Saturday, 29 October 2022

Guilford Courthouse 1781, with Volley & Bayonet

 A return to Volley & Bayonet with Pete. We're looking at a few different periods for a bi-monthly game, mostly with V&B, but also looking like Crossfire will see an appearance for the WW2 games.

This variant for an AWI game downsizes slightly, in order to do Guilford Courthouse. My chief concern was whether V&B would be flexible enough to give a similar result to historical, in that we would see a British force push to the end of the table, albeit exhausted and withered. That  actually seemed to work well, though we didn't get finished. 

I saw a depleted British force with brigades on the verge of exhaustion by the time they got about halfway, and American militia that had been driven back. 

The Maryland force were still fairly secure at game end - so really, a historical refight with a few tweaks but V&B is more than up for re-fighting a lot of these battles, and I think there is still some real period flavour

The turn sequence, as with most well designed GDW games, the substance is in the turn sequence - and the hex n chit boardgame parentage is there - but it honestly makes for a better game, and the style that gets so over-represented with glossy stylised hardback books with lovely pics, is not required.  With BP, this game would have been a pain in the a**.

That sequence again:

  • COMMAND DETERMINATION - check units in command 
  • MORALE - Both sides test for morale - in contact or at close range - this meant that some militia units even pulled back, or were routed, even before melee
  • COMBAT - both shooting and melee. Use your best troops to your advantage. Here we saw a lot of British charges to contact.
The main changes for the battalion scale vs the original regimental scale are: 200 men per strength point (rather than 500), 4" musket range (rather than 2") and 1"=50 yards (rather than 100 yds). In essence therefore, everything vs scale seen at Brandywine previously, is effectively halved in terms of distance and men and doubled in terms of range. Most of these amendments are available online - at Kieth Mcnally's site and the scenario is based on Dr Jeff Glasco's work.

That sequence has so much elegance in terms of units being 'spooked' even before fighting takes place, devastating musketry and advantage given to charging grenadiers vs weaker units. You find yourself making decisions that a commander in the black powder realm would make; including use of artillery and striving for that stationary troops effectiveness bonus. Put simply, it works.

V&B will never look great on the bookshelf vs those 'great' hardbook books like BP, and I don't care...since the games it gives are accurate, fun, elegant and (key) leave very little room for argument. Most of the things we either discussed or got wrong in early editions have been resolved in the Road to Glory edition (including return fire from destroyed units and units going stationary on turn 'after' disorder).

View from the British start line, include Tarleton's Dragoons on the road

Easy Mel...I said know the real guy? Not that Tavington guy? 

On the British right, where most of the fighting would take place

The British left; quite un-historically this became a firefight at the fence-line. The fisrt shots from the militia.

The British triumphant, on their right, pushing those damned militia back (clearly they have fired the two vollies they promised).

We see militia units rout in the midst of British Guards and highlanders pushing hard to their right, supported by von Bose's Hessians

British fire on the right is devastating

However, one of teh guards units is defeated in melee by militia units, who still have at least one good volley left

Cornwallis himself, as army commander attaches to the 71st highland foot to make a difference

As we ended the game, the British right had lost a unit, and had two brigades reaching exhaustion (Division Exhaustion / DE - under same rules from the army/regiment level game). We reasoned that yes, this would mean that they could drive for the Maryland units at the end of the table and yes, they might even gain a tactical victory, but again, Cornwallis's army would be pretty exhausted. Out conclusions were therefore that V&B works again - for this level of game.

Some rosters:

The American Battlefields Trust's excellent videos on the battle:


  1. Excellent stuff!
    Your miniatures look like they are based for another system (British Grenadier?)
    I assume you have the Jacobite booklets?
    I've wondered if the scales in that are suitable for AWI?
    The units in the book look impressive (2-3 x VnB stands).
    AWI in the south has been on my "to do" list for years.

    1. Hi Neil,
      Aye - they are based on 1.5"x1.5" bases - so I can do a VnB regiment with two bases.
      Yes, I have the Jacobite books - and plan to do those scenarios too - and the AWI mods are based on those (the battalion and wing scales), and available online. Shoot me an email (ducdegobin (at) gmail (dot) com) and I will send you all I have.
      With the 3 scales, we can pretty much do all of the AWI battles. That's a lofty goal, but we're looking at it now.

