Thursday, October 3, 2019

AWI at "A Bridge Too Lard"

On Saturday September 21, John Emmett of Lard America hosted a game day at Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn Virginia.  Entitled "A Bridge Too Lard" (ABTL) it was held in recognition of the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944.  Though it ultimately failed to achieve its objective, the mission was immortalized in the 1977 war film, "A Bridge Too Far".

The Lard America banner proudly displayed at Huzzah Hobbies for A Bridge Too Lard
"A Bridge Too Lard" was well-attended with over 20 fans of TFL present and games run in the morning and a new batch in the afternoon.  A variety of games from TooFat Lardies were on the schedule including Chain of Command, I Ain't Been Shot Mum, What A Tanker!, Sharp Practice and Dux Britanniarum.  Given the game day title, most were World War II scenarios with the exception of the Dux game and my American War for Independence (AWI) game.  Included in the World War II games was John's splendid Arnhem game, "Whoa Mohammed", based on Grabner's assault on Arnhem Bridge.  

Photo from "Whoa Mohammed"
For other photos of the excellent games at ABTL, a Google Photos site is available at:

My AWI game was based on the skirmish at Spencer's Ordinary outside of Williamsburg in 1781.  As usual, I used my favorite set of skirmish rules, Sharp Practice by TooFat Lardies.  Now, for those who do not know (and I was one), an "ordinary" refers to a tavern, so this scenario, entitled "An Encounter at Spencer's (not so very) Ordinary" took place around a tavern, pictured below:

The Hare Tavern (Charlie Foxtrot Model) standing in for
Spencer's Ordinary
Work goes on at the tavern...Prince stands guard
As far as game mechanics go, I tried two new things in this game.  First, I created a fictional 'newspaper' to give the players a background for the game and included some advertisements from the 18th century to add flavor.  I handed this out as I was making finishing touches to the table set-up, so when the game started, they were familiar with the historical setting of the game.

Hot off the presses

The second modification was the use of leader cards.  I made a card for each leader that had the leader number, rank, unit, etc., plus a photo of the miniature for that leader.  Here is a sample:

Leader Cards - red outline for British, blue for Americans
It was my hope that this addition would make the game progress more smoothly because the players would be able to easily identify the specific leader when that number was drawn.  It seemed to work well, plus I noticed that the players were turning the cards over after that leader's number had been drawn which made it easier to identify who had yet to be activated.  (Attribution note:  I got the idea for leader cards from another member of Lard America, Michael Ovsenik.  I modified his concept a little to fit my needs, but I thought it was a great idea.  Thanks, Michael!)

This game, which I plan to run at the HMGS Fall In convention in November, was designed for a 6'x10' playing surface.  Because the table for ABTL was shorter, I modified the game map to fit the smaller playing surface.  This caused a few terrain features to be left out (the orchard and the corn field), but also meant that the two sides engaged more quickly so it was not an issue.

Game map with terrain effects.  The red dot is the British deployment point
and the blue dot is the American deployment point.
As stated above, the scenario was based on a 1781 skirmish in Virginia around a tavern, Spencer's Ordinary, and was primarily a foraging expedition by the British.  The British had already sent some supplies and livestock back to Williamsburg by the time this action took place.  However, with reports of additional cows at a nearby farm, the British decided to continue foraging.  The primary objective for the British players was to capture the cows and set them on the route to Williamsburg.  Several loyalist civilians were supplied for this task, so once the British forces captured the cows, the civilians took over. The Americans had to stop the British from capturing the cows.

I also added a couple of extra objectives to take advantage of the story-telling capability of Sharp Practice (a great feature of the game, BTW).  A supply wagon was placed on the road from the Chickahominy River with the objective of making it to the road to Williamsburg; I moved this wagon anytime a 'leader 1' card was played.  The idea behind this was that the British had captured the supplies when they raided boats along the Chickahominy and were sending them overland to Williamsburg. Again, the American's objective was to capture the supplies before they could get behind British lines.  The final twist was a beer wagon (after all action does center around a tavern), abandoned somewhere on the table.  It would be revealed to whichever troops (in my estimation), were able to see it first.  Both sides were looking for it.

