Happy Independence Day to every one of our readers! You may not be an American, and you may call this Traitors Day, but you still have played a part in the great experiment as your ancestors fought, bled and died in some fashion to fight for freedom and liberty. I have always had a keen passion for the American Revolutionary War and have read dozens and dozens of boring historical biographies and takes on the reasons for the rebellion, the ways that the young Americans survived long enough to bring some strong allies in on our side and how we finalized the deal at a little place called Yorktown.
In this post, I wanted to share with you some of our gaming experience with wargames focused on the American Revolutionary War. We haven’t played all of the games on the subject, not even close, but we have played enough that we have a good cross section of the different takes on the situation and types of games to give you some insight into what we liked and didn’t like so much. I will be honest, I tend to gravitate more toward the Operational or Strategic level of games on this subject as they tend to deal with more of the issues central to the conflict such as support for the rebellion, supply, sea travel, courting allies, traitorous cabals (looking at you Thomas Conway), and wintering armies. Don’t get me wrong, you know that we love tactical games as well and I desperately want to get my hands on some of the Battles of the American Revolution Series games from GMT Games, but I just haven’t had a chance yet.
7. Saratoga 1777 AD from Turning Point Simulations
The game that brings up the rear in this ranking of Revolutionary War games we played doesn’t equate to the game not being interesting or a good representation of the American Revolutionary War period. The game deals well with the issues present during this era but is more of a tactical game than a game of the entire sweeping front of the struggle up and down the 13 Colonies. Saratoga 1777 AD is a medium weight wargame that is designed to play fairly quickly and provide some very interesting tactical choices. There were two parts of the game that I particularly liked, that felt really appropriate for a game covering the Revolutionary War revolving around Command and Control and Unit Morale.
First off, was the Command-Control aspect of the units. The first thing each player does at the beginning of their Command Phase is to check whether their Formation Commanders are in Command Span of their units. Most commanders have a Command Span of 2, which means that they can control units up to 2 hexes away from their location, not counting their own hex. This element is thematically spot on as communication was limited. If units are caught Out-of-Command, they will have an Out-of-Command marker placed on them and will be unable to activate that turn. Due to problems with terrain, the noise and fury of battle and lack of any formal communications system such as radios, Command Radius is an aspect that must be represented in any pre-modern wargame and Saratoga does a bang up job of accomplishing this thematic element.
The Commander in Charge units also have an Activation Rating that shows the number of Formation Commanders that the C in C can activate. As an example, the main leader for the British General Burgoyne has a 3, which simply means he can activate 3 different Formation Commanders, who in turn have their own Command Span and can activate units that comprise their formation. This is a great part of the game as the C in C has to be positioned so as to maximize the number of units they can activate and move each round. This is very problematic for the attacking British as they only have 1 C in C unit who has to move from side to side of the board during combat in order to activate units so that they can move into position to attack the Patriots. This slow and plodding movement felt very appropriate, albeit frustrating, especially taking into consideration such aspects as terrain, small one lane country dirt roads, narrow bridges and dense and thick forests.
The 2nd element that I thought was very well done was the Morale Table. Anytime a unit is flipped or destroyed (due to the accumulation of 2 Step Loss markers), they must make a morale check by rolling 2d6 and then checking against their current morale on the Morale Table pictured below. If they roll over the morale, they fail and become a Broken formation and must immediately Retreat one space away from the enemy. This then provides the attacker a free attack on the retreating units with adjacent phasing units, which is devastating.
I really enjoyed the makeup of the Morale Table as it takes into account the quality of the troops making the check. For example, if you look at the above picture, you will notice the British side starts higher and reduces a little more slowly than the Patriot side. This is reflective of the fact that the British troops were seasoned, battle hardened veterans who were professional soldiers as opposed to the relatively poorly trained raw Patriot forces.
Overall, this one is a good tactical entry into your experience with the Revolutionary War. The game is fairly inexpensive, looks great on the table and plays fairly quickly. The game includes two scenarios; Freeman’s Farm (September 19, 1777) and the Battle of Bemis Heights (October 7, 1777) so you will get two different setups with two very different challenges for both sides.
