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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Flight from the Ford

Along the banks of the St. Lawrence during the summer of 1759 there were numerous clashes between detachments of Wolfe's army and parties of Indians and Canadiens occasionally supported by French regulars. (See for some brief eye witness accounts of a couple of such actions. ) My 30mm armies were originally begun with larger battles, such as the Plains of Abraham, in mind but since the armies are incomplete and since I now have a few rangers and Indians, I decided to try a small game to amuse myself and to test the latest ideas for the Square Brigadier including a return to a slightly improved Orders Dice rule and some small changes to the combat rules. This was a smaller game than the rules were intended for but provided two exciting little games of just under an hour each.

The scenario was inspired by vague (not to say completely unreliable) memories of Brigadier Townsend's Memoirs which I read a few decades ago. The table is set up with a small river running across the table towards its eventual plunge, somewhere around the couch, 30 feet down to the St Lawrence. There is a narrow ford in the open, near the table edge, which is guarded by a small redoubt and farther upstream, inside the forest, the river is fordable along its remaining length.

I deployed a unit of Indians in the woods, a unit of Canadian light infantry in the redoubt, and another at the other ford. Two units of French infantry could arrive at the corner to the left once the British have arrived. The British units had to enter, in column, through the corner square to the right, one unit of rangers, one of Grenadiers, one of Highlanders and two of line infantry.  The British mission was to size a ford, including a safe path to it. The French  mission was to stop the British from getting control of a crossing.

Ross's Rangers and the Highlanders  head for the woods while the Grenadiers, 58th and 28th head for the ford where La Sarre has just arrived.

The first game was a little disturbed by rejection and replacement of some of the new combat ideas but even more so by some dreadful die rolling by the English and Scots troops. 

General Murray, in command of the British began to push for the main ford while sending the Rangers and Highlanders to clear the woods. The rangers proved incapable of pushing back the Indians  until the Grenadiers were dispatched to  support them and even then the Indians managed to pull back. As French reinforcements rushed up, General Murray decided to storm the main ford with his 2 battalions of regulars while the Highlanders attacked through  the woods and over the stream without waiting for the Grenadiers to regroup.  
The result of the attack on the ford. 

The assault by the Highlanders was a complete failure which left them falling back to rally while at the ford Murray was wounded, the 28th routed and the 58th badly shot up while La Reine (having wandered North from Ticonderoga to Quebec, doubtless in pursuit of the Black Watch) continued to calmly man the redoubt. 

Things looked bleak but once Murray had recovered a bit and the Highlanders had rallied and reorganized, he ordered the Grenadiers and Highlanders to storm the crossing again, this time in support of each other. The new assault went better for the British and La Sarre was looking shaky enough that Bougainville was forced to gallop across to steady them. The Grenadiers pressed forward scattering one bunch of Canadians but before they could flank  La Sarre they were attacked from the rear by those pugnacious Indians. Eventually the Grenadiers saw off the Indians then crossed the ford just as the Highlanders were again repulsed. 

A desperate battle followed with the grenadiers caught between La Sarre and a second unit of Canadians but just when things looked most desperate, Bougainville was hit by a musket ball and LaSarre collapsed and fled the field. The remaining French and Canadian troops followed. With his own army all but shattered, Murray had no choice but to abandon the hard won ford and fallback on the camp at Montmorency. 
The climax of the first fight approaches.

A few days later, with his troops refreshed and trained in the revised rules, Murray returned to the ford. This time the French regulars were tardy and Murray threw the Grenadiers at the redoubt, supported by the Highlanders. Once again the Canadians proved stauncher than expected (not to mention luckier) and once again the Grenadiers showed their preference for rolling 1's and 2's.

The odds were too great however and the Canadians broke just as the regulars arrived. As reinforcements came up on both sides, the Rangers faced off against twice their numbers of Canadians and Indians and were outmatched, falling back towards the 28th foot which was forced to turn and face the woods to protect the lines of communication back to camp rather than supporting the main assault.
The French counter attack laps the English column.

At this point, it became evident that the regulars on both sides were equally capable of lousy rolling. In a spiraling race to the bottom, with both commanders wounded, the French eventually ended up on bottom and were broken, leaving the ford in English hands. Shortly thereafter a message arrived calling the troops back to camp. Wolfe had decided on an amphibious assault on the mudflats at the foot of the Montmorency Falls.

So, two short but hotly contested games with a touch and go overtime ending. The  Quebec campaign is going to go back in the box for a while until more new recruits are added, but it will return. My 18th Birthday present is finally bearing fruit! 

Over the last 3 years I have experimented with various approaches to my gridded games but after reviewing not only the approaches but my thoughts on the good and bad aspects of each after test games and contemplating what makes one solo game more engaging for me than another, then re-testing those assumptions recently, the rough notes are now being slowly shaped into a complete set of rules again, or rather 3 closely related sets sharing a common approach. But that is a subject for a future post.


  1. Ross, Great reading. I have long been interested in the Quebec campaign and the engagement recalls a battle I'd read about in 7th grade in Franklin W. Dixon's kid's book on the Battle for Quebec. Only, in that battle, it was the English regulars who bravely, if foolishly, held the redoubt against the advice of Rangers, who wisely took off when Indians and French scouts began an assault.

    1. Thanks Steve, I'm not familiar with Dixon but there are a number of authors out there who are the secret inspiration behind a lot of my games.

  2. Great post and battle report.The set up looked very evocative too.
    I look forward to reading your post-game reflections and seeing those rough notes take shape.

    1. Thanks Alan. Should be something forth coming tomorrow. Storm coming, if we don't lose power its a good day for hobby time!

  3. Enjoyable BatRep! I especially liked the small scope of the game. With fewer elements, each takes on more importance. No law of diminishing returns kicking in in your game.

    With grid games, why not switch to single element MUs?

    1. I do have some single element units but I prefer at least 2. There are 2 main reasons both related to me not liking obvious markers.

      Firstly, I can use 2 stands to easily identify units that are in line, column or square in those instances where it is needed, simply by rearranging the stands. (This can clash with the 2nd reason but only occasionally and there are work-arounds)

      Secondly, if I have 1 casualty figure and 2 stands, I can show 1,2,3 or 4 hits by various combinations of placing the casualty or removing a stand. For elite units I can just add a supernumerary (drummer, officer etc) who is the first to go. I already have a number of casualty figures and supernumeraries for various periods and don't mind adding more over time.