Twenty-one players joined the BoAR tournament at the WBC this year. While that number is a bit lower than our average draw it was nevertheless a respectable showing for a down-year overall. And, with six Heats plus a Quarter Final, Semifinal, and Final we played a total of 42 games representing 218 playing hours. That is not too shabby.
Among those twenty-one players were four of the top-ten A.R.E.A. rated players, a player who had been on the A.R.E.A “Inactive List” for a while, and three players brand new to BoAR tournament play. My AGMs Rob McCracken & Dave Stiffler and I want to thank everyone who played this year whether you joined for only a single Heat or played in the entire event.
On balance it was a very good tournament for the Crown with British forces winning twenty seven games to fourteen games won by the Americans; essentially a 2:1 ratio. In the aggregate the Americans won marginally nine times, substantially three times and decisively twice. The British meanwhile won marginally nineteen times, substantially seven times, and decisively once. One game ended in a draw. The breakdown of victories within each round is covered below.
Heat 1 was the historical scenario from Guilford Courthouse and fourteen players were paired in seven matches. In this game the British need a +2 advantage in victory points to win a marginal victory with only five game turns within which to accomplish that. The Americans begin with one VP for control of Guilford Courthouse itself and a draw is treated as an American victory. Despite the uphill struggle for the British, two players managed to achieve British marginal victories. John Vasilakos defeated Chris Mlynarczyk while Bill Alderman defeated Andy Maly. The other five games were all American marginal victories including an upset win by new player Ted Castronova over BoAR designer and tournament GM Mark Miklos.
It is worth a mention that Chris Mlynarczyk, another of our new players, is the President of the 1st Delaware Regiment (reenactment group) who has willingly offered his resources to our BoAR community. Chris played in all six Heats and together with Avery Abernethy, the third of the new payers, was welcomed by our group with open arms.
We were also happy to see Jim Terry. Jim had played in seven tournaments previously but not since WBC in 2015 and was therefore on the A.R.E.A. inactive list. It was great to be able to flip the switch and get Jim back in the group of active players.
Heat 2 was the Battle of Rhode Island from BoAR volume IX. Again, we drew fourteen players. Four of these matches were British marginal victories including the victory by Curtiss Fyock over Rob “Cappy” McCracken. Curtis came on the BoAR scene in 2019 at the last pre-COVID WBC where he turned a few heads with his competitive play. This year he rocked through the Heats and was seeded first most of the way through the tournament. Two matches ended in American marginal wins while one American victory was decisive. That latter accomplishment is credited to Dave Stiffler who defeated Avery Abernethy. Notably, Dave achieved a total of three decisive victories during this tournament and was the only player to win any match at that level.
Heat 3 was the Battle of Germantown. Ten players competed in this round while the first “bye” of the tournament was awarded to Mark Miklos. The rules at WBC require byes to be awarded to past-champions present in reverse chronological order. In BoAR tournament play a player awarded a bye is credited with the equivalent of a substantial victory. In these five matches the British players won three substantial victories while the only American win was also substantial when Cappy defeated Bill Alderman. The match between John Vasilakos and Avery Abernethy ended in a draw; the only draw registered in this year’s tournament.
For those less familiar with Germantown, the game features special rules to represent the fact that one American Brigade is commanded by an officer drunk on duty, Brigadier General Adam Stephen. Historically his troops engaged in a fog-shrouded friendly fire incident that led to panic in the American ranks who believed the enemy had gotten in their rear. In this year’s Germantown round there were diverse outcomes concerning General Stephen. At two tables he was a non-factor in the game. In another, Curtiss Fyock’s British killed Chris Storzillo’s General Stephen with artillery fire. In yet another, Charles Orndorff’s General Stephen triggered friendly fire which led to a spreading panic that ultimately contributed to a British substantial victory by Bill Morse. At the final table Stephen’s troops were heroic. Here Cappy’s General Stephen charged into Bill Alderman’s British line, capturing an artillery unit, and unhinging the British right flank. The unpredictability of how Stephen’s Brigade will play due to the random elements in his movement mechanics makes every play of Germantown a unique experience.
