Saturday, May 30, 2020

Yorktown II, Turns 5, 6, 7 and 8

                                            Yes, used this picture before but ain't it grand?

Turn 5 (8:08 PM)

There have rumors of heavenly creatures and other untoward events. But what happens back in 1781 is that the allied assaults are getting stalled. The British are sending off volley after volley and feeling pretty cocky at the delays in the allied attack.

Redoubt 9 Lt. Col. McPherson

ORDERS: Continue firing and throwing grenades.
ARGUMENT: The British have +1 on their fire roll.
- We've been cutting them down pretty consistently so far and are working into a rhythm now. As patterns are repeated our success should increase.
- The fact that they're closer still, and the fires from the grenades make them easier to see and target.
- The accumulated wounded and grenade explosions increase chaos and confusion among the French making them less agile and easier targets.
Argument strength: average. The French are seasoned professionals although their commanders do appear a bit confused.. But the objective is clear (move up the hill and take the redoubt) so
the confusion does not have a material effect on French movement.
Argument die roll: 1. Argument fails        Fire die roll: 4

General de Viomenil

Oh supreme, exalted one! I have placed upon the alter one fat and  juicy free range groundhog. I shall roast it in your honor ! Hale to thee !

Order:  CHARGE!!!
Argument: this is what we are here for. Effect:    The French gain the Parapet.
Amusement value: 2, although this minor deity is tired of all these small animals and desires something with more heft and blood.

Argument strength: impossible. The French cannot make the parapet without first getting through the fraises. This deity appears in a burning bush and speaks in a voice of dread to say that this appears to be an order masquerading as an argument and this deity is not pleased.

Result of the turn: the French are further shaken and they stop at the fraises.

Redoubt 10         Major Campbell

Order fire
Argument close range gives +1 modifier to fire
They are within 10 yards
Argument strength: average       Argument die roll: 5. Argument succeeds.
Fire die roll: 1 modified to 2. Fire has no effect.

Lt. Col. Hamilton

Move: Charge the parapet.
Argument: Enemy suffers a -1 to morale because
1. The imminent loss of their uphill advantage and the protection of their fortifications fills their hearts with dread.
2. Despite their best efforts they’ve done nothing but slow our advance—the realization that they are entirely ineffectual renders them despondent.
3. Our deafening battle cry makes their knees wobble.

Amusement value: 1, although it would be higher if we knew what the deafening battle cry was.
Argument strength: very weak. The fraises have to be cut through and there is no order given in turn 4 or 5 for this action.
Argument die roll: 1. Argument fails

Result of the turn: The Americans mill around at the fraises and calls are made for the sappers to come forward. Major Campbell looks over the parapet and heaps calumny on the Americans. Somehow Campbell knows that the Americans are led by Hamilton and he shouts that this confusion is what you get when a bastard leads your charge rather than a true born gentleman. 

(Major Campbell notes that a minor deity (the umpire) is putting words in his mouth.)

Turn 6 (8:10 PM)

(Blogger notes: I hope we can complete our virtual war before an actual incipient one breaks out.)

Redoubt 9: Lt. Col. McPherson
ORDERS: Keep firing and grenading!
ARGUMENT: It takes at least TWO rounds for the French to cut through the fraises.
- We toss incendiary grenades and torches to light the fraises on fire. They're stout wood and won't lose their strength, but engineers will have a much harder time chopping through them without getting horribly burned.
- We focus fire on anyone working to cut through the fraises, killing or at least distracting them to disrupt their progress.
- We aim our grenade throws just over the fraises to continually push back any engineers trying to brave the flames.
Argument average: I think it is very unlikely that the stakes making up the fraises could be set on fire. This means that only two thirds of the reasons make sense. I wonder how many supporting reasons for an argument normally make it average but the other two reasons make sense, so average it is.
Argument die roll: 5, argument succeeds.
Fire die roll: 4, the French are shaken again.

General de Viomenil
The Gods do play with us imperfect mortals. The word has been received from on high
that another obstacle has been placed before us. The fraise must be Ordered breached before we can reach the Parapet  and the promised land!
Therefore oh Monarch Of War, two tender young Turkeys have been slaughtered upon the alter and anointed with Boysenberry jam for the amusement of your tastebuds.
We beseech you to smile fondly upon our simple plans:

Orders: Penetrate the Fraise
Argument:1- The British have used up their ineffective grenades.
                  2- It is difficult for the British to fire down onto the Fraise without exposing
                     themselves up on the Parapet.
Result: British receive no fire benefit this turn .
Amusement value 3: wild turkeys are delicious. So, I am assuming that is what this deity is being presented with. Plus take out is always appreciated. I, for one, am tired of cooking.
Argument average: interesting point about the grenades but there is no support for it. On the other hand, it makes sense that perhaps the British are getting a bit anxious.
I take this argument to be that, if the British requested an increased die roll for firing, that they do not receive it. There is no statement here that the British firing is completely suppressed only 
that there is no benefit. Only the minor deity is allowed to issue Delphic pronouncements.

No argument die roll as the argument did not apply to what the British ordered.

Turn results: the French are delayed at the fraises. They can attempt to cut through on turn 7.

