Boardgames of the French and Indian War – Part II

Battle of Fort William McHenry during French and Indian War

Quite some time ago, I wrote a round-up of my favorite boardgames of the French and Indian War. Since then I’ve been focusing pretty exclusively on the FIW using 28mm miniatures and Muskets & Tomahawks. I’ve also spent a lot of time over the past year reading about the period and visiting historic sites in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia that tell the story of the FIW.

Between travel, research, painting miniatures, building scenery and running through tabletop scenarios of the period, I’ve continued to build up my collection of FIW-themed boardgames. With that, I have a second list of more of my favorites from this empire-defining conflict in North America.

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Quebec 1759 (Columbia Games)

You can’t beat Columbia Games for their quick-playing and unique block games for which they are known. I have Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83, their American Revolution game, on my shelf, and about a year ago I finally to picked up a copy of their FIW game Quebec 1759.

Released in 1972, Quebec 1759 was one of the first block wargames produced and has remained in print for 45 years as a game perfect for entry level players as well as those experienced in the hobby. I’ve been trying to track down a first printing of the game for a while for the embossed blocks, but I couldn’t pass up a great deal on a 1980s edition with 50 stickered blocks for $20 at a convention flea market a couple years back.

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Map and wooden blocks from Quebec 1759

Playable in about an hour or so, this classic abstractly captures the meeting of the British forces led by James Wolfe and the French defenders commanded by Louis-Joseph de Montcalm in September 1759. The decisive Battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City left both men dead and was the beginning of the end of French rule in North America.

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Typical stickered wooden blocks from a mid-1980s edition of Quebec 1759

My near perfect copy captures the charm of the original edition with its signature wooden blocks, 10″ x 32″ elongated heavy cardboard map and a mere four pages of rules. The game is played over 16 turns with each side — British and French — plotting their moves in advance on paper and then simultaneously revealing them. There are no spaces on the map. Instead ten road-connected land zones and a bisected St. Lawrence River.

The game has remained a classic for a reason, notably its fast play that rewards numerous replays and taking turns on either side.

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End of Empire: 1744-1782 (Compass Games)

Command was a bi-monthly magazine published between 1989 and 2001 which focused on military history, strategy and gaming. Issue 46 from December 1997 features articles on New France, the American Revolution, George Washington and his spy network, and famed traitor Benedict Arnold. The issue also contains a full hex and counter game called End of Empire which captures the grand sweep of North American history from the 1740s through early 1780s. The game was subsequently reprinted as a box game from Compass Games as End of Empire:1744-1782.

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My copy of Command #46 featuring End of Empire just prior to punching the counters

End of Empire covers a wide period from King George’s War, FIW and the American Revolution. Over a dozen scenarios allows play of specific conflicts or campaigns in a few hours, and a full game is playable over the whole period that will run to more than 15 hours for truly committed players. The game is regimental in scope with a huge hex map spanning the entire North American East Coast and contains hundreds of color counters representing British, French, Spanish, Indian and Colonial forces. For a real deep dive into nearly 40 years of colonial conflict, this is the game.

Wilderness Empires (Worthington Publishing)

I’m a big fan of Worthington Publishing’s games. I have three of their American Revolution games – New York 1776, Trenton 1776 and their latest, Saratoga 1777. The simple graphic maps and wooden blocks make Worthington’s games easy to grasp while also providing some great strategic play specific to the conditions of certain battles and campaigns.

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Map detail and wooden playing pieces from Wilderness Empires

With Wilderness Empires, most recently reprinted in 2016, Worthington captures the larger scope of the grand strategy of the FIW in a mix of point-to-point movement, blocks and cards. Designed by my pal Bill Molyneaux, a FIW reenactor and game designer, the game is steeped in real history while producing introductory level play of the period for 2-4 players.

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French (top) and British (bottom) cards from Wilderness Empire featuring original art by Don Troiani

The components are hefty 1″ wooden blocks with nicely rounded corners representing French, British and Indian forces. Indian towns, special wood dice, a large board and cards featuring beautiful original art by Don Troiani round out what’s in the box. Their artwork aside, the cards provide tactical play of reinforcements, leaders, campaign actions and specific play of historical units such as Rogers Rangers and Indian allies.

