Friday 31 December 2021

2021 A gaming year in review

Well, we said goodbye to 2020 happy to put a wild year behind us, little did we know 2021 was going to deliver more of the same. Just when Australia was lulled into a false sense of security the Delta variant reared its ugly head and 2021 was another year disrupted by a lengthy lockdown. Despite all that, looking back it's been a fairly busy and productive period.

I’m not someone who makes detailed plans or who keeps a record of figures acquired and figures painted, I tend to go where the mood takes me. That said, I’m not a typical wargaming butterfly, but every now and then I’ll be inspired and find myself wandering into a rabbit hole. This is all of way of saying that until I put this review of the year together I didn’t really have a good idea of what the year had produced.

The lockdown meant a three month interruption to face-to-face gaming but looking back I still managed to squeeze in quite a few games. Chain of Command was always going to play a big part in the gaming year and we started in February with the Bloody Bucket campaign. That turned into a ten game epic, the longest campaign we've played.

While it is set during the winter of 1944, no snow was present at the time, which saved me contemplating creating snow terrain. However I did think it would be useful to build new terrain that would work for the colder months without snow. With that in mind I made up leafless hedges and deciduous trees. 

It's surprising how effective something as simple as this can be at changing the look and feel of the table.

I also added groups of conifers. Aside from their use in the Ardennes these should also come in useful for settings like East Prussia and parts of Russia.

The plan had always been that after the Bloody Bucket campaign we would take a break from Chain of Command and play a few other rules and periods. The intention being that we would return to CoC later in the year to play the campaign 'There are Many Rivers to Cross'. Taking place during the German blitzkrieg of May 1940 this can be set anywhere in the Low Countries and we had chosen Holland so that Dave could use the Dutch platoon he had recently painted. While events meant we ran out of time to get that one started I did make use of the lockdown to make a few preparations. 

Nothing says Holland quite like a windmill and I made up the Dapol HO/OO post windmill that was once an old Airfix mould. The kit stands up remarkably well considering its age.

The Dutch kazemat pillboxes are also a feature of the campaign and something missing from my collection. The closest things I could find were MDF versions from Blotz that are based on various British designs. Research showed the Dutch designs were often very similar. These kits are fairly basic and so I made a number of embellishments which I cover in this post

Originally I had planned to do these in plain concrete but part of my research showed that many were painted and from what I could gather there was no proscriptive painting style, that being left to the individual garrison units. So I painted one set as unadorned concrete and one camouflaged.

One of the projects planned for the break was a campaign set during the American War of Independence using Sharp Practice. Dave tried his hand at creating one and the result was 'I'll Take Manhattan' featuring five linked games set around New York in 1776. It's taken us a little while to really come to grips with Sharp Practice but we felt we'd reached a point where we were ready to try something more involved than a single game. Happily we were able to play the campaign right through to its conclusion and very enjoyable it was too. You can find all the game reports on the Sharp Practice AWI page.

In between the campaigns we explored a few other rule sets. Dave bought the Barons War skirmish rules (written by Andy Hobday and published by Warhost) and was keen to give them a run out with his Medieval collection. Dave has played a few more times than I and he took me through an introductory scenario.

It's not dissimilar to Lion Rampant, in the sense that it's a fairly straightforward skirmish level game with a medieval theme. The depth of the rules appears to be in building a retinue and the rule book has a lengthy section on a vast array of traits that can be added to the various groups that will make up your force. It's clearly the sort of thing that appeals to those who like to use lists to build an optimum force, but unfortunately I'm not one of those. If nothing else it did look like it required a lot of record keeping to maintain track of which group had which traits and what that meant in terms of game performance. I let Dave create two opposing retinues, so avoided having to actually do any of that work myself. Other than that it played smoothly enough.

Given our interest in the American War of Independence we also tried Muskets & Tomahawks (2nd Edition). I have mixed feeling about Studio Tomahawk's rules. On the plus side, they have a number of interesting and often innovative mechanics and there's no doubt the rules are extremely well written and presented. However I'm not sold on how well they reflect their historical period, they always strike me as more game than wargame. I had two particular issues with this set. 

Firstly the card activation, while innovative, didn't seem to bear any relation to a real world situation. Why exactly do all the 'Regulars' activate at the same time when the 'Regulars' card is played? What does that actually represent given it doesn't require a commander to coordinate the activity and assumes units on different parts of the table can suddenly all act in unison?

Secondly, I was at a complete loss to understand their interpretation of British Light Infantry, who are treated purely as skirmishers rather than a fast, elite unit. The worst case being their 'Aggression' rating (which is used to determine their effectiveness in hand to hand combat) - it's the same as American militia, which leaves me mystified and means you cannot use the light bobs as they would have been used historically. I can't help feeling that's a serious flaw and makes me wonder how well the authors understand the period they are writing about.