Redoubt 10: Major Campbell
Turn 6 Major Campbell Redoubt 10
Argument: close range increases chance of hits, +1 on fire die roll
- They are close enough to hit with rocks 
- they are packed into a deep formation
Argument average.
Argument die roll: 3. The argument fails.
Fire die roll: 1, the British must in fact be shaken. This deity is amused that the two arguments in fact complemented each other and came out consistently.

Lt. Col. Hamilton
Move - Cut through the fraises.
Argument - Enemy suffers -1 morale.
  1. They’ve been unable to stop our advance despite their best efforts.
  2. Their ammo supply is dwindling, having used much of it during the first five turns.
Amusement value 3: this deity loves research and anything to distract from riots in the streets and cv-19 is welcomed.
Argument weak: this argument caused me to look up rates of fire and cartridge box capacities for 
revolutionary war troops. What I found applied only to the American regulars but I assume that it would a also apply to British regulars. I have attached two pdfs. So, at four rounds of fire per minute, the British would have exhausted their cartridge boxes (with 25 rounds) in a bit over six minutes, or three to four turns. On the other hand, why does the deity have to do the research? A truly strong argument would come with supporting documentation. Plus, this is a redoubt with ample space for more ammunition to be stored, although the deity made no attempt to verify this idea (that is one of the benefits of being a deity). As to the British being unable to stop the advance, they have certainly already delayed it.
Argument die roll: 6, the argument succeeds and the British are shaken.
Turn results: the Americans cut through the fraises but stop just beyond as there was no order to advance once the fraises were cut through. 
The British are further shaken.

Turn 7 (8:12 PM)  (Friday June 12, year of the pandemic)

(Blog host apologizes for one day delay posting this. Yesterday was the bi-weekly grocery outing, slept late today. Spelling etc. by participants.)

History trembles at a turning point. The allied advance is being delayed for so long that it is possible that the redoubts will not be taken.

Redoubt 9 Lt. Col. McPherson
ORDERS: Moar firing! Moar grenading!
ARGUMENT: The French/Alsatians suffer -1 to morale.
- They have been hit. Every. Single. Round. That starts to get to a footslogger after a while.
(- The first three rounds of hit rolls were all 6s. These good French Catholic and Alsatian Catholic troops are disturbed by "666," the number of the beast, being what is driving lead into their bodies, possibly tainting their very souls!)
- While they are experienced soldiers, the continual delays and confusion from command are causing them to lose confidence in their leaders. Veteran soldiers are MORE critical of command mistakes, feeling that they could have done better, or at least that command should have known better.
- The Hessians in the redoubt taunt the Alsatian mercenaries under French command, saying that Alsace isn't really part of Germany, just a token that Germany and France trade between them like a cheap token. And that hurts. It really hurts. (I can attest to this as someone with Alsatian family history feeling the pain of writing this argument. But my loyalty must be to the cause!)
Amusement value: 2. The 666 is a very nice touch.
Argument strength: average
Argument die roll: 4. The argument succeeds.
Fire die roll: 2. The bullets whistle overhead.

General de Viomenil

The French commander - ‘Oh modest, yet supreme monarch of mayhem accept these humble offerings of a bakers dozen of the finest French Pastries for your delight.’that my orders may be heeded and the dice will smile upon my troop’ efforts.
     Orders: “once more into the breach “ my galant men , “fix your courage to the sticking post” , penetrate the Fraise and gain the Parapet!
      Argument: 1-the English see that the French have not retreated ,rather their overwhelming numbers  continue to increase as they break thru the Fraise.
                          2- French troops in the rear ranks fire upon the English exposed upon the Parapet suppressing their fire. Even though they weren’t ordered to.( See all the illustrations which I and others have provided) 
         Results:  The English suffer losses in their numbers  ,a reduction in their morale And the French gain the Parapet.
Amusement value: 2. This deity does love a good French pastry.
Argument strength: weak. Fire cannot affect troops in a redoubt. That leaves only one possible result, a reduction in British morale. 
Argument die roll: 3. The argument fails.
Melee die roll: 2. The British are lining the parapet so the odds start at 2-1 but are shifted to 1-1. 
Redoubt 9 Turn Result. The French recoil from the parapet and lose men and are further shaken.

Redoubt 10 Major Campbell
Orders fire! Aim low!
Argument- Hamilton is grazed by a bullet and knocked cold. The battalion mills around in confusion and doesn't close with bayonets this turn
- Hamilton the glory hound is leading from the front 
- A young soldier mistakenly cries " the colonel is killed!" And the troops guard their fallen chief 
- The scar resulting from the bloody scalp wound will be brandished in the future any time he is accused of being a monarchist, usually to moans of "here comes the scar again". He will always cry "it was received fighting the minions of King George!”
Amusement value: 3. I love the future hypothetical scenario. Yet another new Lin Miranda musical.
Argument: weak: the order is to fire low but Hamilton is supposed to be grazed by a bullet, presumably a graze of his head.
Argument die roll: 6. The argument succeeds.
Fire die roll: 1. The bullets fly all over the place but affect nothing except Hamilton. This seems apt as the argument was weak but succeeded. Obviously, the British soldiers failed to follow orders to fire low, hence Hamilton is grazed.

