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Subject: "Armstrong's Spectacular Sideshow" - After Action Report rss

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Christopher O
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After a stinging defeat playing Germantown last month, I was eager to try this module again as the American forces to see if an American victory at Germantown was within my grasp.

Pre-Game

My previous play had taught me that any significant delay of the American van by the British pickets would spell disaster for the American advance. I had to put maximum pressure on the centre immediately and not waste time with any fancy flanking manoeuvres.

I also had learned that manoeuvring too aggressively with Armstrong's militia division on the American right flank could rack up a lot of Army Morale for the British and a lot of dead or captured militiamen for the Americans.

Finally, I had to figure out a way to manoeuvre with Stephen's division in such a way that the potential for friendly fire was minimized, without delaying the arrival of Greene and Muhlenberg too much.

My opponent, playing this scenario for the first time and with the slightly smaller British force (but having played the BotAR series before) was interested in seeing if he could stop me in my personal quest to find a way to win at Germantown.

The Plan

My plan was to push as hard and as quickly as possible in the centre, but go easy/feint on the right. Action on the left would depend largely on Stephen's drunken marching and my success or lack thereof in the centre.

Caveat

I'm trying to piece together the events of the battle from week-old memories of the first six turns, plus at the end of the game both of us were quite tired (1 AM on a workday night) so I am almost certain I have made some errors in timing of events and occasionally location or outcome of unit-on-unit battles. For example, I'm not exactly sure how the 3rd Virginia got captured or whether I've gotten when the British got back-to-back activations correct. Errors in re-telling the battle are my own.

An image of the game map for reference:



Turn One

American Player Turn

The American vanguard rushes at the pickets. Fortunately the artillery is not successful in fending Conway's Brigade off, and the subsequent close combat sends the defenders packing down the road towards Chew House. I send Moylan's Horse around the Township Line road (but no one else) to try to delay oncoming units. Armstrong's force advances quickly, with Bland's Horse galloping to Levering's Tavern on point to seize the crossroads. I needed to hold the slight slope there, one of the few tactical terrain advantages I would have.

British Player Turn

The Hessians who can do so move up. In the centre, he withdraws the surviving pickets units to the vicinity of the Chew House. During the rifle phase, the 2nd Jaegers pour a devastating fusilade of into the surprised Bland's Horsemen, wiping out Armstrong's only cavalry and gaining the Brits first blood. Bland's Horse is sent to the eliminated box.

Turn Two

American Player Turn

I push hard in the centre, moving up everything I can as fast as I can. Once again my lead units crash into his pickets. On the right, my militia forms a thick but shaky line at the Levering Tavern. On the left, Stephen marches the right way down Lime Kiln Road. I march Greene and Muhlenberg off-road along the map-edge toward the Old York road. In the dense fog, with MP reduced by 1, it's slow going. Rifle fire and close combat results in the Brits being pushed further back in the centre.

British Player Turn

More Hessians arrive on my right, but I've been careful to keep the van of the division dense and on the hill instead of pushing further. A few clashes are inconclusive. In the centre, British regulars move up to try to reach Chew House before the American main push arrives. On the left, a single light infantry battalion moves to hold up Stephen's advance.


Turn Three

American Player Turn

Again, Stephen marches in the right direction. I manoeuvre in the centre to put maximum force on the defenders of Chew House while not attacking it quite yet, but now I put out flanking rifle regiments/companies to discourage the oncoming Brits. I'm keeping the central column fairly dense and compact, not spreading out to flank down the east and west Township Line roads as I had done in my first attempt in this module.

Greene's slow march through the fog is keeping him out of accidental shooting range of Stephen's division.

Noting that the Hessians are pushing aggressively on my right, I break off a few units, heading east to shore up the militia from the main column.

British Player Turn

More units arrive in and around Chew House. On my right the Hessians seem to hesitate somewhat, forming a line before advancing. The light infantry falls back in the face of the advancing Americans. The rest of the British line "wakes up" and starts advancing in a menacing wave of red.

