A Three-Cornered Final
Each round featured a different
game in the series. Unlike former years, players couldn't default
back to the original Saratoga game. Could that be the
cause of the 30% attendance drop?
John Vasilakos (left) goes head to
head with the designer's son, John Miklos. The pin stripers fan
didn't survive the test and Vasilakos moved on to a sixth place
24 players competed in this year's event. They played 25 games
involving 55 player-starts that totaled nearly 140 hours of combined
gaming. All had a good time, whether dueling as perennial champions
or being welcomed into the fold as relative newcomers. No fewer
than five past-champions were in this year's competition.
This year for the first time there was no automatic default
game and all players were required to play the stipulated scenario
in each round in order to advance. This proved to be a non-issue
and, in fact, most players told me they were glad for the change.
Eutaw Springs was the Mulligan game and also the scenario
for Round 1. There were four draws, two substantial American
victories, and seven British victories (five marginal and two
substantial.) There was a Round 1 upset when newcomer David Stiffler
defeated past champion Andy Maly knocking him out of the competition.
Thirteen players advanced to Round 2, "Knyphausen's Feint"
from Brandywine. Victories were evenly divided, three
for each side. The six advancing players were (Americans) John
Foley, John Vasilakos and David Stiffler and (British) Rob McCracken,
Bruno Sinigaglio and Mark Miklos. Last year's champion, Dale
Long, received a bye in this round.
The scenario for Round 3 was "Washington's Stand"
from Monmouth. Dale Long defeated Rob McCracken and Mark
Miklos had the bye. In the other matches Bruno Sinigaglio and
John Vasilakos fought to a draw, as did David Stiffler and John
Foley. A comparison of tournament points revealed that Bruno
and David had the best overall records earning them the right
to advance to the semi-finals.
Saratoga was used in Round 4. Both British armies won
marginal victories with Dale Long prevailing over David Stiffler
and Mark Miklos prevailing over Bruno Sinigaglio. By design,
the three players advancing from this semi-final were going to
be the two winners and the defeated player with the best record.
Bruno and David waited anxiously as the score sheets were analyzed.
In the end, Bruno and David were tied in tournament and victory
points but Bruno's slight advantage in Army Morale entitled him
to advance to the Final.
The three finalists secretly chose their sides. Dale alone
picked the French but Bruno and Mark each picked the British.
In the bidding that followed Mark bid 2 and Bruno 3 so, by default,
Mark took the Americans and Bruno adjusted his at-start army
morale down by three points.
The weather on Turn 1 was squall so the few pieces on the
board just crawled around. On Turns 2-6 the British sortied out
of the Savannah defenses to delay the early-arriving American
vanguard and screen their own arriving reinforcements. They then
managed a fine measured withdrawal back into their defensive
works as the weight of arriving French and American units was
making itself felt. During this bit of fencing the British lost
a unit of Georgia Militia that was acting as a rear guard and
the Americans gained the first VP of the game.
During Turns 7 and 8 the British dressed their lines and the
French brought up variable reinforcements that were able to take
advantage of good weather to rapidly advance the French mortar
On Turn 9 the French began digging their siege works while
American units on the other flank began their march through the
covered way in the Yamacraw Swamp. It is noteworthy that 75%
of the American forces advanced via the swamp to gain the extreme
right of the British line and not a single American unit got
lost in the attempt.
On Turns 10 & 11 each side fired on the Siege & Bombardment
Table with mixed results. The Allies achieved the destruction
of a Savannah city hex through "massive bombardment"
and lowered British Army Morale by 1 due to an influx of refugees.
The British caused a French artillery accident that eliminated
one battery and also caused a breach to a hexside of French fieldworks.
All three players continued to move men into position for the
The Allies drew the "Espionage" event that allowed
them to pick a random card from the British player's hand. They
drew Major L'Enfant and later used that card to breach a hexside
of abatis in the otherwise unfortified hex adjacent to the Spring
Hill Redoubt. Previous card play by the British had caused a
-1 drop in French army morale due to "Spoiled Rations."
