End of Empire (Compass Games, 2014)
American Revolutionary War Campaign Report (1775 Start)
Part Three: Turns Thirteen through Seventeen (Spring 1777 to Winter I 1777)
Please see Part One and Part Two of the Campaign Report for a detailed breakdown of Turns One through Six and Turns Seven through Twelve, respectively, in my playthrough of the American Revolutionary War campaign in Compass Games‘ End of Empire.
The British start in control of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, with the remaining colonies faithful to the American flag. Howe’s forces in and around New York City remain quite formidable, though they are harried by Washington at every turn.
The Americans have eliminated only 7 of the 20 British Regular steps needed to convince the French to intervene. The attritional strategy thus far has not brought about sufficient losses, but the Americans can see little way forward otherwise. Washington’s considerable army seems more like a fire brigade than a spearhead, having to blunt British conflagrations wherever they spark into being. There are too many ports to guard against naval predations, and the fear remains that the British will scoop up enough of them to shake the fledgling economy, sending the fragile American army home, unpaid and demoralized. But if the Americans can weather the storm, surely they will gain the initiative, as British losses can but mount.
(Leader ratings given as combat modifier/rank/initiative. Combat results are attacker losses/defender losses. Phases with no significant actions are omitted.)
Turn 13 (Spring, 1777)
The British fleet sails north along the coast, taking position in the Gulf of Maine.
Howe [1/5/4] sees seven regiments of Loyalist and Provincial troops raised in New York City, with citizens in Georgia and South Carolina also rallying to the crown.
Their enthusiasm cannot match that of the Americans, however, who bring seven regiments into being in Philadelphia alone, with five appearing in Boston and a score more throughout the colonies. Also entering, a namesake of, if not match for, Howe in Howe (Am) [0/14/3].
The Spring recruitments refill the ranks of both American and Loyalist/Provincial troops, with supplies captured from Nova Scotia in 1776 going to re-arm the 1st New Jersey Regiment, whose homes are invested by Riedesel [1/12/2]. Ominously, though, British conquests prevent the replacement of thirteen regiments, a hefty sum indeed.
Grant [1/13/3] in Nova Scotia sails forth for Falmouth, Maine, looking to open a new front for the British spring offensive. A hastily assembled militia gathers there along with the 18th Congressional Regiment, which has been guarding the sleepy port for months. They wanted action, and now they’ll get it. [23 attack strength against 6 defense strength for 3:1 odds; mods are +1 Grant, +1 no defender artillery for net +2. Combat dr=4; final dr=6 for 0/3.] An overwhelming success sees the 18th cut down, the militia scattered, and Maine claimed for the crown. [4 Colonies restored: GA, SC, NC, ME (counts as a colony for game purposes).]
Heister [0/7/3] finally marches his mercenaries forward, stopping in Charleston to pick up British Regulars there before heading to Cornwallis’ [1/9/5] winter camp on the Cape Fear River. The British general doesn’t stop to absorb the new troops, though, heading onwards to Halifax, North Carolina, where three American regiments were recently raised. Though the colonials try to flee, their training didn’t get quite far enough to cover orderly retreats. [54 attack strength against 12 defense strength for 4:1 odds; mods are +1 Cornwallis, +1 no defender artillery for net +2. Combat dr=4; final dr=6 for 1/4DR.] A regiment of Provincial troops takes a loss while the battered Americans retreat.
Leaving behind a small garrison, Cornwallis continues towards Richmond, leaving the mopping up to Clinton [1/6/4], who will doubtless upbraid his subordinate for the slight if he ever catches up to him. The miffed senior general leaves Burgoyne [0/8/4] in New Berne with a handful of regiments and marches on the American stragglers, aiming to swing around to Norfolk. The decimated American regiments cannot escape. [32 attack strength against 4 defense strength for max 4:1 odds; mods are +1 Clinton, +1 no defender artillery for net +2. Combat dr=5; final dr=7 for 1/DE.]
The Creek manage to reach the Catawba tribal area, causing the American-allied warriors to leave their post along the Florida coast.
