Friday, 5 June 2020

PBEM Germantown game

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been running a Play By E-Mail game using the Germantown boardgame published by Decision Games in their Mini-Folio series to manage it.
cover artwork

There have been 9 participants and it has been a real eye opener to me, to see the way that having such a fog of war environment and imposing realistic command and control limitations can bring such a different playing experience.

All players are anonymous to each other and for the most part have only seen a small part of the map and been operating in isolation of the bigger picture. This post is purely intended to bring the full narrative of that game into one place, so that the players for the first time will get to see the big picture and can place their involvement within that full setting.

To that end, this post is lengthy and intended for them, though of course everyone is most welcome to come and see how this played out.

Please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post.


Briefly, the way the administration of the game worked was that a turn is played by the umpire based on instructions by the local commanders. At the end of the turn, the umpire e-mails each local commander and gives an individually based battle report of what happened, plus a photograph of the game map, which shows what that commander can see. The photograph is edited to block out impossibles views, such as through woodland or hills. Viewing range by eye is limited to 3 hexes or 4 hexes if on high ground.

The local commanders then prepare a report for their respective army commander, who then based on the information flowing into their command headquarters, sends orders out to each local commander (via the umpire). The local commanders then e-mail the umpire with instructions on how their force should be handled in the upcoming turn. That turn is then played and so it goes on until the game ends.

If that sounds convoluted - it isn't really, it puts enough breaks in the flow of information to help recreate command and control limitations. It is however a lot of work for the umpire, so it becomes important to have all those involved able to give the time needed to keep the game going, which our group did wonderfully.
Opening positions. North is to the left.

A British force under General Sir William Howe was encamped on the high ground half a mile to the south of Germantown, with some pickets placed a mile and a half to the north, covering the main lines of approach (the red blocks). Sudden Death victory is based upon the capture of Market Square in Germantown or any one hex of British encampments on the hill. These locations are highlighted above with the hash symbol.

The Colonial plan was complicated and it involved the attacking force arriving on the battlefield from four different directions as shown with the blue arrows. The militia would arrive on both British Flanks, while the regulars would arrive to the British front.

The game opens with heavy fog, which creates randomised movement allowances and I limited the view of the army to just one hex - the game starts in a true fog of war, with both sides feeling their way to contact and each army commander seeing only their own hex and the six adjacent hexes - they would be desperate for the feed of information into their headquarters to understand what was going on around them - creating plenty of scope for opportunity and surprises!

So, let's go! 

0500 hours - While the Colonial army was already in motion, with the roads to help keep guide them in the fog, the British scrambled around as they roused from their camp trying to get organised for a deployment of a defensive nature, centred upon Germantown (the British are only allowed at best to move 1 hex on turn 1).

General Sir William Howe and his wing commanders, Grant (right wing) and Knyphausen (left wing), were enjoying the benefits of their billet at the Rising Sun Tavern, while also discussing deployments for the day and plans for the coming hours.

Some units, such as Knyphausen’s 4th brigade were particularly tardy and were still with their tents as daylight broke. 

Washington’s Militia on the wings had been doing particularly well. On the left, Smallwood’s Militia were pushing down the Old York Road at a good rate, hoping to reach and secure the important flanking position of Frankford Creek before the British could react.

Armstrong’s Militia over on the right had been told to leave Ridge Road and penetrate the wood to come out on the far side behind Paper Mill Run, a position that gave open views to the western side of Germantown, some 700 yards beyond.

If all went well, both militia wings would hold flanking positions on Germantown before mid morning, by which time the two advancing columns of regulars under Sullivan and Greene were expected to be at the north end of the town and the concentration of the army for battle would be complete.

As chance would have it, Knyphausen’s Jägers (British left wing) had also been told to secure the southern aspect of the wood behind Paper Mill Run and in the fog, there was a surprise clash between between the Militia men and the rifle armed Jägers. The Jägers got the upper hand and in the confusion and confinement of the fog and woodland, Irvine beat a hasty retreat back out from the woods.

That first crackle of shots carried on the cold dawn air, alerting others that the first contact had been made and putting a bit more caution into the steps of the advancing columns

Washington, together with his guns, caught up with Sullivan’s column on the Germantown Road, giving them a chance to have a discussion in which Sullivan wanted to know what support he could expect on his right flank from Armstrong's Militia.

Washington explained that the Reserve under Lord Stirling (Maj. Gen. Alexander)  was not far behind and that the Reserve would assist Sullivan if resistance up ahead at Mount Airy was too strong, but failing that, he wanted the Reserve to move further down and support Armstrong's militia to strengthen the right flank threat. He did however transfer the command of Knox’ guns from the Reserve to Sullivan, for which Sullivan was grateful. 

For Sullivan the way ahead down the Germantown road was covered by Mount Airy and then beyond that Chew House (the red symbol on the map), which was also on high ground. Both these locations would need to come under colonial control before the town could be reached.

Howe from his headquarters at the Rising Sun Tavern, briefed both Knyphausen and Grant, giving them what amounted to defensive orders that would secure a perimeter around Germantown on the right and the ridge at Ridge Road on the left, with the main avenues of approach guarded. He already had two battalions of pickets well out in front to cover the Germantown Road and Limekiln Road.

With his two commanders leaving to take up their posts on their respective wings, he rode up to towards Germantown, having posted an officer to the Tavern to instruct the Queens Rangers Dragoons to follow on and meet him at Market Square as soon as they arrived on the battlefield. He also posted instructions that when the Grenadiers arrived off the march, they should post themselves as the reserve, though they were still a couple of hours away from the battlefield.

With the sound of musket fire now evident, Knyphausen risked a short cut cross country ride over an unfamiliar landscape in the fog, knowing that as long as he rode towards the gun fire, he would soon be at the point of first contact - was this the first indications of the full weight of the enemy force driving down on his flank?
First contact is in the woods, lower centre.


0630 hours - With little prospect of the heavy fog lifting and the British now alerted by musket fire, Washington wondered whether his bold plan might become undone if he could not quickly locate the British and envelop their position.

Armstrong directed Irvine and Potter’s militia back into the wood to flush the Jäger out. In a carefully co-ordinated attack, they pushed hard and it was only the resolute discipline of the Jägers that stopped them fleeing. Instead, they conducted an orderly retreat out of the woods and across the ridge to Vanburen’s Mill to take shelter.

The Jägers had in fact received new orders to skirt the western edge of the woods to re-locate the militia's position, but having just been roundly seen off by the surprising re-emergence of militia in the woods, they instead attached themselves to the Hessian Brigade, who now commanded the ridge and were preparing to assault into the woods. Running down the ridge slope gave the attack some momentum, but even so, Potter’s militia kept good order and just fell back deeper into the woodland in a controlled fashion.

With the woods now contested, Armstrong, believing that while he could hold the position, his troops were not capable of developing the flank attack any further without assistance, sent a messenger to Washington requesting support, followed by another rider 15 minutes later in case either got lost in the fog.

On the main Germantown Road, Sullivan, advanced cautiously in the fog. He intended to attack whatever lay in his path at the crossroads sitting on Mount Airy, but fearing an immediate British counter attack, he placed his newly acquired guns on the forward slopes of the high ground behind him to protect against that eventuality. 

The attack against Mount Airy was by no means a certain thing, with the slope and fog assisting a determined defence, but a success it was and the British pickets skedaddled back down the road towards Chew House. Mount Airy was in Colonial hands and now there was really only the Chew House position that stood between Washington and Germantown.

Over on Sullivan’s left, Greene had been moving on a parallel route that would deliver them onto the eastern side of the Chew House position, but they had the most frightful luck. The lay of the ground had made the fog particularly dense on this part of the battlefield and very quickly, three of Greene’s brigades became intermingled and Limekiln Road became heavily congested, bringing the advance to a halt while they sorted themselves out. Despite his frustration, Greene was able to politely convey to Washington that ‘I regret to report that this fog is playing the dickens with the men’ and he assured Washington that his lead elements would soon be advancing on Lucan’s Mill.