The Beer Wagon in question
The American force consisted of 3 groups (24 figures), of the Maryland Continental Line, 1 group (6 figures) of Lee's Legion dragoons, 1 group of 6 light infantry, and 1 group of riflemen/skirmishers (8 figures).  The British had two groups of the Queen's Rangers (16 figures), 1 group (8 figures) of the British Legion dragoons (standing in for the Queen's Rangers Hussars), 1 group of Hessian Jaegers (8 figures), and one group of light infantry (8 figures).

Since I have been so wordy up to this point, I'll try explaining the game itself through photos taken by me and some of the other attendees.  For the start, here is an early game photos of the British deployments:

The British players quickly dispatched the British Legion to try and round
up the cows in the nearby pasture.  The legion is followed by the
Queen's Rangers and Hessian Jaegers.
The American players led off with the light infantry and the riflemen, followed by their strongest (and largest), unit, the Maryland Continental Line.  Meanwhile, Lee's Legion dragoons were milling about in the woods.

An overhead shot of the table.  Americans are deploying from the top left.
British Light Infantry gathers behind the tavern and then...
...deploy around the side of the tavern.
The Americans deployed in a wooded area behind a hill, initially sending the riflemen and light infantry to the left and the Maryland Continental Line to the right.  The Continentals were tasked with trying to stop the British from getting the cattle and possibly capturing the supply wagon and beer wagon.

As you can see, the supply wagon is well on its way to the
road to Williamsburg and will remain in British hands
The Marylanders split off a group to go after the beer wagon, while the light infantry, riflemen and Lee's Legion Dragoons engaged the British right.

Marylander's will ultimately get the beer wagon, but the Legion ensures the.
safe departure of the cattle
The cows depart escorted by loyalist drivers
The climax of the battle was a bold but ultimately ill-fated charge by Lee's Legion on the British light infantry holding down the right flank.  They came close, but not close enough!  The Light Bobs commenced a withering fire on the unfortunate horsemen who were hurled back setting in motion a series of "Bad Things Happening".

Half a league, half a league, half a league onward....
That about sums up the game which ended with a British victory.  A slightly larger version of this game, with some tweaks, will be run at Fall In this November.

In closing, I want to thank John Emmett for organizing and running this excellent gaming day.  Also, all the Lard America gamemasters who ran great games throughout the day.  I played in a great I Ain't Been Shot Mum WWII game run by Patrick Berkebile in the afternoon session and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I managed to destroy an entire British armor column....unfortunately I was the British commander.  Finally, I want to thank all the folks who took photos, some of which appear above.  As gamemaster, I forget to take a lot of photos, so these extra ones really helped in the preparation of this blog.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

AWI Action at Historicon 2019

More AWI Excitement - With Cows!
The 2019 version of the HMGS Historicon Convention was held this July 10-14 at the Lancaster County Convention Center in Lancaster, Pa.  This was the first time at the new location after years at the old Lancaster Host and several years in Fredericksburg Va.  Of course, Lard America was there in full force.  First, are a few remarks about the new venue and Lard America's contribution and then onto my games.

I did not stay at the hotel attached to the convention center and was fortunate to have my wife act as a chauffeur.  So, my experience with loading/unloading, parking and various logistical issues are probably a little different than other convention goers and gamemasters.  I ran my AWI game, "A Cow! A Cow! My Kingdom for a Cow! back-to-back on Thursday, the opening day of the convention.  My wife parked in one of the spaces on Queen Street, right outside an entrance to the convention center.  My son and I quickly unloaded the car so my wife could vacate the space.  There were several HMGS convention volunteers around the entrance and they were quite helpful with directions, holding the doors, etc.  We were there before 8AM and were able to borrow a cart and transport all the game stuff up to the third level (Heritage Room) in one trip.

That evening it took us three trips to bring all the stuff down (no cart), but again volunteers were helpful with doors and my wife was able to pull in a spot right outside the doors on Queen Street.  When we came back for shopping in the Dealer area on Friday and Saturday, we parked once in the attached garage and once in a garage about a block away.

The 'Stuff' in question
Overall, I enjoyed the new location.  It was nice having everything under one roof.  The gaming area that I was in (Heritage Ballroom), was spacious with good lighting.  The noise level was on par with the Distlefink Ballroom at the Host and in my opinion, less than the main gaming area at Fredericksburg.  I heard tales of bugles and bagpipes serenading gamers but did not get to experience that during my games.  There were a few hiccups at the site.  The up escalators bit the dust early in the convention; the elevators worked but one sounded like a roller coaster being pulled up that first hill of an amusement park ride.  Ultimately, the HMGS staff did an excellent job in setting-up and running the convention.

