Thursday, May 21, 2015

Indian fighting at Fort Meigs

Friday night's crowd was full for Ohio Frontier Aflame and saw a massive French victory
I'd decided that I would be changing the four scenarios I run as part of "The Ohio Frontier Aflame" game that I run at conventions. So, the trip up to Fort Meigs for Drums at the Rapids 2015 would be the last running of these games. The four battles seem well balanced, with a wide variety of French-allied victories and British-allied wins. I use the games to showcase my French & Indian War rules, Song of Drums and Tomahawks (which you can see for sale on the table in the picture above!). As always, I receive compliments on the look of the table, and once again players had fun and enjoyed themselves. We sold 11 copies of the rules that weekend, though three were to the Fort Meigs gift shop. That is something I'd like to do this summer -- contact the gift shops of historical sites and see if they'd be interested in carrying our rules.
The Huron rescue party takes a two-pronged approach to their attempt to recover their captives from Stockbridge Indian raiders
Commercialism aside, it was nice to have a full eight players for both Friday evening and Saturday morning's games. We were put in the meeting room of the visitor center due to my 12' long table. The players were happy to use the rolling, comfy office chairs, though once the game gets going, most end up standing a significant percentage of the time! Even better, by opening the Venetian blinds in the meeting room, we had a nice view of the reconstructed War of 1812-era Fort Meigs. There is nothing like playing a game set in the contested frontier while looking out at a battle site that played a part in the struggle. Even better, after I'd packed up Saturday afternoon, I went for a one hour stroll through the fort grounds (which are included in the convention admission). Fort Meigs is an excellent, atmospheric site, and I always make it a point to take one of the gaming sessions off and take my time to explore the fort. Many of the blockhouses have displays and exhibits, so it is easy for a history buff to eat up an hour or more immersing yourself in the past.
A wagonload of women and children are so close to reaching the safety of the blockhouses, but Indian raiders close in to try to cut off their escape
Friday night's game was a hoot, as I knew a good number of the players. There was lots of bantering back and forth (I know...surprise, surprise!), and the players frequently found humor in the events of the game. There is a truism in miniature gaming that you should never seek to roll dice against kids and women. However, the French-allied side disproved that one by trouncing Heidi and three Toledo-area high school students fairly handily. Everyone enjoyed their games, though. There was an especially dramatic moment when the sole surviving Stockbridge Indian held off a half dozen Hurons, killing several in turn. Had he killed one more he would have forced a morale check on the Hurons (who were teetering close to the "Below 50%" mark). If the rolls went bad, that hero could have won the day. Numbers eventually told, though, and the Hurons recovered their women and children captives from the Stockbridge allies of Rogers Rangers.
Ojibwe Indians use trickery to gain access to a British fort and attack the garrison
Saturday's game was much, much closer. It also saw one of the rare occurrences of reinforcements from one game turn the tide in the other. The Ojibwe Indians were driving the British soldiers out of the fort and were close to winning the game, when suddenly a force of a half dozen frontiersmen showed up at the front gate. They had driven off the Indians who were rampaging around their blockhouse (sadly, not before the Indians had scalped a wagonload of women and children trying to reach the safety). The frontiersmen were in a vengeful mood, and their arrival turned the tide and rescued the British regulars. That incident alone may have been what made the French-allied side eke out a narrow victory in the second game. As always, the players seemed to enjoy themselves, with a number purchasing the rules after playing.
Atmospheric Fort Meigs -- strolling its reconstructed War of 1812 grounds is a bonus to your convention admission!
In the evening, four of us tested out my friend's scenario he will be running this weekend at Nashcon. Keith is one of my co-authors, and he will be running a three-scenario array chronicling stages of the Raid on Fort Amanda. We played the Boat Builder scenario, which features an Indian warparty attacking a lightly-armed working party building boats along the river. After one turn, the Indians had wreaked so much slaughter, Keith did a "reset" and changed some parameters of the scenario. This resulted in a much closer game. To my surprise, our boat builders -- most of whom do not have muskets -- were able to win the game. Particularly satisfying was defeating my other coauthor Mike on our half of the battlefield...!

All in all, it was a good weekend of gaming at Fort Meigs. I highly recommend people check out one of the events HMGS Great Lakes holds there: Drums at the Rapids in May, and World at War Miniature Wargaming Day in November. They are intimate, friendly events that you are bound to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frontier extends south to Cincycon

A good-natured batch of players game out another session of the Ohio Frontier Aflame using our Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules
Last weekend, I headed south a couple hours to Cincycon, which would be located at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Hamilton, OH (near Cincinnati). I'd scheduled so many conventions this school year that I was fresh out of personal days. That meant I had to teach a full day and then dash south. It also meant there would be no way I would be ready for my 6 pm game, in time. It was my fault for not confirming the time, though. I assumed selecting "Evening" for my start time meant 7 pm. Luckily, a friend was already there and they put a sign on my table informing people the start time had been moved to 7 pm.

