Sunday, July 7, 2019

Mortal Gods - First Blood (πρώτο αίμα)

I played my first game of Mortal Gods on Saturday. I watched/kibitzed one game and then played in a second. The figures used were Bill Stewart's Gorgon Studios Spartans and Mike Lombardy's plastic Warlord Games Greeks. The first game went slowly as we were learning the rules, the second game went quicker. In both games we did stuff wrong, which we only realized later. By the 20th game or so, we'll have it mastered—except for the stuff we forget.

The game game engine for Mortal Gods is the same one used for the earlier Samurai-themed game Test of Honour. I haven't played Test of Honour, so the system is new to me. It's very straightforward and has a nice amount of nuance to distinguish various types of warriors without adding a lot of fiddlyness.

The basing is unique. Mortal Gods is a skirmish game, but relies on multi-figure trays that differentiate between hoplites and other warrior types (like peltasts and various flavors of psiloi). Hoplites can form three 3-figure bases to form a phalanx, which has benefits (and weaknesses) for combat.

The hoplite was the standard warrior type in Ancient Greece; every man who could afford the panoply was required to equip himself and muster when the city went to war. The po' folk also mustered, but may be equipped with nothing more than a rock and a smile (or grimace, this being war and all). A balanced force—called a lochos (λόχος) in the game—will contain a core of hoplites and a smattering of light missile troops with slings, bows, and javelins.

The majority of a lochos's points will be spent buying hoplites of varying quality. Hoplites vary mostly in how they're armored, but the degree of armor affects movement and defense. Some types of hoplites have better morale (Spartans) and experienced hoplites have advantages in combat, defense, and morale. You pay in points for what you get. A 3-figure stand of veteran hoplites cost 45 points, compared to a 3-figure stand of unarmored hoplites (called peripoloi, which literally means "around (peri) the city (polis)" but in context something like "patrol" or "watchmen," they being less experienced—and less armored—hoplites in training), which cost a mere 27 points. The latter move fast (8") and are cheap, but have very little to go with when defending.

The biggest single expenditure of points will be for your lochigos (λοχαγός), or commander of the small force. The title is pretty much equal to a centurion in Roman terms. Lochagoi are also differentiated by armor—which affect movement and defense—but otherwise share the same abilities. I learned from positive and negative experience in our games that a lochagos is a good thing to have.

The values for the warriors are shown on roster cards along with any special rules for the type.

When you build your lochos, you have one roster card for each stand or individual figure. You'll mark damage and activation on the card using the damage dice and activation tokens. Keeping track of which card belongs to which stand can be tricky when everything gets moved about in the scrum.

Other chrome to the game are omen, gift, and injury cards that can apply to warriors. Omen cards are are drawn whenever a red activation token is drawn. (There are three red tokens, a turn ends when the third token is drawn.) Omens can be good or bad. They can apply to one's own lochos, a single warrior or group, or all warriors, or specific types of warriors, on both sides. Omens typically apply only to the turn when they're drawn. Gift cards can be bought for points when building your lochos. The confer some advantage to a specific warrior or hero in your lochos. Injury cards are used when, by rights, your lochogos should be dead, but is only mostly dead and manages to survive with an injury instead. Although, not every injury card lets you live.

Not only dead, but ongoingly so—and for the rest of the game
I almost nearly killed Eric Donaldson's lochagos, but he survived with a non-head injury instead.

I'm pretty impressed with Mortal Gods. It's an enjoyable game system that also gives a good feel for the historical nature of the fighting. Phalanxes are a good defensive formation, but are vulnerable to their flanks and rear. Light troops are annoying, but can be chased off by light hoplites/peripoloi.

The game also gives me something to do—finally—with all the Wargames Foundry Greeks that I've had sitting around for nearly 20 years. I bought piles of them around 2000 or so when Kevin Smyth and I were working on a project for gaming the Peloponnesian War. I started some, but most of them have been sitting in a box in my garage gathering a heavy layer of dust.

I have more than enough to build two or even three lochoi. I just got in the mail a supply of Little Big Men Studios shield transfers. I have a lot of AWI to work on in the next few weeks (game coming up and I gotta have units completed for it), but I'll start working on these soon.

