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Our Moccasins Trickled Blood
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Our Moccasins Trickled Blood

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Tactical skirmish rules for gaming the struggle for the Old Northwest, 1790-1795.  Each figure represents fifteen men.  Written for 28mm figures, be can be adapted for other scales.  

Our Moccasins Trickled Blood: Rules for Gaming the Struggle for the <st1:place>Old
Northwest</st1:place> 1790-1795

Rules Review

Reviewed by Rich Barbuto Rules by By Darryl R. Smith

 For the most part, small battles in the War of 1812 were fought by company-sized or battalion-sized units. Troop types varied - regulars, fencibles, volunteers, militia, Indians - all with varying levels of morale, training, and experience. I have been struggling to devise a satisfactory set of home-grown rules. I wanted to play with singly-mounted large 25mm figures in scales of 1 to ten or 1 to 20. Therefore I immediately noted Darryl Smith’s rules (hereafter referred to by the acronym OMTB) in issue 114 of Midwest Wargamer’s Association Newsletter. After a few battles, I was very pleased. Not that there was no room for modification, but OMTB was a solid set of rules to base changes upon. OMTB starts with a scale of one miniature to 15 men, one inch to 15 yards, and one turn to represent ten minutes of real time. Because of the period OMTB simulates, troop types are American regular infantry and cavalry, American militia infantry and cavalry, British regular infantry, Canadian militia, Indians, and artillery. I play the game with single companies (4 to 7 figures) or small battalions (15 to 30 figures). I don’t see any problem with splitting up units during the game although I didn’t try it. “Major Black, take Smith’s and Jones’s companies and clear the woods of the enemy while I attack across the field with the rest of the regiment.” OMTB describes five formations with movement distances cross-referenced for the type of troop and the formation it is in. For example, Indians can only use two formations: Skirmish and Mass, but move pretty darn quickly compared to other troop types. Militia move slowest. There are the usual increments (charging) and decrements (crossing nasty terrain) which are easy to apply. The rules make the necessary distinction between thicket and open woods which effects both movement speed and visibility. At the start of each turn, each unit rolls for the number of “operations” it can perform that turn, ranging from one to three. Indians and regulars are weighted to get three operations more frequently than militia. During its turn, the unit expends its allocation of operations on firing, reloading, moving, changing facing or formation, and reforming or rallying. In my games, it was all but impossible to coordinate an attack. The separate units moved at varying speeds because of differences in formation, speed, terrain, and number of operations. In this regard, it matched quite well the actual conduct of battles during the period. 


Firing is done differently than I do in my home grown rules. I prefer counting up the firers, rolling a single die, and modifying the roll. Then I refer to a single chart for the results. OMTB resolves firing differently.  First, categorize the target by one of five types (ranging from troops in the open to troops behind earthworks). Then roll a single twenty-sided die for each firer. Refer to a single chart which cross-references target type with firer troop type to determine casualties. British infantry fires most effectively while Indians and militia with muskets fire the least well. There are some anomalies that give me pause. Interestingly, rifle fire is no more accurate than musket fire, it merely has a 50% range increase. In a similar vein, artillery canister from two guns has roughly the same effectiveness and range as fifteen regulars with muskets. The good news is that the firing charts can easily be modified to give the results the gamer thinks are appropriate. 


Morale is fairly simple to use and calculate. Roll for morale whenever fired at by artillery, taking a casualty from small arms, or initiating or receiving a charge. Each unit starts with a base rating and then modifies it based on the usual factors. Indians fighting formed troops are at a disadvantage in morale. I’d give similar disadvantages to militia without bayonets coming into contact with any troops with bayonets. In the early days of the War of 1812, the threat of contact with Indians was a real demoralizer for American units, both regular and militia, and you might consider reflecting this by subtracting one point when attacked by Indians. I would assign morale base ratings based upon levels of training or experience as well as basic troop type. American regulars recruited immediately before or in the early days of the war were notoriously poorly trained, largely because their junior officers had so little training themselves. Companies of raw recruits marched to the front were hardly better than volunteers or militia. In my armies, American recruits wear the white linen “summer” uniform while experienced companies, even in the same regiment, wear blue (or other colored) wool coats. The rules give three possible outcomes to a failed morale roll all of which move the loser back and leave him in varying formations and morale states. 


The OMTB melee rules probably need the most clarification. Melee is done figure to figure, no figure having to fight more than two enemy. There is always a winner in a melee even if you need to go two rounds. This isn’t apparent in the rules but an email to Darryl Smith helped me sort it out. The loser is penalized in accordance with the morale outcomes which are pretty easy to use. The problem I had in melee was trying to figure out just how many figures are in contact in the clash. As stated before, no figure has to fight more than two enemy. And for the most part, only the front two ranks participate. So what happens when a column strikes a line? Does only the front of the column fight? If so, it is outnumbered by the enemy in line. Since a turn represents ten minutes, isn’t it likely that the entire battalion can get into contact regardless of formation? Well, you may want to do what I did. I drew graphics of the possible melee contests: column vs. line, open order vs. line, skirmish vs. open order etc. etc. Then I circled the pairings of figures that would fight the melee in each combination. It works for me and gives me a consistent way of doing the hand-to-hand clash. The rules give varying levels of visibility in thickets and open woods. Likewise, a moving unit can be “spotted” before a stationary unit. These variances make possible ambushes. Now, in solo wargaming, there are several methodologies of keeping an ambush “unknown” until it is sprung. In two-player games, it is less easy to do. I’ll leave it to the gamers themselves to sort out the mechanics. What OMTB does is to pretty much ensure that the ambusher gets first fire on the ambushee. There is some records keeping. Units can suffer permanent changes to their morale base rating. Likewise, you may end a turn with a unit unloaded and you need to track that. Some units are disordered, others routed. I’m using bits of paper now but I want to use some kind of 3-dimensional model that looks like battle debris or something to drop alongside the unit.


Overall, OMTB is a fine set of rules and I plan to cease my efforts at perfecting home-grown rules for the time being. They are fast, easy to learn, easy to use, and give pretty good resolution to each engagement. 

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