Turn Four

(Americans wins initiative, fog improves to moderate)

American Player Turn

I advance the 5th Pennsylvania on the far right (3517) and Moylan's Horse at 3715 (I think) to hold up the advancing British line, knowing full well they will probably be lost. I have to delay the Lobsterbacks somehow. I arrive at Chew House with the centre column in full force. He's arranged the 40th in Chew House proper and most of what remains of the pickets' artillery (battery A and B) with an infantry and artillery unit on either side. This of course makes it harder to focus all my strength on the house proper. Having concentrated instead of trying to flank wide, I manage to manoeuvre a number of units to bear on the three hexes of resistance, with more coming on behind. Rifle fire drives infantry off the artillery on the right, and close assaults generally go my way in the subsequent close combat phase, netting me a captured artillery battery and his forces reduced. The British line is getting closer, though!

On the left, Stephens continues to march in the right direction (mirabile!) starting to come close to other elements of the British line which have moved up. Greene's slow march to Old York Road is helped by the fog lifting somewhat.

In Armstrong's area, I re-arrange the militia forces to meet the inevitable assault of the Hessians. The reinforcements I have split off from the main column have almost arrived there, but it may be too late.

British Player Turn

The British line hits the skirmishers I've sent out to delay their advance, Moylan's Horse and the 5th Penns. Moylan's horse gets lucky when my opponent rolls badly and gets away with a retreat result. The 5th Penns drive off one attacking unit with rifle fire, and the remaining unit isn't strong enough to dislodge them.

On the left, Howe advances with the British right to hit Stephen's division. Stephen is stripped of his covering infantry when the 3rd Virginia Bde is disrupted and other units also fare poorly.

In the forest battle on the right, the militia has mixed success with some units driven back and others holding. My line is bent out of shape by the attacks and I realize I've mis-positioned some of my forces in such a way that Armstrong is in danger of being captured along with his large 6 SP Irvine's Brigade. Some bad rolls by him help me avoid having the whole militia line rolled up. I should note that the number of "1"s or "0"s he rolls this turn establishes a trend of bad rolls on the attack that continue until turn 7 or 8. He should have done much better against the militia, considering the odds and troop quality. I can take no credit for cold dice.

Turn Five

(British wins initiative, fog remains moderate)

British Player Turn

The British back to back activation is a hard blow. Howe's force concentrates on Stephen and captures him and Woodford's Bde artillery. Fortunately in the centre, a concentrated attack on Moylan's Horse only forces him to retreat, and a second attack on the 5th Penns results in a step loss for the 15th Foot and the death by lucky rifle shot of "No Flint" Grey. The subsequent close assault by the reduced attacking force, while still 2:1 or more odds, still does not push the doughty Penns back.

On the right, the Hessians push the assault, capturing Armstrong and Irvine's brigade with no place to go. He tries to go around me to the east, but I have refused the flank and the newly arrived rifles succeed in pushing some of them back.

American Player Turn

Stephen is dead, but his units are still in danger of causing friendly fire. Fortunately most are completely separated from the rest of the left column, as Greene has gone to the far left of the line and has almost reached Old York Road. I mass in the centre to attack Chew House, but the attack on the house proper is repulsed. Fortunately, the attack on the remaining British units in 3312 is successful and they are driven off. Chew House is now almost physically surrounded - the ZOC does surround the location. Somewhere along the line I get a momentum marker.

On the left I try to pull my line into something more organized. It's going to be tough going without a leader. The reinforcements from the centre have been critical to avoiding the -1 militia-only modifier and getting a rifle unit to that flank is also tremendously useful.

They're going to hit me again - it's a question of how hard and whether Armstrong's division can hold on their own.

Knowing that I won't be able to hold a third turn with Moylan and the 5th Penns, I pull them back. They've successfully held up the British line almost alone for two turns.


Turn Six

I decide to spend my momentum to get initiative. If I can keep pressure on Chew house, I can probably take it. I win handily on the die roll.

(Americans wins initiative, fog remains moderate)

American Player Turn

Stephen's remaining units march south, bless their hearts.

I mass for an all-out assault on Chew House, but also prepare flanking artillery and rifle units to the left and right of Chew House in 3412 and 3314 for the inevitable British counter-attack to hit. The attack is successful, and with retreat cut off, I capture the 2nd Light Infantry Battalion and the 40th Companies and their leader Musgrave.

