Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Portable River Crossing

Here is the game set up and ready to run with the changes noted in the last post.  The British are deployed as per the book with 2 companies of the 41st Foot lining the river near the town bridge and 2 more in reserve in the middle of the town, a company of embodied militia and another of sedentary militia by the wood bridge, a band of Mohawks in the woods, a troop of cavalry behind the woods and another to the west of the town. One gun was placed on each end of the line and a 3rd gun in the middle. Since I wasn't using the optional quality rule, the sedentary militia were as good as the British regulars. There was no real reason not to use the rule other than for consistency with the previous test. The fewer things one changes between tests, the better.

The Americans deployed according to my plan of attack which was based on there not being a secret ford. 

Ordinarily I would lean towards a weaker pinning attack and a main assault but given my superior numbers and the limited approaches fairly close to each other, I decided that I could gamble on two equal thrusts and shift forces as required if one bridge proved to be too tough to crack. Therefore, I deployed 2 guns on the left to support the attack on the left bridge and committed 5 companies of the 4th and 6th Infantry .supported by riflemen to the assault on the town. The 3rd Ohio  was earmarked to assault the Wood Bridge but had a fair distance to go. They were supported by the 1st Ohio which moved up in the center to provide fire support and the 2nd battery of 2 guns. The cavalry was spread out in a scouting screen as per the scenario. Initially I tried to limit battalion moves to companies of the same regiment. This was easy enough with the Ohio regiments as they each had a  unique uniform, it proved problematic with the regulars who were like peas in a  pod so I decided that it wasn't worth the hassle. 

The game began with the first American shot silencing the British right flank battery. The American line is skewed away from the river so the right hand US guns had to be rushed up the road to get in range and found themselves hard pressed to get a clear shot. Eventually the cavalry was moved and the infantry shunted off and they duly silenced the left hand British battery. In the center, the Riflemen moved forward through a storm, ok light shower, well more like a scotch mist of cannister and silenced the center battery with their long range fire. So by turn 6 or so, all 3 British guns were silenced and not 1 US casualty caused, despite the dense columns that had been presented as targets. ARGGHHH. The gunners are blaming it on wet powder.

On Turn 3, a courier duly arrived at HQ with news of the secret ford to the East of the Island. Rolling the Yankee General's reaction, I rolled a 1. Stay with the plan until an assault has been repulsed. The cavalry was getting in the way so I pulled it off to the right the threaten the Woods bridge or be ready to move over the ford. On the left, the American infantry moved up, ducked as the British fired, then blew them away. The reserve moved into the house just before the 2nd British company fell. Crossing over the bridge 2 companies of US  regulars  stormed the Stone House while more move up. The attack was repulsed and in a flash the Canadian Cavalry charged, was repulsed, turned and charged again! This time the Yankee infantry broke and ran, pursued by the horsemen. The company that had retire from the stone house was next in their path and ridden down then the cavalry, braving the fire of the enemy infantry and guns thundered over the bridge and scattered a third company before retreating with spent horses (mutual destruction). At last, Yankee casualties!  (3 companies in 4 turns lost to the cavalry)
Without artillery though, the defence of the Southern bridges was hopeless so the British commander started pulling back to gain respite from the US guns and to force the Americans to come forward through the defiles created by town, woods and river so that he could meet them 1:1. 

It took the Americans awhile to get organized as their battalions had gotten spread out and disorganized but eventually columns of infantry and guns pushed forward. It was hoped that the Stone House would serve as a strong point to bottle up that flank but the riflemen drove the defenders out with a few well placed shots. A firefight between the 1st Ohio and the Lower Canadian militia was short lived with the battered militia breaking to the rear. With nothing left but a handful of Indians and Canadiens, it was time to go.

I was quite pleased with how the rules felt with these amendments. It felt much more like the ordered lines of horse and musket warfare yet still had the ability to handle individual companies and confused situations where appropriate. The advantage of being able to maintain an ordered formation was rapidly apparent.  The artillery was important and for the Americans, decisive but as the Royal Artillery showed,  not invincible. The cavalry proved darned effective but it has to be said that they were very lucky to have lasted as long as they did. Mind you since the Americans rolled so many 5's and 6's when shooting, it was only fair that they continue the trend in melee. (Actually, as I look at that final picture and wonder where the 2nd cavalry troop is, I suspect the charge may have been made by a column of troops with 1 troop being lost in the 2nd melee and the 2nd troop fighting the last  2. With all the excitement, the details get blurry sometimes. I should video tape a game sometime and keep up a running commentary.)