Determined to retake Montreal finally, Carleton [1/4/5] orders the walls stormed, finding Montgomery [1/8/5] in command of a meagre force after the harsh winter. [49 attack strength against 6 defense strength for max 4:1 odds. Mods are +1 no defender artillery, -1 fort, with Carleton and Montgomery cancelling. Combat dr=5 for 0/3.] Carleton, having been captured himself by Montgomery, accepts the American’s sword with honor.
Leaving a sizable garrison behind, Carleton looks to attend to the American regiment that formed just outside Montreal. It flees towards Lake Champlain, and for now, Carleton is content to let them go.
In New York City, the ranking General, Vaughan [0/14/3], is unable to persuade any of the new arrivals to march to Howe’s command in White Plains.
The British commander-in-chief decides to go on the offensive anyway, leaving a solid garrison in White Plains. Howe marches along the Connecticut coast, reaching New Haven. Howe (Am) boldly brings his entire force from Danbury and summons the militia as well to have it out, reinforcing New Haven considerably. There can be only one Howe! [28 attack strength against 43 defense strength for 1:2 odds; mods are +1 Howe, +1 no defender artillery for net +2. Combat dr=5; final dr=7 for 1/2DR.] Shocked, Howe (Am) returns to Danbury with somewhat fewer troops than he set out with.
Washington [1/1/5] sees that Howe has left White Plains in the hands of a garrison—five regiments, so no pushover, but not the force there previously. He pounces, picking up some newly raised regiments along the way. The garrison attempts to pull back to New York City, but they cannot react in time. [37 attack strength against 22 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are +1 Washington, -1 fort, -1 US reforms for net -1. Combat dr=6; final dr=5 for 1/2. 1 British Regular step lost; 13 total lost (8 eliminated)] A solid thwack that removes a depleted British Regular regiment.
Enthusiasm running high, Washington commits the troops again. [35 attack strength against 17 defense strength for 2:1 odds; mods are net -1 again. Combat dr=4; final dr=3 for 0/1.] The British and German regiments attempt to disengage, but Washington holds them fast, attacking yet once more. [35 attack strength against 14 defense strength for 2:1 odds, same net -1 drm. Combat dr=6; final dr=5 for 1/2DR. 1 British Regular step lost; 14 total lost (9 eliminated).] Vanquished, the defenders finally break camp and run back to New York City.
Greene [0/12/5], in Alexandria, begins to gather new regiments before heading towards Cornwallis’ position.
From Philadelphia, Gates [0/7/3] dispatches Pennsylvania’s finest to Lee’s [0/3/3] position outside the meat grinder of Elizabethtown. It will take Lee some time to integrate them into his command structure, but he intends to avenge his prior, dismal showing at Riedesel’s hands. At the same time, Gates sends the marines off to the Bahamas, raiding a British installation there for more supplies.
The Boston garrison dispatches several regiments to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to defend against the British now in control of Falmouth.
The militias return to their homes, and a pair of American regiments depart the field.
Turn 14 (Summer I, 1777)
The British fleet stays in the Gulf of Maine.
Three German regiments tarry with the fleet, portending a naval invasion somewhere in the northeast, while seven American regiments enter, including another detachments of marines.
Burgoyne shifts his forces by boat from New Berne all the way to Gloucester, Massachusetts, right outside of Boston, and, with the newly arrived German mercenaries, storms the port. The militia turns out to meet them, but no one rides through the streets of Boston with word that, to possibly coin a phase, “the British are coming”… [30 attack strength against 25 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are +1 US reforms, +1 no defender artillery for net +2. Combat dr=1; final dr=3 for 1/0.] This militia has seen action before, and Germans in cockaded hats don’t frighten them (much).
Burgoyne persists, though, with no where else to go but back to the fleet in shame, and that just won’t do. [29 attack strength against 25 defense strength for 1:1 odds, still +2 drm. Combat dr=6; final dr=8 for 0/3.] The militia give way in the end, relinquishing Gloucester to the British.
Howe, fuming at the losses in White Plains, orders his commanders in and around New York City to remain on the defensive for now. Tying down Washington and Lee should suffice to give Cornwallis and Clinton some breathing room.
