 modifier to our attack
1-The enemies are still in relatively close range and their movement is restricted by the ditch.
2– my troops’ morale remains high, not only because of the protection provided by the redoubt, but also because we successfully repelled their advanced last turn.
3– visibility of the target remains good because the target is still illuminated by the torches that we threw last turn.
Umpire: argument rated strong.
Die roll 6, argument succeeds, assuming argument is for fire modifier.

Final resolution, Turn 5.

Hamilton and his Light Infantry continue fighting at the parapet. Rumors of British reinforcements evaporate in the night. The Light Infantry melee die roll is 6, the British garrison is 2. Final Melee odds are 3 – 1, modified to 2 – 1 because the British are defending the parapet. Final melee die roll is 2. Each side loses a strength point and the fight continues at the parapet.

Led by their Colonel, the Deux-Ponts charge back up to the parapet through withering musket fire. British musket die roll is 5, modified to 6. The Deux-Ponts lose a strength point and a morale point. French melee die roll is 6, British garrison is 5. Final melee odds are 1 – 1, modified down to 1 – 2 because the British are defending the parapet. Final melee die roll is 5. Each side loses a strength point and the fight rages at the parapet.

Both Redoubts are now embroiled in a desperate hand-to-hand struggle at the parapets. No movement is possible as all are locked into the fight. Arguments for turn 6 (8:10 PM) are due. 

Note: an error by the umpire gave a copy of Hamilton's status report to the British commander of Redoubt 10. That player had recently gave away his unit strength in an argument. I suspect the main import of this latest gaffe will be to show just how badly outnumbered the British are. My apologies to Hamilton. I will strive to avoid repeats of this in the future.

Turn 6 (8:10 PM)

Hamilton: Order: continue hand to hand combat
Argument: the Brits lose the modifier for being behind cover
1.         Hamilton outnumbers the Brits by almost 3-1 and the Americans have spread along the redoubt walls in a single rank thereby extending past where the Brits are stationed and allowing many (but not all Americans) to get to the top of the parapet
2.         Even if the Brits are spread out over the entire parapet and the Americans cannot extend past the Brits, this leave gaps in their ranks and the fighting has been going on for four minutes, which has given many of the Americans the opportunity to get to the top of the parapet.
3.         After four minutes and taking two sets of losses, some of the Brits are becoming terrified that they are outnumbered and are backing away from the parapet in preparation for fleeing or surrendering.
Umpire: argument rated very weak as this is an attempt to bypass the basic melee rules. Win or lose,
Die roll 2, argument fails. This is the last argument that will be allowed to challenge the defensive bonus for the parapet. The proper way to nullify the bonus is to force the garrison back in melee.

Redoubt 10: Orders: Push them back!
Argument: Morale is holding!
Umpire: intriguing, another preventive argument just in case the enemy argues that morale is fading. Argument is rated very strong. But if it fails, morale will drop.
Die roll 6, argument succeeds. Morale remains steady.

Redoubt 9: Move: Charge the Deux-Ponts regiment and engage in hand to hand combat.
Argument: +1 to combat
1. My troops have an uphill advantage.
2. As the fighting moves down the slope, the Deux-Ponts regiment is forced down into the ditch, limiting their mobility.
3. The Deux-Ponts regiment is still reeling from the devastating volley unleashed upon them last turn and thus is putting up less of a fight than they might otherwise have.
Umpire:  the move is impossible as both sides are locked in hand-to-hand fighting. It was stated previously that no move is possible. Since the argument is based on a charge, it is rated impossible.

Deux-Ponts: Orders: Push! Push! Push! Take the parapet down! (+1 to morale)
- We use the torches the british threw at us to light their wall on fire pushing them back from the wall, and creating smoke to cover our advance.
- Our bayonet attacks have been known to terrify Hessians into soiling their lederhosen and surrendering.
- Smelling the blood in the air has inspired the pride and glory of Forbach and he shines as an inspiring image at the front of the attack
Umpire: The earthworks are not flammable. Unlike the reconstructions in the national park, they're not covered with grass because they have only recently been built. Since the argument is based on this fire, it is rated impossible.

