I have been scouring the earth for good games covering one of my favorite historical periods in the American Revolutionary War. I have played 12 of them to date, and you can read about them in my Gaming the American Revolution – Ranking the Games We Have Played post that I update every year around the 4th of July.
One new game that I found and played is Don’t Tread on Me: The American Revolution Solitaire Board Game from White Dog Games. Don’t Tread On Meis a strategic-level solitaire simulation of the American Revolution and is based on the popular Vietnam Solitaire: Special Edition game system from White Dog Games. This game though takes a very different perspective on the conflict as the player plays as the British side along with American Loyalist forces against the forces of George Washington and the Continental Congress as controlled by the game system’s AI. I really like this one as it is not only about battle, although it does definitely have its share of conflict, but it features a number of interesting aspects about the revolution including political control, state loyalty levels which change over time and due to events and the outcomes of battles, and even a system dealing with the naval aspect of the conflict in dealing with smugglers and their attempt to bring the rebels arms and ammunition.
In Action Point 1, we covered the map and its various Counties and their terrain types and the Turn Record Track to give perspective to how the action plays out and how the player must meet the demands of Lord North and King George III. In Action Point 2, we looked at the differing units and their abilities as well as the anatomy and meaning of the values on the counters. In Action Point 3, we started taking a deeper look at the various phases of the Sequence of Play beginning with the Smugglers Phase and the Naval Phase. In this Action Point, we will look at the British Ground Phase, which deals with so many different aspects including Winter Attrition, Amnesty, Paroles, British Unit Purchase and Deployment and Moving around the map.
British Ground Phase
First things first. During Turn 1 of the game, this entire phase will be skipped. This is very important as the British player starts with specific Units on the Map that are historically placed and doesn’t have to do several of the parts of this phase so it is simply skipped. The first action in the phase is Winter Attrition, which doesn’t effect the British but will take a toll on the Continental Army.
If the space on the Turn Track is shaded blue then a Winter Attrition round will be carried out. All Continental Army Units (not COS Units) found on the board will have to check to see if they survive the harsh winter conditions. As you may know from history, two of the worst winters on record occurred in 1777-1778 and 1779-1780 when the Continental Army was encamped in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and Morristown, New Jersey.
During this Winter Attrition each Continental located in a State or in Québec must roll a D6 and must roll higher than the Survival Number found in the Turn box on the Turn Track. If the Unit fails the roll it will be removed from the map and placed into the Rebel Force Pool. There are six such Winter Attrition phases throughout the game and each has a different value. The Winter of Early 1777 is the worst with a Survival Number of 5, with Early 1778, Early 1779 and Early 1780 all have a Survival Number of 4. The winters were a bit more mild near the end of the war and in Early 1781 and Early 1782 the Survival Number is 3.
This is not just a straight die roll though as that would be too easy. The rolls will be modified by various factors and conditions on the board as well as where Units are located in the State they inhabit or whether they are harassed by Indian Units. The player will add/subtract the following die roll modifications:
- George Washington is present in the State = +2 (strong leadership)
- Unit is located in the State of Carolina = +2 (mild winter weather)
- Unit is in a County with the Town or Fort Terrain Type = +2 (access to shelter and food)
- Unit is in a County with the Farm Terrain Type = +1 (access to food)
- Unit is located in the State of Virginia = +1 (mild winter weather)
- And Indian Unit is located in the State = -1 (continual harassment and competition for food)
The roll must exceed the Survival Number not just equal so this is not always a given. I have found that about 30% of the Continental Units will fail the roll and be removed from the map to the Rebel Force Pool. If you get lucky, you could see as much as 60% removed but that has never happened during my plays. I do actually really like the way the design handled this element and I appreciate the thought that went into the Terrain Type and how it would effect the roll as well as with the presence of George Washington who not only inspired his troops with his speeches and presence, but also would use discipline and punishment to keep the army together.