On the left Schott's cavalrymen see an unescorted artillery unit and dash in to capture it, counting on forest negating ZOC and/or the possibility of a cavalry withdrawal to save them from attack. Greene finally arrives at Old York road and begins the march down it to hit the British right. An attempt to counterattack with Stephen's remaining units results in the loss of the 3rd Virginia Bde.

In the forest, I notice that there is an opportunity to concentrate 12 SPs on the leftmost end of Knyphausen's line, and I jump at the chance, keeping the rest of the militia back and refusing the far right of my line with a rifle unit. The result is a pin, unfortunately, with only the 5th Penns, an artillery battery and McLane's Horse to hold up the British advance down the western Township Line road at their backs.

This is the battlefield at the conclusion of the American turn 6.

Overall Battlefield



American Left Flank



American Centre



American Right Flank



British player turn

Hardly anything moves in the centre. He shores up his line and prepares for the attack. In the left, Scott's Bde manages to drive off its attacker with cannon fire, saving itself from capture. On the right, the pinned struggle continues with little result.

Turn Seven

A back to back activation here might end the battle in the forest. I spend a momentum chit. I roll 2. He rolls 3. The +2 from the chit wins me the first activation.

(Americans wins initiative, fog clears)

American player turn

It's a good thing that Americans win initiative, another back-to-back British activation might have gone quite badly. Stephens' units decide to march north, taking them back up the Lime Kiln road. Smallwood, unsurprisingly, does not arrive. Greene marches down the Old York road and arrives to give battle. Muhlenberg and a few other forces are left holding the bag, so to speak, so I move them to hold the line until Greene is completely in place.

Nothing happens in the centre, with both of us jockeying units for best deployment. I can see the right is in danger, so I split off two more units from the centre to help out on that side. It's a staring contest between Sullivan and Cornwallis.

On the right, my attacks go poorly and some units are disrupted while many retreat. My army morale is getting quite low.

British Player Turn

Another British attack on my right nets more disruptions (and one capture? I can't remember). My morale is now hovering around 5.

Strangely, he does not press the advantage on my left, and Greene is left to mass. Units in the centre trade cannon fire to little effect. The centre is still immobile.


Turn Eight

(British win initiative)

British Player Turn

Arg. Another back-to-back British activation. The attack is pressed on the right. My morale dips to 2 as other units are disrupted. Attacks on my left with Howe are thankfully unsuccessful. He shuffles other units to his right (my left).

American Player Turn

Stephen's division rolls to march north again, and I lose AM as the entire division marches off the map.

Armstrong's division (and the Continental Army) is at the point of collapse at 1 AM. I need some victories to push my morale back up. I attack with Greene's forces, pushing Howe out of the fieldworks, but not getting the step losses or captures I need. Some frantic shuffling with the newly arrived reinforcements from the centre allows me to cover the left side of Armstrong's division from a flanking attack near Levering's lane, and re-inject more SPs into the diminished force.

Turn Nine

[The British win initiative]

British Player Turn

The attacks continue on my right. Fortunately a series of very poor rolls, combined with my rifle fire and cannon reaction fire to ensure his attacks are split unfavourably between stacks, leave him with 50% of the Hessian forces disrupted. His morale plummets.

The lone group of infantry, artillery and cavalry that I left to guard the link between the centre and right column is attacked and driven back. Fortunately, it has had the effect I needed - Ewalt was not able to turn the left flank of the reinforced Armstrong division.

Attacks on the left push back the gains made by Greene in the previous turn. The centre is still, save for the usual cannon bombardments. I'm somewhat surprised he makes no move, but my position is strong and he probably doesn't want to lose any units unnecessarily. I have captured more units in total, but only just, and forcing the centre may be more than his now dispersed units might be able to handle.

American Player Turn

I withdraw all but the cavalry from the "link" between centre and right, hoping to avoid an overrun of the infantry and artillery. Critically, on the rally phase, Greene helps two disrupted units rally, pushing my morale up from the brink, from 1 to 3. This gives me the breathing room to risk attack.

I push forward with Armstrong's division and force the retreat or disruption of all but Knyphausen and the 2nd Jaegers. A 4-1 attack (well, 12-1, technically, but as my opponent notes, "This ain't Squad Leader) with +1 DRM still somehow fails to dislodge or capture him. His morale is down in the wavering region along with mine.

