Sunday, October 2, 2011

Battle for Tamarac Island Oct 1, 1813

Tamarac Island has two beaches suitable of landing troops. The near one, labelled A is big enough to land 2 boatloads per turn. The far one, off near the far left hand corner of the table, labelled B, is only enough for 1 boatload per turn. As it turns out, the attackers only have 2 boats and the difficulty of sailing through narrow rocky straights against the current means that it will not be possible to move boats between landing spots, the choice must be made before the game begins. If landing all at 1 or the other of the beaches, the game begins at turn 1. If split, each force will roll a die each turn, arriving if they roll a score equal to or less than the turn number. (ie 1 on turn 1, 1 or 2 on turn 2 etc). The British and Indians can't move until American troops are spotted, then all units are free to move (word travels fast).

The table is completely wooded apart form a small clearing around each landing spot and a large clearing around the farm. (I still need more trees and bushes. If the table had of been a big longer there wood have been a wider band of trees between the landing spot and the clearing and between the British ridge  and the blockhouse).  The objective for the attackers is the blockhouse on a steep wooded hill at the back of the table. This in turn overlooks the main fort which is off table beyond it. A ships's 12 pounder hauled up onto this knoll will make the fort untenable so the position is critical. 

This invasion of Tamarac Island took place during the War of 1812 with the USA being the attackers. Their forces were composed of 3 units of regulars,1 unit of militia, 1 unit of militia light infantry and a battalion gun with 2 crew. The regulars and the militia each had to be kept together. It seemed safest to me to land all of the troops at the one beach but one never knows so I rolled 1,2 the landing is split, 3,4,5,6 all troops go in at the main beach. A 2 was duly rolled and the Ohio Volunteers were landed behind the British line.     

The British defenders had 2 8 man units of regulars and a battalion gun with 1 crew deployed behind a stone wall on a low ridge at the edge of the clearing. There was also a field gun in the blockhouse which could fire out any side but since the woods extended to within 4" on all sides, its only good for self defense. Lastly there are 4 bands of Irregular light infantry (Indians).  If there had been 2 players I would have used hidden movement for the Indians but since I was playing solo I used double blinds. I took 4 face cards, each being 
one band of Indians and 4 other cards which are dummies, shuffled these and deployed 2 in the woods surrounding each landing spot and the rest scattered around the woods, all face down so that neither commander knew exactly where they Indians were. Blinds could be moved as normal and only flipped face up and revealed if they were spotted by US troops or attempted to shoot. It belatedly occurred to me that I could have spiced things up farther by including 5 blinds and only deploying 8 of the 9 cards so that the final count of units would be uncertain.

Rather than switch back and forth, I will cover each landing separately as (SPOILER) they never quite hooked up. The 1st Ohio skirmishers landed on Turn 6, spotting lurking Indians and opening up. The 3rd Ohio landed behind them, formed and charged into the woods. The Indians calmly shot down 2 and they routed back towards the boats, their Captain just managing to rally them and lead them back into action. 

By now a 2nd band of Indians was lurking off to the flank. The skirmishers were sent to check them out while the 3rd Ohio marched forward and traded musket fire with the woods. It turned out to be more real Indians and  the hail of bullets intensified. The Ohioans gave as good as they got but their morale was weaker and eventually they blinked. First the 1st Ohio and then the 3rd, broke, ran back to the boats, and ignoring their officers pushed off and headed for the ships. 
At the main landing, the 19th Infantry landed on Turn 4 followed by the 24th and then the 17th with the battalion gun bringing up the rear. Rather than charge the Indians who were sniping at them, the Regulars traded fire with 1 battalion while the next worked around the flank, forcing the Indians to fall back or be caught. At one point, a combination of initiative rolls and an out of command roll led to 1 band being caught by two close range volleys delivered at about 15 yards distance. Even the woods and their dispersed formation were not enough to save them from the hail of 5's and 6's and the band was badly shaken. They weren't quite broken but they were on the cusp and at the first opportunity they faded back into the woods and lurked, looking for flanks to snipe at from a distance. 

With all of the Indians located and either occupied or driven back, the American line formed and pushed forward across the clearing, past John Dodge's Farm and towards the 41st Foot. The British gun began pounding the 17th as soon as they came into range while the American gun began sniping at their counterpart, finally landing a hit just before the infantry stormed the hill. The first charge, by the 17th and the 24th over ran the gun but the 24 broke under the weight of fire from the British line and ran back down the hill where they were rallied by their officers. The struggle at the wall between continued with neither side willing to retreat. Colonel Babey pulled the right hand company back and formed a 2nd line while Indians began closing in on the flank and rear of the US force. 

The battle stood on the razor's edge as Colonel Perry galloped to the front and spurring his horse, leapt over the wall, sword in the air. With a cheer, the 17th Regiment surged forward and rolling a huge handful of 6's broke the British line sending a thin straggle of survivors running into the woods. 
The British hold on the island was shaken but the 2nd company of the 41st Foot stood firm and threw back the American pursuit while the the victors of the fight at the Bee Cove landing spot, appearing on the American flank, shot Colonel Perry off his force and finally broke the 19th Infantry. The remnants of the US landing force, made their way back to Eh Cove and re-embarked. The badly battered British and Indian forces let them go, glad that it had ended and that they still held the island, if only by a hair.

So thus ended the 1st battle for Tamarac Island. I can see playing this again in the same or different periods.
The stripped down version of Hearts of Tin fared well. The only change I made afterwards was to flip a  +1 for defending a hill to a -1 for attacking it. Easier to keep in line and make it more valuable to small parties of defenders . I was especially pleased that having dropped both the variable movement and the Activation rolls for troops in command, the game still had plenty of unpredictability. The initiative, the uncertainty of detachments and the combat results provided sufficient friction. 

There's only 1 sticking point, this was only a small game but it looks to me like it would have been just as good reduced to a 4' x 4' table with a 3" grid and using the Portable Wargame 2. (not that that is a bad thing it just mean the result is neutral towards making any decisions) Next weekend I hope to travel over the hills and faraway and stage as large a game as I can manage and see how that feels.




  1. Ross Mac,

    I really interesting battle report ... A real close run thing!

    All the best,


  2. I almost called the game before the American charge and was surprised that it came so close to turning the tide.

  3. Remember, Ross, that the smaller the table, the less maneuver room there is. I'd rather have a table that is "too big" than one that is "too cramped" . . . wouldn't you?

    -- Jeff