Saturday 25 January 2020 saw a large American War of Independence battle umpired by Noel at Rob’s War Room.
The previous night, eight players tested out the Shako-based rules, with Mal, Patrick, Juan, and Greg on the American side, and Brian, Simon, Rob and Doug on the British side. That game ended in Juan’s militia in full retreat to Doug’s advancing troops on the American right flank, while Rob threatened the American centre. The armies pulled back and more units were added ready for play the next morning.
In what was a fictional scenario, the two armies each had 32 battalions, a cavalry brigade, and two artillery batteries. The table was intersected width-wise by two streams, with numerous hills, woods, hedged fields, and fences at either length. A few small buildings dotted the American side of the table. As Greg, Mal, and Juan were not playing, Noel and Phil joined Patrick on the American team on Saturday – playing the left, right, and centre respectively. On the other team, Simon, Doug, Rob and Brian were arrayed from left to right on the opposite side of the table.
Play began at 11.00am, and we played for five hours, excluding an hour’s lunch break, fitting in nine turns.
Turn One: 11am
The Americans won the initiative. Simon and Doug advanced their infantry on the British left and centre respectively, while Brian moved his skirmishers forward in the centre and right of the line. Rob began to pound Patrick’s militia at the fence in the centre of the US position. Patrick started to move his cavalry brigade to the stream separating his command from Phil’s. Noel moved his infantry forward on the US left flank toward the second stream in Brian’s sector.
Turn Two: 11:30am
The Americans won the initiative. Noel continued his advance, beginning to cross the river with skirmishers and three battalions. Meanwhile, Brian advanced his German jaegers against Patrick and gave him one casualty. Both Simon and Doug deployed to attack Phil, while Patrick ‘s cavalry crossed the stream, ready to intervene against the British centre.
Turn Three: 12pm
The Americans won the initiative. Doug’s infantry were advancing but being funnelled between a wood and hedged field, and unable to manoeuvre, while Simon’s cavalry attempted to push through Doug’s infantry column. Patrick’s cavalry charged one of Doug’s British infantry battalions and destroyed it, then carried on to the next battalion, but had to fall back disordered, yet Doug was forced to voluntarily rout this battalion, and soon withdrew another as well. Patrick had now disrupted the British advance with his cavalry, and Simon voluntarily routed two of his cavalry units in the congested centre-right of the battlefield. Doug reformed his remaining infantry into line. Elsewhere on the table, Rob’s two artillery batteries were inflicting casualties onto Patrick’s militia at the fence line in the centre; Rob held the rest of his units in reserve. Simon was now approaching Phil’s right flank with six units, but Phil managed to cause a casualty firing from his militia in a wood here on one of Simon’s attacking units. The turn ended with one of Doug’s brigades failing a morale test, but he managed to prevent this with a re-roll from its commander.
Turn Four: 12:30pm
The Americans won the initiative. Brian’s two skirmishing units were hard pressed by Noel’s aggressive advance on the British right flank, and Brian began to prepare a defensive position for his mix of British and German units near the back of the British line. Patrick was forced to move two of his battalions from the centre to evade Rob’s lively fire against the American infantry in this sector. Patrick now moved up some units from the left of centre to support Noel’s advance on the far left of the American line. Yet Rob managed to destroy one of Patrick’s militia units at the fence line, thus opening up a hole in the American line.
Meanwhile, Simon’s two grenadier units charged and destroyed one (and routed another) of Phil’s militia units in the wood on the far-right of the American position. There was now only one American unit remaining in this wood. Patrick held the line at his centre-right, facing Doug’s position, but took a casualty from Doug, but now moved his American cavalry to exploit the gap created by the flight of Doug’s units in the previous turn. Two of Doug’s units facing Patrick continued to rout. Phil passed a brigade morale test for his militia, but Patrick’s militia brigade at the fence line failed the test and routed, imperiling the centre of the American line.
Turn Five: 1:15pm
The British won the initiative. Simon rallied his cavalry and deployed to counter Patrick’s cavalry which was now hot on the heels of two of Doug’s routed infantry units. Simon also moved his infantry into the wood defended by one of Phil’s French battalions. Doug rallied the two routing infantry units, which were now close to the British table edge. Noel continued his advance on Brian’s flank, but Brian continued to organise his defensive position at a right-angle on the British right. Rob moved two British battalions from the centre to assist Brian. Patrick was still holding the river line against two of Doug’s battalions, but Doug began to move forward again through the ‘funnel’ toward the fence line at the left of Phil’s position, which was garrisoned by French battalions.