Hamilton’s battalion is locked in combat at the parapet. Hamilton’s melee roll is 6, British garrison melee roll is 2. Final odds are 3 – 1, modified to 2 – 1 due to the parapet. Final melee roll is 2, each side loses a strength point and the fight goes on at the parapet.

The Deux-Ponts remain in hand-to-hand combat at the parapet. Deux-Ponts melee roll is 2, garrison melee roll is 5. Final odds 1 – 1, down to 1 – 2 because of the parapet bonus. Final melee roll is 1. The Deux-Ponts lose a strength point, recoil back into the ditch and lose a morale point. The dice gods are cruel to the French.

Hamilton and the Redoubt 10 garrison continue to be locked in combat with no possible move other than continuing. The French have recoiled into the ditch and may charge again. The garrison of Redoubt 9 may charge. If they do, there will be a dice-off to determine if they charge before the French. Only one side may attack. Charging out of the redoubt will lose the parapet bonus.

Turn 7 (8:12)

Hamilton: Order: retreat
Hamilton’s men realize that there is no way to influence the results of this melee and decide to retreat. They see no need to take the Redoubt. It will fall in due course from British supplies being cut off by the French navy. Why die for Hamilton’s glory? Who cares?
Argument: The British do not fire
            1.         The British are so surprised that they gape in amazement.
            2.         Their muskets are not loaded as they have been engaged in hand to hand combat.
            3.         The Americans retreat rapidly and the British captain orders his men to hold fire in order to save ammunition in the event that there is another assault.
Umpire: there is no need for this argument. Units may not fire if they are in contact at the start of a turn, as both sides were this turn. No die roll is needed.

Redoubt 10: Orders: Push them Back! Kill the Rebels !
Argument:  Rebel Morale is weakening in the face of stiff resistance
                    From hardened professionals.
Umpire: argument is rated average.
Die roll 3. Argument fails, no further morale loss for Light Infantry.

Deux-Ponts: Once more into the breach! Charge again!
The British have -1 on their roll as:
- They've been stewing in this malaria infested place and about half of them are unable to fight. (The Americans have lived here long enough that they are unaffected or the sick are not at this battle. And the French/Alsatian troops may become stick later, but their recent arrival and the 30 day incubation period means they are unaffected in this battle.)
- Even after these losses the British at Redoubt 9 are still outnumbered more than 2:1.
- The lack of rest from being shelled all day is manifesting as early fatigue, whereas the French troops were able to prepare by resting before the attack.
Umpire: Argument is rated average. What on earth could inspire this disease-centric argument? The modifier is assumed to be for the British fire die roll.
Die roll is 3, argument fails.

Redoubt 9:  Move: continue hand to hand combat with the Deux-Ponts regiment
Umpire: I assume the garrison will fire as the French charge again.
Argument: +1 combat modifier for my troops
1. My troops are armed with superiorly crafted bayonets and muskets.
2. My troops are battle-hardened, professional soldiers.
3. The Deux-Ponts regiment is still feeling the after-effects of the thrashing we gave them last turn.
Umpire: argument is rated average. I assume the modifier is for the melee.
Die roll 3, argument fails.

Hamilton’s Light Infantry break contact and fall back rapidly, leaving dead and badly wounded around Redoubt 10. The 40 remaining able British troops gape in astonishment until the captain orders them to reload, since the Yanks may be back at any moment. Then they carry off their dead and start tending to their wounded.  In January 2015 Lin-Manuel Miranda’s innovative rap musical “Aaron Burr” opens on Broadway.

The Deux-Ponts charge Redoubt 9 yet again. The garrison fires (die roll 2) a hasty volley and causes no serious damage. The French roll 3 for their melee die, the garrison rolls 3. The odds are 2 – 1, modified to 1 – 1 by parapet. Final die roll is 5.
The French pour over the parapet as the garrison recoils into the Redoubt interior. Each side loses a strength point. Either side may charge next turn. If both do, dice will determine who charges first. If either side does not charge, they may fire.

