Saturday, February 29, 2020

Chesapeake 1814: starting a new campaign

Good friend Vidal and I have ventured off into a new campaign, this time set during the British campaigns in the Chesapeake Bay in 1814. A general synopsis of the campaign and the rules can be found here: link 

I've been working on building up troops and terrain for this campaign over the last few months. In particular, state militia troops from Virginia and Maryland, and Royal Marines. I've also added a few new buildings to the collection, geared specifically to this campaign, here: link & link. So, after all this work, I thought it high time to start on the campaign. Our first game was a few weeks ago and I unfortunately failed to document it visually. Suffice to say that the American militia (commanded by me) was soundly beaten by the regular troops of Vidal's Crown forces.

After the first campaign turn (Scenario 3, Whiteman’s Tavern), The British gained one Victory Point and captured one sack of supplies.

Last evening, we gathered in the Cambridge Gaming Emporium to fight out the second turn of the campaign. This time up was Scenario 1, Freeing the Prisoners.

Scenario 1, Freeing the Prisoners
With the capture of so many American troops after the recent British raids, the British are moving them to the coast under guard in small, manageable groups. The local militia commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Horry, has learnt that Captain Jonathan Roberts and a contingent of British troops are using a local plantation house and have the prisoners encamped in a field. He is resolved to free his comrades.

The table is flat with the plantation buildings at the Eastern end. The main house is two stories tall and provides hard cover for any troops inside. The other buildings are a single storey and provide light cover.

The PoW camp is made up of tents which do not impede movement or firing. They will simply be knocked down if moved over, the prisoners within fleeing and playing no part in the game. The fenced field to the South is overgrown and counts as Broken Ground. The trees to the North are orchards.

The rail fences provide light cover as will the wagons. The latter may be moved up to 1D6 inches in a turn by any Group of five men or more  spending that turn pushing them.

This game is won by the force which can break their opponent’s Force Morale.

Victory Points: American (2); British (1)

American Force

Advanced Guard
Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Horry, Status II
Captain John James, Status I
Three Groups of 8 Maryland Militia (M)

Captain Robert McCottry, Status I
One Group of 6 Militia Skirmishers (rifles)

Colonel Frank Lee Speeckin, Status II
One Group of 8 Virginia Militia (C&V)

Captain John McCauley, Status I
One Group of 8 Virginia Militia (C&V)

The force deploys its Primary Deployment Point on the Western (left-hand) table edge. The Advanced Guard may use a Secondary Deployment Point which is placed according to the main rules. Only the Advanced Guard may use this and then only if the Skirmishers under Captain McCottry deploy to it before any other troops, representing them leading other units through the surrounding terrain.

The Reserve forces can only enter the table on the turn after all of the Advanced Guard are deployed. They must use the Primary Deployment Point on the Western table edge. All American troops have the Hearth & Home Bonus, reducing their Step Out rating by one.

British Force

Captain Jonathan Roberts, Status III
Two groups of 8 British regulars

Lieutenant Carlton Mellows, Status I
One Group of 6 British light infantry

Captain Rampton Rigsdale Status II
Two Groups of 8 Royal Marines

Your Primary Deployment Point is in the Sumter plantation house. At the start of the game all of your forces are inside the house with the exception of one sentry who may be placed anywhere on the table to raise the alarm if the enemy approach. None of your force may deploy onto the table until the alarm is raised. Groups may not deploy as formations and suffer 1d6 shock immediately when deployed.

A sentry is simply a one-man Group. He may be activated on any two Command Flags of the relevant colour, or on a single Command flag at the end of a turn. He may only activate when he has line of sight to an enemy unit which is deployed on the table. He may raise the alarm when activated by discharging his musket. He may then move and act as normal. If he is engaged by the enemy, by firing or fisticuffs, the noise will serve to alert friendly forces to the enemy’s presence.

Both sides begin with 9 Force Morale.

In the top left can be seen the American Secondary Deployment Point. My plan was to move the Advance Guard through the orchard, hoping to avoid the notice of the British sentry and appear on the far edge, ready to fire on any British troops deploying from the mansion.

The local plantation owner and his family have been disgorged from their home and are discussing the utter inhumanity of their home and property under the control of the hated British.

The sentry, apparently avoiding his duties, chats up one of the plantation girls.

Maryland militia deploy out of sight of the sentry and begin their move into the orchard. The Maryland rifles had preceded them to the far edge of the trees, apparently undetected by the distracted sentry.

