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American War of Independence Campaign - The Story - Part I

The American War of Independence campaign has come to an end. It was not fought to a bitter conclusion, but the time had come to call it a day. I will leave the reader to decide what the outcome was. I kept a written journal of events, and have tried to write an interesting narrative of the game. It will appear on my blog in installments.

American War of Independence campaign


In late 2004, and in a moment of indulgent recklessness I spent over £500.00 on a 15mm American War of Independence army, consisting of British, Hessian, militia, continental forces and later, some French troops. I could ill afford the purchase, but it was a time of personal crises, and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made in my life.

As time moved on, I added further units, and bought some Langton warships, and as a result, I was in the lucky position of being able to run a wargame campaign, set in the American Revolution.

The campaign actually came to fruition in May 2011. I found four players who were keen to become involved.

What follows is the umpire driven view of events, interspersed with player commentary.

I found it a fascinating adventure, and believe that as umpire I got an awful lot from it, and obviously had a ring side view of events.

The premise of the campaign was simple, I wanted the players to enjoy it, but also have to tackle the same issues that there 18th century counterparts would have. My priorities were to simulate and ensure:

  Realistic Fog of war
  18th century communications
  Authentic tactical considerations

Additionally, I wanted to also ensure:

  Minimal book keeping by players
  Strategic and tactical player decisions were not hindered by the game mechanics
  That supply and weather were included
  That intelligence was simulated
  The players had the outcome of the campaign in their control

I firmly believe that the campaign managed to achieve all of the above, and as a result, the game mirrored
some of the events that actually took place in the actual war. This was not the intention, but I take some 
satisfaction that the game allowed a flavour of 18th century warfare.

The players:

The British senior commanders were General William Howe, and Admiral Thomas Graves.

Howe was played by my secret wargaming friend, and those who will have previously read my blog will no 
doubt recognise that he is an aggressive commander, who favours attack. He is also a player who wears his 
wargaming heart on his sleeve, and this can sometimes be the undoing of him.

He had, at the start of the campaign, around 13,000 British and Hessian troops under his command.

He was also told that he would receive no further regular troop reinforcements during the game. This was the 
one single factor that played on his mind throughout the campaign.

Additionally, his command was split in two, Howe had 7,500 or so troops in New York, whilst Cornwallis 
with around 5,000 troops was to the southwest of Yorktown.

Howe detailed his initial strategy as the capture of Yorktown, and the transfer of 1,800 men from there to 
New York. On their arrival, Howe intended a steady advance on Philadelphia. Simple, aggressive, and 
reasonable. But would it work?

Graves joined the campaign on turn 8 (22nd to 24th May). He is a naval wargamer who has just returned to 
the hobby. He has a love for age of sail, but little actual tabletop experience.

He had under his direct command at the start of the campaign, 5 ship of the line, a 4th rate, and 2 frigates. 
These were split into two squadrons.

I view the player playing Graves as a cerebral wargamer, but who is also aggressive on the table, he certainly 
does not wear his heart on his sleeve, and had recently read a book about Nelson. His eyes were a fire, 
itching to emulate Nelson on the tabletop.

Unfortunately for Graves, initially, he could only piece together what was happening in the war by snippets of 
information, and from reading The Yorktown Times (campaign newspaper). He was essentially in the dark 
about Howes intentions.

His initial strategy was to sail close to New York and seek out any rebel, or French warships and capture or 
sink them.

Howe and Graves were a formidable team on paper, but would they compliment each other on tabletop?

The allied players were, General George Washington, and Comte du Rochambeau.

General Washington was played by another old time wargamer, newly returned to the hobby. I had never
fought him on tabletop, so had no idea of his strengths or weaknesses. 

He turned out to be a thoughtful and determined wargamer. He had no experience of the AWI, but quickly 
came to terms with events. I think he played Washington rather well.

His initial strategy was to identify the locations of all the British units, whilst at the same time consolidating his 
own forces near to Yorktown, New York and Philadelphia. At the start of the campaign he had around 
18,700 militia and continental troops. He too would receive no reinforcements during the campaign.

Comte de Rochambeau - the French commander did not join the campaign until turn 7 (19th to 21st May). I 
know that this player is a wargamer of some experience and pedigree. He has a wide playing experience, 
and would be ideally suited to playing the French during the campaign. His initial strategy was to get the 
French Expeditionary Force to Baltimore, and make an initial assessment of the situation on his arrival.

He was in command of around 5,000 troops, 6 ship of the line, and 2 frigates. His naval command was split 
into two squadrons.

Rochambeau had it within his means to swing the balance of power in the favour of the allies, both militarily, 
and with his powerful naval force.

Washington and Rochambeau are also a fearsome team on paper, but will they be able to co-operate?

Finally, and only hinted at in the player briefings, was a third nation who may become involved in the war - 
Spain. Would she intervene, and if so, what would she bring to the table?

This last facet seemed, initially,  to have been overlooked by all parties in the campaign............


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