Its been a while since our group last played an AWI game using our adaption, "Times That Try Men's Souls", of Too Fat
Lardies 'They Couldn't Hit an Elephant'. For lots of reasons this year hasn't been amongst my most prolific for playing
games. However, the release of lots of new Peter Pig packs for the American War of Independence, and my eagerness to
paint them, gave the project a bit of a boost. I dusted off the playtest version of the rules, dug out my British Grenadier
scenario books looking for an interesting game and sent out invites to my gaming mates. Our rules variant works best when
there are a dozen or so units maximum per side but amazingly for the first time this year our entire gaming group was
available, so it had to be a sizeable scenario with plenty of player roles.
Now, I've always had a bit of a thing about the Battle of Germantown and it has much to offer the gamer. The battle was
mostly fought in fog, following a night of forced marches. Washington's army unusually was the attacker and the action was
much confused with rebel units mistakenly firing on each other as the assault bogged down. Basically lets say there was a
lot of 'Friction'. The fighting was very bitter, particularly around Clivedon Manor (Chew House) where Col. Musgrave and
some companies of 40th Foot were isolated and fought off repeated rebel assaults with incredible tenacity. The British
Grenadier scenario "Washington's Attack at Germantown" at 22 units for the British and 36 units for the rebels is just simply
too big to do in an typical evening's gaming. However, I think the scenario splits nicely into two with Washington's assault of
Germantown (12 British v 18 American units), and Greene's attack on the British right (10 British v 18 American units) dealt
with as separate games. Greene's attack is interesting and particularly suitable as a scenario as you can start with a small
American force, gradually feeding in brigades as they arrive.
Paul B was to take command of the Americans, with Paul T and Max assisting. Clive was British C-in-C, with Nigel as his
comrade in arms. As I adapted the scenario and hosted, I took the role of umpire, and played a very minor role on the
American side. I gave the players written briefings with information on a need to know basis. Telling both sides that the
other half of each army was engaged in Germantown but that the fog was preventing any reliable information on what
exactly was occurring.
The set up was on a 5' x 4' table and is shown below.
The area was largely open, though crossed by some sturdy fences and with a couple of wooded areas. The brook was a small but significant
feature which would slow troops down crossing it and disorder them. The fields and odd building were just for aesthetics.
I had to fudge the orders of battle as Greene's force in actuality was a mix of various brigades from several Divisions, but in effect he was a wing
commander. Grant for the purposes of our scenario was C-in-C, and rated as Poor. He should really be in command of a brigade but I decided
to keep him as a separate entity and gave his brigade to 'John Bull' commander.
Common with most Lardy inspired rules blinds are a feature and require spotting by the enemy. Fog was much in evidence early on so
attempting to spot was made much more difficult. After ten turns of the turn card the fog was to dissipate.
The British C-in-C blind was forced to deploy on the eastern table edge, on the road to Germantown. The Guard's brigade blind under Mathew
(Inexperienced) was limited to deploying north of the brook and no further east that the junction of School Lane and Lime Kiln Road on Hold
orders. Grant's brigade under 'John Bull' (Professional) were also on Hold orders and must deploy south of the brook, but within 6"and no
further westwards than the road junction.
The American's started largely off table, apart from the brigade of McDougal (Inexperienced) who on engage orders, were deployed as a blind on
the Lime Kiln Road entry point. Greene (Bold/Inexperienced) was immediately behind and due to arrive as soon as the entry point was vacant.
American blinds, all on Engage orders, were to arrive at the same point once vacated, under Muhlenberg (Inexperienced) turn 2, Weedon
(Inexperienced) turn 3 and Woodford (Inexperienced) turn 4. However all were required to score a 5 or 6 on a D6 to arrive. I hoped that this
would ensure that the Americans would arrive somewhat piecemeal making command and control a challenge for Greene. On twelve turns of
the turn card being drawn a militia force under Smallwood (Inexperienced) would arrive on the western, School Lane entry point under Attack
orders. Again this force needed a 5 or 6 to arrive. I decided to take the role of Smallwood, if and when he should arrive. Clive was Grant and
Mathew, with Nigel as 'John Bull'. Paul T was Greene and Weedon, with Paul T as McDougal, Max as Muhlenberg, and we decided whoever had
lost his command would get to command Woodford (such was the confidence of the American players!) .