Heat 4 was the tight and tense four and half turn Freeman’s Farm scenario from Saratoga. There were ten players in five matches with a 2nd bye awarded to Todd Carter. In this round we recorded three British marginal victories, one American marginal victory when Charles Orndorff defeated Mark Miklos, and one American substantial victory by Bill Morse over Marty Musella.
Heat 5 was the full Saratoga campaign. Eight players met in four matches and the third and final bye was awarded to John Vasilakos. In this BoAR classic we saw three British marginal wins and one American substantial win where Bill Morse defeated Chris Mlynarczyk.
The sixth and final Heat was the “Next Day” scenario at Saratoga. In this scenario the British player is not entitled to a marginal victory and must win either substantially or decisively. Failing that the American player wins. The American player is handicapped by the fact that General Benedict Arnold’s wing of the army suffers from ammunition depletion. It is a very interesting situation.
Ten players competed and all five matches were British victories. Four of those were substantial while one was decisive when Dave Stiffler defeated Marty Musella.
After six Heats we took the top eight players up into the quarter finals. From this point on it became a single elimination competition. The leader board going into the quarter final looked like this: 1. Dave Stiffler, 2. Mark Miklos, 3. Curtiss Fyock, 4. John Vasilakos, 5. Bill Morse, 6. Charles Orndorff, 7. Todd Carter, and 8. Bruno Sinigaglio. Bruno was unable to advance and so the first alternate, the number 9 seed Rob McCracken, got the opportunity to fill the last quarter final slot.
The quarter final featured the historical scenario from the Battle of Newtown, the only pitched battle fought during the American Revolution between an army of Iroquois warriors supported by a few hundred Loyalist rangers and Tory militia against elements of the Continental Army. The game features a menu of unique Indian player rules covering ferocity, evasion, withdrawal, retreat before combat, honor, and others and a chit-pull mechanic for Indian movement that taken together replicate combat by warriors as opposed to soldiers. The American player’s biggest advantage is the relative inability of the warriors to stand up to artillery fire. The American player needs a VP differential of +6 in order to achieve a marginal victory. If they can burn the Seneca village of Newtown they can win decisively.
All four quarter final matches were won by the British/Indian player, most by comfortable margins. Todd Carter came closest to winning as the Americans falling a mere .5 VP short of a marginal victory over Mark Miklos but Mark held on to advance. The eliminated players in this round were Curtiss Fyock defeated by Charles Orndorff, Cappy defeated by Dave Stiffler, Bill Morse defeated by John Vasilakos, and Todd defeated by Mark Miklos. These results set up a semifinal round where Mark would face John and Dave would face Charles.
The semifinal was the Battle of Eutaw Springs, arguably the most balanced game in the entire BoAR series. Rather than straight play, this year’s semi was structured as “match play.” Each pair of players would play the game twice, switching sides. The best combined score over the two games would be the winner of the round and advance to the Final. The lower seeded player in each pair had first choice of sides.
In the Stiffler-Orndorff match, Dave won marginally as both the British and the Americans and comfortably advanced. His American win included an Army Morale differential of 15 to 2 thereby nearly winning a substantial victory in that match.
The Miklos-Vasilakos match was much closer. John had first choice of sides and took the attacking Americans. He failed to penetrate the British perimeter and lost a step of damage along the way. The British camp, still in Mark’s possession, was worth 3 VPs and the damaged unit was worth another .5 VP. John had no VPs and was down 14 to 13 in Army Morale points. The latter was important because in the event of a tie in tournament points the cumulative Army Morale points would be the first tie breaker.
In the rematch John’s British also held sway. Mark’s Americans were stymied and the match ended with the Americans down 3 VPs to 0 but once again with a 1 point Army Morale advantage of 13 to 12. Thus each player won a marginal victory and had 2 tournament points. On the tie breaker, Mark’s total of 27 army morale was better than John’s total of 25 allowing Mark to advance to face a waiting Dave Stiffler in the Final. Had Army Morale also been tied the second tie breaker would have been cumulative VPs where Mark’s 3.5 would have been sufficient over John’s 3 VPs. It was that close.
Part II - It Was Epic!
