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Subject: Love on the Monongahela rss

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Subudai (Pete) Khan
Australia
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[Editor’s note: in writing this story, my most profuse apologies to several parties. Firstly, to the producers of and characters in that magnificent period film, the 1992 version of ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. Secondly, to the designers and scenario developers of the French & Indian Wars expansion of ‘Hold the Line’. In this, our 25th play of a scenario from this magnificent game series, the reason for our transgression will become obvious as the story unfolds. In order to better follow the play, in this game report the French commander Dumas is substituted for a Huron Indian commander we shall call Magwa; the British 1/1 leader is not Braddock, but a fictional British Colonel we shall simply name Monro; and the Washington leader is instead substituted for a local frontier commander, Nathaniel Pope. The humble de Beaujeu we retain as is, but he’s promoted to Marquis, simply because it sounds more grand for a general leading a contingent in the war of this period. Before I begin, our thanks again to the HTL team; this is another superb scenario].


Our story begins, not with tales of a British advance on Fort Duquesne (the US city of Pittsburgh), but with a family affair that involves a father – Colonel Monro – and his desperate effort to escort his two teenage daughters (Cora and Alice; the two VP markers) from the deprivations of cholera on a harsh frontier; the colonel hopes, by leading the close protection column for his beloved daughters through hostile wilderness that he can get them to the relative safety of mid-state New York. That objective is just the other side of this last patch of hills and woods adjacent the Monongahela River. Alas, in the wee small hours of this early summer morning of 1755, the good Colonel and his column encounter a French and Indian force arrayed for ambush and battle.

It’s no surprise that the initial rounds of conflict go appallingly for the British. Within a few minutes the Scottish light infantry platoon [the 3 figure light infantry unit leading the British column] is wiped out by a combination of Indian war party attacks [the two figure strong Indian units make good use of their 2 x AP ability to move through two woods hexes, then fire; or they fire, then move, thereby evading every second turn any British counter-attack. Rarely do the Indians attempt a close assault] and musket fire from French regulars, shooting from protected positions from within the woods. All too quickly after the light infantry are wiped out, the good Colonel and his platoon [a 4 figure regular British infantry unit] come under concentrated and devastating fire. British command and control is immediately hampered by the death of the good Colonel and the loss of his entire platoon of regular infantry on GT4 [British AP are reduced from 1 + a d6 roll to just the roll of a D6; between GT4 and GT25, the British get 1 x AP on 12 of 22 game turns].

As this calamity unfolds, one of the heroes of our story – Captain Duncan Waddington, of the Grenadiers – steps to the fore [for the purposes of our escapade, Waddington is the flag bearer of the elite infantry unit that starts on the south side of the British column, adjacent the British cannon unit on its own]. His continental combat training now to the fore, the captain believes that the column faces extreme peril from a frontal assault by three platoons of French infantry he is aware are directly ahead in the woods. To stall any such attack, the good captain co-locates a British unit of cannons with his grenadiers, this move immediately restoring the forward protection of what remains of the column. It also makes any Huron movement that ends in the woods along the south side of the column an extremely hazardous venture. Alas, the good captain, absorbed as any true hero should be in his military role, pays scant attention to the actions of Nathaniel Pope, his rival for the attentions of the lovely Miss Cora Monro.

Pope, an irregular with frontier experience, has appreciated that, for now, the real danger to the column is not the French platoons forming adjacent to one another in European style in the woods directly ahead. Pope correctly surmises that the real danger to the column are the two war parties of Huron Indians the wily Magwa has been infiltrating down the southern side of the woods south of the British. Both war parties have been moving west whilst the French regulars took up positions that would block a further British advance east to lower New York [the three red hexes]. Monro’s death has precluded much opportunity for anything to be done to counter the Huron moves.

Hence, relatively quickly, one Huron war party emerges to the west of the end of the southern tree-line. From this position it is two quick leaps [three hexes] to where both girls are sheltering. Young Alice at that point appears to panic, moving one hex closer to the Monongahela, splitting the girls [the British player moved one VP counter to make it possible to redeploy troops from the north side of his column to the south]. Pope, less concerned with impressing Cora Monro and focused instead on countering a dangerous, materialising threat, responds by positioning himself and his frontier unit [the Washington leader and the 3 strength US blue unit] in the westernmost southern tree hex [yep, the British player used a precious 2xAP to do that]. Pope’s redeployment is none too soon, for Magwa had indeed planned to make a raid on both the girls. However, fearful now of suffering heavy losses if his war parties are within one hex of Pope and his unit (who enjoy the cover now of the trees), Magwa instead orders the Huron war party he had intended to use to capture Cora (the easternmost VP counter) to keep moving west, in the hope young Alice will become a viable target once again. That war party does so, but not before firing a few ineffectual arrows and tomahawks the way of Pope’s unit [the Indians missed with their three shots]. The other war party Magwa pulls back, eastwards, into woods and out of range of Pope’s unit.