Unbeknown to either side, the confusion in Greene’s ranks and temporary halt, unwittingly allowed Grant’s pickets to leave Lucan’s Mill and move east to probe the Old York Road for enemy activity, which was a potential route of advance that particularly bothered Howe. Not only did the pickets and Greene miss each other, but in the reduced visibility, the pickets also missed Forman’s Militia that were actually on the Old York Road just a thousand yards away.

Forman had in fact been delayed, while the Smallwood Militia had really pressed on down Old York Road, gaining a mile or so on Forman and crossing the Frankford Creek, a position that could threaten Howe’s right rear. Smallwood remained totally undetected despite Grant’s Guards and the Queen Ranger cavalry being on the Germantown road, which without the fog would have made the Militia clearly visible. If the British had known about this threat, they would have been most alarmed.
This is what Grant and his wing could  'see' in the fog.
Smallwood's Militia is just off to the right ... unobserved!


[Note above - This is what the umpire tells Grant he can see. It is the accumulated information flowing in from his units. Howe, the army commander received a different graphic. His just showed his own location and the 6 hexes around him, so he would not be aware of anything other than the location of the Guards until Grant fed his reports to Howe to give him the bigger picture. Grant is not allowed to send this graphic to Howe, he must use words to update the Howe].

The British right was developing a defensive line that was to run the length of Germantown Road from roughly Chew House to the woods on Mill Creek, in the belief that an attack would come from higher up and had not taken an approach from their side of Frankford Creek into account.

Preparations had been slow at best, with 2nd Brigade still getting organised at the British camp, when it had been expected in Germantown an hour previously and The Guards, who had been ordered to take up positions in Mill Creek Woods, had become disorientated in the fog and had still not entered the woods. 

The presence of Smallwood’s Militia on the British side of Frankford Creek was going to be a most unwelcome surprise when discovered. 

Both the British flanks now had bodies of militia threatening them and Washington was ready to start pushing down the Germantown Road with Sullivan, who was himself relieved to find that Lord Sterling had just arrived, who having found the road ahead congested, came off the road and formed up on Sullivan’s right. 

Together they were a formidable force, but of course in the fog, the pickets had only been able to see the two brigades that actually attacked them. This was reflected in their despatch to Knyphausen, which naturally failed to give the full picture of just how big the colonial threat from that direction was. 

Knyphausen was in any case relying on Chew House being a defendable point, but Howe was less convinced, feeling the Chew House was more of an obstruction to the enemy use of the road rather than being something that could control the surrounding area. As a consequence he suggested that Knyphausen simply put troops in the area that might lend support to the Chew House position if needed.
On the Colonial left (top of map) a big gap had opened
up between the two militia brigades, but Smallwood had made
the crossroads just beyond Frankford Creek


0800 hours
The fog on this chilly morning certainly showed no sign of abating, which while it had been slowing Washington’s progress, it was also keeping his intentions and forces hidden from the enemy. The British certainly had some gaps in their understanding of what they were facing, but as musket fire started to fill the air from all directions, the element of surprise was being lost.

Having taken Mount Airy on the Germantown Road, Sullivan ordered forward his Pennsylvanians to probe toward Chew House, while the rest of his force, including the artillery, collected at the south end of Mount Airy to ready themselves for the expected push past Chew House and assault on Germantown.

The Pennsylvanians caught up with the pickets they had chased off earlier, who had established a defensive line on the slopes in front of Chew House. Knowing that the advance was being cautiously made and having been told to just probe, the brigadier was unsure whether to press home an attack, but having seen the pickets flee once already, he gauged that they were not in the mood for a fight and immediately attacked up the slops, but this time the pickets were better prepared and put up effective fire that deterred Sullivan’s front ranks and they quickly broke off their attack and pulled back. 

Washington was still with Sullivan and believing that the militia were now already sitting on both British flanks, he was determined that as soon as the fog cleared, his entire front would press hard and overwhelm the enemy, though this of course was reliant on Greene, to his left, being able to deliver the full weight of his force against Kelly’s Hill and eastern side of Germantown.

After his delay on Limekiln Road, Greene was in fact ready to resume his advance and insisted on leading his 1st Virginia in person, he had lost time that he needed to make up and so with gentle and some not so gentle words, he got is force moving. As his lead units arrived at Lucan’s Mill, they just caught sight of the British right wing pickets disappearing into the fog, heading towards the Old York Road. Spurred on by the sight of their quarry escaping, 1st Virginians attacked, joined 1st Connecticut.

Although the attack was coordinated, 1st Virginia lost formation as they crossed Mill Creek to attack and initially the pickets held up well behind Rock creek, but with mounting pressure they were forced back and eventually once again disappeared into the fog. Greene had captured Lucan’s Mill and the way was open to continue the  advance south.
Knyphaussen receives a 'this is what you can see'
report from the umpire. His formations (red and
green units) visibility is down to 1 hex in the fog. He is
aware that he engages 2 militia brigades (blue) in the woods

On the Colonial right flank, amongst the woods, Armstrong had received a messenger from Washington’s headquarters asking him to hold his ground without becoming engaged, promising that Lord Stirling was on the way with two full brigades of men to support him. The Militia men, adept at moving amongst the trees for cover, contented themselves with skirmish fire at the Hessians. Engaging like this, they were able to keep the Hessians at arms length. The Hessians returned light fire, not being too keen on pressing any deeper into the woods without additional support of their own.

On Washington’s left flank, still under the cover of fog, Smallwood’s militia at Frankford Creek, re-crossed back onto their own side of the creek and edged slowly towards the woods and Mill Creek, taking some comfort from the fact that if discovered, they could afford some protection from the creek. Forman was slowly bringing up the rear, but had at least picked up his pace, helped no doubt by the sound of firing to his rear, where Greene was enthusiastically engaging the pickets!

The colonial attacks on the pickets at Lucan’s Mill had been very determined and riders were already on the way back to Howe to report this and it would be the first indication to Howe of where the main enemy effort might be.

Grant (British right wing), unaware of Greene’s proximity, had wanted his wing to form a barrier on the far side of German town, with a line roughly extending from Chew House down to the wooded area by Frankford Creek, where the Guards would cover the extended flank.

As the Guards entered the woods, they suddenly came face to face with Smallwood who had chosen his defensive position well, sited behind Frankford Creek, this would force the attackers to cross Mill Creek to get to them, an act that was simply too risky for the experienced Guard to be drawn into. With the Guards isolated by fog and understanding that they were the final flank back stop to protect the British flank and rear, they would just have to hold their position until Grant could support them.

For their part, Smallwood recognised it was the Guard up ahead and were quite content to stay nestled in their covered position until Forman arrived.

Knyphausen’s pickets (left wing) had now faced two attacks from Sullivan and it was certain that as soon as the colonials reorganised they would attack again, so the pickets fell back to Chew House, a stone building and proceeded to fortify it.

The Queens Rangers Dragoons, a small body of horse, at last arrived at Howe’s headquarters and not far behind them, the Grenadiers were arriving off the march and were reforming at the Tavern. The Hessian battalion wasted no time in starting to move across the unmarked and fog bound countryside towards where Knyphausen had established his headquarters, while 1st and 2nd Grenadier, belonging to Grant’s right wing, put themselves into reserve at the tavern as instructed and messengers were sent to seek out Grant to advise of their arrival.

As the two armies grew closer in proximity, the British had at least put up a fairly cohesive defensive perimeter to protect Germantown, but they were starting to realise that they had strong enemy forces about to press them from the front, while the extent to which their flanks were compromised by militia units was quite disconcerting.
Chew House becomes fortified (yellow counter)
and Grenadiers arrive at the Tavern (top right)


0930 Hours
The fog lifted and normal visibility returned, with the revelations of enemy deployments becoming a particular concern for the British, they simply had too many vulnerable spots.

