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Subject: A Pox on Rogers Rangers rss

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Subudai (Pete) Khan
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Editors note: Played the ‘Battle on Snowshoes’ scenario from the French & Indian Wars expansion here during the Canberra Day public holiday long weekend. Another finely balanced scenario from the ‘Hold the Line team, this was a scenario we almost dismissed playing because there were only five British two-strength ranger units fighting fourteen French units, but this battle went down to the wire and the 18th and last game turn before we had a result. We now have a new respect for those seemingly 'smaller' scenarios.

GT1-6: The Comte de Langy was determined to enact revenge for the many depredations on French honour and income inflicted during this latest campaign by the revolting Rogers Rangers. For this reason, when the comte’s forces encountered the camp of the rangers in the snows of remote up-state Vermont, the battle began with a flanking move to the right by two French Indian allied units, the Indians moving beyond Ranger musket range as the Rangers sat secure in their hilltop positions. This manoeuvre could only be countered by the British-American forces pushing two of their ranger units on the American left first east and then north. Eventually, one ranger unit sat atop the right most victory hex at the north edge of the map, whilst two hexes away to the east (in the lone woods hex) sat a single Indian unit, both units destined to play vital roles at battle's end. Far to the southeast, the second ranger unit stayed on the top of the ridge near the south-east end of the u-shaped hill position.

Content his flanking move right had achieved the aim of weakening the US position, with any spare AP at hand the Comte de Langy simultaneously pushed as many Indian units (augmented by a single French militia unit) to the French left. Here, the ground soon precluded a flanking move similar to that on the right. All too soon the Indians and militia could not avoid having to brave the fire of a Ranger unit positioned atop the north-western most hill hex. The comte, perhaps over-optimistically, accepted this outcome and ordered three Indian units and the militia to close adjacent to the ranger position (the militia on the right, in open ground at the base of the northwest hill hex, three hexes from Rogers own starting hex). Luckily, GT4 saw the simultaneous advance of two of the three French regular companies (the four strong units) through gaps now made in the French line by the moves of several militia units. The large French units were aiming straight for the centre of the American position, a tactical move that fixed Rogers himself and two adjacent Ranger units in their at-start hexes.

GT7-12: Fighting around that north-western hill hex proved very intense, with Ranger musketry proving absolutely lethal to the poor French militia, as it did to two of the three French Indian units also adjacent to the Ranger position. The elite status of the US forces proved itself several times when, under intense fire from Indian muskets and arrows, in a combat climate where any ordinary militia unit would have been destroyed, it was a case of not so for the rangers [editors note: their elite status allowing them to re-roll hits on the last figure in their unit, the north-west Ranger unit survived three times hits from fire that would have destroyed a militia equivalent unit]. Although the north-western ranger unit was eventually wiped out, this was not before the British/Americans (including Rogers own unit, which at this stage of the battle had moved north, into the forest, in part to cut off any Indian thrust north-east towards the VP hexes) had wiped out all three of the Indian units as well as the French militia unit.

Only the relentless advance of the French regular line units in the French centre – aimed at Rogers initial start position – saved the day for the Comte and his men. A stroke of amazing good fortune for French arms was that – inexplicably - the lone US ranger unit atop and centre of the hill line the French were aiming for, suddenly advanced off its hilltop redoubt to engage a now only two-strength strong regular unit in close range musketry [editors note: it later emerged that American thinking was that, having destroyed the regulars, the rangers would then go west and carve up several of the nearby French militia units that had moved no more than one hex from their start positions; given losses already to the French Indian allied units, such an attack might give the Rangers the 7 x VP they needed for an outright win early in the game].

It was indeed fortunate for the good Comte that the planned American tactic failed spectacularly, the Ranger unit shooting wide of their intended mark [the Rangers rolled three d6 at 1 hex range, but the result was a flurry of unwelcome two’s and three’s, rather than the hoped for 5's and 6's]. The weakened French regulars responded with a close assault employing the bayonet, wiping out the over-confident American Ranger unit.