Eventually, mid battle, the westernmost Huron war party will move north until it is near the banks of the Monongahela, necessitating a move by a British platoon of regular infantry that was at the rear of the column to a position between the hexes of both girls. The war party, a constant threat to both girls, will tie down the units of both Pope and the British platoon at the rear of the column for the rest of the battle.

But incredibly, despite so few AP, the British appear determined to counter-attack as best they can. Slowly a force of one platoon of British regulars and one of grenadiers engages in the second phase of the battle, an advance into and then a vicious fight for the woods at the west end of the northern hill near the Monongahela. Incredibly, the British hope that – if they succeed – they may yet open the way to lower New York. Thrown by this unexpected aggressiveness by the British, the Marquis de Beaujeu reacts by throwing initially Huron war parties then eventually his regulars into a series of close assaults against the British, who by now are in the woods hexes. It’s a brutal clash, with the French only emerging victorious because de Beaujeu spends enormous energy restoring morale amongst his often-depleted regular units. The fighting rages on and only ends with the British grenadiers ejected from the wood after half their number have been killed and the entire platoon of regulars destroyed [this latter outcome netting the French their 4th victory point].

We now enter the final phase of this tumultuous affair. de Beaujeu’s fight at the west end of the northern hill has, because of the confines of the terrain, necessitated the relocation of the Huron units that started the battle on or north of the hill, to positions initially in the woods south of the hill. Later, as the battle involving de Beaujeu winds down, the French commander realises that he hasn’t met his victory conditions as yet [he has only 4xVP, not six]. Worse, whilst he has mauled the British [utilising the 2AP tactic of moving adjacent in woods then firing, or vice versa] and has by now reduced a further two platoons of British regulars (the 4 strength units) to one and two figures respectively, de Beaujeu realises that, thanks to the British bringing forward their second cannon unit to reinforce their left flank, placing it with infantry adjacent to the east end of the woods near the Monongahela, if the French regulars now venture forth from the relative safety of their tree line positions they risk being slaughtered.

So it evolves that Magwa, dismayed by de Beaujeu’s loss of perspective, determines the best way to win now is to send his Huron Indian war bands forward in successive waves into the woods in the south. From there they can make attacks against the only unit standing between Magwa and the prize he now covets, Cora Monro; that unit is Waddington, his grenadiers, co-located now with a unit of British guns. Still, Magwa reasons that on turns where the French have 6xAP, as many as three Huron units will be able to make shooting attacks in the one GT. Even better, Magwa himself is by now in close proximity to his assault units, so war parties that lose morale can withdraw, co-locate with him and be restored to full combat status [of 2 figures]. Magwa formulates this strategy on GT16. He has until GT25 to destroy just two more British units, or capture one or both girls. The worst AP he will accumulate a turn is 4, average 5, and on many turns it will be 6xAP. Time to get cracking.

The Huron assaults are relentless. OK, a lucky break for the British [actually, fool-hearty positioning by the French player] allows Pope’s unit, Waddington’s grenadiers and the cannons in one GT to all shoot at the one Huron war party, annihilating the poor Indian warriors [the British rolled a six, obtaining 3xAP]. Magwa does not give the British the opportunity to repeat that act ever again. Instead, the Indian chieftain is relentless. On GT17 casualties in Waddington’s unit are so severe, the good captain is the sole surviving member of his unit [only the standard bearer remains after a succession of sixes removes three grenadier figures]. Fighting escalates to the point whereby by GT20 both British guns co-located with Waddington have been destroyed and the French have 5 x VP.

The French require just one more VP to win. The obvious target is Waddington. However, incredibly, perhaps inspired by the presence of his beloved Cora two hexes away, between GT20 and GT25 Waddington manages to survive eight close shaves [eight times the Grenadier flag bearer is hit, eight times his elite die roll saves him]. To rub salt into Huron wounds, twice Waddington launches close assaults on adjacent Huron units [luckily for the French, each time one Indian figure survives].

As the battle draws to its climax, the French player is becoming more than a little panicked. Unfortunately, as time begins to run out, Huron resolve appears to be weakening [the French player rolls poorly for his AP, netting himself just 4 x AP on GT24 and GT25].

GT24, desperate for an outcome, one Huron unit makes a close assault against Waddington. The brave captain suffers no wounds, but steps back one hex (luckily for him, remaining in cover of woods for GT25). Desperate to secure a victory, on GT25 Magwa, on behalf of the French command, orders two Huron units – one of which he leads - to move adjacent through woods against Waddington. Each war party fires three shots at the doughty captain. Waddington relies on the cover of the woods hex to protect himself and both he and the British player anxiously await the outcome of the coming rolls. As the die spin, then disclose themselves, the numbers that emerge are: 1, 2, 2, 4, 3 and then 5.

The good captain has survived. Love, along with a stiff aristocratic upper lip, triumphs on the banks of the Monongahela!
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A good tale, even without Natty Bumpo and his Mohican friends.
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