Thursday, February 26, 2015

The next generation

Every year, the tabletop simulation I run with my Military History class (open only to seniors) is listed as one of the high points of the class.  This year, to get the most out of the simulations, I moved the course to the spring semester, where there is less pressure to be hardcore academic. I also built the body of the course around case studies in which we watch a film, do some primary and secondary source readings, and then play a simulation. So, after we are done with Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Marlantes, it's off to the games! After we're done with the American Revolution, it's off to the Napoleonic Wars and Rorke's Drift.  Guess what films were watching for each unit!

Because our school has a historical connection with the Battle of Germantown (the original building is represented by the white clapboard church on the table below), we fight that battle every year.

Team America.  This is the first year I'm happy with the tabletop setup. I compressed the east-west dimensions and broke up the fields around Germantown with hedges which channeled action around Germantown Pike.

Team King.  With an all-male class there was a (slight) increase in the amount of smack talk between the two sides.  We used a slightly modified version of Black Powder, as it is quick to teach and it is easy to fit two turns into a single class session.

The view from the Wissahickon Valley.  The Hessians began in a strong position along the creek but rashly advanced against the Pennsylvania militia.

The Chew House held out valiantly for a few turns, but it was not the stronghold that it was historically.  A valiant charge ordered by Washington cleared the light infantry out of their nest.

As is common among beginning players, both sides wanted to get into the fight as soon as possible. The Continental militia rushed forward without support, while the British army rushed forward, abandoning their formed lines in Germantown.
The fall of the Chew House was a triumph for the Continentals, but the main column took a long time to get reorganized and only reached the main battle in the final few turns.

The main battle took place on the northern outskirts of Germantown.  Greene's units eventually reinforced the militia, and the British found the Americans were made of sterner stuff than they had experienced in New York or Brandywine.

Armstrong's Pennsylvania rifles used their long range fire to maximum effect against the headstrong Hessians.  Poor Knyphausen would send a unit over the hill, only to have it pulped by massed firepower.  While the British eventually regrouped and fought the Continental army to a standstill, the Americans could take pride that they had done better than Washington had done historically.
Earlier in the week, out class had a visit from fellow TMP'er Eric Turner, who shared stories about life in the Continental army.  He freaked out a few students walking across campus when he fired off a few rounds. here, he is showing off his impressive Levitating Musket trick.