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Subject: Don't Climb Over the Old Rail Fence - An Abbreviated Battle rss

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Christopher O
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Summer grasses / All that remains / Of soldiers' dreams. - Basho.
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I've been itching to play this game since I acquired it almost a year ago. I was lined up to play it this past Saturday at my local wargaming group, but unfortunately my scheduled opponent had to cancel. I went on to play other games during the day, but I snagged someone to play Army of Ireland with 45 minutes to spare.

We both knew that this wasn't anywhere near the amount of time needed to finish the game, but we're both experienced wargamers and we wanted to get a feel for the system. Hence this will be a somewhat abbreviated session report.

We set up to play using the basic victory conditions (no objectives). He arrayed his units along the rail fence and the road, with the two units of the Indiana detachment in the large orchard.

First Turn

I advanced the A element of Queen's Own Rifles (hereafter abbreviated Q.O.R.) partially up the Lime Ridge Road, with an anchoring unit in Smuggler's Tavern. One thing I quickly discovered is that with the one leader, two unit per chit activation system, you get a sort of syncopated yo-yo effect on your movement, especially with larger formations. With six companies per element of the Q.O.R. and only moving two companies at a time, it made for a curiously modern-feeling bounding overwatch movement style. Just to not put all of my eggs in one basket, I started advancing B element of Q.O.R. up the middle of the map.

Curiously, my opponent immediately had units start hopping the rail fence and advancing into the large orchard - four companies plus a couple of leaders.

Not expecting an offensive stance by the Fenians, I flattened out my line a little and deployed the 5th company of the Q.O.R. (with the very powerful Spencer repeating rifles) as my lead unit into the small orchard, with two other companies trailing behind.

My plan had been to advance methodically so as not to be cut-up piecemeal, but present a unified line of redcoats (and rifle green) against our Fenian invaders. Now, with a small but not insignificant force actually advancing on us, I decided to rethink my strategy.

I continued to move the straggler companies of A element Q.O.R. up, while I manoeuvred the six companies of B element to head up the centre. As I had already experienced, moving a six company element with three activation chits (two companies may move per activation chit) makes for a disjointed-feeling advance.

He now had three companies and a leader in the large orchard, with another three companies and a leader not far behind.

He advanced one company to within long range firing range of 5th Company, Q.O.R., counting, I suppose, on getting an activation before I did. Unfortunately for him, that did not occur, and I fired twice on the activation, missing on the first shot, but hitting on the second (I had not moved yet that activation, and I also had the A element leader within command range, so the net DRM was -1 with the subtractions for heavy cover -2 and long range -1). Also unluckily (for him), I rolled a straight elimination on the hit effects table, so he lost a company immediately.

Cursing repeating rifles, he moved up other units, hoping to get me by sheer volume of fire.

Second Turn

On the second turn, he drew a number of activations in a row, which allowed him to advance the companies he had already moved toward the orchard. He also moved a unit into the isolated forest hex just west of Lime Ridge Road (north is the right side of the map, towards the side with Bertie Road). Sorry for the vague descriptions - there are no hex numbers on the map. In any case, this permitted a degree of control over his right flank (my left) as units advancing up Lime Road could be hit by fire from this little bastion. After these activations, I drew D element (York and Caledonia Rifles). I knew that this unit, with its single activation, would be difficult to use effectively in a chit activation system, since as far as I can make out, there was no restriction on moving a unit once it had already moved in a turn.

Since it had one chit and it was up against units that had up to three activation chits, it could potentially be ripped to shreds. I decided to use them as my far right flankers and ran them east along the Garrison Road, with an eye to eventually having them skirt up the treeline on the east side of the battlefield.

I also drew chits for the 13th Hamilton, which I decided to advance behind the B element of the Q.O.R. up the Lime Ridge Road. Hopefully I would be able to shake them out into some manner of firing line to displace the single skirmisher defender on that side.

Activations went back and forth, with me moving up A element of Q.O.R. and he re-arranging his defensive line and advancing in the centre.

Once again, he moved a unit and a leader within long firing range of my repeating rifle company into the small copse of forest between the two orchards, once again counting on drawing an activation before I did. Neither of us had drawn chits for the units involved. He did draw one of the chits he needed, but his fire had no effect. I drew a chit for OC Booker, who I had moved near the small orchard as well, within command range of 5th Company, who I activated to fire.

Not yet completely familiar with the system, I advanced 5th Company out of their cover to try to get into short firing range of the leader and company. I forgot, of course, that moving before firing incurs a -1 penalty which negates the range improvement. In addition, I would be out of cover.

Fortunately I rolled a hit. The company suffered a shaken result, while the leader was unaffected.

He did not draw another activation for the shaken company's parent element before I drew an activation for A element, Q.O.R. By this point I had manoeuvred units into position that I could charge the 5th Company Q.O.R. and another company along with the A element leader into hand-to-hand combat with the already shaken company.

With bonuses for outnumbering the defender, plus a leader, and him rolling with a shaken unit (albeit in cover), I won the hand-to-hand battle, eliminating the shaken unit and causing the leader to retreat in a shaken state.

Having done set up, rules review and two turns of the game in 40 minutes, we had to call the game at this point, but we had a good sense of the game in its opening stages. My opponent pointed out that he likely wouldn't have moved his units so aggressively if we were planning to play a full game. I don't think it's a very good idea to get out from behind the rail fence.

Impressions

Lack of opportunity fire seems odd, as does the ability to move the same unit multiple times on subsequent activations in the same turn.

The subtle differences in weapons does make for a bit of period flavour. I'm not sure how it will shake out once we start getting larger formations engaged.

I'm actually still wondering how well the chit activation method works with this period of warfare at this scale - from our short stint, it seems somewhat disjointed compared to the usual way of manoeuvring ACW era rifle-armed troops - proper lines and columns of contiguous units and the like.

One thing that did come to mind as I was playing is that you could potentially fire for 3 AP and then withdraw 1 hex for another 1 AP. In fact, when engaging the enemy at short range, this seems like a very good idea. I don't believe this was a standard tactic in this era. This actually wouldn't help the British/Canadians, as the short range difference between the .577 Enfields and the .58 Springfields doesn't make it helpful to withdraw a single hex, but the Americans might be able to take advantage of the tactic.

It also seems arbitrary that the 5th Company of the Q.O.R. runs out of ammunition automatically on the 6th turn - perhaps a simple requirement that the 5th has to check ammo each time it fires on a unit (doubling its chance of running out of ammo) after the 6th turn. I have to assume that this is a conscious design decision by the designer to give the Canadian player incentive to skirmish aggressively with the 5th.

Seems light and fun, and considering it covers a little known period of Canadian (Southern Ontarian, even) history, I'll be keeping this one for at least a few more plays.
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K Dom
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Hi!

I am super curious about this game! I just googled "Smuggler's Tavern Bertie" and your post came up.

My ancestors used to own the Smuggler's Tavern in Ridgeway Ontario. It sounds like this board game is talking about that very area!

Do you have digital photos of it? Would like to learn more!

K
 
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Nameless Necromancer
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Nice session report. I've found this to be a nice introduction to tactical gaming for a newcomer, though it does have its quirks which you've mentioned.
 
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