Thursday, March 20, 2008

Washington’s Ambush

At the end of the week before last, a pile of Old Glory “French and Indian War” stuff arrived for me at the Dragon’s Den. So I quickly painted up some Troupes de la Marine and some Indians to try run a little skirmish using Savage Worlds: Showdown! (with a few new house rules).

Since I’m just starting into the Seven Years War I though; “Why not start with the skirmish that started it all?” So this week’s scenario is based on Washington’s Ambush of Jumonville on 27 May, 1754.

The Battle of Jumonville Glenn, 27 May, 1754


In the early 1750’s the French and English entered into direct competition for control of the Ohio valley. Early in the spring of 1754, a party of Virginians under Major George Washington had been building a fort at the forks of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers to establish their claim to the region. They were evicted by a larger force of Frenchmen, who then continued to build the fort, naming it Fort Duquesne.

For the next month Washington and the Virginians have been building a road through 100 miles of rouge mountainous terrain to open a route to the Monongahela over which they could transport the artillery necessary to take the fort back!

Washington has heard reports that a detachment of French scouts is in the area and has set out from his camp at Grand Meadows to attack them.

7am, 27 may, 1754 – The party of the Virginia Regiment under Major Washington has marched through the night and approaches the French camp at dawn….

The “scouts” are actually a detail escorting Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville. He has been sent by Comandant de Contrecouer from Fort Duquesne to deliver an ultimatum to the first British officer he comes across to “leave in peace!”


The French will deploy in a clearing in the center of the table (in their encampment). Half of the force starts the game shaken (asleep) and may not test to recover until the alarm has been raised. No French figures may even move until the British have been spotted. In fact the French really shouldn’t begin to move off the table until either Jumonville has delivered his ultimatum or the British have fired upon them (but the British really shouldn’t know this lest they use this to their advantage i.e. hold their fire until theyhave them totally surrounded). Jumonville must deliver his ultimatum to Major Washington to do this he must move to within 4” of him and remain there for a turn – this may be delivered in an “intimidating” fashion!

The British and their Indian allies may deploy within 12” of any table edge. As the French sentries aren’t expecting any trouble they are considered “inactive”, therefore the British and Indians need only pass a stealth test on their activation as they move. Failure means someone had made a noise or otherwise stirred the attention of the sentries, who will then become “active”. “Active” sentries may, on their activation, try to spot any groups of British and Indians (this is an opposed notice vs. stealth – modified by cover and pace of those being spotted). If any British or Indians are thus spotted the alarm is raised and the sleeping French may test to recover from being “shaken” on their next activation. If the British or Indians manage to fire on the French before they have been spotted they will have “The Drop” (+4 to hit and damage).

The British forces win if they kill or capture de Jumonville and at least half the French force or twice their own losses (whichever is higher!). If they kill or capture the entire French force with less than five of their own lost this will constitute a Major Victory.

The French can win if they can get three quarters of their number (15) off a friendly table edge. The can claim a major victory if they escape with no losses OR if they can kill or capture a number of British equal to their own losses plus 20…. if they can to that AND kill or capture Major Washington they can claim a STUNNING VICTORY!!!

The British force has been traveling all night and are must pass a vigor test at the beginning of the game or suffer one level of fatigue!


The British

Major George Washington
Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Pace 6, Parry 5, Toughness 6
Fighting d6, Shooting, d8, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Intimidation d6, Knowledge (Battle) d6
Edges: Command,

3x Virginians (9)
Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Pace 6, Parry 5, Toughness 5
Fighting d6, Shooting, d6, Notice d4, Stealth d6, Intimidation d6,
Edges: Formed or Irregular

Indian Allies
Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Pace 6, Parry 6, Toughness 6
Fighting d8, Shooting, d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Intimidation d8, Throwing d6
Edges: Woodsmen,
Hindrances: Bloodthirsty,

The French

Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville
Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Pace 6, Parry 6, Toughness 6
Fighting d8, Shooting, d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Intimidation d8, Knowledge (Battle) d6,
Edges: Command, Woodsman

2x French Troupes de la Marine (10)
Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Pace 6, Parry X, Toughness X
Fighting d6, Shooting, d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6, Intimidation d6,
Edges: Woodsmen


I played Jumonville and the French, and Gary played Major Washington and his party of Virginians and Indian allies.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

The field of battle and the units all set out ready to go – earlier in the day. The French are off to the left, the British to the right.

