Yesterday was our annual Fix Bayonets game day. Like the trip to Chehalis, it is a fun little gathering, now in its seventh year. Lawrence Bateman, Damond Crump and Bruce Smith take responsibility for hosting the game day at historic Fort Steilacoom, and the ten dollar entry goes toward buying new stuff for the fort.
Fix Bayonets offers two game periods and I participated in both of those. In the Morning David Sullivan and I hosted a Rebels and Patriots game. David chose a scenario out of the rule book and created “Barlowe’s Necessary.” The British and American forces were created out of roughly equal points for six different players, three per side. Three of the players in the game were school-age and fairly new to miniature wargaming. But they were a pleasure to play with and did pretty well.
I was an American player, pretty much in the middle of the table, and paid for that privilege. David was on the left side, slogging through slow, rough terrain, which also shielded him from a lot of fire. Chris, my young cohort, was on the right side, and though the British facing him scalded him with hot fire at times, was able to take cover behind a fence line and some woods.
My command, was in the open. Which means about the same thing as my personal motto: “Shoot me again.” If I had a piece of heraldry, it would feature a green cross, with a red heart in the middle, full of bullet holes.
I actually had some cool units. My best unit was Lee’s Legion light infantry, and they did some great work, trading shots with several units and making an important charge during a key turn. My unit of William Washington’s 3rd Continental Dragoons made their debut. I also had a unit of militia skirmishers. Finally, by a sheer order of luck I rolled up a unit of raw militia, shooting poorly, that I figured wouldn’t be too useful. I’m glad I did.
A lot of the British units were lights or grenadiers, with a couple of line units. That meant that point-wise, there were fewer Brits to fight, but they had much better staying power than the Americans. I faced a unit of light infantry skirmishers, a unit of line infantry and a unit of lights firing at my guys. Tough.
But I also fought with my own damn die rolls which were pretty terrible for the first two- thirds of the game. I was able to activate okay, but just wasn’t able to hit much. The worst was when I sent my cavalry crashing into the woods woods to rout out the annoying and destructive fire of the British skirmishers, hit them, but couldn’t inflict a single casualty. They returned to my lines at half strength, having accomplished nothing.
Things were brightening on my right flank, as Chris inflicted casualties on Mark’s lights. A bad die roll saw the Brits take to the hills and Mark withdrew his grenadiers to cover a source of victory points. But David was being pressed on the left as troops from the center were being drawn into the the fight around the Barlowe house due to my ineffective performance. My skirmishers fled the field after taking serious damage from the British skirmishers. The dragoons cowered behind Lee’s Legion. The Legion troops soldiered on, firing ineffectively, slowly accumulating casualties, but tough as nails. The green militia, gamely advanced, looking for something to do.
Then, it was like a light bulb was turned on. A round of fire sent a unit of British line running. A British light infantry unit advanced just a little too far, were charged by the Legion, and even though the Legion lost the combat, they didn’t break. The militia advanced and successfully fired at the British skirmishers. Dragoons, advancing behind the Legion charge were perfectly positioned to deal some death.
In the following turn, the last of the game, the dragoons charged the light infantry, surprising the startled Brits, inflicting enough casualties for them to break, both sides taking losses. However, the redcoats retreated just far enough to be contacted again by the pursuing Continentals. The lights disintegrated, and the cavalry dispersed. In the end, only Washington rode back to the American lines.
David held the Barlowe house, the Legion lights earned two honor points, and the British forces were all damaged enough to win the Americans a convincing victory. The Continental dragoons rocked.
In the afternoon, I played in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game using Bolt Action as a rule mechanism. I found it easy to play and the WWII rules set worked pretty well for the 19th century conflict.
Dean devised a six-turn game in which both of the evenly matched sides could easily control two of four ruined buildings on the table. The side that could control one of the other side’s building would win. The Germans had an artillery piece, while the French advantage lay with their Chassepot rifles, out-ranging their foe’s Dreyse needle-guns.
Mark Serafin and I ran the French. We committed half our force against the building directly to our front, while holding off units to our flank. To my right, I occupied one of our buildings with one unit, supported by a unit of mounted chasseurs. Mark took the building on the right side supported by a unit of Algerian Tirailleurs.
With the clock ticking, we immediately pinned the unit in the house to our front, without doing a lot of damage. Meanwhile three units of Prussians crossed the stream protecting my fortified flank. What to do?
The chasseurs were a deterrent to do too much too quickly, and I eventually drew two units to support my building. Fire into a wood full of Prussians neutralized one unit. Twice, the Prussians advanced to fire on the chasseurs, but using Dean’s emergency escape rules allowed them to retreat to safety.
Jim Sagen, commanding the Prussians threatening my command, decided to assault on my position on turn four. He advanced his artillery to get within close range. He chased my chasseurs away for the last time. Things looked bad. In his bloody assault, Jim destroyed my defending unit, but in the process, lost all but one of his figures. My cavalry crept ever closer to one of his supporting units. It was now turn five.
I counter-attacked an unblemished unit of Zouaves into my building, tossing out the lone surviving Prussian. When the time was right, I launched my horse into the supporting Prussian unit. With no pre-measuring, I wasn’t quite sure whether they were within the chasseurs’ 18 inch charge range. Made it by a quarter of an inch. I managed to kill five of the eight Prussians before they could fight back, and that was their end.
In the final turn it was pretty clear the building was secure, but there was one more Prussian unit ripe for the taking. The damaged unit in the woods fell victim to the chasseurs. With that, the game was over and it remained tied, as it began.
Dean’s experiment with the rules was successful for a first test. I think there is still some fiddling to be done with the assault rules, but the firing and casualties seemed to work quite nicely. I had a lot of fun with his beautifully painted miniatures.
So two awesome games in which cavalry played a major role in both. That doesn’t always happen.