sd main logo

Commanders, a wargame digest



Play by e-mail Germantown

Germantown, Washington Strikes, is a small boardgame published by Decision Games.

The game was run by an umpire, who was the only one with the boardgame in front of them and the game was run by a series of e-mails going too and from the umpire that provided a flow of information into each commander’s headquarters, together with orders and instructions that tried to keep up with the changing circumstances of the game.

The admin cycle was that the umpire would play a turn of the game based upon the instructions received from all of the local commanders. An independent action report was then sent back to each local commander, so that they understood what their units had just experienced.

In addition to that, each received a unique photograph of their location on the battlefield, with those parts that were not visible, for example behind woods or the town, brushed out using an art package. Also, visibility was only allowed out to 3 hexes (or 4 hexes if on a hill).

Local commanders would then send situation reports to the Army Commander, who based upon that information, issued orders to the local commanders. The local commanders then interpreted their orders and instructed the umpire how they wished their troops to be managed.

And so it went on through each turn.

The above map shows the victory objectives for the Colonials, marked out in the hatch, the two forward picket positions occupied by the British and the four roads of approach to the battlefield taken by the Colonials.

The game starts with fog

As the colonials tried to feel their way forward in the fog, rates of movement slowed and they were not sure what they were advancing into.

(Right) visibility was down to one hex in the fog, so this is what Grant, sitting on the right wing of the British army could see, once his units reported back to him.

As the fog cleared, the British found that they had enemy militia on both flanks and a strong force of regulars to their front, by-passing Chew House and preparing to assault Germantown itself.

Washington attacks

After an initial contact and some minor fighting, the British fell back into Germantown itself. The Colonials were spread across the British front, stretching their defences and with the Guard and 1st / 2nd Grenadier Battalions being successfully distracted by Smallwood’s militia out on the British far right.

The British had fortified Chew House (the yellow counter), but this had already been by-passed and the town was repeatedly attacked, with Market Square exchanging hands four times.

It was around this time that General Sir William Howe assisting in an attack against the woods below the town, was hit by a musket ball and died.

The final stages

Lord Stirling was ordered to bring his reserve up and attack the western side of Germantown, to coincide with Greene’s assault from the east, but the way was blocked by British 4th Brigade.

Instead, Lord Stirling moved south and assaulted the low heights where the British encampment was, brushing the Hessian Grenadiers aside and resisting counter-attacks from British 3rd Brigade, who suffered heavily.

This was a victory point location and regardless of what was happening in Germantown, the British had lost. In their retreat, 3rd Brigade got caught against the river and this manoeuvre cut of the escape route of the Hessian Brigade, who eventually did manage to break out.

Over on the British right, the Guards and Dragoons to keep the enemy at bay, had to repeatedly attack Smallwood’s militia, who were trying to get ahead and cut the Germantown Road escape route.

As the day concluded, a heavy fog once again descended and the British made their escape, a compelling Colonial victory.

There is a full account of the entire episode over on the blog. LINK

Saratoga - Published by GMT

This is a title from GMT’s Battles of the American Revolution series. In fact, it was published as the first game in the series. Having been reprinted twice, it now finds itself most recently in a third release, this time as part of the BAR special ‘tri-pack’ that includes two other reprints (Brandywine and Guildford), though this is something of a deluxe version, as each game gets a mounted map.

We played the campaign game last night, which uses the full 12 turns, in which the opening turns play out in a fairly predictable way, due to the very dense terrain and the British therefore approaching on the various roads and trails, though the weight of their attack can be made greater in one place than another, bringing a little variety to the opening engagements.

The photo shows one quarter of the map, with the Americans set up in their at-start positions. And they mostly stayed on the Heights throughout the game, defending against strong assaults in the closing turns, though managing to throw the first attack back. Freeman’s Farm area can just be seen on the bottom left of the map. 

A main feature of the game is an Army Morale Track and the marker for each side moves up and down that track depending on good or bad fortunes of battle. As morale is raised or lowered, the combat die roll, the initiative die roll and the rally die roll is modified. Once an army morale degrades and reaches the Wavering band, then a tipping point has generally been reached, recovery can be difficult and the gains made by the other side can be prosecuted with increased vigour.

It plays well as a game, but I find that the D10 based combat system that can have modifiers applied to the die roll produces wild swings and too often, the player can feel hostage to the fortune of the die roll.

Germantown by GMT

This is volume 7 in GMT's Battles of the American Revolution system.

I have put up a blog post that looks at the game and system and highlights some of the mechanics by way of an AAR. LINK

First Saratoga 1777

Part of the Musket and Saber series by Decision games.

This was their first AWI title in their mini folio series, with a sister game Germantown now also available. It is a small footprint game with a 17" x 11" map and just 40 counters.

Other games in the series cover napoleonic and American Civil War battles. There is a full AAR plus observational notes over on the blog LINK

Germantown 1777

This is the sister game to Saratoga (by Decision Games), they share the same system, with just a few extra scenario rules that apply to this battle (low ammunition for Colonials and turning Chew House into a bastion).

The situation is very interesting. The British start on high ground with their encampments. These are victory objectives, but so is Market Square in the middle of Germantown, which is located a few hexes away from the high ground.

This stretches the British defence, which comes under attack from multiple directions as the Colonials enter from off map positions. The game is tense throughout with much attacking and counter-attacking. It is surprising just how much game value can be had from a mini game with just 34 units and leaders in play. Full AAR and observational notes over on the blog LINK

Washington’s War by GMT

Mike and myself played the new edition last Friday. One of those games that is fun to play and can come off the shelves often, has been given a nice new larger board with some lovely graphics. 

I like new separate 'on board' graphic that shows the states as a sort of flow chart and chits are placed on top of each state, showing the individual  status of each state (American, British or Neutral), so at a glance players can see who is winning and where they need to focus some attention. It makes good use of the sea area, along with the other play aids.

Our game had a couple of tight moments that added tension to game, but despite French intervention, the British maintained the upper hand. The new edition seems to have a few new tweeks that that perhaps favour the British overall. Anyway, very enjoyable and always happy to return to this game.