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The Hudson Valley, 1760


The French & Indian Wars, Muskets & Tomahawks, 28mm

This was one of our League of Gentleman Wargamer weekends, up in Kirriemuir, a small town north of Dundee. The group’s composition has changed a little over the last few years, but its core remains the same bunch of laid-back middle-aged wargamers who you enjoy hanging out with for a weekend. We hold our games in the Brownie (Junior Girl Guide) Hut, just a stone’s throw from the town’s main hotel and pub. The games are always fun, and over the years they’ve developed certain characteristics. We turn up on the Friday to set up, then go to Dale Smith’s house – the local wargaming supremo – and drink his whisky.On the Saturday the games are usually small ones, played on several tables. Every few hours we switch tables and opponents, so everyone gets a chance to do something new. Then on the Sunday the tables are thrown together for a big game – and I mean big. this one had a 24 foot long table – 6 feet wide in the centre, and 12 feet on the two dog-legged ends.We divided into two teams for the weekend – British and French – and set to. My first mini game involved defending a hamlet against French raiders – Indians and militiamen. I made the mistake of deploying around the perimeter of the hamlet, and was duly shot to pieces from the trees. After I pulled back into the buildings the Indians set to, torching one after the other. In the picture above they’re attacking the church, with a handful of civilians and militiamen inside. What saved me from total disaster – after the loss of two buildings – was the arrival of reinforcements- a small unit of Rangers. They successfully held the French marines at bay, and turned a losing game into a hard-fought draw.Next came a Braddock on the Monongahela type of game, with a British column ambushed by French militia and Indians. Actually it was more like the ambush scene from Last of the Mohicans, as my objective was to keep the Colonel’s two daughters alive. My opponent – I think it was Kevin – did well at first, mowing down my unit of Highlanders, and some militia. Then though, my other unit of regulars formed up and fired back, supported by the remaining militia. Meanwhile the two girls were spirited away by friendly Indians.What followed was essentially two games – a chase of the girls through the woods to the table edge, and a fight along the path. The British emerged victorious in both parts – the girls escaping to safety, and the British regulars driving off most of their opponents. We played two other games, but for me these were the most memorable. On the Friday evening we pushed all the 6×4 foot tables and 6×6 foot together to make a mega-table, with a British fort at one end, and a French one at the other. After a good meal and a night of carousing in the Airlie Arms we were back for more on Sunday morning. This game involved two large attacks, at either end of the table.Both sides got to launch an offensive to capture the enemy fort, while in the valley in between French militiamen and Indians hacked up the settlers, and both sides fought la running battle for local supremacy. My own force was on the British offensive side, charged with supporting Charles’ drive on the French fort,  supported by Peter. Barring his way was the incomparable Dale, backed by Steve and Steve. My own opponent – Steve Shaw – fought a very gentlemanly game in the backwoods, apart from his Indians, who attacked the main village in the valley. They almost came unstuck when they tried to melee with the churchgoers, but eventually they were driven off by the timely arrival of a unit of Provincial Infantry. Eventually Steve’s remaining Marines were heading for the hills.
Over on the far side of the table the French were having it all their own way.The British settlement (above) was their ultimate objective – that and the fort next to it. they never reached either place, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The picture below shows the French offensive in full swing, spearheaded by Kevin, while Charlie commanded the defending British team. While some French irregulars set off to cause mayhem in the largely undefended valley, the rest stormed the British first line of defence, where James’ defenders were roughly handled. By the end of Sunday the British were hanging on by their fingernails, but the French still hadn’t cut their way through to the fort, where a fresh British reserve was waiting for them. Half the fun were the special events. Bill Gilchrist, who was umpiring this mayhem, introduced chance occurrences.This could be a few turns of rain, making firing difficult, or the arrival of reinforcements, or assets such as canoes. It all meant we had to keep on our toes. Back on our side Charles Senior’s advance was grindingly slow. This was largely due to his opponent Dale, who seemed to revel in delaying tactics – with matching  gamesmanship. I rather felt sorry for Charles by the end of it, as by Sunday afternoon he was no further up the table than the halfway point. The main drive on the fort had stalled. Over on Charles’ right Peter had more luck – and a less Fabian opponent, and so was able to advance to within musket range of the fort. There his light troops popped away at the defenders, and given time they would have softened the fort up ready for the final assault. It though, never came. We simply ran out of time. So, after much evaluating and examination of burning buildings, Bill declared the game a well-deserved French victory. Although they hadn’t captured the British fort , they’d burned out a lot of settlers, and more importantly had destroyed quite a few British units in their drive towards the British stockade. All in all it was a top-notch weekend. The rules worked a treat, Bill’s organisation ensured a great game, and above all the company was excellent. It also re-kindled my interest in this funky and very pretty period.

 

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