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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Skirmish at Bell’s Ford, 1758

The French & Indian War, Rebels and Patriots, 28mm

With the club closed after New Year, we staged another Thursday night game in my farmhouse kitchen. It was another French & Indian War clash, with the two Seans playing against each other, and me helping Sean 1 with the French. I’d sort of pointed out the sides beforehand, and selected the toys, just to speed things along, so when the guys arrived we were all ready to go. Mind you, the game took ages, as we all talked too much!In this one, the premise was simple – a meeting engagement between two forces, both sent ahead of their main armies to seize control of Bell’s ford. The 6 x 4 foot table was heavily wooded, but a small river ran across it, pierced by the ford, and a  road linked it to a couple of table edges. In the middle was the Bell Farm, home to the Bell couple and their son Dinger. We randomly decided the rival forces would come on on opposite ends of the dirt road.Sean 1’s British force was made up of two units of 12 Colonial line infantry, 2 units of 12 light infantry, and 4 skirmish units of 6 Rangers. For their part Sean 2’s French was sort of similar – 2 x 12 Canadian militiamen, 2 x 12 French Compagnies Franches de la Marine, a warband of 18 Iroquois, and 2 skirmish units of 6 Coureur de Bois. In our games each force was accompanied by two leaders – we don’t bother with attached leaders in our games, as we find it too limiting and fiddly.The game began, obviously, with both forces moving onto the table and heading towards the ford. The French were closest, and of course they got there first, and sent their leading units of Companie Franche de la Marine into a little wood next to the ford. Leading the British advance were the “Light Bobs”, and the two sides soon began skirmishing with each other. The rest of the columns though, seemed reluctant to move very fast at all.I’d been given the Iroquouis and the French backwoodsmen to play with, and I pulled them back from the firefight, as the Courerurs de Bois aren’t good at hand-to-hand combat – their skill lies in sniping at long range, while the Indians are good as a counter-attacking horde in hand-to-hand combat. So, we let the French marines pick up the slack. the firefight became quite headed after a while, especially when the Canadian militia joined in from across the river. Down by the farm the leading Ranger detachments occupied it, but some of their band were still on the road, and were getting picked off in the open by the Coureurs de Bois and some marines. Sean 1 kept rolling “Double 1” for his Rangers, which meant bad things happened, like advancing towards the enemy, or retreating without any real reason. As a result, the Rangers kept taking casualties, until two units pulled back off the table – or broke and ran. Over by the wood the British lights had finally cleared the place by charging a unit of marines, and driving them out of the trees. They were still taking casualties from the Canadian militia though, and weren’t feeling quite as sprightly as they had been. For his part, Sean 1 decided to counter-attack. For a guy who never liked charging, he’s getting quite fond of it! This tiome though, he planned to use my Iroquois to do the deed, as his marines looked on. Watch and learn, Frenchman…  Actually the charge couldn’t have gone netter. The leading unit of British light infantry was chopped to pieces, and the second one pulled back out of the wood, before it went the same way. It was all good stirring stuff, but it still didn’t leave us any further forward, as by now one of our two marine units was forced to retire too, thanks to fire from the rangers and the Colonial infantry behind them. So, still all to play for. By now though, my Courours de Bois had got into the rhythm and were felling a couple of Rangers each turn. Mind you, the remains of the British light infantry had now rallied on a hillside, and were propping up the British flank. Sean 2 still had his blue-coasted Colonial infantry too, which hadn’t really been tested so far in the game. So, we reached a sort of natural stalemate in the game, where either side would suffer if it attacked. In fact, we’d been yacking away so much that time was running out on us – and Sean 2 had to pick up a daughter. The game could still have gone either way, and so we decided to play one final turn, to see what would happen. In this one, another Ranger unit was forced to withdraw, which allowed my Iroquois to get across the road and line themselves up for an assault on the Bell farm. Sean 1 though, was still holding firm with his Colonial infantry. So, we decided to call it a day – and proclaim the game a draw. Next time we’ll try as little harder – and game faster, I promise! Perhaps it was all that New Year over-indulgence that slowed things down. It was a fun little game though, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, even if we didn’t get a result. I like this period – and while I wouldn’t game it every week, it provides an entertaining game whenever we do get these toys out. .. especially the Iroquois. 





2 Responses “Skirmish at Bell’s Ford, 1758”

  1. Sean Page
    10th January 2024 at 10:45 am

    Wonder what happened to the Bell family?

    • 10th January 2024 at 11:35 am

      I imagine they legged it into the woods – I couldn’t think of a suitably bell-like pun…

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