Lt. Col. Hamilton
Move: Charge up to and over the parapet and, to the extent possible within the span of this turn, continue he advancing and engage the enemy positioned at the top in melee 
Argument: We have a +1 modifier to our morale because
1 - We have the advantage of processing under cover of darkness
2 - We have the advantage of silence, which is maintained by keeping muskets unloaded with the intention of using bayonets once we reach the top of the parapet
3 - Once the top of the parapet is reached, the troops are emboldened by the battle cry of Captain Stephen Olney of Rhode Island
Amusement value: 2. The personal battle cry is a nice touch although why it should matter escapes me.
Argument: very weak. The Americans have suffered from British fire and are no longer so cocky, Also, I do not see that silence helps the Americans in lowering British morale now that the British have been firing for several turns. It might affect British firing but why would it affect morale?
Argument die roll: 5. The argument fails.

Turn 7 result: the Americans are once again delayed.

Turn 8 (8:14 PM)   June 21, in the time of Coronavirus

History trembles at a turning point. The owl of Minerva is about to fly. 

Redoubt 9 Lt. Col. McPherson
ORDERS: Fire! (But hold the grenades. We're getting a bit close for that sort of thing now.)
ARGUMENT: The British have +1 to their fire roll.
- The enemy is moving to point blank range. They should be very difficult to miss.
- While an argument could clearly be made for a +2 modifier here, I've made a more modest argument to have a stronger case and better probability on the success roll.
- We have hit in 6 of 7 rounds. The troops are practiced and eager to maintain their high average. Live or die, they know the stats will be what allow them to enjoy glory centuries into the future in the shadowed back rooms of hobby shops all around the world!
Amusement value: 2. The idea that the British are concerned about anything other than their own survival strikes me as humorous.
Argument: average.
Argument die roll: 3. Argument fails.
Fire die roll: 3. The French are shaken once again.

General de Viomenil
Just when it feels as if the Gods have abandoned the French ( I think not one dice roll as gone in the French favor) Athena has intervened on our behalf.
Orders: Storm the Parapet
Result: +1 to Mele , +1 to Morale
Argument: 1-Athena has provided Ambrosia to the French troops.
                  2- Defenders Stockpile of Grenades has been accidentally ignited
                     And Explodes.
Amusement value: 2. If we are going to adopt a particular set of gods, the Greek ones, with the Illiad as guidance, seem appropriate, although the Norse gods or Indian gods would also work for me.
I do wonder, however, why Athena favors the allies, i.e., why they are like the Greeks in the Illiad.
Argument: very weak especially as it seeks two negative results to the British.
Argument die roll: 5. Argument fails.
Melee: The odds start at 2-1 and drop to 1-1 because the British are behind the parapet.
Melee die roll: 2. The French fall back and take losses.
Turn result: The French are repulsed and take losses and are shaken. 

Redoubt 10 Major Campbell
Redoubt 10 Major Campbell 
orders: Fire!
argument: close range gives +1 to fire dice
- they are so close even in the dark we can see the whites of their eyes
- they are packed into a deep assault column
- they are bunched up in the gaps in the fraise
Argument: average.
Argument die roll: 4. Argument succeeds.

Lt. Col. Hamilton
Move: Charge up to and over the parapet and, to the extent possible within the span of this turn, continue advancing and engage the enemy positioned at the top in melee.
Argument: Because of the cramped and unsanitary conditions within redoubt 10, many of the British there begin succumbing to dysentery. Also, British soldiers within the redoubt are confused by the statement shouted last turn, “the colonel is killed”; thinking that they’ve struck a decisive blow by killing their enemy’s leader, they prematurely begin to celebrate, thereby failing to act in time to repel our bayonet charge. For both of these reasons, the British take no action this turn. 
And for good measure I’ll add a third reason in support of the argument that the British take no action in turn 8:
The premature celebrations noted previously become so boisterous that Campbell, who was standing at the edge of the parapet looking for signs of our advance, is inadvertently bumped by one of his soldiers. This causes Campbell to tumble over the parapet and roll down the slope of the redoubt, where he becomes entangled in debris from a destroyed fraise, leaving his troops without the benefit of a commanding officer by whom orders would be issued.
Argument: very weak. Dysentery has become so powerful in the space of two minutes? Also, the troops may well be shitting in their pants anyway out of fear in being in such a prolonged fire fight. Finally, it seems unlikely that Campbell has to stand on the parapet to see the advance. The Americans are within mere feet of the parapet.
Argument die roll: 6. Argument succeeds. There are two arguments that partially contradict each other. I think they can be reconciled by not having the British fire because of the lack of command. But it seems essentially impossible that they would do nothing as the Americans storm the parapets. In this situation, what orders would there be anyway that need to be given other than to stand or fall back?
Melee: The odds start at 3-1 and drop to 2-1 because the British are behind the parapet.
Melee die roll: 1
Melee result: The Americans fall back and take losses.
Turn result: The Americans are repulsed and take losses although they are not shaken.

