Muskets & Tomahawks is a fast paced and fun game about the French-indian war and American war of independence. We use 28 mm miniatures from Redoubt, Perry brothers and Conquest to depict the fighters. In this game activation is card-based. That means you draw a random card and activate your troops. The miniatures can then choose to move, reload or fire. Different types of troops have their own cards added to the stack. This makes the turn unpredictable.
A couple of weeks ago we had our first game. Me and my daughter Nelly versus my friends Kalevi and Magnus. We took the English team, Kalevi commanded the Indians and Magnus the French. When you play for the first time it takes a while as you are unfamiliar with the rules. We also missed out on some important rulings but had a really great time.
In upper Maine, John Sedgwick, a frontier veteran have settled down. He built a sturdy residence and a large windmill. Soon he was in the middle of a sprawling community as more and more farmers moved in. Then the war came and most able was sent to fight the French and Indians. So far this part of the country have been spared from raids. However the Abenaki Indian chief Unguskan have decided that a proper way to show his prowess (and earn some money from the french) is to attack the community and burn the windmill and residence down. He had mustered two groups of Abenaki Indians and a group of hateful Maliseet. The Maliseet have been driven from their land by the English and they are out for revenge on any English they can lay their hands on. The indians are also aided by a small force of French colonial regulars, Troupe de la marine, and a few hardened trappers, Coureurs des bois. Unknown to the indians the forward part of His Majesty’s 44th regiment are camping near the wind mill. Instead of a few militia the indians are running into redcoats. Light infantry, dragoons and elite grenadiers commanded by a battle hardened colonel.
If the windmill and residence is destroyed the Indians win and if either one is intact at the end of the game the British wins.
The Indian Force.
The first leader is the old bearded trapper Fernand de Bodrillard. We decided to go for an optional rule adding some flavor to the game. One leader on each side have some additional secret motivation that can influence victory conditions. Fernand was randomly chosen. It turned out that the old trappers heart is not in this fight. He knows John Sedgwick and so do many of his men. They have decided to join the raid but Fernand have sworn an oath to the men that they will return safely. The small force of Coureurs des bois (trappers and hunters of the frontiers) must not suffer heavy casualties if the secondary victory condition are to be met. This is a serious drawback for the french since these troops move swiftly and fight hard.
Next is the chief Unguskan and his main force of three indian groups. His own Abenaki Indian troops excel in hand to hand combat but the force is rather brittle and setbacks quickly affects morale and fighting spirit. The Malisset are in a frenzy and the chief knows that he will not be able to hold the revengeful group back.
Finally there is a small force of French marines that will add some proficiency to the force. Their leader lieutenant Foix is a reliable veteran.
The British Force.
John Sedgwick is an old veteran of the frontiers. His unwillingness to join in the wars stems from his opinion about the indians. On the other side of the Appalachians he co worked with the indians and the French trappers. He made many friends and have no lust to fight them. He will however defend his pride and – the large prosperous mill. To help him he can raise some militia, farmers, workers and his own large household. Certainly motivated to defend their homes this force is weak in training and rather easily broken. Luckily they are not alone.
Colonel Stuppon is an old quirk. He had marched his regiment towards the border for weeks. Plagued by rheumatism he settled early last night with his elite grenadiers in a glade near the windmill and sent one lieutenant, McRory, forward with some light troops. He does not trust the bragging Scotsman but pains make an active stance impossible. He drinks some tea and get to sleep not knowing that he will be awakened by intense gunfire the next morning.
McRory was randomly chosen for the optional victory condition affecting the british side. It turns out his men have serious doubts about his ability. McRory brags about his Highlander ancestry and many adventures but it is all lies and the men sense it. To fulfill the condition the Scottish lieutenant must prove his worth. No troop under his command may flee and he must survive the battle. The dragoons and light infantry under his command are disciplined troops and a good match if properly used.
Above is a map of initial deployment and opening moves.
The initial deployment rule says that the British must deploy near the buildings. The colonel and his grenadiers, a truly formidable force, is in reserve and will enter the gaming board at random time decided by the dice. This means the defenders are outnumbered at the beginning and must be able to delay the indian advance. The area around the residence is woody with a stream and some boggy ground. It is likely that the main thrust will come here as the indians are formidable in this kind of terrain where they can move unseen, fire from hidden positions and quickly charge in if they want to. Sedgwick and the British light infantry with McRory is deployed here. Defending the mill where there are open fields are some militia and a civilian work force.
The indians deploy two forces in front of the woods to the right. Another including the chief behind a wheat field and the French are to the left in an attempt to outflank the mill. The Coureurs des bois will certainly drag their feet or even wander of into the woods. If they can be used without losses they can be handy but any serious opposition will put the optional victory condition at risk.
The early morning of 8 june 1757, Sedgwick’s windmill, Maine.