We wrote a full and in depth review of this game as well as a few Action Points to describe the action (Action Point 1 & Action Point 2). Finally, we also scored an interview with the designer Robert Markham that gave some good insight into the game.
For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Turning Point Simulations website: https://www.turningpointsimulations.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=13&category=1
6. 1775: Rebellion from Academy Games
I have played all three of the Birth of America Series Games from Academy Games including 1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War, 1812: The Invasion of Canada and 1775: Rebellion and all use a similar system of card play to activate units and perform actions. The game is a dudes on a map deal where players are trying to control key areas and cities. I really like this series as you can play it perfectly well with 2 players but it also allows for up to 4 players which involves some table talk and strategizing, which I really enjoy. 1775 is a introductory wargame designed so that families can play together, to learn about the history of the American Revolution, and that Geognards can enjoy as a light war game.
Each of the factions has their own specific color coded dice and cards that have done a good job of representing their strengths and weakness (those Patriot Militia flee often but come right back during the reinforcement phase). I enjoy these asymmetrical player powers. Their abilities create great decision making opportunities during all rounds of play. Players will have to make decisions on the fly as they decide how best to play their cards, what units to use in combats and where to assign hits. The combat system is simple but really done well to show the historic aspects of the opposing sides and give each side their own flavor.
The card play is very well done and requires some planning. You wont be able to move all of the troops that you want to or might need in a certain battle so you have to be aware of what is in your hand prior to your turn. The really cool element to the management of your cards is that you will have the one Truce card for each of your factions, which must be used wisely, as it can lead to the end of the game when you don’t necessarily want it to end. You see, once an alliance has played all of their factions’ Truce cards, the game will end at the end of that turn. Remember, you may have to play a Truce card from your hand if it is the only Movement card that you drew so you must be careful.
Overall I have really enjoyed 1775: Rebellion as I have all of the Birth of America Series games, the game play is quick and fun, the components are beautiful and add color to the conflict to bring the game to life, and the game length is just right. The downsides are that there is a certain amount of luck as the dice can be fickle and bad card draws may keep the more strategy minded heavy wargamers away but even they can enjoy the gaming experience.
For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Academy Games website: https://www.academygames.com/pages/1775
5. Revolution Road from Compass Games
Remember I said that I liked games on the subject that delve into all of the aspects of the campaign…well, this one doesn’t cover all of them but it definitely takes a look at some of the major issues. Revolution Road is actually two games in one including From Boston to Concord and Bunker Hill. I have not had a chance to play Bunker Hill yet but really enjoyed From Boston to Concord.
From Boston to Concord from Compass Games allows players to simulate the events of April 19, 1775 and the events leading up to the famous “shot heard round the world!”. The British player commanding the forces of Lt. Col. Smith are tasked with reaching Concord and finding illegal arms cache spread throughout the countryside while also seeking to capture the prominent rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
The Patriot player must simply hinder the British from reaching Concord and harass them along their trip by using ambush and sniping to take out their forces. The Patriots will also send out Nightriders to raise the alarm ahead of the advancing British calling to arms area minutemen and militia to form and impede the British in their goal.
The game is card assisted and is played as players draw one card to determine their number of activation points for each round and then go about spending those points to take various actions designed to help each side meet their victory conditions.
Revolution Road: From Boston to Concord is such a fascinating game and really depicts the two sides very well in this literal David versus Goliath clash. I love how each side is assymetric and can win in very different ways. I also really like how it focuses on various issues outside of combat such as recruiting, capture of key rebellion leaders, and the differences in both sides’ combat style.
I wrote a series of Action Points last year covering the various actions that each side can take to accomplish their goals. Action Point 1 takes a look at how the Rebels raise units and escape capture, Action Point 2 looks at the British actions Search and Hinder, Action Point 3 delves into the bushwhacking tactics of the Patriots in Ambush and Snipe and in Action Point 4 we looked at the mechanics of combat, including the Attack, Assault and the very powerful Charge action for the British.