In this example picture, you will notice that these Patriots are in for an easy winter theoretically even though it is Early 1777 and the Survival Number is a 5. They have many benefits to being in this area such as being in the State of Virginia (+1), having George Washington in camp (+2) and also being in favorable terrain as the Southside County has a +1 modifier as it is a Farm and Piedmont County has a +2 modifier as it is a Town. There is one negative modifier present in the State though in the form of the Cherokee Indian Unit that will grant a -1 modifier to the Attrition roll. The dice are rolled and one of the two Continental Units in Southside fails the Survival Number by only rolling a 1 when modified by +1, +2 and +1 but also negatively modified by -1 results in only a 4. The Continental Unit in Piedmont survives as they roll a 5 modified to a 9. The COS Unit in Piedmont doesn’t have to make the Winter Attrition roll.
During this stage of the British Ground Phase, the player will examine the contents of the Prisoners of War Box. If either side has more than five Units located in the Box (not both but either), the Units over five will be returned to their respective Force Pool. The player will get to choose which Units are returned so this could be an opportunity to keep the Continental’s better Units here and return weaker Units instead.
In our example picture above you will notice that the Continentals have six Units in the Prisoners of War Box while the British only have four Units. Because the Continentals have more than five Units, we will perform Amnesty and the British player will get to choose which one Continental Unit to return to the Rebel Force Pool. The choice is not a difficult one and the British player chooses one of the 1-2-3 Continentals (Moultry) to return to the Rebel Force Pool. This Unit is now eligible to be drawn and placed on the map during the Place Rebels Phase.
The Continentals now have only five Units in the Prisoners of War Box and the British player still has four. We now move to the Paroles portion of the phase and you will see what happens now with prisoner exchanges.
If after the Amnesty portion of the phase there are Units of both sides still remaining in the Prisoners of War Box, then Paroles will occur. The British player will get to choose an equal number of British Units and Continental Units from the Prisoners of War Box and place them in their appropriate Force Pools. The total number of Paroled Units is limited by the smaller force and makes perfect sense in the sense of the word. The phase could have some complexity added to the process by making certain Units worth more lesser Units but I am not sure that is necessary as this process works.
The only other limiting factor is that when choosing what Rebel Units to Parole the British player must give priority to the French Army Unit, the Arnold Continental and the H. Lee Continental in that order. Whenever the French Army Unit is released it must be placed into Boston.
Using our example pictures above you will notice that the British player can hold back the 3-2-1 Continental Unit in the Prisoners of War Box as there are five total Continental Units to only four British Units. This dodgy action of withholding the better fighting Continental Units is a must and you must consider what you are releasing and when. Also keep in mind that while the 3-2-1 Unit looks better on paper than the 1-3-2 Unit, you must remember that their fighting ability really is determined by what Terrain Type they are placed into and the player really has no control over that.
At this point in the phase, the British player can spend their hard earned £’s buying Ground Units from the British Force Pool. The Units that can be purchased are British, Loyalist or Hessian and each has a cost as shown on the Royal Gazette Cost Chart printed on the map. Also keep in mind that the Smugglers and Naval Phase precede the British Ground Phase and you will undoubtedly spend at least a few £’s activating the British Naval Units and attacking the Smugglers found in the Sea Zones off the Easter Seaboard preventing additional Continental Units from being created and supplied and placed into the States for you to have to deal with. I guess what I am saying is making sure you have enough funds to buy the Units you need is important and the player has to plan this out. You cannot simply go about this haphazardly or you will find you don’t seem to have the Units you really need to make a difference, such as the all important British Horse Units.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you cannot buy the Units you might really want until you have purchased all of the Hessian Units available in the British Force Pool. King George has an agreement with Hess to use their soldiers as paid mercenaries in wars around the world as they were savage and fierce warriors. This agreement forces the British player to have to purchase any available Hessian Unit that they can afford. Only after all Hessian Units have been purchased can the player buy their other available Units.
