How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Monday, October 10, 2022

Back to Two Wars, p.3 / 3 - Stony Point

The final installment, was our visit to Stony Point Battlefield Historic Site, which is right on the Hudson, about 30 minutes South of West Point. Not only was it on our route, but it was one of the clear-cut complete Colonial / Patriot / Revolutionary / Rebel victories of the war, going almost perfectly to the careful plan laid out by Gen. Wayne and approved by Gen. Washington. Can't resist that!

Of course, I intend to wargame it at some point...

The park is nicely done, with a good museum in a small building, and the day we visited [a summer Saturday] had plenty of guides and re-enactors, much to our pleasure. As we were rushed, and there was no guide book to purchase, I took as many pics of military interest as possible from the museum's displays.

Strategic situation before the attack.

Stony Point had a ferry, making it tactically valuable - it was not just a point around which the river bends. The ferry is pictured below - it doesn't inspire confidence, and looks like it can only accommodate one wagon if that!  But this ferry would make a nice piece on a game table...

The British attack on May 28th...

...successfully, and then fortify Stony Point in June.

British artillery at Stony Point.

Grand tactical map. West Point is at the top right, Stoney Point is towards the bottom right, where the red markings end - it juts a bit Northeast, and the Ferry is marked with a dashed line and "Kings Ferry" written besides it in the water. You get the operational picture here of Gen. Washington's forces on the Hudson.

The cunning American plan...

...and it's execution!


A very nice diorama. The little stick things mark the abatis, the black semi-circles are the various dugouts, fortifications, etc.  Certainly "Hard Cover" in any wargame rules. The Lights are attacking from the top right out onto the peninsula.
Also, there were two gunboats - a small one at top left where it says "Haverstraw Bay" and a larger frigate at bottom right, in yellow. To better orient you, the below pick is _almost_ North, and of course the Lights are attacking from the West Bank of the Hudson on the left.

The below shows the American Lt. Infantry hat, on the back is the paper used to ID friends to friends in the night attack. It is just white paper slipped into the two cloth bands - I'd guess they were used to hold a feather for parades.

Nice map of Stoney Point.
Closeup

The re-enactors. A Smith...


...Soldier from a New York regiment...



...Camp follower...

There is a self-guided walking tour with 17 of these boards. The information is helpful, there is plenty to help you figure out the battle.

At the first marker. You can see there's a scan, pics, map, etc. Nicely done!

Walking up from the parking lot, which is at river level on the Southwest edge of the peninsula. Gives a feeling for the steep slope to the left.
And looking back down to the water from halfway up - it is steeper than it looks!

The markers - they speak for themselves. 




British mortar point at Marker 6, one of the lower earthworks. Looks like the British already removed the guns!
View down slope from the lower earthworks; 30-45 degree grade, you'd have to climb not march up this slope.


View downslope South from Point 6 - a steep drop the Americans attacked up!



View south from Point 8. Slope drops steeply but not as steep as Point 6.
Mr. Winkie contemplates the assault...or is just gazing around?





View North from Point 8. A good view of oncoming ships, and a great place for a cannon to be sited.
A bit to the West of Point 8 - an oncoming sailboat conveniently demonstrating why a fort is a good idea here!


View West from the Upper Works. Rough rocky ground.

View North - easily covering the approach.

View East across the river - the lighthouse is a later construction.

This platform marks a former Upper work. It faces West and you can see the steep slope from it down towards the Lower earthworks.


Nice view of the museum and the encampment. This is the level of the Lower works, the Upper works are behind the photographer.

This battle would be perfect for a set of rules at the 1:10 scale, requiring about 100 American and 45 British figs.  Most AmRev sets of rules are able to handle this, perhaps with a slight adjustment of the Ranges [making them longer] for the larger scale.

I hope this is helpful to you as you fight for freedom or to keep the British possessions intact!  I am pondering how to game this, and will certainly post more on this later as I convert it onto the table.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A Gentleman's War: Gone to France


After quite a bit of time reading the download pdf of the rules and playing around with 54mm ACW figures, I wanted to see how AGW plays with 15mm. While a "more modern" scale than intended by the rules, and a rare one for single-figure basing, I wanted to see how 15mm played and without individual basing. The unit size is about right - 16 figs for Infantry, 6 for cavalry. Gives the infantry battalions a bit more edge as they should have in this late period.

Also, I bought a nice shiny softcover of the rules. Basically, because I like real things. Howard will no doubt not only approve, but recommend I buy a few extra copies to keep around the house "just in case".
:)

Astute observers will recognize "Scenario 8: Melee" from One-Hour Wargames. All I did was add a few more bits of terrain to get the feel of a higher scale battle. The road, the long hill and the medium sized woods at the southeast corner are the original terrain features.