If you’re lucky, you can track down this recently out of print game in gift shops at various historical sites and forts in the northeast for a great intro to the period.

1759: The Siege of Quebec

1759: Siege of Quebec (Worthington Publishing)

Worthington has also produced a new spin on the famed siege of the era with 1759: Siege of Quebec. The game presents a bit like the classic Columbia game covering the same battle but with a unique 2-in-1 package that allows for both 2-player and solo play, a rarity for games of the period.

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The beautiful map for Worthington’s 1759: Siege of Quebec

This game is gorgeous. The area movement map is bisected with by the St. Lawrence River and has defined deployment areas for stickerless blue (French) and red (British) blocks. In the 2-player game, separate hands of Command Decision cards and Command Field Orders books allow each side to make selections on what they do each turn. Cards are revealed and resolved, with casualties and morale tracked toward victory. The solitaire game uses a separate set of cards but plays out in a similar way.

The game falls into the modern string of fast-play “lunchtime games” which typically run less than a half-hour, making 1759 a great modern spin on the often-covered battle.

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1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War (Academy Games)

I’ve long been a devotee of Academy Games and their take on American history through their highly accessible and educational games. I have copies of their American Revolution game 1775: Rebellion, 1812:The Invasion of Canada and the immensely challenging Freedom: The Underground Railroad, so when I heard they were producing a FIW game, I knew I’d be getting a copy.

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Set-up of 1754: Conquest from Academy Games

The game, 1754: Conquest, follows the same basic mechanics of 1775 and 1812 and rounds out Academy’s trilogy from their “Birth of America” game series. All three games feature wonderfully colorful maps with area movement of small cubes using small hands of action cards keyed to historical events and personalities.

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One of my many plays through 1754: Conquest

In multiple plays of 1754, I’ve found it to be the most challenging in the series. Fortifications, muster points for militia and harbors for arriving British and French reinforcements all reflect the major points of control important to the war. As with all games in the series, this one serves as a great entry into wargaming the period while also providing a challenge to more experienced gamers.

Bayonets & Tomahawks (GMT Games)

One of my most anxiously-anticipated games is GMT’s Bayonets & Tomahawks which has been on their P500 pre-order since 2015. There’s been a steady drip of development and playtesting articles over the game’s long gestation, and in late 2019 some near-final box art was made available.

A 2018 playtest map for Bayonets & Tomahawks, slated for delivery in late 2020

As with all things that come out of GMT, the looks like its going to be a beauty with custom dice supporting a unique battle system and full-color round, square and triangular counters for different forces, fleets, forts and game conditions. The playtest map looks stunning. The game will play over shorter scenarios or the full war with raids, battles, construction, sieges and naval actions. Cards will support historical events and military actions. Having not gotten my hands on it as of yet, I can’t wait to unpack and punch this game when it becomes available, hopefully in late 2020.

The 2010s in Review: My Favorite Games

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The past ten years have been a big decade for gaming and for me as a gamer. I launched this blog (which I haven’t posted to in more than two years). I became president of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, NYC’s oldest continuously active gaming group, now in its fourth decade. And, I played a lot of games.

So, here’s my oddball list of 16 games I deem as my favorite of the 2010s. My list isn’t necessarily the most innovative games of the past ten years (although some are) and many are not widely popular (again, some are). These are the games that got back to the table over and over again as other new games came and went.

First up are a few games that capture my love of Marvel comic books and Star Wars from my 1970s childhood. Fantasy Flight Games has really exploded with Star Wars games over the past decade, and while I’ve played most of them, Rebellion and Imperial Assault are my standouts for capturing the story of Star Wars at the epic interplanetary level and as a sci-fi adventure campaign. Both games have incredible design, artwork and plastic miniatures which really speak to the toy nerd in me. The deck-builder Marvel Legendary also captures the teamwork which is the hallmark of Marvel heroes and villains. All three games take me deep into the real storytelling feel of being in the pages of a comic book or a movie.

My other childhood obsession was Dungeons & Dragons. Lords of Waterdeep captures the flavor of D&D within one its most fabled campaign settings dropped into a boardgame that feels like an adventure quest. Back to the classic RPG style of play, the D&D 5th Edition Starter Set brought me back to the table for the first time in years with a slimmed down all-in-one boxed rule set that felt akin to the fast-moving games of my childhood.

