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!"

Friday, December 30, 2022

Jumonville Glen: French & Indian War in 54mm

 "Toupees made to order -  Satisfaction Guaranteed!"

The battle of Jomonville Glen, now a park in SW Pennsylvania, is a classic ambush. The real battle appears to have been pretty lop-sided considering the result and casualties, which was the French force taking almost all the casualties and surrendering.  As a military OP, it was very successful, and a first success for a young officer named George Washington, who would go on to be better known in later years.

There's a bunch of articles on it, due to GW's involvement, but beware - some only adhere to the present academic and journalistic standard of our time, which is halfway between gossip and rumor, and Fake News, sprinkled with some facts.  Fortunately, the Wikipedia article surmounts that standard and addresses the particulars pretty well [CLICK]. There is also a good post here - Jumonville Glen Battlefield Post - that has additional information.  Enough said!

As a wargame post, the main concern here is how to game an encounter where one side had total victory.  They key is to recognize that altho that was the historical result it was not a sure thing.  The French could have had better and / or more sentries out, could have scouted better, or taken routine precautions to avoid the disaster that happened.  Presenting the full array of possibilities to both sides and allowing the Wargamer to make his own decisions is the best game plan.

Ergo, we set up the battle per the below diagram, which seemed accurate enough:

From here [CLICK].

Table was about 5 x 10 with the hills camp nestled in the valley between the steep hills and open forest.  The scale was 54mm plastics from Armies in Plastic [CLICK] and the hills were purchased while the trees were a mix of railroad and aquarium pieces, some in 54mm large and others were smaller. The smaller trees were provided by the host and denote scrub and bushes, which count as Area Terrain denoted by the circular dark green felt bits on which they stood - the trees themselves only served as a marker. Robb K provided lovely painted figs and the terrain including tents.  Results are below, with a view from the "North" of the above diagram:
Above, the French defend their camp from a motley collection of frontiersmen sniping from the woods and rocks.

The French set up in the general area of the camp, but had some choices to "weight" the area where they placed them. They also had options to put out sentries who would automatically fire when the enemy became visible. The trade-off was that there was a good chance that the sentries would be overwhelmed and killed, so that had to be taken into account.

The colonist under GW and their Indian Allies under Tanacharison "The Half King" - a ferocious character, it seems [click] - chose to mainly approach from the diagram "Northwest" and "Northeast" corners, using the Indians under Terrible T to close the bag from diagram "South".  This put them in close mutual support, which is a good idea considering that they only outnumber the French by about 52 to 35, and splitting up for an encirclement invites being defeated in detail.  The main problem was that if the entire French force ran against the Indians, they would heavily outnumber them and the Indians were not closely supported.

The rules used were a modified version of Neil Thomas' Skirmish Rules from "Wargaming: An Introduction". These provide simple, effective mechanics as a basic platform for any gunpowder era conflict.  I have also used them for medieval fantasy encounters including Chaos v. Empire and the Lord of the Rings [HERE]. 
EDIT 12DEC2022: As these rules were originally written for British in 1899, I had to modify them and pull them back in time - this AAR then got posted in my "Up the Blue!" blog [CLICK] which is for modern warfare [basically, repeating rifles and beyond]. But it really belongs here, thematically.

I find them pretty smooth but I still streamlined them a bit and wrote up a new set based upon the RAW that decreased the weapons to FIW only, and I eliminated the wounding mechanic - if you hit and target failed to save they took a wound, period.  They took two wounds if their save was a natural '1'. I do like their mechanics for cover and saves also, which make it easy for players to decide on how they are deploying their figures in relation to desired cover - the best way to stay alive!

Another key change was that each side made an Initiative roll, with the winner able to go first. However, as this is a skirmish game, command and control has a lot of friction in real life at this level.  I took this into account by using some interesting dice from another game, that have 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 on the 6-sided cube. 

Each player on the side taking a player "impulse" rolled the die and that was the number of figures they could activate.  On a "0", only a leader could activate [each player only had 1-2 so careful decisions had to be made!] but they could also activate some figures with them using a "Lead" action. The net result is an IGO-UGO turn sequence that varies the number of figs you can activate in any given impulse.  If you roll low and have a bunch of unactivated figs left after your opponent is finished, you can just activate them all.  The tactical tension is that it is usually better to shoot first, and move second!  Ah, decisions...decisions...

As for the battle, after a quick explanation of the rules, the players were off and running!

Diagram East, groups of British colonists pressure the French, who are very thin on the ground. At top center in red, i s a group of about 8 led by GW who have just assaulted a small group of French regulars.

Below, a closeup of GW's successful assault on a couple of Frenchies holding a key wood position on the edge of the camp. At top right is the main part of the French force.

Below, the French are fighting for their camp, which provides some concealment from enemy fire but the tents are not bulletproof. The Indian commander sits at the far end of the table, and a few of his Indians may be seens near him.

Below, another view from the colonist militia positions. GW to top left, French above them. Using Concealment and Cover properly was the key to success.

Way off on diagram South, Terrible T's Indians whooped it up and frightened the Frogs into believing there were many more Redskins about - the occasional shot kept the sentries under pressure for a while, but as an escape route, it was pretty open.

View from Diagram Southeast.  Terrible T has concentrated some of his men who are now enough of a threat to have Jumonville send three more precious regulars to hold them off. They are dreading a close action provoked by the Indians - they have such lovely, long hair!

But eventually Terrible T saw his moment. He managed, with a bit of difficulty, to finally get an overwhelming group of seven Braves to nearly encircle the three Frenchmen. The defensive fire has no effect - jitters?
Two of the French succumb quickly, but the third is much more determined!  He holds off the Indians, including a Green Goblin warrior!

Meanwhile, back at the camp, the French have concentrated a large force of about 14 Soldiers to try and gain local superiority. The bodies of ambushed French lay near the colonist militia who are crowded into a small wood.
But, the force directly led by GW has successfully assaulted and is now into the East side of the camp, slowly confining the French at the top. Indians are visible at the top left of the pic.
Amazingly, the lone Frenchman - clearly a desperate and wily fighter, breaks free from the crowd of Indians and makes a run for it!  However, the Indians were prepared for a runner, and their overwatch element snipes and pins him.

Back at the camp, the French advance and assault the militia hiding in the small woods. The attack doesn't go well, partially because of strong defensive Fire which pins some of the French. They make contact with about 10 French against 6 militia.

In the end, it was not enough to break free. However, the French did better than their real-life counterparts.  If anything, the missed opportunity may have been to take the entire force against the Indians and try to break out in that direction. This would have provoked a running battle but may have resulted in more French escaping the noose. Hard to say, and worth another go!

The rules worked well, with very few questions and only a couple of changes needed for future games. They are a painless set of traditional mechanics that are easy to pick up for any experienced gamer, resulting in the players being able to focus on the battle instead of the rules. Careful playtesting and use of the terrain as visual cues for terrain mechanics also made it run smoothly. As these are not in the rules, I made them up myself and was glad to see them work well.

I can strongly recommend these skirmish rules as a great platform to modify for your own tastes and purposes as all the mechanics are obvious an intuitive. They are not always dynamic as written, but it's easy to make them a bit more exciting with simple changes.

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.

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.