I'm getting inspired to re-read Victor Davis Hanson's The Western Way of War and go browsing through the five volumes of W. Kendrick Prichett's The Greek State at War, among other books I have on Greek warfare. At one time, I was digging pretty deeply into the subject. Gaming Mortal Gods will inspire me to get back to it.

Postscript: Errata et corrigenda (σφάλματα και διορθώσεις)

Per Bill's comment, I've corrected my statements above about which figures were used. We spoke during the game of which figure makers' figure were used. It all went over (or through) my head, apparently. To quote Casca from Julius Caesar, "those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me."

Among the other things we muffed during our first play, the ability of a leader to give their actions to another unit is more limited than how we played it. My attack-attack-attack-attack against Eric's lochagos was impossible. It turns out he would have been less nearly almost dead than I'd hoped.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Another one bites the dust

I stopped by the Safeway store at 196th and 99 in Lynnwood last week. On my way out, I noticed that something about nearby Galaxy Hobby looked odd. On closer inspection, my fears were confirmed: They had gone out of business. I've posted before about the demise of the hobby shop. Galaxy's end is just another sad chapter in that ongoing story.

Galaxy opened for business back in 1995 as a local hobby shop. For quite a while it was a going concern. They never carried miniatures, but they were a go-to place for me for other types of supplies: glue, paint, scenic material, and hobby tools. There was also a lot of nostalgia to it as I looked over the model selection and saw all the old Tamiya, Airfix, Italeri, Monogram, etc. kits that I knew so well as a boy. I haven't built a 1/35th scale plastic model since the 1970s, but I built many growing up and treasure the memories.

As I've opined previously, the newer generations of kids have many more distractions to keep them away from the hobby of building plastic models or cars, tanks, planes, and rockets or building model railroads. The customer base for hobby shops just isn't there like it was in the heydays of the '60s through the '80s. There's also the ongoing factor of the erosion of mom 'n' pop stores in the age of the Internet and competition from larger stores. Part of Galaxy's descent can be traced to the fact that a huge Hobby Lobby store opened next door to it about 5 years ago.

My contribution to Galaxy's livelihood wasn't significant, but I tried to keep my business regular. I think I took for granted that they would always be around, even though at the same time I worried about how long they would be. But I should make a few mea culpas here and admit that I found it increasingly easier to get my supplies online than make the trip to the local shop and find that they don't have what I want.

Now that option is gone and I can't help feeling that I'm a part of the reason why.

The only kind of hobby shop around anymore is Hobby Town, which is a kind of vanilla chain in my opinion. It lacks the charm of the family-owned business, even if they are franchises.

I mentioned D&J Hobbies & Crafts in that older post. My first job was working there in the late 70s. The shop grew up a lot and relocated to a larger space after I left. It remained big for a long time until the owners retired. Their son, whom I remember as a baby when I worked there, tried to make a go of a scaled-down version of the original store. Sadly, that venture crashed. The allure is gone.

In the death of Galaxy Hobby I see the reflection of all the hobby shops I've known and loved since my youth: Houston's Hobbies, D&J Hobbies & Crafts, San Antonio Hobbies, American Eagles. They added something to the wonder and enjoyment of life. They brought out a creative impulse that has made me a better person. I grieve that the newer generations will forego the pleasure.

Adieu, Galaxy Hobby. I can still buy all I need online (for now?), but it will be a less personal experience.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Saga: AoM AAR - The Dead Don't Die

I played my first game of Saga: Age of Magic on Saturday. Overall it was enjoyable, but I played against the evil dead—or whatever they're called—and that's one nasty lot of ghouls to have to deal with. I think I officially hate them and I think the rules authors must have been on crack when they designed the faction. Nevertheless, I managed to pull out a tie, so not a complete fiasco.

We made 8-point warbands. I used my lady centaurs that I painted for Dragon Rampant. It turns out that they make a decent warband for Saga: AoM. My Lords of the Wild force was the following:

1 x Warlord, mounted on animal (i.e., centaur)
2 x 3 Creatures, on foot (lady minotaurs)
3 x 4 hearthguard, mounted on animal (centaurs) with composite bow
1 x 4 hearthguard, mounted on animal (centaurs)
1 x Sorcerer (Ursula)

I played Ken Kissling, who ran The Undead Legion, composed as follows:

1 x Warlord, mounted on animal
1 x Lieutenant, mounted on animal
1 x 4 Hearthguard, mounted on animal
1 x 2 Creatures
3 x 8 Warriors
1 x 20 Mindless (20!)
1 x Sorcerer

We played the Clash of Warlords scenario from the main rules. Ken was first player using setup C (L distance from baselines with no units closer than M to another). For terrain, there was a marsh on Ken's right baseline, a steep hill on my left just on my side of the centerline, a wood just over S distance to the right of that, another wood just over M distance towards Ken, and finally my sacred totem (proved to be worthless) just about M distance to the right of the first wood.

