Game Report
"Wagon Train" scenario..

.or "mercy sakes good buddy, looks like we got us a convoy"

After a period of some weeks I finally managed to get my war game table set up yesterday evening for a game based on the Charles Grant "Wagon Train" Teaser first published in the April '78 edition of "Battle"..

Broadly speaking (and the Teaser can be found in full on the relevant page in my web site) a relieving force (French) has to make it's way the length of the war game table to a fortified position at the other end. They have a number of wagons containing desperately needed supplies, protected by a (relatively) small covering force..

Their opponents (the British) are more numerous, and are trying to stop them getting the supplies through - the rub being that although they are numerically superior, they do not arrive as a coordinated force but arrive piecemeal and from a variety of directions..

Table is set out as follows:

  • The supply force enters at X in column - order of march depends on the Commander's wishes and in my case this was cavalry, followed by wagons (light first) with the infantry bringing up the rear.
  • Garrison force may not leave fort.
  • The British arrival was decided randomly using a single suit from a deck of cards - at the start of each move where the British are the moving player they turn over a card, if the card is one of those specified (J/Q/K or A) throw a D6 for the position on the table (where 1=A. 2=B., and so on) and the unit(s) arrive at that point. Thus, a unit may come from any six directions and at any time period between 2 and 26 (thirteen cards with red move between each blue move).
  • Special rules for wagons:
    • The wagons can only move on the roads. Any unit other than the wagons may deploy off the road after it has been on the table for one move period.
    • The French may move all the wagons together on the same road or split them up using both roads.
    • Damage - each wagon is worth a number of strength points (4 SP for a light, 6 SP for a heavy)
    • Hits are inflicted in the usual manner. Once the wagon gets to half points it moves at half rate. Once it gets to 0 points it is stopped.
    • If a wagon is immobilised or destroyed, no other vehicle may pass it. It then requires one full move period with assistance for the wagon to be man handled off the road to allow other wagons to pass.
    • Infantry or Cavalry can assist wagons by man handling them to overcome damage - a unit doing this needs to be next to the wagon for one move and can 'donate' strength points from their roster to the wagon roster (which represents the loan of man/horsepower)..
    • Wagons suffer the usual morale tests (so can rout), but ignore the retire result instead they just stop where they are.

Victory Conditions:

Wagons have a nominal points value in terms of supplies carried

  • 4 points for heavy wagon (so a total of 8 points)
  • 2 points for light wagon (a total of 8 points)

Game is drawn if the French get 8 points into the fort by last light, and won if 12 or more arrived safely.

French Force

Supply Column:
2 big wagons
4 small wagons
1 Line Infantry Regiment
1 Cavalry Regiment

Fort Garrison:
1 Line Infantry Regiment
2 Guns (Medium)

British Force (with representing playing card)

Ace - 1 Infantry Regiment, 1 Gun (Light)
King - 1 Cavalry Regiment
Queen - 1 Cavalry Regiment
Jack - 1 Infantry Regiment, 1 Gun (Light)

So what happened?

The French entered on move 1 and decided to take the southern road for the entire convoy, rather than split their forces via both. The French commander was aware that he didn't have a lot of troops to counter the expected British response so wasn't keen to split his forces.

All proceeded well for the first few moves with no sign of the British, then after an hour (which is about move 5 or 6 in my rules) they turned up the "King", and a dice throw showed the unit (Schomberg's) arriving at point B - they immediately started moving into the gap at the west end of the hill towards the convoy.


Picture - The convoy takes the southern road for the fort - in the distance the French cavalry face up to the first British attack
The convoy takes the southern road for the fort - in the distance the French cavalry face up to the first British attack

The French commander deployed his cavalry (Orleans) in line to block them and in the ensuing melee drove them off with some losses (British cavalry are deadly once they get to contact, but can be driven off by musketry which they have no capability of returning). This turned out to be last "cast of the dice" for the British cavalry as a combination of poor morale checks, and one further failed attempt to close with the French, resulted in them routing from the table..


Picture - Orleans (on the left) face Schomberg's in a struggle to stop the British cavalry breaking through to the convoy
Orleans (on the left) face Schomberg's in a struggle to stop the British cavalry breaking through to the convoy

Throughout all of this the convoy continued to move steadily eastwards until an hour or so later when the other British cavalry (Lumley's) entered in line at point D - directly opposite the French Infantry. Both units moved towards each other but yet again the French musketry carried the day, forcing the British cavalry to retire, then rout..


Picture - Lumley's (foreground) enter the table and are faced by the French infantry (Navarre) - in the background is the French commander and the tail of the convoy, and in the far background Schomberg's horse is just about to break for the last time..
Lumley's (foreground) enter the table and are faced by the French infantry (Navarre) - in the background is the French commander and the tail of the convoy, and in the far background Schomberg's horse is just about to break for the last time..

