Tuesday, 29 October 2013

AWI reflection on events - the umpires take

The reader must remember that the players in this campaign were operating on minimal information, they were left to their own devices in the intelligence gathering and strategic assessment of events. They were not even sure where their own forces were, or if orders had arrived at their destination, or were in fact in enemy hands (as some where), let alone the location and disposition and intent of enemy formations.

Using Berthier (A free campaign manager) took a lot of booking keeping off me - it timed the arrival of messages according to the distance between the sender and receiver and judged if any messages were lost or intercepted. Some message and orders took up to 10 game turns to arrive at their destination - the content all ready aged, and perhaps even dangerous, because the situation had changed in the meantime.

In effect, each instruction and action out to be thought out turns ahead, and potential consequences thought through carefully, with incomplete information shored up with a good dose of assumption.

Each player only had a campaign map with numbered squares, this map was produced using a tool in Berthier and corresponded to the map positions of units kept by the program. The players never saw this map, and only had the campaign map with the gridded squares to refer to in planning their operations.

Add to the mix that the players were only certain of the position of their character and units in their company (Howe, Washington, Rochambeau and Graves), or units that were in their view. All other units were hidden from their view, and they would only be able to have a general assumption of where these units were in conjunction with the current orders given to their commanders.

Even the units in view could cause confusion - one player saw in the distance a formation of troops marching in one direction, and then saw a couple of moves later another formation heading in another direction. These were friendly troops, but he could not work who they were, or indeed what they were doing - an example of delayed arrival of messages, some of which may arrive with the commander out of order and cause further confusion.

The French player initially started far out to sea, had minimal information, and suffered greatly from the delay in signals. Admiral Graves suffered equally. It would be fair to say that these two players (Rochambeau and Graves) were between 7 to 10 moves behind events in the campaign at some points.

I think both sides played the campaign excellently, and I believe some events had similarities with the actual conflict, what is more, even though this was still a wargame, certain decisions and tactics were forced upon the player that would not normally take place during one off table top battles. People withdrew instead of charging in, agreements were made for battles to end, even though one side could clearly win - the losses would be unacceptable for the campaign.

I also saw how the moral of each commander, at various points in the campaign, affected their view of how well or poorly they were doing. This also had a tangible effect on their strategy. You will see how the stories in the Yorktown Times began to put pressure on the British player for action.

Howe had a very sound strategic plan, which required patience, and to hold his nerve. I think these news articles may have caused him to advance sooner than he wished - this led to a key battle, but I know his division did not contain all the troops he wished, some were still at sea when he marched from New York.

Meanwhile, I am not sure if Washington really knew if the French were coming, or if this was some umpire ruse.......

So far, the British player had lost 342 men in two battles, the American player close to 1,000. Neither side knew exactly how many casualties they had inflicted on each other, and when they read this, it will be the first time they will know for sure. The cost at sea was far less, damage to a French frigates main mast, but this would soon change in the coming weeks.

Howe was concerned with casualties, and this was his primary worry throughout the campaign - he needed to husband his meagre forces - realistic? - absolutely.

He felt constrained by his limited forces, and frustrated. He wanted to attack, which was his nature, but he could not be strong everywhere, and also knew that one costly battle would end the British ability to dictate events. Therefore, Howe appeared uncharacteristically cautious and hesitant. He wasn't, he was just waiting for a brigade of troops to arrive to strengthen his advance south to Philadelphia. The needling he got in the press irked him considerably. He was fighting not only the American rebels, but also against his own wargaming nature.

This is, in my view, very similar to the actual General Howe, an aggressive commander who is accused of hesitancy and timidness during the actual war - a mere coincidence???? - or were his thoughts similar to those of my wargaming friend, I will let the reader ponder that thought.

Washington learned early on that his army could not stand toe to toe with the British regulars and had to pick his battles carefully - realistic? - absolutely, again. He acknowledged to me privately, on a couple of occasions, that he was unlikely to win any battles, in fact, in all three engagements so far (two on land, one at sea), his forces had been beaten and forced to retreat. He found it strange that he could in effect be faced with losing every battle in the campaign, but could still win the war by simply wearing the British down, and stopping them capturing key locations. A situation that he was not used to, and somewhat frustrating.

