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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Battle of Hoboken Meadows, 1776

The American War of Independence, Black Powder, 28mm

I didn’t have a game lined up this week, but I was lucky enough to take part in an American War of Independence game laid on by Michael, the club’s German member. He uses Black Powder, a rules set I’m very familiar with, but he augments it with a card system, which he uses to determine the scenario and the layout of the table. It also gives bonuses or limitations to the troops on the table. For instance, Michael’s Americans had a “speech card”, which gave all his troops a +1 in morale. In the turn after the bonus is used the American player loses the card on a roll of 1-3 on a D6. This was quite a powerful bonus, but it added spice to the game. So too did the British “low on ammo” card, which meant that every time one of our units fired it ran out of ammunition on a roll of a “1” on a D6. Fortunately for us we rolled well, and only one unit ran out of ammunition – albeit at a critical point in the battle. We also had an unfordable river behind us – crossable only by a small bridge, and a unit of cavalry that was still marching to the sound of the guns when the game began. It all contributed to making the game more interesting.awi-015I took the brigade on our right, while Jim Loutitt led the Hessians and British grenadiers and lights. We wanted to get across that river, but it took us three turns, by which time the Americans were almost upon us. Another of Michael’s innovations is the movement system. If you are lucky enough to get more than one action on your command dice, then instead of the foot moving 12″ per action, they move 12″ for the first one, 6″ for the second, and 3″ for the third. This makes it much less likely that units will be able to do crazy things, and I think it worked well for the period. Anyway, we soon got into a firefight with a large American brigade to out front, while Jim’s Hessians squared off against a smaller French brigade, which was advancing on the American right. As both sides started blazing away it was all to play for, but both sides had a weak right flank, and a reinforced left. The question was – whose weaker flank would break first?awi-018We weren’t too worried about our left. The French rolled badly, and one of their two regiments advanced well in advance of the other. It was pinned by the British light infantry, who were in open order, while the other three close order battalions moved up on its flanks. The French would now be hard-pressed to survive, let alone threaten the British line. Over on our right – my brigade was thinly-spread – it had to be – but I had the benefit of a couple of light artillery sections. The Americans had six battalions to my three, but two of them were militiamen (albeit particularly gung ho ones), and half the force seemed content to hang back and support the first line. That evened the odds a bit, but of course those supports would give the Americans a useful edge in melee or morale tests. My left-hand unit rather rashly fired a volley and then charged home, hoping the British cavalry unit would charge in support. It failed its command dice, and stayed where it was. Both sides were locked in combat. Then, my middle unit ran out of ammunition, and was promptly charged by the Continentals facing it. We held – just – thanks largely to the supporting fire of a gun section. We couldn’t find the rule allowing supporting fire for attached guns, so we rolled a dice to decide which way to veer with the decision. It went in favour of the British, and as a result the centre held.awi-010The Americans also charged home on the British far right, with a militia taking on my third battalion while a small unit of American dragoons charged my second gun section. It didn’t cause enough casualties to stop the chargers, and the gun was duly overwhelmed. However, the militia lost badly, and after losing the melee they failed their morale roll, and were taken off the table. That prompted a morale check for the American cavalry, who had to retire. The pressure was off. In the other two melees on the British right flank the good guys also emerged victorious – the Americans on my left broke and fled, while the unit in the centre retired. This meant that the British line had held, and the odds had turned in the British favour. This success was repeated over on the British left, as Jim’s Hessians swept one unit of French from the field, and caused the rest to hesitate. At that stage we ended the game, and rather kindly we let the rebels and their French allies quit the field. I was a little surprised by our victory, but in the end it was all down to firepower, getting your troops in the right place, and an inordinate amount of luck! Michael’s card system certainly adds a new slant to a game, and I’ll be interested to see it in action again.awi-009


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