GMT Games Great Battles of the American Revolution The Battles of Newtown and Oriskany Review

Great Battles of the American Revolution

The Battles of Newtown and Oriskany

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Newtown designed by Mark Miklos

Oriskany designed by Don Hanle

Available from GMT Games

MSRP $65.00

Historical background excerpts from Wikipedia

Battle of Newtown

The Battle of Newtown took place on August 29, 1779. This battle is also known as the Battle of Chemung and was the only major battle of the Sullivan Expedition. The Sullivan Expedition was an armed offensive led by General John Sullivan that was ordered by the Continental Congress to end the threat of the Iroquois who had sided with the British during the American Revolutionary War.

This battle, which was the most significant military engagement of the Sullivan Campaign played a crucial role in America’s Revolutionary War. This battle took place at the foot of a hill along the Chemung River just outside of what is now Elmira, New York.

Battle of Oriskany

The Battle of Oriskany was fought on August 6, 1777. This was one of the bloodiest battles in the North American theater of the American Revolutionary War and was considered a significant engagement of the Saratoga Campaign. During the siege of Fort Stanwix, an American relief force from the Mohawk Valley under General Nicholas Herkimer with around 800 men of the militia and a party of Oneida Indians, approached in an attempt to raise the siege of Fort Stanwix. British commander Barry St. Leger authorized an intercept force consisting of a German Hanau jäger (light infantry) detachment, Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Indian allies from the Six Nations and other tribes to the north and west, and Indian Department Rangers totaling at least 450 men.

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The Loyalist and Indian force ambushed Herkimer’s force in a small valley about six miles (10 km) east of Fort Stanwix which is near the present-day village of Oriskany, New York. During the battle, Herkimer was mortally wounded. The battle cost the Patriots approximately 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Indians lost approximately 150 dead and wounded. The result of the battle remains ambiguous to this day.

This was one the few battles in the war where almost all of the participants were North American. The Loyalists and Indians fought against Patriots in the absence of British soldiers.

The Game

This is the 8th volume in the Great Battles of the American Revolution series published by GMT Games. This volume is dedicated to the battles of Newtown and Oriskany which were two separate battles. However, both battles use a Standard set of rules that are common for all of the games in this series. The game specifics of each situation are handled in the Exclusive Rules for each battle in the series.

The Components

The components of the game in the box are up to GMT Games typical standard of high quality. You receive the following items once you open the box;

  • One 22″x34″ double-sided mapsheet
  • 176 full-color 5/8″ counters with replacement counters for previous games in the series
  • Series Rules & Battle Scenario Books
  • 24 Opportunity & 16 Tactics Cards
  • Two Player Aid Cards
  • Two 10-sided dice

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Rule Booklets

You receive two booklets in the game box for Newtown and Oriskany. The first rulebook is titled the Series Rulebook and the other booklet contains the Exclusive Rules. The Series Rulebook is only 11 pages in length and consists of the following sections;

  • Introduction
  • Components
  • Game Scale and Terminology
  • How to Win
  • Sequence of Play Outline
  • Initiative
  • Stacking
  • Zone of Control
  • Movement
  • Rifle Fire
  • Defensive Artillery Fire
  • Close Combat
  • Combat Results
  • Leaders
  • The Rally Phase and Unit Morale
  • Army Morale

As you can see, a lot of ground is covered in the Series Rulebook that is applicable to all 8 games in the series.

The next rulebook is the Exclusive Rules which are 27 pages in length and can supersede the Standard Rules. Each game in volume 8 has its own Exclusive Rules. The Exclusive Rules for Newtown are;

  • Prepare for Play
  • How to Win
  • Series Rules Variations
  • Special Rules
  • Indian Rules
  • Special Units

Additionally, you have the Historical Scenario, a Historical Essay and the Order of Battle for Newtown. All of this information is packed into 15 pages.

Next we have the Exclusive Rules for Oriskany. These rules are 8 pages in length and cover the following items;

  • Prepare for Play
  • How to Win
  • Series Rule Variations
  • Special Rules
  • Special Units

Also in this rules area is a Historical Essay and the Oriskany Order of Battle.