From superheroes, science fiction and fantasy, my love swings to American history. The American War of Independence plays out n my two favorite games of that period — Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection and 1775: Rebellion. In 1775, a simple block, card and dice mechanic allows play of the entire war in about 90-minutes and serves as a fantastic entry into the period and wargaming. With LOD, GMT’s COIN (counterinsurgency) mechanic of asymmetric conflict breathes new and nuanced complexity of the often-simplified formative American story.

From the American Revolution, my interest stepped back to the French and Indian War. This was the period that really fired my imagination the past few years with a dive into dozens of books and several long trips visiting historic sites of the era in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and New York. A Few Acres of Snow was my first game of the period and remains one of hands-down favorites with its two player asymmetric, deck building that still challenges over multiple plays as the French and British. My miniatures wargaming interest also swung heavily to the FIW with Muskets & Tomahawks. The quick-playing, card-driven mechanics of the game really captures the clash of British, Indian, French and Canadian forces, and I’ve spent countless hours researching and writing historic scenarios for significant engagements of the period which I’ve run at multiple miniatures gaming conventions as well as my club. A new version of the long out-of-print rules is due in 2020, so I’m very much looking forward to what the game brings next.

Two other historical games I’ve loved deal with two difficult subjects that have significantly shaped American history. Freedom: The Underground Railroad tackles slavery and the fight of abolitionists to bring it to its end through exceedingly challenging gameplay that involves often heartbreaking choices of who does and doesn’t make it to freedom in Canada. Fast-forwarding to the 21st-century, Labyrinth: The War On Terror covers the endless war of the US and coalition forces in the Middle East. As the wars continue, the game has received updated expansions bringing the game’s events and mechanics right up to the current news of the day from the 9/11 attacks to the Arab Spring to today. Both games show the power of games as tools to model and understand history ways few others do.

With time at a premium, there were a few games that filled the gap for 30-minute or less time slots at the beginning or end of a long evening’s game session or when a quick game just fits the bill. The patterned tile placement in a Azul is great for my non-gamer friends as well as experienced players, plus, it has my favorite mechanic of pulling the very satisfying heavy tiles out of a bag. Fuse also has a tactile angle with fast rolls of dice placed into patterned puzzles to be solved against a nerve-wracking countdown app. Finally, The Mind takes a super simple deck of 100 chronologically numbered cards and turns it into a really interesting exercise in how we play collaboratively with others without the benefit of verbal communication.

I play a lot of the above games and others with my family, and one we’ve returned to repeatedly is Five Tribes. The game, set in a fantasy sultanate, scratches all the Eurogame itches of colorful wooden meeples, a modular board, beautiful card artwork and some easy to grasp but hard to master strategies. We’ve taken this game on the road more than just about any game in my collection.

Finally, I wasn’t alone in my obsession with the wildly-popular Root. The game combines so many things I love about games — fantasy, adventure, great art — in an asymmetric clash of woodland animals. With what it presents simply on the surface, the game taps into a wargaming feel that bridges all the games I’ve enjoyed so much over the past ten years.

Aside from all the games above I’ve enjoyed, I have to also celebrate the 2010s coming to a close on a personal gaming note. After some fours decades as a gamer, I was thrilled to co-found Campaign Games and launch a successful Kickstarter in the late summer of 2019 for Forts & Frontiers: The Feast of the Dead Deluxe. Combining the mechanics of D&D 5th Edition with my love for the story of 17th-century European-Indian history in North America, the game was well-received during Free RPG Day 2019 and continues to playtest well at conventions. To end the year and decade on the other side of the table as a game creator is a thrill I’ll watch unfold over the coming year and into the 2020s.

French and Indian War: Scottish Highlanders from North Star Military Figures

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In the early 1700s, Scots from clans loyal to the British ruling government had been recruited into local law keeping forces and later as more formal militia. Allowed to dress and employ traditional Highland garb and weapons, Scottish forces would serve the British military cause from the European mainland to Egypt to the Caribbean to India over the next two centuries.  Three Highlander regiments — the 42nd, 77th and 78th — would distinguish themselves in service of the Crown’s rule in the first major 18th-century conflict of British North America, the French and Indian War (1756-1763).