Whoops… I just realized I forgot to make the British do their vigor roll to see if they were fatigued or not… ah well…

The French set up in their camp. I decided to deploy the French soldiers as irregulars (see the new house rules). I had de Jumonville asleep in this tent, and one group of four in one unit and two groups of three in the other unit still sleeping. The others I imagine were just waking up and brewing up… well… whatever they would have been brewing up for breakfast in the bush in the middle of nowhere in 1754…

We decided that maybe allowing the British to deploy by ANY table edge might be a bit unreasonable so they could instead pick any two adjacent table edges to deploy by. Above you can see the overall dispositions at the start of the game.

The first turn I didn’t even deal anyone in as the French were considered “inactive” and unaware of the approaching enemy. On said first turn however two of the Virginian units failed their stealth rolls activating the French sentries. “Eh Jean-François… did you ‘ere someting…?”

On turn two, one of my French units spotted some of the approaching British and raised the alarm. Unit #1 recovered a couple of their sleepy soldiers and made for cover…

The end of Turn Two.

At the beginning of Turn Three the two units of Virginians in the top right of the picture above fired volleys. The one firing at the three Frenchmen occupying the same woods as themselves missed all nine shots. The other, firing from cover at the four in the open took down three of them – forcing a morale check. The three in the woods thus surrendered to the nearby Virginians. The ones in the woods opposite attempted to surrender to the Indians – but they had that funny gleam in their eye that somehow said they weren’t interested…

The Indians rushed in and killed on of the French soldiers –forcing another morale test, which was failed, and those that had only just recovered were shaken again…

Things looking bad for the French. It was aroudn this time that Gary asked if the bennies couldhave been used on those morale rolls I failed.... DOH!!! Trying to keep track of too manythings here...

End of Turn Three. The second unit of French Soldiers has mostly recovered and made it to cover only to find more Virginian Colonials approaching from the opposite direction (with Major George Washington!). Jumonville has also made a dash for cover in the woods, and abandoned all plans of delivering an ultimatum at this point!

The Indians finished massacring all but one of the remaining French soldiers from Unit #1. Everyone else was just maneuvering about in the bush.

Jumonville and the second unit of French soldiers try to make a run for it!

Gary was having a lot of fun having his Indians attack at a run and fall on my dispersed Frenchmen with Wild Attacks – always outnumbering them… Unit two has been caught by the rampaging Indians (though the two that are down in the foreground were taken down by a volley from the Virginians led by Major Washington – as was the remaining member of the first unit…).

The Indians massacring more Frenchmen.

The noose tightens…

Jumonville is attacked by four Indians – that burned four bennies in an awful hurry!

One Frenchman got away from the Indians and might have made it off… if he hadn’t failed a morale test (brought on by the horrid screams of his comrades being scalped no doubt…) in such close proximity to this pursuing unit of Virginians thus prompting him to surrender a mere two inches from the table edge and FREEDOM!? We thought he might have been the one to escape back to Fort Duquesne and bring the news of the ambush… alas… perhaps he, of one of the other prisoners would escape later… or some of the other that were K.O.ed and left for dead crawled away, wounded, and made it back…

Jumonville took down two of his attackers – one at the end of turn six, the other at the beginning of turn seven…

He certainly didn’t make it back to Fort Duquesne… a rather historical outcome…


Information about the incident is sketchy and contradictory. British sources claim they thought the French were a raiding party and that they fired first. The French claim that the British ambushed Jumonville’s party and killed prisoners, including Jumonville… Who knows…? The encounter did only last a few minutes and ended up with many French dead and wounded including Jumonville. So our little scenario might not be far off…

By March of 1754 the men of the Virginia Regiment were being issued uniforms of red coats and breeches. I don’t have any red-coated figures for skirmishing just yet… So I used what I had. Who’s to say all of them had received their issue anyway?! Previous to March they were required to provide their own clothing so I imagine it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that some of them may very well have been in their civilian clothes.


The game lasted seven turns. I didn't pay too close attention to when we actually started and finished. I think the game ran about two hours... but Gary had never played before so I was sort of teaching him the rules as we went and I was also trying out the new house rules and we stopped to discuss them from time to time and make some changes right there on the spot... It still seemed Fast, Furious and Fun!

Maybe I shouldn’t have made the Indian’s fighting a d8. I wanted them to be better than the Europeans in hand to hand, though… maybe I could have given them Combat Reflexes (+2 recover from shaken…?)

Mid game we modified the surrender distance to 6”, I may further reduce it to 4” or add some sort of spirit test…

I thought the irregulars were kind of weak… but this was an odd scenario… maybe I should try it with two relatively matched opponents with no one having any significant advantage (i.e. neither side are sleeping) before I do too much more tinkering…) Gary decided early on that there was no point to shooting anyone in cover it was easier to just close the distance and go in with the bayonet!

I should also try the house rules out in terrain that is not quite so dense…

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

More painting and sculpting. Next week a Great War naval battle!

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