Carleton, his Canadian cities secure, decides to march down through the wilderness towards Albany, where Brant [0/*/4] and the Mohawks linger. The American 1st Canadian Regiment tries to stay one step ahead of him, but the juggernaut rolls on. [41 attack strength against 4 defense strength for max 4:1 odds; mods are +1 Carleton. Combat dr=6; final dr=7 for 1/DE]. They delay Carleton, but just briefly.
From Falmouth, Grant sets out with four regiments against nearby Portsmouth. Heath [0/9/3] to the west of the port fails to sense the danger. [18 attack strength against 12 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are +1 Grant, +1 no defender artillery, -1 fort for net +1. Combat dr=6; final dr=7 for 0/2.] With the fleet hovering in the distance, Grant hopes to force the defenders into the sea. [18 attack strength against 8 defense strength for 2:1 odds, same +1 drm. Combat dr=1; final dr=2 for 1/0.]
A Provincial regiment falls, but Grant pays no mind, pushing on. [17 attack strength against 8 defense strength for 2:1 odds, +1 drm. Combat dr=1; final dr=2 for 1/0.]
This time a German regiment suffers losses, but Grant remains heedless of his subordinates pleas to stop the attack. [14 attack strength against 8 defense strength for 1:1 odds, +1 drm. Combat dr=6; final dr=7 for 0/2.] Finally, enough for Grant, and his forces remain just outside Portsmouth’s harbor, besieging the few defenders left.
To the South, Clinton makes good on his threat to Norfolk, where a lone cavalry regiment finds itself joined by a hastily pulled-together militia in defense. [25 attack strength against 13 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are +1 Clinton, +1 no defender artillery for net +2. Combat dr=5; final dr=7 for 0/2.] A rousing victory for Clinton as yet another American port falls back into royal hands. He then dispatches the majority of his command to Cornwallis’ position—Greene’s force opposing him is quite formidable.
Heister likewise reinforces the British Southern Army, leading his troops to central Virginia to meet up with Cornwallis.
Pigot [0/19/3]hurries to Carleton’s command to lead the troops in the coming months, lest the Provincial commander pique the pride of the British commanders in the colonies. Leslie [0/20/3] ships out of New York City to Halifax to run the supply operation there.
Many decisions to be made, none enviable. The British stranglehold on ports threatens the economy, but diverting focus away from New York City would allow for a breakout there. In the south, Cornwallis must be blunted; an end-run around his considerable force might free some locations in North and South Carolina, but then the British general would have access to all of Virginia and Maryland.
Lee has no such concerns—his mission is to take on Riedesel in Elizabethtown, duty bound by a desire for revenge. [32 attack strength against 31 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are -1 Riedesel, -1 fort, -1 US reforms for net -3. Combat dr=2; final dr=-1 for 3AR/0.] That being enough of that, Lee calls a halt to another failed attack.
Greene determines to bypass Cornwallis in the field and, if nothing else, draw him from the soft underbelly of the American mid-Atlantic colonies. The American Southern army drives down the coast towards Norfolk. A British garrison in Suffolk wisely retreats to Clinton’s location in the port city, The British general does not react in time, and before he knows it, his position is overrun. [28 attack strength against 10 defense strength for 2:1 odds; mods are -1 US reforms, -1 Clinton for net -2; combat dr=1; final dr=-1 for 2AR/1. 1 British step lost; 15 total lost (9 eliminated).] A costly skirmish, but one that costs the British just as dearly.
Undeterred, Greene marches on Norfolk again, giving no respite to Clinton. [27 attack strength against 8 defense strength for 3:1 odds; same -2 drm. Combat dr=4; final dr=2 for 1/0.] Seeing his chance, Clinton pulls his troops out of the port town, leaving his foe exhausted but in control of a vital location.
From Philadelphia, Gates decides to send as many troops as possible to Alexandria, in case Cornwallis ignores Greene. Various leaderless regiments attempt the same, with middling results.
A company of American woodsmen from Fort Wyoming sneaks through the forest to Mohawk lands, causing the Mohawk to quit the field of battle on behalf of the British until their lands can be restored.
