Sunday 14 April 2024

Victory or Death! Wargaming the American Revolution

‘Victory or Death, a Wargamer’s Guide to the American Revolution, 1775-1782’ by David Bonk is the latest in Helion’s growing ‘Helion Wargames’ series. 

The author’s enthusiasm and fascination with the American Revolution is clearly apparent when reading this comprehensive study of the war. He provides us with his raison d’etre for wargaming this conflict. There then follows a detailed strategic overview of the war. Interestingly the war in the West Indies is covered in a separate chapter but this does provide us with a succinct narrative of actions in that theatre, the importance of which to the British is often neglected.

Mr Bonk then gives a comprehensive breakdown of each of the ‘armies’ involved in the war; not only the Continentals and British, but also American state militias, Loyalists, the French, the various German auxiliaries and Native Americans. Included are, for example, sections on organisation and training, recruitment, muster rolls, orders of battle and uniforms. This section takes up half of the book and contains a significant amount of detail so loved by the wargaming fraternity. It is followed by chapters on weaponry used during the war and on the critically important aspect of the Revolution, the war at sea.

The most fascinating section for me is the chapter entitled ‘Strategic Overview and Choices Not Taken’. It addresses the strategic options considered and plans adopted by the British and American leadership, including the ‘guidance’ or interference of the British government and Congress. This disjointed approach, in particular the lack of coordination between the British army and the Royal Navy, was to surrender a major strategic advantage. The chapter takes a detailed look at plans and campaigns for each year of the conflict, with a series of tantalising questions raised about a range of ‘what ifs’.  Would adoption of these ideas have had an impact on the war? From a gamer’s perspective there is sufficient here to provide some interesting campaign and tabletop scenarios.

No wargames guide would be complete without a look at the vast range of miniatures available in every scale from 6mm to 60mm. If you are wanting to build forces for this war then you are spoilt for choice. This section also looks at sources for flags and, makes some suggestions for choosing a suitable set of rules, for either pitched battles or small scale skirmishes.  The chapter concludes with a discussion on the terrain fought over and how best to represent it.

The book concludes with several scenarios, which capture the flavour and scope of actions fought throughout the war. These are clearly presented in a generic way so as to make them easily adaptable to the players’ chosen rule set. The scenarios come complete with detailed orders of battle and maps.

The entire book is filled with a very large number of lovely colour photographs of troops (largely Sash and Sabre and Old Glory) in action on the tabletop. These photos give a good representation of the many and varied troop types and also the incredibly varied terrain being fought over and will no doubt inspire many readers to take up this period. Additional colour maps at the beginning of the book help the reader with the locations of major and minor battles, together with the number of men under arms in each state.

Overall this is a fascinating and absorbing book with plenty to offer anyone that is interested in wargaming the American Revolution. I used to own large collections for this war but they are long gone; however, is there an itch to scratch to replace them…….? Not a chance.

ISBN 978-1-804513-57-6   Softback, 213 pages 

1 comment:

  1. I would not bet against you restarting the AWI though😉