Four-hooved ladies of the wild
I wasn't really sure how to proceed against the evil dead. I think I was a bit intimidated by the Mindless. In sheer numbers, they're frightening. The most intimidating—and frustrating—aspect of the Dead Can Dance crowd is the awful way that they can be re-spawned using their Tide of Re-animation and Necromancy Saga abilities. I wish I could un-die my dead like that. Ken used those abilities every turn like the freakin' Night King.

The only way to make headway against the army was to manage to entirely kill a unit in a single turn, which I didn't figure out until too late. Also, the Mindless don't suffer fatigue. You pretty much have to kill them in numbers too big to reanimate.

Bows don't kill enough Mindless to matter
I started out by doing a lot of shooting using my hearthguard with composite bows to sort of spar with his warriors. In a normal Saga game, the results would have been very satisfactory—even against other Age of Magic warbands, they would be good. But the dead don't die. If any part of the warrior or mindless unit remains, some of the dead can be re-animated. I wound up killing some figures many times over.

I had some stand up fighting early on with on of my creature units. I charged them into a unit of Ken's warriors and managed to win, but didn't inflict much hurt. I was unharmed, due to my resilience, but had 3 fatigues. Ken responded in his turn, by attacking with his nasty flying creatures. I managed to win that fight, too, but without inflicting loss other than 3 fatigue, due to his resilience.

Nasty, wighty, flyty ghouly things begone!
I, however, lost a figure because I started the fight with 3 fatigue and took another 2. Ken's creatures went back exhausted, but whole, while I stayed out there exposed exhausted and diminished. At this point, Ken started vexing my creatures with his sorcerer, which made it difficult for me to recover much from my fatigue.

Frustrated by my inability to inflict enough lasting harm by shooting, I decided to start charging in with my hearthguard. As hearthguard go, bow armed horsemen aren't the bee's knees in a mélêe.

This tactic does not appear to be working...
In one regrettable fight, my 4 hearthguard charged 6 of Ken's warriors. I had a small advantage in attack dice (8:6), but wound up rolling very, very poorly. I think I killed 1 of his, but lost 2 of mine—mine being more valuable and less reanimatable. I charged another hearthguard into the Mindless. I won, but it was Pyrrhic. He could easily reanimate the losses he took, while my lost figure was gone for good.

Holding off the ungrateful dead
In the center, my bow-armed hearthguard were doing some damage to the warriors—though always mitigated by a bit of reanimation. By rights, I ought to have shot at least two units to oblivion, and did shoot them to ≤4, but of course they reanimated back to a number that would let them generate a Saga die again.

The evil dead
Ken finally had enough of me and charged me first with his warriors, then with his hearthguard. That unit went poof. However, I managed to kill off his surviving 3 hearthguard with my non-bow hearthguard. We broke even in the fighting, which wiped him out and left me with 1 remaining figure. Ken also charged some warriors against my other bow-armed hearthguard, which had already been reduced to half strength in my own foolish charge, and wiped it out. My left was looking seriously diminished.

Ken's hearthguard: Bones to be chewed
Ken and I both had a sorcerer in our ranks. I'm kind of so-so on the value of magic. I had one nice spell in Spear of Light, which can cause a lot of damage if done right—although that's the maximum effect and comes with a warning label. I used max effect with it twice, the first time to no harmful effect, the second caused me to forget the spell, but that was turn 6, so it didn't matter. My other spells were kind of meh. One protected my sorcerer (which I never remembered to use) and one might cause a charge to fail. I typically used a Saga die to generate extra magic dice, but never used magic to its full potential.

About mid-game, I started moving units from my right towards my left. Ken had stacked most of his strength against my left, which eventually became critical. On my right was the Mindless, his warlord, and his sorcerer. The Mindless move slowly, so I figured I could just move away without being seriously challenged by them. At one point, Ken brought forward his warlord, but retreated him back after my remaining minotaur ladies came out to play.