It was at this point that the Allies decided to declare their
attack against the Savannah Defensive Perimeter. Declaration
is a pre-condition to moving adjacent for combat. It immediately
causes the game to shift from the Strategic Game Turn Track to
the Tactical and ensures a back-to-back move for the Allies.
By attacking now the Allies understood they were giving up several
more turns of bombardment and random event card draws as well
as the possibility that the weather might turn rainy which is
better to cover the infantry assault. However, on the upside
they realized that an attack now would deny the British their
final two reinforcing units including the Grand Battery, a 7-SP
artillery unit. Also, Bruno had over committed to the American
sector and there were two unsupported British artillery batteries
within easy reach of a French overrun. It was too compelling.
The Allies decided to assault.
The French had the honor of attacking alone while the Americans
used one more turn to maneuver into position to support the attack
on the opposite front. When the French hit the wall Bruno played
the "American Deserters" card that would have given
his defensive artillery fire a +1 drm. To his chagrin, the Allies
countered with "British Ammunition Depletion" bringing
British fire back to par levels. Nevertheless, Bruno managed
to reduce the French Grenadier Bn, retreat the French Marine
Bn. and eliminated the SC Combined Militia at long range. Enough
attacking units remained, however, for Dale's French to overrun
the two guns as planned and gain a 2-hex toehold inside the British
works. Elsewhere, Dillon's Rgt of Irish mercenaries, fighting
for the French, went ferocious in an attack against one of the
British redoubts. Bruno played the card "French Columns
Led Astray" however, which negated the effects of Irish
ferocity. In the end, the Hessian von Wissenback Rgt. held the
redoubt after severe fighting.
On his half of the turn Bruno launched a massive counterattack
against the French, pulling every available unit from the center
and even a few from the American sector where it was becoming
clear he would be attacked on the next Allied player turn. These
attacks had some success but in the key roll, where the British
had a French stack surrounded with the possibility of capture,
the French player was forced to use the Allied at-start momentum
chit to re-roll the combat die. That re-roll resulted in a "pin"
thus saving the French stack. Their army commander, Major General
Prevost, led the attacking British but the Allies played the
"C'est la Guerre" card that caused Prevost to return
to HQ denying his units both his combat modifier and the ability
to select from all eight tactics chits. Fate & Fortune seemed
to be conspiring against the British.
The initiative on the next Tactical Game Turn went again to
the Allies. This time French and American units attacked on both
fronts at once. While British units held firm against the first
American assault of the game, on the French flank Dillon's Irish
disrupted the Royal Marines and opened a lane to the pinned and
previously surrounded French stack. This was a huge break for
the French player. Elsewhere on that flank, three low odds, low
modifier French attacks (1:1 -2, 1:1 -3 & 1:3 -1) resulted
in nothing more harmful to the French than a series of simple
After declaring all British counterattacks on the bottom half
of the turn, Bruno was stunned when the Allies played their trump
card, "Chaos on the Battlefield." All attacking British
units had to make individual pre-attack morale checks. Those
that failed would retreat and survivors would attack with a 1
drm in close combat in addition to any other modifiers that might
apply. No fewer than16 attacking strength points were compelled
to retreat leaving only 8 to press the attack. The outcome was
predictable and the British suffered terribly including one unit
reduced, another eliminated and Col. Maitland, their best tactical
commander, a casualty.
The Allies once again gained the initiative on the next turn
over the fatigued British army. Out of six shots taken, British
defensive artillery fire only managed to cause a retreat to Pulaski's
Legion that was leading a cavalry charge through the breach in
the abatis that was mentioned previously in this report. Allied
attacks, two of which needed momentum to sustain them, resulted
in another eliminated British unit and two captures. At this
point in the game, VP status was French 5, Americans 3 and British
2 - but the telling statistic was Army Morale. The Allies enjoyed
"high" morale (20 morale points each) while the British
army stood "wavering" with morale of 4.