As we were setting up for the Final on Saturday morning and deploying counters for the Battle of Newport, Rhode Island (BoAR volume IX) we were visited by Alexander & Grant from The Players Aid. They dropped by to shoot a video interview during which we discussed the tournament and upcoming BoAR projects.
Alexander and Grant are terrific and their repartee in person is every bit as effective and entertaining as it is on YouTube. They previously played Brandywine and have a high opinion of the BoAR series. Rumor has it that at next year’s WBC they will join me for a friendly 3-player game of Savannah, which is Savannah at its best. Be watching for this and other designer interviews from this year’s WBC on The Players Aid YouTube channel in the coming weeks.
After the interview and the setup we were finally ready to play. We secretly selected sides and since I wanted the British and Dave the Americans, no bidding was needed. It was 9:15 AM.
If you are accustomed to reading BoAR after action reports, you will quickly notice that this will be more of a general summary rather than a turn by turn description. That is because we lost our scribe at the outset. Cappy had to take his family home to Delaware soon after our game began. Dave and I must be forgiven for being so engrossed in our play that neither of us could capture the granular detail such as calling out regiments and commanders by name for deeds both heroic and tragic. I was, however, able to capture a few significant themes.
As Dave’s forces approached to open the game I sortied my Hessians from the zone between the Tomini Hill Redoubt and Irish’s Redoubt on the British left. My objective in coming forward out of my works was to compel the approaching French to shift from column into line of battle to trade space for time. In my view the best chance for a Franco-American victory occurs on Day 1 which is only an eight turn affair. With time on my side I gambled on this delaying tactic. The trick, however, is not to get caught in the open by an American back-to-back turn. As soon as I formed my line I had to begin withdrawing it because the British kept winning the initiative for the next several turns leaving the Americans poised for that potential back-to-back move.
Dave meanwhile was maneuvering his American units toward the center to link up in force with the French. There did not appear to be any direct threat developing against the British right flank at Card’s Redoubt. In fact his bog-check appeared to be an afterthought and no American troops ever approached Card's Redoubt via the bog even after it proved to be passable. So as the Americans glided toward the center, the British shifted toward their center in response. For the first four game turns we stayed out of one another’s artillery range with the exception of the American siege artillery on Honeyman Hill which was unsuccessful in several attempts to breach the earthen ramparts of Card’s Redoubt.
The first American attack occurred on turn 5. During my defensive artillery fire I took eight shots and they all missed. Thus began a saga of errant British artillery fire; eventually eighteen total shots, three hits with no damage. Twenty eight total shots, six hits, no damage. And so, it continued. At one point I had taken thirty nine shots and while the number of hits improved to eleven or nearly one-third, only two of those hits caused damage.
I elaborate on this point because the British player can win decisively by eliminating eighteen SPs of non-militia French and American infantry. The Allies must attack to win and they risk approaching thirty SPs of British and Hessian artillery (60-guns) to do so. As it turned out, my poor artillery fire was a foreshadowing of things to come.
To win on Day-1 Dave had to control three of the five redoubts along the outer defensive line. He eventually captured one, Irish’s Redoubt, but was repulsed everywhere else along the line. He ignored the extreme flanks and concentrated in the center where three of the five British redoubts are located. Doing so also avoided the two largest British batteries, each of 4 SP located on Tomini Hill and near Card’s Redoubt. Each side was getting bloodied in the hotly contested close combats against the redoubts in the center.
When night fell we entered a structured administration phase and I began pulling my front line units back using a reduced movement table for night marching. Opposing units must disengage from each other at night and so Dave was unable to maintain adjacency as I withdrew. After some calculations and army morale adjustments that occur at night I emerged in the morning with a one point army morale advantage and the right to go first on turn 9. Now with full movement available I pulled back farther and faster toward the British inner line trenches surrounding Newport. While doing so I had to spike three batteries of heavy artillery who simply could not keep up.
As we entered the first turn of the 2nd Day the SP Lost Track for Franco-American infantry casualties sat at 13 out of 18. I had every confidence that with a second fortified line to fall back upon and still with ample artillery, I would be assured of the five additional step losses I needed to win. Dave later admitted that about this time he was on the verge of failing his personal morale check. Nevertheless surrender is not in his vocabulary particularly because, as a veteran BoAR player, he knows that games in this series can turn on a dime no matter how dire a situation may appear.