As you can see, you do not have to read all of the rules booklets to begin playing the game. You need to read the Standard Rules and only the Exclusive rules section of the game you are going to play. The comment that I have regarding the rules is that they are well written, concise and to the point. These are a mature set of rules that you can see that much work and thought have been put into the job of rule writing.

A final item to note is that you receive in your GMT Game Box two different and separate games that do not interact with one another. This provides the gamer with a nice contrast of two different battles complete with different maps and counters. With this factor biased into the games’ design I believe that The Battles of the American Revolutionary War games use a very subtle system that will provide gamers’ with a great amount of replay value.

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Scale

The scale of all of the games in the American Revolutionary War series are the same except if they are modified by the Exclusive Rules. The Time Scale of each turn is equivalent to 1 hour. Each hex from side to side is approximately 200 yards. Each infantry, light infantry, militia, rifle or mounted cavalry strength point is equivalent to 100 men and each artillery piece equals 2 guns.

Sequence of Play

The Sequence of Play captures the flavor of combat during this period of warfare and makes it challenging and interesting by having the players interact through different phases of the Sequence. It is this interaction that can make a game of Newtown or Oriskany different from previous games and give gamers an excellent replay value.

The Standard Sequence of Play for the entire Battles of the American Revolution War series is;

A. Initiative Segment

B. Initiative Player Turn

  1. Flip the game turn marker to indicate the correct player turn
  2. Movement phase
  3. Rally phase
  4. Defensive Artillery Fire phase
  5. Rifle Fire phase (simultaneous)
  6. Close Combat phase
  7. Move the game turn marker to the bottom half of the game turn and flip it over.

C. Second Player Turn

  1. Movement phase
  2. Rally phase
  3. Defensive Artillery Fire phase
  4. Rifle Fire phase (simultaneous)
  5. Close Combat phase

D. End-of-Turn Segment

  1. Check for Automatic Victory
  2. If it is the last game turn of the scenario, determine a winner
  3. Advance the game turn marker to the top half of the next game turn.

This sequence is rather straightforward with players being able to memorize it in just a few short game turns. For each individual game the sequence of play may change and the Exclusive rules of each game need to be consulted.

Combat

There are three different types of combat in the American Revolutionary War series of games. In Newtown-Oriskany there is;

  • Rifle Fire Combat
  • Defensive Artillery Combat
  • Close Combat

Taking a quick look at Fire Combat we see that resolving rifle fire is a simple 3 step process. The steps for resolution are:

The firing player determines their “To Hit” number by cross references the firing Strength Points with the range on the Fire Table to determine the “To Hit” number.

The firing player now rolls a single d10, applies any “Die Roll Modifiers” and if the result and greater than or equal to the die roll a hit has been scored.

When a hit is scored, the player rolls another die and this roll is cross referenced on the Rifle Fire Damage Table to determine the result.

Since all Rifle Fire Combat is considered simultaneous, the results are not applied until after the defender has an opportunity to return fire.

As an example of Rifle Combat look at the example below;

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Here you see that two American units are attacking one British unit. If we total up the attacking Strength Points of the attacker we see there are 4 SP’s whereas the British defender has 1 SP. We look at our Rifle/Artillery Fire To Hit Table and when we cross reference our SP’s with an adjacent range our to hit value is 4 or greater. We roll a 6 which means we hit McDonell. Now we must determine the damage and we roll a die again and roll a 1. This result is -1 to the British Morale which is now deducted from the Army morale total.

Defensive Artillery fire uses the same sequence as the Rifle Fire. The only difference is that you need to pay attention to which tables you are using on the Player Aid card.

