Thursday, December 18, 2008

french & indian game fiasco...

We inaugurated the 'war room' in the new house with its first game last Sunday. Sad to say, but it's been such a long time since I've run a game that I really flubbed up on the rules. Note to self: Even though you wrote the rules... READ them before inviting people over to play!

The scenario was this: a small British force was to escort a herd of cattle up river to supply a frontier fort. The goal of the game was for the British to get as many cattle as possible off the far end of the table. An equally small force of French and Indians were ready to ambush the redcoats as they followed the stream. Since the British had the more constrictive victory conditions, I gave them a bit of an edge in forces by giving them a unit of Grenadiers, a unit of regulars, some Rangers and a unit of frontiersmen, as well as six or eight cattle. The French forces consisted of three units of Indians and one of troupe de la Marine. All units consisted of six figures plus an officer.

The first omission I made was allowing all units to use hidden movement. Halfway through I realized that two of the British units, the Grenadiers and the regulars, do not qualify for hidden movement. Because we used hidden movement for everybody, it took us a long time to come into contact. Far too long. Yawn. The first unit to successfully spot another was the British Grenadiers. Consequently, they popped out of hiding, in perfect line formation, and slaughtered a newly exposed unit of Indians with initial volley fire. It was so fast and deadly that I didn't even get a chance to snap a picture! Grenadiers are powerful in this set of rules. There's a reason they're not allowed to sneak around and surprise folk!

Once we were several turns into combat I realized that we had not been having figures take morale checks as they were wounded. Not wanting to change the rules in the middle of the game I gave the players the option to start making morale checks on the next turn or we could dispense with them for the game. I really hadn't thought this option through. Regular troops are powerful as long as they can keep unit cohesion. The primary method of breaking down the units is through morale checks. Morale checks also force Indians to run away when they take a pounding, regroup, and attack again. They last longer that way instead of standing firm and taking casualties—a most un-Indian thing to do! Ignoring morale checks meant that the more powerful British line troops (who are already more prone to take casualties rather than run away) remained viable units with volley bonuses and viable targets. The effect of this became painfully obvious as the game progressed.

Nevertheless, as units spotted one another, the French were able to destroy a unit of frontiersmen and mostly negated the Rangers. But they could make little headway against the regulars and the Grenadiers. Anything they threw against them were scythed down in a hail of lead.

We called the game once the French forces were reduced to half a unit of Marine troops and just a few surviving Indians. The Redcoats had handily won the field. The British battle cattle could leisurely graze their way to their destination.

Now, it's been quite a few years since I've run a game using these rules. But I simply couldn't remember a game being quite so deadly and uneven. Then it dawned on me that there was (at least) one other thing that I had done wrong which gave the British yet another advantage. The thing I MUST remember next time (assuming I can get someone to play again!) is that the situational factors for shooting are NOT cumulative. You combine the single BEST advantage with the single WORST detriment and add that value to your die roll. You do NOT sum all the applicable factors!

Clearly I need some more practice in running these rules. Where's that next set of guinea... er, players?

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