Sunday, February 27, 2011

Battles of the American Revolution, Vol. VII (GMT) ~ "Germantown"

Game: Battles of the American Revolution Series
Scenario: Germantown
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Thursday, Feb 24th ~ 7.15PM - 9.00PM, Sunday Feb 27th ~ 2.30PM - 5.00PM

Volume VII of the BAR (or is it ARW?) series finds us in Germantown, near Philadelphia. I have to admit that I know very little of the ARW, most of it that I've picked up in the last ten years has been due to this fine series by GMT. I own every game in the series and have played all but two, Savannah and Pensacola. In fact we've played Saratoga and Guilford/Eutaw Springs many times. Yet for some reason when Germantown was released late last year, I clipped the counters and slipped it on the shelf giving it little thought (aside from noticing that GMT is now using my cards as chit idea for all of the games). It must also be noted the GMT had a heck of a good year last year in terms of new games I was pretty excited to play, and this likely contributed to my neutral response at the time of this games release. 

When I started setting up, I was a little worried that this one was going to be a big as Brandywine, but in truth I would say this is a medium sized game, playable in 4-5 hours or even less by experienced players. As we had not played anything from this series in a year or so I was a bit concerned that we'd be in over our heads. But that concern faded quickly as I re-read the rules and examined the exclusive rules closely. For some reason, we decided Bob would play the Americans. I believe Bob found the rules for General Stephens drunken marauding highly entertaining.

Set Up
Germantown opens with another of General Washington's patented multi pronged attacks on the encamped British Army. The British had just taken Philadelphia and were not thinking that Washington would be looking for a fight (we've heard this before haven't we). The Americans set up in roughly two groups, with another arriving on turn one. This arriving force consists of two of the American columns, one of which is lead by the soon to be cashiered General Stephens. Luckily for the British they seemed to have camped out in one nice long line. There are some British Pickets close to the Americans when the action opens.

After Set Up, Prior to the start of play
There are some special rules for this game. For one we have some serious fog, which aided the Americans in their approach. There is also the famous "Chew House" which the British turned into a mini-fortress (Hougoumont style!). The final set of special rules deals with Stephens units marching around in a random pattern for much of the game (which happened historically) as well as rules handling friendly fire, as some of these units fired or where fired upon by other American units in the area.

There are three levels of Victory, the Americans have to charge in and take some VP hexes (near the British starting area) while the Brits have to keep them out. There is also the standard (and the one that has decided most of our games of this series) Army Morale victory, where one side will force the other to leave the field after taking enough hits against their morale.

Turns 1-3

These turns went quickly, for one the British player (me) is unable to move all but a few of his units on the first turn. Bob rolled in and we had our first combat, he pushed my forward units (1 Inf and 1 Art) back. On my first turn I fell back to the Chew house having a hard time because of the fog, which reduces non-road bound movement.

End of US 2nd turn Movement, prior to Combat Phase

US pressure near the Chew House, Turn 3
We did have a bit of a time with the rules on Stephens units, but the random direction kept them clear of any friendly fire episodes. I made a few mistakes early on that cost me some Army Morale. I was hampered by the Fog (-1MP) as well as my brain, I kept forgetting that movement along a lane or road was .5 a MP and this caused me to place my Hessian Cavalry unit in Harms way, allowing Bob to mob it. The Cavalry held out though, but I lost a unit outright to Wayne's Furious wing and I feel like I blew the defense of the Chew house from the get go (next time I'm piling more SP's of Infantry in there and letting the Cannons get overrun). My early Artillery performance was disappointing to say the least...a trend that lasted the course of the game.

As we drew to a close on Thursday evening, I was down 4 or 5 on the Army Morale table while Bob was maxed out. I had lost a couple of units, but we were both getting the hang of the system again.

Turns 4-5

Despite my poor handling of the Chew house, the stout defenders remain a thorn in the American Side. Bob sidestepped this with most of his troops as he rushed to get to the Market Square before I could. I was able to get a line set up in front of if prior to his arrival though and it was a nice position as most of my line was behind a stream. I gained confidence once I was able to start moving the entire British force.

