We tied our third-best attendance record for Battles of the American Revolution at the WBC this year with 31 players participating. Among those were eight new, unrated players which speaks to the continued popularity of the series. Also participating this year were six of the top ten AREA rated players which made for good leavening within the field.
I conducted a scheduled demo (since AGM Rob “Cappy” McCracken was an unfortunate late-scratch and couldn’t attend) as well as two 1:1 tutorial for individuals who couldn’t make the demo. Among these folks, two showed up to play.
We ran six rounds to qualify eight players for the single elimination quarterfinals. In-all, 52 separate games of BoAR were played from Round #1 through to the Final match. It was a long week for those players who committed wholeheartedly to the event, including the three players who had selected BoAR as their WBC team game. On the other hand, the Swiss-Elimination format provided others with maximum flexibility to come and go as their overall schedules allowed. It was a nice mix.
While some battles/scenarios proved to be more balanced than others, in total the Americans won 23 contests while the British won 25. Four contests ended in a draw. That’s pretty good play balance overall.
Round #1 attracted the most players, with twenty-two individuals facing off in eleven matches. The game was “Lee’s Advance” at Monmouth Courthouse. Five American and four British players won their games while two games ended in a draw. Considering the command & control rules that the American player must contend with, this ended up being a more balanced scenario than one might have expected.
All victories in this scenario, no matter the side played, were Marginal. British winners included Bruno Sinigaglio, Curtiss Fyock, Bill Morse, and Tim Miller. American victories were recorded by Dave Stiffler, Mark Miklos, Don Hanle and the Reverand Fathers Todd Carter and Eric Tolentino. Draws were recorded between Andy Maly and Frank Sinigaglio and between Charles Orndorff and Ed O’Conner.
Matt O’Conner, Todd Treadway, and Jerry MacLaughlin were new players who joined us in this Round. Long time friends of the series who had fallen off the active list, Ric Manns, Bill Beswick, and Ed O’Connor, were heartily welcomed back into the fold. It proved a good omen to have such a strong turnout for the first Heat. We were off and running.
Round #2 was “Knyphausen’s Feint” at Brandywine Creek. Seventeen players showed up necessitating the first bye of the tournament which was awarded to Father Todd. In total, five byes were awarded this year. Per WBC etiquette, byes are awarded to past champions present in descending order. Once all of those who are entitled for one take a bye, it is next awarded to the players with the most tournament points in descending order. No one may have a bye more than once until all other eligible players do so.
Play balance skewed in favor of the Americans this time. They won six of the eight matches. Only Frank Sinigaglio and Don Hanle managed to win as the British. It is feared that the “code” has been broken for how to win as the Americans in this scenario. As such, it is unlikely that I will be using Knyphausen’s Feint in future tournaments.
In brief, forming a hedgehog, or defense in depth, around Proctor’s Battery with a stack of units and a good leader in the battery hex itself should do the trick. Unless the British take the battery, the Americans will win a Decisive victory regardless of casualties. Of course, they still risk losing Substantially by taking so many casualties while defending that their army morale falls to zero, which is in fact how Frank and Don managed their victories.
We were happy to welcome another new player in this round, Bruce Cota. Meanwhile Dave, Bruno, Mark, Curtiss, Bill, and John Vasilakos pocketed their American victories, each of which was Decisive except for John’s which was Substantial.
There was one outcome worth further note. In the match between Don, the eventual British winner, and his American opponent Chris Mlynarczyk, Don was tracking a British Decisive Victory because he was simultaneously occupying both Proctor’s Battery and the American HQ hex. Chris, whose army morale was resting on 1, launched a forlorn hope attack to reoccupy Proctor’s Battery. The attack failed, predictably, and with it his army morale fell to zero causing an immediate Substantial defeat but preventing Don from earning the eventual Decisive victory. Chris went on to demonstrate this spoiling tactic twice more in the tournament, denying opponents a Decisive victory by intentionally breaking his own army’s morale. He walked away from the Con with a new nickname, Chris “Substantial” Mlynarczyk.
Round #3 was “Chatterton Hill” from the newly released volume X in the series, White Plains. Seeing competitive play for the first time, we were all anxious to discover its play balance, and it didn’t disappoint. Tim, Matt, Jeff Lange, and Chris Storzillo all won Decisively as the Americans while John and Don won Decisively and Bruno and Father Todd won Substantially as the British. In this Heat we again had 17 players and Mark got the bye. This scenario is reminiscent of the Freeman’s Farm scenario in Saratoga. It is short, sharp, and tense right down to the final die roll in most cases.