Lunch Break - 1:45-2:45pm
Turn Six: 2:45pm
The British won the initiative. Simon’s cavalry destroyed one of Patrick’s cavalry units, but Patrick counterattacked with another cavalry unit; both Simon’s and Patrick’s units were forced to retire and each took a casualty. Noel’s infantry was now close to Brian’s line, and his skirmishers passed through a wood on Brian’s flank. Doug’s infantry moved up to musketry range to the French manning the fence line along the left of Phil’s line. Phil reinforced his front with a French battalion. Rob moved one of his British battalions closer to the American centre. Patrick’s cavalry still dominated the centre-right of the battlefield. Patrick also rallied one militia unit which had fled the fence line in the American centre. Brian’s jaegers and artillery now caused two of Noel’s American battalions on the left-centre of the American line to rout, taking some of the steam out of Noel’s advance.
Turn Seven: 3:30pm
The British won the initiative. Brian was now pushed right back to his defensive position, as Noel’s skirmishers drove in some British units on the British right. Noel also moved up another battalion against the Hessians. There were only three American units covering the centre however, due to previous routs caused largely by Rob’s artillery. Patrick’s hold on the river line to his centre-right weakened as one of his battalions routed and another was pulled back owing to Doug’s fire; unfortunately for Doug, one of his battalions at the river line was destroyed by Patrick, and Doug’s brigade routed after a failed brigade test. However, Doug also began to fire on the French behind the fence in Phil’s sector, causing a casualty.
Things began to go wrong for Noel on the American left, as his lead brigade broke when three of his battalions routed due to the fire of Brian’s skirmishers and Hessians from the prepared position. Patrick’s cavalry, clearly having a field day, was involved in several melees with Simon’s horse, and destroyed one of them, causing the rest to rout when Simon failed a brigade test. Yet the Americans’ centre-left had lost five battalions routed in one turn and the tide seemed to be turning against them, as a gap opened up between Patrick’s and Phil’s positions. While seven US battalions continued to attack Brian’s position, the Hessian defensive line was holding.
Turn Eight: 4.05pm
The British won the initiative. Simon continued to push into the woods on the American right flank, routing a US militia unit. Patrick’s centre had only three units in it, but the British were not exploiting the opportunity. Eight of Noel’s battalions were still facing Brian and moving up. Rob deployed two British battalions into line to reinforce the Hessian position. Patrick continued to move his cavalry to follow Doug’s routed infantry, meanwhile wheeling his artillery to enfilade Doug’s infantry approaching the French-manned fence line in Phil’s sector. Patrick also managed to stabilise the centre by rallying two militia units fleeing that zone.
Turn Nine: 4:35pm
The Americans won the initiative. Phil still had a toehold on the wood at his right, though Simon kept up his advance and routed the sole French battalion still here. Patrick destroyed Doug’s leading British battalion assaulting Phil’s fence line with enfilading artillery fire, while Doug was forced to voluntarily rout another battalion which couldn’t rally owing to the proximity of Patrick’s cavalry.
The game ended with Brian still holding against Noel; Rob fairly passive in the centre against Patrick; Patrick successfully keeping half of Doug’s command at bay with his cavalry; while Doug’s attack on Phil’s fence line had failed. Simon was moving slowly through the woods to Phil’s right. For such a big game, casualties were light: the British lost 3 units destroyed, while the Americans lost 4, although both sides had numerous units routed. It had been an indecisive clash, but there was ebb and flow across the table, with Patrick in particular managing to dominate the game with his cavalry, while Doug proved particularly unlucky and impeded by the terrain.
Noel had adapted the Shako Napoleonic rules for this battle because he was not satisfied with the Patriots and Loyalists rules we gamed with the previous week. While Noel’s rules were comprehensive and made play unpredictable, the game was noticeably slowed down by the amount of terrain on the table, the short movement distances (subject to deductions), and the dicing for sequence of play for brigades. Some players also thought the game felt more Napoleonic than AWI, while others thought there was a lot to remember. A lack of objectives meant the game lacked some focus, as all players effectively fought their own battles. For all that it was an enjoyable day and a visual spectacle, with Noel and Patrick’s figures looking great on the table.
Thanks to Noel for umpiring, Rob for hospitality and food, and to all who played.