  2. Super looking game, Darren! Glad you have found rules that work for you in many settings. Some rules go to great lengths to complicate processes unnecessarily. Better (in my opinion) to settle on a set of rules that simply works for you. VnB seems to do that for you.

    I ought to give this battle a try under FoH and see how it goes. First, though, I am thinking Lobositz may be up next.

    1. Thanks Jon. Do count me in if you want to try this online, or for Lobositz.
      VnB definitely works for new players and old hands alike.
      I'm also looking to do a D-Day game with units as battalions, so may be wanting to port parts of FoH for a hex style ww2 game (with supply)

    2. WWII game sounds interesting. I might give that a try too under FoH. For Lobositz, your suggestion is my inspiration. You will get a call to arms when ready.

    3. 'Always ready for the call to arms sir'
      (I've wanted to say that on the blog for so long :) )

  3. A very nice game. I have a strong nostalgic affinity with V&B, when it first came out, I must have read it cover to cover a dozen times, totally captivated by it. Of course in those days, its production standard was above the general run-of-the-mill type rule booklets, it is with modern eyes that it looks quaint. It has exactly the same sort of charm as the medieval rules by Canadian Wargame Group - Flower of Chivalry, another winner :-)

    1. Thanks Norm. We were just saying the same thing during game this morning. We also looked at a variant for VnB for ww2 - now I'm not sure that would work, but it has set me off again on an operational set 'quest', that will suit both D Day and Market Garden (perhaps even elements of Typhoon - the borodino section at least) - where units are battalions. I have thought of upgrading FoB ww2 a step with supply rules. I know there is a variant of Megablitz that I have, but also thinking hex based, with Jon's ideas from FoH will work.

      Aye - i do remember FoC too - fond memories of a unique set with nice card driven mechanic.

  4. It looks like these rules worked well, akways a challenge when refighting a historical action that had a unpredictable outcome....the most extreme example is probably Rorkes Drift! Our group played Guildford Courthouse many years ago, using modified house rules, whereby some British units woukd only fail morale on a 6 and the militia on a 3... and they had to start testing as soon as the British were within musket range. Also, to represent lack of bayonets, American militia and riflemen were at a disadvantage in melee. This allowed a pretty historical result, given the Americans had about twice as many troops on the table AND were defending! The Brits got to the courthouse but we're pretty badly bashed up by the time they got there. We did Bunker Hill and Brandywine too, with sane rules and similar results.

  5. Oh, and meant to add, we also used a lot of the Canadian Wargames Group rules, including doing the full FIW campaign in Habitants and Highlanders....those were great rules with a rather unique firing system I thought was excellent....AND, played lots of one on one games of WWII in both Europe and the Pacific theatres using Cross Fire and 15mm figures...another great system but unfortunately only really works for two players...we tried to expand it but didn't really work as well

    1. Thanks Ross.
      Aye - we talked about Crossfire this morning for two player games, so very excited about that, and I know CWG also did their ww2 set with companies as units, so we're chatting about something there too at a higher level.
      I was surprised with VnB this morning actually; I thought Guilford Courthouse might have broken it, but the nature of defeating the first and partially second line, with British starting to approach exhaustion, meaning that they would have been hollowed out by the time they hit the Maryland regiments, really made me reason that it's a solid system - and very historically elegant - of course, I guess I already knew this.

    2. Oh yes, CWG WWII.....our host Jukian was pretty keen on those too but no one else who played ever liked them...the scale was to abstracted for my liking, three tanks representing a battalion and likewise for infantry....we did some Italian and Cretan games but I didn't really enjoy them and a couple of others flat out refused to play them after a couple of exposures! As with anything, it depends what level/scale of battle and command you are looking for....those rules were too far from the battlefield, for my liking! Crossfire, on the other hand, are probably my favourite WWII set.

  6. Somewhere I have a set of ideas from Cheltnam wargames club who had worked on a set that combined Megablitz with VnB. I'll see if I can find them.
    Personally I'm still holding out for Frank Chadwick's Breakthrough rules which are supposedly going to be a Kickstarter (been waiting years - still playtesting).


    1. That would be superb Neil , if you have them. The ww2 chat started with VnB, so if someone has done that work, it would be very interesting to see. Thanks.
      Yes, I had heard of these last year - will be very interesting to see what happens with Breakthrough.

    2. Darren,
      Email sent hopefully you will be able to open the core rules. Andy Nicoll had a long explanation of how they developed the rules what worked and games they had run. Alas my electronic copy is either corrupted or won't open with my word processing package. I only have a barely legible print out that's not even fit for scanning. The best I can do is summarise contents. Email me with reply when you get the rules.