On a more positive note, they have tried to do something interesting with volley fire, where its primary effect is on morale rather than causing casualties. I thought this was at its most effective when reflecting the way irregulars or militia might react in the face of a volley. There is certainly a good idea buried in there but I'm just not certain they have it right in the final execution. So, all up, a very playable set of rules that make for a decent enough game, but not great history.

Having painted up figures for the colonial period during lockdown I wanted to try out The Men Who Would Be Kings (Daniel Mersey's colonial rules, published by Osprey), to see if it was a set we would want to explore further.

The rules have a good following but they left us a bit underwhelmed. I like Lion Rampant, Mersey's rules for the medieval period, there's a degree of friction and uncertainty that make for a challenging and entertaining game, but it strikes me these rules have filtered out the best of those elements to make a much more predictable sequence of play. This is because every unit type has a number of specific actions that they are guaranteed to be able to carry out when activated. Those tend to be the actions you would most want them to do (for example, firing for British regulars, or, moving for tribal groups). I felt this took a lot of the spark out the game and the sequence of play became much more predictable. 

The rules talk a lot about the importance of leadership and personalities and yet, while there are mechanics that add a lot of colour and variety to the types of leaders, I didn't feel they drove the actual play in the same critical and engaging way they do in a rule set like Sharp Practice. They probably deserve a chance to be played again but they didn't grab us at the first outing.

Dave and I joined a new club in the middle of last year. They meet on Wednesday evenings and going there has become part of a regular gaming routine. While Dave and I have many gaming interests in common we each have a few rules or periods where our enthusiasm is not equally shared. This is where the club has been great, as it's given us outlets to pursue these other interests without trying to inflict them on each other. It's also been something of a gaming laboratory, where we can try out different rules and systems. The benefit of doing this weekly is that if a game or rule set doesn't work for you it's no great loss, you can try something else the next week. This is a marked contrast to our old club, which only meets monthly, and if a game doesn't work out you really feel like it has been a wasted opportunity. 

Ironically, given Dave and I enjoy many of the Lardy's rule sets, there are some at the club with a real dislike for them. They are fairly vocal about it too, however it's good natured and we are invariably on the receiving end of a bit of banter. 

Looking back over this year the club has enabled me to have the opportunity to try a number of different games. Including:

Sam Mustafa's Rommel, a divisional level Second World War set, where we played a western desert scenario in 15mm. There's much to like about the system but as someone quite comfortable playing board games I'm not sure this needs to be played with miniatures, in fact I suspect it might make for a much better experience as a board game. Where as I can handle any level of abstraction in a board game to me something breaks the immersive experience when a game of miniatures strays too far from a one-to-one visual representation. Perhaps it would feel different in a much smaller scale?

A first game of Studio Tomahawk's Congo, a skirmish level colonial set with a distinctly pulp flavour. Unlike Muskets & Tomahawks you are under no pretence that it's historical and when taken in that context is a very enjoyable set of rules. 

Crossfire, Arty Conliffe's Second World War company level rules, was what got me back into miniatures and I still enjoy playing games using them. One of the club members was eager to try something very different and we played a North West Frontier game set in the interwar years.

My first ever game using Muskets & Tomahawks was actually at the club and Dave and I joined in a game set during the war of 1812. It was our first opportunity to try and get a handle on the rules. 

We convinced our opponents to try a game of Sharp Practice, which they had played before but weren't completely sold on. We chose a scenario from the 2019 Lard Magazine 'The Magistrate's Daughter' which is nicely designed to ensure there is lots happening on the table.  

There was much discussion after the game about how it might play out using Muskets & Tomahawks and so we decided to play the exact same scenario two weeks later but using those rules. It was an interesting exercise to compare and contrast, but left me convinced that Sharp Practice offers the better historical game with much greater nuance and subtlety.

I've never really gamed anything earlier than the medieval period and so ancients is foreign territory for me. One benefit of the club is that it has allowed me to dip my toe into the water. Playing at a skirmish level I tried Clash of Spears. It has several interesting mechanics that allow for a lot of interplay between players and makes for a good dynamic interaction. That said, their downfall is that they require a fair degree of on-table record keeping, to the point that at one stage we had more tokens and markers on the table than we had miniatures. To be honest I think that could be addressed by a few creative approaches to how those event are marked.

Jumping from 28mm to 15mm and from skirmish to mass battle I then tired Sword and Spear, a set of rules very popular with a few of the club members. It's a fairly straightforward set but it demands careful decision making on your use of resources. To some degree it's an abstraction of command and control difficulties although I'm not totally sure what exactly it's abstracting. Nonetheless the rules allow for a mass battle to be played out in a couple of hours, so ideal for a midweek evening game on a club night.