Finally, after a further hour (and by now we are up to approximately turn 15 of the 48 allowed in the scenario) the first British infantry (1st Foot and attached artillery) arrives.. heaving a huge sigh of relief the British commander finally begins to think that he may have a chance - unfortunately they arrive at point C, the worst possible outcome given the current position of the French.. deploying them into column he orders them eastwards down the northern road, their orders being to try and intercept the convoy by marching round the end of the hill, between hill and field. They have a long march!

Having driven off Lumley's, the French infantry deploy in column and march after the departing convoy which is now approaching the half way mark, with just over half the game to go.. it's going to be tight! The French cavalry, who have now finished with Schomberg's, race down the side of the convoy to reach the head, and provide much needed cover..

It is at this point that the British luck (which has been truly dreadful until now) finally turns.. on the last turn of the card (so turn 26) the second British infantry regiment (Orkney's) and attached artillery finally arrives - with trembling hand the British commander dices for the arrival point to find they arrive at point F! Only the best possible result, as they are now in front of the convoy and with the convoy having to pass them to get to the fort.... what's more, in a huge oversight (ie. I just didn't see it!) the French artillery in the fort has a blocked line of sight.

The British artillery opens fire on the leading wagon - a miss! Enough however to stop the wagon in it's tracks (in game terms the miss was enough to cause the wagon to become shaken, and then to fail the subsequent morale check). In the meanwhile, the French garrison commander orders one of the artillery units to limber up and re-deploy to provide fire support for the approaching convoy, and the French cavalry continue to move quickly up to cover the head of the convoy.. but the effects of this will have to wait until I re-commence the game on Saturday....

Part the second...

The move of the French cavalry to the head of the convoy was eventually to prove critical.. with the British 1st Foot advancing to engage the head of the convoy, and the 2nd advancing rapidly through the defile and across the rough ground, things were beginning to look decidedly dicey for the French.


Picture - Orkney's (2nd Foot) (top) are about to engage the flank of the convoy but are eventually forced back by the French infantry (Navarre) who are just out of picture.. to the right, the French cavalry face up to the 1st Foot in what proves to be the decisive engagement of the game..
Orkney's (2nd Foot) (top) are about to engage the flank of the convoy but are eventually forced back by the French infantry (Navarre) who are just out of picture.. to the right, the French cavalry face up to the 1st Foot in what proves to be the decisive engagement of the game..

The French infantry, cutting across the back of the convoy in column, attacked the 2nd Foot without even stopping to deploy into to line (there wasn't enough room to deploy fully, anyway!) As the British couldn't deploy to face the challenge, the French infantry crashed into their flank and drove them off thus protecting the convoy for the time being...

On the other side of the convoy the french cavalry charged towards the british infantry but were held by a successful volley.. for the next hour these two valiant regiments then traded volleys as each became weaker and weaker. Each time either side initiated a charge the other would stop it in it's tracks.. (in game terms this was a truly epic standoff - each side saved 6 morale throws on the go, mostly because of the benefits from having their commander 'attached'...)

It was now about three quarters of the way through the day and the convoy had made little significant progress for the last hour, but the actions of the French cavalry had now served to mask the front of the convoy from the British artillery on the southern edge of the board. Pushing on past the side of the engaged British infantry the light wagons all successfully managed to reach, and then enter the fort..

The first of the two heavy wagons however, was pounded continuously by the artillery to the north causing both wagons to become delayed. Additional fire from this artillery, and the returning British foot (who had finaly managed a successful morale throw!) routed and then destroyed the French infantry, and then was turned on the wagons themselves - with the eventual destruction of the French cavalry, the heavy wagons were lost, and I declared the game a draw as per the scenario setup...


Picture - In the far background the light wagons are entering the fort while just in front of them the 1st Foot have about turned and are about to capture the heavy wagons in the foreground. The French cavalry to the left are a spent force and about to rout, but in game terms were definitely my
In the far background the light wagons are entering the fort while just in front of them the 1st Foot have about turned and are about to capture the heavy wagons in the foreground. The French cavalry to the left are a spent force and about to rout, but in game terms were definitely my "player of the match"...

Thoughts/comments and post-match analysis :

  • I had been worried that the British might become "super men" as a result of the various bonuses I had built in to the rules - happily the cavalry proved that this was not the case, and I was reasonably happy with the effects. A few more games will prove it one way or the other..
  • Reminder: need to buy and paint some limbers for the artillery!
  • I was a little unhappy with the morale rules and remembered half way through the game that I'd had the same concerns with them in the American War of Independence rules - in summary, as written they are very chance driven and don't call into question how many strength points the unit has. Any unit whether guard or militia, at full strength or on their last strength point, has an equal chance of passing a morale throw. The local morale rules in the AWI set take these into account and seem to work quite well so I'll make the same changes..
  • Other than that, I really enjoyed the game - it was on a knife edge right until the final moves, and ideally suited to solo play given the specific restrictions on the French transport..

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