Stay tuned for Turn 9… likely in a new post so readers don’t have to scroll down so far.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Book Reviews: Miracle at Midway and Unknown Valor

This isn’t a new book, published in 1982. I read it recently and was quite pleased. Prange did serious research. He passed away before it was finished but his assistants Donald Goldstein and Katherine Dillon completed the book. I already knew the story of Midway and had played the venerable Avalon Hill game in days of yore but this book covers the story in greater detail than anything else I’d read on the subject. Many of the participants were interviewed, including a number of key American and Japanese naval officers. There is detail about the breaking of the Japanese code. It required a lot of hard work after it was broken, since the Japanese changed things from time to time. Intelligence officers had to be on guard for planted false information. In the end they got the goods and Admiral Nimitz believed them, both being required to give the outnumbered US Navy a chance.

The combat is covered in detail, from director John Ford being wounded while filming the air raid on Midway Island, to a USN torpedo bomber pilot seeing his squadron CO fly past desperately trying to open the canopy of his burning plane, to the Japanese officer blown so high off the deck of his burning carrier that he broke both ankles when he came back down. The disastrous US torpedo attack, immediately followed by the fortuitous unplanned convergence of dive bombers over the Japanese carriers shows just what a miracle occurred.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Japanese war game with forebodings of the battle is also covered in some detail. I have the highest praise for this book. The only screw up is the order of battle in the appendix. The carrier Soryu is missing, although it was frequently mentioned in the text. I suspect a typo. It might only be the McGraw Hill edition. That aside, this book will be a fine addition to your collection. 

In another category is Unknown Valor, a more recent book about WWII in the Pacific by Martha MacCallum, a Fox News anchor. It is the tale of combat veterans of the WWII island-hopping campaign, including a family member. Workmanlike prose isn’t enough to deter me from reading military history. I liked to attend dances in the good old days a few months ago, before the current pestilence hit and enjoyed reading about the battle of the fleet bands at the dance the Saturday night before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a nice touch to know what songs they played. 

Then the attack was covered in few short pages. She said all of the 300+ Japanese planes were fighters. Thinking it was a typo, I read on to find this repeated a page later. No torpedo bombers, no dive bombers, all fighters though they dropped bombs and torpedoes. I wasn’t demanding that the make and models of the planes be identified, but calling them all fighters stuck in my craw. Next error was saying that nearly 4,000 Americans died and more than half of them were entombed in the Arizona. The more usual number of dead cited in the attack is 2,400. I’ve been to the Arizona Memorial which says 900 sailors lie below. That’s nearly half of the dreadful total but not more than half. When that number of errors crop up in a few pages, my history geek antennae go on full alert. I picked a spot at random much further along and found an eyewitness account of a Japanese attack that saw 5 enemy tanks knocked out. Then the author stated that the attack was repulsed at the cost of 5 tanks and 298 dead. I gathered the casualties mentioned were Japanese but the wording implied that the cost was to US forces. Finding gross errors in the information I know well indicated that the book can’t be relied upon to be accurate. Workmanlike prose combined with questionable research is more than I can stomach. Down went the book without further reading. It meant a return to the nearly 1,000-page biography of Harry Truman I’ve been reading. It is short on combat (other than the political kind) but throws no suspect or clearly wrong details in my face. 

Your mileage may vary, but I’d say give Unknown Valor a pass. Others obviously disagree with me since this book is on the NY Times best-seller list. I suspect the old-fashioned patriotic style of the book has much to do with it.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Yorktown II, a matrix game, Turns 1 - 4

We recently finished playing a matrix game by email of the assault on Redoubts 9 and 10 at Yorktown. The evolving scenario can be found here. One of the players kindly resolved to umpire a replay, allowing me the chance to play in this game. I am the comander of Redoubt 10, facing the Light Infantry battalion led by young Alexander Hamilton. First, some early rules notes by the umpire, my questions and his anwers.

Umpire: The strength figures originally given for the defenders seem to vary somewhat depending on the source one consults; therefore, I have varied values for this game. The players will get their figures privately and all will be revealed at the end of the game.

The French commander appears to have been General Baron de Viomenil. I am not sure where Vincent got Colonel Forbach from but for Take 2, the commander will be Viomenil. I think Forbach was the commander of les Deux-Ponts, who appear to have led the assault and taken the most casualties but were not the only French regiment involved. The French force consisted of the chasseurs and grenadiers from at least two French regiments, the Gatinais and les Deux-Ponts, and possibly two more.

I am adding one extra move to the game as the redoubts appear to have consisted of an abatis, then a glacis (a slope), then a ditch with a palisade, then a steep scarp (slope) out of the ditch, then fraises (horizontal sharpened tree trunks), then the parapet. The moves will be (1) to the abatis, (2) to the ditch, (3) to the fraises, and (4) to charge the parapet.

My questions: The map linked to shows Campbell as the CO of Redoubt 10 with 70 troops, McPherson as CO of Redoubt 9 with 120 troops from 4 British regiments and one Hessian, de Viomenil as the CO of a column led the chasseurs and grenadiers of Gatinois and detachment from all four of the French regiments in the expeditionary force. Considering the source,  I'd tend to credit this over other online sources. The first account I found said the French CO was Deux-Ponts.  But anyone can post dubious content online.

Link to excellent map here.

Questions: do sappers have to cut through both the abatis and the fraise? If the garrisons recoil from the interior of the redoubt have they been driven away or do they continue as in the previous game?

Finally, it shows the flanking move I disallowed last time. But it must have been late because most of the garrison escaped.

