I’m finally getting some gaming time after long drought – with Christmas approaching and some time off I’m hoping to get around to playing some rules that have been on the to-do pile for too long. As I’m playing Wilderness War on Vassal with Gary and have enough troops assembled for a basic game of Muskets & Tomahawks (which covers that conflict at a skirmish level) this was the obvious first choice. The game has a clever scenario generator which sets each side objectives in a quick and easy to use fashion. On my rolls, the British got the Defence objective where they have to prevent any enemy being inside or within 4″ of the buildings at the end of the game, whilst the French and their Indian allies got Engagement as an objective – kill 2/3 of the enemy troops by game end, which would be 17 figures in this case. An added element of the game is the side-plots for the officers which can adjust the level of victory – the British rolled high and would achieve their aim if they prevented the French from achieving their side-plot, which was “Authority” – none of the French Irregulars could get a “flight” or “rout” result on a Reaction roll or the officer would fail this objective. The British had 2 units of 7 Rangers who were Sharpshooters (can re-roll a ‘1’ on a to-hit roll) and 2 units of 5 militia. The French had 2 units of 7 Coureurs de Bois and a unit of 6 Huron allies – both sides had an Irregular officer to command the troops. The French could deploy 8″ in from their table edge, but the British had to deploy within 4″ of the buildings and had to leave 1/3 of their units in reserve – in a big mistake, I left off a unit of Rangers and put the Militia on the board – had I had both units of Rangers on, things might have turned out very differently…
The turn sequence is determined by the use of a card deck, but unusually all units of that type (not just the usual 1 unit) are activated by the card. For example, both units of Coureurs de Bois and the French Officer (an Irregular) would be activated on a French Irregular card being turned. Activations allow 1 action (2 for Regulars) such as move, fire, go on overwatch or reload and there are different numbers of cards in the deck for each troop type. There are 2 officer bonus cards in the deck, one for each side (“Forward Boys” for the British and “En Avant” for the French). These allow each officer to give himself or a unit of the same type as himself within 6″ an order – they also give elite troops an activation, but none of the troops in this skirmish were elite.
French Coureurs de Bois
The first card up was the British Irregular card and the unit of Rangers took up position on the tree line by the river – the Event 2 card up next meant that there wouldn’t be an event this turn (there’s only an event if the Event 1 card is the first event card drawn). The first Indian card took the Hurons out of the ford to scout around the back of the hill. The British “Forward Boys” card allowed the officer to give the Rangers a fire order against the Coureurs unit on the bluff. Needing 6 to hit as it was over half range and the French were in dense terrain, but with a re-roll of 1’s because of the sharpshooter ability the 7 Rangers took down 1 Frenchman and provoked a reaction test. Because they were 6 models or over strong (just!) and had an officer within 6″, the +2 to the die roll allowed them to pass easily. When the Militia card came up next the Militia in the ploughed field set off to stop the Indian outflanking movement.
Indians cross the ford
Then a French Irregular card came up and as as the British Rangers were unloaded, both Coureur units advanced – one across the bridge with their officer and one to the edge of the bluff hoping to engage the Rangers before their next card came up. After the Event 1 card, the “En Avant” card was drawn and the French officer sent the unit on the bridge to line the edge of the wall, setting up flanking fire on the Rangers by the riverbank. The British Milita were activated next, but the Inidans weren’t in range so the Militia set up on overwatch (or vigilance as the rules call it).
French line up volley
Unluckily for the Rangers the French Irregular card was turned next and 11 Coureurs opened up. Because their line had been flanked, some Rangers didn’t even get the benefit of cover and 5 out of the unit of 7 fell dead. Predictably, the obligatory morale test which followed was a disaster as even with their officer’s bonus they were -2 for suffering 3 or greater casualties AND rolling on a D3 as the unit was less than 3 models. The result was a flight – run away from the enemy, end up with your backs to them and lose all the remaining activations for your troop type for the remainder of the turn. To add insult to injury, the unit had to take a reaction test on its first activation next turn to see if it could act on that card. Next card was a British Irregular one, and the British officer wisely ran back from the riverbank to join the 2 Rangers fleeing it, then another British Irregular card took him behind a building out of the line of fire – not very officer-like!
Indians drive off militia
An Indian card allowed the Indians to move within range of the Militia in the open who couldn’t spot them because they were in dense terrain and the French Irregular card then allowed all the Coureurs to reload. The Event 3 card was followed by another Indian card and 6 Indians at over half range fired at the Milita in the field. They needed 5+ to hit and 4+ to kill, but scored 4 hits and converted it to 3 kills. Even with an officer within 6″ the result (not helped by rolling on a D3 because of the losses impact on the unit size!) was rout and the Militia, in the tradition of all great Militias, melted into the surrounding countryside. The last French Irregular card allowed the Coureur unit on the bridge to move off it and the other Coureur unit to move along the riverbank with a view to crossing the bridge next turn. On the British Irregular card the Officer positioned himself ready to rally the Rangers next turn, and the last Militia card allowed the militia in the house to open fire at the French who had just run off the bridge – predictably they missed (not making one 5+ in 4 dice rolled). With the Indians reloading on their last card, the turn ended with British losses mounting – 10 dead or routed to 1 French dead.
Fleeing unit blocks bridge
The British roll to see if the reserve Ranger unit arrived failed but their Militia unit in the building finally pulled themselves together, reloading on the first card drawn then firing at the Coureurs streaming across the bridge on the second one and even killing one, though the French passed their reaction test roll. A third Milita card in a row allowed the plucky lads to reload – even better, it was followed by a British Irregulars card. The Ranger unit rolled to see if they could act on the card, but they just failed, getting a recoil result which meant they had to move another 6″ away from the enemy though they ended up facing them. More importantly, they could act when their next card came up. Amazingly, the British “Forward Boys” card came out next and the officer ordered the Rangers to reload, but the run of luck was broken when the French “En Avant” card came up. In an effort to get a unit into line of sight of the much reduced Ranger unit, the French officer ordered a unit of Coureurs across the front of the building where the Militia were hiding, but unfortunately a British Irregular card came up next. The 2 Rangers fired at the Coureurs who were trying to draw a bead on them and managed to bring one down – a reaction roll of 1 sent the Coureur unit scampering back to the bridge which they managed to clog up in their panic – more importantly, the French officer had failed his side-plot and the British officer had succeeded in his as the French officer had failed.
The Indians extracted revenge on the next card, taking out one Ranger at long range and routing the remaining one (another roll of 1, but on a D3 this time). Because a lot of British cards had come out at the start of the turn, there now followed a run of French cards, allowing the steady unit of Coureurs to line up a volley at the Milita in the building. Though it was a pretty poor volley, it still put a hole into a single militiaman and a roll of a 1 on a D6 meant the militia exited quickly through the side windows (just as well the officer bonus had turned the rout into a slightly better result of “flight”). Unfortunately this side exit took the Militia into the sights of the Indian’s muskets and 2 more fell dead as the next card up activated the Indians. A reaction roll of 1 saw the remaining Militia leave the board, but even worse for the British, the French had now killed half of their force so a morale card would be put into the deck next turn even if the reserves arrived. The British officer moved back towards his baseline and failing to bring his reserves on again next turn, managed to leave the board on the first card drawn to end the game.
The French had killed or routed 17 British troops for the loss of only 2 of their own so had made their victory condition even without the British reserve appearing to give a more target-rich environment. However, because the British had made a French unit flee and thus the French officer had failed his side-plot (and consequently the British officer had succeeded in his), the French marginal victory was downgraded to a draw – side-plots are powerful stuff indeed! Highly recommended.