The only thing I wasn't too happy with, was the ease with which the defenders of the Stone House were destroyed by long range fire. I wouldn't want to make all cover invulnerable but it would certainly be possible to designate particular structures as invulnerable to shooting in some scenarios. On the other hand, if I had used the optional Troop Quality rule, a company of Grenadiers able to absorb 3 hits would have been much harder to shoot out of the house. It also would have made the British artillery more resilient and made some of the firefights more prolonged, all of which would have improved the period flavour.

 The remaining question is, would this modified version, including the Quality rule be suitable for my 1812 campaign. In particular, how small and how large a game would be workable? and how many figures would I need for my campaign?

In TableTop teaser type scenario terms, this game was middling in size. This game saw 20 game units in play. According to the rules, a table of my size should be able to handle 27, which by an odd coincidence is the about the  maximum average scenario size (I think one may be slightly bigger).  I will probably double the light infantry as well since that arm played a major role. I will leave the cavalry for now since it was a rare commodity and the country rarely suitable for its best employment. A game with only 6 or 7 units would be fast but with the 2 strength points provided by the Troop Quality rule, would have enough meat to be interesting I think, especially if in a campaign context.

Most of the units in this game were composed of 8 infantry. Three of these make up one of my existing regiments and make a convenient battalion but 2 would match the scenario/unit set up. With a planned campaign force 12 regiments, this would be 24 units or 192 infantry for each side. (assuming no substitutions are allowed in campaign games apart from local militia possibly). These could be mounted on a mix of individual bases and 4 man stands as I felt like.
 American infantry in road column. (No don't grab the rules, its just about optics). In front the 3rd Ohio with 12 man units on 2x1.75" sq bases. In behind the 1st Ohio on slightly smaller bases, 8 men per company on 2 4 man bases.
The Select militia in line, 8 individually based figures. These match up well with the 2 4 man bases but pitted against 12 man units with the same combat performance you start getting trash talk  going on in between games. 

I did have 1 regiment (3rd Ohio in grey hunting shirts)  tacked onto tight bases with 12 men per unit (15mm per file). This would give 24 men per unit or 288 infantry per side and require all troops to be mounted on group bases since this is the only way to get toy soldiers into close order and still stand up. The 8 man units look fine to me so I'll stay with that. I might be able to squeeze 4 horse men in per unit but 3 is going to be easier. That's only 12 horsemen per side using the 4 cavalry units that appear in the 1st book but up to 18 in the Programmed book. I may go with the 4 units but field 2 game units per scenario unit which will allow me up to 24 cavalry per side which should be sufficient.

So in terms of range of scenario, feel and numbers of troops to be painted, it seems to tick all the boxes.  So, the modifed Portable Wargame makes the Short List of Rules for my upcoming campaign.

Next up was supposed to be a MacDuff game but I have some ideas bubbling in my head and need to get some Charge! practice in so the Rosmark forces will deploy for an exercise and rules test while I am waiting.


  1. Ross Mac,

    Yet another very interesting and thought-provoking battle report.

    I like the way that it has been possible to make changes to the basic PW rules to suit a period for which they were not originally designed ... and still work fairly well.

    All the best,


  2. Good stuff old chap - would you do me a favour and leave a comment on my blog with your email address. I won't publish it, I just have something I'd like to ask you about.

  3. Bob, Yes you have established a solid base there, so thank you!

    Now what I need are some armoured car rules.... :)

  4. Conrad, no need for secrecy, its published on my webpage and elsewhere.

  5. Great report and lovely photos, as ever. Actually a 'Portable River Crossing' sounds like a damn useful bit of engineering kit.

  6. That is one of my favourite scenarios from 'the Green Book'. The ford thing is a little bit of a giveaway. When I saw this scenario for the first time (not yet having seen the book) I at once suspected the presence of a ford, and even surmised (correctly) where it might be. Unfortunately, the 'Director of Play' had temporarily absented himself, so that it was some time before my 'discovery' was confirmed.

    As usual, your pictures convey just the 'right' sort of atmosphere for the battles and periods they represent.

    I'll be interested in seeing what you come up with for armoured cars... A method I have tried is that they reconnoitre the enemy line, which will change the attack factor for subsequent troops attacking at that point. The cars do take a loss from hits, but their mobility takes them out of trouble (even reduced to 0SP) before they can be destroyed. It effectively means, though, that in any given day's action, the A/Cars have but one reconnoitering mission in them. I may look into a snoop and scoot rule...