Ken about to choose the better part of valor
I think I like the creatures. My minotaurs were bipeds with a 5 aggression for mélêe. A unit of three rolls 15 attack dice. They're pretty much warlord killers, if they get the chance.

With Ken's warlord skedaddling, I moved the cow-ladies against the Mindless. I figured that rolling 15 dice against 4 (or fewer) would reap a reward. It did. It took some follow up, which generated fatigue, and an attack by my warlord, but I managed to kill the whole unit of mindless. I ought to have done this earlier.

Cow-ladies with Mindless on their minds
In his part of turn 6, Ken managed to get a charge against my sorcerer. Having the unused magic die that I might have used to try and protect her, I was a bit chagrined when his warriors charged home. However, resilience saved me. I lost the fight and became exhausted, but I was still alive on my part of turn six. I rested away 1 fatigue and then fired off my Spear of Light to max effect, taking out 4 of Ken's warriors—but sadly not killing the unit.

At the end of turn 5 and more so after Ken's half of turn 6, I thought I might be badly beaten. However, I managed enough killing in turn 6 to make a slight comeback. When we counted points, Ken had 22 and I had 20. Killing all those Mindless accounted for 7 points and made a big difference. Of course, I killed many more warriors than I was credited with. They just kept growing back like lizards' tails and you only count the dead at the end of the game.


I like Saga: Age of Magic. It's a nice variant on Saga, but not a radical departure. Taking away the magic spells—and that fearful reanimation groove thing that the undead do—and it plays like any other Saga encounter.

I recently bought a lot more centaurs and friends from Shadowforge/Eureka in Oz. However, I'm not sure how much I need to change my list for now. I'll have to get another few games under my belt, hopefully not against the evil dead again. I could add another sorcerer, but I found the one I had to be sufficient. I need to study the spells a bit more to see what will work. One the whole, however, I think the spells in Dragon Rampant are more effective, and being universal, you don't your options to blame when you use lame magic against powerful.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The great skedaddle: Rebels and Patriots AAR

We played a variation of Scenario F from the Rebels and Patriots rules on Saturday set in the ACW. The scenario called for a force defending a line at one side of the table to skedaddle away to defend another line consisting of a stone wall and sunken road at the other side, all while being chased by a slightly superior attacker (a 5:4 advantage in points).

For a multiplayer game, I expanded the forces to 48 points defending and 60 points attacking. We had six players that made for three on each side. The Hated Yankees™ were the defenders played by Eric Donaldson, Bill Stewart, and John Stafford. The 'Secesh' were the attackers played by Mike Lombardi, Chris Craft, and me.

All the Yankees lined up along a rail fence on the north side of a road that ran the 8' width of the table. Just south of the road, the Rebs were massed in woods that also ran the full width of the table.

Johnnies in the woods!
The object of the game was control of the sunken road on the north side of the table. The choice for the blue-bellies was whether to try to hold the rail fence for a bit or get back ASAP to the hard cover of the stone wall and sunken road.

Jubal Tardee readies the boys for the attack
On the advice of Wm. Tecumseh Stewart, they chose to emulate the militia at Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse and sting the advancing boys in gray and butternut and then retire manfully to the sunken road.

One our right, John was stinging Chris pretty well in the initial turns—ably aided by Chris' wretched dice rolling. John decided to stay and fight it out on the rail fence, which seemed—at the time—to be a winning option.

Holding the line
Chris failed several morale tests and lost his commander, Lt. Beauregard Lemieux. Had he fallen in battle, Lemieux would be feasting in Confederate Valhalla with Stonewall, A.S. Johnston, et al. However, fate had a crueler destiny. In the confusion of battle, the good lieutenant was captured—along with his cat—while hiding in a dung heap wearing women's clothes.

Lt. Lemieux in more heroic times
He could not adequately explain to his captors how he came to be wearing women's clothes in a dung heap. Nevertheless, he was hauled off in ignominy. A prisoner exchange is likely, but his reputation is tarnished forever. Even now around the campfire the men are referring to him as 'Loretta.' Chris also lost a unit of line infantry at this point. The situation was starting to look dire at the start.

The initial sting left me with only one man hors de combat. With the rest, I moved semiboldly towards the rail fence—as much as my poor activation die rolls allowed. I also used my cannon to make noise at the backs of  Bill's fleeing Lincolnites. Apart from the noise, they were not aware of being fired upon.