Norah Sedgwick, the sister of John, have been awake for most of the night nursing her newborn. At 4 o’clock she decides for some fresh air and takes a short stroll down to the stream. Far to the left she sees some figures move across a field a few hundred yards away. As she stands there a much larger group moves out from the tree line. Indians! She quickly turns around and awaken a sleeping sentry. McRory immediately decides to move out into the forest on the other side of the stream. Last night he saw a sturdy stone wall. If he is to confront the indians he thinks this is the right place and the houses will be safe. His light infantry can fire their short carbines and duck back behind the wall. He also understands that this is his chance to prove the men wrong. He must show both determination and bravery to gain their respect.
When the cards are drawn the light force receive the first two actions. McRory moves into a position where his men can use the stone wall for cover. His trusted Mohawk scout Catichuan soon spot a large force of indians moving forward in the woods ahead. McRory understands that he has made a mistake. The indians are near and they heavily outnumber him. His troopers are good shots but the first salvo is very disappointing. A single indian drops. The indians decide not to trade shots and instead run towards the bright red soldiers behind the wall. They charge in, tomahawks flying, and the british cannot stand the onslaught. They retreat down into the stream with the indians on their tails. The dragoons fare no better at the hands of the Abenaki and quickly retreat out of harms way.
Here is an example of game mechanics. McRory and 6 British light infantry face off against 9 Malisset indians in melee. Both teams strike at the same time. McRory starts. He is pretty good with his sabre so he hits 66% of the time needing 3+ on a D6. The roll is a 6 – hit! The indian in front of him can evade or parry with his tomahawk on 4+. Unfortunately for the poor Malisset he rolls 3. Then the light infantry roll one dice par miniature. Thats 6 rolls on a D6 hitting on 4+. 1, 1, 2, 4, 6 and 6. Means that the english hits 3 times. Then the indians can save on 4+. 1, 5, 6 means the indians suffer one extra casualty for two in total. Then it is the indians turn. Since they are bloodthirsty (remember they have a horrible experiences confronting the British) they do not only hit on 3+ any failed dices may be re-rolled. 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 5, 6,6 means 6 hits but we re-roll 3 dice causing a further hit. Thats seven in total. The British save on 4+. Bad luck strikes, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 6 is rolled so they take 5 casualties. Since McRory and one infantryman is all that is left and they lost the combat 2 – 5 they have to take a moral check that they fail and they fall back into the stream.
Here McRory meats his maker killed by a swift tomahawk strike and the forward force is destroyed. A heavy blow to the British side. The optional victory condition lost as the Scotsman drop into the water. As this was our first game we did not realize just how strong the indians can be in hand-to-hand combat.
In the middle of the game board Unguskan himself leads his men towards the windmill through a wheat field. There are militia in front behind a stone wall. He uses his actions to get closer while the enemies fire off some bullets that comes whizzing through the air – inflicting no serious casualties.
To the left of the indians lieutenant Foix leads his Troupe de la marine causally through the open landscape. Reaching a covering stone wall opposite a hill he starts to exchange fire with the defenders at the mill. Trying to reduce them as the indians move in. The firefight inflicts some casualties on both sides, the outnumbered french taking the worst.
Fernand de Bodrillard on the extreme left moves into a small wood with the Coureurs des bois. Trying not to expose themselves to much they wait and see how the fight will unfold.
Back at the residence Sedgewick finds himself in dire strait. In front of him war cries echo in the forest, McRory is nowhere to be seen and soon a large victorious Indian force starts to cross the stream in front of his house. He leads his family out into the courtyard fearing the house might turn into a death trap. Standing like a stonewall with his brother Nathan and three teenage sons behind him. Eloise Sedgwick, the old mother of John will serve as a loader carrying some spare muskets. His wife is sent running to the mill to get some help while the children run for the woods.
Sedgwick group fires at the indians and inflict some casualties but then withdraw behind the house to stay out of melee. Better safe than sorry. Sedgwick’s wife arrives with some reinforcement. Men have taken what they could find. Led by a brave woman and the foreman Gustavus the workers using axes, scythes and picks run out around the corner of the house and attack the indians. The fight is short and brutal as these men are no match for the better armed indians. Sedgwicks group fails their morale check and run off into the woods, their house set on fire behind them. Tears streaming down his face Sedgwick survives the fight with most of his family safe. The question now is – can the mill still be saved?
The colonel have finally got his force of tall grenadiers on the move. Drums beating they start to march down the road. They soon see smoke ahead from the burning house and Stuppon decides to make a stand at the mill.
Pressured by the French and Indians the militia have wisely retreated. As the enemy approach the relief arrives in the nick of time. Stuppon forms a red line. The grenadiers fire a devastating salvo and the Indians recoil. The Abenaki make another attempt but their fighting spirit is broken. Lieutenant Foix’s French marines fire a few shots from a hill next to the granary but he knows he has to few men left to make a real difference. Bayonets fixed the grenadiers drive the invading force back from the mill and the day is saved. At a safe distance Fernand see the defeat of his allies and turns around. This was never his fight. The game ends in a draw. The indians failed their mission but the Malisset got their revenge, destroying McRorys detachment and burning the house down. Fernand held his oath to the men, just one trapper fell and they bury him in the woods, saying some proper words and wondering if they may see Sedgwick again in a peaceful circumstance.