Neither side knew what they were facing, as I make a point never to tell players which battle they're fighting until the game start. This stops
'reading up' on a battle and allows me to spring surprises on them. To this particular end I decided to include a blank card to the deck. A
command whose card drawn immediately after the blank, and a unit scoring a 6 on a further die roll would fire on the nearest friendly unit to its
front, or if there wasn't one it would wheel and fire into a unit flanking it (determined by a random die roll). This nugget of information wasn't told
to either side, in case players tried to figure out tactics to deliberately avoid it. The inclusion of a blank card is something I often add to our
games. Players usually view it as an 'Oh dear, Kev is stitching us up again' card, and usually they're correct. I often add one though for no
reason whatsoever just to engender this belief, and make players wary.
So onto the action itself....
With the fog in evidence and the initial blinds deployed Clive quickly managed to get Grant on the table and from the Germantown road to a more
central position where he could more easily change orders if required. The first two American blinds slowly advanced up the Lime Kiln Road.
Spotting on both sides was predictably awful, badly hampered as it was by the weather conditions.
With Paul T's blind steadily advancing, Paul B then placed Greene on the table and advanced up the Lime Kiln Road to within auto spot range of
the British, discovering 'John Bull' at the Coffee card. Nigel's force consisted of a converged light battalion (Veteran/Aggressive), four regiments
of British infantry (Trained), Queens Rangers Loyalist infantry regiment (Cautious/Trained) plus two troops of Queens Rangers Dragoons
(Cautious/Trained). Max's blind (Muhlenberg) arrived successfully and then swung to the right.
Paul B's second blind, that of Weedon's Brigade, also obtained its required score to arrive and appeared on the Lime Kiln Road entry point the
very next turn, and began to swing to the left. The British players were quickly realising that they were facing a force of a considerable size and
yet their own attempts to spot were all frustrated by the fog.
Turn 4 arrived and at last the Americans failed to roll the necessary 5 or 6 for Paul T's second brigade, that of Woodford's, to arrive. To this point
all the American forces had arrived on schedule, not something any of us had envisaged. Being privy to all the details of the scenario meant I
knew that this would now be a particularly hard fought game for the British players.
Max's blind continued to manoeuvre aggressively around the brook, clearly trying to flank the British position. With troops already deployed on
table having been spotted, Nigel was in an unenviable situation where he was lacking in the flexibility needed to respond to Max's blind.
Something went right for the British when Clive advanced Grant and at last Paul T's blind (McDougal) was finally spotted looming out of the fog,
four regiments of Continental Line, rated as Cautious/Trained.
With British cards just not being drawn, and unwilling understandably to advance further into the mass of the enemy without knowing what they
were facing, the British looked rather worried.
Max's blind was finally spotted though and the action started with desultory musketry as he crossed the brook. The British musketry was
largely ineffective though as Nige rolled very badly. This wasn't going at all well for the redcoats.
With Grant right up there with the action issuing a change of orders, the second British blind began advance. Paul B's blind had been spotted
by Grant, Weedon's Brigade three bases of skirmishers and two regiments of Continental Line, all Cautious/Trained. I must confess the Brigade
should have had four artillery pieces with it but I actually mistakenly emitted them from the order of battle.
Paul T had a bit of a shock coming however. Having advanced his commander to auto spot again, Clive deployed the Guard Brigade on table,
two bases of Guard light coys skirmishing and two small Veteran/Aggressive Guard Regiments, manning the fence line.
Paul T experienced the 'Fog Factor' after his command card was drawn immediately after the blank card. Required to roll one D6 for each unit,
but not told exactly why, one of his regiments scored a six! Unfortunately for the British the regiment that had got the six was the front unit and
had no friendly unit to its front to fire upon 'blue on blue'. I had Paul T roll a second time and he managed to score a three meaning the unit
would wheel and fire on a friendly to his left. Luckily for the Americans there was no unit to its left and so there was no friendly fire. None of the
players knew why I was asking for the rolls to be made and I couldn't believe how much bad luck the British were having, albeit unbeknown to
Muhlenberg attacked across the brook, but was repelled after the British won a hard firefight. McDougal coordinating an assault on the British
manned fence line on the School Lane although half his regiments fled in rout, the other engaged the British in musketry. A temporary reprieve
The Guards and Weedon engaged as the aggressive redcoats administered the bayonet. However, a string of casualties earlier on them had
weakened them meaning their attack was held but only just.
Muhlenberg pressed again over the brook and was successful in forcing back the British after a close range firefight erupted. They even
managed to fend off an attack from the mounted element of the Queen's Rangers.