Hamilton and Redoubt 10 are no longer in the game. Bill (Redoubt 10) is on track to be the British winner, while the French will be the Allied winner if they carry their Redoubt, which looks likely.

Turn 8 (8:14)

Redoubt 9: Move: Charge the Deux-Ponts regiment
Argument: +1 combat modifier for my troops
1. My troops are armed with superiorly crafted bayonets and muskets.
2. My troops are battle-hardened, professional soldiers.
3. My troops pass around some of the “medicinal” brandy before charging to steel themselves for the bloodshed to come.
Umpire: argument is rated average.
Die roll is 5, argument succeeds.

Deux-Ponts: ORDERS: Press the attack! Let's finish this! Charge!
ARGUMENT: The British have -1 to morale.
- They're woefully outnumbered.
- They've lost the high ground and the enemy is pouring through their fortifications.
- "This ain't even our home turf! Why do we wanna die over a bunch of pig farms and filthy swamp land filled with dangerous besties and foetid disease?"
Umpire: argument is rated strong.
Die roll is 3, argument succeeds.

British morale sinks 1 point as the French have taken the parapet. But they fight with the courage of despair. Both sides try to charge. British die roll is 5, French die roll is 6. The French get moving forward before the British do. Perhaps that pause for brandy slowed the redcoats down. The French charge into the interior of the redoubt. There’s an engineer’s term for it that I forget.
British melee die roll is 5, modified to 6. French melee die roll is 3. 
Odds are 1 – 1.  Final melee die roll is 2. The French lose one strength point and recoil back to the parapet.

The situation is basically back to where it was at the start of Turn 8, save for the loss of some French troops and British morale.

Orders for Turn 9 (8:16) are due.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Alexander Hamilton at Yorktown PBEM matrix game, Turns 1 - 4

This is the Yorktown PBEM (Play By EMail) Matrix being played from various living rooms in at least two states. The scenario is here.. Will Hamilton match his historical record and take his redoubt first? The action starts below. Spelling by players is untouched, cage-free and free-range.

First turn (8 PM).

Hamilton:  Order - Move to the abatis.
Argument: The night is cloudy and the British do not see the advance.
Umpire: argument is rated weak since the garrison is aware that infantry attacks usually follow the lifting of artillery barrages. This argument clashes with both British arguments.
Die roll 2, argument fails.

Smithersby Redoubt 10: Order- Fire
Argument: in spite of their efforts, hundreds of Continentals are heard and seen approaching our abatis.
Umpire: Argument is rated very strong, since the lifting of the artillery bombardment is a pretty clear sign that the infantry attack is next. The garrison would be on a heightened alert. There normally does not need to be an argument to fire, but Smithersby is leaving nothing to chance. In this case the Americans have argued that they can approach without being fired on, the arguments will clash. Hamilton’s argument also clashes that by Smythe of Redoubt 9.
Die roll 3, argument succeeds. British fire without modifiers,

Deux-Ponts: My move is to advance to the abatis.
My argument is that my defence against attack will be increased because sunset was at 5:36pm on that day.
Umpire: Argument is rated average, No modifier to die roll is specified, default is 1.
Die roll 6, argument succeeds, British fire at -1 this turn.

Smythe Redoubt 9: Order - My troops fire at the advancing Deux-Ponts regiment.
Argument: They do so with increased accuracy (+2) because:
1- their blue uniforms make them an easier target
2- my troops’ morale is good because of the safety provided by the redoubt
3- It is a clear, moonlit night
Umpire: This is rated average, downrated to weak because of the +2 modifier. A +2 or -2 modifier on a six-sided die roll is quite powerful. This argument is directly opposed by Hamilton’s argument. I nearly rated it up because it is in formal matrix format, even if the first point is dubious.
Die roll 3, argument fails.

Hamilton’s battalion advances to the abatis. The British in Redoubt 10 fire (scoring a 3) and the Continental Light Infantry lose a morale point as bullets fly by.

Deux-Ponts advance to the abatis. The British fire (score 1, modified to zero) but aim high.

Both attacking battalions have advanced to the abatis, Hamilton’s have lost some of their elan.

Second turn (8:02 PM).

