#WargameWednesday – A Conventional Revolution #AmericanRevolutionTriPack (GMT Games, 2017) #FirstImpressions

As much as I am an Old Grognard, I missed out on more than a few games over the past 38 years. After moving to the East Coast of the US, I took an interest in the American Revolution. So last year when I saw that GMT Games was going to publish the American Revolution Tri Pack with the battles of Saratoga, Brandywine, and Guilford I jumped on the P500. It recently delivered and I have started playing the games. My first impression of the game series is that it is a welcome conventional hex-‘n-counter wargame that is simple and fast playing.

The American Revolution Tri Pack (TriPack) is actually four battles. It updates Saratoga (first published 1998), Brandywine (first published 2000), and Guilford (first published 2002) that includes the bonus Battle of Eutaw Springs. TriPack has two 22″x34″ double-sided mounted mapboards for the four battlefields with each battle getting one counter sheet (176 chits). There is a Series rulebook and each battle gets an Exclusive rulebook and player aid card. This really is four games in one box! First impressions are important, and out-of-the-box TriPack is impressive; the high quality of the components is ready apparent.

The heart of TriPack is a good ol’fashion hex-‘n-counter wargame. Initiative, morale, movement, and fire combat mechanics will be very familiar to many veteran warmers. The Series rulebook is easy to follow and understandable. It incorporates nearly 20 years of errata making the game mechanics pretty tight. Tight, but relatively uncomplicated. GMT rates TriPack as “Medium” complexity in exactly the middle of their scale. For the Series rules alone, I would rate it a bit below center as the game mechanics are logical and very straight forward. Where it may creep up a bit in the complexity scale is the many die roll modifiers (DRM) in various combat actions, but the player aid cards have them all captured making it easy to step thru combat resolution. If anything, TriPack suffers from the lack of a Series player aid card; each battle gets a card but some of the Series-generic rules (like combat effects) are only found in the rulebook. Battlecards add tactical flavor and are a welcome additional mechanic that is layered in without harsh rules overhead.

The Exclusive rules for each battle add nice flavor, but without major rules overhead. I look forward to playing the Brandywine Intelligence rules (“Muddying the Waters of Brandywine Creek”) and I really enjoyed the Looting rules in Eutaw Springs. These battle-specific rules really bring out the distinct character of each battle. It also doesn’t hurt that each Exclusive rulebook has very good historical notes making reading about the battle more than half the fun.

At first I was worried that the mapboards were too large for the battles. For each countersheet only about 1/2 are actual combatants, split amongst the two sides (Guilford/Eutaw Springs use only a half-sheet for each game or 88 counters). Thus, each player “gets” really no more than ~20-40 units each. Even in larger battles, with up to 80 units on the board, stacking rules will allow some to occupy the same hex. For each battle, the major area of combat seemed confined to about a third of the board. I was worried that the games would devolve into a long, boring approach battle with a major action confined to a small space. Fortunately, in play I found the balance between scale of units, distance, and time work out well and the approach battle goes quickly (and interestingly) with the major battle not always where one expects it.

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Battle of Eutaw Springs

The smaller counter density enables faster playing games. I played the Battle of Eutaw Springs for my first solo/rules exploration experience partially because the counter density looked to be the smallest. From set-up to finish was less than 2.5 hours. The simple rules and handy player aid cards made stepping through turns quick and efficient. In the RockyMountainNavy household, table space is a bit limited so getting a game down, played, and put away in an afternoon (or evening) is most welcome. TriPack meets this desired requirement quite well.

Although I consider the RockyMountainNavy Boys to be gamers, I am shy to play the more “grognard” games in my collection. They are quite happy with “light” wargames like Memoir ’44 or 1775 – Rebellion. We do play Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! (second edition) but it is a medium-complexity wargame using many “modern” game mechanics making it a less-than-conventional hex-‘n-counter wargame.  TriPack, with its easy rules, lower counter density, and handy player aids may just be the hex-‘n-counter “gateway” game to move them towards the more grognard part of my collection.

 

“The whites of their eyes” – @compassgamesllc #CommandandColorsTricorneTheAmericanRevolution

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Courtesy Compass Games

Friday nights are usually movie night for the RockyMountainNavy Boys. For myself, I set up Compass Games’ Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution. I was planning on a simple solo rules exploration game when the youngest RMN Boy sat down next to me and asked, “Can I play?”

Who am I to say no to a wargame!

