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Mohawk Valley, New York Colony, 1757


The French & Indian War, Muskets & Tomahawks, 28mm

One of the problems with gaming at a club – in this case the Orkney Wargames Club – is that you have to deal with other people, whose grasp of your gaming needs might be wanting. The club meets every Thursday in the St. Magnus Centre, a glorified church hall at the back of the truly glorious cathedral of the same name. Well, we hire the main hall, but the scenery is stored in another room. When we turned up a meeting was in progress there, so we didn’t have access to our stash of scenery. One of the fantasy kids had wheeled out a trolley with bits and pieces of terrain, so we had to make the best we could of it, and use what he’d rescued. Hence, we have a French & Indian War game without roads, rivers and precious few trees. I’m in the process of selling the big house in Orkney – the one with the large attic and the 12×6 table. So, until I find a replacement property with some wargaming space, we have to hang out with the spotty orc-botherers.So, this game was played on a relatively modest 6×4 foot table, on a drab mat that made Mohawk Valley look like a dustbowl. Still, we had our buildings and figures, and the rules. The game involved a raid on the valley by a French & Indian force, while a force of British regulars were on hand to stop them. The French players’ aim was to scout the valley. To do this the table was notionally divided into six 2×2 foot squares, and during the course of the game the French player had to get a figure into each of the six areas. For their part the British entered the opposite long table edge in two columns, and their job was to stop the enemy from carrying out their objective. All four players – two on each side – had a side plot for their leader figure. These ranged from sacrificing one of their own units to escorting a civilian around the tabletop, and making sure they remained unharmed.Each side had a mixed bag of units – the French had four groups of 6 Indians, two units of 8 Canadian militia, a unit of 12 marine regulars plus 6 Coureur des Bois. The Briitsh could draw on 12 men each of Highlanders, regulars and British grenadiers, plus 8 light infantry, 12 provincial line troops and 8 rangers. The fight began with Alan’s Coureur des Bois and Indians sniping at the advancing highlanders and light infantry, commanded by Gyles. In this long range firefight the Indians had the advantage, as they were hard to hit in the trees, while the British were deployed in farmland, where the only cover came from wooden fences. Surporisingly though, Gyles rolled really well for shooting, and the Indians suffered a steady stream of casualties. The British lights lost men too, but they outshot more than four times their number of enemy, backed up by occasional volleys from the highlanders. This pretty much stalled the French advance on that flank.The French high water mark was the occupation of a farmhouse by the Coureur des Bois. This though, put the French backwoodsmen within close range of the British light infantry marksmen, who killed the majority of the unit, then forces the rest to break and run. Alan’s Indian leader – Chief Dripping Beaver – did little to help his French allies, as he busied himself rallying his own men. Over on the far side of the table Joe’s steady advance using the Canadian militia worked well, and they crossed the halfway point of the table, giving them access to two more of the 2×2 foot squares. That left them with only one to reach. Unfortunately for the French players it was the one where the light infantry and the highlanders were ruling the roost.The outcome of the game though, now depended on the firefight on the other side of the table. if the French could only drive back the British troops, then they could swing around the back of the light infantry, and reach that last square of tabletop. Standing in their way though, was a unit of British grenadiers. The British line infantry and provincials weren’t much use – for some reason whenever they suffered casualties they retired or retreated. The Canadian militia also enjoyed better cover, having reached the big house dominating that part of the table, and the stone wall running across the table from it. Sean’s grenadiers suffered a steady attrition, but they were rated elite, and passed every morale check asked of them. Over on the edge of the table, on the ridge beyond the red-roofed house, the rangers were engaging in a firefight with the French marines. It turned out to be a pretty evenly matched contest, but effectively it meant that both units took no further part in the game, and just blazed away in their own private and ultimately indecisive firefight.That though, was the sum of French achievement during the game. All attempts to cross the stone wall were thwarted by British or provincial musketry, and so the game fizzled out in a long range firefight. However, in the final turn a unit of Canadian militia charged forward, past the angle in the stone wall to enter the last hallowed 2×2 foot square on the tabletop. That meant victory was awarded to the French and Indians, despite having suffered more casualties than the British, and only having achieved their objective by the narrowest of margins. the clincher though, came when we worked out the cub plots. Neither of the British leaders managed to achieve their sub plot requirements, but both French players did. Alan’s Indian chief had to sacrifice a selected unit under his command – he chose the Coureurs des Bois,  while the Marine Captain had to escort a young American lady around with him, and she remained unharmed. So, what was a sneaky French victory was duly proclaimed a decisive one! The game was fun and fast-paced, but then virtually all of our Musket & Tomahawk games are. There’s just something about this period – and these rules – that guarantees an enjoyable evening.

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