Hamilton: Order-sappeurs attack the abates. I assume that it cannot be moved through without being first destroyed, Rest of battalion fire at the English. (Note from rules: Each has an abatis, a sharpened wood tangle that must have a gap cut through with axes before it can be passed).
Argument: the smoke from the battalion firing plus it being nighttime makes the English firing less than normally accurate, minus 1 on the die roll.
Umpire: argument rated average, it is opposed by the British redoubt 10 argument.
Die roll 4, tie, roll again 6, tie, roll again 4, tie, roll again 6, argument succeeds

Redoubt 10: Order- Fire
Argument: with increased accuracy +1 because
1-         Continentals are closer
2-         They are bunched up and some exposing themselves trying to climb over and thru
3-         Some are crouched down trying to get under, so shots high and low have increased chance of a hit also.
Umpire: Argument rated average, it is opposed by Hamilton’s argument.
Die roll 5, a tie, roll again 6, tie, roll again 5, tie roll again 3, argument fails

Redoubt 9:  Move = Fire at the Deux-Ponts regiment
Argument = my troops receive a +1 modifier when doing so because:
1- the blue uniforms of the Deux-Pont regiment make them an easier target
2- my troops’ morale is good because of the safety provided by the redoubt
3- the Deux-Ponts regiment is now in closer range than they were last turn
Umpire: Argument is rated strong.
Die roll 6, argument succeeds.

Deux-Ponts: Order - While my sappers cut through the abatis, the rest of my troops fire at the british to drive them off the parapet. (Rules note: The redoubts are proof against musket fire)
Argument - Using the abatis for cover both protects the troops and allows them to steady their weapons for more careful shots.
Umpire: Argument rated weak, as a well-designed abatis would not provide cover from fire. If the argument succeeds, perhaps the abatis was poorly designed or executed.
Die roll 2, argument fails

Axes hack a gap in the abatis. Hamilton’s troops are obscured by smoke and the British in Redoubt 10 get -1 to their fire die. Die roll is 5, modified to 4. Hamilton loses another morale point.

Sappers clear a gap in the abatis in front of Redoubt 9. At close range, the British fire with +1. Die roll 5 modified to 6. A hail of bullets; Deux-Ponts lose a strength point and a morale point.

Gaps have been cleared in the abatis before both redoubts.

Turn 3 (8:04 PM)

Redoubt 10:   order: Fire  - with + 2 modifier
1- it’s a double salvo. Or rather 4 salvos of 35 each. That will give a pause to these brave Continentals.
2- my 70 troops have been divided into two platoons of 35 each. The have practiced this firing tactic.
3-due to desertions we have extra muskets that have been pre loaded and stacked near each fusilier. Platoon 1 is ordered to Fire, then they bend over and pick up another  Musket while they are doing that Platoon 2 is ordered to Fire  then the fist ones Fire again and then the final salvo is given  (It’s only an extra 70 muskets for my troops, And there were certainly more deserters than that.
4- this gives the impression that there are more defenders than there are, Which gives some pause to the attackers.
5-the Fire is also effective because of the close range.
6- at no time are my troops absent from the Parapet.
Umpire: argument is rated average, down rated to weak due to -2 modifier, conflicts with Hamilton.
Not affecting the rating, there are some issues with the order and arguments. The order should be to fire and desired modifiers part of the argument. This argument lets the enemy know how big the garrison is. There is no need for more than three argument points, therefore points 4, 5 and 6 are ignored. Please follow the format: simple order, argument and desired result, up to three points.
Die roll 6, tie as both succeed, reroll 4, fails

Hamilton:   Assuming that I have gapped the abatis, I move to the ditch.
Umpire: I neglected to explicitly state that it takes sappers one turn to gap abatis unless an argument slows them down. The abatis has been gapped. Another rules clarification is needed.

Argument: The British fire with a -1
            The night makes it difficult for the British to see the Americans
            The British are demoralized after being shot at by siege artillery
            The British colonel has had too much port and is unable to give effective orders
             as he is so sad that his redbout does not have paisley sandbags, just bring tan and brown ones
Umpire: argument is rated average, conflicts with redoubt 10. Correction: the British CO is just a captain.
Die roll 5, tie as both succeed, reroll 4, succeeds.