The center advances
On our left, Mike advanced aggressively against Eric's dismounted cavalry. He kept pushing and trying to get into mêlée, but the mounted skirmishers could skirmish back as fast as Mike could move. Skirmishers, too, are hard to kill. For a while, the best Mike could do was to push Eric back while getting peppered by skirmishing fire. Nevertheless, he was making way.

Mike advances / Eric retreats
With my early flubbed activation rolls, it took me a couple turns to get up to the now-abandoned rail fence. Only my skirmishers got over and beyond. I needed to keep Bill from getting behind the stone wall. I didn't want to be advancing in the open against a lot of blue-bellies in a sunken road.

Barely getting started
On our right, Chris' die rolls improved and John was withdrawing to a second rail fence line rather than be outflanked by my advancing center.                                     

The rail fence is ours!
Chris followed up and over the rail fence with his skirmishers who kept engaged with John's troops as they withdrew. The skirmishers also screened Chris' surviving line infantry unit and the light cavalry.

Skirmishers forward
While Mike kept pressing Eric on our left, I was making headway in the center. Bill was making a beeline for the stone wall and sunken road, but stopped occasionally to throw out a few shots to keep me at bay. I was, however, in good shape. Up to this point I had lost only two figures.

Jubal Tardee going right up the center
As I advanced in the center, my right was getting past John's line of bluecoats manning the second line of rail fence in front of Chris.

The Yankee's eye view of the Confederate advance
At this point, I made a fateful decision. John's rightmost unit was just begging to be attacked. I got my activation and sufficient move to contact him. I won the fight and pushed him back. On his turn, John sent in another unit, lead by his officer—a Dan Sickles looking character, but still with two legs—and bounced back. I took some losses and became disordered.

After the fisticuffs
John fared worse. Both his units were now under half strength and therefore permanently disordered. Still, they had to be dealt with and I spent a few more turns exchanging fire before they were eliminated.

Chris was mounting greater pressure against John's other line unit and his light gun. He'd lost one of his skirmisher units and his slow-moving medium gun (also a bit shot-up from earlier) took a while moving up. His remaining skirmisher was still absorbing fire from John's units. Thus screened, Chris moved up his aggressive light cavalry and prepared to charge the gun.

The final skirmisher unit went poof, but Chris managed to charge home with his cavalry. He won the fight and pushed the gun back, but we flubbed the follow up, forgetting that aggressive units could do a follow up move. Following up would have allowed another charge home on the gun. In any case, Chris charged the next turn winning again, but the gun was still hanging on and Chris' cavalry was now disordered.

The Confederate right surges
Meanwhile, in the center, my attack to the right against John's flank, while achieving good results, left Jubal Tardee's heroic advance unsupported. Bill had by now managed to get his gun and two line units over the wall and was well ensconced in hard cover. He'd lost his other line unit—with his officer—to the withering fire of my troops.

Before the glory
My lone skirmisher unit was at the end of its tether. Absorbing Bill's fire for several turns eventually wiped it out. This left me with little choice but to do or die. Exposed to Bill's fire from his gun and a supporting line unit, Jubal Tardee's unit was soon to die if I didn't act quickly. I managed a '12' on my activation roll to charge and went straight in against Bill's gun.

High water for Jubal Tardee
I won the fight, but failed to destroy the gun. However, it was reduced to half strength and broken. I didn't cross the wall. Now I was in a pickle. Bill failed his rally test for the gun, which went away. However, his supporting line unit was now making trouble for me.

Stormed at by a fusillade of minié balls, I took casualties and fell back. Further losses reduced me to below half strength but I hung on. I was helped by having my officer and I got favorable activation bonuses on double 6s that gave me +2 discipline for the game. I failed, but not catastrophically.

Battered but unbowed, Tardee and cat remain in the fight
By this time, John's gun had gone away leaving our right completely unopposed. On our left, too, Mike had finally sent off the last of Eric's dismounted cavalry and we up against the wall ready to cross. The only remaining Lincolnites on the table were Bill's two line units facing me.

At this point, we called it a Confederate win.