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The Highland Regiment Exercising on Glasgow Green, 1758 (artist unknown)

The 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot set sail for North America in January of 1757 and landed in April. During their time in the colonies, these Scotsmen would participate in many key battles of the FIW, including the Battle of Carillion (1758) and the capture of Fort Ticonderoga (1759). After the war, the 42nd Foot spent time in Pennsylvania at Fort Pitt and Fort Ligonier before fighting in one of their most famed battles during Pontiac’s Rebellion at Bushy Run, Pennsylvania in August 1763.

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Aside from a general collection of FIW books, I turned to a copy of Osprey Publishing’s Highlander in the French-Indian War, 1756–67 by Ian Macpherson McCulloch. The book focuses on three Highlander regiments of the period, including the 42nd Foot I’ve chosen to model. The historic background, period illustrations and contemporary plates make this a great foundation for anyone wanting to learn a bit more about the Highland regiments of the period. One plate in particular portrays detail of uniform and equipment of a typical c. 1756 private of the 42nd Foot — just the inspiration I needed as I worked on fielding my very first Highlander models.

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I managed to score a half-dozen Highlanders from North Star Military Figures at half price during a recent close-out sale. Sadly, North Star is mothballing their FIW line of models for the time being as Studio Tomahawk works toward a future second edition of the popular Muskets & Tomahawks wargaming rules. I had previously painted up some of their French Canadian miniatures and I still have some of their Indians in my painting queue, so I was glad to add a few of their Highlanders to my collection while I could.

The 18th-century is fun to paint for the diversity of uniforms, weapons and mode of dress, and these Highlanders were no exceptions. This was my first go at tartan kilts, so I sunk some time into watching how-to videos online. I went with a simple technique of dark blue undercoat followed by layered grids of varying greens and greys to approximate the signature tartan of the 42nd Foot. Close-up it looks a bit pointillistic, but at arm’s length on the table I was pretty satisfied with the results.

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The rest of the figures were a bit more straight forward with red jackets and blue bonnets (or “tams”) with red balls on the top and red lacing at the brim. The officer also got some fancy stockings with an angled cross-hatched plaid of white and red. Having just six of the North Star Highlander models completed, I wish I had bought more before they became impossible to get. That said, I’ll be tracking down some more from other manufacturers so I can better field a large force of the 42nd Royal Highlanders.

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French and Indian War: French Canadian Militia from North Star Military Figures

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Much of the fighting in the North American colonies for the French in what is known as the French and Indian War was in fact conducted by French-Canadians. As early as the 1740s, Canadians born in New France made up the majority of forces allied with Native Americans in staving off the spread of British settlers into the contested Ohio Country. Years prior, Canadian militia had cut their teeth fighting New England settlers during King William’s War (1688-1697) and Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713).

Well-versed in moving and fighting through the wilderness, these French-Canadian militiamen proved to be highly effective during the FIW against British regular forces yet to adapt to a very regional style of warfare. Their successes at the Battle of Fort Necessity, the Battle of the Monongahela and the Battle of Fort Oswego dealt hefty blows to the British war effort. Irregularly clad in rugged back country clothing and armed with muskets and native hand weapons, the Colonial French militia struck a rugged look as they fought on behalf of the French Crown in Europe.

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I’ve begun building out my 28mm French Canadian Militia with a small pack of metal models from North Star Military Figures. Although many companies manufacture figures for the period, North Star serves as the official product line for the popular Muskets and Tomahawks skirmish game.

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The main joy of painting these figures is in the variety and personality struck in each model’s clothing, equipment and pose. The imagination can really run wild in painting clothing in a variety of earth tones and muted reds, blues and green. Satchels, often traded with Indians in the period, can also be decorated with geometric patterns mimicking fine native finish work.

The North Star miniatures scale to a full 28mm, a bit taller and heftier than castings from manufactures like Conquest Miniatures and Eureka Miniatures. Those who are familiar with FIW figures from Galloping Major Wargames or Blue Moon Manufacturing will find their equal with these North Star models. That said, the look of these models fit in nicely as part of a rough force fighting the British for control of their frontier homeland of New France.