The defending French have:
- a General, a smoothbore cannon, line infantry and light infantry starting on the hill
- a mitrailleuse [gatling sort of thing] and two infantry entering as reinforcements at the road.
- a General, 4 Light Cavalry sqadrons [entering as reinforcements at the top left]
TOTAL = 4 Infantry, 4 Cavalry, 2 Guns, 2 Generals

Turn 3 reinforcements:

Turn 6 Reinforcements:

The Attacking Prussians have:
- a General, two Infantry, a Krupp gun and two squadrons of lt. Dragoons to start.
- a General, two Infantry, a Krupp gun and two squadrons of Cuirassiers entering Turn 4.

Prussian Turn 4 Reinforcements:
All figures are available from Old glory 15s, I believe [CLICK], and are either Old Glory or Rank and File. The OG are more animated and have varied poses, usually 2 advancing and 2 shooting per pack, along with the command figs. The Rank & File are generally one pose, very clean casts, and something old school. I like them both for different reasons!

Initial card distro favors the French a bit, 4-2 Hold Cards, but both sides have 2 face cards.

Turns [card cycles] 1-2. Uncertain what the Prussians have planned, the French move into the woods with one skirmish unit - the rest of the force stands fast. 

In "One-Hour Wargames" Scenario #8, there's two plans with a chance of success in my experience...
First, go directly against the front of the hill, with 4-3 odds, hoping to destroy a unit or two. Turn 4, push the reinforcements up the road to stop the Red defender's reinforcements entering the same road. Somewhere between these two forces, secure the woods and clear the hill with fire.  \
Second, push up the road, securing the woods, and then flank the forces on the hill. This only works if you are fast as on Turn 3 Red gets reinforcements arriving on the road. It also largely changes the direction of battle from South-North to East-West. The final reinforcements for the defender enter from the Northwest.
Of course, anything can go wrong and overall I think this scenario is likely a draw as the winner must be in "exclusive" possession of the hill, which virtually requires the defenders to be destroyed.

The Prussians enter on the road and move quickly up it, attempting to clear and secure the woods that are the key to the position; from them, they can establish a base of fire to clear the French off the hill. They send one cavalry as far as possible to threaten the French left flank - which only has light infantry - supported by Infantry and the second cavalry. The other infantry takes on the woods frontally while the Krupp gun works to establish fire superiority and drive the French gun off the hill - spending a valuable Ace for a second round of Fire against the gun, killing half the crew. Clearly, I opted for the Second plan from above...

Prussian Card Cycle 3, another Ace appears! 
The Prussians take a second activation to position their cavalry for a charge on the flank or rear of the French lights on the hill....
But the French spend a card to turn the lights around, move within 6" short range and shoot, then the Ace to shoot the cavalry again!  The Prussians lose 5 figures out of 6. Being a small unit, the Squadron of Lt. Dragoons is not much use anymore. The question becomes academic when they fail morale and Run Away. First blood to the French!

Well, this certainly demonstrates the danger inherent in the card deck - at least until the Aces are spent!

Speaking of which, another red card comes up, and the French Infantry on the hill realize that they will soon be pecked at by the Krupp battery, so advance off the hill, then spend the last red Ace to shoot the Prussians engaging their lights in the woods - with deadly effetct!

Prussian Card Cycle 4 arrives, bringing the Prussian reinforcements onto the table. Note the Prussian losses - the lt dragoon squadron and a stand of infantry.
Soon after, French Card Cycle 3 arrives, bringing the French some important reinforcements.

At this point, it is worth remembering that the two sides are not necessarily on the same activation cycle. The Prussians managed to get in an additional cycle over the French. So instead of the French reinforcements arriving one "Turn" ahead of the Prussians, they are arriving first for the Prussians, and the Prussians can spend face cards to bring the entire bunch on at once. Note that the French can do the same.

It is worth emphasizing that - in my humble opinion - A Gentleman's War requires a player to work very carefully to maximize opportunities that the card deck brings, especially with the use of Hold Cards. Once a player's used all his Hold Cards, his units entirely depend on the card draw off the deck until the Joker's arrive and new Hold Cards are drawn. 

It is a very interesting turn sequence, and definitely gives the game some unusual [and realistic] dynamics above and beyond a *definite* I-GO, U-GO turn sequence. I like it, altho I lose track of things sometimes. Others may not like it as it disrupts skillful planning!  But I think it takes skill to manage the cards...

Another note: the way the turn is broken up can make the game feel a bit small and skirmish-y at times and that each unit is about a platoon, a troop or one gun, much like The Sword and the Flame. However, the use of Face Cards to move "brigades" can make it feel larger again. This interesting effect can be emphasized by reducing the number of face cards or number cards, so I think the game is quite easily customized to the level of combat you desire.