Round #4 was “Rhode Island.” This time fifteen players wanted to compete, and another bye was warranted. Dave Stiffler took it thus leaving seven matches to be contested. Play balance ruled again as the British won four and the Americans won three of the matches played. New players Rory Aylward and Mark Paulette joined us for this round.
American winners were John and Don who posted Substantial victories and Mark whose Americans won Marginally. On the British side, Bruno and Bill won Substantially and Tim and Father Todd won Marginally.
Round #5 saw us revisit the Monmouth Courthouse battlefield to fight the “Holding Action.” Once again, fifteen players joined us. Bruno received the fourth bye of the tournament after which the rest of the contenders were paired up in seven matches. The British had the best of it winning four times. There were two draws. The Americans only managed one win when Tim defeated Matt O’Conner Marginally. The British meanwhile tallied two Decisive wins by Mark and Father Todd, a Substantial win by Dave, and a Marginal win by Don. John and Ric fought to a draw as did Bill and Charles Orndorff. In this Heat we welcomed yet another new player, Alex Nesenjuk.
Round #6 was our last Swiss Round and it featured “Howe’s Flank Attack” at Brandywine Creek. It is interesting to note that the conditions for an American Decisive victory are in many ways like those in Knyphausen’s Feint, yet the outcomes in this scenario were diametrically opposed. Rather than the Americans scoring the preponderance of victories by simply holding on to the Birmingham Meeting House, it was the British who prevailed in four of the five matches played. This strikes me as curious. The Birmingham Meeting House may be slightly more approachable than Proctor’s Battery and it is true that the British forces making this attack represent the bulk of the elite units in the British army while those in the Knyphausen’s Feint scenario are more mundane. Nevertheless, with the code having been broken in Knyphausen’s Feint I was expecting similar results here. Given that the opposite occurred, it remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
To accommodate five matches, the last bye of the tournament was given to Don since eleven players wanted to compete. We also welcomed our final new player, Scott Beall. Curtiss was the lone American winner by defeating Father Todd Decisively (having held on to the Meeting House.) Bruno, Bill, and Mark all won Substantially as the British while Frank’s British won Marginally.
The stage was now set to identify the top-eight players who would advance to the single elimination Quarterfinal round.
Quarterfinal rankings were as follows: Bruno Sinigaglio with 18 tournament points and 117 points of cumulative army morale. Next came Mark Miklos, also with 18 tournament points and 114 cumulative army morale. Don Hanle was the third seed with 17 tournament points. The fourth seed was Bill Morse with 11 tournament points and an army morale of 112. John Vasilakos was fifth with 11 tournament points and 86 army morale and Dave Stiffler was sixth, also with 11 tournament points and cumulative army morale of 76. Rounding out the top eight were Father Todd Carter with 10 tournament points and Tim Miller with 9 tournament points.
When the list was posted, Bruno announced that he could not advance. The QF round would commence at 9:00 AM on Friday morning. That same day, Bruno was the GM for Queen’s Gambit that was scheduled to start soon after our QF round. Furthermore, he had at least two other QF rounds to either GM or play in as the day progressed. His bandwidth was stretched too thin. Those familiar with Bruno’s duties at WBC can well-imagine how tired he was by this point, responsible as he was for running the entire Grognard sub-Con within WBC, playing in many-many games and trying to also invest in BoAR. So, it was with the deepest of regrets, and with the understanding of our group, that he stepped aside to make room for the first alternate. That player was the ninth seed, Curtiss Fyock whose score was 5 tournament points. Curtiss was a solid point ahead of the next three potential alternates, all of whom had 4 tournament points each and 24, 23, ands 20 army morale points, respectively. They were Chris Storzillo, Matt O’Connor, and Jeff Lange.
Matt won the GM special prize for best performance by a non-AREA rated player. I was happy to present him with a walking guide to the Liberty Trail in Boston and a bag-o-buttons with assorted collectible BoAR buttons from past tournaments. We hope he makes BoAR a regular part of his WBC schedule in the years to come. He’s a good, intuitive, and courageous player. Thanks to his dad Ed for bringing him!
