I've been wanting to do an alternate history game for the battle of Yorktown since visiting the battlefield last spring. For anyone who hasn't taken the time to see the battlefield, it's one of the most well-preserved AWI battlefields, which is surprising considering its prime waterfront location and expansive size. If you match your Yorktown trip with side-trips to Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown settlement it makes for a fantastic vacation that will entertain even those people without a strong interest in military history.
Since Yorktown was basically a siege, it doesn't make for a great tabletop game, unless you want to make some elaborate siege rules. Instead I am working on this scenario and have opted for an alternate history that evens up the forces enough for the British to attempt a break out through the American lines. This first try at the scenario was run in my basement with some friends from the Northern Conspiracy. The scenario makes the assumption that Cornwallis has received advance warning of the incoming French fleet and has reacted to this by successfully feinting an evacuation to Gloucester point which has drawn the bulk of the French forces there. The remaining American force with just a small detachment of French give the British at Yorktown an opportunity to attempt a break out.
These photos show the troops positions during the British half of turn one. The Americans have advanced in depth, while the British advance out of the Yorktown breastworks, echelon right, hoping to concentrate their forces against the American left flank while having the Hessians hold the British left flank. Since this is a breakout game, the table is used lengthwise, allowing for a running battle.
The cream of the British forces, the Guards brigade (I had to substitute Grenadier stands to represent some of the guards) and the Light Brigade advance on the right of the British line. Still to be moved from the works are the remaining British line troops. Just out of frame the German troops can be seen advancing from the works.
The American defensive lines await the British attack. Note the small French reserve blocking the road behind the woods which is one of the two possible British evacuation routes.
I had to paint three more wing command stands, each with two mounted officers on them for this game. I'm hoping to get proper photos of them for an upcoming update to the Blog.
The British main body just before the first attacks go in. It's an impressive sight! Just out of frame to the left and slightly behind the main British force are the slower-marching Germans. This photo gives a good view of the on-stand roster labels we use which are color coded by brigade (in this case) or division depending on the scale of the battle.
The British Guards brigade and Light Brigade charge home early in the game. Although the British elites had good success, the Americans were causing them considerable damage during the attacks, whittling away at their strength.
In the woods, the first line of retreating Americans can just be seen. In the center the American line held up to the first attacks.
Later in the battle, the left flank of the American lines has been driven back by the British Elite brigades, but at a cost that is too high to sustain. Both the Guards and Light brigades are near exhaustion with probably one good charge left in them. In the center Yorke's brigade has also sustained significant damage and faces fresh French reinforcements.
On the left flank the Germans engage the American right but are held off or driven back while sustaining significant casualties. The German battalion guns do not seem to phase the Americans at all.
We had a good game. My friend George thinks that the American players used a very historical defense for this part of the war and it was as effective on the tabletop as it was historically. For adjustments I may make some troop quality adjustments on the American side, which may effect their durability somewhat. Also the British may have more success fighting across the entire line instead of concentrating on one point which allows the Americans the advantage of defending in depth. Another fight of this scenario will definitely be on the schedule for the future. Everyone present had a good time.
I'd like to thank those who played for being understanding of the fact that this was a first try at a new scenario. Everyone took it in stride and had fun. Thanks guys!
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