It was turn twelve when the Allies hit the British inner line in force from front and flank. In retrospect I recognize that I maneuvered poorly during my retreat from the outer to the inner British lines. As I think back on the game I am reminded of what Aunt Pittypat said in Gone with The Wind. “Yankees in Georgia. How did they get it?”
My left and center were on the most direct lines of approach by the pursuing Franco-American Allies and so I made them as solid as I could. My right, however, was more extended and I left it thinly defended doing little to impede his approach in that direction. It was a longer, less direct route for him to take and although he primarily had militia stationed there, he saw that a door was left open and elected to pass through it after I abandoned the exposed Easton Redoubt on the extreme right end of my line. By doing so I voluntarily gave up one of the five inner-line victory objectives but I took the calculated risk because the move also shortened my front and, as I fell back, I also refused my right.
Once Dave got forces over my trench line, however, I lost much of my defensive benefit. Still, I had guns and he had to suffer defensive artillery fire before he could close on me. Unfortunately for the Crown my poor shooting, so evident on Day-1, continued unabated into Day-2. I NEVER blame a game on dice and in truth I got fair dice and my share of hits but could not cause any step losses down the stretch.
Dave was equally frustrated. He would mount attacks, suffer fire, and then retreat or disrupt several attacking units making his ensuing attacks too weak to break through. Up he would come and back he would go. He had senior commanders in the rear areas desperately rallying stacks of troops and once rallied, they would be replaced with freshly disrupted units streaming rearward.
We were getting tired and frustrated, Dave’s frustration manifesting itself in the discovery of two over stacked hexes of American troops. When this occurs, the player must eliminate enough SPs to conform to stacking limits and pay the VP and army morale penalties for doing so. If memory serves Dave was able to remove some expendable American militia units in each case. This is not an indictment of Dave’s play which is scrupulously correct at all times, but rather an illustration of how the long hours and tense play were taking their toll.
To compound things his mortar fire was ineffective all game. Rather than digging the mortar into fieldworks to extend its range, he chose instead to move it up behind his ever-advancing line. Even at slightly reduced range the siege mortar has the potential to do immense damage. Most of his shots missed. He successfully eliminated one British naval battery, had one misfire, and missed with all the other shots.
Suddenly someone noticed we had been playing steadily for over eight hours. And still we dance.
Ultimately, by causing another step or two of damage in close combat, I had him at 16 lost SPs and needing only one more hit on a four or five SP unit to achieve the last remaining two steps of damage to win decisively. For what ended up being the final five turns of the game I was unable to cause that elusive hit.
Dave went second on turn seventeen during which he captured his third, and final, objective hex in the inner line to win a decisive Allied victory. By then my army morale was down to 1! Someone looked at their watch. It was sometime after 10:15 PM. We had been playing for over thirteen hours and never left the board except for bathroom breaks. Snacks were eaten tableside.
Our observers were as exhausted as we were. Several folks hung by the table all day and several kept checking in to see how it was unfolding. The Big Board makes a war game a true spectator sport and Dave and I were grateful for the moral support.
I can’t say this was the longest match I have ever played because I once won the Final in the game 1776 at Avaloncon; a 60-turn affair that took fourteen hours to play and began immediately after a full day of Heats. Nevertheless, given the ebb and flow in this match, the equal doses of frustration we each experienced, the balance in the scenario and in the skill sets of the two players, and in the sheer will that it took, it deserves the label, EPIC. I’m confident Dave would agree on that point. Without reservation I can add this match to those of Sinigaglio vs Easter at Pensacola (twice), Sinigaglio vs Miklos & Long at Savannah, T. Miklos vs Doane at Brandywine, Miklos vs McCracken at Pensacola, and Doane vs Miller at Germantown as truly memorable tournament Finals.
This was his first BoAR WBC championship and a very well deserved one. His approach to my inner line and his exploitation of my weak right flank were masterful and instructive for all who observed it.
Congratulations to Dave Stiffler and thank you again to everyone who joined us for the 2022 WBC BoAR tournament.
See you next year.