As for Lard America, our gamemasters ran over 20 TFL games including Chain of Command, Sharp Practice, What A Tanker!, Kiss Me Hardy and Dux Britanniarum. We were located in the Heritage Ballroom on the third level, right inside the entrance by the elevators.  I think this was a great location, (there was a lot of foot traffic since we were close to the door, but it did not interfere with my game).  Here are four photos from Lard America games, (unfortunately I did not get photos of the other great games including some PELA winners):

Patrick Berkebile's Chain of Command Game
Mitch Abrams' Big Chain of Command Game
Ed Harding's What A Tanker! Game
John Emmett's Chain of Command Game
Now, onto "A Cow! A Cow! My Kingdom for a Cow!", a scenario for Sharp Practice.   I ran the game on Thursday, from 10:00-2:00 and 3:00-7:00.  While, both games were sold out only two of the registered gamers showed up (for each game).  Fortunately for both games, there were plenty of stand-by players and each game had its full compliment of 4 players.

This scenario was originally run at Cold Wars, and with a few modifications resulting from that game, was ready for Historicon.  For background, the game was set in the southern theater (North Carolina), in 1781. The objective of the game was for the British player to 'capture' a small herd of cows and lead them back to the British lines.  This was to be accomplished in part by a group of Queen's Rangers taking a bateau across a lake to the cow pasture.  In the first game, as a result of savvy use of the Barstow's Rifles by the American players, the Queen's Rangers were never able to herd up the cows and instead got pinned down in the pasture.  The rest of the troops slugged it out toe-to-toe elsewhere on the field of battle and basically played to a tie.  Result for game #1:  American Victory!  

In the second game, things started out as usual, with the Queen's Rangers launching the bateau across the lake and heading for the cows while the 42nd Foot, 23rd Foot and Hessian Jaegers took on the Maryland Continental Line and Virginia State Line (the North Carolina militia got bogged down trying to ford the river).  In this game the Queen's Rangers made it across the lake faster than their counterparts in the first game and were able to round-up the cows and head them back to British lines.  The American riflemen (Barstow's Rifles), moved slower and ended up getting caught between the Queen's Drovers (I mean Rangers), and another group of Queen's Rangers.  It was not a pretty sight.  Result for game #2:  British Victory!

And some photos:

Photo of table during set-up

Some scenes from the game table:

Business as usual at the Dairy
The stable and blacksmith shop
Tending the garden
The Fish are biting today!

The Opposing Forces:  for King George III

British Deployment Point
42nd Foot led by Major Hugh McFerrin and overall
British Commander Colonel Timothy Urquart (mounted)
42nd Regiment of Foot - the Black Watch leads the British on to the field of battle
Hessian Jaegers trying to get organized
23rd Regiment of Foot - the Royal Welch Fusiliers march past the graveyard
Queen's Rangers crossing the lake

The Opposing Forces:  for the Colonists

The American Commander:  Colonel William Bond
Maryland Continental Line getting ready to fire on the British
North Carolina Militia crossing the river
Barstow's Rifles gathering behind the barn
Barstow's Rifles find themselves caught between two groups
of Queen's Rangers and some annoyed cows.  Not an optimal
So that's it for Historicon 2019.  Lard America will be back at Fall-In this November and I'll return with a new, non Cow-centric AWI scenario for Sharp Practice.

This is not a Mad Cow - just a cow with issues

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Cow! A Cow! My Kingdom for a Cow! - AWI gaming at Cold Wars

On Friday morning at the recent HMGS Cold Wars miniature gaming convention at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I ran an American War of Independence (AWI) skirmish game using the TooFatLardies excellent Sharp Practice rules.  This foraging scenario,  A Cow! A Cow! My Kingdom for a Cow! (with apologies to Shakespeare and Richard III), was based loosely (very loosely), on an actual engagement during the early days of the war (November 9, 1775), at Lechmere Point in the Boston area.  Nine companies of British light infantry along with some grenadiers crossed Boston Harbor at a very high tide to seize cattle needed for the British garrison in Boston.  I moved the setting (to a farm in the southern theater), the time (from 1775 to 1781), and the troops involved.  Other than these few changes, it was almost a duplication of the original fight.