    3. Received with thanks and replied Neil. Thanks again - they look VERY interesting.

    4. I've found the link with the rules, explanation and Kasserine campaign and emailed it to you.

  7. Ooh! This has been on my to do list for years. Nice looking set-up. How do you treat the areas with widely spaced trees? Is that broken terrain?
    My go to set for the AWI is Loose Files but I'm not sure that will do an action of this size, nor do I have the numbers of figures for that using Loose files. But maybe I do for battalion V&B.

    1. Battalion V&B worked really well for this. I think the presence of a minimum no. of figures is not the issue that it was for younger me, as V&B never ceases to give a good game.
      To at least 'recognise' the presence of the light woods, we made provision such that infantry moving half movement would be ok, and subject to normal rules; if they moved over half movement, they would get a disorder. This worked very well.
      For cavalry (dragoons) - any time they moved, they were disordered - which again worked well, but made them effectively redundant.

    2. Thanks Darren. I’ll see if I can find a copy of V&B.

  8. Excellent looking game (even with paltry 6 figure Bttns !), must give Road To Glory a read through to see what has changed, I confess I found original V&B rather me'h but that was eons ago and tastes/brain power do change.
    Re WW2 once I got above level of Cmd Decision/Spearhead (eg Rommel) I found games to became an 'abstraction too far' and gravitated to board wargames for such.
    CWG WW2 rules again just too abstract/pain to use but the scns are enticing (I converted one for use with FOB WW2 if you recall ?).

    1. Honestly, the small figure units matter little to me any more - since the battalions are deployed in brigade size due to command radius, so there is minimum, sometimes zero distance, between units.
      Also, I'm working on 54mm Napoleonics on 3" x 3" bases, so even figure size is mattering less and less with this type of game, for me.
      That said, and even for the larger scaleWW2, there are a lot of boardgame mechanisms at work here. To be honest, and considering the degree of complexity in some modern wargame rules, and the flat out arguments that they cause, I'm more than happy to see boardgame (especially GDW boardgame) design mechanisms at work in these rules.
      Just watching an interview with Frank Chadwick (and the sadly passed Greg Novak would design along similar lines, I think), his design chops all originate with hex'n'chit boardgames in the 70s.
      I think we definitely see that in V&B - but it's to its infinite credit, and makes for a smoother experience AND large battles. Does it also mean that game design was more elegant, at least in terms of boardgames vs tabletop, back in the day than it is now? I think so , yes.
      Even little things like no difference between commanders, tends to annoy some wargamers, but at the end of the day, makes for a smoother game.
      It works for me, as my opponent is completely new to this. I still maintain V&B would make a very nice group game.

      Yes - I remember the CWG Canadian scenario vividly - now speaking of elegant game design - FoBWW2 has it in spades.
      I do have scenarios for Carentan, Sword Beach, Crete, Malta (fictional) planned for it...after the success of Arnhem during lockdown. Also using the Paratroop supplement, I would reckon that the 3 Market Garden games from that book, with linked days in the campaign, would make excellent FoBWW2 scenarios.

  9. It's really a question of aesthetics as to whether you accept a battalion of 2, 4, 6, 24 or 36 figures; it all becomes a question of suspension of disbelief when the real thing comprised several hundred men......
    I've seen all the arguments about larger figure units being "more realistic" or allowing a more realistic "representation " of tactics.....
    Personally, I think it's more about overcoming traditional preconceptions of what constitutes a unit. More depends on the level of game you're representing.
    While people have a preference for units which have enough figures to split into a number of sub-units, such as companies, that's rather irrelevant unless playing a game where such sub-units functioned independently in real life.
    Then it becomes a question of what you want by way of figures to represent these units or sub-units. After all, are two figures less representative of 600 men than 12? Is it more realistic to have 2 figures on a single stand or 12 individually mounted miniatures?

    1. Frank Chadwick is a big advocate of 54mm figures, and I have to say, I am looking forward to getting Quatre Bras and Raab on the table in 54mm.
      Traditional preconceptions are the issue as you say Neil.
      I love the chunky 54mm, but traditional wargaming says no!!!
      V&B breaks that mould and enables figures at any scale to suit a base that represents a brigade.
      Wargaming needed that refreshing change in the 90s, just as much as it needs it now.