Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Piano Drills - Scaling Up and Down

The unsuccessful attempt by the US to recapture Mackinac in1814 is typical of the sort of little clash duirn the War of 1812 which look initially like an interesting little wargame but which present certain difficulties. For those not familiar with it, the Wikipedia version is OK and comes with a nice map of the island. The Historic Park Association publication on the British Army at Mackinac contains a nicely detailed map of the battlefield itself including buildings and fence lines.

With such small forces, this is just the sort of thing With MacDuff to the Frontier was made for, a 1:10 ratio provides a nice little game. The core of the American force was a battalion composed of 5 companies of regulars from 3 different regiments, totaling somewhat under 500 men, backed up by Ohio militia, 2 guns and some US Marines. Sounds perfect, 5 x 8 man companies of Regulars, 3 of militia, a gun and crew and either ignore the unspecified number of marines, wrap them into the gun crews or eave them to guard the boats since they don't seem to have played a role in the battle. (Incidentally, the US Commander was the same officer who had defended Ft Stephenson, since he didn't fare so well, I presume he didnt have that 'special' help.)  .

The first problem comes when you lay out the battlefield. With my figures, to keep in scale, I would need to use a ground scale of around 1"=10 yds. My table then would be an open field surrounded by a fringe of trees on 3 sides with a few small buildings down at 1 end. Could be anywhere, anytime and most of the key decisions have been made.  the 2nd problem is that the companies did not act independently so really what we have is a single  40+ man unit plus a 24 man unit.

On the other hand, if I went with a ground scale of 1"=50 yards, I could squeeze almost the entire island onto my table but I would end up with a figure ratio of about 1:50 so 14 Americans attacking 3 British + 6 Indians.  Roster time for sure.

Falling back on OSW and Toy Soldier methods of creating a game inspired by the battle offers a solution at the sake of historical accuracy and what Lawford & Young called "dull consistency". The idea will be to suggest the island and give the US player a choice of landing spots and include the hill with blockhouse that over looks the fort (itself off table), but retain the roughly 1:10 man ratio of figures, now organized into standard units. This now gives me  3 x 16 man Regiments of Regulars, (17th in Black, 19th & 24 in the old blue with red facings, all in the old felt shako according to( James Kochan's Osprey on the subject), 1 1/2 16 man units of Ohio Volunteers and  a gun with 2 crew. Oddly this nicely matches what I have on hand, leaving a few Volunteers and cavalry aside. The British will have a 16 man unit of regulars, a gun with 2 crew and 4 x 8 man units of Indians, or rather 3 plus a unit of Canadian frontiersmen since I still haven't painted up the bag of Old Glory Indians I bought several years ago,.

This should provide a brief but entertaining game as the Americans try to capture the heights that dominate the fort. It should also test the low end size of game that I envisage playing with Heart's of Tin and its suitablity  for such small War of 1812 actions.


  1. Best of luck old chap - still find it hard to have much interest in 1812. I think becausethere isn't enough cavalry and I like both sides.

  2. Yeah but its the only real war around where I grew up that included cavalry.