So, without further ado......

The setting is a farm in the border area of the North and South Carolina low country, where, according to loyalists in the area, there is a herd of Guernsey dairy cattle, renowned for producing high-butterfat, high-protein milk.  These cows were the British objective - they needed to round them up and drive them back (overland), to the British camp.  Rollin, Rollin....Rawhide!
The Cows
The Farm with Dairy

As morning broke over the peaceful farm, workers went about their duties, unaware of the violence about to be unleashed.  The cows were aware but apparently didn't care.

Stable worker and Blacksmiths working hard

Milk maids getting that good Guernsey milk

The Axeman Cometh

The British force consisted of elements of the 23rd Regiment of Foot, the 42nd Regiment of Foot, the Queen's Rangers and a group of Hessian Jaegers.  The British deployed onto the table at the two deployment points shown below:

No, we didn't spill something on the floor, that is the new carpet in Distlefink

Note to the reader:  Be sure to take notice of the bateau in the photo above because this was available to the British, complete with two stout rowers, to transport some troops across the deep water to the pasture in the quickest possible manner.

The Americans countered with members of the Maryland Continental Line, Virginia State Line, North Carolina militia and a group of riflemen.  They patriot forces deployed from a single deployment point which proved to be difficult and time-consuming for the Americans.

American Deployment Point

The battle started with the British splitting their command, sending one group of the Queen's Rangers across the water in the bateau, with the remaining group circling around the water to hopefully screen the Rangers and their hopefully, captive cows from the presumed oncoming Patriot forces.  The Hessian Jaegers, 42nd and 23rd Foot deployed near the British camp and proceeded up the road to intercept the Americans, with the Jaegers leading the way.

Route of the 2nd group of Queen's Rangers

Jaegers prepare to fire
23rd Foot deploys on the table
The 42nd Foot came on in column, crossed the Little Toad River at a ford pointed out by a local traitor, err, Loyalist and quickly deployed into line to face-off against the Patriots.

42nd Regiment of Foot
Meanwhile, back at the deep water, one group of the Queen's Rangers were in the bateau and making their way across the water toward the cows.

The Queen's Rangers are afloat
After being held up by deploying into a heavy woods, the Americans, led by Barstow's Rifles in skirmish formation, the Virginia State Line emerged from the woods and deployed into line to oppose the 42nd Regiment of Foot, the Hessian Jaegers and the 23rd Foot.  The State Line was followed closely by North Carolina militia which quickly deployed into line next to the Virginians.

Troop Placement
Virginians and North Carolinians exchange fire with the British

 The Virginians and North Carolinians squared off against the British.  Overall American commander COL William Bond was afraid the militia would break and run.  However, much to the surprise of everyone, and through the valiant leadership of the officers and NCOs plus the judicious use of command cards to rally shock, the militia managed to hold fast despite taking casualties.  Interestingly, no unit on either side broke with very little force morale being lost.

Now, back to the Cows.  The Queen's Rangers managed to cross the Deep Water and were able to quickly round up the obedient cows.

While most of the units were engaged in a firefight, the Maryland Continental Line was on a fast march behind the farm buildings in hopes of stopping the British from making off with the precious cows.

While the cow-herding Queen's Rangers continued to move their captives through the woods and hopefully back to the British camp, the land-based contingent of the Rangers moved into position and prepared to do battle with the Maryland Continentals, now deployed into line behind a garden fence.

At this point, the game was drawing to a close due to time constraints (4 hours).  It looked like the Queen's Rangers cow wranglers might be able to drive the cattle around the manor house and behind the 42nd Regiment of Foot, while the other group of Rangers could at least hold-off the Continentals for a turn or two.  The main firefight at the center of the table could have continued for a couple of more turns with no clear winner.  The British were rewarded a marginal victory.

This game, with some tweaks, will be run again at Historicon.  I asked for and received input from the players and together with some areas I saw that needed improvement, I hope to have an even better game this summer.

AWI at "A Bridge Too Lard"

On Saturday September 21, John Emmett of Lard America hosted a game day at Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn Virginia.  Entitled "A Bridge Too ...