Deux-Ponts: Order - My troops rush the trench.
Argument - Even though we're in their "kill zone" the British have a harder time than usual hitting us because:
- Washington chose a moonless night for this attack
- Redoubt 9 is manned partially by Hessian (German) mercenaries rather than British soldiers. There's no dying to protect home and family even for the British troops. But at this point the mercenaries can really see the writing on the wall about how this war will end and lack motivation.
- The blue jackets, while they may make our soldiers easier to spot in broad daylight, in dim light where color distinction is lost, reflect even less light than the typical light gray, or the red of the British.
Umpire: Argument is rated average, conflicts with Redoubt. No modifier specified, default is 1.
Die roll 5, tie as both succeed, reroll 2, tie as both fail, reroll 4, argument succeeds.

Redoubt 9: Move for turn 3—fire at the Deux-Pont regiment
Argument—my troops shoot with a +1 modifier because:
1- the enemy is closer than last turn
2- the enemy’s movement is limited because of the relatively confined space they’re left in after hacking through the abatis and facing the ditch ahead
3- my troops still maintain positive morale because of the safety provided by the redoubt and the ditch
Umpire: Argument is rated strong, conflicts with French argument.
Die roll 4, tie as both succeed, reroll 2, tie as both fail, reroll 2, argument fails.

Hamilton’s battalion rushes into the ditch, which is placed behind the abatis in an unusual departure from military practice. The complex British firing routine breaks down under the stress of combat and they fire with a -1 modifier. The die roll is 5, modified down to 4, Hamilton’s battalion loses a morale point.

The Deux-Ponts descend into the ditch. British fire modified -1 due to the moonless night, etc. The die roll is 1, modified to zero. The shots pass harmlessly overhead.

At the end of turn 3, both battalions are in the ditch, ready to move into close combat. The defenders may fire at troops who are charging them. Once units start the turn in close combat, firing is no longer possible.

Turn 4 (8:06 PM)

Hamilton: order - My troops charge the redoubt
Argument: The morale of the battalion recovers one point
A British deserter has informed Hamilton that there are only 70 men in the redoubt and he has informed his men who are encouraged to hear how few lobster backs face them
The men in the battalion know that they face only one more volley before they close with the enemy
Hamilton is leading from the front and shouting for his men to follow
Umpire: Argument is rated average.
Die roll 2, argument fails

Redoubt 10: Order: Fire
Proposal: +1 to fire
Argument: 1 - close proximity of enemy
Umpire: argument is rated strong. As before, please follow the format: simple order, argument and desired result, up to three points.
Die roll 1, argument fails

Deux-Ponts: Orders: It's finally time! We're through the worst of it. Now is our moment of glory. Charge the parapet!
Argument: The British have -1 because...
- the British know there is no resupply and the enemy is at the door now
- the attacking soldiers call out in their native German, causing confusion and further doubt among the Hessian/German mercenaries hired by the British
- the British are still disoriented by the heavy shelling they endured up until only a few minutes ago
Umpire:  argument is rated average, directly opposes Redoubt 9 argument. I assume the modifier is to British fire rather than the melee that follows.
Die roll 6, tie as both succeed, reroll 2, tie as both fail, reroll 2, tie as both fail, reroll 2, argument fails

Redoubt 9:  Move: toss torches (see below) and fire at deux ponts regiment
Argument: +1 modifier to firing because
1-they’re even closer than last turn
2-they’re in a ditch, which impedes their mobility, thereby making them an easier target
3-immediately prior to my unit shooting, one soldier from my unit tosses two lit torches into the ditch to illuminate the deux ponts regiment, thereby making them an easier target
Umpire: argument rated strong, directly opposes Deux-Ponts argument.
Die roll 3, tie as both succeed, reroll 2, tie as both fail, reroll 1, tie as both fail, reroll 3, argument succeeds

Hamilton tells his troops the enemy is only 70 strong and leads the attack into the parapet. His voice is drowned out bymusket fire but the troops follow him. The British get no positive modifier. Their musket fire die is 3, another morale hit against Hamilton’s Light Infantry. Hamilton’s die roll for melee score is 4, the Redoubt’s die roll for melee score is 3. Odds are 2 – 1, modified to 1 – 1. Final die roll is 3. Each side loses a strength point (~10 troops) and the bayonet fight rages on at the parapet.