Washington’s belief that ‘now was the time’ to assault had coincided perfectly with the fog lifting and colonial troops were able to pick up their speed with the confidence of knowing what was before them.

The main attack started with Sullivan advancing and concentrating his efforts on Chew house. Taking his Division up the slopes towards Chew house, Maryland, supported by Knox’ artillery opened their assault on the defensive position, while the Pennsylvanians who had advanced up the road to position themselves against the western side of Chew House, suddenly found themselves facing and getting distracted by a brigade of British regulars.

The attack against Chew House started with the artillery being brought up close, but there wasn’t enough room to deploy them and get a clear line of fire, so Maryland went in without any preparation. The soldiers fought hard and no doubt, defenders of a lesser calibre might have routed away, but the pickets held firm, repelling the attack.

The Pennsylvanians attacking Knyphausen’s British 4th Brigade took heavy casualties as the British held their ground.

To Sullivan’s left, Greene, relieved at last to see the impenetrable fog lift, saw his main objective, Kelly’s Hill, right in front of him. Together with his 1st and 2nd Virginians, he picked up his pace and took the high ground, surprised that it was not defended. But once on the high ground, he saw immediately below him two brigades of Grant’s right wing, the 1st and 2nd British Brigades, plus the pickets protecting their flank. The pickets were not likely to be a problem as Greene’s 3rd Virginia and 1st Connecticut had advanced parallel with Greene and fallen upon the shoulders of the pickets.

The pickets, perhaps too used to falling back, routed a full 1000 yards, all the way back through the woods and beyond until they reached the Germantown Road. There, a Major managed to hold the men, getting them off the road and pushing them into the protection of the nearby woods while they recovered their nerve.

Greene, atop of Kelly’s Hill, certainly faced a dilemma. The two British brigades below him, were placed between himself and Germantown and combined they were formidable for his own 1st and 2nd Virginia, so without hesitating and wishing to hit the British before they could coordinate their own attack, he singled out out British 2nd Brigade and immediately attacked. Sitting on Wincohocking Creek, 2nd Brigade resisted, only their strong morale and experience keeping them properly formed, but they did so at great cost in casualties. 

Grant’s 1st British Brigade, seeing the disaster to their right immediately prepared to counter-attack, but Grant rode up and cancelled what he thought was a folly, he simply couldn’t afford to wreck this fresh brigade when Germantown was so exposed, instead ordering that the unit should preserve its strength to cover 2nd brigade as they disengaged

Smallwood’s militia felt increasingly exposed without the cover of the fog and pulled back slightly, away from the Guard, but still enjoyed the protection of Frankford Creek. This also ensured that Forman had a shorter distance to catch up, which he did, putting the brigade on Smallwood’s right flank, together they would await the inevitable assault by the Guards.

Armstrong in the woods on the other flank, who had competently held firm on the Colonial right for some four hours was nervously awaiting Lord Stirling’s support. Irvine’s Brigade were running low on ammunition and so it was a relief to see the first elements of Lord Stirling’s North Caroliners enter the woods and start to draw up on Armstrong’s left. But as Lord Stirling’s men fell in, it became clear that rather than joining Armstrong to press ahead against the Hessians, they had become distracted by an unseen threat eastwards on their left flank towards Paper Mill Run.

Irvine’s ammunition problem became so serious that they had to pull out of the line and get onto the Mount Airy road for resupply. To cover their absence, Potter skirmished aggressively to keep the Hessians busy.  

Lord Stirling had kept up a steady pace to reach Armstrong and the woods. He had been greatly relived when the fog lifted so that he could pick up his speed. But on entering the wood and making contact with Armstrong’s right flank, they suddenly found themselves also in contact with a British brigade to their left, which had entered the wood on its eastern edge behind Paper Mill Run. 

As the action escalated, he personally rushed his New Jersey Brigade up to support the North Caroliners. They arrived just in the nick of time, throwing themselves into the fray. British 3rd Brigade stood firm but took significant losses.

As the fog was lifting, Grant (right wing) was content to essentially put his units near Germantown into a defensive potsure, but dismayed at the Guards allowing themselves to be stymied by militia, he directly ordered them to attack and used his newly arrived reserve of 1st and 2nd Grenadiers to move up to support them.

The British assault managed to avoid contact with Forman, concentrating their strength against Smallwood alone, but Smallwood was taking full advantage of Frankford Creek and it was only the quality of the Guards and Grenadiers that narrowly allowed them to push Smallwood back, now putting the militia into open terrain. However, it was the tactical case that Smallwood’s militia was managing to draw away the best British units under Howe’s command from the critically important Germantown.

Grant was now with 1st Brigade and the mauled 2nd Brigade. He pulled them back into the cover of Germantown, where 2nd Brigade was able to recover it’s cohesion and fighting strength. Grant has been able to recover his defensive line following the shock of the initial assault and stabilise his front, but the fight was about to be brought to the very doorstep of Germantown itself and would become much more intense because of that.

On the British left, Knyphausen was having his own problems. 3rd and 4th Brigade had been hammered and needed to pull back to recover, so he had much work to do. Fortunately he had foreseen the potential for retreat and had given specific instructions to his brigade in that regard.

4th Brigade withdrew into the northern end of Germantown and from the relative protection was able to recover it’s fighting composure, while 3rd Brigade pulled further back down Paper Mill Run, staying in the woods and likewise they were able to absorb stragglers back into the ranks and regain their fighting strength.

Knyphausen had continued to be concerned for the potential of an enemy attempting to turn his left flank along Ridge Road and had ordered the Jäger to withdraw from the woods and place themselves on the ridge, baring the road. 

When Irvine’s militia disengaged to get fresh ammunition supplies, the Hessians mistook this as a sign that the militia were pulling out of the woods in preparation to move around the western edge of the woods and make for a flank attack down Ridge Road.

As reports raced back to Howe’s headquarters, it would become obvious to him that the British had narrowly escaped a collapse of their positions and that although they had recovered a defensive line, the initiative was clearly with the colonials. Everything right now rested on defending Germantown.
The British have been pushed back into Germantown
and (top right) the militia are ready to meet The Guards
before their Grenadiers can get into position

1100 hours
Washington had sent detailed plans out to his commanders, ensuring that formations broadened their fronts and that his assault would hit the whole British line, seeking a breakthrough into Germantown itself or to envelop the flanks and reach the British camp. Chew house was to be by-passed, though some Maryland troops would stay in the vicinity to pin the defenders. Washington ordered the guns onto Kelly’s Hill and he took his own headquarters there.

Of prime importance was that Greene should extend his front, making contact with the Militia on his left and Sullivan on his right and that a concerted effort should be made against the whole British right wing.
Washington's army fully engages the British line


Howe felt that the immediate enemy attack would come to his left as the colonials placed themselves to either attack the British camp or fully envelop Germantown. Knyphausen was of the same opinion, a view reinforced by being advised that militia forces in the woods had pulled out of the line, no doubt he thought, to move around the wood and then attack down Ridge Road into his flank. In reality, once resupplied with ammunition the militia intended to return to their position and join the frontal assault that now involved Lord Stirling. 

Armstrong’s Militia buoyed by the arrival of Lord Stirling, threw themselves at the Hessian Brigade, who were sorely missing their Jäger support, pushing the Hessians out of the woods and back up onto the Ridge.

Stirling’s New Jersey brigade, did not support the attack as they were unfortunately tied up with ammunition resupply, but luckily Sullivan’s Pennsylvania drew up on his immediate left, filling the gap and together they pressed British 3rd Brigade, who were sensible enough to start pulling back immediately and they took a position up on the slopes in front of the British encampment.

The British left had no spare capacity to do anything other than fall back and maintain a cohesive front, but at least the Jägers with their rifles, could screen the Hessian Brigade, which they did, successfully causing the militia to draw back deeper into the woods for cover.