As the cycles continue, the Prussians use a Hold Card to push on the French left, threatening the French voltigeurs [lights] flank with a charge....
...but the French counter with a higher Hold Card...
...and use it to put face and put a Hit on the Prussians first - not enough however...
The French having played their final Hold Card, the Prussians can now have their way a bit. They charge the lights, take some Hits closing in from defensive Fire, then go into Close Combat.
In a shocking bloodbath, both sides roll lots of Hits, but the Lights are Beaten and Run Away, 5 to 3 Hits. 

The French get some revenge as their reinforcements enter the table, and the famed Marvelous Mysterious Mitrailleuse Machine vents its wrath! It only causes one hit, however, which the Prussians save. 
Of course, it jams, also.

As Card Cycles Prussian Five and French Four come around again, the Hold Cards heavily favor the French, 2-1. 

The French ligne infantry roll some devestating chassepot fire!
But the Prussians easily hold their ground on a '6'.

Card Cycle 6 comes around for both sides as the Joker arrives.

Both sides try to use a Hold Card, they tie on the dice off...

Then the Prussians win and advance into Close Range. The French then get a red Ace and blast the Prussians down to 50%. They roll for being Disconcerted and a measly '1' gives them a "Run Away" result...
...they roll a '12' for distance and are off the table. That hurt!

Prussian losses: Cav Squadron, Infantry Battalion, and a couple of companies.

The Prussians now decide to make a push on the center, the rallied lights, partially crewed gun and strong battalion holding off a battalion and a half of Prussians.
The Prussians add their Heavy Squadron reinforcements.
Charges are made against the gun...
but four French light squadrons arrive French Card Cycle 6.
Hold Cards are played to get the edge against the opposing squadrons
Prussian cuirassiers and French Hussars are all falling back, along with the French gun.

The other cuirassier attacks the French infantry, supported by the Prussian infantry, but are wiped out by defensive fire.
French hussars charge and destroy the last Prussian in one battalion, and their general.
But the Prussians then shoot the hussars to pieces. To their right, you can see the Prussians who have now forced their way into the woods - almost two battalions.

Card Cycle 8 for both sides, after Jokers.  The hands are even in size but favor the Prussians in quality.

A few more cycles passed, but it was already clear the Prussians weren't defeating the French much less clearing them from the hill. They advanced onto the hill but the French reinforcing infantry on the other side were able to shoot them off it. Meanwhile, the to-ing and fro-ing in front of the hill exhausted both sides, and the French ended with a draw in their favor.

The game was eventful and flavorful, but with ten units a side took a few hours longer than anticipated. Given the scenario and the Card Cycle I was on, the outcome was not certain and with 1 Card Cycle = 1 Turn there were possibly seven more Turns available.

THOUGHTS...

A Gentleman's War is full of movement and action. Depending on the cards, it is usually punctuated by short sharp events with plenty of drama rather than coordinated activities by mutually supporting forces. 

While I can see how proper use of face cards to activate a "brigade" of up to four units can bring a decisive local result. However, these don't fall like leaves and if there is a run of number cards the action gets a very choppy and skirmish-y feel to it that doesn't suit a Unit = a Battalion action of a couple of brigades per side as I played here.

This is quite different from a phased game where all moves, shots then melee occurs. It can also be hard to remember what happened if you are interrupted [ah, family] or forgot to mark a unit as activated.

Aside: I wonder how the turn sequence would play as a skirmish game with one fig = one unit??

Firepower is relatively weak, intentionally per the design notes. But with any weapon - musket to breechloader - a large infantry unit has little to fear from a frontal charge from cavalry. Close Range Shots hit on a 4+ with all weapons, which is almost always the same 6", "capping" small arms effectiveness. This could easily be tweaked for more realistic firepower to a 3+ or even 2+, which in turn could be offset by more terrain for more late-period feel and challenges.

The game is entertaining but not quick. Each event involves a couple of steps and some looking at the rules and charts to calculate situations and modifiers and such. While the mechanics are easy to understand they slow the pace of each event. As such, they are more of a day off sort of game than an evening at the club sort of game, especially with new players or sides of several people. 

Interestingly, I can see it easily scaling up and down using no change of mechanics:
  • 1 fig = 1 man with doubled ranges makes a Unit a squad.
  • 1 fig = 5 men as is makes a Unit a platoon.
  • 1 fig = 10 men and halved ranges makes a unit a company.
Thus, with the one set of rules, you can play colonial scraps from a platoon patrol to a battalion action. I haven't tried all these bright ideas yet, but it has me rethinking plans for my 15mm French Foreign Legion v. Arabs....