On the left, I manage to push Howe back again and mess up the right side of his line somewhat.

Turn Ten

[The British win initiative]

British Player Turn

On the right, Dave sends forward his two light dragoon units with flanking infantry to hit McLane's Horse. Unable to cavalry withdraw, and with nowhere to retreat, they are captured.

A final push by the remaining heavy Hessian units which retreated last turn results in disruption for all of them, thanks once again to rifle fire by the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment and poor rolls Knyphausen is alone with his Jaegers, again.

On the left, Howe pushes back again, this time I don't have the strength to hold. Fortunately, there's not much time left.

American Player Turn

I mass for another attempt to turn the British left flank. It's really too late, but it's worth the effort in case I can bag Howe. I fail. The centre is still static - too dangerous to push there. On the right, with the entire Hessian line disrupted, I surround Knyphausen and attack. The Jaegers are forced to retreat and they and Knyphausen are captured.

The battle is over... with no clear victor. Howe has not eliminated or captured the requisite 17 SP of non-militia/non-artillery for a decisive
victory, and I have not taken Market Square and the British entry hex. Neither of has won substantial victory by collapsing the enemy's morale.

It comes down to marginal victory points - counting the casualties.


Final Battlefield Positions



American Left Flank



American Centre



American Right Flank



Eliminated and Captured boxes



The butcher's bill is not as high as one might expect.

British:

Captured enemy units: 6 Units = 6 VP
Reduced enemy units: 4 Units = 2 VP
Leaders = 1/2 VP (0 VP for Armstrong, 1/2 VP for Stephen)
Eliminated enemy units: 1 Unit = 1 VP

TOTAL VP: 9-1/2 VP

Americans:

Captured enemy units: 8 Units = 8 VP
Reduced enemy units: 2 Units =1 VP
Leaders = 2-1/2 VP (1 VP for Grey, 1 VP for Knyphausen, 1/2 VP for Musgrave)
Eliminated enemy units: None

TOTAL VP: 11-1/2 VP

I have 2 VP for the marginal American victory!

It appears I've won. My opponent thanks me. It's late (1 AM) and he leaves. As I'm cleaning up, I notice that I captured Knyphausen and the Jaegers on a retreat result, but he wasn't entirely surrounded, and he had one hex of unoccupied forest he could have retreated into... and ZOC doesn't extend INTO forest!

A rules error that both of us missed because of the late hour.

Negating Knyphausen's and the Jaegers' capture, I lose two points, making it an exact draw. - 9-1/2 VP to 9-1/2 VP

Close but no wooden dentures, Mr. Washington.

Casualty Roll

British:
700 captured
400 wounded or killed
12 cannon captured
Knyphausen POW
Musgrave POW
"No Flint" Grey KIA

Americans:
1100 captured
900 wounded or killed
12 cannon captured
Stephen POW
Armstrong POW

Aftermath and Post-Game Thoughts

A knife fight that could have gone either way at the end. My opponent was hampered by some truly miserable rolling at times, which more or less resulted in the collapse of his left flank (my right). I was pleased to take and hold Chew House. I was not so pleased to see what remained of Stephen's division march off the map, although it may have been a blessing in disguise.

My morale had been down to "1" and I snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat. Yes, luck entered into it, but it was also careful timing and sequencing of attacks so that I resolved easy fights first and then, with the morale boost from victories, had the breathing room for other fights.

I think the thing I'm most proud of, though a lot of it was a result of bad dice for the opponent, was that Armstrong's poor militia force was able to outfight the highly trained and well-lead Hessians. Not all of it was bad dice. I reinforced them with units from the centre twice, at critical moments, the second time was most crucial. In addition, a little bit of aggression took advantage of a momentary weakness in his line which allowed me to pin them, forcing him to divert a few units from the centre to try to break the impasse.

Armstrong's sideshow had become the main event, and in the end, his men, a rag-tag force of militia (with a lot of help from the centre column's regulars) sent the professional Hessians running back to mutter.

A fun game. Hard for the Americans, no doubt, but victory was closer this time. We'll see if I can play it again.
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