With almost their entire line assailed and having no reinforcements the British were receiving a steady stream of casualties. With the redcoats
under severe pressure from Muhlenberg and Weedon, McDougal had time to rally his routing regiments and pushed forward with his remaining
forces. Once again the decisive combat broke down into close range firefights all which bled the British.
By now even the Guards were suffering. Both Battalions continued to press but attrition was crippling their ability to fend off the enemy.
Weedon's Brigade suffered the 'Fog Factor' but again the luck was with the Americans and the friendly fire incident was avoided.
The Continentals achieving local numerical superiority were taking the jabs of the British and responding with a series of body blows which saw
three British regiments permanently defeated. Woodford's blind now made an appearance on the Lime Kiln Road and began a steady advance.
The fog started to disperse. With the Guards forced back, the main British line was grimly hanging on to the line of the School Lane but the
constant attacks of Muhlenberg and McDougal were beginning to roll up the position from the left flank.
With time approaching Midnight we decided to call it a day. All agreed an American victory had been won, though neither side has suffered 50%
of their units to be routed or permanently defeated. The British would have maybe lasted another full turn but were basically fought out. Whilst
the Americans had also suffered heavily, there were fresh units advancing and Smallwood hadn't even arrived yet!
This was a really interesting scrap for several reasons. This was the first time that we'd all got round the same table this year and so there was a
lot of catching up to be done. The banter and witty (or not) repartee was so much in the early stages that the game was almost of secondary
importance. However, once the commands began to be spotted the serious nature of the British position and the real opportunity of the rebels
to get one over meant that the chit chat soon diminished.
This was also the first time that British in our games had faced a force of almost (well if Smallwood had arrived) exclusively Continentals.
Coming forward the British would have had the edge but they were unable to do so without exposing their flanks to what they knew now was a
force which outnumbered them in no inconsiderable amount. It was really interesting to see the shock of how well the Continentals were
fighting struck the British players, and went some way to recreating the impression of their fore bearers in the actual battle.
I was disappointed that the 'fog factor' had no effect. I was really looking forward to seeing how the American players would cope with units
firing on themselves. Maybe I needed to tweak it to make it more likely. The American players had done a good job and clearly enjoyed having
the best of it for a change. All too often they are the whipping boys in our AWI games. Generally the cards had been OK for both sides, where
the Americans did well was in rolling enough 5's and 6's for Muhlenberg and Weedon to arrive on schedule. I had expected them to maybe be a
bit late having only a three in one chance of arriving on time. I think the chance the British had to beat the Americans in detail went begging
when Paul T kept rolling successfully for their arrival. Whilst the Poor card had little effect upon Grant the Bold card certainly enlivened Greene
who always seemed to get his turn, spotting, chivying on troops, changing orders etc.
Still, even then normally we expect the British to see off the Rebels with some style. Here, mention has to be made of Nigel's poor die rolling.
Every time a key roll needed to be made, he lost. Every time he engaged in a firefight he invariably took the extra casualties and was forced
back. He took it well really, however this bad Karma even got to Clive's normally reliable die rolling. I am long convinced that if you are rolling
poorly in a game you need to continue with the same dice. My faith in the law of averages is unshakeable! Nige made the key decision to swap
dice and voila....I rest my case M'Lud.
Nige has this reputation amongst us as 'The S**t Magnet' as he seems to attracts trouble like a fresh turd attracts flies. This reputation it has to
be said has not gone undeserved, and yet again he didn't let us down.
To sum up then a very interesting scrap in which the game largely took on a life of its own. It was almost like we were spectators, then again with
Smallwood absent, I suppose I was.
All played in the best possible spirit.
I hope to play a Chew House, plus a 'What if' scenario for Germantown featuring Armstrong's Diviversionary attack on the British left flank very
All figures 15mm by Peter Pig, owned and painted by yours truly, who took the pictures. Fences scratchbuilt, road by S&A
Scenics, trees by Woodland Scenics and buildings 10mm Timecast and Starfort (Langton).
You can view the rest of my collection here British and Loyalists, Rebels, Hessians. I'm selling off a few regiments if you're
interested you can email me at Fatwallyuk@yahoo.com.br
For an excellent read on the battle, and campaign I can heartily recommend 'Philadelphia Campaign: Germantown and the
Roads to Valley Forge: 2 ' by Thomas J McGuire. ISBN-13: 978-0811702065.
|Fog and Friction at Germantown
School Lane Germantown ---------->
Lime Kiln Road