To deal with the British right, Washington had expressly ordered that Greene stretch his line, so the he could work with Sullivan on his right and Smallwood's militia on his left for an 'all out' effort. To help deal with Greene’s reservation of being spread so widely, Washington promised him artillery support from Kelly’s Hill.

As Greene, Sullivan and Smallwood attacked, a fierce and confusing fight followed, with attack and counter attack turning the fortunes of both sides around on some pivotal attacks.

On Greene’s left, he attacked the pickets in the woods driving them out and his advance took him to the southern end of Germantown and within striking distance of Howe’s Headquarters on the high ground. 

To his right, Sullivan’s Maryland pushed Grant and British 1st Brigade out of the critically important Market Square, but they were immediately counter attacked by British 2nd Brigade from neighbouring buildings. The Marylanders took grievous casualties, as did Sullivan’s Pennsylvanians who were counter attacked in front of Chew House by British 4th Brigade with Knyphausen himself leading from the front.

The British position was under great pressure, Market Square was in Sullivan’s hands, but his men had paid a high price.

On Washington’s far left, Smallwood’s militia had been very successfully pinning the Guards for the past few hours. They had taken up a position behind the safety of Frankford Creek and had effectively kept The Guards, together with the 1st and 2nd Grenadiers, away from the action at Germantown.

With Greene’s 1st Connecticut suddenly arriving to support the Smallwood's militia, they put in a local attack against The Guard before the Grenadiers could get into position. The determination of the guards not to budge resulted in an escalation of force, ending up with heavy losses to both Forman’s Militia brigade and the Guards, Howe’s best had just been given a bloody nose.

The British situation was a mess. The best that Knyphausen could hope for was that his Hessians and 3rd Brigade could hold the  Ridge / Schoolhouse Road line to protect the British camp, allowing 4th Brigade to move and join the fight to help Grant recover Market Square.

Grant’s wing was fighting for the survival of the main British position. The whole affair had become a swirling and confused mass of regiments trying to recover the town and form a cohesive defence

Howe, who was still with Queens Rangers Dragoons, joined in with the pickets and 1st / 2nd  Grenadier to attack Greene and his 3rd Virginians, forcing them out of woods. Of the many musket balls zipping through the air, one found it’s deadly mark in the British commander. Howe fell from his horse, fatally wounded.

In an effort to immediately recapture that wooded ground, Greene’s Connecticut Brigade fell on the flank of 1st and 2nd Grenadiers in the woods below Germantown. The Grenadiers held but both sides were badly mauled, with 2nd Grenadiers being virtually destroyed.

The men were tiring, but Grant with his 1st Brigade renewed their attack on the weakened Maryland in Market Square, expelling them and recapturing the vital Square.

Greene ordered one more attack. His 2nd Virginia counter-attacked and pushed British 2nd Brigade from the South end of Germantown, while 1st Virginia made another desperate attempt to retake Market Square itself. The fight was hard, with neither side giving way, but in the end it was Grant, with 1st Brigade who just and only just at that, managed to keep hold of it.

It had been a really close affair with the British managing to still hold two thirds of the town. They were under a great deal of pressure right along their entire front and without any reserves to call upon. 

Though junior to both Grant and Knyphausen, with both of those senior officers engaged in a life and death struggle in the front line, in the heat of the moment and to provide some continuity, as he had been with Howe these past hours, Brigadier General Sir William Erskine took command of the British Army.
The British army is stretched, though 2nd VA find
themselves surrounded at the southern end
of Germantown

1230 hours.
The battle was potentially reaching its pivotal moments, with both sides poised to fight over those critical areas of the battlefield that would decide control, it was difficult to say which way the fortunes of war would go. 

Of prime consideration to Washington was whether to send Lord Stirling forwards to the south to take the high ground and the British camp, or whether to leave Armstrong shielding the right flank while Lord Stirling’s brigades attacked east and pressed Germantown from one side, whilst Greene attacked from the other.

Washington was perplexed by losing track of the whereabouts of British 3rd Brigade, which had seemingly been taken out of the line or more to the point, he was perplexed as to where they might suddenly appear. In truth they had merely pulled back behind a ridge amongst the encampment. 

Scanning the field from his position on Kelly’s Hill, he could not find Howe either and presuming him dead, saw an opportunity to exploit any potential British confusion. Under the protection of a white flag, he sent two officers to Grant at Germantown, suggesting that to avoid further bloodshed, the British should lay down their arms and that in doing so they would be allowed to leave the battlefield unhindered.
An offer from Washington

Grant as the senior rank on the battlefield could have taken the decision there and then, but he was unaware of Knyphausen's situation, so deferred to Erskine.

Brigadier General Erskine was in no mood to accept surrender terms when to his mind, the colonial army had just been rebuffed with heavy casualties and were by no means in any certain advantaged position. Grant of course had his own opinion and already earlier in the day verbalised that they should ‘Let them [the colonials] batter themselves against our solid lines’, though now the fighting was amongst the buildings in the town, he thought the situation to be 'chaotic and dangerous’ and saw that possession and stabilisation of the town on which to anchor a defence was the priority.

The reply back to Washington was equally gentlemanly in tone as the request, but there would be no surrendering today, No Sir! but Washington had at least tested the British resolve.

Lord Stirling, knew of the battle raging at the town and knew that Washington would likely send any reserves in support of that fight. Never the less, having identified a weakness in the British line, he pressed on, attacking directly ahead, where the Hessian Grenadiers, alone, were defending this section of the line, guarding part of the encampments - this had the potential to become a critical turning point.


Leaving nothing to chance, Lord Stirling led the assault up the heights and pushed into the Hessian Grenadiers, forcing the defenders back and dispersing them and gaining possession of part of the British camp.


Washington had indeed asked Sullivan to use his 2nd Pennsylvanian brigade to advance towards market Square from the west if possible, in order to support Greene’s assault on the town from the east, but had added that failing that, he should join Lord Stirling at the heights.


Fortunately for Lord Stirling, Sullivan judged that he could not reach Market Square without first getting involved with British 4th Brigade, who had Knyphausen with them and which appeared a risky proposition. Instead he ordered the brigade south to directly support Lord Stirling's assault on the heights, an attack that offered some prospect at least of defeating the British left wing decisively.   


Sullivan’s Pennsylvanians fell in beside Lord Stirling and attacked British 3rd Brigade, but those defenders were well organised and motivated and the attack faltered, with the Pennsylvanians retiring to the woods at their rear.


This left 3rd British brigade free to counter-attack Lord Stirling, who had just captured the camp. They even roped in a handful of the scattered Hessian Grenadiers to join the attack, but they were exhausted and they suffered heavy losses as Lord Stirling’s North Caroliners stood firm at the encampment. This was indeed becoming the pivotal moment of the battle



Colonial assault on the British left wing


His New Jersey brigade moved on  Rittenhouse’s Mill to pin the Hessian Brigade and Jägers, while Armstrong Sent Irvine (militia) forwards again, to support them, though Potter was unable to assist as they were still sorting their ranks out after being previously disordered. The attack successfully pushed the Hessians off the ridge and pressed them against Schuylkill River at the Vanburen’s Mill crossing. 


The Hessians counter-attacked the militia, regained the ridge and pushed Irvine back into the woods, with an hour and a half's fighting leaving them pretty much in their starting positions. Of the assault against the British left, it was only Lord Stirling's North Caroliners that had managed to both take and hold ground, but crucially this was in a key area of the battlefield (victory location) and the British did not have a free reserve to counter Lord Stirling's gains.


The rest of Sullivan’s Division was situated further back around Chew House, recovering after being hit hard and suffering heavy losses in the earlier fighting. Maryland fell back onto Kelly’s Hill, where Washington assisted the unit to recover it’s morale and stragglers. Sullivan likewise tried to assist his 1st Pennsylvanian Brigade to recover, but they were heavily disorganised from so many losses, that had particularly decimated the junior officers.