Leaving the smallest of garrisons in White Plains, Washington pushes up the Connecticut coast to Howe’s redoubt in New Haven. The British general is waiting for him, in the open field rather than behind the port walls. [31 attack strength against 26 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are -1 US reforms, with Howe and Washington cancelling each other. Combat dr=1; final dr=0 for 2AR/1.] Howe retreats, his cavalry giving him cover as he pushes along the coast towards New London.
Washington grudgingly leaves another garrison in New Haven and pursues Howe yet again, catching him before he can retreat further. [29 attack strength against 23 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are -1 US reforms, Howe and Washington cancelling each other. Combat dr=5; final dr=4 for 0/1.] Howe pulls inland, trying to flee this persistent American, who only gives up the chase just outside Providence, Rhode Island.
Sullivan [0/11/4] moves from Baltimore to Alexandria to take command of the defense forces there, and Spencer [0/10/3] quits Williamsburg for a command in Albany to await the Canadians pushing down Lake Champlain.
Turn 15 (Summer II, 1777)
The British fleet swings into the North Atlantic.
Three new generals enter for the Americans, upstarts by the names of Arnold [2/17/5], Lafayette [1/18/4], and deKalb [1/19/4]. The latter takes command in Boston, while the two former leaders move to existing commands, where they are outranked until the current leaders can be persuaded to command garrisons somewhat further from the front lines.
Provincial general Tryon [0/15/3] leads a massive force of Loyalists and Provincials, stiffened by a German mercenary regiment, from New York City to Newport, Rhode Island, by boat. The militia turns out to support the American regiment garrisoned there. [27 attack strength against 9 defense strength for 3:1 odds; mods are +1 no defender artillery. Combat dr=5; final dr=6 for 0/3.] The island port falls to this rare showing of Provincial strength.
Grant continues his siege of Portsmouth. [14 attack strength against 4 defense strength for 3:1 odds; mods are +1 Grant, +1 no defender artillery, -1 fort for net +1. Combat dr=4; final dr=5 for 0/2.] The brave defenders finally give way.
Howe sees his chance to escape, so he embarks on a long march. The Massachusetts militia gathers to try to stop him. [13 attack strength against 17 defense strength for 1:2 odds; mods are -1 Howe, -1 US reforms, -1 no attacker artillery for net -3. Combat dr=3; final dr=0 for 3AR/0.] A valiant but futile effort by the militia nonetheless slows down the British force.
Upon entering New Hampshire, Howe is confronted by Stark’s brigade and the New Hampshire militia, who hope for a better outcome than their Massachusetts brethren. [9 attack strength against 17 defense strength for 1:2 odds; mods are -1 Howe, -1 US reforms, -1 no attacker artillery for net -3. Combat dr=1; final dr=-2 for 4AR/0.] Their sacrifice stops Howe in his tracks, far from supply with winter not that far away.
Carleton, irate at the idea of Pigot taking over his command to save Howe’s pride, refuses to march his troops further down Lake Champlain.
Towards the south, Cornwallis relishes the idea of Greene trapped in Norfolk. The beleaguered America rallies the militia and awaits the hammer blow. [82 attack strength against 57 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are +1 Cornwallis. Combat dr=5; final dr=6 for 1/2DR.] A stunning blow, as Greene, routed, has no where to run, with Clinton on the coast and a garrison in Suffolk closing the net. He surrenders his considerable force and joins Montgomery, Schuyler [0/4/3], and Putnam [0/5/3] in captivity. Quite possibly, this defeat could spell the end for the fledgling American cause…
Panic begins to set in as news of Greene’s disaster filters through the ranks. Desperate for a victory, Arnold begs Lee to send him into Elizabethtown, but the senior general refuses and Riedesel’s fort is spared another attack.
Washington gathers up forces to rebuild his tattered Main Army, swinging as far afield as Vermont before turning into New Hampshire to chase down Howe once more. The Briton’s cavalry screen alerts him to Washington’s advance, and Howe retreats into Portsmouth, reinforcing the British garrison there. Washington commits his forces, hoping the new additions will finally rid him of Howe’s menace. [36 attack strength against 34 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are -1 US reforms; Howe and Washington cancelling each other. Combat dr=3; final dr=2 for 1AR/1.] His troops, disorganized from the marching, fall back in disorder.