The observation struck me by surprise, because in effect, it is a situation that the real Mr Washington faced.

Washington, for the complete game worried about a third British force, and this in effect kept a considerable portion (a division of troops and militia) tied in Philadelphia, it stopped him from massing an army to overwhelm the British. He decided to try and intimate the British by camping outside New York, and if the planned bombardment had gone ahead by Destouches, (and the timing of  this would have been a week after the battle of Cormacks Creek), I have no doubt that Howe would have felt under siege during the time his moral was particularly fragile.

So we had a situation that mirrored reality. The British so far had won every engagement, but the British commander felt under pressure, didn't feel he was doing well enough, his moral suffered.

The American commander felt that he just needed to survive, to do enough to keep his army intact, and to pick his engagements with care.

This was not by deliberate or masterly umpiring, this was by the fact that the game was a campaign, using realistic rules, coupled with the simulation of 18th Century communications, and the operational planning of the players. I was surprised by the way the game was mirroring the war - in my view.

I spoke with all the players at various stages and was particularly struck by their enthusiasm for the game, how it drew them in, and presented realistic command problems for them to solve. I know that the lack of information, and the time taken for messages to arrive caused frustration, considerably so at time, but I hope they appreciate when reading this, that they did a good job overall, and significantly contributed to a good campaign.

To be continued.........

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

American War of Independence Campaign - The Story - Part III

Turn 9 (25th to 27th May)

Howe, although he would never admit it publicly, was rattled by the events at Cormacks Creek. He immediately ordered Von Knyphausen to return to New York. The Americans had scored a moral victory, and Howe's confidence had suffered as a result. What would Washington do - press onto New York and lay siege?

Washington himself was concerned about the battle, despite fielding his main field army, in fortifications, the British had forced him from the field, and only the arrival of LaFayette on the British flank had saved the day.

The battle had confirmed to Washington, that he could not beat the British in open battle, worse still, his main force was split by the British, LaFayette to the north, Washington and Lee to the south with Von Knyphausen in between.

Nervously, Washington waited for the inevitable British attack.

Meanwhile, Arbuthnot was within 3 days of Yorktown, and the Iroquois leader (Brant), and his 750 braves, demonstrated outside Philadelphia, causing minor panic to its citizens, protected by Gates and his Brigade of regulars. The article appearing in the Yorktown Times about Indian atrocities did not help matters.

To the utter astonishment of Washington, Von Knyphausen did not press home an attack on the fractured American army, but marched toward New York, leaving the battlefield, and fortifications intact.

At sea, Admiral Graves with his 98 Gun Barfluer, and three 74's dispatched the small frigate Falmouth to scout to the south. He didn't know that he was on a direct course to intercept Des-touches who was sailing north to bombard New York.

Several stories began appearing in the Yorktown Times - rumour was the editor was writing them whilst a British musket was pointed in his direction




Turn 10 (28th to 30th May)

Knyphausen closed to the safety of New York, and Arbuthnot arrived in Yorktown, drunken sailors from the fleet clashed with the local militia (as was reported in the Yorktown Times). Arbuthnot began loading three battalions of troops onto his vessels and readied for the return trip to New York.

Only a week or so to the east of the Chesapeake, and Yorktown, and bound for Baltimore, was De Grasse with his fleet of 110 gun Ville de Paris, 80 gun Langeudoc, three 74's and a frigate, escorting Rochambeau's 5,000 troops.

There was a more than even chance that Arbuthnot could be caught by De Grasse, either in Yorktown harbour, or sailing in the Chesapeake.

Washington frantically tried to rejoin with LaFayette. He was also confused by the apparent withdrawal of the British. The spectre of a third British force haunted his thoughts....

Should he return to Philadelphia? What was Howe up to?

Turn 11 (31st May to 2nd June)

A quiet turn, Washington and LaFayette marched toward each other, Knyphausen moved into New York. De Grasse sailed passed Yorktown, noting three or four sail in the harbour, but passed up the chance of attack. He desired to land Rochambeau and his troops as soon as possible.

Arbuthnot breathed a sigh of relief. He continued to load the troops.