With Curtiss in the mix, the pairing for the QF round was Mark vs. Curtiss, Don vs. Tim, Bill vs. Father Todd, and John vs. Dave. The game was the historical scenario from Eutaw Springs. For players who own White Plains, you will notice a replacement counter for Eutaw Springs on the counter sheet. It is “McCotry’s Rifles” which now replaces the previous S.C. Militia Rifles unit. McCotry’s abilities have been plused-up. He is now light infantry, moves 5 MP, and is a Partisan, just like Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox. We used this new counter in all QF matches.
When the dust settled over the battlefield and the black powder smoke had dissipated, British arms were found to be victorious in three of the four matches. While common, it was surprising given the historical record that demonstrates Eutaw to be arguably the most balanced scenario in the entire BoAR line up. Tim’s Americans preserved national honor by defeating Don’s British Substantially. Meanwhile Mark defeated Curtiss, Father Todd defeated Bill, and Dave defeated John, all with Marginal British victories.
The Semifinal was the granddaddy of them all, the Battle of Saratoga, where the Americans won both matches Substantially. Father Todd defeated Tim and Mark defeated Dave. I can only speak in detail about my own match against Dave which I feared I would lose from the starting gun. To begin with, Dave and I tied during three rounds of bidding since we each wanted the British and neither of us moved off a bid of 1 army morale point. It went to die roll, Dave won it, and got the British unadjusted (They start with superior morale.) Next, I rolled clear weather for the first game turn which meant no fog for either of the first two turns, a definite advantage for the British. Next, Dave went “student body center,” pouring all his units into Freeman’s Farm by the most direct route, forgoing the wide arc around the British right and only sending de minimis forces down the River Road. Next, Morgan’s rifle unit was disrupted in early combat, failed to rally on its first attempt and was out of action effectively for several game turns. The British took the farm and as I struggle to form a line, it was overlapped on both ends continuously by the ever-pressing British. Somewhere along the line I caused a step loss to one of his units, but the score remained 2.5 to .5 and I was feeling desperate. Even if I could contest the farm by projecting a ZOC into it, he would still have a full 1 pt lead in a game where only a .5 VP advantage is enough to win.
And then I got Gates to release on the very first turn of eligibility with a roll of zero! I had prepositioned Gates’ men to take advantage of release, should it occur, and they pressed forward with a Huzzah to the relief of their comrades. They couldn’t quite reach the front so General Arnold pulled the front back about a hex row so that both wings of the army could combine in one, long beautiful line of battle. Gates also sent a feint along the River road sufficient to draw a few British units back into that sector. Combats occurred, and the next thing we knew, the American’s were up 3 VP to 2.5 with an army morale advantage of 15 to 8 (the British were Fatigued.) If memory serves, the Americans had the next initiative and were facing three separate 1 SP British units. Seeing the writing on the wall, Dave offered an honorable surrender and Gates who, being a civilized general schooled in the traditions of the British army, accepted it (although rumor has it that this act caused a heated argument back at American HQ between, he and General Arnold.)
Friday ended and 51 games of BoAR were in the can. We were at last down to the Final that would pit Mark against Father Todd. Stay tuned for more in Part II of this AAR.
The scenario for the Final match was “Howe’s Grand Assault” at White Plains. Father Todd and I each wanted the British and so we bid. It only took one round. He bid zero and so I prevailed with a bid of 1 army morale point. I surrendered it from my at-start morale, and we completed the game set-up. Father Todd rolled for General Washington’s combat modifier and was successful in bringing Washington into the game with a combat DRM of “1” vs. a possible 0. In a classic example of turn-about being fair play, his Militia Attrition die roll yielded the worst possible outcome and he had to remove seven militia counters from his deployed forces. The seven units he selected amounted to 1,300 men! The roads to upstate N.Y. and Connecticut must have been clogged with this human flotsam and jetsam as they streamed homeward, wanting nothing to do with His Majesty’s forces. He made his secret die roll to determine his Ruse de Guerre set-up and we drew our starting hand of two Opportunity Cards each. We were ready to start playing. It was 10:00 AM.
