Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Devil of a Whipping - Battle of Cowpens AAR

On Saturday, I took part in a game based on the Battle of Cowpens, put on by the Metropolitan Wargamers who had come down from Brooklyn, NYC. The original battle took place in January, 1781 in South Carolina, between an American force led by General Daniel Morgan, and a British force led by Lt. Col Banastre Tarleton. 

The historical battle ended in an American victory, thanks to Morgan's strategy of leapfrogging his lines of skirmishing and formed militia to avoid the British infantry's charge, and to wear them down before engaging with the Continental soldiers. 

We were using a variation of the rules that the Metropolitan group used for their own AWI campaign, simplified for convention games. They had actually contoured the table under the mats to match the maps found in Babits' history.

The initial positions of the British infantry and cavalry were already known. The Americans, however, were largely hidden, with only the skirmish line of the militia and a single regular unit visible.

The Americans began by firing and moving away, much as they had in real life. The British moved forward at the double, hoping to close the distance before too many casualties could accrue from the militia's rifle fire.

Unfortunately, thanks to a mix-up on the militia's part, a large number of them were caught by the charging British. Rather than breaking and running, however, some of the militia elected to stand and fight. The 17th Dragoons hit home into the skirmishers, breaking them. A unit of American Dragoons revealed themselves and begin moving to challenge the 17th.

The British center and left flanks bogged down considerably, having to break through the skirmish line with cold steel. They were successful, however, at reducing the American's morale value, which started at 8, and was rolled against with a units quality die whenever morale needed to be tested. As the game continued, the American's morale decreased at a steady, but faster, rate than that of the British.

The militia on the American right continued to fall back, with the 17th Dragoons in hot pursuit. Another unit of American cavalry revealed themselves, to challenge the Legion Dragoons.

The American skirmishers continued to hold in the face of the British regulars, surprising everyone. The 17th Dragoons were nearly routed, but came back and managed to slaughter one the companies of American cavalry that attacked them.

The British cavalry on the left flank slaughtered the dwindling group of skirmishers. However, the rest of the regular militia units were revealed as the British broke through the skirmish line. Lurking behind them, somewhere, were the real Continental soldiers.

The cavalry on the British left took a moment to reorganize, as the infantry marched forward. A gap appeared in the British line, as there was still one unit of militia skirmishers that just wouldn't go away. A company of cavalry moved to fill the hole.

Finally, Washington's dragoons appeared, opposite of the large British Legion dragoon force. The last of the American skirmishers to still be in contact with the British line are seen off.

Having chased away another small force of American cavalry, the 17th Dragoons see their chance and headed into the center of the American militia line, which reformed and began to protect the last remaining skirmishing units. The American line still fell back where it could.

The main Continental units were revealed, showing that the Americans still had some fight left in them. However, a massive cavalry brawl broke out over on the British left. The American dragoons were certainly better soldiers, but the Legion cavalry had the advantage in numbers.

The cavalry scrum broke down, causing huge casualties on both sides. A number of British infantry units, however, charged into contact with the militia units, which caused a number of morale results that leave the Americans despondent.

At this point, the GMs recommended that the game could be ended. The American's morale had gotten so low that it would be very difficult for any but the most elite units to resist simply breaking and routing from the battlefield. These routing units would then add to the morale burden in a cascading effect.

The result, historical though it was, was a decisive British victory.

I had a lot of fun in this game. The rules were fairly simple, but allowed for a lot of tactical action. The paper minis were a surprise, but they not only looked great, but held up over the course of the game (accidentally thrown tape-measures non-withstanding, of course).

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