The Falmouth signalled Graves that she sighted three sail to the south.

Battle off New York

This was the first naval battle of the campaign. Des-touches, with his two 74's and 36 gun Frigate (Romulus) were bound for New York with the intention of bombarding the city. Graves had fortuitously intersected his course and a long distance pursuit began.

Graves outmatched Des-touches in strength by two to one, but his fleet was slower than the French, and a frustrating encounter, with gunnery at long range ensued. The only major damage was to the French Frigate who lost the top of her mainmast.

Des-touches sailed south, with Graves in pursuit.

Graves was a patient man, and accepted frustration of a stern pursuit, he would chase Des-touches all the way to the Chesapeake if he needed to. He didn't know that De Grasse had arrived in America, and this knowledge may have changed his strategic decision.

Turn 12 (3rd to 5th June)

The Iroquois moved north away from Philadelphia toward New York. Washington finally joined with LaFayette and pondered his next move.

Arbuthnot sailed as soon as he could from Yorktown, fearing an imminent return of De Grasse.

Cornwallis was so concerned by the weakness and vulnerability of his position that he took the unprecedented step of sending a forthright letter to Howe:

Sir,

The requested regiments are now with Arbuthnot who sailed Yorktown this morning bound for New York. I have raised, as already informed a Brigade of Militia.

I confess to feeling exposed and understrength in my current position without my key troops.

Please could your Lordship give some serious consideration to re-enforcement, or removal from Yorktown.

My concern has increased with the sighting of seven French sail heading along the Chesapeake toward Baltimore 31st to 2nd June.

There are also reports of a French frigate stationed outside Yorktown. Arbuthnot will no doubt have to take consideration about this as he leaves harbour.

Your obedient servant

Charles

Graves continued in his dogged pursuit of Des-touches.

An American militia Brigade under the command of General Stephen departed Philadelphia, moving north, a week behind the Iroquois.

Both Washington and Howe paused.

Graves sailed south hoping to catch Destouches

To be continued.......

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

American War of Independence Campaign - The Story - Part II

The Campaign had not started when the first edition of the Yorktown Times came off the press. I have had to use paint to get the original PDF in a readable format. I apologise if it looks disjointed.....

The declarations were verbatim from each player - Jerusha Van Etten is a real name taken from the time

The campaign

Turn 1-3 (1st to 9th May).

These first three turns involved some initial declarations of intent by both sides,  and manoeuvring of Forces in the south. Cornwallis, in company with Tarleton, was marching toward Yorktown, and unbeknown to them, in a race with Nathaniel Green to reach the port first.

At Yorktown were 2,300 militia under the command of General Sumter. They were frantically building fortifications, and counting the days until the inevitable British assault.

At sea, Admiral Arbuthnot sailed from New York, in his flagship, the 90 gun London, escorting two merchant vessels, with the frigate Flora in support, he was  bound for Yorktown, with instructions to assist in it's capture, and bring to New York, 3 of Cornwallis's best infantry battalions. The 4th rate, Adamant, remained in the approaches to New York harbour as guard-ship.

Washington, in company with LaFayette marched out of Philadelphia, north toward New York. A few miles to the southwest of New York, General Lee, and his brigade of observation, started to build fortifications. He completely disregarded a written order from Washington to withdraw from his current position. LEE was in command of around 2,500 troops and cavalry. Washington and LaFayette had between them 3,600 troops.

General Nathaniel Green was marching toward Yorktown, in a race against the British.

The French Admiral, Destouches, in command of two ship of the line, and a frigate, was mid atlantic,  sailing west, to reach the American coast, then with orders to sail north toward New York, and engage the British, if on favourable terms.


Turn 4 (10th to 12th May)

Cornwallis closed in on Yorktown, beating Greene to the city, the battle of Yorktown would be fought on 13th to 15th May (turn 5). It was touch and go if Greenes force would be able to support the beleaguered defenders of Yorktown. He marched on in the vain hope.

To the west of Philadelphia, were 750 Indian warriors under the command of Brant, and in allegiance with the British. They were tasked to skirt close to Philadelphia, and then move north to New York. Scouting and reporting on enemy formations and movements.

