Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Christmas Offensive: GERMANTOWN, 1777

 Sunday I linked up with Dave and Ken at Dave's house for our annual Christmas MEGAGAME and this year the American War for Independence took center stage as we refought the Battle of Germantown, 1777 using my 15mm miniatures.  

Part of painting from Xavier della Gatta's painting of the Battle of Germantown - taken from the "Bantartlton" Tumblr - used without permission

While probably not MEGA in the sense of the last few years' worth of battles (see the epic Battle of Aspern-Essling we played last year, the 1973 Arab Israeli War Battle for Tassa Junction in 2018, and the epic 57th Tank Brigade assault at Ponyri in 2017 for an idea of the scope and scale of our Christmas megagames.  Those looking for 12' long by 8' wide tables with tens of thousands of figures had best look elsewhere though - we do what we can for full time jobs, families, children and the like!  My idea of a megagame, is a game, played to completion, featuring large, historical OOBs, lunch and lots of snacks, that usually lasts the day or into the night.

Those of you following the blog will note an increase of AWI activity this year, coming hot on the heels of finishing the AWI project and getting "all of my figures painted."  The last 6 months were very much dedicated to trying out various rules and concepts that would give this crucial battle an appropriate "feel" and give the player-generals participating a historically satisfying experience.  I think we did that, and a surprising option - Commands and Colors Tricorne - were the rules chosen to represent this hard-fought AWI action.

Some interesting asides here - I used the outstanding Germantown scenario from the Commands & Colors Tricorne page on the Commands and Colors site with some of the great scenario-specific rules to recreate the confused and chaotic fighting at Germantown.  Those rules included no ranged fire beyond 3 hexes due to fog, a very special American "friendly fire" rule which allowed the British once to select and American unit on the left, and fire on an American unit in the center, and the special rules for the Chew House which make it a real tough nut to crack.  Also, Greene's large division on the American left cannot move until the British get 5 command cards in their hand (they start with 2).  

Both Dave and Ken realized the strength of these rules during game play and the game was filled with dramatic reversals, great surprises, and tense moments for both sides.  Let's get into it!

Opening Moves - Sullivan's Attack

Sullivan's troops bear down on the light pickets and the 40th and drive them back

The lights lose a "block" (casualty marker) and fall back towards Germantown

Dave maneuvers cautiously - perhaps more cautiously than Sullivan because he's played the game before!  Ken gives ground and the lights conduct a fighting withdrawal back towards Germantown.

Cornwallis moves 2 units up towards the right side of the Chew House - he knows it's worth 1 temporary victory banner for whoever occupies it!

Dave moves Sullian's regiments towards the Chew House and starts firing on it.  The men inside from the 40th ignore a symbol hit, and also a flag.

Lead elements of Sullivan's unit trading fire with the British in the house!

Note the British left wing - alot of combat power!

Sullivan's men staring down the Chew House

Hastily painted Austrian Hessian Jaegers holding down the British left.  Their moment would come later in the game (Ed note - inside joke here - they were formerly Austrian SYW troops which I threw green jackets on, chopped down their muskets and called them Jaegers.)

The American Line Advances!

The British left flank with General Knyphausen off camera and General Grey in the background

The American line pushes further towards the British left.

The cards allow you much flexibility in this C&C version - and in many cases you can ignore sections provided you can form a contiguous line with them.  It's very stately and gives a good feel in my humble opinion.  The combat cards also offer you a wealth of interesting combat enhancements that, when played at the right moment, can really have an impact on how an attack or defense goes!  The Americans are not having much luck against the Chew House and Washington orders Knox to bring up his cannon!

While they may ignore flags from small arms, they may not ignore from artillery!  The 40th is sent packing for a turn but quickly re-occupies the mansion.

Dave starts to probe with Armstrong's militia along the Wissahickon Creek and pushes them down along with a battery of artillery which are just about within range of the woods and the British and Hessian left.

Cornwallis garrisoning Germantown with line troopers

Dave starts making Ken's life miserable in the Chew House with Knox's guns!  Dave pulls some of the line back and allows the artillery to attempt to work over teh British in the house.

British Reinforcing Actions 

Ken decides to provide more support to the Chew house and Cornwallis brings up men on both sides.  Interesting, Ken also has a "call forward reserves" card which will allow him to speedily reinforce with units from teh back baseline.  in this instance, he will commit his elite British Grenadiers to the fighting soon.  The tension in the center is starting to build as the British reinforce Germantown and more troops are committed and in position.

The General Situation with probably 10 to 12 "turns" of the cards with the British reinforcing the Chew House and the Americans slowly building their line.  The activity on the flanks has been minimal, with all attention focused on the fighting in the center for now.

Dave starts to train the artillery on the line units on the flanks of the Chew Mansion.  The 55th Foot takes a nasty 2 x hits from teh Artillery.  Time to test as Lord Cornwallis is accompanying them.  What happens next...