On Washington's left, Smallwood had wanted his militia to return to Frankford Creek and engage the Guards, but he could get neither brigade to move. Forman was still reorganising after heavy losses, while Smallwood’s brigade were replenishing their ammunition after several hours of continual action. However, he was satisfied that within the hour, his two brigades were ready and better prepared to take the fight to the enemy and that they posed a significant threat and distraction to the British flank.


Germantown and particularly Market Square was a prime objective for Washington. The responsibility to take Market Square now fell fully on Greene’s shoulders. Without Sullivan's 2nd Pennsylvania Brigade joining in the attack from the west, he would be striking from the eastern side alone.


He attacked with 1st Virginia, leading in person and drew some support from 2nd Virginia, who were already in the southern end of the town, but who were disrupted and low on ammunition. He also had the promised artillery support on Kelly’s Hill. 


The attack pushed British 1st Brigade and Grant out of the town and Market Square once again changed hands as 1st Virginia took the ground. In this encounter both Grant and Greene each had very close encounters from enemy musket fire, but were luckily unscathed, though one had a clean musket ball sized hole through their hat, serving notice of the fickle finger of fate.


At the same time, 3rd Virginia attacked the pickets at the woods below the town. The fighting was intense with the defenders refusing to budge and the casualties increasing, but after an hour of fighting, the pickets as a formation were destroyed, they had just lost too many men, though 3rd Virginia had also suffered badly, but at least remained as a cohesive force.


The British were under great pressure with the Colonials now in Market Square and also up at the camp, though the British infantry brigades were largely intact and remained formidable.


Knyphausen had wanted to hold the line at the ridge, while having his 3rd and 4th Brigades push forwards to attack Lord Stirling’s North Caroliners, so that he could get a defensive line pushed forwards and anchored on the woods, giving the wing greater depth and providing some safety for the camp, but he had since found himself reacting with 3rd Brigade against the North Caroliners who were already on the heights and he together with 4th Brigade were hemmed in at Germantown and fully engaged there as they worked with the right wing to try and recapture the Market Square.


Grant likewise was fully engaged at Germantown, with 2nd Brigade and the Dragoons now getting drawn into the fray to support Grant and 1st Brigade recover the town. He had sent an order out to the Guards to reform and to make their way onto the Germantown road. He intended to bitterly contest a defensive line that would be anchored along that road.  


His Dragoons in their first encounter, tried to oust 1st Connecticut from the woods below the town, but failed, while 2nd British Brigade, 1st Brigade and 4th Brigade made a combined attack against 1st Virginia at Market Square. The attack was overwhelming and lesser troops would have routed, but Greene kept his men together and conducted an orderly retreat, Market Square was back in British hands, but it was not enough, with the encampment captured and held firmly by Lord Stirling, the British had lost the day.



Pursuit 1400 hours to 1700 hours

The British began to make an orderly retreat towards the Tavern on the Germantown Road, that would allow them to fall back upon their line of communication.


Lord Stirling with his North Caroliners pursued British 3rd Brigade, trapping them against Schuylkill River and forcing them to surrender. This intervention also blocked the Hessian Brigade's path of retreat, who with the help of nearby 2nd Brigade and some Grenadiers tried to fight their way out along the river line, which they did.


On the British right, the Guards had to repeatedly turn and fight off Smallwood’s militia who were moving onto the British right flank to cut the Germantown Road and prevent the escape of the British army.

British 3rd Brigade (red) are trapped against the
Schuylkill River and surrender. The escape route
of the Hessians (green) is now blocked.

By 1700 hours, the fog had returned and the battlefield was getting a tougher place to operate in, but as a final act of victorious confidence, Lord Stirling with North Caroliner and New Jersey, caught up with the retreating Hessian Brigade and put them to rout.


As the gunfire subsided, the British forces finally managed to escape, with the Guards and Dragoons working together in keeping Smallwood’s militia away from the British escape route.


At Chew House, the isolated pickets had no choice but to surrender to Sullivan’s Pennsylvania and the fighting was all over.


Conclusions

And so we had a major colonial victory at the end of the British Combat Phase of the 1230 turn due to Lord Stirling still having control of an encampment hex, which is a sudden death victory condition, as is Colonial control of Market Square, which passed hands several times, but was a place that the British always managed to recapture before the end of their Combat Phase.


Although the game had technically ended on an instant win, there were three more turns that could have been played and so I played them out just to see how successful a British retreat might be.


The boardgame has a very small footprint and the counter density is very low, making this an ideal game for an umpire to keep set up over several days and move around the house as the domestic situation required. The landscape is interesting enough for some nuanced play to come out and in the fog rules, some of this terrain takes on a different character, usually making it more difficult to operate in. The small runs become equal to creeks in combat during fog, which hurts attackers and helps defenders, so these brought some interesting touches to local incidents.


The role of umpire put me in a privileged position of seeing opportunities gained or lost as players worked from an information flow from other players and also on what they could actually see. I allowed a visual range of 3 hexes, increased to 4 if on a hill and of course things like the high ground and town blocked line of sight. Because of this, each gamer will have had a slightly different perspective on the battle and will have been hungry for more information and will also have had a sense of isolation. This blog post is the first occasion for each of the gamers to see the bigger picture and to recognise what their actions did to the course of the battle.


One of the game mechanics that helps put some inter-play between the two sides is that if the attacker does not attack all of the units in their zone of control (read adjacent), then the non-attacked units at the end of the combat phase can launch their own counter-attacks, but their strength is doubled and on a combat chart that uses differentials, that is a biggie. It discourages unjustified ganging up and creates a lot of locally important moments, with some units attacking an enemy that they may rather avoid, simply to prevent that double strength jab back at them.


The militia have some nice simple modelling rules. In the open, they have to test against their rather low morale before they are allowed to come adjacent to an enemy unit, but when in woodland they don't and they can also skirmish in woodland, so they can engage with a reduced risk to themselves.


The combat values are interesting. You will note that in general, Colonial regulars are strength 7, while British brigades are at strength 8. On a straight one on one attack, this gives the Colonials a slight disadvantage with their attacks going in on the minus 1 (-1) column, so both sides are frequently looking for that small positional advantage they might get from terrain or supporting units to improve their chances.


Once you add into this the problems of units flipping to weaker sides or becoming disrupted, then quite a wide range of possibilities come out of local situations, which brings a lot of interest to play.


Units do get a chance to recover from disorganisation and even cover some lost strength, but they cannot be adjacent to an enemy and in the latter case, they must always pass a morale test - something the British force generally finds easier to do.


I am really pleased to have got involved with this. It does need time to service it, but it provides a unique gamer experience that will really have you thinking about our approach to command and control in our games.


finally, I would just like to that the group that joined in. They freely gave their time, kept up with the tempo of play and fully entered the spirit of what the game was trying to achieve - thank you everyone.






62 comments:

  1. A thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience...a raised hat and a hurrah for game maestro Norm who made it all happen. Count me in for future adventures. Greg (Sullivan)

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    1. Sullivan, you were the fulcrum upon which our army pivoted. You held a crucial place in the battle line and your Pennsylvanians ensured victory on our right. Well done!

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  2. Absolutely superb Norm.
    Really well organised and managed and (am I allowed to say) how much I enjoyed the small part I could play.
    A true sense of the fog of war during the game, and reading the account above, I had no idea how close things were becoming in the centre early on, such that the American right could have been cut off.
    This, more than any set of wargame rules, brings home the inherent restrictions with horse and musket warfare, and rules designers could learn a a thing or two, I'm sure.
    This has been a powerful experience and points to the scope, as well of the limitations, of the wargame styles that we're used to .
    Well done and many thanks.
    Please do more :)

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    1. In fact - the companion game to this - Saratoga, would be a perfect sequel.
      (Armstrong btw)

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    2. Armstrong! You performed very well and answered every time you were asked.