Washington, unaware of the Indian threat, had decided to protect Philadelphia with two Brigades, one with the continental troops under Gates, the other of militia under Stephen. This was fortuitous, because, if left undefended, Brant and his warriors would have raided Philadelphia. In total, just under 6,000 troops defended the city.



Turn 5 (13th to 15th May)

The battle of Yorktown. Greene was just too far away to intervene, and within four and a half hours, the British had captured the town, along with over 300 hundred rebel prisoners. The victory was at a cost, Cornwallis had suffered 171 casualties.

This turn, Gen Stephen sighted Brant, and immediately sent riders to Washington and Gates. He withdraw, as ordered toward Philadelphia.

An account of the battle of Yorktown

The battle was between an American Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Sumter, and the British under the command of General Charles, Earl Cornwallis.



Sumter found himself behind the safety of fortifications constructed over the previous 9 days. However, he had no artillery and only four battalions of militia to face the veterans of Cornwallis, who outnumbered his command by nearly two to one.

His orders were concise, " Defend Yorktown ".

The American commander, because he was defending, and in fortifications, deployed first. He chose to anchor his fortifications around a high hill to the north eastern portion of the tactical map.

The British deployed, Tarleton and his British legion on the British left flank, Cornwallis and his troops on the centre and right.

The British then advanced.

The British commander manoeuvred his forces and his main axis of attack was on his left flank, using the centre and right flank forces to pin the Americans in their fortifications.

A good strategy, it prevented the American player from moving units to reinforce his vulnerable line. All he could do was use Sumter to raise moral - something he did to great effect.

In the centre, Cornwallis used his artillery on the high fortifications, and moved three battalions of troops to a short distance from the enemy, but out of musket range. A silent but visual sign of threatening intent.

Meanwhile, the British right flank attack was developing, and a fearsome fight it was. Sumter found himself riding between the two fortified militia battalions shouting encouragement to the men.


Eventually, both militia units on the British right flank crumbled and surrendered the positions, which were soon captured by Tarletons men, but at a cost. Several British units were so fatigued after the battle, they had to be rested and took no further meaningful part in the battle. Testament to the defence put up by the American militia.


The British had broken through the American lines, and it was only a matter of time before the whole Brigade was destroyed and all the defensive positions captured. The Americans fought on for another hour and a half before finally succumbing to the British onslaught, but not before they drove back and stalled a rash charge by a British infantry battalion on the British right flank.

Yorktown, and it's harbour was now in British hands, as was the campaign newspaper - The Yorktown Times

The campaign map - Google maps with the free Berthier campaign manager software
Turn 6 (16th - 18th May)

This turn saw Greene withdraw from Yorktown toward Baltimore. He assessed (quite rightly so), that his force of militia, American rifles and a small contingent of continental troops, approaching 4,600 men would be no match for Cornwallis, particularly in fortifications. Besides, he had no artillery.

Greene was fearful that Cornwallis would continue his advance, and push northwest toward Washington, Baltimore and then finally, Philadelphia.

Cornwallis took editorial control of the Yorktown Times, effectively controlling the news that appeared in the paper, scrutinising and editing articles. He even used the fear of the native Indians to scare the population around Philadelphia.

Some of the content in the paper, initially caused confusion, and worry in the American senior command.

Howe, very conscious of Lee in his position southwest of New York, watching his every move, decided, in the flush of victory at Yorktown, to eject Lee from his fortifications, and dispatched a strong force of some 6,000 troops from New York, under the command of Von Knaphausen and Stim. The force included some of the best troops available to the British. Inexplicably though, Howe left his 18 pounder cannon in the city.

Watching Von Knyphausen's division march from the city, Howe sipped his port, and returned to his sumptuous banquet. Sweet is the taste of victory.

Cornwallis meanwhile, remained behind his defences in Yorktown, awaiting further instructions.

So far, the British operations had gone to plan.........

At sea, off the mid eastern coast of America, DesTouches, with is two 74's, and 36 gun frigate, came within a hairs breadth of the British convoy under the command of Arbuthnot, heading south to New York. However, neither side sighted the other, and what may have been a campaign changing moment never happened.