While my own First World War project has come together very slowly, there are a couple of members of the club who have a large collection. Ironically one of their preferred rulesets is Through the Mud and Blood from Too Fat Lardies. They have a large, modular trench system and it was good to get a feel about what might be possible once I have my own project completed. 

I've been working on creating forces in 12mm for O Group, the battalion level Second World War rules by Dave Brown. Using those I ran two games at the club that were very well received. Unfortunately for the blog I was so engaged in running and playing the games that I didn't take any pictures. Enthusiasm for the rules ran high and we managed to squeeze in the first scenario from the recently released France 1940 supplement before the end of the year. The latter we played in 15mm as I don't have an early war force in 12mm. It was interesting to make a comparison in how the rules play out in a slightly larger scale. Despite a relatively small difference we felt 10/12mm had a much better feel than the larger 15mm. I think it's highly likely O Group will become a regular set used at the club and so I expect to post more on the blog (and pictures!) in 2022.

Given the lockdown it was no surprise I managed to get a fair amount of figure painting completed. 

The slow burning First World War project came nearer to completion thanks to the inspiration garnered from playing Through the Mud and Blood at the club. I have a four section British platoon finished and I've made progress with the German platoon. 

Our American War of Independence campaign was inspiration to add more to the collection. This included a reworking of my British deployment point and a new movable deployment point for the Americans. 

While I struggled with the painting at the time I was particularly pleased with the end result with this group of light dragoons from Perry:

I began work on a force of loyalists using the Perry plastic Continentals as the basis for the figures and adding hats from the British set. I've put these in the colours of the New York Regiment.

It seems you can never have enough militia and with that in mind I've added a command group, in this case metal figures from Perry:

I like the idea of having some of my regular commanders on horseback. If nothing else, it makes it easy to know to which command card the figure corresponds.

Finally getting around to figures I had bought several years ago for a Sudan project became something I tackled during lockdown. In a productive period I managed to paint 80 plastic Beja Mahdists from Perry and a box of 36 British infantry. 

A Perry metal Gardner Gun with a naval brigade crew added a bit of colour to the British contingent.

The Beja I based using a mix of multiple and single basing that would allow for a more irregular look to their units but also allow for the removal of casualties.

These in turn were the incentive to attempt to make my own arid terrain game mat using caulk. This was the first time I had tried anything like this and while there were a few ups and downs along the way I think I got there in the end. I did a step by step tutorial for the blog that you can find here.

As 20mm Second World War is never far from my mind it was no surprise I found time to add more to the collection. A Plastic Soldier Company Panther in a late war ambush camouflage scheme. 

Another Plastic Soldier Company model, this time a PzIVH.

I went to town on a Revell PzIVH to which I added a metal barrel. It's much more of a modeller's kit than a wargame model but I like the finer details on the schurzen they look a lot less clunky than the PSC kits (although not as sturdy).

Missing from the late war Far East British force has been a Sherman and so that was made good this year with a M4A4 from the Plastic Soldier Company.

The Bloody Bucket campaign had me finally get around to finishing off a Bofors kit from Zvezda with the addition of a lovely set of crew figures from AB.

As mentioned, 12mm Second World War has also been a feature of the year in preparation for the O Group rules but also with an eye on trying out I Ain't Been Shot Mum from Too Fat Lardies. My initial aim was to gather what was need to play the introductory scenarios in each of those rules books, both of which are set in Normandy between British and German forces. The majority of the collection so far is based on the new Victrix plastic sets with a few gaps filled with Pendraken and eBay finds. This has now given me a battalion for each nationality plus a good range of support units. I have based the figures in a way that they can serve as a section for O Group (2 or 3 figures to a 20x20mm base) or at one-to-one for company level for IABSM (with additional bases made up with single figures to allow for casualty removal).

Naturally the project has required additional terrain pieces and initially I have gone about creating buildings by scratch building them from foam core.

Talking of terrain there were also a few additions in larger scales. In 28mm I set about making a barn using coffee stirrers. There is something very satisfying about making a building from scratch and I was very pleased with the outcome here.

I was so happy with the way the coffee stirrers created the look of real wood that I was immediately inspired to make a bridge as we needed one for the Sharp Practice campaign. I kept this one fairly simple and can see it working just as well in 28mm in the American War of Independence as I can in 20mm in the Far East or Russia.

Much like hedges and walls it seems you can never have enough rail fencing when playing game set in North America and so three half finished stone walls were retrieved from the work bench and made up into bases for more rail fencing. 

A Sarissa MDF house became the basis for further embellishment with an added chimney breast and tiled roof.

