The Road to Yorktown: War-gaming the American War of Independence

Battle of Guilford Courthouse – 15 March 1781 by H. Charles McBarron. The Continentals of the Maryland Brigade prepare to stand against the British Brigade of Guards while William Washington’s Continental Dragoons charge in the background. Major General Nathanael Greene is depicted in the left background. It is one of my favorite depictions of the period.

I’ve recently decided to try my hand at war-gaming the American War of Independence. I’ve always been fascinated with the period, but I must admit that in history and in war gaming it is a relatively new period for me so to speak. As an amateur historian, my field of expertise is the American Civil War. As a wargamer, most of my gaming experience has been limited to pike and shot blocks and heavy cavalry charges of 17th century eastern European warfare in By Fire and Sword. This is not to say that I am completely out of my league here. Several books on the American War of Independence grace my shelf, including Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life, David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing, and the newly released Rick Atkinson’s The British are Coming. 

I have decided to document my journey through the war-gaming the American War of Independence (AWI). Now I know I am not the first to run such a blog. Several great blogs exist on war-gaming in the AWI, such as Tarleton’s Quarter and Der Alte Fritz Journal. However, I decided to come in with the perspective of someone is totally new to war-gaming the period. This is also going to a major switch for me because I am switching scales. By Fire and Sword and Flames of War are wargames based in 15mm scale, I have decided I want to switch to 28mm for AWI. This is not to say that there are not 15mm options for the AWI. There are many 15mm manufacturers of AWI miniatures (particularly the excellent Peter Pig). However, I want to try a new scale with this new period of warfare. There are numerous manufacturers of 28mm miniatures for the American War of Independence: Perry Miniatures, Foundry (also sculpted by Alan Perry), Eureka Miniatures, and Fife and Drum miniatures are just a few I am considering at the moment. 

So where does one start when starting to war-game in this period? That’s a good question. I would say that it depends on you personally. For myself, I like to start by getting familiar with the campaigns, units, and leaders as much as possible. Authenticity and verisimilitude are important for me. Some might start by picking miniatures, since I already have done a little bit of research in this regard. Some might start by picking a campaign. I have a few in mind (the 1777 Saratoga  Campaign, the 1779-81 Southern campaigns, and the 1777-78 Philadelphia campaigns), but that is in its own time for me. I’d rather start with a rule set, and then pick my scenarios and miniatures for those scenarios from there.

I’ve been doing some research and I’ve seen two rule sets highly recommended – British Grenadier and Black Powder with the Rebellion supplement. I’ve played Black Powder before, but not with the Rebellion supplement. I was playing Napoleonics on a relatively small board (an 1815 Waterloo campaign battle of a Dutch-Belgian division versus a French division) which was a fun game but I was left with the impression that it was suited for a larger table than what I played on. British Grenadier I have not played, but it is a modification from General de Brigade for Napoleonics  that I have seen great reviews for. I’ll be looking into both of these rule sets before I make a decision. 

In the meanwhile, watch this space. 

4 thoughts on “The Road to Yorktown: War-gaming the American War of Independence

    1. I have not unfortunately. I might have to check it out. I’ve referenced Black Powder & British Grenadier because it is the rule-set I’ve seen recommended the most.

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