After Units are purchased the player may place these Units into any County of any State as well as Québec. The game has no limits on the number of Units you can have in the same County or State. The only comment that I would make is that your number of counters is limited and you can not create more Units so you have to place them in a manner that is consistent with your strategy. Remember that your goal is control three States at the end of a turn including the specified Target State on the Turn Record Track so placing your scarce Units into the States you need to take over is wisest. Also keep in mind that Continental Units will pop up like brush fires all over the map and in a somewhat random fashion, although keep in mind that new Units will be placed in the States from the active Smugglers in the various Sea Zones.
You will be forced to move these Units around the map as well as Units located in New England are useless if the Target State is Carolina you will have to be flexible with how you place new Units, move them around the map, utilizing Naval Transport as well when appropriate (although remember that it costs 1£), use them well and in many ways protect you better Units. Not an easy task I can assure you!
After placing the Units, the player can move any existing British Foot/Horse Units to any County located within the State that they are residing. There is no cost to this movement and there is no impediment to this movement from Continental Units located in these movement targets.
The player then has to make a decision about using the special Forced March action to move these Units, both existing and newly purchased and placed, from one State to another State. The Units are simply picked up and placed anywhere that the British player wishes them to go in another State. There is no cost in funds but there is danger in these Units being forced to march.
The player will roll a D6 and the Unit will survive on a roll of 1-5 but on a 6 it will be removed from the map and placed in the British Force Pool. The die roll will be modified by +1 if the Unit is being placed into a County that is enemy-occupied and also another +1 if the State entered is not adjacent to the State the Unit moved from. The only limiting factor is that no Unit can use Forced March to leave, enter or pass through a State that contains the Continental H. Lee Horse Unit.
Let’s take a quick look at an example. The three British Foot Units located in Pennsylvania are looking to use Forced March to move to Piedmont County in the State of Virginia in order to break up the gathering Continental forces there. The player takes a D6 and rolls for each Unit in turn and can stop at any time. The player rolls and obtains rolls of 3, 4 and 1. To each of these results will be added a +1 modifier because they are trying to move into a County that is enemy-occupied. The final modified results are 4, 5 and 2 and no British Units will be lost. The Loyalist Foot Unit located in Hampton Roads County also decides to move into Piedmont County to join the fight but doesn’t have to roll for a Forced March as they are moving within a State. The British player left the Hessian Unit in Pennsylvania which was a mistake as this is considered abandoning the State unless you leave at least one Lobster Unit there. This results in a penalty as that State’s Loyalty will be reduced by 1.
Horse Units are very mobile and valuable Units as they can move to any County in any State at no cost during this part of the phase. They can therefore avoid the possibility of being lost to the rigors of marching to adjacent or further States.
Place George Washington
After all of that, if Washington is in play, the player will have to now determine which of the three Middle States, including New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, that Washington will be moved to. The State containing the most British Units will be where Washington is moved and his counter will be placed into the American Leadership Box found to the left of each of these three States. If two of the three States are tied with the same amount of British Units or all three have no British Units in them, Washington will be placed into the Target State for the turn if that Target State is found among the Middle States. If none are the Target State, then the player will roll a die to break the tie.
If the current turn is a New York City Siege Turn, Washington will always be placed into the New York American Leadership Box. I was a bit underwhelmed with the way the design uses Washington. He doesn’t add any bonus to Battles, through either a DRM or a Column Shift, but rather is seen as a way for the Continentals to hold their army together during the Winter Attrition portion of the British Ground Phase. This was the only thing that I didn’t necessarily like about the game.
As a result of raising and moving British Units, there may now be Counties that contain Units from both sides. This will result in a Battle.
In Action Point 5 we will move to the Battle Phase and dive into the procedure used, examining the use of Militia and take a look at the interesting Combat Results Table and finally take a look at a few examples.