I decided to play a "Horse & Musket" battle with my 15mm American War for Independence troops. I took 3 x 10 sided dice and rolled for the scenario [there are a whopping 30 scenarios to play in the back of OHW!), getting Scenario #16 in the OHW book "Blundering into Contact." I thought this would be literally perfect for a Battle of Saratoga, Freeman's Farm or Bemis Heights scenario, where battles seemed to develop as a result of a strong reconnaissance of the enemy position.
|Continentals in the foreground. British in the background. Note the multiple forests the British would have to negotiate through.|
|Quite a polyglot of units who probably never saw the same battlefield together...|
|Green Mountain Boys still based for Guns of Liberty from "The Hubbardton Project"|
Mr Thomas also refreshingly has a force generator in the back of the book where you can determine the composition of your force ahead of the game. The British received 4 "regular" infantry units (let's call them "Battalions"), 1 "skirmisher" unit (my prized Light Bobs), and a section of light Artillery. So this battle actually IS shaping up to look like Saratoga!
|My South Wales Borderers. Forward 24th! Still unflocked!|
|Light Bobs. I added some individually based troops around the lights on both sides. Also the "skirmisher" units are based on narrow stands.|
|Royal Artillery section.|
|British side. Note the tough terrain they had to get past to get everyone to the hill.|
|Massachusetts troops (left) and Marylanders (right) advance to contact!|
The Continentals drew 3 "regular" (I use the term loosely) infantry units (let's call them Regiments), 2 "skirmisher" units (I made 1 a unit of riflemen), and a section of light artillery.
The scenario specific rule to this battle was that both sides must travel at 9 inches per turn and are not allowed to fire until the objective in the center of the table has been captured, at which point both sides move at 6" and fire normally.
I deviated from the terrain setup and added a generous amount of woods to one side, and instead of a village in the center, a small hill dominates the map and makes a fitting, "upstate New Yorkish" objective for this engagement.
|Plotting my next move...|
|British assembled for battle!|
|Note the 2 British units on the hill and the Lights|
|Here they come lads!|
|Green Mountain Boys next to the Pennsylvanians|
|Lights! The blue dice are their casualties so far|
|The British units on the hill start to evaporate under heavy American fire.|
|11th Mass and Maryland Infantry side by side preparing to assault the hill.|
As in real life at Saratoga, the British drew the short straw and started on the side with much more terrain to negotiate. Unfortunately for them, they only had 1 unit of lights who were authorized to enter the forests, so the regulars got into the fight piecemeal, and I can feel the ghost of "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne lording over me at the table. Interpenetration is a no-go so you must manage traffic. No easy task when units arrive "stacked up" and not able to easily deploy.
The Americans had no such trouble since they had a clear view of the hill with no major woods to circumvent. The British went for the throat and sent 2 battalions and the light artillery section straight up to the hill along with the lights. Courageous Massachusetts troops were waiting for them at the bottom of the other side. The Americans got the first volleys off and they were brutal, scoring, almost to a Regiment, a "6" for each volley.
As an interesting aside here, I really like how these games go. Horse and Musket battles are never a sure bet and the side who breaks first after trading series of volleys is the loser in real life. In OHW, to fire you simply roll a 1D6 and the result on the pip is the number of casualties inflicted on the enemy from your volley. Certain units have modifiers to that roll based on their capabilities so it's possible that even after a "cannonade" or volley the enemy may not receive any meaningful casualties. Things go they way you imagine they would in a "stand up fight" between 2 trained armies.
Units are eliminated after a specific number of hits. All games last 15 turns. This one was effectively "over" in 10.
As the battle developed, the British got the worst of things and many units evaporated after trying to weather volley after volley from American units. Not easy at all as the Americans were able to mass their forces against the hill while the British needed to bring up battalions in successive waves.
First the light bobs disappeared, then the more solid British lines atop the hill. By turn 10, a single remaining British Battalion attempted to extricate itself in good order from the hilltop, only to be cut down by the Marylanders.
Thoughts on OHW and Lessons Learned
These were terrific little rules. Makes me want to try out the other periods in the book (ancients, pike & shot, ACW, World War I, and World War II. If you don't own OHW, I recommend you buy them. Besides their gaming value, they make an excellent book. They feature 30 scenarios to use, as well as rules for most periods you could want to game!
Be advised that these are not a "staple" set of rules you will want to use all the time, but they're definitely worth trying out every now and then for a good, satisfying game. The game was over so fast it got me thinking about trying out an actual historical scenario like Freeman's Farm or Brandywine with them to see how that would go. I have Neil Thomas' rules from his "Introduction to Wargaming" and also his Napoleonic rules, both of which I really enjoy playing.
A thought on tactics - managing unit movement is important. To turn, units wheel at the center so they'll need lots of room.
Your Artillery has tremendous range and there is absolutely no reason to bring it along with you, provided you can keep a fire lane open.
skirmishers are good "throw away" units to be used harassing the enemy.
Units who can get all their "stuff" to fire each turn will have an advantage, although you cannot move and fire. You've been warned! The British moved much more than they fired, and the opposite was true for the Continentals. The only way to win is to reduce the enemy force. You can only do this by shooting!