So, despite the disruptions that Covid continue to bring to our lives overall it's been quite a busy and productive year. In many ways it's been very fortunate to have a hobby that can continue in one form or another despite those disruptions. It's helped to keep me sane, that's for sure. That just leaves it for me to wish all of you and your families a very happy new year and all the best for 2022. I’ve enjoyed sharing my little part of the hobby with you, thanks for posting comments or just following along.

Monday 20 December 2021

I'll Take Manhattan campaign
Engagement 5: Last Chance

This is the fifth and final game in our Sharp Practice campaign set during the American War of Independence. So far honours are even with two victories apiece and so the outcome of this game will decide the victor. The previous game was a relatively painless win for the British who successfully rescued a prominent loyalist and as a result have a group of loyalist skirmishers now join them.

In that game the Continentals assigned to guard the prisoner proved most ineffectual, but Major Morris the American commander has taken them under command and that will help bring his unit close to full strength. I suspect he will need all the help he can get. The call to arms in the district has been heard and two groups of State Line and a group of frontiersmen skirmishers have also arrived.

The British force opposing them is still in good shape and since the start of the campaign have boosted their numbers with a captured four pounder gun and the recently arrived group of loyalists. As they have throughout the campaign, their group of light dragoons will present a threat that the rebels have had difficulty countering.

This is a Sweep the Table scenario as per the main Sharp Practice rule book. Aside from forcing the rebels to withdraw the British will be searching the farms for forage and hidden arms caches. The American player will know what is hidden and where, but the British will not. 

On the other hand the British will have the advantage of arriving on the table earlier than the Americans. The timing of the rebels' deployment will be uncertain. Each time the force commander's card is drawn the Americans will roll two D6. Once the accumulated total of these rolls reaches sixteen they may then start to deploy. Given the British have cavalry and light infantry a delayed American deployment could prove disastrous and so they find themselves hostages to fortune.

We start with Force Morale for both sides at nine.

Turn 1
The first redcoats to arrive are under the command of Captain Winston-Smythe. He has two groups of regulars who have lost two men killed over the course of the campaign. 

The card for Major Morris, the rebel commander is drawn, giving a timely start to the dice rolls that will determine American deployment. A roll of seven takes them nearly halfway toward the total of sixteen that they need.

The arrival of Captain Carr-Clarke and his dragoons gives the British an advantage in speed that the Americans are unable to match. 

The British light infantry under Lieutenant Parker-Edwards are next to arrive and they are soon joined by the four pounder gun that the British captured in Engagement 2.

American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:1)

Tiffin Card drawn (British:0 American:1)

Turn 2
Lieutenant Parker-Edwards is eager to have his light infantry push forward before the Americans appear. Both groups move off at a brisk pace on the British left.

The arrival of the British force commander Major Petrie leading his two groups of regulars sees the full contingent of redcoats now on the table. 

Petrie is a man in a hurry and immediately begins urging his command forward. 

He activates the dragoons and has them canter toward the hill on the British right.

He sends the four pounder to cover the road.

He then has Captain Winston-Smythe's regulars run forward. They sacrifice an orderly formation for speed, the two groups separating in their haste to move ahead. 

This sees the British moving rapidly and puts added pressure on the Americans. I think their best hope is to hold the fence line at either of the ploughed fields. The stout rail fences will provide additional cover from musket fire and make it difficult for the British to close with the bayonet. However time is critical and the faster the British move the harder it will be for the rebels to form a solid line of defence there.

When Major Morris's card is drawn the second time a dice roll of nine takes the accumulated total of rolls to sixteen. That is exactly that they need and it means they've reached it as quickly as the scenario will permit. It couldn't have come soon enough and the race will be on to form a cohesive fighting line before they are overrun. 

The last of the British force to arrive are the loyalists who recently joined Petrie's force following his successful rescue of their leader in the last game 

The first Americans to make an appearance are the militia skirmishers under the command of Lieutenant Carroll. This group is made up of the remaining men from the two groups of skirmishers that started the campaign. Carroll is joined by Lieutenant Smith the surviving leader of the other group and so this small band of skirmishers has no shortage of leaders.

They will try to reach the nearest fence and do their utmost to prevent the British from making a quick crossing of the ploughed field.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

American Command Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

Tiffin Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

Turn 3
American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:1)

American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:2)

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:2)

Captain Carr-Clarke's dragoons canter forward working their way around toward the rear of the barn.

Meanwhile Captain Winston-Smythe has both of his groups of regulars continue making their way toward the fence. 

The first group move rapidly and almost reach it.

The second group are much slower and remain some distance behind. 

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:2)

With the dragoons making their way around the barn the frontiersmen skirmishers make a timely arrival. Taking full advantage of their movable deployment point they take up positions in the field on the American left. 

They find good cover at the rail fence and looking between the barn and the farmhouse they can spot the dragoons. 