The Deux-Ponts charge up to the parapet through a hail of bullets. The British fire die is 5. The Deux-Ponts lose a morale point and a strength point. Deux-Ponts melee score die is 4, the Redoubt is 5. Odds are 2 – 1, modified down to 1 – 1 because the British are behind the parapet. Final die roll is 2. The British force the Deux-Ponts to recoil back into the ditch, leaving a number of dead and wounded behind (1 strength point).  

At the start of Turn 5 (8:08 PM) The Continental Light Infantry are at the parapet in a furious close combat with the British garrison. No musket fire or movement is possible.

The French are in the ditch and can charge again. The British in Redoubt 9 may fire again.

Note to players: you may argue to modify your melee score, but not the final die roll once odds have been determined. That’s up to the dice gods. Perhaps sacrificing a small animal might help…

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Yorktown PBEM Matrix Game Scenario and rules

The Fencibles are in lockdown along with most of the rest of the world. I've taken refuge in a rural area, away from my table, troops, paints and such. Then the idea struck: run a play-by-email (PBEM) matrix game of the final assault at Yorktown. Simple, no map required, easy to run and maintain social distance. The main hitch was most of the Fencibles have not played a matrix game before. Those who have did it so long ago they have forgotten how it works. Matrix games are based on arguments. The argument says something will happen and can give up to 3 reasons why. The umpire rates the strength of the argument and rolls a die. If the score of the die is equal to or greater than the rating, the argument succeeds. This game also has an order for the troops.

Yorktown Matrix Game Rules
Colonel Alexander Hamilton and a Continental Light Infantry battalion will attack Redoubt # 10 defended by British Major Campbell.
General de Viomenil and a composite French battalion will attack Redoubt # 9 defended by British Lt. Col. McPherson.

Introduction: it is 8 PM on October 14, 1781. Cornwallis’ British army is besieged on the Virginia coast by the Continental Army of George Washington and the French Army under Rochambeau. The British Army is badly outnumbered, sheltering behind earthworks. Allies aided by excellent French engineers and siege artillery have been hemming the British in. The French Navy has managed that rarest of feats, winning a narrow victory against the Royal Navy, who have sailed to New York to repair damage. As a result, the British Army cannot be evacuated by their navy.
Engineers have determined that if redoubts 9 and 10 are taken, the British position will be at the mercy of heavy siege guns placed here. Two battalions, one American and one French have been tasked with storming these redoubts.

The American Light Infantry battalion is led by Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton. He has been Washington’s staff officer for much of the war. His intelligence and hard work made him invaluable to the commander. But this ambitious man of humble origins knows glory doesn’t come from efficient paperwork. Fame and glory will be a good asset for an ambitious politician after the war, and this may well be the last major engagement. He has strained his relations with Washington to get this combat assignment.

The French battalion is drawn from elements of all four regiments in the expeditionary force. One of these is the Deux-Ponts Regiment (Zweibruecken in German, Two Bridges in English). This “German” regiment wears blue coats rather than the usual French off-white.

The British hope to hold their redoubts as long as possible, at best possibly drive off the attacks.
The Allied artillery has been pounding the British lines for a while. It is dark. The artillery falls silent as the two Allied battalions move out.

Scenario rules:
Victory conditions: Hamilton or Viomenil win by capturing their respective redoubt first. The British players win by having their redoubt not be the first to fall. If they are really lucky, they might even drive off the attack. In the actual fight Hamilton stormed his redoubt faster and with fewer losses. In game terms he and the CO of Redoubt 9 were the winners.