Cornwallis is dead - Killed by a cannonball (yikes) during the Battle of Germantown

General "Earl" Grey moves up to take the place of Cornwallis holding the battered line around teh Chew House together!

Ken moves up his line on the left while the American line slowly bears down.  Ken is starting to realize he needs to silence the Artillery.  He begins firing at it with everything he has!

Dave moves Greene's Division of regulars and provincials and starts to move towards teh Frankford Creek crossings

The artillery on the right starts bombarding the Hessians on the British left with some successes.

View from Greene's spyglass as his troops step off.

The Jaegers realize the American right-artillery are in range and send them packing with accurate, long-range rifle fire!  Armstrong's artillery retreat!

Ken's British Grenadiers arrive from a Call Forward Reserves card

meanwhile Dave forms a massive line with practically everyone!  Note the guns have 2 x hits already.  Ken's long range firing is having a gradual effect on them.

Counting up dice additions!
The battle is starting to reach a climax now as both sides have racked up 4 markers (technically the game is supposed to end at 5 but I decided we'd play to 6 - this is a MEGA game afterall!).  Ken sends forward his British line, with a host of special ability cards like "trained" meaning the British do not lose a die for movement in the assault.  Coupled with the 3 melee dice for Grenadiers, and General "Earl" Grey, this makes the Grenadiers a fierce opponent!  Ken goes straight for the guns.  What happens next will go down as one of the greatest moments of Commands & Colors history!  Knox's guns, already rallied once, are treated to a 4 dice roll with 2 x "sabers" and 2 x "flags".  Dave plays the perfect combat card that allows them to fall back to the back baseline and reform.  The guns live another day and escape being bayonetted by the British Grenadiers!  Meanwhile, the Grenadiers push forward, but Dave's clever and quick use of a combat card staves off disaster as the Grenadiers are forbidden from engaging in their bonus combat this round!  "The old fox" Washington escapes again!

Grenadier assault along with more British line!

Hessian Grenadiers are on the scene now!  Sullivan's lead regiments are trapped and they'll need to fight their way out!

Once the Hessian Grenadiers show up, Ken melees everything in sight and scores his remaining victory banner at 6 and the British win the Battle of Germantown.  A hard fight indeed!

British Grenadiers gobbling up every unit in sight!

Wow that was fun and another "Christmas Offensive" on the books!  I actually did not play but rather took pictures and ate Dave's imported mincemeat pies along with pizza (can't have a Christmas Offensive without pizza) and soda.  What a great afternoon of relaxing and fun gaming with friends.  While we did not have the numbers or the troops of previous years, I'll take a scaled back game with friends any day.  This game really highlighted the strengths of the C&C Tricorne system and how it is wholly different from other C&C games on the shelf.  I really enjoyed planning this battle and I'm looking forward to more games of Tricorne in the New Year!  Dave and his wife are great hosts and I am also very grateful to them for opening up their home for us to game in their  elegant front dining room, as opposed to the gaming bunker!

The real winner of Sunday's game?  The mincemeat pies and Christmas cookies!

Dave's Christmas present to me - beautiful although admittedly I do NOT want to paint on it!  :)  Thank you sir - yours is enroute!

Now that the Germantown battle is done, I'm looking forward to planning 2021 and other theaters and eras.  Look for a 2021 Priorities post coming up soon.  I hope everyone is having a great week and is able to get some gaming or hobby time in!


  1. What superb action sir!
    Epic in the centre, Cornwallis takes a fall!
    The rules for Chew House worked really well by the look of things, and the system looked to be working fluidly for a battle of such scope.
    Great work - well done all. Great pics too.

    A great system there.

    1. Thank you Darren! C and C always gives a really fun game. This was one for the books!!!

  2. It was fun! Thanks for putting on the game and thanks to Dave for hosting.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the game, Ken. Next years will be BIG!!!

  3. Ah, the best side won after all! Excellent game and well worth the wait. C&C certainly look like the kind of rules where you can kick back with friends & nibbles and play a game to a conclusion. Looking forward to more in 2021, so have a cracking Christmas and New Year!

    1. Same to you, Jeffers! C and C were exactly that! They provided a nice, fun afternoon of wargaming with friends. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and yours!

      As a Yank I have to admit I was pulling for the Continentals in this one, but as a wargamer I always like it when the rules bring out the best and worst of each side. My (cocked) hat is off to the British Grenadiers who certainly stole the show!

  4. I confess my heart was broken when you said you used C&C: Tricorne as your rules set. Our group hates the card-counting and unrealistic limitations the game imposes upon what a player general can do with his troops. That's one reason we vastly prefer HTL, even though it has a few of its own issues.
    However, you intimated Tricorne is not like its C&C family members. Can you tell us a little more?
    BTW, the table looks really nice. Any chance you'll post OBs and scenario rules? Or do a variant for Trenton? In any case, Merry Christmas!