Umpire: Yes, the sappers have to cut through both the abatis and the fraise although, once again, I recommend doing some reading online.

On recoil, let’s leave the game as before as there was some real meleeing actually in the redoubs.

And let’s leave the no outflanking rule as the outflanking party did not play a real role in the melee.

With that, on to the game!

Turn 1 (8:00 PM)

I am creating a new category of points, which do not have an affect upon game play, but do reflect how amusing I found the orders.

Major Campbell, Redoubt 10

Turn 1
order: fire!
argument: At the Lt. Colonel's request, Corporal Jones (a tenor) leads the troops in a rousing rendition of "Men of Harlech". Morale +1.
1. Singing and cheering have been used in battle, sports and militant demonstrations to raise spirits as far back as can be recalled.
2.This is a Welsh regiment
3. What more stirring song can there be? Listen to this version from the film Zulu

+3 for amusement, including the attempt at an id of the regiment, general absurdity of the idea, and the link to the youtube video.

Weak for rules purposes: first, Campbell is a major, second the 71st is a Highland Regiment (Fraser’s Highlanders). They recoil at the imposter asking them to sing a Welsh song.
A four, the argument fails.

Lt. Col. Hamilton

Move: Advance to the abatis and begin hacking away at it.

Arguments: The enemy suffers -1 morale because
1- They cannot see us to shoot; it is a moonless overcast night.
2- They are aware of the precarious situation they are in as one of only two remaining British fortified positions, which additionally lack the ability to evacuate by sea.
3- The sound of our sappers’ axes cutting down the abatis fills their hearts with dread.

0 for amusement.

Weak for rules purposes as the British know they can fall back to the main fortifications, if necessary.
A four, the argument fails.

A one, no hit.

Hamilton can move through the abatis next turn.

Lt. Col. McPherson, Redoubt 10

ARGUMENT: Our chance to hit gets +1
- We've been expecting the Frog Eaters and Krauts since the bombardment stopped, so we've had time to steady our shots and aim more carefully.
- The abatis provides no cover leaving most of their troops exposed and stationary.
- This is the enemy's first time in the unfamiliar terrain we've sculpted causing confusion and less ducking and covering than would be adviseable.
+1 for amusement.

Average for rules purposes.
A five, the argument succeeds.

General Comte de Viomenil

French CO: advance to the Abatis. 
Argument: The DuPont Regiment whose motto ( our beer is better beer)
     are wearing ballet slippers and are so light footed  that they can not be heard.
       Effect : they approach unheard/ unseen.🙉🙈

+2 for amusement as we have both unique footwear and a regimental motto, although for the wrong regiment.

Weak for rules purposes. The Americans and French do not seem to have been spotted until they reached the abatis. In fact, they did not load their muskets
so that an accidentally dropped musket would not alert the British to the advance. But really, ballet slippers.

A five, the argument succeeds.

Both arguments succeed and therefore cancel each other out.

The British roll a six and the French take losses.

General de Viomenil failed to order his sappers forward, so the French are stuck at the abatis for turn 2.

Turn 2 (8:02 PM)

The general result of turn 2 is that the allied advance is stalled. The French have not even made it through the abatis yet.

Redoubt 9 Lt. Colonel McPherson

ORDERS: Fire again! While they're stuck at the abatis, thin their numbers and crush their spirits.
ARGUMENT: The French fail to chop through the abatis again.
- Our entire battalion hum the overture of Swan Lake causing the ballet slippered enemy to uncontrollably begin dancing, as one logically must when hearing that classic work while shod thusly.
- We concentrate our fire on the engineers chopping away, so our bullets don't help.
- It's hard to keep traction when doing lumberjack work while wearing silky slippers, or on pointed toes. That's probably why so few woodsmen wear them.

Amusement value: 2

Strength of argument: weak. Die roll 4, argument fails.

General De Viomenil

Orders: cut thru the abatis; everyone else Fire!
          Argument: 1- as Noted in historical records the French went in with muskets 
loaded and did exchange fire and Some trips were designated to cut the Abatis.
              Result: Both actions occur simultaneously.

Amusement value: 0

Strength of argument: very weak. What is the effect that the fire is supposed to have? It has no effect on troops in a redoubt. Because no effect is specified for the argument, 
it is essentially irrelevant. Die roll 4, argument (even if there were one) fails.

Result of Turn 2: McPherson rolls a six!!! The French suffer casualties and are shaken. It is such an effective volley that the French are thrown back from the abatis. I know that the McPherson argument failed but I do have to take into account the effectiveness of the fire which was withering.

Redoubt 10 Major Campbell

Order: fire
Argument: +1 modifier 
- Range is within 20 yards, even smoothbore muskets are accurate at this range
Enemy troops are in a deep formation, advance elements bunched up in gaps sappers are cutting in the abatis 
- Our muskets are resting on the parapet. 

Amusement value: 0

Strength of argument: strong. die roll 1, argument fails.

Lt. Colonel Hamilton

Ok I want to try something a bit different in part to avoid the monotony of simply “advancing” toward the redoubt. With that said, here’s the move for turn 2:

Move: My troops take cover. Then, using the wood and debris from the chopped up abatis, as well as the naturally occurring foliage, they create a series of smoky brush fires. The prevailing winds carry the dense clouds of smoke to the redoubt, severely impairing the British troops’ visibility and air quality. As a result the British in the redoubt suffer a -1 to morale and are forced to emerge from the safety of the redoubt, which becomes choked with smoke.