From west of Portsmouth, Heath contemplates sending Lafayette into Maine to take the lightly held port of Falmouth, but dithers too long and fails to issue the orders in time.
In Alexandria, Sullivan dispatches a few regiments to vulnerable Williamsburg, though at the cost of depleting Alexandria’s own defenses.
Turn 16 (Fall, 1777)
The British fleet shifts back to the Gulf of Maine.
Both sides receive a few units, with the British adding two more Provincial regiments into New York City and the Americans holed up in Williamsburg getting leadership in the form of McDougal [0/15/3]. The New Hampshire militia is called up by Washington for his planned assault on Portsmouth.
Percy [0/18/3] all the way down in Wilmington, North Carolina, ships a precious British Regular regiment to Falmouth in hopes of stiffening the defenses there.
Cornwallis sees the build-up in Williamsburg and considers going after Alexandria, but he’s been well served thus far by ensuring he leaves no threats behind to harry his supply lines, particularly with winter approaching. The Virginia militia attempts to slow him down [Less than 1:4 odds results in auto 2AR/0] but only succeeds in delaying the inevitable, as the British strategist successfully crosses the mouth of the James River to the Virginia Peninsula. McDougal meets him in the open, not having had time to fortify his command. [74 attack strength against 20 defense strength for 3:1 odds; mods are +1 Cornwallis. Combat dr=4; final dr=5 for 0/2.]
McDougal tries to move his men from the battle, but Cornwallis keeps at him. [74 attack strength against 17 defense strength for 4:1 odds; mods are +1 Cornwallis. Combat dr=6; final dr=7 for 1/DE.] Another American port falls into British hands, with McDougal captive and his force reduced to complete ineffectiveness, scattered in the hills near Yorktown.
Clinton takes his small force from near Norfolk and moves to Halifax, North Carolina to further garrison that key location on the Roanoke River.
Up in the Canadian wilderness, Carleton pulls his army back to the vicinity of Montreal, the opportunity to strike lost after the summer’s disagreements with Pigot.
Vaughan in New York City contents himself drilling and marching his considerably Army, which has seen almost no action in a year now.
Once more, Lee hesitates to unleash Arnold into Elizabethtown. Howe (Am) at least manages to bring his regiments from Danbury into White Plains to keep some pressure on New York City.
With the New Hampshire militia in tow, Washington storms Portsmouth. Howe is waiting for his old adversary. [41 attack strength against 31 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are -1 US reforms, with Howe and Washington cancelling. Combat dr=5; final dr=4 for 0/1.] Seeing a crack in Howe’s lines, Washington surges forth, but Howe abandons the field first. The port is in ruins, the damage to the American economy done.
Howe stays a step ahead of Washington all the way to Falmouth, where the British general makes a final stand. The militia, however, cannot keep pace and stays behind in Portsmouth, robbing Washington of needed rifles. [36 attack strength against 37 defense strength for 1:2 odds; mods are -1 US reforms, with Howe and Washington cancelling. Combat dr=4; final dr=3 for 1AR/1.] Washington continues to press, and Howe refuses to abandon the port town. [34 attack strength against 34 defense strength for 1:1 odds; same -1 drm. Combat dr=3; final dr=2 for 1AR/1.] His men exhausted, Washington retreats back along the coast.
Stirling [0/13/3] finally rouses himself and chases down a band of Provincials lurking in Maryland. [5 attack strength against 3 defense strength for 1:1 odds; mods are -1 US reforms, with neither side possessing artillery. Combat dr=6; final dr=5 for 1/2.] A veritable thwacking!
The militias withdrawal to their homes.
Turn 17 (Winter I, 1777)
The British fleet withdraws but maintains a blockade in the Gulf of Maine.
Another regiment appears in New Hampshire for the Americans, but the winter recruiting doldrums prevent any other new forces for either side.
With the onset of winter, the British must be mindful of their supply lines. Cornwallis moves towards Richmond but sticks to the coast, dropping off garrisons in likely American mustering points.
In the north, Tryon considers pushing from Newport to Providence, but the logistics of such a move in the snow prove too daunting. Burgoyne in Gloucester and Howe in Falmouth likewise cannot manage any moves.