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    3. Outstanding.
      I thought I could see that true sense of leadership in Washington's letters :)

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  3. Superb gaming expereince, Norm! Terrific write-up and I now have a very good grasp on what was going on in my opponent's mind.

    Thank you, again.

    G. Washington

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  4. Fantastic, Norm! I'd like to sincerely thank you for all the hard work in putting this on, it was a tremendous amount of fun, I had a wonderful time.

    And this post is very interesting, I had no idea what was happening on the other parts of the battlefield, so thank you for tying all this together. I'd mentioned Howe's disappearance from the battlefield, even mentioned what I'd hoped had happened, but had no idea what had actually happened ;)

    That was a wonderful wargaming experience; please feel free to hang on to my email address as if you plan on doing something similar in the future I'd love to take part again, if you'll have me.

    V/R,
    Jack

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    1. HAHA ...it all falls into place Gentlemen :)

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    2. Oh, get outta here! Jonathan was Washington??? That's fantastic!

      Yes, indeed, I was Greene. And I'd do it again! ;)

      V/R,
      Jack

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    3. Jack, you performed superbly as Greene. I relied upon your detailed reports to formulate battle plans not possible without your keen eye to the situation. You executed my orders flawlessly and with great determination. You are a solid commander. Well done!

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    4. You're supreme leadership led us to victory! ;)

      V/R,
      Jack

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  5. Thanks for the detailed AAR Norm and a great fog of war. Well done to you and all involved in what looks like a cracking game. I would loved to have been involved but family commitments prevented it. Maybe another time.

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  6. Well, having got some idea who the enemy was from these posts, I think it’s time that the British made an appearance. So, having risen from the grave and to quote that great American author, Mark Twain: “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”, I step out as General Howe.
    Like those who’ve posted already, first of all thanks so much to Norman for providing the opportunity to take part in something I’ve never done before and will remember with all sorts of feelings and never forget. The amount of time and effort that he’s put in has been phenomenal.
    Having played all three games that he’s designed and followed this site Battlefields and Warriors and Commanders, I leapt at the chance to volunteer for a totally new experience in any capacity howver minor or major.
    Having been General Howe has been an incredible experience and I hope to share over a series of posts here, some of the thoughts as the battle unrolled and some reflections on how it has affected a number of aspects of my view of playing board wargames and of what it must be like to be placed in what for me in real life would be an intolerable situation.

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  7. All of you d****d Rebel officers had better pray you dont end up in the clutches of my Hessians! -Knyphausen

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    1. No way???
      I thought I saw you on that hill when I peeked out from behind the tree...
      But no, I said, that can't be Steve! He said he was too busy.
      ...and I told Washington that I could hold the 'sausage eaters' too.
      ...feel guilty now...lol

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    2. Darren, I had declined to participate but Norm made me an offer I couldn't refuse :)

      It was much fun playing Knyphausen. And we, good sir, eat more cabbage than sausages. There isn't a good sausage to be found anywhere in these Colonies. We "Cherman" boys much prefer the food in Hanau.

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    3. Haaaa I love it.
      I was the bloke on the left behind the tree telling everyone else to reload more quickly.
      An honour sir. Next time, I shall give your Hessians the privilege of firing the first volley.

      Actually no, scratch that :))

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    4. Steve/Kynphausen, You must explain why Kynphausen joined the British at Germantown and left his Division alone on the British left.

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    5. I can add a technical point to that - at the point that Knyphausen wanted to move to the left position (as per his orders), a rules point occurred, when a unit disengages from contact, it can only move 1 hex and never directly to contact another enemy.

      Knyphausen and his full strength brigade carried a total of 12 attack factors, if he had moved away just 1 hex, yes he would have been positioned to possibly move more freely in the next turn (providing he was not recontacted), but for that turn, those 12 attack factors would be totally wasted.

      The game was reach a pivotal point and the situation was that in his present location, he could help the attack on Germantown and increase the chance of Market Square staying in British control, but that he was too far away to do anything about the encampments and so given all of that, he stayed and gave assistance to the immediate greater threat (by Umpire decision acting for what the commander on the spot would likely do, starting from a position that he was already getting sucked into that firefight).

      The British were in fact very unlucky that their big attack rolled so badly, allowing Greene’s VA to retreat, a better die roll would had delivered much greater harm.

      A bit of a Hobson’s Choice for Knyphausen unfortunately and just one of the many nuances to fall out of the terrain / unit position / zoc rules combination.

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  8. And I second or third the many thanks to Norm for putting on a truly great wargaming event.

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  9. At last General Knyphausen to the life. You and General Grant were brilliant to work with. Your reports were vital as the main position I took up on the battlefield [which was on the spur of hill just below Germantown] meant that I could observe much of Grant's forces, but rarely more than a few of yours. They were thorough, detailed and clear. As for both of your handling of my orders and your troops, I knew from very early in the game that I could depend totally on both of you. Thanks again for the part you played in this incredible experience.

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    1. General Howe! It is good to hear from you sir as I feared the worst. You were shot at a most inopportune time.

      I can only say i tried my best and that the game was very much fun. I tried to write my reports as I would have liked to have seen them! :) you had a tough job, made tougher by the rebels and the fog.

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  10. Thanks everyone, a great group effort, we are lucky to have a hobby which gives us such a richness in our gaming.

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  11. writing one way and another has played an important part in my life during my working career and since as a games reviewer and, as one of the poor folk who hit the magical number 70 during lockdown, trying to hit an authentic note was a great fun and distraction.

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  12. Just waiting to see who General Grant was.

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    1. Hi! I played Grant. I wasn’t planning any big reveal; y’all just made it to the comments faster. ☹️
      I enjoyed interacting with you playing Howe. I often felt you and I were of the same mind on what had to be done. I’m glad that my reports were useful in helping you enjoy the game. 😀

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  13. Thanks Norm, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Thanks also to all the players; it was a lot of fun.

    The simple turn structure but nuanced game play made for a very effective combination, I thought. Not knowing the rules around combat or how the combat result table was structured forced you to really think about trying to wring best possible advantage out of terrain and supporting troops.

    That kind of fog of war (sometimes quite literally fog, as well!) is something I'd not encountered before. We talk about friction and limited intelligence etc, but talking about it and experiencing it are two different things.

    Thanks again Norm. It was brilliant!

    Aaron (AKA, Smallwood).

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    1. Great to find out who my other General was. Thanks again for the great job you and Knyphausen did up front and dirty doing the actual fighting and manoeuvring and an equally great job in keeping me informed and responding to my orders.

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    2. Thank you for the compliment sir, but I fear it is undeserved: I was marching with the rebels!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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    3. The fog of war persists :-)

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    4. Aaron! You as Smallwood? Terrific! You performed admirably out on the Colonial left. You did much with little and I enjoyed receiving your reports and valuable intel. That you managed to rough up the Guards was a very pleasant surprise.

      Well done!

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  14. Aaron said ‘ Not knowing the rules around combat or how the combat result table was structured forced you to really think about trying to wring best possible advantage out of terrain and supporting troops.‘

    Exactly this!
    I’m sure the player experience and the associated narrative directly fall from this aspect of the game.

    I know that sometimes players were asking of their troops to do several things in the one turn, such as recover strength and then attack ‘x’ and if successful move on and support ‘y’, when it was the case that the system per turn would only typically allow one of those actions to happen, but the player not being tied up by the system had the freedom of thought and imagination to find the game more immersive and have a more natural militaristic flow to their thinking rather than being restrained and contained by the chess like move and counter move that in truth our games typically bring.

    From the umpire perspective. It allowed me to get rid of or at least reduce gaminess (sp?) element when it cropped up, perhaps the one single aspect of wargames that I don’t like (gaminess that is).

    The players not being able to work to the system and use it as a stick against themselves or the other side also allowed me sometimes to step outside of it to give the better fairer game.

    So for example, imagine both players are on either side of the single hexed Kelly’s Hill and both sides have orders to occupy it. It seems somewhat unfair that since orders are submitted at the same time that the player who is allowed to go first in the turn as per system rules (being player 1) should have automatic right to get the hill.