1-They could not possibly have predicted so wily a plan! Thus, when it succeeds, the effect on their morale is all the more devastating, particularly because it results in the loss of their fortification.
2-The cloudy moonless night already limits their visibility such that my troops can proceed with the above action unhindered.

Amusement value: 3

Strength of argument: impossible. Each turn is two minutes. Even if the described actions could be carried out, they would require more than two minutes. Also, there really is no cover to take. The abatis is very close to the parapet, within twenty yards as Major Campbell argues.

Result of Turn 2: Campbell rolls a four. The Americans are shaken. But Hamilton did not give an order to advance so the troops remain just beyond the abatis and have not made it to the trench.

Turn 3 (8:04 PM)

The allies appear to have gotten themselves organized and the attack has been renewed. but the British fire has been withering.

I am sending strength/morale numbers only when you have been affected by a turn and only to the player affected. I also am purposefully lagging a turn on 
even these dispatches to put a bit of the fog of war into the game. One thought for future games would be a wide range to reflect the lack of clear knowledge that a 
commander would have. 

Only Hamilton gets amusement points this turn. You are all taking the game too seriously. :)

Redoubt 9 Lt. Col.  McPherson

ORDERS: Keep firing! Hold them back from the abatis!
ARGUMENT: The French lose a morale point.
- The French are getting frustrated with being stuck in one place, unable to advance.
- Shellshock is building as they are vulnerable in the open being picked off by British/Hessian shots, never knowing who the next one will claim.
- That damned Yankee next door with a bunch of hayseeds carrying pitchforks is showing up this group of trained professional soldiers!

Weak argument. The momentary confusion in the French command is nothing new to these trained professionals and it has only gone on for two minutes. If it were a much
longer period, perhaps these troops would be rattled.

Argument die roll 2: the argument fails.

Order die roll 6: the French suffer losses and are shaken.

General de Viomenil

Orders: cut thru the abatis; everyone else Fire!
          Argument: 1- as Noted in historical records the French went in with muskets
loaded and did exchange fire and Some trips were designated to cut the Abatis.
              Result: Both actions occur simultaneously.

As no result is given for the argument, it is treated as impossible.

As de Viomenil pointed out, I managed to reuse his turn 2 orders for turn 3.

Here are his actual turn 3 orders.

orders:  sappers ordered to clear the abatis and infantry to reload muskets and charge thru the clearing into the ditch.
Arguments 1- English Troops Are cheering and mistakenly think that the French have retreated and Hessians also are confused by Alsatians who are calling to them in German not to fire on them because they wish to surrender!
2- English commander forgets  to order troops to reload their muskets.

  Effects :1- French/ Alsatians advance into the Ditch.
                  2-  English Fire has reduced effectiveness. -1     

I would have treated this argument as very weak. So I am rolling the dice for the argument to see if it succeeds. Die roll 2, the argument fails.

Otherwise, I do not think that the results of the turn would have been different except that the French are at the ditch.

Perhaps, if something more than chipmunks were being sacrificed,  I would have been more alert. Or more likely, this isolation has reduced my brain capacity. 

Result The French suffer losses and are shaken.

The French cut through the abatis but, as no possible result is given for the musket fire, it has no effect. Remember that troops in a redoubt
cannot be hit by fire.

The French soldiers are professionals and they are not about to leave the field after having been hit by two effective volleys.

Redoubt 10 Major Campbell
Order - fire!
Argument - our troops gain confidence as the enemy mills around before the abatis. Morale increases 1
- the enemy appears to be in some confusion
- no idea why they are fussing with cut up pieces of the abatis
- the natural assumption is that British musketry has staggered the enemy

Average argument. The British are amazed at what the colonials are up to but they are also fully aware of how few of them there are and that Redoubt 10 is in front of the main British lines.

Argument die roll 2: the argument fails

Fire die roll: 6. Hamilton suffers losses and is shaken.

Lt. Col. Hamilton

Move: Cross the ditch
Argument: The British suffer a -1 to morale because
1-They are disheartened by their failure to score any hits last turn.
2- They are confused by my troops’ decision not to advance last turn.  Knowing that we must be plotting something sinister, they cower in fear.
3- Visibility remains poor because of the utter lack of any moonlight; thus, even at a range of 20 yards or less, they are unable to clearly identify targets, which causes frustration among their ranks.

Amusement value 1. The idea that the British are confused (rather than laughing and breathing a sigh of relief) is far fetched.

Weak argument: the British did score hits in Turn 2, just not as decisively as McPherson’s men did.

Argument die roll 5: the argument succeeds.


The Americans move to the ditch but take further losses and are shaken.