Only Bill made a strong effort to get behind the wall. John did a Dan Sickles and kept his force out front for too long, even though Chris had to recover from near disaster in the opening turns. Chris also managed to recover his lost unit on the blessed 6-6-6 activation roll that brought in reinforcements. His only net loss for the game was his two skirmishers, who perished doing yeoman's duty screening his other troops.

Eric skirmished with Mike, which slowed Mike's advance, but didn't really hurt him. Mike had the probably least losses of any of our commands. Eric eventually got shot up and his units dispersed. If he'd manned the stone wall, it might have been bloodier for Mike.

I kept pressing Bill in the center, but that didn't stop him getting to the stone wall with 3/4 of his force intact. That was a formidable obstacle for me, despite successfully charging the gun. If we hadn't called the game, Bill would have shot Jubal's unit to pieces.

It turned out to be a great game. So far, Rebels and Patriots is proving to be a very enjoyable game to play. More thoughts on that in a following post.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Retreat from Concord: Rebels and Patriots AAR

We did our second playtest of the Retreat from Concord game (using Rebels and Patriots rules) we're hosting at our Enfilade! convention next weekend. I made an ordeal of getting my contribution of figures to the game done in time. The militia was completed several weeks ago, but the British took a bit more doing with a lot of swings and roundabouts—of which I will post later.

We did our first playtest on April 6. At that point, we only had Kevin Smyth's British figures, which is just over half the total. It was a resounding defeat for Fat George's bloodybacks. Without enough light infantry to screen the column, the men marching on the roads were shot to bits.

This game I was able to supply the needed light infantry, plus another two Grenadier units.

The OOB for the scenario is based on the Smith-Pitcairn column, which was all grenadiers and light infantry. We scaled the game to make every company of British troops equal to six figures. The column had 11 companies of grenadiers and 10 companies of light infantry. We organized the 66 grenadiers into 12-figure units with one large unit of 18. The 60 lights we wanted to keep as small units to provide more flexibility and firepower.

Marching into the maelstrom
For the Americans, we had to do something that provides a mostly equal unit count, but ensure that the units aren't so good as to overwhelm the British by firepower. In the first playtest, we made all the American militia good shooters, which was massive overkill. In this game we allowed only one unit in each command to be good shooters. That may still be too much, IMO, but it gives the Americans a chance to do some real harm early on.

We have two British players, each taking half the light infantry and part of the grenadiers on the road. The Americans are four commands, each with four skirmisher units, one of which are minutemen with good shooters ability.

British (81 points)

Left command (44 points)
2 x Shock Infantry
1 x Shock Infantry (large unit)
5 x Light Infantry (small unit)

Right command (37 points)
2 x Shock Infantry
5 x Light Infantry (small unit)

American (48 points)

Command 1 (6 points + 6 points)
3 x Skirmishers, green
1 x Skirmishers, green, good shooters

Command 2 (6 points + 6 points)
3 x Skirmishers, green
1 x Skirmishers, green, good shooters

Command 3 (6 points + 6 points)
3 x Skirmishers, green
1 x Skirmishers, green, good shooters

Command 4 (6 points + 6 points)
3 x Skirmishers, green
1 x Skirmishers, green, good shooters

We used standard unit profiles, but we made some scenario rules to keep British units in the fight and allow recycling of American militia.

British rally
To reflect superior discipline and leadership, When British troops perform a successful rally action, they roll a D6 and can recover lost figures as follows: 1=no recovery, 2-4=recover 1 figure, 5-6=recover 2 figures. Units that rally don't have to be in disorder, i.e., a unit may rally just to recover lost figures. However, a units can never recover up to full strength, which particularly affects the light infantry who are small units.

Additionally, British units never rout or get eliminated by firing or fighting.  When the rules call for that result, the unit is reduced to one figure and placed behind the nearest friendly unit where it may work on eventually rallying back to fighting strength.

American recycling
There was very little leadership over the American militia. Men just came from their fields and farms in small groups and took pot-shots at redcoats. The Americans start with only two units per command on the table. The other two units per command come on if they pass an action test.

American militia units that are wiped out can recycle once in the game, which effectively gives them 32 units—just not all at once. Units recycling back on the table come in at one of two spots marked before the game. American players can also choose to simply disperse a unit that is down to 1 or 2 figures remaining and thus allow generating a new fresh unit.

At no point can any militia command have more than 4 units on the table.