Turn 7 (19th to 21st May)

Washington and Lafayette were marching swiftly towards Lee, and were well informed of Von Knyphausen and Stim leaving New York. Although reported by British intelligence, and by Von Knyphausen, Howe himself, seemed oblivious to the approach of Washington.

Meanwhile, feeling a little exposed, and fearing a third Britsh army, not yet accounted for, Washington was a little more careful. He scoured his reports and messages, and came up with a daring plan in an effort to trap Von Knaphausen.

He dispatched Lafayette to flank around behind the British, and he himself joined Lee for the defence of Cormacks Creek (position 58).

The scene was set for the battle of Cormacks Creek. The numbers were roughly even, but the British troop quality was superior.

It was felt by all parties, including the umpire, that this could be a defining moment in the campaign.


Turn 8 (22nd to 24th May)

The battle of Cormacks Creek was a frustrating, and sobering battle for Von Knaphausen, he was caught by surprise by the flank march to his rear by LaFayette, only some nifty defence work, and an aggressive attack by a battalion of Hessian Grenadiers saved the day. A minor British victory, which saw both sides surrendering the battlefield.

The British lost 171 casualties, the Americans over 450, with some 370 being prisoners.

An account of the battle of Cormacks Creek

A major battle to the southwest of New York between Von Knaphausen's Division, and troops led by none other than Washington himself. Both Von Knaphausen and Washington thought that a decisive victory to either side might decide the outcome of the campaign itself..........

American forces had been watching New York from afar, unmolested by the British garrison. The Kings forces had even afforded them the courtesy of time to dig in. How gentlemanly.

The American position was to the southwest of the city, and gave the watching rebels an insight into British intentions in the north. It was only a matter of time before General Howe ran out of patience and took action.

Up to this point, British and to some extent, American eyes, had been focussed on the battle for Yorktown. Now that he felt that this position was secure, Howe considered the north. He acted quickly, and in typical fashion, aggressively.

Howe dispatched a Division of British and Hessian troops under General Von Knaphausen with strict instructions to remove the rebels from the position. Just to be safe, Howe saw that Von Knaphausen was given command of some of his best troops.

The British player was confident, fortifications or no fortifications, he had the quality of troops, and superior numbers to get the job done quickly. His tactics had given a major victory at Yorktown, and with that experience, he was content that the battle was in the bag.

However, it soon became evident, all too evident, that Howe had either misread, or even worse, ignored, some crucial intelligence about American movements and intentions.

This even included a captured message giving details of forthcoming rebel movements, positions, and even the commanders involved.

The British player is not the first, nor will he be the last commander to misjudge the intelligence picture.

On this occasion, it was very nearly fatal.

Meanwhile General George Washington had been forced to march north to meet up with his forces at a little location called Cormacks Creek.

He was fully aware of the British army that had marched from New York, and had used his cavalry to monitor it's movement towards Cormacks Creek and his Brigade of Observation stationed there.

Washington arrived during the early morning, just before the British turned up. Washington quickly went to work preparing his defence. He had a plan, and it involved taking a calculated risk.

Shortly after 8am in the morning, the ominous sound if fife and drum was heard approaching the American positions from the northeast. The battle was joined.

Confidently, the British prepared their lines, with the major thrust being directed toward the American left flank, while British artillery shelled the American guns imbedded within the entrenchments.

It all began so well for Knaphausen, clearly (he thought), with overwhelming numbers, he would make short work of the rebel position, his troops moved quickly through the woods and onto a clearing to form up.

It was at this point the 300 men of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons intervened........

Washington had dispatched them to his left, with the intention of skirting round the British flank, toward the rear of the British formations, " Draw as many of the enemy that you can, away from their main axis of attack " he ordered.

The British Foot Guards found themselves having to form a square as the American Dragoons closed to a menacing distance. A nearby Hessian Regiment moved to give them support. At a stroke, two key units were removed from the assault - without a shot being fired.

On the British left flank, two Hessian line infantry stood stock still, looking splendid in their sharp blue uniform. They had two tasks, protect the artillery, and, tie the American defenders to the entrenchments opposite. As an insurance, the 16th Light Dragoons sat menacingly nearby on a low hill.