Turn 4 (8:04 PM)

Redoubt 9 McPherson
We continue our withering fire causing the french to feel "it was raining bullets and we were dropping like snowflakes." (I'm guessing that's the earlier weather analogy, and not the modern Red State usage.) Our grenadiers toss grenades into the trench as soon as the French enter it. This should slow them down and disorient them.
ADDITIONAL ORDER A signal (combination flare and trumpet for redundancy and clarity) to inform Cornwallis of the assault on this specific position and request reinforcements. We know that won't arrive this round, but if we can hold out until it does Cornwallis may be able to delay the allies long enough for naval support.
- From the maps, this looks like about 200 yards. So hopefully reinforcements can muster and cross that distance in 2 or 3 rounds. (If God feels it's a different number of rounds, that is as it may be.)
- Unlike the attackers, this movement will be on unimpeded terrain and our own paths.
- This is based on the assumption that since the bombardment stopped we are expecting an attack somewhere tonight and the main force is prepared.
ARGUMENT: Our attack gains +1
SUPPORT: - The French are closer to us and we have the high ground.
- Dodging grenades slows the French advance and causes them to stop and start or dive to the ground becoming easier targets.
- Some incendiaries are included with the grenades to provide better illumination.

I am torn as the additional order ranks high for creativity. But I do not think that the rules allow for such an order. I am going to treat it as an argument. But now there are two arguments. A die roll will decide which one succeeds. A 1 and the signal argument succeeds and a 2-6 the fire one succeeds. I think it is unlikely that Cornwallis ever would have sent reinforcements as there is no mention of any such initiative in any of the accounts and the reinforcements might well have been subject to flanking fire from the allies. Take a look at the map Bill circulated. It has quite a formidable allied redoubt overlooking the reinforcement route.

Die roll: 5. The fire argument is applied.

Argument average. The British did use grenades during the assault on the redoubts and I would think that they would be quite terrifying at such short range and in such packed conditions. I am almost tempted to treat the argument as impossible as arguably there is no attack but there is enough flexibility in the word to encompass firing and McPherson is an artist and not a lawyer. But the ambiguity in the language reduces what would otherwise have been a strong argument to an average one.

Die roll: 1, argument fails.

de Viomenil
Turn 4- orders- Charge! Up the Parapet!
Argument: 1-British Morale has been given a blow seeing all those French / Alsatians pouring into the ditch and up the Parapet.
2- British are reluctant to expose themselves to French fire by peering over the Parapet.
          Results : British Morale -1, British Fire -1

I do not think an argument can have two results so, once again, I am going to roll a die to see which effect might apply. 1-3, morale; 4-6 fire.

Die roll: 2. The morale argument is applied.

Argument average. The British have stopped the French advance for one turn and, therefore, are less than impressed with the French commanders. On the other hand, the troops themselves have shown themselves to be seasoned professionals.

Die roll: 4, argument succeeds. The British are shaken.

Result of the turn.

Die roll for British firing: 4, the French are further shaken. The French are at the ditch.

Redoubt 10 Major Campbell
Orders: Fire! Aim low!
Argument: the ditch is full of enemy soldiers at point blank range. +1 fire modifier.
- the ditch is designed to be a killing field
- the enemy is in a deep column formation
- at this range even hurled rocks would take effect

Argument average. From the pictures, the ditch would certainly slow down movement but it does not appear to be so steep and wide as to be a killing field.

Die roll: 4, the argument succeeds.

Move: To the fraises.
Argument: The enemy suffers a -1 modifier to combat because
  1. The angle of the slope up we’re going up steepens nearer to the parapet. As we move closer, this makes us harder to shoot while staying inside the redoubt because as we approach the steeper part of the slope, part of the British line of sight is cutoff.
  2. The poor lighting conditions (because of the moonless night), coupled with the dark blue coat of our uniforms, make us a more difficult target. 

This argument is impossible as there is no combat yet. Perhaps Hamilton meant that the British suffer a -1 modifier to firing. But, in the confusion of a night attack, the argument goes astray. The lawyers do not get as much leeway as the artists and the word combat is (at least in God’s mind) more narrow than attack.

Result of the Turn

Die roll for British firing: 4, modified to 5. The Americans suffer both losses and are shaken. The Americans are at the fraise.

Turn 5 will appear on a new post of this blog once it is resolved.

Monday, May 4, 2020

French attack on Redoubt 9, Yorktown PBEM matrix game, Turns 9, 10, 11 game over.

Alexander Hamilton's battalion has quit the field. The French Deux-Ponts Regiment, led by their Colonel Comte de Forbach have stormed over the parapet of Redoubt 9, charged on and then been driven back to the parapet. The game continues with Turn 9. Players get one order and one argument (with up to 3 supporting points) per turn.

Turn 9 (8:16 PM)

Deux-Ponts: ORDERS: Charge again! Wear them down! They know the battle is lost.
ARGUMENT: British have -2 to morale
- The battle is clearly hopeless now that the chance of a quick defence is gone and they're still overwhelmingly outnumbered.
- Someone has spread a rumor that Cornwallis was seen organizing a retreat across the river for himself and his closest friends, abandoning the troops of Redoubt 9 to cover his cowardly flight.
- The British troops are hoping that if they can just surrender they'll have a chance to return home alive. Some are urging their lieutenants to do so or considering offering a white flag themselves.
Umpire: argument is rated average, down to weak because of extra modifier.
Die roll is 5, argument succeeds.