The alarm has not yet been raised but the Maryland rifles open fire on the sentry. As he represents a one-man group, his death or rout would trigger a Bad Things Happen roll. Unfortunately, as with the first campaign game, my militia rifles were apparently well-dressed but ill-trained. The sentry survived without a scratch and thus the alarm was raised!

With the alarm raised, Vidal chose to deploy two groups of Royal Marines in the forecourt of the mansion to counter the Maryland move into the orchard.. One group manages the deployment with only one shock but the other is assessed six!

As well as the Royal Marines, two groups of British regulars deploy: one to the rear of the mansion (clearly set to fire the building) and one to the rear of the "workers' cottages."

I had chosen to this point to move my Maryland troops through the orchard in formation. Once closer to the British troops, I split the groups up. Why? It had become quite clear in the first game that militia troops without the Controlled Volley characteristic are difficult to control once volleys began. My plan here was to occupy some of the British with single-group firing and maneuver with the others. This proved to be a mistake as there was little room to maneuver while maintaining the needed cover of the orchard. Single groups at long range have little chance of inflicting any real damage (at least with my dice rolls....ugh) and as it turned out, the Maryland troops were fairly static once at the edge of the orchard. I could have easily left them in the formation and been able to spread hits and more easily activate them.

Maryland militia groups have split from their formation and are readying to fire on the deploying British troops from the cover of the orchard.

Maryland rifles begin to exchange fire with the British regulars hiding amongst the goods scattered around the "workers' cottages."

So now the stupid moment! This is something I know full well and chose to ignore for this battle (and truth be told, in the first campaign battle as well). Rifles are the perfect weapon to pester an enemy from long range. They are not .... repeat, NOT... so good at close ranges. They take two actions to reload, are vulnerable to formed troops, and are, quite simply, tempting targets. By deploying the Maryland rifles to the front of the orchard, I gave up their most valuable asset... long range. These guys can hit on 5s & 6s out to 36 inches. The other open flank of the battlefield would have been better-suited to their abilities, although this would have meant sacrificing surprise. The sentry would have easily seen them and raised the alarm earlier. As it turned out, this mattered little and I ended up squandering a valuable asset.

The foremost of the Maryland infantry groups has been forced back into the orchard. Meanwhile, the Leader with the rifles has been shot and killed (see above for self-deprecation). The only good news at this point is that one of the Royal Marine groups (the one with the six shock) has voluntarily withdrawn behind the "workers' cottages."

The Maryland troops at the front of the orchard take fire from the Royal Marines and slink back into the orchard. The only good news here from the American perspective is that the British regulars near the "workers' cottages" have been found to have damp squibs and fire now at half effect. This is almost wholly mitigated by the force commander (Level III) directing their fire. They've already killed the Maryland rifles commander and are causing shock, despite the heavy cover for the skirmishers.

British lights deploy from the mansion with only one shock.

Virginia troops begin to arrive from the Primary Deployment Point and move forward to help the beleaguered Marylanders.

The British regulars behind the mansion complete their task and the building has been set alight. That's one automatic VP for the Brits, regardless of the battle's outcome.

The Virginians continue their advance and begin exchanging fire with the British lights (who also seem to have damp squibs...the British quartermaster has obviously failed in his duties). Unfortunately, the Virginian effort proves too little too late...

Vidal had recovered his second Royal Marines group and formed them up with their brethren and the regulars to begin an advance into the orchard. While militia can sometimes stand up to regulars in a firefight (at least for a short while), it's another thing entirely in Fisticuffs (especially when one group of Marylanders is caught unloaded). The sweep through the orchard is swift and deadly. The American Force Morale drops quickly to 2 and we called it a (very obvious) British victory. Side note: The Maryland rifles evaded the charge of the British regulars... but further proving my Dumb Ass point above.

Vidal gains two Victory Points from the battle: one for winning the scenario and one for burning a major building. This brings us to an Aggregate VP total of 3 in the British favour. Small mercies, however... the burning of the building brings some small recognition of the crisis to the federal and state governments and one 8-man militia unit and Status I Leader will now be added to the American force for every subsequent scenario. The more they burn and loot... the more reinforcements arrive. Of course, more militia is a double-edged sword!

Militia is going to be a challenge to learn how to control. They have inferior characteristics to the British and for most scenarios, I will have fewer overall Command Initiatives spread around my leaders. There is  an argument not to create formations because they are difficult to control after firing begins. Although, if in a defensive posture, this would not be such an issue. Splitting militia groups up could be an answer but the generally inferior command structure of the Americans can make this difficult as well. One thing I need to drum into my head is the proper use of rifle-armed skirmishers: use their long range and stay away from the temptation to get closer to the enemy.