Each turn (representing a couple minutes), each player may order one action and make one argument. Actions may be a move, cut a gap through the abatis, fire at charging enemy or enemy not in melee contact, charge into melee. Sappers need one turn to gap the abatis unless they are delayed. Movement for the attackers include moving up to the abatis, moving through the ditch, and then charging the redoubt. If they win the melee at the parapet they may advance into the redoubt interior.
A successful attack that meets no delay or setback would move to the abatis on turn 1, gap the abatis turn 2, enter the ditch turn 3, charge the parapet turn 4, if successful in melee surmount the parapet in the same turn, and enter the redoubt interior turn 5. Once in the interior, combat can continue until one side or other has their morale drop to zero or less. The game has no turn limit and continues until players agree to stop or no further combat is possible due to morale losses. If a redoubt garrison loses all morale points it surrenders. If an attacking battalion loses all morale points it will retreat and end the attack.

Arguments can be rated very strong (2+ on a die roll succeeds), strong (3+), average (4+), weak (5+), very weak (6) and impossible. Players will want to avoid the last. Arguments can have up to 3 reasons why they should succeed.

Arguments may attempt to modify die rolls, lower enemy morale or raise your own, cause disorder to the enemy or recover from your own, etc. The only limits are staying within the period – no automatic weapons. Far-fetched arguments will get low ratings. Pulling rabbits out of the hat – unusual weapons not previously mentioned, etc. – are far-fetched. Recall that Captain Aubrey often toasted to “the confusion to His Majesty’s enemies”.

Small arms fire has no effect against troops in the redoubt, including those lining the parapets. The redoubts cannot be flanked. They must be taken from the front in melee. Each has an abatis (pronounced ah bah TEE), a sharpened wooden obstacle that must have a gap cut with axes before it can be passed. Each storming battalion has sappers with axes in the front ranks. Each redoubt has a ditch after the abatis that must be crossed before the troops can fight hand to hand with the defenders. As long as the British have not recoiled from the parapet at the edge of the redoubt, they will gain a strong combat bonus in melee. The abatis and ditch are integral parts of the redoubt and are designed to offer no cover at all to attackers.

Fire: roll a die. On a score of 3+ the target loses 1 morale point. On a roll of 5+ the target loses a morale point and a strength point. A unit may fire if the enemy is not in melee contact at the start of the turn. A unit may also fire while their own sappers hack a gap in the abatis.

Melee combat: umpire adds ups scores for both sides. Scores are the totals of srength points, morale points, any points from arguments and a die roll. The umpire calculates the ratio for the table below. The attacking side needs at least 20 points to get 2 - 1 odds against 10 points, etc. If the British are lining the parapets against an attack from outside the redoubt, shift one column to the left. The umpire rolls one die which cannot be modified by argument. In the table below, attacker refers to the side currently attacking since the British may attack in a desperate attempt to regain the parapet.

Die Roll \ Odds
1 – 2 or less
1 - 1
2 - 1
3 – 1 or more
A1 D1
A1 D1
A1 D1
A1 D1
A1 D1
A1 D1R
A1 D1
A1 D1
A1 D1R
A1 D1
A1 D1R
A1 D1R
A1 D1R
A1 D1R

Explanation of results: A1RM means attacker loses 1 strength point, recoils and loses a morale point. D2RM means the defender loses 2 strength points, recoils and loses a morale point.
If the British recoil from the parapet, allies are assumed to have advanced inside the parapet and the British lose cover from the parapet unless they retake the position. If the allies recoil from attacking the parapet, they are back in the ditch. If the allies recoil from inside the parapet the British are assumed to have regained the parapet. If allies recoil from the interior of the redoubt they are assumed to be just inside the parapet. British may recoil multiple times in the interior of the redoubt. If both sides start the turn in melee contact, the Allies are assumed to be the attacker.

Aftre playing this game the first time, I am inclined to rule that if the British recoil from the interior of the redoubt, they have decided to head for the showers. It gives a faster game. If you decide to play, it's up to the umpire which option to use. You should probably tell your players.

Note the game had a ditch before the abatis. Since then we have found that there was an abatis, a ditch and then a fraise (pointed log palisade) on the the scarp rising out of the ditch. 