Even Washington succumbs to the cold, and the Main Army stalls outside Falmouth, unable to attempt another attack on the port town. All across the Continental Army, leaders fail to rally their troops, but at least everyone is in supplied positions.
Winter Attrition Phase:
All units on the map are in supply.
Economic Collapse Roll:
The British hold 11 ports (Savannah, Charleston, Georgetown, Wilmington, New Berne, Norfolk, Williamsburg, New York City, Newport, Gloucester, and Falmouth) for 22 points of shift. Two more ports were raided (Norwalk, Portsmouth) for 2 more points, yielding a total of 24 points. Divided by five and rounded to the nearest whole number provides a drm of 5.
Collapse dr=6; final collapse dr=11: Full Economic Collapse. British Victory.
The British ability to deploy by sea proved to be a game changer here, particularly given the importance of taking ports. With some good Initiative rolls and successful attacks, ports fell one after the other from New York City north. In the South, the steamroller combo of Clinton and Cornwallis just couldn’t be halted, and because they managed to take key cities in North and South Carolina before they generated their historical recruits, the Americans had little chance below Virginia.
Too, the massive influx of German mercenaries and, in New York City, the Provincial regiments, gave the British Regulars a substantial buffer against losses, not to mention all the firepower they brought to the field.
The collapse of Greene’s Southern Army in Norfolk hurt the Americans significantly, but even if that port counted as raided instead of occupied, the Economic Collapse modifier would have been the same. Indeed, had the roll resulted in Near Economic Collapse instead of Full, the loss of roughly half the American regiments would have spelled doom regardless this early in the game.
Perhaps the American strategy needs to focus on holding the ports other than New York City, allowing Howe and friends to roam free, running when necessary—with cavalry and in American Civilized hexes, most American generals can avoid combat more or less at will. I played the Americans in an highly aggressive posture, hoping to whittle down the Regular steps, initially with some success.
Certainly, my aggressive use of the Americans feels at odds with what little I know of the American Revolution; perhaps that should have been a guide to my play with them, but the slow, steady bleed of British Regular steps in the first ten or so turns made an attritional strategy quite tempting. The lure of bringing the French into play proved perhaps too strong for me.
The game does suggest, through design, that the Americans are better served on the defensive—their combat strength is almost universally halved in attack, after all—but once the British have occupied a port, the invaders have zero incentive to strike out of it in the non-Southern colonies. The Americans perforce must go on the offensive to preserve their economy and to get the French and Spanish into play. Perhaps the British require some form of incentive to attack, some mandatory number of Regular regiments engaged per turn; otherwise, one doesn’t need to have the tactical nous of a Howe or Burgoyne to realize there’s little profit in chasing American regiments inland, away from supply sources.
Total time on my gaming table ran to twenty or so hours of active play, or a little more than an hour per turn—less during the Winter turns, more in the Spring and Summer. I spent a fair bit of time seeking out withdrawals and units for substitutions—a very fiddly affair, this game is.
Further to that end, the massive expanse of wilderness hexes, easily three quarters of the map, did not come into play at all. The sub-game of Native American tribes on both sides fighting each other and the few ambush-capable troops added very little to the overall experience. Aside from some minor skirmishing near Lake Champlain and the Mohawk lands, the ambush rules simply did not feature in the game to any real extent. I respect the desire to provide a sandbox for the entire conflict, but in my experience at least, it’s chrome that failed to shine.
As a solitaire experience, I found much to commend in this (reduced) campaign game of End of Empire. Knowing that Initiative rolls could, and often did, fail, I felt emboldened to try gambits on each side. In particular, trying to figure out how to use Washington occupied me greatly: he has the ability to turn the tide wherever he goes, but there are too many tides to turn at the same time, with the British popping up at will along the coast. Could he have faced down Cornwallis along the River James? Perhaps, but then who keeps Howe at bay up north?
So, this time out, the colonies return to Royal rule after almost three years in revolt, a bit chastened and a bit emboldened. This group of hastily armed and drilled soldiers gave the British Regulars a run for their money, even if the money wound up being pounds sterling instead of dollars.