Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Battle of Gloucester - Domari Nolo AAR

This past weekend, I travelled back to Pennsylvania to play in one of Bob's big community games. 

The last time I had done so was Bob's recreation of the Battle of Clontarf, which had reversed history with the Irish defeated but Brian Boru surviving to fight another day. Now were refighting the Battle of Gloucester with Bob's Domari Nolo ruleset.

(As an aside, I looked up where Bob had gotten the title for his rules. "Domari Nolo" was the motto on the flag of the 1st Continental Regiment during the American War of Independence, and means "I will not be subjugated." A well chosen title!)

The scenario finds the British army wrapping up a successful foraging campaign in late November, 1777 as the British occupy Philadelphia. Cornwallis is loading his troops to leave New Jersey for the British winter quarters when the sounds of battle reach him. A number of American riflemen and militia, led by the Marquis de Lafayette, has turned a reconnaissance into an attack, and the unprepared British and Hessian troops are routing towards the barges that will take them to safety. Cornwallis needs to rally his troops, ready the defenses, and repulse the Americans.   

According to the scenario, the British would score points by sending full barges across the river and by capturing American and French officers. They would lose points by deploying units to fight against the Americans. 

The Americans would score points by capturing British and Hessian troops, officers, and artillery pieces.

At the battle's outset, most of the British troops were gathered along the Delaware River, with pack animals and forage ready to board and head back into Pennsylvania. These troops were not deployed and unable to contribute activations cards to the battle deck, according to Bob's rules.

Hessian grenadiers and jaegers made up the rear of the column, with another group of jaegers deployed as a picket line.

The first Americans to arrive were riflemen. Their long range and accuracy sent the Hessians fleeing towards the column's rear, opening a good amount of space for the rest of the Americans to deploy.

As the Americans came on, the British focused on loading the barges, and managed to get two off into the river.

The Hessian jaegers would face the brunt of the American attack for most of the game. The British were forced to deploy a second company of jaegers to support the picket jaegers, which was still streaming towards the town.

While some troops waited to board, Cornwallis sent his light infantry to occupy the defenses along with a cannon.

At this point, so many British troops had been activated that only a compete rout of the Americans would result in a British victory.

With American militia troops pressing through the woods, the Hessian jaegers finally collected themselves and presented two lines of battle.

They would need to be ready, as more American riflemen were pushing towards the town, and a squadron of Continental cavalry was readying a charge.

The main fight had finally begun on the outskirts of town. The British light infantry and Hessian jaegers, supported by guns from British ships on the Delaware, aimed to hold back the attacking militia and riflemen.

The American cavalry was driven off, but not before they forced a line of jaegers back. A massive group of American militia had marched in from a nearby swamp to support the attack, but the jaegers' rifles ripped through the colonial troops and sent them reeling for a time.

With a gap in their defenses, Cornwallis rallied the jaegers and sent them forward to recover their lost amusette (an oversized rifle used as a light artillery piece). Over on the British left, the jaegers were trying to hold back the American cavalry - a difficult problem, as the Hessian light infantry lacked the necessary bayonets.

Various groups of Americans were streaming towards Gloucester, hoping to spoil the British retreat.

As the fighting continued, the British had moved four of the available six barges off into the river. However, the American cavalry had delivered a thrashing to the jaegers holding the British flank, chasing them to the banks of the Delaware and scattering the German mercenaries. Even the covering fire from the British ships couldn't chase the cavalry out of the town's proximity.

By the the sun had begun to set, the British were still desperately holding on. It was only the loss of light that prevented the American cavalry from sweeping through Gloucester into their rear lines.

Lafayette looked on, happy with the days conclusion. His troops were mostly intact, and the British had been severely delayed and would need to continue into the next day or two to get their supplies and wounded across the river. He would even return with a few prisoners.

The end result of the game was a resounding victory for the Americans. While the British managed to get four of the six barges off the table, they had activated too many units to try and hold back the Americans to break even. Casualties from the enemy's rifle fire and cavalry charges only served to increase the imbalance of points.

It seemed like the players largely enjoyed the game. Bob's rules were fairly easy to learn, with only a couple potential changes or refinements. I especially liked how his morale and casualty recovery rules reflected how battle losses in the 18th century were not from deaths but from men fleeing the line of battle. In Bob's rules, this meant that losses could be recovered once a unit was activated, so it was actually hard to actually reduce the number of soldiers in a unit.

However, units could activate as normal even when they failed their morale test, so even causing a unit to retreat backwards didn't keep them out of fight for very long. The rules also lacked a way of showing fatigue for a unit, which meant that a single unit could be activate multiple times in a turn. This allowed certain units to dominate the battle once they were in the right position, and meant that other units were hardly touched, acting only to provide addition cards in the activation deck. Limiting how many times a unit could be activated, or having it cause negative morale modifiers (thus causing more men to flee the battle when being shot at) could help with this.

Regardless, I'm glad I traveled back to PA for the game, and I look forward to attending more of Bob's scenarios!


  1. Nice scenario and a good discussion of the rules. I liked that the brits lost points for activating too many units, a nice balancing feature. 😀

    1. There was a discussion amongst the British commanders (including me) as to whether we should just say "Damn the points!" and activate all of the British units first turn. It would have ruined the scenario, but we likely would have had enough time and activations to run the Americans off!

      If we see Gloucester on the table again, that will likely be the plan.