The British Line, end of turn 5
I had since Sunday gone to the GMT site and downloaded the living rules to the Exclusive rules as HeavyD told me there was a lot of errata. I was shocked (and pleasantly surprised) to see so much blue text in the living rules. It made sense though as Bob and I spent a lot of time on Sunday interpreting what we thought the rules were around Stephens random movement. At least now we had a very clear understanding of it. Also, none of the errata's contented had much of an effect up to the point where we paused on Sunday.

I was able to get my line set up nicely to meet Bobs advance. Bob sent Geene up the middle with Wayne on his left. Most of these attacks were over the stream as well. I had a massed most of my Artillery here in anticipation of this attack. Sadly my gunners continued to shoot wide of the mark.

Washington's Army Assaults the Main British Line
While my Gunners had let me down, my Infantry stepped up and beat back this initial Assault. In two back to back attacks, Bob rolled a '0', used a momentum for a re-roll and rolled another '0' (Attacker Captured, +1 British Momentum), this was followed by the exact same sequence and another one of Bob's attacking units was Captured! In this picture you can see the two hexes where I placed the momentum markers marking the scene of Bob's spectacular dice failures.

Captured! Two American Units Surrender in the initial fighting
Turns 6-8

The momentum had definitely swung in my direction, I was now climbing back up the Army Morale table, while Bob was sliding down it. Not only had Bob lost two units (Captured), another couple were running back in disorder and his line was a mess. Howe say his chance on my right and moved in for the kill. Elsewhere I reformed my line with some late arriving Hessian units. I didn't want to advance in the Center until I had turned his left. 

Here though the American Artillery stepped up the hold the line. Bob sent several of my attacking units back in disorder while Wayne (now even more furious at the surrender of the two units) refused of give way. Here you can see my counter attack on the right along with the result of fine American Artillery fire as several British units are sent reeling.

Counterattack! Howe leads the British Right into the fight
After Wayne's defeat of Howe's counterattack, Bob reformed his line and again sent Greene and Wayne in against the British Center. I was now much thinner here due to sharp American Artillery fire. Arnold was also taken out around this time (as was done historically) by Artillery fire.

Washington's 2nd attack on the British Center succeeds
Bobs attacks in the center were successful, sending even more Redcoats back in disorder. After my counterattack had failed I started to slide back down the Army Morale table, this led to even more American success on the line as my troops morale was now at -2. The fog lifted a bit as well and this allowed the American Gunners to shot gaping holes in my line. Finally the Chew house fell and the British had had enough, turning towards Philadelphia in flight.

Flight! The British line Breaks

The above picture is what the field looked like when my Army was Demoralized. You can see Cornwallis near Maglee's Hill desperately try to stem the tide of defeat. It was not to be however.

So, despite a loss, this was a terrific time. We saw the pendulum swing wide in both directions, but in the end it swung back to Bobs Americans and especially his highly skilled Gunners. I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the mechanics of this game, but a word here is in line. Every time I play one of the games in this series I am once again blown away with how much I like nearly everything about it. Here are just a few highlights (for me at least):

  • Combat Chits (cards, now...thank you) this mini guessing game that is built into the overall melee combat process is priceless. I love trying to out guess my opponent and squeal in delight when I do! (howling when I am out guessed as well, so much fun)
  • The Army Morale Table: an excellent mechanic for capturing the overall state of the battle.
  • Initiative: using the AM table and momentum to help create uncertainty in who will go first the next turn creates another layer of tension for the player 
  • Close Combat: the way that some units will run, leaving others there to deal with what may come in the next turn is perfect for this linear type of battle
Bob and I are heading back to the Eastern Front now (U43) but I hope to get another one of these on the table after that.


  1. Spectacular after action report. Keep those coming!!! I am a huge fan of this series and recently decided to come back to ASL. I love all of your posts!!!!

    1. What is the line of sight status of multi building hexes?.
      Blocking or not blocking.