Ambush! Yet another European column is surprised by the cunning of the woodland Indians fighting in what is for them, friendly territory.
This is the earliest game historically I have fought in the man cave using the block armies. I opted for a small French and Indian War action using Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame 19th Century rules with only a few 'tweaks'. To allow for smooth bore weapons I reduced the range for infantry firearms to two hexes. I also made the Indian units three blocks strong rather than four in order to make them a little more brittle than their formed and regular opponents. Then I thought about the vexing problem around classifying the units I was going to use. All the regular infantry was rated as average when fighting in the open but as poor when in the woods. Similarly, the Indians were rated as elite in the woods and poor in the open. The Rangers were elite and the militia, poor. Each side had four command points, potentially modified by a dice roll each turn. No artillery was present on either side.
1 x Commander (1) - General James Teakirk
3 x Infantry (4)
2 x Militia (4)
1 x Roger's Rangers (2 x 2)
Strength Points 25 - Exhaustion Level 10
1 x Commander (1) - Comte de Reynard
2 x Infantry (4) - Regiments Bearnaise and Hollandaise
6 x Indians (3)
Strength Points 27 - Exhaustion Level 13
Somewhere in the Ohio Valley....
General James Teakirk and his column had left Fort Enterprise the previous morning, bound for the Walton homestead. His mission was a simple one, to reach the homestead and escort the families back to civilisation as trouble was in the air. The woodland tribes had been restless, no doubt stirred up by the French, so his force was tasked with both an escort and a deterrent role. Nothing had happened as yet although his trusted guide, Falcon Nose, the half-breed Indian scout, had warned him that there might be trouble. Teakirk was confident that his command could cope with most eventualities although he took the precaution of ensuring that the Rangers were deployed out front and on either flank, to scout ahead of the main column. His two units of Virginia militia were positioned with units of regulars all around them - publicly as a show of solidarity with the Americans but privately to make sure that they did not run off at the first sign of trouble. Like all regular British commanders Teakirk was not overly enamoured with the units of militia under his command.
Their route to the homestead followed a winding track through the easier reaches of the forest but it was still a wild and godless place. Very little air or light seemed to penetrate the gloomy depths of the forest and even the wildlife seemed to speak in hushed tones. The only sounds were those of a body of men tramping wearily on to an uncertain fate and losing themselves in their haunted thoughts as they did so. The heat; the stillness; the feeling of oppression all weighed heavily on the men of Teakirk's column as they pushed on. Even the General was not immune to the dank and fetid atmosphere; surely this must be the final frontier, he mused, for we are boldly going where no man has gone before....
The Comte de Reynard was footsore, weary and very pleased that his grueling march through the forest was at an end. Led by their Indian allies they had made a rapid march from deep in the heart of their territory in order to capture the Walton homestead. The families had been escorted away by some of the Indians under strict instructions that no harm was to befall them - De Reynard had given his word on the matter - under the threat of severe repercussions from the Great King across the Sea. He was confident that his orders would be obeyed. His small force, comprising but two detachments from the regiments Bearnaise and Hollandaise had occupied the small complex of buildings comprising the homestead and had also erected some log barricades so the whole place was quite well protected. Some three quarters of his force was made up of woodland Indians from an obscure branch of the great Iroquois tribe under the leadership of their chief, Mingua. He knew the British were coming, his scouts had been shadowing them almost from the time they had left Fort Enterprise; and his preparations were complete. His regular infantry would hold the homestead and the fight would be carried out by the Indians. De Reynard knew as well as any man that when came to fighting amidst the great trees of the forest then Mingua and his warriors had no equal.
The British were walking into a trap.
The initial set up - note the French deployed behind the log barricades at the Walton homestead. The British are following the forest trail, Roger's Rangers in the van.
The British column with the Virginia militia 'supported' by the regulars. General James Teakirk is in the centre of the formation.
The French infantry in the homestead with the Comte de Reynard and the two Indian warbands on either side of the track
Turn 1. With a blood-curdling war-cry the Indians attack the head of the British column but are met with a devastating volley from the redcoats and the supporting Rangers.
Turn 2. The firing ceases. No sounds are heard except the moans of the wounded and the cawing of angry birds. Nervous British eyes scan rapidly all around for a glimpse of their elusive foe.
Turn 3. Those dreadful whoops and war-cries start again - quick as a flash, the British column hurries along the trail and takes casualties from their barely visible enemy whilst the Rangers move off deeper into the forbidding forest; a unit of militia in support.
Turn 4. The leading British infantry unit, caught in a vicious crossfire from a barely visible enemy, routs in panic-stricken disorder. The southern Ranger unit falls back under pressure from the Indians whilst the northern one engages in a long range firefight and prevails.
Turn 5. General James Teakirk takes the situation in at a glance and immediately plunges into the treeline with a unit of British infantry to engage the leading Indian unit. Meanwhile, the southern Indian warbands mass against the Rangers and the supporting unit of Militia.
Turn 6. The situation seems to settle down as the British force manages to shake out into a semblance of order and not a moment too soon as the southern flank readies itself for the onslaught from the massing warbands.
Turn 7. The southern Ranger unit falls back under pressure as does the supporting Militia. General James Teakirk and his accompanying British infantry battle on against yet another warband - they are holding their own but casualties are mounting.
Turn 8. In the north General James Teakirk manages to prevail against the opposing Indians with the second militia unit in support. Meanwhile in the south the other militia unit battles gamely on.
Turn 9. The fight in the south intensifies, with the second militia unit joining the fray but again, casualties are mounting as the Virginians hang on against their redoubtable enemy.
Turn 10. The end. The militia suffer further casualties and whilst the warbands fall back to reorganise and mourn the spirits of their dead; General James Teakirk, mindful of his losses, reluctantly breaks off the action, thankful that the Indians are in no shape to organise an effective pursuit.
The final score - the British force suffered 10 hits whilst the Indians sustained 11. The French regulars were not engaged.
I was really pleased with this fight and using Bob's rules with just the 'tweaks' mentioned worked like a charm. Virtually all the fighting was at close quarters and from cover and it was, above all, tense and brutal in the extreme. The British had the advantage initially in respect of initiative and then the French managed to wrest control for a number of turns that enabled them to make their numbers count in respect of the Indians. The militia suffered due to their rating when resolving hits - often because they were unable to retreat due to units behind them - and in fact sustained all their losses over a relatively short space of time. The Rangers, by comparison, came through unscathed and were often able to fall back under pressure and then advance to reengage. In the end though, the British ran out of troops.
Just to round off though, this was game number 24 for the year so I have managed to complete my planned two games every month a full month earlier than I intended to. I want to play a further couple of games before the year end - one of which will be the Russo-Turkish War bash as the year's grand finale.
It should be fun.