    In these sort of circumstance, I had the latitude to interplay the player sequence and could dice to see which side got to the hill first, modified by the particular troop quality of those involved.

    This is just an example that wasn’t actually needed, as not explaining too much here helps keep the illusion of narrative as already given, but it just gives an idea of the freedom that the umpire can have to make a situation both fair and better accord to the situation and historical capability, rather than what a catch-all system requires.

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  15. Well done Norm it is pretty obvious the tremendous efforts you put in to make this work. It sounds from the comments that is was a fine experience for all.

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  16. Not knowing the rules was really important. In fact, though I've fought Germantown some years ago using Battles of the American Revolution game from GMT, fortunately I had no recollection of either the situation or the outcome. All I could see from the map that Norman sent us all was that there were 4 roads that the Colonials could enter by. I had no idea when, whether there was any flexibility as to entry hex [or whether Norman might be introducing any element of uncertainty as to timing or location]. I had no idea how many troops would be coming on at a time. So there was the first encounter with reality. The only way I imagine I had better knowledge than the historical Howe was that my map was almost certainly better than what they'd have had. As for the ordinary soldiers, I doubt that many of them would have had a clue as to the lie of the land. All these thoughts during the game made me consider the reality of what it must have been like. Especially the uncertainty. At least I had the certainty that if I messed up nobody was really going to die as a result. I've already passed on to Norman my thoughts on how I view the many historians' scathing berating of dithering leaders of past battles in a different light now and with much more sympathy for those leaders. I'll say more about that when I talk about Washington's offer of surrender and my rejection of it.

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    1. Norm, included only a brief paraphrasing of Washington's proposal to General Grant. Here is this missive in its entirety:

      My Dear General Grant,
      Your men fight with great bravery. While my men held Germantown's Market Square only briefly, we now hold the southern parts of town. My army encircles you. My guns can fire into the Square until not one man remains standing. Unsupported, your hold on Market Square is untenable. Reports from the field suggest General Howe has been killed in combat to the south. The Hessians to the west are under great pressure and your camps are in danger. Will a German fight to the last man as a Britain would? I think not! Their resolve is crumbling and your left will be gone. Even your Guards have been beaten!

      Spare the bloodshed and save many families from grieving. Order the troops in Market Square to lay down their arms and march out of Germantown with full honors. They have fought well but the cause is lost. We will provide safe passage to you and your men out of the town. In exchange, your baggage and encampments will not be looted and destroyed. Your troops may march away unhindered. We will not pursue.

      Yours Respectfully,
      G. Washington

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  17. It has been said here, and I think rightfully so, that this experience brings a newfound appreciation for the general's position. When you cant see the enemy you can only guess his intentions based on experience, terrain, and reporting, hence the importance of orders and good staff work.

    Norm's re-creation of the friction and uncertainty was very effective and much. It was one thing to see where my defense line "should" have been based on the terrain. That was the easy part. Moving around or reinforcing parts of the line when you don't know where the enemy will come from and how numerous he is, is another entirely!

    The pressure and tension of possibly making the wrong decision with the Colonials so close to both Market Square and the encampment was palpable.

    Norm gave us an entirely new element to our gaming that is one of the hardest things to recreate on the table - uncertainty!

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  18. It's been a fascinating discovery that as far as I can see all those who took part in Norman's game come from a primarily miniature figure gaming background, all run blog[s] and know each other from the online community. I kind of stand out as "different". My gaming is primarily board wargaming starting back in the mid 70s and has continued strong ever since, but added to with substantially more Euro-gaming coming in over the last 15 yrs. For a period back in the late 80s, I wrote board wargame reviews for the UK magazine Games Review as did Norman. I'm not a blog owner, though I've been writing reviews regularly now since early in its origins for the blog A Wargamer's Needful Things. Taking part in this has opened up other avenues for me to explore.

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    1. During the 70s and 80s, my primary interest in the hobby was wargaming of the hex and counter variety and not miniatures. I still wargame in the boardgame media regularly. I recall writing a few game reviews for the hobby magazines in the 80s too. Was it Wargamer or Fire and Movement? That memory has slipped.

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    2. Yes, I'm a bit of a board wargamer too. We probably most of us dabble in a spot of both!

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  19. One thing that did strike me during the game and after was that the turn structure and situation possibly gave we colonials a bit of an advantage. We knew with certainty what we needed to do to win and could pick our points of attack, so the limited information probably suited us a bit better than it did the British.

    I wonder if a bit of orders friction might have made things a bit more (delightfully!) uncertain for we colonials. If there had been, say, a die roll to see if Washington's orders would arrive in time for each commander each turn, it could have forced us to to play the situation we saw and may have lead to more (or less!) caution and a few additional coordination challenges for the colonials.

    The British, being closer together and surer of their ground, may not have needed to dice at all for orders to get through, perhaps?

    It was a gallant effort by the British. The dramatic highpoint for me was realising just who we'd run into out on our flank march, and then having to think of how we would cope with it! Wonderful stuff.

    Thanks again to all, and Norm especially.

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    1. "I wonder if a bit of orders friction might have made things a bit more (delightfully!) uncertain for we colonials. If there had been, say, a die roll to see if Washington's orders would arrive in time for each commander each turn, it could have forced us to to play the situation we saw and may have lead to more (or less!) caution and a few additional coordination challenges for the colonials."

      Yes, I've played in games like this where you receive and provide orders that get carried out over two or three turns, which can significantly change the tactical situation, so it becomes incredibly important for the overall CO to have briefed his subordinates on the overall picture, scheme of maneuver, and to have given an accurate statement of commander's intent.

      This was fantastic, but that adds considerably to the friction we're all discussing!

      V/R,
      Jack

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    2. Jack, I wonder to what degree that case can be off set by the 'obey' ethos of the time? I think two things would / could happen, the commander would stick rigidly with last orders or the commander could TRY and act on their own initiative, I wonder just how much freedom of initiative there was in the day or how much latitude you had to get something wrong!, but assuming there was scope, then each commander would need to be rated from say cautious through to reckless or aggressive etc and then a die roll made to see whether they can indeed go off and do the thing that they 'can see needs doing'. perhaps a modifier if the 'thing' that needs dealing with is dangerously obvious.

      It seems that whole area would need a sub set of rules so that everyone was treated equally within their historic character / performance and that post game, those umpire decisions could be justified.

      I quite like a system that I did years ago for a Quatre Bras battle in which all formations had starting orders with objectives and the game was set going. If the army commander wanted to change something, they would send a messenger out, who would take a certain amount of time, the formation would then need some time to re-orientate themselves, by which time the second order was practically obsolete - at times it paid to stick with the original order .... even if a bad one! Though this battlefield is very small compared to many that we are familiar with.

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    3. Norm,

      "Jack, I wonder to what degree that case can be off set by the 'obey' ethos of the time?"
      I dunno, I think there have been headstrong generals throughout history ;)

      And in multi-player games like this, I don't believe you need any sort of dice-roll modifiers to determine how commanders would act, the players' own personalities will shine through in the uncertainty. I think you would see the players themselves justifying why they acted cautiously/timidly, prudently/efficiently, and/or aggressively/recklessly, depending on how it turns out!

      By playing a game with larger dimensions (both map size and number of forces) where you issue/receive orders only once per every three turns or so, you'll even get Commanding Officers getting too far into the weeds; instead of providing commander's intent they attempt to provide detailed, step-by step orders for their subordinates, but the subordinates come to understand the commander's detailed orders have been overcome by events in terms of the changing tactical situation. I suppose from that standpoint it would be something like the CO receives SITREPs/provides guidance every four turns, while local commanders receive tactical 'injects' from the umpire and react every two turns, to really pile on the fog of war.

      I like your Quatre Bras concept, and I think the 2/4 split I just mentioned actually accomplishes the same thing.