Their opening salvo strikes true, hitting one of the dragoons and inflicting two points of shock. First blood to the rebels. 

The four pounder advances into a position that dominates the road.

British Command Card drawn (British:3 American:2)

With the frontiersmen covering the left flank Lieutenant Carroll moves his militia skirmishers to the rail fence on the American right. His small group are not likely to do much damage to the British but hopefully they can slow them down until more rebel support can arrive.

On the opposite flank the loyalists follow the dragoons towards the barn. 

Tiffin Card drawn (British:3 American:2)

The group of light infantry with Lieutenant Parker-Edwards move with their customary speed and soon reach the fence.

They are soon joined by the second group. 

That puts Lieutenant Carroll and his militia skirmishers under pressure, they will need support soon if they are not to be overwhelmed.

With the light infantry at the fence Major Petrie has his regulars make their way forward behind them.

Turn 4
Major Morris and his Continentals finally appear and deploy on the American right. Have they arrived in the nick of time? I'm not certain. They need to get to the rail fence quickly and before the British can be ready to receive them. The race is on.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:0)

The British make use of the two command cards to activate the four pounder, which fires round shot at the militia skirmishers. 

Fortunately the skirmishers are able to make the most of the available cover and suffer only two points of shock.

American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:1)

The three consecutive command cards initiate a random event and this sees the four pounder crew push their gun forward even closer to the skirmishers. 

Major Petrie is eager to bring his command to the fence and he leads his column of regulars towards it. 

The light infantry are already there and Captain Winston-Smythe's regulars are fast approaching. 

One group are already lining the edge of the field.

Once Petrie approaches within command range he orders the group with Winston-Smythe to join the light infantry at the fence. 

Having been slow to move earlier they now pick up the pace and are soon behind the light infantry. It looks like the British will win the race and Morris's Continentals may find themselves facing an overwhelming line of redcoats by the time they join the militia skirmishers on the opposite side of the field.

Meanwhile the loyalists move in the direction of the farms, no doubt intending to search both properties.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

The British continue to push forward aggressively and Lieutenant Parker-Edwards has his lights climb the fence. Something they do with ease (helped by a movement roll of 6,6!).

That puts them in close range and they fire at the militia skirmishers. 

That inflicts a further two points of shock. The militia are yet to fire a shot and are already on the receiving end of cannon fire and musket balls.

The second group of light infantry don't prove quite as nimble but they too push forward and climb the fence. 

Once in the field they also target the rebel skirmishers.

Their fire is more deadly, hitting one of the rebels and inflicting further shock. It's hard to imagine the skirmishers will be able to stand much more of this.

American Command Card drawn (British:1 American:2)

Captain Winston-Smythe rallies shock from one of his groups and has the two of them form up into line. 

The skirmishers have done little to stall the British advance. Lieutenant Carroll rallies a point of shock and decides his men are not leaving before they give the light infantry a taste of their musketry.

 They open fire at the nearest group. 

This is their first fire and it's at close range. The skirmishers make their shots count and the light infantry lose one man and suffer two points of shock. 

The light infantry may be displaying their customary aggression, but it's not going all their way.

Lieutenant Smith is able to rally more shock from the skirmishers. He may have lost his command but he's able to provide Lieutenant Carroll with useful assistance encouraging the men.

American Command Card drawn (British: 1 American: 3)

Tiffin Card drawn (British:1 American:3)

Perhaps I should have used those three American command cards to deploy the State Line? Too late now, but at least I can activate the frontiersmen to continue firing on the dragoons.

There are no casualties but the dragoons suffer a further two points of shock.

They in turn are activated and canter towards the barn. 

For now that takes them out of sight of the skirmishers.

Turn 5
Lieutenant Parker-Edwards orders one group of light bobs to reload and move towards road. 

Dave then gives some thought to what to do with the other group. He's tempted to have them charge the skirmishers but the rail fence brings the odds much more in favour of the skirmishers and he decides the risk is too great (if nothing else it confirms my assessment that the Americans best hope is a strong line at the fence). Instead Dave has the group of light infantry reload.

Once again they fire at the militia skirmishers.

And inflict a further point of shock. 

The light infantry then move off in the direction of the other group but with the shock they only manage a move of 1”. I've no doubt they plan to exit the field to allow the regulars to unleash a devastating volley once they are all gathered at the fence line.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

At long last the State Line arrive.

The rebel force is now on the table but poorly positioned to deal with the British who have made a rapid advance and will soon be able to give the State Line or the Continentals a hot reception.

As if on cue, Major Petrie sends his column up to the fence 

He then has them form up into line. 

With that the British have won the race to the ploughed field giving the Continentals a difficult task to try and hold the fence line opposite.

Petrie then orders the loyalists to move to the first farmhouse.

