Another little game of Wilderness War occurred during the weekend, the Year Miracles to be precise. We quite often play Hannibal because it is relatively fast and quite furious – events are rather dramatic and it is great fun. I got Wilderness War some time ago when it came out as a reprint (I swore not to miss it if it was ever printed again) and really like the topic and the treatment in the game.
Initial dispositions are set, and war is already well in progress at the start of the scenario. My opponent opted to play French, while I was stuck with British again. It was her first game so obviously some orientation was necessary – the map is not the most intuitive and some of the intricacies does take a while to adapt. Namely differences of regulars vs. irregulars, and then supply and very harsh retreat that do not really exist in other games in same level of severity. Those sorted out in about mid game, the idea of the game started to come into focus.
My colonies suffered from significant raiding from the start. French seemed to got better part of the cards for both indian alliances and dreaded ambushes. My initial plan was two fold. early attack against Louisbourg. and simultaneous two prong attack against Montreal with diversion towards Lake Ontario.
I had good reinforcement cards at hand, and got Wolfe at start. Packed with three Amphibious assault cards, things looked very good for the plan. That was, until French draw Ambush against the landing. Even the meager forces of tree regulars and one irregular suddenly became formidable thread – so much so, that Wolfe thought retreat to be the better part of valor, abandoned the assault and died in his wounds. Ouch. That hurt (or not, depending on the perspective).
It was one of the many land battles that British saw French to utilize the Ambush card. In fact, around last quarter question rose wether British won a single battle. VP track was constantly around 8-10 mark, an inch away from the immediate victory. At the same time when French roamed around, British forces were stuck with cards that could not move a single commander with any capacity (Wolfe dead, it is hard to find a decent commander that does not wish to carry all furniture, dogs, cats and porcelain teacups in to the wild).
Not that British would ever give up. Certainly not at the eve of humiliating defeat, no! Another strategy was then hastily devised to build Forbes road and take the Ohio Forks, and at the same time push with large force through Oneida Carry and Oswego (French of course built for in Oswego early to counter that move).
Loudoun was sent to keep some pressure to the direction of Montreal but it became yet another sample of French capacity to Ambush. Loudoun was saved barely and losses were heavy but not decisive. His siege attempt was but diversion and considering the response, it worked.
Then came Montcalm to stop Abercromby and Johnson who was already in a good deal working for an indian alliance. It went pretty much as expected but soon after the winter was over, he caused a bit of havoc against Johnson, poor lad with no line of retreat. Montclam attacked unfairly in early spring, during tea time. Well before stokade could be built. Again attack came with Ambush. Securing few VP’s he then quickly pulled back and destroyed the stockades as he went. All that British labour and engineering lost, but rejoice! It meant more employment opportunities for Royal Engineers.
While Montclam was busy burning stockades, Murray and Monckton (Louisbourg plan was already dead and buried along with Wolfe) were able to reduce the Ohio Forks Fort and were getting ready to advance further. Clearly this local success of the British (regardless of indians riding the supply line twice) upset Montclam so terribly he could not sleep at night. Off he went to the norther shores to be ever watchful for assault against Niagara – the last bastion that stood between British victory and French defeat.
Last Last season saw desperate push towards Niagara – and Montclam standing on the way of Abercromby. Unfortunately for the British, there was only single card that could activate the man, and nobody else, save Bradstreet and his highlanders around. Building steady stream of retreat line, progress was made along the shore of Lake Ontario. Meanwhile, single French Marine Detachment decided to play hero and destroyed one unprotected stockade at Oneida Carry East, breaking the line of supply and again pushing the VP count way too close to French victory. Soon another stockade at Canajoharie saw same fate and reaction was needed.
Playing the single campaign card, Webb was sent to dispatch the Marine Detachment and to get the stockade back at Oneida Carry East. Before that, however Abercromby attempted the impossible – take Montclam head on. Having no irregulars, there was penalty in the wild, and it was really only luck. Of course it was not meant to be, and Abercromby failed to achieve anything but hasty retreat and mounting losses.
Meanwhile, Webb away fighting the only battle that British won (three provincials and a ranger against single marine detachment – and very nearly losing that too 😉) from the proximity of Hudson Carry North, French saw their opportunity and immediately dispatched Drucour to capture the fort there, which he did with Surrender. Loss of the fortress pushed VP track to 11 and that was it for the British.
Abercromby was only too happy to leave these miserable forests and return to England to spend the days in retirement.
Loss of Wolfe at the beginning was prelude to doom. Losing all land battles save one did not help either, but the real reason for the loss was the terrible decisions made in early game. With a bit of wait Wolfe could have acted against Louisburg with better odds.
British really do not have a chance without some form of indian support and there is very little time to waste if progress is to be made. Hefty cost of Abercromby, Webb and Loudoun guarantee that.
I do like Wilderness War immensely, and can again see how much there is replay value and how much there is to learn. Even in the year of miracles.