Bruno managed to rally enough units during his half of the
turn to raise his morale status to "fatigued" and he
promptly attacked. He sortied the remaining Georgia Militia out
of the works in an attempt to overrun the lone and unsupported
American artillery battery 600 yards out in the tree line. They
were driven off, however, by the battery's defensive fire. Elsewhere
Bruno's attacks met with some success but it was not enough to
swing the tide. De Lancey's NY Loyalists managed to reduce the
French Grenadier Volunteers and the 1st Bn. Fraser's Highlanders
captured the Metropolitan French Rgt. Foix. On the other hand
von Trumbach's Hessian Grenadiers, the King's Florida Rangers
and the 2nd SC Royalists were all captured while the Georgia
Loyalist Volunteers were eliminated.
As a final gesture Bruno played two random event cards that
he was still holding. "Pulaski" was killed and his
unit counter was replaced from the counter mix with a degraded
one and "Troops Killed by Friendly Fire" caused American
Army Morale to decrease a point.
As you may imagine, the Allies again won initiative on the
next, and what proved to be the last, turn (Turn 19 on the Tactical
Turn Track.) British defensive fire caused the Irish to take
a step loss. It was at this moment that Mark and Dale noticed
that with British Army Morale again at 4, whoever resolved combat
first would stand the best chance to win the game since the game
ends the moment Army Morale falls to 0 and the individual winner
is that player with the most VPs at that moment. With Dale's
French sitting on 8 VPs and Mark's Americans on 5 VPs you can
imagine how hotly debated the resolution of this issue became.
Three-player Savannah is intentionally designed to put the
Franco-American Allies into the shoes of their historical counterparts
with respect to lack of cooperation, miscommunication, distrust
and a general lack of teamwork. This is built into many of the
games systems such as stacking and combat restrictions, separate
army morale and VP tracks, and the requirement that limited Allied
resources like momentum, diversion and random events be shared
between them. The rules are intentionally unstructured as to
how the Allies must work this out.
To this point in the game they did a fair job of cooperating
but now, with the game on the line, their inherent foibles surfaced.
For several minutes Mark and Dale were at an impasse. Mark suggested
a die roll to establish precedent for attack resolution but Dale
wanted not just one die roll, but a die roll prior to each individual
combat. Mark agreed and AGM Rob McCracken endorsed the solution.
The Americans found themselves confronting three unsupported
artillery batteries that could be overrun and captured for a
VP each. The French had several good attacks in place. Victory
hung in the balance.
The first die was rolled, Mark won and the American's overran
a gun. (Score: French 8, Americans 6, British Morale 3.) The
second die was rolled, Mark won again and the next British battery
was overrun. (French 8, Americans 7, British Morale 2.) I privately
felt this was playing into the French player's hands since I
could not possibly keep winning the primacy die roll and he,
still with a VP advantage, was now just two points on the morale
track short of end-game.
The third die was rolled and Mark's Americans won again, overrunning
the third British battery. (French 8, Americans 8, British Morale
1). Clearly the next die roll would determine the winner. As
the dice tumbled down the tower time seemed to stop. Amazingly
and against all odds Mark won yet again but he no longer had
an easy overrun target. Instead his Americans had to attack uphill
out of the Yamacraw Swamp at 3:2.
During Tactic Chit play Mark pulled an illegal chit and knew
it the moment it left his hand. His attack did not have leadership
so he was not entitled to the Frontal Attack card he had chosen.
The final adjusted odds in the attack became, therefore, 3:2
+2. The die was thrown and the British defenders had to take
a step loss giving the Americans another VP! As Bruno's morale
fell to 0 and Dale looked on in disbelief Mark announced that
having previously captured the Spring Hill Redoubt he was now
entitled to add its 1 VP to his total since that calculation
is only made at end-game.
Your final, Mark's Americans 9 VPs and 1st Place, Dale's French
8 VPs and 2nd Place and Bruno's British 3rd place. Even those
that did not win agreed that it could not have been scripted
any better. Allowing for the many interruptions by friends, passers-bye
and others stopping to enjoy the show on the "big board,"
the Final took approximately six hours. This was the second time
that 3-player Savannah was used as a Final for a BAR tournament,
the other having been during RevCon at Prezcon last February.
This will likely remain the format for the Final for some time
Now that's what I call a bracket!
The 3-player Final is played on a
giant display board.