Redoubt 9:   Redoubt 9:   Move: fire at the French
Argument: +1 combat modifier
1. The French are in close range and are thus exceedingly difficult to miss
2. Because there are so many French soldiers, firing into their ranks makes it unlikely that a shot would miss
3. The Brown Bess musket is exceptionally accurate at the relatively close range over which we’re firing
Umpire: argument is rated strong. Modifier to fire die is assumed.
Die roll is 5, argument succeeds.

The French charge forward from the parapet, into the heavy musket fire (die roll 4, modified to 5) of the British. The Deux-Ponts lose a strength point and a morale point. But rumors of defeat course through the garrison and their morale is down 2.

French melee roll is 2, British melee roll is 1, odds are 2 – 1. Final melee die roll is 6. The French lose another strength point, but the British lose two strength points, a morale point and recoil.

The Deux-Ponts are now in the interior of the redoubt. If they are forced to recoil, they will be back astride the parapet. The British have recoiled a short distance back.

Turn 10 (8:18 PM)

Redoubt 9: Move for turn 10: Fire at the French
Argument: +1 to combat
1. The French remain in close range and are thus exceedingly difficult to miss
2. Because there are still so many French soldiers, firing into their ranks makes it unlikely that a shot would miss
3. The Brown Bess musket is exceptionally accurate at the relatively close range over which we’re firing
Umpire: argument rated average, down from strong due to thumping last turn.
Die roll is 4, argument succeeds. British get+1 modifier to fire roll.

Deux-Ponts: Clearly the British commander is playing games and cares nothing for his troops.
ARGUMENT: The British troops will have -1 to morale.
- They've been weakened continuously and the enemy is inside their walls.
- The Alsatian German troops of the French call out to the Hessian German troops of the British saying in German, "Your commander is throwing your lives away for a glory he'll never achieve. You won't be paid if you or your commander are dead." giving them reason to hesitate or withdraw.
- Knowing they had a chance to return home, the British troops also question any orders from their commander now.
Umpire: argument is rated average.
Die roll is 6, argument succeeds. British morale takes another hit.

Alsatian soldiers erode the morale of the Hessians in the garrison. The British fire a volley (3, up to 4) that erodes some French morale. The French volley (3) further reduces British morale.

The situation at the start of Turn 11 (8:20 PM) is the same as before, save both sides are less eager. Exhaustion and fear are taking a toll.

Turn 11 (8:20 PM)

Redoubt 9: move: We fire at the French
Argument: +1 to our combat modifier
1. Because of our last few successful volleys, they have many wounded among them, which slows them down
2. They are disheartened and therefore sluggish because of how long we’ve held out against them
3. They remain in close range and still comparatively numerous, thereby continuing to make them an easy target
Umpire: argument is rated average.
Die roll is 3, argument fails.

Deux-Ponts: ORDERS: Fire! They're nearly done.
ARGUMENT: British morale drops another point.
- The attacking Alsatians sing a German song mocking the British to cause the Hessian mercenaries to laugh and lose respect for British commander. This causes the English among them to wonder why their mercenaries are laughing and worry that they're laughing at them.
- Forbach yells that Smythe's mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries.
- More of the British troops' comrades fall around them, their numbers are thinning and they're not regaining any ground.
Umpire: argument is rated average.
Die roll is 5, argument succeeds. British morale drops to zero.

The Deux-Ponts aim their muskets. Captain Smythe cries out “Platoon Volley!”. But no one fires. Some, then more of his men reverse their muskets, holding them butt up in a sign of surrender. A French captain starts to yell “Tirez!” but the Comte de Forbach steps forward and instead orders the troops to ground their muskets. Smythe surrenders his sword. Forbach returns it. Redoubt 9 has fallen.  It renders Redoubt 10 untenable and the garrison evacuates the next day. Cornwallis is too depressed to order a counter-attack.

Carl (Colonel Comte de Forbach of the Deux-Ponts) is the winner for the Allied side.
Bill (Captain Smithersby of Redoubt 10) is the winner for the British side.

Epilogue: The French captured Redoubt 9 in 20 minutes of fighting. French losses were 100, 1 in 4. British casualties were 40 of the original 120. Forbach becomes famous, even managing to avoid the guillotine after the 1792 Revolution.

Captain Smithersby and his Redoubt 10 garrison repulsed the attack of Alexander Hamilton’s Light Infantry battalion in 14 minutes. Continental losses were 30 troops. British losses were the same, with some 40 tired survivors holding out. Smithersby was lionized by his peers while a prisoner of war. Upon his eventual return to Britain he was promoted to major and given a pension of 200 pounds by Parliament.

The actual fight saw both redoubts captured in less than half an hour, each stormed by a 400 strong battalion. Hamilton captured his redoubt first, losing 34 men. British losses were 28. His reputation was burnished, aiding his meteoric rise in American politics after the war. The French captured Redoubt 9 after a stiff fight against the larger garrison, losing 92 soldiers. British/Hessian losses were 68.

Thanks to all players. For 3 of the 4, this was their first look at a matrix game. Bill last played one over 10 years ago.

Final Status
Strength 40
Current strength 37
Morale 8
Current morale 4
Redoubt 10
Strength 7
Current strength 4
Morale 7

Strength 40
Current strength 30
Morale 8
Current morale 3
Redoubt 9
Strength 12
Current strength 8
Morale 7
Current morale 0