The French & Indian War, Muskets & Tomahawks, 28mm
This game was always going to be a little special. I was up in Orkney, and Dave Ryan from Caliver Books was visiting the island. Also, Peter Marshall was visiting the place, a guy who last wargamed with me when we were both teenagers, in what was then the Orkney Wargames Club. I was tickled that Peter still recalled having a British square overrun by my French cuirassiers, when we were playing with the Bruce Quarrie Airfix Napoleonic rules – a tabletop encounter that took place over a third of a century ago. Clearly I scarred the poor fellow for life! Anyway, we had a full turn-out, with five local gamers, Dave, Peter and a Canadian friend, and then me. I decided the only way to cope with so many players was to stage a large skirmish game – the perfect opportunity to wheel out my now rather large French & Indian Wars collection. I’d just returned from Edinburgh, where I bought the F&IW figures of fellow SESWC member Jack Glanville. With about 80 figures a side I felt I had more than enough to go round.The game itself centred around a French raid on a well-populated British-held valley. Both sides had regulars and Indians at their disposal, with more French-ally Hurons than British-ally Mohawks. However, the British also had a small rifle-armed group of Mohicans, led by a Daniel Day-Lewis figure, so that pretty much evened the odds. The French could also draw on Canadian militia, while the British were supported by Rangers and a handful of Provincials. I divided the players into pairs, and each team had their own mission – and their own sub plot. these sub plots are a quirk of the rules, and add a little extra fun to the game.For instance, the British had to capture an officer held by the French, while a French player had to avoid being seen by the enemy, as he doubled as a spy! Of the main missions, one French team were ordered to burn all the buildings, while the others had to conduct a reconnaissance in force. The British were charged with defending the civilian population of the valley, and destroying the enemy raiders.The game began with everyone advancing onto the table, with the exception of the British who had to defend the the locals. They began with the Mohicans and a unit of Mohawks already on the table. The French placed their regulars on the left, the militia on the right, and the Huron divided up between the two. The advance over the big iver and towards the smaller one was pretty steady until the regulars reached a small farm at a T-junction. There they came across the Mohicans, supported by a growing number of British regulars. The fire fight that ensued pretty much lasted throughout the game, with the advantage waxing and waning for both sides. The bottom line though, is that the British couldn’t be budged, and the French advance on that flank ground to a halt.Over on the French right things were going a little more smoothly. The militia and their Indian allies captured their first house, then advanced towards the trees beyond it, screening a log cabin and the bridge over the smaller river. Barring their way was a small contingent from the Black Watch – the 42nd Highlanders. They fought well, but the trouble was they were heavily outnumbered, and sheer weight of fire eventually drove them back. They saw off a unit of Huron though, and when the French advanced to the log cabin the Highlanders returned, launching a bayonet charge against the remaining Indians which cut them to pieces. Unfortunately this left the remaining Highlanders rather exposed again, and most were cut down by fire from the French militia. The survivors pulled back across the smaller river, where a detachment of British grenadiers held the bridge against all comers. They pretty much halted the French advance through their firepower.In an attempt to regain the initiative the French players decided to launch their Compagnies de la Marine detachment and their remaining Indians a gap they spotted in the centre of the table, where a wood led to the smaller river. They rushed through the trees, but when they reached the edge of the water they were met by heavy fire from Rangers and the last of the Mohicans (!), who managed to halt the French advance. So, now it was time to figure out who won. Both sides had taken substantial casualties – almost 50% of their original force. The French had failed to conduct their reconnaissance, as the British blocked the last two areas of the table they needed to explore. The British had failed to wipe out the enemy, but most of the civilians had managed to escape to safety – less than a dozen hat been chopped up and scalped.Only three of the six of the buildings were set on fire, so that didn’t work for the French either. However, on the side missions the French had held on to their prisoner, and the Canadian militia leader cum spy was never identified. So, what might have been a marginal British victory was turned into a gallant draw, and both sides seemed pleased with the decision. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and had a good time. While this might be the largest French & Indian War game I’ll probably play for a while, it won’t be the last.