Where things begin to change is with Close Combat. Close Combat is mandatory between all adjacent units. Next, each Close Combat is resolved separately in the order that the Attacker chooses. For each combat, the procedure below is followed;

  1. Determine Odds Ratio
  2. Determine Lead Units
  3. Determine DRM’s
  4. Select And Resolve Tactics
  5. Resolve Close Combat
  6. (Advanced Rules Momentum Decision)
  7. Apply Close Combat Results
  8. (Advanced Rules Gain Momentum)
  9. Advance After Combat

Using the same example we used for Rifle Fire, we see that the Americans are attacking the British in Close Combat. The item we need to determine is the Odds Ratio of the combat. Looking at the SP’s of our units we see that the Americans have a total of 4 SP’s and the British have 1 SP. We determine that the Lead Unit for this attack will be the “Penn Bde” and as the lead unit will take any causality first. Now we have to determine the Die Roll Modifiers as applied to this combat. The attackers DRM’s will be the Lead Units Morale plus the difference in Army Morale so the Americans receive a +2 DRM. The Defenders Lead unit provides a -1 DRM so there is a net increase of +1 DRM for this combat.

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The next item we need to determine is the tactics that each side will employ as this also has a direct effect on the combat. Each player will choose a tactics chit and now display the chit next to the combat. The chits will be compared and cross referenced on the Tactical Matrix. The Tactics chit played by the British is “Withdraw” while the Americans play “Frontal Assault”. Cross referencing the played chits we see that there is a +2 DRM which combined with the other DRM’s and we have a total of +3 DRM’s.

Now we need to determine our Combat Results. Since the Americans are attacking with 4 SP’s and the British are defending with 1 SP we look on the 4:1 ratio and roll a 1d10. The American player rolls a 5 when added to a +3 DRM gives us a final die roll of 8. Looking at our Close Combat Table we see the result is –/1* which means there is no effect on the Attacker and a 1 Step Loss for the Defender and the * specifies that if there was a leader in the hex he would be a casualty.

The final item we need to decide is which of our units we want to advance after combat. Once this decision is made, we move our unit to that hex and then move on to the next combat. As you can see that while there are 7 steps you need to follow without the advanced rules, they flow easily and will be completed rather quickly

Exclusive Rules

Newtown

As I had mentioned a few times during this review, it is the Exclusive Rules that give each game character as they modify the Standard Rules. For Newtown, a few new rules are enough to change the character of the standard game and make it different from any other game in the series.

The first thing that is addressed is the games length of play. You are informed that the game begins at 8:00 AM and ends at 7:00 PM for a total of 12 turns. You are told that the American player is the first player for the first turn in this game and that after this you follow the Standard Rules. The largest rules modifications deal with special rules for the Indians and Special Units. The Indian Rules modify the Sequence of Play to take into consideration those units in this battle. It is these rules that make Newtown the unique game that it is.

Oriskany

With Oriskany we again begin with the game length. We are informed that the game begins at 6:00 AM and ends at 7:00 PM for a total of 14 turns. We are informed that it is the British player that will move first every turn until the ambush is sprung and that on the following turn play reverts back to the Standard Rules. In this area of the Exclusive Rules you have some Rule Variations and Special Rules. The Special Rules are what makes Oriskany unique as they deal with items such as;

  • Herkimer Relief Column
  • The Ambush
  • Fr. Stanwix and The Hornwork
  • Indian Withdrawal
  • Weather
  • Mohawk River

Additionally, there are a number of Special Units that are introduced that are only used for this game. Here again the Exclusive Rules provide the changes to make the game unique in the series.

Summary

Newtown and Oriskany is the 8th game in the Battles of the American Revolution wargames available from GMT Games. The other 7 titles in this series are;

  1. Saratoga
  2. Savannah
  3. Guilford
  4. Brandywine
  5. Monmouth
  6. Pensacola 1781
  7. Germantown

As you can see with 8 titles it is one of the more successful series of games that has been published in recent memory.

With each game using Standard Rules, the rules for Battles of the American Revolution have had a chance to mature and become easier to understand. Additionally since each game in the series has its own Exclusive Rules game designers can tweak each series game specifically for the situation that they are recreating.

The battles of Newtown and Oriskany are won through demoralizing an army and not through brute force. While you may think that all you need to do is charge ahead, there are tactics chits or cards that can be played to offset your foes attack and place them on the defensive. Battles of the American Revolution the battles of Newtown and Oriskany is a subtle game that players will enjoy and keep coming back for more.

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