Perhaps because of this (or what seemed to be lighter attendance on Friday evening), I had only four players out of my possible eight. I let them choose which of the four scenarios they wanted to play, and we sat down and began the rules explanation. Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules don't take long to pick up, so before long, the players were deploying and the first shots rang out. I had two lady players and two men, and the ladies chose to play the French side in the "Interrupted Raid" and "Rescue the Captives" scenarios.
A Huron hunting party returns through the palisade entrance, interrupting a raid by Rogers Rangers
Rogers Rangers got the jump on the Huron hunting party returning to the Indian village right away. The Huron player was rolling terrible for activations, allowing the Rangers to regroup (they start scattered throughout the village) and open fire on the Huron braves as they slowly filtered into the village. The Hurons charged into contact as they were able to, but the Ranger musketry wore them down. It ended up being more one-sided of a battle than usual -- in fact, it was the first Ranger crushing victory ever in this scenario.

Meanwhile, the Ranger's Stockbridge Indian allies were in a much bloodier battle atop the cliffs, as they sought to return home with Huron captives. Losses mounted on both sides, and both ended up having to make "below 50%" morale checks. The Stockbridge rallied quicker, though, while one or two key Huron braves fled the field. This allowed the Stockbridge to slowly whittle away at the remaining Indians until they alone held the clifftops. Far below, one Stockbridge warrior led the captives on a circuitous path to avoid any Hurons getting close enough to rescue them. With both scnearios ending with "British allied" victories, we did not bother counting up the victory points. The British side was declared the winner.
Stockbridge and Huron Indians fight to the death atop the cliffs in an attempt to rescue or maintain control of the captives from the raid on the Huron village
The next morning, we had six players, who decided to play the "Fatal Lacrosse Game," "Hurry, to the Blockhouse!" and the "Interrupted Raid" scenarios. I actually knew all of the players, so it was fun to watch the combatants banter back and forth as they competed. Good-natured jokes and taunts flew back and forth across the table just as often as musket shots. Jenny, who had played the previous evening to even out to four players, did the same again. She played the part of the Rangers and did not have near the success that they did last night. The Huron hunting party took vengeance for its defeat the previous evening, and all but one of the Rangers was killed in scalped. This racked up a huge amount of victory points for the French side.
A family of English settlers are escorted by frontiersmen, hoping to make it to safety at the local blockhouse
In the "Hurry, to the Blockhouse!" scenario, Steve's frontiersmen attempted to escort a settler family to the local blockhouse. He was able to quickly get a relief force from the blockhouse to join up with the family. However, when they turned around and began to retrace their steps, they ran into a solid firing line of Indian raiders. Steve's brother Mike played the Indians, and after exchanging a few shots from patches of wood on either side of the road, they both charged into hand-to-hand. I had never seen a game where two skirmish parties lined up in melee as neatly as Steve and Mike's troops did. Both sides lost men, but soon the Indians began to force the frontiersmen back. Just when their morale was about to break, a fresh party of Indians showed up near the wagon at the rear (reinforcements from the Huron victory on the neighboring board). I allow players in the Ohio Frontier Aflame to send reinforcements onto other tables if their games are over or well in hand. The new arrivals turned the tide, and the Indians reached the wagon and began to kill and scalp the family. Once again, this resulted in big points for the French side, and a defeat for the Frontiersmen.
Brutal, hand-to-hand fighting as frontiersmen struggle desperately to escort a family to the blockhouse
Rogers Rangers were big winners in Friday night's battle, but on Saturday were killed and scalped almost to a man
The final battle was the one inside the fort, inspired by the seizure of Forth Michilimackinac during Pontiac's Rebellion. The local Ojibwe Indians have used the ruse of a lacrosse game to follow an errant ball and storm into the fort. The battle between the attackers and the defending British is usually a brutal and bloody one. Kevin and Derek's game was no exception. The Ojibwe managed to kill three redcoats early on, but Kevin was able to pull his scattered garrison back into command range of his leader. He then began to use musketry to shoot down the attackers, half of whom were armed only with knives or tomahawks. The battle was a tense and close one -- with both sides being one away from the "Below 50%" morale checks. The British were forced to check first, which scattered their forces, again. Kevin bravely charged his leader into melee with the Ojibwe chieftain. It was a clever move -- if he killed him outright, the Indians would have to take two consecutive checks and would likely lose most, if not all, of their forces. The Ojibwe leader won the combat, though, and with it, the battle. This meant the French came out overwhelmingly on top by victory points.
My scratch-built cliffs are always atmospheric eye candy at our games
It was a great series of games, and the players seemed to have fun. We sold 13 copies of Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules, which continue to go over very well with players. I'm extremely happy with their success. I look forward to equal success in a week and a half at Drums at the Rapids -- our next convention stop. There we will run a game Friday night and Saturday morning in the shadow of the palisades of Fort Meigs. This reconstructed War of 1812 fort is an atmospheric place to visit, and I always enjoy wandering among its blockhouses and artillery emplacements after running my games. Anyone in the area on May 16 or 17 should stop by and check out both the game and the fort!
Come to Fort Meigs on May 16-17 to play in the next running of the Ohio Frontier Aflame using Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules!