Thursday, 23 October 2014

Teaching at Grimsby

Last Saturday, Andy, Martin, Beth, and I journeyed to Grimsby, ON, to take part in a unique situation. We were asked to come and put on an 1812-themed wargame at the Grimsby Public Library/Art Gallery. We were there with four other gamesmasters to present a unique opportunity to learn about that portion of the nation's history.

Wayne Kerr presented "Lords of the Lake", a Great Lakes sailing ship game using an adaptation of the well-known Wooden Ships and Iron Men rules. Stephen Arthurs, who invited us to this shindig, set up the Battle of Baltimore on a groaning table full of figures, buildings, and sailing ships in 15mm using an adaptation of the old classic, Fire and Steel. Brian Hearnden showed us the Battle of Chippawa using British Grenadier rules. Dan Abbot's table laid out the Battle of Queenston Heights with a home-made set of rules. Our crowd ran "Once Upon a Time in Western Upper Canada", a patrol/skirmish game using our adaptation of Iron Ivan's This Very Ground. Andy and Martin played the first game with some of the locals and Martin and Beth played the second game. I gamesmastered both times. (All photos courtesy of Beth and Andy.)

Although I had prepared patrols for up to ten people, we had four for our first game. Each unit had an NCO and ten or eleven men, as well as a distinct mission to accomplish. Rather than confusing things with various morale values, I made all the troops regulars. The encounters with wild things could cause you to be pinned if your courage failed, but very little would attack you... unless you encountered humans or you did something dumb like shoot at the bear or moose. There were also surprises hidden on the board. As it turned out, one of the players was able to achieve his mission and with that won the morning game.

Our games were a part of this museum show about the War of 1812, which included paintings, dioramas, and photos.

The patrols await deployment - 5 Crown and 5 US

The table - All the green felt was considered light woods. The areas covered by the smaller felt patches were heavy woods and the areas bordered by the blue yarn were declared to be open stretches and clearings. It made for a congested table... as it should be for 1812 patrols!

Martin's troops advance up the road in search of supplies. Andy's enter to map the southeast quadrant of the board. The other player was to take and hold the bridge. He ran into the native warband in the clearing near the forest. The issue was the natives spoke no English! I said he had to make his message clear through interpretive modern dance; the look on his face made the day. Still he had to communicate with gestures. He did alright; the warriors recognised him as an ally!

A different angle.

Andy's patrol encounters beef-on-the-hoof.

Martin's patrol met an officer of Royal Engineers who commandeered the unit to search for a ford in the stream. Some of his troops were engaged in collecting honey from the encountered bee hives so his cart was not taken by the Engineer.

Action at the bridge!

A wider view. Andy's troops are in the linen summer jacket of the US forces which makes for distinctive unit.

Half of the Crown forces were on either side of the bridge, but Andy came at them with the bayonet and took the bridge before we broke for lunch.

One view of one of the "surprises." The US Rifles patrol - whose mission was to disperse or destroy the native warband - came out of the tavern (after imbibing) and encountered... well, you can see what  was there. The Redcoats were waiting as well and both sides were a bit stunned by the appearance of the TARDIS. It was a "just for fun" addition with no bearing on the game except to laugh!

Another view of the same encounter.

Wayne's battle on the Lakes goes on.

This was his educational display. There was a lot of fighting on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, mostly with small ship flotillas.

Stephen's assault on Baltimore was quite colourful. It included ships, amphibious landings, and a load of US Artillery.

Baltimore harbour was well defended.

... and a centre of commerce as well as a haven for privateers!

The Royal Navy advances!

Away boats! (The box-like affair is a periscope for seeing things at figure-eye level.)

There were American artillery emplacements all over the board!

Brian's game of the Battle of Chippewa was enticing. My biggest problem in gamesmastering is not being able to see or play other games!

The British line prepares to advance.

That's a big cannon. If I recall correctly, some of the British guns at that battle were 18-pounders and larger.

The American line, light dragoons, and militia/volunteers surge forward.

The native allies in the woods. The tribes were so appalled by the slaughter at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane that some declared their neutrality following the battles.

"By God, those are regulars!"

A view of Dan's Queenston Heights offering. The Canadian militia was to delay the US advance long enough for the British regulars to arrive.

Quite some advance! From this angle, it looks like a flood!

Our game and Wayne's were set up in the library entry way and the others were in the museum proper.

In the afternoon game on our table, Beth led the Upper Canada Incorporated Militia (rated as regulars for ease of play) on a hunt for provisions. They first went to the tavern.

Meanwhile, our most intrepid captain, Jordan, led the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles on a search for the native warband. She did a fine job and actually succeeded in her mission, using sign language to get the warband to join her troops. She really seemed to enjoy herself. By the way, Bigfoot made an appearance in this game rather than Doctor Who or Yoda, who was also available.

While Beth was going in the back door of the tavern, Martin was leading his US patrol in the front door. The building was large enough that Beth really did not see his troops approaching! She won the fight and captured two US soldiers, which she and Martin promptly declared to be Kevin and myself! (Kevin wished to come but was unable to due to family obligations.)

In the left foreground, the prisoners are marched off.
The day was fun and I hope the library/art gallery staff felt the same. My thanks to Stephen for inviting us and to all those who played our games. It was a unique way to learn about the history of the area.


  1. Those are great looking games. Nice to see the War of 1812 getting some public recognition.

  2. Thanks, Matt. There's a lot of interest in the War of 1812 around here especially since a huge chunk of it was fought on this ground! I also wish I could have spent more time looking at the other games.

  3. I hope this will be run again in 2016?

  4. I enjoyed running / participating the Chippawa game last year. Anyone know if this event will be on again in this October 2015?

    1. I don't know, Brian. I haven't heard anything from the library staff or organizers as yet.