The frontier skirmishers want to maintain their fire on the dragoons and so move along the fence to the corner of the field.

Once there they open fire. 

Another of the dragoons is hit and the group's shock climbs to five. The steady fire of the skirmishers is slowly taking its toll and may even drive them off. 

It's probably time for the militia skirmishers to pull back. Lieutenant Carroll rallies shock before having the skirmishers return fire on the light infantry and then withdraw. 

They manage to inflict another point of shock, but only manage to fall back a short distance. 

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:0)

American Command Card drawn (British:2 American:1)

British Command Card drawn (British:3 American:1)

Tiffin Card drawn (British:3 American:1)

Captain Carr-Clarke decides there is nothing to be gained in drawing the fire of the frontiersmen and decides to pull his men back and out of musket range. He slows the horses to a walk and they turn about. 

The Continentals need to prevent the British regulars crossing the fence and desperately need to form their own firing line to do that. Both groups run ahead, breaking the formation as they do. 

The crew of the four pounder then reload and turn the gun back to face down the road. 

From there it can give the State Line something to consider if they want to cross to the other field.

The British are not content to maintain a firing line at the fence, they clearly want to take the fight to the enemy. Captain Winston-Smythe leads his regulars over the fence and into the field. This is exactly what I feared. If the Americans were to have any hope of stopping the British it was to have the Continentals in a good defensive position from where they could pour fire on any British move forward. Alas that now looks less and less likely to happen.

Turn 6
The loyalists make their way to the door of the first farmhouse where, unbeknownst to Dave, the arms cache is concealed. 

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

The four pounder moves further along the road and presents.

American Command Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

American Command Card drawn (British:1 American:2)

Lieutenant Carroll rallies another point of shock from his skirmishers and continues to pull them further back. 

Lieutenant Parker-Edwards is in the ploughed field with the light infantry and Dave decides to use one of the British command cards to increase his command initiatives to three.  

He takes a point of shock off the group he's attached to. 

He then sends the other group to the corner of the field. 

From there they fire at the frontiersmen in the field opposite.

Despite the frontiersmen enjoying hard cover they lose one man and suffer two points of shock. 

Lieutenant Parker-Edwards then takes his group to join the the first group of light infantry.

That puts his men in a position to target the frontiersmen, but perhaps more importantly it clears the field of fire across the ploughed field for the regulars.

The State Line decide to take a gamble and try running across road in the hope that a rapid move will avoid attracting the attention of the four pounder crew. 

Alas they fail to sense the danger they might be in and only cover a short distance. 

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:2)

Captain Carr-Clarke continues to lead his dragoons from danger and rallies off a point of their shock as he does so. 

The dragoons may have been driven back from the right flank but Major Petrie seizes the moment to move things forward and maintain the tempo of the British advance.

Firstly he sends Lieutenant Campbell with a group of regulars across the road. 

Next he crosses the fence with his second group of regulars.

This now puts him with a formidable array of regulars in the ploughed field.

While the British are making an orderly and organised advance the Continentals are still struggling to reach the fence line and when they do, they will need a bit of time to get themselves in order. It doesn't bode well, but if the Continentals cannot stop the redcoats from the fence line, where can they?

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:2)

Sergeant Burns follows Major Morris and brings the third group of Continentals forward.

This puts the three groups of Continentals closer together, however forming up into line will not be straightforward. At this early stage of the war their training is rudimentary - they are rated as Conscripts and Volunteers and are unable to form up into a formation if they carry any shock. It will need Morris and Burns to rally the men before they can do that. I just don't sense they have the time!

The frontier skirmishers' leader rallies shock and has the men return fire at the light infantry across the road.

That fire has no effect. 

American Command Card drawn (British:2 American:3)

Major Morris begins trying to get his command into order. The British have set the tempo and the rebels need to make a speedy response.

Firstly, he rallies shock from the group he is with.

He then orders both groups to the fence, but with one still carrying a point of shock they cannot form up into line just yet.

British Command Card drawn (British:3 American:3)

Dave takes the opportunity to use the three British command cards now in play to activate Captain Winston-Smythe and the two groups of regulars. They are formed up in line and he orders a controlled volley. They present and fire. 

This was the moment I feared - to reach the fence the Continentals have had to move to within close range of the line of regulars. The redcoats will first fire a controlled volley at close range. The chance of inflicting damage on the Continentals is high.

So it transpires. Despite the cover of the rail fence the Continentals lose three men and suffer four points of shock. 

The chance of Morris forming the Continentals into line and making the most effective use of their fire is now looking very unlikely.

Tiffin Card drawn (British:0 American:3)

Turn 7
Lieutenant Carroll moves his skirmishers around to the rear of the farmhouse.

Sergeant Burns senses the crisis of the moment and has his men run to join Major Morris at the fence.