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Courtesy westpoint.edu

The scenario I set up was the Battle of Bemis Heights, October 7, 1777. I chose this battle  partially because it was the first scenario in the rulebook – with lower unit density – and partially because it was (nearly) the anniversary of the battle! I took the Americans while Little RMN took the British. The British start with light artillery supporting a line anchored at one end by heights. The Continental Regulars are forward in a line passing thru/behind trees. There is also a detachment of Light Infantry (Col Morgan) on the left flank. A strong group of American Militia are further back and can be brought forward as reserves.

The battle began with an Opening Cannonade from the British guns. Fortunately, many of the Continental Regulars were just out of range or behind trees and safe. The British pushed out a unit of elite Grenadiers on their own left flank, and in the initial engagement routed an American Militia unit and pushed back the American right flank. Morgan’s light infantry on the American left pushed out independently and threatened the heights, but the terrain advantage helped the British defenders. The British also used some line volleys as the Americans pushed forward into the tree line.

At this point, Little RMN was feeling quite confident; he was leading 3-2 and had watched   the American Militia run away after a single volley. With his elite Grenadiers and terrain advantage he felt that he was on a path to victory.

But fortune was to favor the Americans. The Command Card “Steal the March” allowed the main American line to rapidly advance across the open field and enter Melee Range. Little RMN triumphantly played another “Line Volley” fully expecting to devastate the pesky Americans.

Then the Americans played the Battle Card “The Whites of Their Eyes.” This card lets the Americans fire FIRST in Melee combat. In the exchange of fire, not one British unit was able to stand and Battle Back. Indeed, three units ROUTED and ran off.

The Americans now held the advantage with the score 5-3 after the close fire exchange. Little RMN tried to reorganize his line and pick off ANY American unit. But while he was doing so, Morgan’s light infantry on the right got a clear shot an an unattached Leader – and got the kill. Americans win 6-3.

Little RMN has played plenty of Memoir ’44 and a few games of Command & Colors: Ancients so he was not totally unfamiliar with the game system. The real difference in Tricorne is the morale rules and the potential of routing units. This bit of historical chrome becomes an essential part of the Tricorne experience and makes Tricorne thematically appropriate without a huge rules overhead.

Little RMN wants to play Tricorne again. Worrying to me, this game we had the Middle RMN Boy as an observer. He quietly watched and learned. So quiet was he I fear playing him in the future because I could see the whites of his eyes as he studied the battle and considered what he would do differently.

#BookFinder July 2017

IMG_1705This Fourth of July holiday weekend I found a few books to add to the reading list and collection.

The French-Indian War 1754-1760 and The American Revolution 1774-1783 are both from the Essential Histories-series by Osprey Publishing. The author of both books, Daniel Marston, appears to be a professor of Military Studies at the Australian War College. Thus, these books are not written from a US perspective. This is a good thing; I strongly believe that reading other views of US history is useful for learning more about ourselves. I found these two at McKay’s Used Books where Osprey items are a bit pricy but often in good condition.

Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: The Civil War is a very new book (May 2017) that I found for a mere $9.99 at Costco. Being sold so cheaply so soon after release could be a bad sign. The few reviews on goodreads.com are generally positive but I will reserve judgement until after I read this one.

I have a wargame pre-order in for the second edition of Academy Games Conflict of Heroes: Storm of Steel! – Kursk 1943. So when I found The Battle of the Tanks: Kursk, 1943 at McKay’s I picked it up to help read-up on the battle in preparation for the game release later this year. It’s far more detailed than what is gamed in Storm of Steel! but it will also be useful for my other new game acquisition, Panzer: Game Expansion Set, Nr 2 – The Final Forces on the Eastern Front 1941-44 which expands Panzer (Second Edition) from GMT Games.

 

 

#BookFinder – March 2017

fullsizerenderFebruary was another good month for book purchases. In keeping with my recent interests in George Washington and the American Revolution, I picked up Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle. This book is a 2017 George Washington Prize Finalist that I heard about thru the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon (on Twitter @GWBooks).

The second book is 1812: The Navy’s War. This book has appeared before on the Chief of Naval Operations Reading List.

The third book is Civil War Northern Virginia 1861 from The History Press Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. I picked this one up at Costco for cheap because it looks at my neighborhood. Skimming through it my boys and I were surprised at the smaller battles of 1861 the took place practically in our yard. We were especially surprised at the Battle of Dranesville. We are using this book as a sort of “staycation” guide for weekends around town.

I am going to have to spend some more serious reading time if I am to get through all my new books this year (seen here and here). I really am short of time; this is only my “serious” reading and not my gaming or other guilty pleasure books!