It was within an hour of the battle commencing that things started to frustrate Knyphausen.

The 16th Light Dragoons came under artillery attack at long range. He had to move them out of range, which took longer than expected, and effectively removed their threat. The Hessians on the same ridge started to come under a withering fire from the second American battery, causing, small, but consistent casualties.

He discovered that his Jaegers had been issued with the wrong type of rifles, and were being forced to fight as heavy infantry rather than in open order.

In addition, the march through the woods, and the heat (weather conditions on the table top) were beginning to slow his assault. Add to the mix, the commanding Officer of the 15th Regiment of Foot failing to act on an order to assault the enemy in nearby fortifications, Knyphausen found himself in a quagmire, and it was readily apparent that his moral was being affected.

He started to look despondent. A stark contrast to earlier optimism.

Meanwhile, Washington found his position under an increasingly aggressive attack by the British. His position was becoming increasingly precarious as more and more British units closed. He took some comfort in a decision made during the deployment phase of the battle.

Unbeknown to either Stim or Knyphausen, Washington had gambled on a Brigade of infantry and supporting Dragoons conducting a flank march around from the east and to enter onto the northern part of the table - effectively behind the British.

These units were due to achieve this by 8.45am.

At 8.45am a note was delivered to Washington, to his dismay it stated that the flanking troops were finding the going harder than anticipated, and they would not enter the battle until 9.45am.

Washington hung on, in a desperate attempt to trap the British. Meanwhile, the British commander was struggling with his own moral. The Americans were making it more difficult than it should be. He was worrying about casualties..

Slowly, and after a successful assault by some Hessian Grenadiers - driving American light infantry from a redoubt, the British moral began to improve.

The timing of this could not have been better, for at 10am, 1hr 15mins late - the flanking Brigade marched onto the northern edge of the table, and threatened to split the British force in two, and destroy it piecemeal.

It was a massive shock for Knyphausen, and it was only then that he figured the 'intelligence picture' out, he was facing Washington, and his main field army.

Knyphausen acted, he moved the ' out of position ' 16th Dragoons, who were now fortuitously ' in position ' to screen off the American flanking Brigade, and turned his very tired gunners and artillery to face them.

He pressed home the attack on the American main position. The British were once again in the ascendancy.

Washington knew the game was up.

The flank Brigade had arrived too late and was too far away to prevent the inevitable defeat of the units in the entrenchments.

The Americans withdrew from the battlefield - leaving a relieved Von Knyphausen with a minor British Victory.

It was a close run thing, for both sides, each of whom, at some point had victory in their grasp.







Meanwhile, Admiral Graves arrived a week or so to the east of New York with the 98 gun, Barfluer and three 74's and the sloop, Falmouth.

To the south, about a month from Baltimore, arrived De Grasse. His flag the massive 110 gun Ville de Paris, an 80 gun,  three 74's and a 36 gun frigate escorting a troop convoy carrying the 5,000 troops of Rochambeau.

The French had arrived in the campaign................




At this point, the British were playing a relatively patient game. Howe had his plan, and it was sound. He was strengthening his command in New York with a view to the drive south to capture Philadelphia. He was also playing some very clever mind games with the Yorktown times. He did have Washington second guessing him.

Meanwhile, Washington was expecting a third British army to pop up and cause him problems, he just could not locate it. He hoped by demonstrating near to New York, he would keep the British bottled up until the French arrived on the scene. Part of this plan was the bombardment of New York by Des Touches. Game wise the bombardment would have negligible effect, but making the British player feel under pressure, and under siege? - I think it would have the desired effect.

Obviously, there was no third British army. I think the mind games from Howe clearly had some effect on Washington. Equally, Howe was perhaps missing a trick on an immediate advance to the south.

Washington was cutely aware of the difference in class between the British and American troops, in two battles he had lost over 800 troops, the British had lost a third of that, and that was when he was behind fortifications - he knew that a straight up battle on open ground would probably only go one way.

Howe, was concerned about casualties, and would only receive one further British infantry Battalion during the course of the campaign (not including the poorly trained loyalist militia recruited in Yorktown).

Both sides considered their options.........





To be continued.....













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
Diary

Background

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............