While they may be unable to form into line Morris needs all the firepower he can get and Burns group will be most welcome.

Lieutenant Smith rallies more shock from the militia skirmishers and hopefully they can return to the fray to add more weight to the rebel defence.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

American Command Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

With the State Line crossing the road slowly and in plain sight the four pounder crew cannot resist such a tempting target. They send a round of ball careening down the road towards them. 

It strikes the State Line, killing one man and they suffer two points of shock. They are lucky it was not worse. 

The crew then move the gun forward to the fence and turn it in the direction of the Continentals.

Major Petrie is in the centre of the action and Dave makes the most of the opportunity by using one of the British command cards to increase his command initiative to four. 

His first order is to the group of light infantry in the corner of the field. They reload and fire at the frontiersmen. 

This time the frontiersman benefit from the hard cover and the fire has no effect. 

The light infantry then move to face the farmhouse. 

Petrie activates the second group of lights. They reload and fire at the frontiersmen, but once again that has no effect. 

They then move towards the corner of the field. 

Next the Major has the group of regulars he is attached to fire at the Continentals.  

The rebels don't like this at all and suffer six points of shock. 

That's enough shock to force an involuntary withdrawal. American force morale doesn't suffer but that group of Continentals are moving in the wrong direction. The British have won the race to the ploughed field in no uncertain terms. 

To put the Americans in no doubt that a stand at the fence might be unwise Petrie uses his final command initiative to have Winston-Smythe's line of regulars reload and present.

Lieutenant Campbell continues to move his regulars towards the barn.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:2)

The situation for the Americans is getting desperate and so I use the two command cards to increase Major Morris's command initiatives to five. The first thing he does is rally three points of shock from his group.

He then orders the two other groups of Continentals to fire at the regulars in the field. The British lose two men and suffer a point of shock. It's a start, but it's not nearly enough

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:0)

Dave makes use of the two command cards to have Captain Winston-Smythe's line of regulars use Sharp Practice. They are loaded and presented and so will continue firing controlled volleys. The Americans are suffering a sustained battering by British musketry.

Major Morris's group see another man fall and suffer a point of shock. If it wasn't for the presence of Morris they would have been forced to withdraw yet again.

Tiffin Card drawn (British:0 American:0) 

Turn 8
Captain Carr-Clarke rallies more shock off the dragoons. If there's been any highpoint for the Americans it has been the ability of the frontiersmen to drive off the British cavalry. It's a small ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak picture.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

Lieutenant Smith rallies the final point of shock from the militia skirmishers. I'm hoping I can bring them forward to rejoin the fight.

Sergeant Burns orders his group of Continentals to fire at the light infantry in the field. 

They have a man killed and suffer a point of shock. 

The light infantry are exactly where the Americans would like to be - taking full advantage of the good cover of the rail fences. I had hoped the situation would be the reverse.

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:0)

Dave uses the two command cards for Sharp Practice and has Winston-Smythe's regulars reload. This is impressive musketry drill from the British, it's just a shame I'm on the receiving end!

Over on the other flank Lieutenant Campbell moves his men between the barn and the farmhouse.

From there they fire at the frontiersmen. 

Despite the close range the fire has no effect.

The State Line commander rallies shock and leads one of the groups across the road to relative safety.

American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:1)

The leader of the frontiersmen rallies off their shock. They then load and return fire at the regulars by the barn. 

Lieutenant Campbell's men lose one man and suffer two points of shock. These particular rebel skirmishers have proven to be the most effective unit for the Americans, but they can only do what skirmishers do best - harass and inflict the odd casualty. I fear that won't be enough to turn the tide today.

Captain Winston-Smythe's men are loaded and presented and he has them maintain their impressive rate of fire, unleashing yet another controlled volley at the Continentals. 

There's something very satisfying when events unfold in a historical wargame that feel just right for the period you are trying to recreate. I think this is one of those moments. My Americans are on the receiving end of a truly galling fire from well drilled British regulars hammering out rapid volleys. From my perspective it certainly doesn't feel good, but it does feel right!

Another two men are lost from the group of Continentals with Major Morris and suffering more shock they are forced into another involuntary withdrawal, this time it's 6". While American force morale remains unchanged their prospects for the outcome of this fight have clearly taken a turn for the worst. 

The British volley also killed one of the group of Continentals at the fence.

American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:2)

In a vain attempt to match the volume of British fire I use the two command cards for Sharp Practice with the group under the command of Sergeant Burns. They fire at the light infantry once again but this time they benefit from the cover and it has no effect.

The loyalists enter the first farmhouse ready to begin a thorough search. I doubt I'm going to be able to prevent them finding the arms cache.

Lieutenant Carroll's skirmishers are finally ready to return to the fight. 

