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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Battle of Oriskany, 1777

The American War of Independence, Black Powder, 28mm

Bill Gillchrist has a thing about Oriskany. This must be the second or third refight of the battle he’s staged during the past year! I suppose it’s because he has all those Indians and militiamen, and sees it as a  quirky  battle, and therefore an entertaining one. He also tends to use it as a test bed for his tweaking o0f Black Powder – a great rules set for more conventional set-piece battles, but one that falls down slightly when irregular forces or badly-trained militia are involved. Oriskany has both of those in abundance! Finally, he’s working up a scenario for an Oriskany demo game at a small Scottish wargames show – Albanich, which takes place in mid-March. Anyway, with Angus up in Orkney at the moment, this game report comes directly from Bill;img_8526This game was based on the Battle of Oriskany, fought in August 1777, and was played out using Black Powder Rules. The game was a test of a display that I am putting on for the SESWC at Albanich, the Dumfries wargames show. One of my earl ier refights was of a fictional 2nd battle of Oriskany, but this game was based on the real battle.Oriskany was one of the bloodiest battles in the war, and a significant engagement of the Saratoga campaign. During the siege of Fort Stanwix an American relief force  of militiamen and Indians under General Herkimer attempted to raise the siege. The Loyalist Sir John Johnson intercepted them with his own King’s Royal Regiment of New York, a jäeger detachment, and a host of Indian allies. The Loyalists ambushed Herkimer in a small valley about six miles from Fort Stanwix.  Herkimer was defeated and mortally wounded. The battle cost the Patriots 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Indians lost about a third of that.   img_8524The game was fought down a 8 x 6 foot table. We used the standard movement and ranges given in the rules. The terrain was assumed to be wooded except for an area of open ground around two hamlets that was by fences. The 24 figure units were classed as standard units, the 10 to 12 figure units as small units. I made all the commanders 8s for this game as the Patriots are already. handicapped by the their militia being Unreliable. To make them more effective I allowed the Indians to charge any troops in the flank or rear and to charge any shaken formed troops frontally. The formed militia units were “Untested” and had to dice when required to check their stamina. On a 1 their stamina was 1, on a 2 to4 their stamina was 2 and on 6 it was 3. Colin Jack and Bart Zynda commanded the Loyalists, while Olivier Lepreux and I commanded the Patriots. The Loyalists deployed in a defensive line midway across the table facing the two clearings (marked by teddy bear fur). Butler’s Brigade commanded by Colin was on the right with the skirmishers flanking the Royal NY Regt, with the Indians commanded by Bart on the left with two of their units held of table in reserve. The Patriots had their 1st brigade on their left commanded by Olivier and I commanded and the 2nd Brigade on the right.
featureThe battle opened with the Loyalists taking the initiative and advancing to the edge of the open ground whilst their Indians moved into the woods on their left. The Patriot advance was hampered by my poor command rolls and so Olivier’s brigade advanced more rapidly into contact. His Indian unit skirmished with the opposing Iroquois who eventually charged and drove them back. His two militia units had come under fire from the rangers who repeatedly disordered the leading unit forcing the supporting unit to leapfrog through them. With the their right flank exposed by the defeat of their Indian allies each unit was charged in turn by an Iroquois war band whose initial bloodthirsty charge broke the first unit and then they forced the second unit to retire two moves! On the other flank my militia units came up in turn to their side of the open ground and both were broken by the amazing shooting of the Royal NY regiment. My riflemen skirmished with the Jaegers who eventually gained an upper hand and charged them. With the Patriots having only one formed militia unit and two skirmishing units still on the field it was an obvious British victory.

Note from Angus: You can see Bill wrote this, ’cause he calls the colonial rebels “Patriots”. The rules seems to be getting better at dealing with poor-quality troops, thanks to Bill’s amendments he uses for his American War of Independence games.


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