Wednesday, 28 October 2015

It's In The Cards

I must admit that I am not enamoured with card-driven wargames. I've played Maurice and I found it quite "gamey." Somehow I didn't like the idea of being surprised by a large bog that simply appeared in front of my charging cavalry. If you, good reader, like card-driven games, more power to you. I've expressed my opinion.

With much scepticism, I played Studio Tomahawk's French & Indian War skirmish game, Muskets & Tomahawks. Andy purchased the rules and wanted to play them, so I wished to try them as well. I've been quite satisfied with Iron Ivan's This Very Ground for 18th Century skirmish games, although Andy has expressed some problems with it, mainly on the time scale and activities. So we played.

In short, I'm now a fan. The cards were used for determining which units could move and when with the addition of some "occurrences" which may or may not effect the table-top. Each type of troop - regulars, irregulars, natives, militia, civilians - have abilities and numbers of activities allowed each time their card comes up. However, the number of cards for each type is not equal. In the deck (I'm working from memory here, so please pardon mistakes), there are two cards activating the regular units and each unit can do two activities, like fire, load, move, melee. They can only move when their card is turned or when a special card specifically for officers comes up. Irregulars like rangers or light infantry, get one activity each time their card come up, but they have four card in the deck. They also move faster.

We had a simple attack on an English settlement by French troops and allied First Nations warriors.

The settlement and the fields

The rest of the table.

The British high command - for a skirmish game, that might be as high as a major!

The civilians who were part of my British force.
Andy refereed while Rob and I took the British side while Tyler and Kevin were the French Commanders. Rob was able to make this Saturday gathering of the Hamilton Road Games Group, at least for a while. He had to start work in the middle of the afternoon, but stopped down for a bit now that he live only a few blocks away from the library.

Rob and I both advanced our regulars, elite grenadiers, and light infantry toward the French advance. Our Mohawk party accompanied Rob and the civilians stayed in town to hold the buildings. One of my regular units (12 rank and file with and NCO and one officer) occupied the blockhouse at the edge of town. Kevin and Tyler advanced over the stream and into the line of woods at the edge of the settlement. The fire fight began there.

British regulars cross the plowed field.
All the figures and terrain were from Andy's collection. The fields were either side of the same kind of cloth.

The French-allied Natives come to the edge of the forest.
Another view from Andy's camera

Rob's two sections with his native allies advance.

Tyler's French force including light infantry in red.

Kevin's force moving through the woods.

The light troops made it to the bridge and exchanged fire with my grenadiers.

The two sets of native allies fight while the Grenadier section continues to advance.

... into the teeth of the French light infantry's fire.
Rob was holding his own on the left. My grenadiers and one of my regular sections may have advanced too far and eventually had to fall back on the town in much reduced numbers. 

The French line gives fire. The canoes and their occupants were there for atmosphere and were not really a part of the game.

Rob's civilians occupy a house as a strongpoint.

What was left of the line section - originally 12, one trooper was set off as an officer although he retained his musket and other kit.

The line sergeant and the brevet officer in their final place for the game.

The grenadier took some losses and fell back in good order.

My "ace in the hole" - a section of line troops in the log and stone blockhouse.
The game ended before they could engage in the fight.

The French continue their advance.
The glass beads indicate how many actions (in this case,2) the sections could perform at this card draw.
You picked them up as you performed an action.

A bird's-eye view of Kevin's French advance.
Rob threw back the French's native allies and kept the rest of the French opposing him at arm's length, although he did lose his own native allies and one section of regulars was reduced to two figures.
Tyler's French advancing through the woods.

A view of Rob's British with the NCO to the right and an officer to the left.
Andy supplied all the figures and terrain. Almost all of his figures are RAFM.

The French Light Infantry seemed to like that bridge.

Every unit had a leader representing an NCO or a very junior officer, Quite often a musician was the command representative.

The British Light Infantry - classified as irregulars

 This was our first time to play Muskets & Tomahawks and I don't think it'll be the last. We all found the game quite playable, easy to learn, and fairly realistic. The card draw added tension even though someone who counts cards had a good idea what might be drawn next. We missed a few rules and botched a few things but nothing we can't catch for the next time we play. I'd recommend these rule to you if you wish to play F&I or AWI skirmish. We feel we could adapt these rules for the War of 1812 with minimal change. Layers of complexity can be added by have the game fought in bad weather, with more rough terrain, or using a certain scenario. There are "events" and "side plots" that can be added once you are familiar with the rules.

I actually like these rules better than Iron Ivan's This Very Ground and I like the Iron Ivan product. I feel Disposable Heroes/Coffin for Seven Brothers is a better game than Bolt Action, although I realise that my opinion is only as good as someone else's... and that's a opinion too. Don't let the card intimidate you; try these rules. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


  1. By Jove you are using RAFM minatures! I need to get mine out of storage and do some more games, but need a day off to go get them from my Dads

    1. Indeed we do. Andy collection is mostly RAFM. I have quite a few myself and I`ve just ordered some more! They have a pretty good F&I range.

  2. I've only played M&T twice, they're a clever set of rules and work very well. I like the fact that you're not in control all the time and can't move everything you want to when you want too.

    1. I agree with you, Ray. The player's lack of control leads to some tense moments in the game, but it has a very real feel, if I can use that term.

    2. I agree with you, Ray. The player's lack of control leads to some tense moments in the game, but it has a very real feel, if I can use that term.