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.


Mark Nichipor said...

These matrix games are very clever. Enjoying them very much. Let's hope Hamilton does better this round.

vtsaogames said...

As Major Campbell in command of Redoubt 10, I beg to differ. I hope those traitors go about and run away, the sooner the better!