They make their way around to the other side of the farmhouse.  

From there they open fire at the light infantry in the field.

The light bobs lose another man, reducing one of the groups to three men. 

The Americans are picking off the redcoats here and there but Major Morris needs to try to gets his Continentals in a position where they can put up a more determined stand. He leaves the battered group he was with and moves up to the fence where he rallies shock.

He then orders the men to fire at the regulars in the field.  

The prospect of holding off the British is looking remote but it's not quite over yet.

The fire has little effect other that to inflict a point of shock. 

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:0)

American Command Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

Lieutenant Parker-Edwards has both his groups of light infantry around him and he orders the group reduced to three men to fire at Burns and his Continentals. 

They suffer two points of shock.

The second group then target the frontiersmen in the field opposite.

Their fire inflicts a point of shock.

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:1)

American Command Card drawn (British:2 American:2)

The two command cards are an opportunity for the Continentals with Morris to use Sharp Practice. They fire on the regulars in the field.

Despite the fact the British are at close range and in open ground the fire only manages to inflict a point of shock on the group with Winston-Smythe.

Tiffin Card drawn (British:2 American:0)

The first British command card is used to move the regulars with Major Petrie. 

They then fire at the Continentals with Sergeant Burns, but it has no effect. 

With the other command card the four pounder turns to face back along the road.

So the turn ends with the British pressing on all fronts and the Americans in some disarray. If holding the ploughed field was critical to any chance of American success the prospect of them doing that successfully is looking more and more remote. 

Turn 9
American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:1)

American Command Card drawn (British:0 American:2)

Lieutenant Campbell's men have had enough of the frontiersmen and decide to go at them with the bayonet. 

The frontiersmen would receive them unloaded but they do have the protection of the fence, nonetheless I decide skirmishers are not there to stand toe-to-toe in fisticuffs with regulars. Best to evade, which they do with remarkable speed. 

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:3)

The loyalists discipline holds good and they resist the urge to loot the farmhouse and instead they set about conducting a thorough search for weapons. 

When Sergeant Burns activates I decide to use all three command cards to boost his command initiative. He rallies all the shock on his group and moves them up to the fence alongside Major Morris. 

It's a last and slightly desperate attempt to form a firing line at the fence.

The State Line have been completely ineffective, but they have had few options other than to move directly down the road in the face of the four pounder (and perhaps suffer the attentions of the dragoons in the process). They move across the road to join the other group. They may be able to form a good firing line at the rail fence with the frontiersmen, unfortunately it's not on the flank where the battle will be decided. 

I fear that by the time they are ready to come into action all may be lost, but they will do what they can to shore up the left flank.

Major Morris rallies the shock from his group and has them fire at the regulars.  

The group with Captain Winston-Smythe suffer a further two points of shock. It appears the American fire is doing too little, too late.

Lieutenant Carroll's militia skirmishers continue firing at the light infantry. 

There are no casualties but the lights suffer two points of shock.

The State Line may have crossed the road and found the protection of the fence but they have not escaped the attention of the four pounder. The crew present and fire ball in their direction. 

The rail fence may offer some protection from musket balls, but it offers none from the cannon ball which rips through the wooden fence killing two of the State Line and inflicting more shock. 

The frontiersmen climb over the fence, turn to face the enemy and reload.

British Command Card drawn (British:2 American:1)

The two command cards are another opportunity for Dave to use Sharp Practice and the regulars with Captain Winston-Smythe reload.

British Command Card drawn (British:1 American:1)

Tiffin card drawn (British:1 American:1)
Well that was perfect timing for Sharp Practice as the turn end allows the final British command card to be used to have Winston-Smythe's regulars unleash yet another controlled volley. Sergeant Burns' group is is struck by a hail of musket balls that strike down another two Continentals.

With time running out and a clear sign the British have gained the upper hand we decide to call it a day and a British victory. Dave set a terrific tempo to the British advance with the momentum only slowing to allow the regulars to unleash a rapid series of volleys from the ploughed field. To that the Americans had little to answer. Perhaps the rebels could hold out a bit longer and the State Line might possibly be able to influence events on the other flank, but with the combination of British speed and firepower it's hard to see how the Americans can stop them. With possession of the field the British will unearth the arms cache and make away with the cows. So that sees a British victory for the game and for the campaign.

That was very enjoyable, even if in the end my Americans were ultimately roughly handled by superior British firepower or their aggressive dragoons. Despite that, when the rebels could play to their strengths they were twice able to gain the upper hand. This was our first attempt at playing a campaign and credit to Dave for doing the vast majority of the design work. I think we've learned several useful lessons on how to approach it in future. As always scenario design is the key and there are a few tweaks we can make it improve how these could play out, but overall I think the campaign worked very well.