A recent visit to Casa del Bairos in the happy burg of Cambridge saw a first attempt at a scenario from Mike Hobbs' recent publication, The War of 1812 - A Campaign Guide for Sharp Practice. We chose Crossing the Niagara, mainly because it provided an opportunity to try out the new 1812 buildings. Overall, this Sharp Practice supplement is quite good and was obviously the result of a lot of work on Mr Hobbs' part. But as a typical gamer, I have a few issues with unit ratings - particularly with the 1812 lists. Here are a few highlights of changes I've made...
US Regular Infantry (1812): This is the most obvious concern (at least to my mind) when rating US regulars in 1812 as, umm.. regulars! Even to American commanders at the time, the regulars were often considered at par with or even worse than the state militias (re: training, motivation, and equipment). Putting them on a par with British line infantry (at least before considering other characteristics) is, I believe, a mistake. The British infantry were professional soldiers, albeit perhaps somewhat off their game because of prolonged garrison duties in the colonies. The US regulars by contrast were, for the most part, recently recruited and barely trained. I've chosen to downgrade the US regulars to conscripts and volunteers.
US Regular Infantry - Flank Company (1812): The supplement lists these troops with the Sharp Practice characteristic. I believe that this should be reserved only for those troops who demonstrated a superior initiative that allowed them to give fire more often than other troops. The flank companies of the US infantry should, in my view, be no better than any other US infantry in 1812, and definitely not on par with their British counterparts. Thus, I've taken this characteristic away.
US Militia (1812): The supplement rates these as militia but since I'm of the opinion that they were pretty much indistinguishable from the US regulars, I've upgraded them to conscripts & volunteers. In fact, in the real battle, the militia distinguished themselves rather well in the opening stages (given that they were reluctant to cross, the horrible mismanagement of the crossing logistics, and the landing on a strange shore in the dark).
British Regular Infantry (1812): I see that the stat line in the supplement for these units is pretty much lifted from the Peninsular list, including Thin Red Line. I've yet to read of a British infantry battalion in the War of 1812 loosing a volley and then charging the enemy, as is stereotypical of the Spanish campaign (I could be wrong here but I don't think so). Thus, I've removed that characteristic.
So enough of my tinkering... some photos of the game...
Overview of the table (with a rather pathetic attempt to show the blue of the Niagara River to the right... blame it on inferior software).
The British Deployment point can be seen in the outskirts of Queenston Village to the left. The American deployment points appear as the US troops land on the river bank. The Americans must fight their way across the table towards Queenston before British/Canadians can fully deploy in defence of the village.
New York militia begin to land and shake themselves out into line. I'm not sure how Van Rensselaer ferried his horse over the river. As a side note... in the scenario, Major General Van Renssalaer is listed as commanding the first wave of the landing. This is, in fact, untrue. His cousin, Lt Col Solomon Van Renssalaer commanded the troops in the opening stages (which this scenario is attempting to model). Stephen, the general, Van Renssalaer was at this time overseeing the horribly chaotic embarkation point on the American side of the river.
British regulars appear in response to the American landing.
The New York militia begin to make their way towards Queenston.
The regulars occupy the churchyard in anticipation of an assault.
The regulars Present Arms and are joined by light troops.
New York militia skirmishers and US regulars join the advance.
The commander of the US regulars trips and falls. Luckily, his troops had been less than enthusiastic about advancing on the British-held village and were out of immediate danger.
New York militia probe the British right flank but more Canadian militia (masquerading as regulars) have marched out of Queenston and secured the flank. Nowhere to go... but back, as it turned out!
Similarly, militia skirmishers probe the left flank but prove to be too few in number as the British commander moves yet another regular unit forward to bolster the lights defending the fence-line.
The British defence of the village proved to be too firm and the Americans fell back to the landing areas. The British commander was reluctant to leave the relative safety of the village and declined to pursue. Thus, The Americans were able to maintain their bridgehead. We deemed the battle a draw, as the Brits had neither broken the American Force Morale nor captured their Primary Deployment Point on the river bank.
Some tweaks will be made to the scenario for another playtest in advance of RayCon at the end of May. The British/Canadian deployments will probably be staggered further apart to allow the Americans more of chance to get near the village before it is completely defended and the river itself will take up 8-12 inches of the table, reducing the distance required for the Americans to move from the bank to the village.