The first four game turns of this scenario are rain game turns. Rain is a strict task master in White Plains reducing MPs by 2, cutting strategic movement in half, reducing the range for fire combat, and inflicting a -1 DRM to both fire and close combat. It was a slog (no pun intended) as the British and Hessian forces tried to move forward, unable to get much traction on the muddy ground. At last, on the top of turn 34 (the third turn of the scenario), my troops closed to contact with dire consequences. Colonel Rall’s crack Hessian regiment was repulsed by artillery fire. Worse, the British 1st Grenadier Bn. was reduced. Indeed, Father Todd had “Chris Easter-like” success with his opening salvoes and earned the nickname, “Cannonball Carter.”
By driving back Rall’s Regiment, the 3rd Waldeck Regiment was left unsupported and had to carry an attack which, after accounting for rain, slope, fieldworks, unit morale, leadership, and cards, went in against the 9th Continental and the 10th Ct. Militia Regiment on Purdy Hill at 1:1, -6. “Mine Got!” cried the Waldeckers. They were lucky to escape with a Disruption.
Heavy fighting continued around Purdy Hill where General Washington had already refused his right, prior to the start of the scenario, and had abandoned several hexes of printed fieldworks at the base of the hill. At least three of those were discovered to be Ruse de Guerre hexes when British units tried to move across of fire across them. Having discovered Ruse de Guerre, the British were able to add the special Probe card to their hand. Speaking of cards, the British played “Double Cannister” and compelled the 9th Continental to Retreat. Even so, the slope of Purdy Hill proved too difficult, and the British were simply unable to make headway.
We broke for lunch at 12:15 PM after four turns of play with the rain finally abated. American Army Morale was 17 to my 15. SPs - Lost, which is a condition for Decisive victory, were 4 for Father Todd and 11 for me. When play begins in this scenario, the SP - Lost Track is preset to 3 SP Lost each, reflecting casualties that already occurred during the fight for Chatterton Hill. Eleven, however, is nearly halfway to the American Decisive victory condition of eliminating 23 SPs of British infantry and certain other units. VPs were less of a concern because to win a Substantial victory one only needs to drive the opponent to Wavering. Nevertheless, Father Todd led in that category as well, 3 VP to 1 VP.
Not yet mentioned is British action on the extreme flanks. On the right, Cornwallis was moving to threaten Horton’s Mill while on the left, on the west side of the Bronx River, Lord Percy and a mixed British/Hessan force were pressing on American Major General Lord Stirling’s command of mostly Pennsylvanians, pushing them slowly back toward the bridge at Christopher Yeoman’s farm. By degrees, the extreme British left extended beyond the American right and a hoped-for opportunity to turn and possibly roll-up the American flank was foremost in Lord Howe’s mind, even as his troops met repulse after repulse on the bloody slopes of Purdy Hill. American units, meanwhile, belonging to Nixon’s Brigade of Massachusetts Continentals, Colonel John Glover commanding, and Wentworth’s Brigade of Connecticut Levee, were streaming forward at the quick march, salting into the lines adeptly; Father Todd demonstrating an uncanny knack for knowing just how long to stand and when and where to fall back to maximize the ground and the arriving reinforcements.
We played-on after our 1-hour lunch break. Turn 36 was the first turn of clear weather. In a bold move to establish a surround situation on a stack of two British units that had gained a toehold on Purdy Hill, Father Todd advanced a 1 SP unit on the British flank. I had 3 SP of Howitzers within range, but they missed. In the ensuing attack, the defending British lead unit had to retreat but couldn’t, due to the surround and was captured. The second unit failed its morale check, had to retreat, and was also captured. My personal morale was beginning to falter, especially when I later picked up my Opportunity Cards to get reacquainted with them. To my mortification, I had forgotten to play the card, “Suppression Fire” during my defensive artillery fire phase. Rather than firing those Howitzers traditionally, I could have compelled his flanking unit to retreat without a defensive fire die roll. My two captured units would have survived, all other things being equal. Instead, I gave him a net army morale swing of 4 points, six more British SP’s – Lost, and two VPs. I was bedside myself, as those sitting around the table or anywhere within earshot can attest. I began to feel, for the first time, that maybe I was destined to lose the game.
Turn 37 proved to be the “tell.” Feeling desperate, I launched attacks up and down the American line on the top half of the turn. (Conventional wisdom suggests one should hold off attacking until the bottom half of a turn to capitalize on a potential double move and to ensure that the opponent won’t have one.) I simply couldn’t wait. I couldn’t allow Father Todd another turn of maneuver wherein he might fall back some more or, at the very least, consolidate and frustrate my plans still further. I had to attack!