      In any case, I can't thank you enough for this, it was a tremendous amount of fun and I'm really looking forward to more ;)

      V/R,
      Jack

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    4. Thanks Jack - all good.

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  20. Aaron, the Guard / Militia interaction was a superb part of the game.

    I gave some thought to delayed lost orders. Initially thinking that a D10 with a result of 10 would mean the the messenger had become ‘lost’ or otherwise prevented on getting through. But, I decided that there are too few formations in play, especially for the british and that this is a small battlefield with each turn representing and hour and a half, more than enough time for second riders and even personal viewing range of other commanders to come into play.

    for example, Greene would often give a full account of what was going on on his left (you), so regardless of whether your report got through, there was a doubling effect as Greene’s report would be likely to get through, with at least an appraisal of the general situation.

    Finally, i thought the impact of just 1 turn of lost orders from 1 formation would have a too drastic impact on the game.

    I did however give Howe the Dragoons directly to his command from the outset. The caveat was that if he tried to do anything with them at more than 3 hex range for himself, a D10 would be rolled an on 9 or 10, the instruction would be ignored. The special rule was to encourage him to allocate the Dragoons to either of his wing commanders at some point, with a likelihood that they could operate on the extreme out flanks (eyes, ears, mobility and all of that).

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  21. I had intended to talk about the offer of Surrender from Washington a little later, but Norman’s posting of the gist of it makes now seem more appropriate. I also want to link it with the announcement of my death as General Howe. The reason being because they were the big too “shock” moments personally. There was plenty of suspense throughout, but these two really brought me up short.
    Howe’s death came first. It was a brutal moment. I knew it was only a game. But when the stark statement that Howe was dead came through, I realised just how much I’d invested of myself in playing the part. It’s the nearest I can imagine to opening a newspaper and seeing your obituary. Hard on its heels came the thought, “I’m out of the game!!” That was an even worse thought. Thankfully as I read on in the notification from Norman [I greatly liked the fact that all communication from Norman was done in a very matter of fact way as the Umpire and all my messages to him were similarly addressed to the Umpire and signed as General Howe], I found that in game terms Command had passed to Brig. Gen. Erskine, who I was informed had been with General Howe for much of the time and by his side when the bullet struck.

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  22. So on to Washington’s offer of surrender. Initially, I was non-plussed. I was also pleased that Norman had left it up to me as the British Commander to make the decision and hadn’t simply said that he the game should play on.
    I evaluated what was being said; a mixture of carrot: honourable surrender/saving lives/ free passage/ no destruction of the camp/march away etc - then stick: a heavy suggestion that I couldn’t rely on General Knyphausen and his Hessians anyway not to do a runner/potential slaughter if I continued. I really thought whoever was playing Washington was a canny guy.
    First of all, I thought in game terms. If I accepted, the game was over. Well, playing it out ftf as a wargame on the table, I know many people do call a game over when they think they can’t possibly win. That’s not something I tend to do. I like to see what the outcome is [and I think that is exactly how Norman thought when he decided to play on to see how the British managed their retreat.] I also thought that this was ultimately Norman’s game and it wasn’t for me to pull the plug and stop it there and then.
    Next, I pondered on what I thought would have happened in history. Here was a less senior officer thrust into command by the death of his superior. I wondered whether he would be more or less likely to accept; I considered the implications and came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t have accepted the offer of surrender if only because he’d have lived on in disgrace [and possibly have faced charges of cowardice/dismissal from the Army, if not being shot.]
    Finally, I went back to the game situation and weighed up what my thoughts on the situation had been just before I got the request to surrender. I’d seen this as the climax of the game and that victory/defeat hung in a very delicate balance. From what I could see for myself from the picture Norman had sent most recently, my forces remained still fairly evenly matched with Washington’s with much the same degree of damage on both sides. The trouble was there was quite a bit I couldn’t see. General Knyphausen had done a fantastic job of giving me accurate information and we both feared that he faced a substantial force, but I knew that he’d handled his force well and there still quite some defensive strength left.
    So, all in all it was a civil refusal and the decision to fight on.

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  23. Since I had the whole game out in front of me and I was handling all the messages, I was enjoying all the surprises that others were getting, but never thought something would surprise me ......... and then the surrender offer from Washington, which of course sits outside the rules and system, but plays very well to reality and narrative - I was taken by surprise, what a hoot and a ton of fun.

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  24. Norm,
    I can only echo (echo)(echo) what others have already stated about the game experience. I played as General Grant on the British and the fog of war was a most enjoyable irritation. 😀. feeling that I was pretty sure I got this down to ‘oh Crap how’d I become surrounded?”

    I’m happy to see some familiar icons /bloggers who participated. Some are not known to me, so now I’m gonna go check out their blogs and maybe increase my online circle of best blogging buddies and make new friends; just like a real game club. 😀

    But in an effort to make Norm blush;
    Thank you for taking the time and energy to do this. I know that you enjoyed it, but I’d bet we players probably enjoyed it more. I know you have in the past, questioned if the blog was worth the effort. I can only say that it’s blogs like yours, which is really just an extension of you, are the only ones that can bring 9 players together online in a PBEM. I’m sure if i tried such a thing, I’d only get one volunteer, and it’d be you.
    So I hope that these rare interactions have shown how much we appreciate you in this online community. And it’s all worth it, especially in these crazy times.

    And lastly, I’m pretty sure that somehow the Rebels chested. German Town is supposed to be a draw. General Grant will return and he will bring machine guns. 😀

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  25. Hi Stew, glad you enjoyed it. A perceptive post, as a few weeks ago, I was ready to take a small step back from the blog and instead increase my internet footprint at my Commanders site, which I like, but it is totally non-interactive. This Germantown experience has been a shot in the arm in that regard.

    Thanks for the kind words (blushing) :-)

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  26. Hi Stew,
    Great to “meet” you at last and find out something of the real person behind General Grant. You really got it right with your praise of Norman. I cannot imagine many others who’d have drawn the response he did for players and players who not only saw it through, but responded so promptly turn by turn.
    Having followed Norman’s account of contributing to the Mathilda’s Field miniatures game and knowing that he was the only person to send in the requested set of Confederate orders, it says everything that we all came on board and stayed on board. As I’ve already said, I was devastated when General Howe died and I thought that I might have written my last set of orders in response to your reports that I awaited with such high anticipation along with those of General Knyphausen.
    I sent you both praise in my orders and I’ll say it again that I soon knew that I could rely on you both for good information and the best handling of the men. I really felt we worked as a team and I know we all tried to maintain the language and flavour of the period. Three huzzahs to the men in red and green!

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  27. Well done to all involved...as a total outsider and never having played a single board game in forty plus years of my toy soldier obsession, it's very obvious Norm provided you all with a very stimulating experience!

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  28. Keith, I think you would hugely enjoy something like this, you don’t need to know anything about the boardgame, the umpire does all of that, so it’s just about tactics.

    My own tactics would be just like every other game I play, march everyone around until they are dizzy, point them in the right direction and shout charge! 😀

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  29. A really enjoyable write up of a very interesting game! Sounds like you got the "friction " of war just right and a great narrative!
    Best Iain

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  30. Sorry for the late comment but it is such a long read that I ended up breking it down in episodes!

    Norm I think this is a fantastic concept and judging from the enthusiastic comments above it was a resounding success. I think this is the first time I am sensing such eagerness and enthusiasm about a game in the comments section. I enjoyed reading the comments as much as the AAR itself. Definitely a hugely deserved well done!

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  31. Hi Mike, thanks for taking on the long read, I keep on saying I won't do that :-)

    I think we were lucky that we had a good group that entered the spirit and kept this going.

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  32. Just had a chance to read through in full, loved it, great work Norm and players!

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  33. Thank you for taking it on :-) and pleased that you enjoyed it. I must admit that I have been back a couple of times to Re-read it, as it was just so fascinating to work on.

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