The British troops are much superior pointwise to the Americans, although we didn't go by points. A large force of skirmishers can do a lot of damage. One of the things I've noted in playing Rebels and Patriots is that a 12-figure unit is at a disadvantage against two 6-figure units. It's a matter of dice. The 6-figure units are throwing 12 dice each shot (assuming they're not skirmishing or disordered) for a total of 24. The 12-figure unit is also throwing 12 dice and can only target one unit at a time.

Another factor in balance was that the skirmishers take 3 hits to remove a figure from firing; the King's vaunted grenadiers take only two. Stuck in the open as they must be for the scenario, they wither quickly under the milita's firing. Giving one of the starting militia units in each command the good shooters characteristic made a difference. Hitting on 4+ can be devastating, especially when your targets are grenadiers in the open.

As long as the fight is between militia lining the roads and grenadiers marching on it, the grenadiers are dead meat. The key is to get the light infantry in action against the militia and clear the roadside. In this case, it's basically 50 points of British vs. 48 American. The 31 points of grenadiers are good for the occasional return fire or chasing militia away from a wall, but don't otherwise have much opportunity to get at the militia. They're basically targets.

The game

Bill Stewart and I were the British. I commanded on the left and Bill on the right. Kevin, Dave Schueler, and Eric Donaldson were the Americans. Dave ran two commands opposite me; Kevin and Eric were mostly opposite Bill.

The British grenadiers were deployed on the road in column. The light infantry was divided 5 units to each flank of the column. The scenario rules allow the lights to roam freely, but the grenadiers are restricted to staying between the stone walls that line the road. They can shoot or charge a wall behind which cheeky American farmers are skulking, but mostly their job is to keep moving down the road.

Starting deployments
The American militia can deploy anywhere beyond the head of the British. In this game, there were several units deployed along the stone wall just ahead of the column.

Bill deployed his light infantry well forward with 3 up and 2 behind. I, unwisely, deployed my light infantry higgeldy-piggedly. It took me a few turns to get any kind of effective force going against the militia, which only gave the militia more chances to shoot at my grenadiers.

Opening moves
I started by marching my freshly-painted (you could still smell the dullcote) 18-figure grenadier unit 6" up the road where it could be targeted by multiple militia units. In response, the sides of the road erupted in musket fire, which took a dire toll on my wee men.

And then there were eight.
My 18-figure pride of the British army was reduced in no time to 8 confused and disordered troops wishing they were in Thames up to their neck rather than walking a country road in Massachusetts on a nice April day.

Bill immediately clashed with Kevin's forward troops and they maintained a lively skirmish. Bill got the upper hand eventually, although he took a lot of loss doing so. Even with the British rally rule, there was a goodly number of figures in Bill's dead pile.

Bill's battle against Kevin
The grenadier column pretty much got stuck not far from where it started—and went a bit retrograde at times. To keep marching forward was suicide. My options were to rally and try to recover some of my lost figures or to take offensive actions against my tormentors. At one point I charged the stone wall with my second grenadier unit (not quite as freshly painted as the other, but only by a day or so). That momentarily cleared the wall as the militia evaded away (taking a shot as they did). I also, fired a volley or two from the grenadiers, with just OK results. Skirmishers are hard to kill; harder when you roll as poorly as I did.

The lead units in trouble
The game started with just 3 grenadier units on the road, the other two following on after the column got moving. At that point I was rolling for all the grenadiers and failing to get the rear units to come on board. When they eventually did, there was a gap in the column. However, as the fighting at the road angle heated up, the column was effectively stopped. The rear units—now under Bill's command, with better activation rolls—started coming up and getting bunched together with my lead units that had stopped to fight or lick their wounds, mosty to lick their wounds.

My light infantry got stuck in with Dave's militia early on, but just in piecemeal, due to my scatterdash deployment. I discovered early on that shooting at the militia was a bit of a waste. They're hard to kill and they can pretty much ignore you and shoot at grenadiers for more bang for the buck. At this point, I noticed that all my light infantry figures has silver colored thingies at the end of their muskets. Because they're light infantry and not skirmishers, they actually have a pretty good fighting ability, despite being small units. Accordingly, I charged right in as soon as I was close enough.

Getting stuck in with Dave's militia
On the British right, it was the militia that kept charging the light infantry—not from careful consideration, but from rolling double-ones and getting the result that forces you to charge.  Those charges were either disatstrous or merely ineffectual. Most of my charges actually did something; at the very least, they would force the militia to evade and quit their ground.

