Friday, 9 October 2015

Muskets & Tomahawks

If you didn't already know, Muskets & Tomahawks is a 28mm skirmish game set in North America at the time of the French & Indian War. This was the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War, fought between British and French colonist forces.

The battle report here is the second time I have played this game. The rules are very quick to grasp as well as being fun and easy to play. Nothing seems wildly unrealistic and the game has a great period feel - though admittedly this is a period of history I know very little about.

The game we played was on a 6' x 4' table with a few buildings and relatively dense terrain. Nick provided (beautiful) figures and terrain and led us through the process of learning the rules as we played. He had set up around 400pts of representative opposing forces as follows:

French (Nick & Andrew)

Les French
1 French Officer [Regular, with musket]
10 French Grenadiers [Regular, with Musket - Firing Line, Elite]
1 Canadian Officer [Irregular, with Musket and Thrown Weapon - Scout]
7 Canadian Militia [Irregular, with Musket and Thrown Weapon - Scouts, Coureurs des Bois]
6 Canadian Militia [Irregular, with Musket and Thrown Weapon - Scouts, Coureurs des Bois]
6 French Indians [Irregular, with Musket & Thrown Weapon - Scouts, Native]

British (Howard and me)

Our brave English lads
1 British Officer [Regular, with Musket]
10 British Regular Infantry [Regular, with Musket - Firing Line]
10 British Light Infantry [Irregular (Regular for Morale), with Musket - Scouts, Elite]
1 British Officer [Irregular, with Musket and Thrown Weapon - Ranger (Scout)]
6 Rangers [Irregular, with Musket and Thrown Weapon - Scouts]
6 Rangers [Irregular, with Musket and Thrown Weapon - Scouts]
6 British Indians [Irregular, with Musket & Thrown Weapon - Scouts, Native]

The objectives for each side were rolled randomly as per the rules. The British were to defend a small settlement, while the French were on a scouting mission. This meant that to win, the British required the game to end with no French troops within 4" of the buildings. The French had the tougher objective of needing to have had troops occupy each of the six 2' x 2' sectors of the table at the end of a turn and then retiring from the table with at least two thirds of their force. Game end is determined by a dice roll made at the end of each turn. Order of movement is randomised within a turn by the use of a deck of cards which contains multiple cards for each unit type present. This is a great game mechanic that overcomes the certainty of the "I go, you go" games but without overly complicating things and slowing the game down.

Deployed, staunchly defending the homestead
The British deployed first, within 4" of the buildings as specified by their objective. The light infantry and officer were positioned on the right flank with one unit of rangers and the other officer in the forward building on the left and the second unit of rangers in cover at the edge of terrain on the left. The regular infantry and the indians were held in reserve, and rolls showed they were not going to arrive on the first turn. The French began the game off-table.

Indians on the horizon
The French indians were the first to arrive on the far left.  (I am describing the view from the British side of the table, where I was sitting). They continued to advance and moved into the woods. The French irregulars advanced on to the table in the centre and the far right, followed by the French grenadiers, further to the right, as the British light infantry advanced to a better firing position. The French line fired and two of the light infantrymen fell dead.

The Grenadiers arrive
British morale held firm and the light infantry continued to advance - the intent to delay the French and deny their scouting. Returning fire at the French line, one of the grenadiers fell dead. The French irregulars moved into positions to concentrate fire on the British light infantry.

With no reserves in sight, the pressure was on the light infantry and with some lucky shooting killed
three of the Grenadiers forcing them to recoil - just not quite enough to push them off the table. Fire was returned from all directions, but the British held fast.

Indians vs. Indians
Meanwhile on the left flank, the French Indians had advanced across the table mid-line and just needed to stay there by the end of the turn to scout that sector. The British Indians arrived to face them off - just a little too late perhaps but some good shooting might put them to flight before the end of the turn. An all-Indian shooting match began, with many shots exchanged for negligible effect.

Time to fall back now, lads
The light infantry in the centre were suffering now, though. Concentrated shooting by the French forced them out of the woods, recoiling multiple times as their numbers dwindled to a single man, but never breaking, as the French irregulars took the central woodland block. Finally, the British Regulars arrived, advancing to the river - and attempting to cross it, which in hindsight was probably not particularly sensible. Taking up a firing position, with the intent of delaying the French advance further, they were surprisingly successful against the French irregulars on the first shot.

British infantry, not being particularly sensible
It wasn't to last though. As British casualties mounted, the French steadily advanced to the edge of terrain within a single move of the sectors they needed to scout. As the fourth turn drew to a close, they made their move, two units of  irregulars advancing into the right sector, one running up to the settlement walls.

...and there was a very big scrap...
In desperation the Rangers (whose shooting from the building had proved wholly ineffective) charged out of the building as the other unit of Rangers streamed around the other side of the building into melee with the same unit of the French in what was to be the decisive encounter of the game.

Three Rangers died to tomahawks on the charge in. Not a good start for the British. But despite Howard's dice rolling they just had the upper hand in the melee and forced the French to fight a second round. Again the British had the edge, and with a very poor morale roll the French took flight as the fourth turn ended. The French only had the central sector left to scout. But they were not to have the chance, as the dice announced the end of the game.

With no French within 4" of the buildings, the British scraped a win.

Overall, a great game, with straightforward rules and game mechanics that work very well for an evening game which is a lot of fun. We will definitely be playing this game again!