    1. Sorry for the heartbreak, sir! Originally we were thinking black powder or Fields of Honor modified but for a more light hearted afternoon Dave and I felt CC Tricorne would give a really good game with plenty of ups and downs and opportunity for socializing and snacks. Stay tuned for more serious wargaming in 2021!

      I am happy to post more about this scenario and the rules. Tricorne allows way more flexibility than its CC cousins and the location of leaders at the critical time and place is extremely important with the "line command" cards which are battlefield section agnostic. Holding your line together is the most important part. Also, the rally roll after units retreat is huge. Units tend to meot away after a bad rally check, which they must take each time they retreat! There is much tension, decision making, and the rules are easy to remember.
      Merry Christmas to you and yours sir!

  5. What a cracking game Steve and Huzzah! that the Brits and Hessians won the day!. The game looked great and it didn't look like a grid based game at all when viewing the pics:) Great that you were able to get a FtF game in, albeit on a smaller scale than before.

    1. Thanks Steve! Yes a nod to the British Army and their Hessian allies - a hard fought victory to be sure. I'm glad you thought the table looked good as that was definitely my aim!

      Yes a bit of face to face gaming was nice even if it wasnt the full up mega game.

  6. Fabulous display, Steve, and the hexes don't interfere with the spectacle on bit. I would enjoyed seeing FoH in the final game but, oh well. The treats sure look good!

    Very well done! Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you Jonathan! Oh dont worry, FOH has not seen its last game on the table! The mincemeat pies were exceptional!!! Merry Christmas to you and yours, sir!

  7. Steve, your super blog has been a real boost for me in a hard lockdown year. Certainly inspired me to make good progress on painting my big 15mm AWI collection. I've been exploring each set of rules you try out. Loved your final Germantown game. Your new terrain looked great.
    Wishing you and family a great Xmas. And looking forward to hopefully some FOH, HTL and Eagles Cheaper tabletop adventures next year. Keep safe in these trying times!

    1. Hi Noel!
      Thank you for your kind words and support! This year certainly has been a trying one for everyone. I'm glad that my blog has been a source of enjoyment for you and others. How is the progress coming along on your AWI forces? I'd love to hear about them.

      I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!

      I am planning out my 2021 gaming prospects, so stay tuned!

  8. Excellent post Steve, thanks for getting all of this out to us at this domestically busy time. I have been looking forwards to this.

    The Tricorne rules certainly manage to put a different period feel on the game, keeping the system fresh. I particularly like the rule that allows a 'line' to extend into different sections of the table and be able to be act as one, that certainly puts it's own mark on the system.

    Good quality Christmas gaming in good company - tops. Best wishes to you and your group and thanks for all the work that goes into sharing the group's games. Best wishes for Christmas.

    1. Thank you Norm! I had to wait a few days to post it due to work and family commitments but I eventually found the time :)

      I guess I'm not surprised at this but Tricorne seems to have been a somewhat controversial, or at least "unconventional" choice for the game. It's interesting because once we played a smallish game (Long Island) we immediately felt they would be the best choice given the random events and small "fun" and interesting things that happen during a game. This game proved that with the untimely death of Cornwallis, the rampage of the British Grenadiers, and the charmed luck and skill of the American Artillery who seemed to cheat destruction, and deal out a good amount of it, at each turn.

      A wonderful narrative was produced, somewhat influenced by the combat cards, but also by the players own decisions.

      With that said, I do want to explore the battle (still!) and play it with your TFON rules which I am very much convinced are perfectly suited to the AWI.

      Thank you for your support and comments over the years, Norm! Looking forward to 2021. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a happy new year.

  9. Norm gave me the heads up on your Christmas epic. Really enjoyed the narrative and many photos. Brought back great memories of Norm's game of Germantown. I too was surprised at your choice of C&C rules but they seemed to work really well. So envious of your situation, being able to get together in person with friends once again to game. As you'll know we in the UK have moved into even more stringent times for Christmas. Anyway, all the best to you for Christmas and the New Yaer

    1. Thank you sir! Glad you enjoyed the write up - as I mentioned in my reply to Norm, Tricorne was indeed an unconventional choice for the game, but it worked out very well for a more light hearted and social afternoon.

      Ah! Norm's Germantown game! I played General Knyphausen who did not see nearly as much action in this battle as he did in Norm's game :)

      I think 3 people is probably the most you'll see in our games coming up as we are tightening restrictions here in the US.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours sir!

  10. A great looking game and I may have to take a look at the Tricorne version of C&C. A friend of mine is quite keen on it and we have played a few games but I always feel its very much "a game" (I know, they all are!) due to the restrictions imposed by the cards - there is little point in making a long term plan as if you never get a left flank advance card, you can never attack on the left....that said, even if kit is a game, its a fun game, so I dont mind playing it now and then!