The terrain, however, did a lot to dictate what I could do. The tavern was right in the middle of my line at the start and there were walls, fences, trees, and bushes all over. On many occasions all I could do was shoot, although I mostly skirmished. Skirmishing was less effective than shooting, but it allowed me to move into better positions to charge from, while still having a potential sting.

Forcing the militia captain back
Dave's minuteman unit, with the mounted militia captain attached, was a constant thorn. I whittled the unit away, but it took many turns to get him. He always managed to evade my charges and had a pretty nasty sting with its 4+ firing until he fell below half strength and was permanently disordered.

Much of the fighting on the flanks involved fence lines that provided a defense bonus and impeded movement. The militia, being skirmishers, were untroubled by difficult terrain, but fences would stop them—as it would stop the light infantry as well. I battled to the first fence line and then on to the next. Taking each fence line was met by another lined with militia.

On to the next fence line
We had to keep the column moving, but every time I advanced down the road beyond the light infantry screen, the head of the column would get shot to bits by multiple units of militia. This caused a lot of bunching up as Bill's rear grenadiers caught up to and passed the leading units. Rather than move, the grenadiers often had no better option than to fire back, with less effect than the fire coming their way.

Grenadier traffic jam
On a few occasions, the intense fire reduced lead grenadier units to just a fraction of their original strength or completely eliminated them, thus invoking the British rally rule that sent them back with 1 figure remaining to spend several turns rallying up beyond half strength.

Whittling down the head of the column
On my flank, I finally got the chance to turn in towards the road and start attacking the militia lining the road. In one particularly fortunate action, I charged a militia unit that failed to evade, and then wiped it out in fighting. The resulting morale checks for the other militia units within 12" resulted in several failures.

Into the backs of 'em
With another unit charging in next turn, I managed to clear a stretch of road that might let us advance the grenadiers a bit farther. Although there seemed to be no end of militia forming up just ahead.

A bit of clear space for now
After a couple hours of play we called it. The grenadier column still had about 6 turns of marching—unimpeded by American bullets—to get off the table. I'm not sure what the loss state of the Americans was. They can only recycle a unit once, so they may have soon been down to fewer than 4 units per command on the table. For the convention, we'll play till the game period ends and determine victory then.

Thoughts and reflections

I thought he game played very well. It's a tough scenario to get a balanced game from. When we first started thinking about it, my fear was that a lot of militia would just overwhelm the British.

The British rally rule worked out how I imagined it would. Historically, the British were hurt very badly, but not wiped out. Had the Smith-Pitcairn column not run into Percy's relief column at Lexington, they may well have started surrendering. Even after the column combined with Percy's force, they had a hard fight ahead before getting back to Boston. The rally rule ensures that no British units are completely lost, which would end the game quickly, but that they have to spend time recovering after being 'eliminated' or to avoid being eliminated.

The Militia recycling rule did a good job representing the historical aspect of groups of militia showing up, taking some shots, and then going away. The Americans have effectively 32 units of militia to employ at some point, but they can never have more than 16 on the table at one time. The militia also starts slowly with just 8 units at start.

We thought about making the grenadiers just act as automatons who march inexorably to their deaths down the road. But that's silly. Without allowing the grenadiers to fight back to some degree by returning fire or charging a wall to chase off their tormentors, the game would be badly imbalanced against the British. Without using the grenadiers to do more than just march, the balance would be 16 militia against 10 light infantry.

The grenadiers, however, are the militia's main target. It's essential that they stop the column and steadily attritt it. For the British, the trick is screening the grenadiers from militia muskets and keeping the roadsides clear.

Figures and terrain
Kevin and I painted all the minis in the game. I did 24 British light infantry, 30 grenadiers, and 36 militia. Kevin did all the rest. Also, Kevin bought Phil Bardsley's AWI figures at the estate sale we had for him last week. He'll remount the militia figures to 3-2-1 basing and get two of Phil's units in the game posthumously.

The buildings are Kevin's, the rest is from the collection of terrain bits that I've finally managed to build up after nearly 30 years. I'm particularly happy that I managed to get so much fencing and stone walls. The walls are made by Armorcast. The fences are Pegasus, with my flocking on the bases.