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Getting Ready For HMGS Fall In! 2015

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FALL IN!™ 2015 (Nov. 6 – 8)

Convention Theme: “Campaign of the 100 Days”

Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center

Lancaster, PA

Less than two months from now, a number of us from Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY will be attending this year’s HMGS Fall In! convention the weekend of November 6-8, 2015 in Lancaster, PA. I, some fellow club members and my brother have a variety of games from different periods we’re presenting in several scales, and the events will be geared toward a variety of levels of gamer experience from beginner to veteran.

Here’s a rundown of our scheduled games so far which you can find along with hundreds of other games listed online in the convention’s event list.

Friday, November 6th Events

F: 351 Rivoli – 1797 – 1:00-6:00 PM

Period: Napoleonic, Scale: 10mm, Rules: TBD

Re-fight the Battle of Rivoli that crushed the first coalition and set Napoleon on a trajectory toward consulate and empire. Will 23,000 French repeat their historical victory over Alvinczi’s 28,000 Austrians? Or will Napoleon’s rise end in the fields of Piedmont? A follow-up to the truly spectacular award-winning Battle of Marengo on a custom-built terrain board from previous HMGS conventions which you can view here.

F: 257 Battle Of Waterloo 200th Anniversary – 3:00-8:00 PM

Period: Napoleonic, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Home Rules

Play one of the greatest battles in history on the 200th anniversary — Waterloo. Napoleon’s French attack the Anglo-Dutch army led by the Duke of Wellington. Time tested home rules perfect for anyone new to Napoleonics or for experienced players. Fast play for convention yet with all the detail and pageantry of the era. This game is being run by my brother who presents games of the Napoleonic Wars in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm with gorgeous hand-crafted tables and his beautifully painted figures, so this one will also be a treat.

F: 374 Barkmann’s Corner – July 17, 1944 – 4:00-6:00 PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Flames Of War

It’s the summer of 1944. Famed German tank ace Ernst Barkmann is rolling through Normandy commanding his Panther and looking to halt the Allied advance. Amid the bocage of the French countryside, a US armored column encounters Barkmann in a showdown at a crossroads which will become legend. A great learning game for people new to FOW (including kids with adults). I’ve run this short scenario before (report and pics here) and it’s a blast to play if you like pushing tanks around the table.

F: 377 A Peaceful Exchange Of Prisoners…Hopefully. Wheeling, VA, 1777 – 6:00-10:00 PM

Period: American War for Independence, Scale: 25mm, Rules: Muskets And Tomahawks

A British/Indian delegation during the American War of Independence has arrived in wheeling to discuss a prisoner exchange. Both commanders hope the exchange goes off everything might go off without a hitch, and everyone might go home happy. But this is a wargaming convention, so don’t count on it. Winning will require negotiation, flexibility, deceit, and the element of surprise. Each player has his her own victory conditions. A club member who is a college instructor with expertise on American Colonial warfare is running this game, so it’s sure to be laced with colorful historic narrative.

 Friday (night pick-up game): Churchill’s Nightmare – 8:00-11:PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 1:200, Rules: Naval Home Rules

Can the British home fleet stop the German breakthrough into the Atlantic?

Saturday, November 7th Events

S: 376 St. Oedenrode – September 17-24, 1944 – 2:00-6:00 PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Flames Of War

It’s the autumn of 1944. As part of Operation Market Garden, the US 502nd Parachute Infantry regiment has parachuted into Holland and seized an important bridge on the Dommel river at St. Oedenrode. Rushing to counter attack are German Fallschrimjager regiments supported by artillery and armor. Can the allies hold the bridge until reserves arrive or will the axis rush to retake the objective? A great learning game for people new to FOW (including kids with adults). This is another scenario I’ve run several times before (report and pics here), and I’m also working on some new models to bring along in time for the convention.

Saturday (night pick-up game): Engagement in the Mediterranean – 8:00-11:PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 1:200, Rules: Naval Home Rules

Can the British Mediterranean fleet stop the Italian fleet?

Come to Fall In! and meet the Members of Metropolitan Wargamers

We’ll also be planning to run other games including two games based on the 1980s movie classics Mad Max and Red Dawn. You will be able to spot the members of Metropolitan Wargamers wearing our new club shirts celebrating over three decades of gaming in New York City. We’re certain to have a some other surprises at the convention, so sign up for Fall In! and we’ll see you in Lancaster in November.