I managed seven distinct attacks with attackers almost always stacked 6 SP in every hex. American artillery dice went cold and for the most part my attacks had good results. On my left, where I was hoping to envelope his flank, I managed a surround on the 3rd Virginia, the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, and Lord Stirling himself. I was hoping for a defender Retreat or a Disruption result. What I got was a Pin result which I took in stride because I thought, “What could he possibly do for a counterattack?” Three other American units in Stirling’s force were Disrupted by my attacks in that quarter and so there was scant little force available to him with which to support the Pinned units.
Throughout a Final in competitions, it is routine for interested parties to cruise by the game and check in on how it’s going. Those who had done so up until this turn saw a British army in disarray. After my half of turn 37, players later admitted that they believed the game had turned around and that it was the Brits who were now on the road to victory. Army Morale had switched around. My British were now back in High Morale with 16 while it was the Americans who were Fatigued with 10 morale points. The British had closed the SP- Lost gap and were now only trailing 11 SP to 9 SP. (The British only need to achieve 15 SP – Lost to win, although Militia casualties do not count, and Militia make up 40% of the American army.) Even the VPs had turned with the British now at 7 to the Americans 6. Things indeed appeared to be looking up for the Crown. Would the American Rebellion be snuffed out on the muddy ground and heights around the small farming community of White Plains?
We soldiered on, only to witness me snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I will try my best to explain.
To create the surround that I mentioned against Lord Stirling, his Virginians, and his Pennsylvanians, I had to ensure that two woods hexes adjacent to his stack were occupied by British units. ZOCs of course do not extend into woods and at all costs, these two hexes had to remain British-occupied. In effect I had units in a total of four hexes and ZOCs covering the other two. To achieve my desired odds and modifiers against Stirling in the attack that led to the Pin result, I didn’t need the SPs in one of those surrounding hexes where two British 3 SP units were stacked in one of the woods hexes, I just mentioned. These units had a target of opportunity against a lone American militia who they would be able to attack at 2:1 +4, commanded as they were by General Leslie. They made that attack and got a defender Disrupted result. Dutifully, Father Todd retreated that militia unit 3-hexes. And then it happened!
Of course, the attacker’s lead unit must advance into the vacated hex. In a rookie mistake, and with my blood up, I made a cataclysmic mistake and pushed both attackers and Leslie into the vacated hex, uncovering the light woods I had been occupying in the process. I looked right at what I had done but I didn’t see it. It didn’t register. It wasn’t until Father Todd said, on his half of the turn, “I hope I get an attacker retreat so that I can pass into the woods hex you just left open.”
Father Todd is such a good sport, and we sometimes joke about Devine intervention when playing him. Is that what happened? He needed an attacker retreat to survive the pin-induced counterattack and that is exactly what he got. His lead unit escaped into the woods with Lord Stirling, and then his trailing unit prophetically failed its morale check and scampered away to safety as well. To add insult to injury, most of Father Todd’s disrupted units rallied after his movement phase and just before this attack and suddenly, what had looked so decisive for the British, appeared anything but.
Frankly, the rest is a blur. I never recovered, either on the gameboard or personally. Taken together, the overlooked card play that would have saved two of my units on Purdy Hill and the bungled maneuvering that allowed his stack to escape were too much to overcome; the first having set me on the path to defeat, and the second sealing my fate. This is not to take anything away from Father Todd’s play. It was calm, measured, and precise. I would almost say flawless but for leaving his right flank in the air and giving me at least the chance to turn it. Father Todd won the game Decisively causing 23 SPs Lost. Final army morale was 18 American and 12 British and VPs were 9:7.5 in his favor.
We finished at 5:15 PM. The total time at the table for the 2023 Final was 6 hours and 15 minutes which is comparatively fast as Finals go. Congratulations to Cannonball Carter! It’s the second time we’ve met in a WBC Final, and the second time I’ve gone home as a bridesmaid, and not the bride. I can’t say I gave him my best game, but his was a worthy victory, nonetheless. He took perfect advantage of my poor generalship.
In a general note to players of the BoAR series, White Plains is a deep and rich design with a bit of a learning curve to overcome. Take is slow and easy as you explore the game for the first few times that you play the scenarios. It will be well worth it in the end.