Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I'm back again. . . and playtesting

Didn't realize I was gone again, did ya? Well, I had that second partial knee replacement surgery 3 weeks ago. I have two straight legs again, but it will take a few months of physical therapy and some hard work to have them working at peak efficiency again. Sigh. . .

For a little distraction that doesn't require much heavy lifting, I am helping to playtest a game that covers - you guessed it - the French and Indian War. Bayonets & Tomahawks is a GMT P500 game, and I've been watching its development since it was first added to the list. Go here to check it out; discussions with the developer (yes, I got involved) and a good look at playtest components. GMT is also the home of some of the Commands and Colors series of games: Ancients, Napoleonic and soon, Samurai Battles.

A little bit about Bayonets & Tomahawks from the GMT site:

I think this game will make a great campaign vehicle for generating our F&IW battles. It's focus on the operational aspects of the conflict as opposed to the political (not ignored!) should lead to meaningful battles as well as lots of opportunities for raiding and low level skirmishes.

Unit scale meshes perfectly with my troop collection: Brigades at about 3 times the size of light units and war parties. My regulars are organized in 3 10-man units with light troops as single 10-man units. Best of all, the units are simple representations of manpower, whose unit strengths and weaknesses are utilized by the game's battle system rather than abstract strength points with pros and cons already factored in. This should make it simple to transfer the battles to the tabletop, to be fought with miniatures, with one's miniature rules of choice accounting for potential unit performance.

An incredible amount of research has gone into this game - obvious if you check out the InsideGMT articles on the GMT site. The map really shines; it's based on contemporary renderings as opposed to "period" place-names superimposed onto a "google-earth" map. I am a fan of this approach. It really transports you back to the 18th Century wilds of North America. At least, if you're open to said transport ; )

Here's a shot of the print and play components all ready for . . . play. 

More later as I actually get in some games. See ya!

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Relief Force

This is the view of the clearing the lead units of French Regulars breathed in as they left the south edge of the woods. Nine units of French Regulars and Marines were just a few miles from the fort they'd been sent to relieve - a fort under siege by an army of British Regulars, Provincial Militia and their Native allies.

The French were traveling with their own Native allies, who had been sent scouting ahead in the woods to the north. . . it didn't go unnoticed that they hadn't been heard from in hours. . .

The fort was due north up the road, and flanking the road was a timber breastwork manned by Redcoats. . . the British meant to defend the road so as to cut off any relieving force.

The French came on in three columns; three units of regulars on the road, another three units of Regulars and Marine Irregulars to their right and to the far right two units of Marine Irregulars and one of Coureurs De Bois. The Irregulars on the far right noted some flashes of red at the edge of the woods directly in front of them and so peeled off to the right to gain the cover of the woods again.

Boom! Fire erupted from the suspect edge of the woods as the French Irregulars ran for cover.

A unit of British Light Infantry hidden just inside the edge of the woods began to pour fire into the French Irregulars.

The other two columns of French Regulars began to arrange into attack columns for their hastily planned assault on the British breastwork. Suddenly, from what seemed like out of nowhere, two British Regular units rose up out of the tall grass in front of the advancing French Regulars and ripped two volleys into the French left.

The initial British volleys cut the lead French unit nearly in half, but they stood fast and a firefight broke out between the two lines.

On the French right flank, the Irregulars made it to the woods, and not encountering any opposition, determined to flank the British Light Infantry.

On the French left, a unit of Regulars was ordered to charge the British Grenadiers responsible for the flanking fire on their comrades. The Grenadiers met bayonets with bayonets and the French unit died to a man, while losing only one of their own!

In the center, the French established a firing line and began to trade fire with the breastwork.

In the woods on the French right, the British Light Infantry fell back to protect their flank and opened fire on the French Irregulars, who were in hot pursuit. 

On the French left, the Grenadiers re-entered the firefight with a volley.

 In the woods, the French overwhelm the British Light Infantry, but not without casualties.

In the center, casualties are mounting on both sides.

With the British Light Infantry gone, the French Irregulars push on toward the rear of the breastwork.


Suddenly, the Coureurs spot Natives in the forest behind them. . . but are they friend or foe? 

In the center, the mounting casualties take their toll. Another French Regular unit breaks, quickly followed by its British counterpart.

 The last survivor in the breastwork is captured by the French Marines.

 The French take command of the breastwork. . .

 . . . and discover the Natives are foes when they open fire!

The firing lines in the center get a brief respite, and use the time to regroup and gather stragglers. The reconstituted British Grenadiers open fire again while the French maneuver to return fire. 

Eventually the Grenadiers are whittled down to nothing by the French firing line. In the woods the French Irregulars overcome the last Native resistance, and finally claim the battlefield.

If you follow this blog, you should feel a bit of déjà vu. The scenario is a straight-up recreation of the 1759 battle of La Belle Famille, a scenario I ran as a meeting engagement at the Warlord Open Day a couple years ago in Oklahoma City. This time we played it as the ambush it was, with the French fielding twice as many units as the British.

In game terms, the French needed to clear the British forces from the field without losing more than half their forces to declare a strategic victory - remember they needed to survive the engagement with enough troops to relieve the siege. They lost three of their nine starting units, and assorted casualties to most of the rest of the units, but their total remaining forces still numbered above half.

So how did the game play out? We used our go-to rules Muskets and Mohawks from Two Hour Wargames and I set up the scenario as a co-op operation for the three French players, Bruce, Aaron and Steve, while I played the British as a pre-programmed fighting withdrawal. The French had no idea how many British troops they'd be facing, or where, or that the ambush would happen how and where it did, or what would happen with their Native "allies" (in the actual battle the Natives got together and decided not to participate for either side - in this game the allegiance of the late-appearing unit was decided by die-roll).

Aaron recognized the battle about half-way through, but that was after all the surprises had been sprung.

We apologize for the unfinished bases on one unit. . . oh well.

I tried some post-work on the photos of the troops in the woods. I wanted to try to represent the difference in lighting and atmosphere between the "sun-drenched" clearing and the gloominess of the deep woods. Does it work?

By the way, I have to miss Recruits this year (another new knee), so try to have fun without me!

See ya.