We still haven’t played the Bunker Hill game but it is on our list as it simply looks fantastic. You can check out our unboxing video to get a look at the components and our video review for our overall thoughts. You can also read our designer interview with John Poniske and Bill Morgal to get better insight into the design.
For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Compass Games website: https://www.compassgames.com/revolution-road.html
4. War in the South Scenario for Liberty or Death: C3i Magazine #30 from RBM Studios
You will see my thoughts about Liberty or Death later, but I really like the COIN Series and really have enjoyed my numerous plays of LoD. In fact, it is the COIN Series game that I have played the most (nearly 20 times) with about 80% of those solo plays. Suffice it to say, I love it. So when a 2-player scenario was bandied about a few years ago focused on the southern colonies, I became immediately interested.
War in the South focuses on the war in the southern colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia with Florida in as well although it wasn’t a colony. The game uses the 2-player eligibility track created by Brian Train for his COIN Series game Colonial Twilight and it creates a very interesting and tense mechanic to the game.
The game adds in some new leaders who fought in the southern theater including Augustine Prevost and Lord Charles Cornwallis for the British and Horatio Gates and Nathanael Green for the Patriots.
The game focuses only on the British and the Patriots although the French and Indians are used but aren’t eligible factions. I love the 2-player focus and find that this variant forces players to really understand what they are trying to do and to focus on that. The name of the game is support versus opposition and both sides will find good use for the rules while using propaganda markers and the Win the Day rule to change support or opposition with a victory where the losing side loses multiple pieces.
I also really can feel the history as the British will find themselves sticking near the major cities of Norfolk, Savannah and Charlestown and the Patriots will try to goad the British into coming out to fight on their terms.
The designer also has created a list of cards that focus on this time period in the struggle and really highlights the events involved from history. I find this game is good at replications the issues of the day including the focus on supply, the attritional style of warfare with rare pitched battles but more skirmishing and ambush.
If you are interested in War in the South you will have to own a copy of the base game for Liberty or Death and obtain a copy of C3i Magazine #30.
You can order a copy from the Amazon website at the following link: https://www.amazon.com/C3i-Magazine-Nr-Rodger-MacGowan/dp/B01NCE0MDZ/ref=asc_df_B01NCE0MDZ/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312673449485&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=14471260092370488557&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9016156&hvtargid=pla-570523922570&psc=1
3. Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777 from Hollandspiele
I love an interesting and different game. And I found both when we came into Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777. Supply Lines is a two-player game focused on the supply and logistics aspect of the Patriots and their struggle for independence during the first three years of the American Revolutionary War. The game is a struggle between the two sides of the war, the Patriots and the mighty Crown forces. The game does a fantastic job of focusing on the logistical side of war and makes it readily apparent to players why this is important as moving and attacking are specifically tied to possessing a certain type of supply.
Green cubes, representing Food Supply, are used by each side to move their troops around the board to position them for battle and natural cubes, representing War Supply, such as ammunition and powder, are used to gain battle dice to be rolled in combat. If you don’t have the type of supply required to fund the actions you desire to take, you will find that you are not doing anything and will need to quickly change your tactics to address this problem.
As mentioned, war is a part of the game as well and becomes a logistical challenge and exercise on how to manage your resources to do the most good. During battle, players determine the number of battle dice they roll based on the number of War Supply they spend. That’s what I really like in this one choices. Do I spend all my resources to ensure one massive attack or do I conduct a series of smaller attacks?
Supply is the name of the game and managing those Supply Lines, while also attempting to ruin and disrupt those of your enemy, will lead to victory. This game becomes a very thinky battle between the two sides and I have found that when a mistake is made it must be jumped on and you must punish the side that makes it. Great fun and a game that focuses on a very different aspect of the war but also is grounded in the basic underlying issue of support versus opposition. I like this one a lot.
You can watch our video review and also read through the Action Point posts to get a feel for the mechanics. Action Point 1 focuses on the type of supply and how it is used and Action Point 2 takes you through some examples of combat.
