Bayonets and Tomahawks – Burning Hay is the Scent of Victory!
“My friend, I have a bad feeling something bad is about to happen.” “Nonsense George, there’s no enemy within hundreds of miles of Wills Creek, Virginia.” Famous first words for the beginning of a game of Bayonets and Tomahawks as the British player. As the war begins, the British western frontier is woefully undermanned and it is the wise and savvy French that start the first two turns off with a massive raiding campaign to put the British firmly on the defense from the get-go.
One of the ways that French can win the game of B&T is to unleash a vicious campaign of Raiding all along the western frontier. They will have to achieve 18 points of successful raids which is challenging to pull off, but certainly a mission possible. Let’s consult the map to get a full picture of the impending rampage. Here’s a picture of the start before the frontier becomes militarized, in particular around Wills Creek.
A few details to set the table – each area with a Crown (in this picture) or Lily (for British Raids) can be Raided. The areas with numbers will generate that many Raid VPs if successful and those areas without numbers generate just one VP with success. There’s more incentive to Raid Winchester at 3 VPs than to Raid Rays Town for 1 VP. Wills Creek is worth 2 VPs and currently covered up by Washington.
For a successful raid, a Light unit (triangle shaped) has to move no more than 3 spaces to a crown area, and roll a die. The dice in this game are special and generate two types of result: hit (splatter symbol) or breakthrough (flag symbol). Simply, the raiding piece must roll a breakthrough or hit while the defenders fail to roll any. There’s a 2 in 3 chance of getting a hit in an area that without defenders. Initially, only Wills Creek is defended with a light unit, and there are no real British reinforcements forthcoming on the 1st turn except for one brigade sitting just off the screen in New York. Turn 2 there can be upwards of 5 British regulars coming to reinforce the frontier, but they may not quite make the front. It is not until turn three that the Provincial troops will arrive to help defend and the British can turn to working on fortifications to further beef things up.
When there are defenders in an area, the Light troops each roll for a hit or breakthrough, all Regulars roll one die total, and any fort lessens the raiders chances for success from 4 in 6 to 3 in 6. If the defenders even roll one hit, the raiders fail. It’s easy to see that the window for raiding starts to get pulled down on turn 2 and is just barely open from turn 3 onwards. The French have a few turns to make (er burn) some hay.
Here’s a picture showing some of the action tokens the French could pull – they get one French token and one Indian token per turn. Technically, they start off with 2 French tokens and can select one to start things off (they don’t have a choice for Indian token — they just play the one they draw). Only light (triangle) SP can be used for raiding. The early initiative favors the French. Remember that stack in Ohio with 2 French light and one Indian piece? The 2 icon French Action Token can activate two units for a Raid, and an Indian Icon can activate an Indian unit for a Raid. That’s a potential of 4 pts right off the bat without trying to sneak by Washington at Wills Creek.
Two Actions can come into play in the early raiding game, the first being the obvious one where you just send forth raiders from Ohio. You have 3 shots to get that 4 in 6 hit against Carlisle, and then could follow up with a shot into Rays Town. Not a heavy math guy, but that seems like decent odds to start off with for a few VPS. Important point to note about Raid successes – if an area has been successfully raided in a year, it cannot be raided a second time; you’ll have to Raid another area. If you are raiding with an Indian unit then you go home for the rest of the year with plunder and captives with a successful Raid — this gives a cornelian choice for the French to use Indians in raids. Also, you could raid against Wills Creek, but the defender (Washington) gets a shot back. If he rolls a hit (currently 4 in 6 chance), then your raiders cannot succeed as they have to roll hit or breakthrough while the defender doesn’t. The odds certainly favor the defender on this venture: raider and defender have an equal chance of success but a tie means the defender wins. There’s 2 militia points on Wills Creek (same number as the site’s VP value), but militia don’t give any defense dice against Raids. If regular units (e.g. brigades) are present on a site a site, they give a total of only one defense die because a raid is a surgical localized attack: not all regular units in the area can contribute. Contrarily, light units have the knack for intercepting their own kind so it would be an unwise venture to raid against a site with two or more light units! They see you coming and have the mobility to come after you and stop the Raid.
So what’s the 2nd strategy a French player can do? Why, they could Marshall to gather more forces prior to any raiding on turn 2. You’ll need a square icon on the Action Token to Marshall. Raids must be the initial action of a turn, so Marshalls cannot take place prior to turn one raids. A Marshall will allow the French to choose a stack (or single piece) on a space (say the Ohio Indian on Kittaning), then any piece within 3 moves can assemble there into one force nearer the target sites. For the Indians, only pieces from the same tribe can Marshall. This is true if an Indian unit makes the Marshall, such as in this example. That’s one approach to gathering units prior to making Raids.
A more powerful move (and close to the BnT version of a DeathStar (or more like a RaidStar) would be to move the stack of Light troops from Fourches de l’Ohio to Franks Town while picking up the Indian in Kittaning along the way setting up access to 12 VPs of Raids on Turn 2 and 3. The French only need 18 Raid VPs to win, so finishing up Turn 3 with 12 VPs will really force the British to man the frontiers to prevent more Raids or risk losing the game.
If the French can flood the frontier on turn one, then turn their focus to areas the British cannot get defended on turn 2, they should have created quite the haze out west. Remember also that the player with the highest value on their Action token will get first play in the next turn, so the French really need to go with the biggest tokens they can early on [Designer’s note: the largest tokens are added to their draw pile at the “Colonials enlist” round. This insures that these big tokens are not wasted when there are too few troops in rounds 1 and 2 (as happened often during playtests before that rule was introduced)]. If the British get initiative, they can fortify the un-raided settled areas prior to the French move and make it much harder for the flaming waves of grain to spread far. It does takes 2 rounds for a brigade to build a fort: giving the French a little more time to continue their raid campaign beyond turn 3.
There’s a bit of play to be had up North as well, but there’s a bit more payoff down South at the start [Designer’s Note: The colony of New England is ripe with undefended targets as well: Northfield is a big issue for the British each game!]. If the British focus down South to start building defenses, then the raids can go up North. Anything up North requires at least two SP plays though as no raiders start within 3 moves of a valid space. There would have to be a move to Goasek and then subsequent raids from there [Designer’s Note: Often, a French light SP is used to position a stack of Indian and French light at Goasek. Afterwards it’s a festival of raids from there.]
Further north, the prospects lessen and there is a serious chance the British could make a play for the fort defended by Langis in Chignectou. Probably not going to be much raiding going on up north, but an enterprising French player could mount a distraction and nab a point or two in raids against Taconnet and St. George.
This discussion was not intended to be the authoritative manual on early war French raids, but more to put an idea into player’s heads about the early actions that can unfold in a game of Bayonets and Tomahawks. There may also be further changes to the system if playtesting shows the Raids to be too powerful, or not powerful enough. In further articles, may have to offer some ideas for the British to defend against these initial war raids. Until then, give thought to the idea of “Brûler tôt, brûler souvent » – burn early, burn often.
[Designer’s Note: The “Washington” light piece – Washington was not a rangers or light troops officer. But he was the most experienced officer in the Ohio wilderness, having surveyed the area and seen action twice in 1754. In 1755 he was at the head of all Virginia rangers companies in Braddocks’ forces and these troops held their ground much better than the totally inexperienced British.]