Suddenly, Rogers realised that he had just three of his five starting units left; his unit, having carved up an Indian unit in the woods neast of the northwest hill hex, was now deep in the woods in the saddle of the u-shaped hills; a second Ranger unit remained defending the north-eastern-most VP hex; the third and last US Ranger unit was in the southeast hill position, where it was covering against a rush by an Indian unit in the open to the east as well as an Indian unit southwest of the Rangers (this last Indian unit by now sitting two hexes from Rogers initial start position).

Meanwhile, there was the not insignificant matter of there being three French regular units either on or adjacent the Ranger at-start hill positions. With six game turns remaining, the relatively large French regular units now stood five hexes from the two VP hexes.

GT13-16: The third phase of the battle began with an over-confidant Comte ordering his two southern allied Indian units to converge and attack the lone ranger unit in the south-east hill hex. Within a couple of game turns that proved a poor decision; one Indian unit was wiped out, the Indians between them only managing in turn to weaken the Rangers (strength reduced from 2 figures to 1). It took the musketry from a weakened French line unit to finish off the elite Rangers, though not before the right-most regular unit itself suffered a mauling from Rogers own Ranger unit as it turned south and counter-attacked with fire against the French regulars (Ranger fire from Rogers unit wiped out two of four figures in the French unit).

Still, the French had now destroyed three ranger units. A fourth was tied down protecting the VP hexes. Only Rogers and his unit remained to conduct offensive operations; and Rogers unit would have to do so whilst the Comte de Langy pushed his French regulars northeast towards the VP hexes and victory.

Rogers responded to the challenge with several spectacular moves and fire fights. The first involved his sweeping south-east to engage the sole Indian unit now left in that region. The fury of Rogers assault was such that the hapless Indian warriors were wiped out [six victory points in the bag for the Americans at this point, one short of a British/US victory]. Rogers then later sortied west, content he could prevail over the four, widely-spread French militia units, wiping at least one of them out before the comte reached the now vital to French victory northern VP hexes.

Hence, Rogers’ own unit ended up atop their at-start hill-top position. Below in the open ground was a two-strength French militia unit. Rogers’ men made two successive close assaults against the French militia, but alas, the competence of the Rangers with hatchet was not matched by their skill with aimed fire. Not one casualty was inflicted on the plucky French militia unit, but French return fire shot away half of Rogers men and the general himself was wounded [general's counter flipped from 2/2 to 2/1].

Chastised by this outcome, and perhaps concerned he might yet be mortal, Rogers now moved with all haste northeast [editors note: we may be wrong, but a Ranger unit can move two hexes through woods for one AP. Moving with Rogers, provided a second AP was expended, we assumed Rogers could move with his unit three hexes through woods hexes. Please, if we have made an error in that assumption, let us know]. Rogers redeployment came none too soon; by now the good comte had manoeuvred all three French regular units within striking distance of the northern VP hexes (one four-strength unit was atop the single hill hex). The Comte having restored morale in one French unit (2 figures to 3) and with that unit two hexes from a VP hex (the intervening hex being open ground), the stage was set for the final moments of the battle.

In the US segment of GT16, French moves prompted a move west by the northern Ranger unit so that it now occupied the western, not the eastern VP hex. Shooting by the rangers at the conclusion of this move [2 x AP paid to allow this] was not at all accurate, with one casualty inflicted on the regular French unit on the hill; but now the eastern VP hex was open to seizure by the Indian unit to the east.