Order of Battle.
Player name 
Strength 40
Current strength 
Morale 8
Current morale 

Redoubt 10
Strength 7
Current strength 
Morale 7
Current morale

Strength 40
Current strength 
Morale 8
Current morale 

Redoubt 9
Strength 12
Current strength 8
Morale 7
Current morale 

These are the historical strengths. As umpire you may decide to give each redoubt 10 strength points for a more even game. Don't tell the Allied players until the game is over. You might also vary the strength of the Allied units to keep the British guessing but don't make them too much weaker (or stronger).

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Midway 1942 Wargame

No, this is not about the venerable old classic board game Midway by Avalon Hill. This article is about the wargame run by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942 which had eerie hints of what was going to happen in the waters around Midway Island.

The Covid-19 lockdown inspired some reading. The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz was followed by the similarly themed Conquest by Hugh Thomas. Then a 1,000 page opus about Harry Truman saw me back off. Maybe I’ll return to it in time. Instead I have begun reading Miracle at Midway by Gordon Prange. I knew some about the IJN wargame before but this gives greater detail.
A month before the battle the Imperial Japanese Navy wanted to have a rehearsal of sorts for the coming invasion of Midway and the exploitation that would follow the expected victory. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto tasked his chief of staff, Rear Admiral Matome Ugaki with organizing a large table wargame of the looming operation. Ugaki had expressed doubts earlier about US planes hitting the Japanese aircraft carriers while the Japanese planes were striking the island. But he put these aside to run the wargame.  

During the game, the US planes from Midway attacked the carriers while the Japanese planes were striking the island. The umpire ruled that the US planes got 9 hits, sinking the fleet carriers Akagi and Kaga. Ugaki intervened, reducing the hits to 3, sinking only the Kaga and slightly damaging the Akagi. In the actual battle, US carrier planes sank 3 Japanese fleet carriers with planes refueling and rearming on their flight decks on the first strike. They got the remaining large carrier in a later strike, losing one US carrier and altering the naval balance of power in the Pacific for the rest of the war. Ugaki wasn’t done meddling. After the successful conclusion of the wargame invasion, the Japanese fleet moved towards New Caledonia and Fiji. Ugaki resurrected the sunken Kaga and added it to the Japanese fleet. He wasn't able to work such magic the next month when push came to shove.

This makes the wargame seem eerily prescient. A close look shows it got there by a series of errors. The wargame presumed the 9 hits were dealt out by the aircraft on Midway Island. It also presumed the attack was a strategic surprise though the Island garrison itself wasn’t caught flat-footed. It was assumed the US Navy would only know about the attack after Midway was hit. In the game the Japanese officer playing the US Navy declined to come out of Pearl Harbor to counter-attack, aware of how outnumbered he was.

There were a number of incorrect assumptions. First and foremost, the US Navy knew the attack was coming, Naval intelligence had broken enough of the Japanese naval code that with hard work and some good guesses they knew the target and time of attack. They were helped by the way the Japanese blabbed over the radio, in contrast to the complete silence maintained by the earlier Pearl Harbor strike. Second, most of the operative units of the US Navy were waiting northeast of Midway Island looking for a chance to ambush the Japanese. Aware of some of the disparity in surface combat ships, the US resolved to keep the fight strictly between planes and stay out of surface combat range. Finally, the Midway garrison had Marine Corps pilots stuck with badly obsolete “Brewster” fighters and “Vindicator” dive bombers. The leathernecks called the fighters “flying coffins” and the bombers “wind indicators”. All would fare poorly against the excellent Japanese Zero fighters. The Army Air Corps had a number of B-17 bombers on Midway, but they failed to score a single hit from high altitude against ships taking evasive action. Later in the war heavy bombers would make low level skip bombing attacks against shipping with more success, but the technique was waiting to be discovered. The Midway planes were valiant but ineffectual.

Ugaki’s meddling ensured that the game provided no useful warning to his navy. Overconfidence based on the wild run of victories the Japanese had chalked up in the 6 months since Pearl Harbor played a large part. Finally, fortune decided to smile on the US when their dive bombers came out of the clouds over the Japanese carriers, finding decks cluttered with planes, gasoline, bombs and torpedoes.