For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the Hollandspiele website: https://hollandspiele.com/products/supply-lines-of-the-american-revolution-the-northern-theater-1775-1777
2. Washington’s War from GMT Games
Getting near the top of the list and there are not many games better than the one I’m going to talk about now. Washington’s War is a war game, make no mistake about that. But, it is virtually impossible to win the game by focusing only on the field of battle. For that to happen, the Patriots need to completely drive the British forces out of the 13 colonies or the British need to wipe the American forces off the map. Both are extremely difficult and I would be surprised if any more than 1 out of 30 games ended in such a way. Rather, the ultimate goal of the game is to have political control of the colonies. If at the end of the game the Patriots control 7 colonies, while holding the British to control of less than 5, they win. If not, the British win. Simple as that. So, you can see that battle is not the main goal but control is. And more importantly political control.
Washington’s War is a Card Driven Game or CDG, and as such, relies on cards to provide to players the actions needed to play the game. The cards contain OPS Points which can be used to drive various actions, including such things are activating leaders, who in turn will then move with forces to attack, and also contain written text in the form of events. These events can be played only by the side they are intended for and if drawn and played by the opposing side, they can only be thrown away while granting a few possible actions, such as placing or removing Political Control markers.
As a self professed lover of the CDG mechanic, I really like this implementation of that system and must now say that Washington’s War is solidly in my Top 5 CDG games. The fact that this game is well designed and implements the CDG mechanic well should come as no surprise though, as it’s designer, Mark Herman, is the Godfather of CDGs. This game is really solid with low complexity and a relatively quick play time, but offers players with deep and meaningful choices about how to wage the war for the “minds and hearts of the people”.
For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the GMT Games website: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-735-washingtons-war-3rd-printing.aspx
1. Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection from GMT Games
I already mentioned this earlier but I love Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection! The fifth volume in GMT’s COIN Series is the series’ first foray into non-modern warfare and takes us to the 18th Century and the days of the Brown Bess musket, the 18 pounder siege cannon and nice and tidy formations better suited for a gentleman’s war. The focus of the game is the struggle of the American Patriots against their mother British government as they have made their intentions clear to become independent with the Declaration of Independence. The game is a multi-faction treatment of the American Revolution, which includes the Patriots and their allies the French against the British and their reluctant allies the Indians.
Liberty or Death is a 1 to 4 player game focused on all aspects of the struggle including financing operations with Rabble Rousing, infiltrating British held cities to Skirmish, blockading major cities with the mighty French fleet, Raiding the frontiers with the Indian nations, the spread of propaganda to build support for the revolution, fort building and small scale battles. So, with this short description you can see that this game is not a “traditional” wargame but does contain some armed conflict. So a game about the American Revolution that isn’t focused on battle you say? How can that be? Well, I will tell you that this game is probably a perfect representation of the multifaceted struggle that wasn’t necessarily decided on the field of combat, but by the little actions of many behind the scenes characters. Yes battle will decide the control of major areas of the board and decide the fate of troops as they must be concerned about being in supply through a network of forts but the game is so much more than just rolling some dice and consulting a CRT!
That is why I think LoD is my number 1 game on the American Revolution. It does a fantastic job, very similarly to Washington’s War, of capturing the focus of the real issues and how the war was eventually won by a rag tag band of farmers, merchants, blacksmiths and school teachers.
For a deeper dive into the game you can read my review.
For more information on the game, please visit the game page on the GMT Games website: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-582-liberty-or-death-the-american-insurrection-2nd-printing.aspx
Happy Independence Day! I hope that you have enjoyed my look at some of the games about the American Revolutionary War that we have played and really liked. There are other games out there and here is a list of games that I would like to acquire/play:
Campaigns of 1777 from Decision Games (I own this one but just haven’t been able to get it ready to play.)
Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-1783 from Columbia Games
1776 from The Avalon Hill Game Co.
Commands and Colors: Tricorne from Compass Games
Don’t Tread on Me: The American Revolution from White Dog Games
Hold the Line from Worthington Games
We the People from The Avalon Hill Game Co.
Please let me know what games you guys have enjoyed on the topic and other games that I need to take a look at.