GT17: French losses so far, especially amongst their Indian allies, had been grievous. For this reason - and conscious especially that loss of another unit would cede the US victory - the French were loath at this point to move their Indian unit from its relatively safe position in the forest hex two hexes east of the eastern VP hex. Nevertheless, a final reckoning was at hand as, at this point, no clear victor was emerging. The now three-strength French regular unit sitting atop the single hill hex adjacent to the VP hexes was also positioned adjacent to the Rangers in the western VP hex. For this reason, the French unit was ordered to close assault the Rangers. Alas for the French, the plucky American unit stood firm, losing one figure, but refusing to retreat, all whilst surviving the loss of a second figure (the Americans rolled a 3 on their elite combat loss roll)

However, perhaps alarmed by his losses, the local American unit commander then moved his weakened Ranger unit to the eastern VP hex [editors note: this move removed the weakened Ranger unit from any chance of being shot at or close assaulted by the French regulars in GT18, so tactically it was a very sound move]. Further south, a wounded Rogers and his now one-strong unit was positioned three hexes south of the VP hexes (Rogers unit was in the midst of the forest), well within striking range to deliver musket fire on GT18 against any weak French units [editors note; assuming we were right to allow that unit to move three hexes through forest, provided the US player used three x AP because Rogers was with this unit].

GT18: The comte, desperate for victory, ordered his three-strength regular unit on the single northern hill forward to occupy the western VP hex. After that move was complete, the French regulars could now do nothing more than hope that their weak, two-strength regular unit southwest of the single hill survived any fire effect Rogers might direct their way (if the weak unit was attacked). Meanwhile, needing one VP for victory and with no other option, it was at this point that the last Indian unit to the east was ordered to rush forward adjacent to the east VP hex. Two French AP expended, there was a flurry of arrows fired at the adjacent woods hex, aimed at the single figure now constituting the American Ranger unit. Two blows struck home. Despite surviving one d6, the Rangers could not survive a second roll and were destroyed [elite die rolls of 2 and 5]. Provided the French could hold the VP hex they held with their now three strength regular unit (or avoided losing another unit), the French might yet pluck a narrow victory.

It all depended on what Rogers chose to do.

The wounded American general, thinking he needed two not one more VP at this point in the battle, ignored the weak French unit. Instead, conscious the French had achieved their victory level, he sought to deny them a win. Rogers therefore led his depleted Ranger unit north to the woods hex adjacent to the VP hexes, rather than against the easier to assault two-strength French regular unit in the woods two hexes west. Once adjacent to the VP hexes, there the American rangers levelled their weapons and unleashed sustained fire on the three French regulars in the VP hex. As the smoke cleared, one in three of the French figures had fallen. However, the fury of the American fusillade proved insufficient; the French held the VP hex at the end of GT18. The battle was won; Rogers and his Rangers had lost and would have to use the night to slink away.
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Barry Kendall
United States
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A very entertaining game. The Rangers are indeed very tough to take down. When I received the original version, I was delighted at how easily the game represents Woodland Natives' elusiveness and mobility, and the flexibility and sturdiness of the Rangers. I Supported the new edition's KS campaign just to have the 'pretty' version which I will use to introduce new players to wargaming (and a few grandkids too, one day . . . ).

If I'm not mistaken, I believe the rules do not allow a Leader to move on-foot Units a third hex. I don't have them at hand to look it up but have the recollection of reading that somewhere.

This is a wonderful game system, and I hope PSC/Worthington bring out more volumes employing it. Thanks for an action-packed report, and you are right, the smaller scenarios should definitely not be overlooked. In particular, those featuring "non-regular" type units offer a distinctive play experience, and I've found nearly all the scenarios to be well-balanced.

Edit: One small historical "quibble," there was no "US" yet, these were Colonial Americans fighting for Great Britain; in fact in the American War of Independence, Rodgers fought (rather savagely) for the Crown against the "Rebels."

This weekend I'll be at the HMGS-East "Cold Wars" con shopping for some supplemental plastic figures for Scots and Government Highlanders for The '45" in order to "miniaturize" scenarios from the earlier Worthington HtL supplement covering that conflict. The HtL "redcoats" won't be dressed quite right for that conflict, but they'll do.

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