Sunday, 14 December 2014

Convict Rebellion

There aren't many battles in Australia which can be converted into playable games, so I was quite please when, browsing through Wargames Downloads, I came across Vinegar Hill. This is a game covering the skirmish which ended a convict rebellion in 1804. The convicts almost seemed to have pulled off a successful rebellion, hindered by issues with communication and a coup de main where their leaders were pretty much arrested during a parley. The skirmish seems to have been a pretty foregone conclusion after that; Government troops fired on the rebels who broke and fled.

Wikipedia has an article:

Castle Hill Convict Rebellion

(At the time of writing it looks like someone with strong pro-Irish sentiments has peppered the article with commentary. But that may be gone by the time you read it.)

The game covers the skirmish. One side is the Government, with a force of musket-armed troops. The other is the rebels, who have a few guns, but the bulk of whose troops are described as Spears (although Any Weapon We Can Lay Our Hands On seems most likely).

As you can imagine the balance is suspect, but there's a victory condition of sorts where the rebels can win a moral victory by achieving certain things before their force breaks and flees.

Anyway, I printed off the game and set it up this morning.

Here it is.

The game has a bizarre turn sequence, which seems to be Side A Fire-Side A Move-Side B Fire-Side B Move, but with a couple of non-player specific melee phases thrown in as well. I can live with that.

Unfortunately the rest of the rules don't seem to work. Movement is OK, with units limited in manuever, but not too much. Facing is important, so covering flanks and so forth is worth doing. Fire combat has an OK mechanism, but breaks down because the numbers make it very difficult - I would go as far as to say impossible in the case of the rebels - to inflict any real damage on the other side. Government troops may be able to do damage if they seriously concentrate their fire, but with only two firearm equipped units on their side the rebels have a tough job making any impact on enemy units.

The melee system is a basic odds system, but only the attacker rolls, possibly inflicting a rout or retreat on the defender. However the rules don't state how attacker and defender are determined in melee. There's an order, but since that's 'top of map to bottom, and left to right', and no indication is given as to which edge of the map is the top, it's not much help. The order implies that melee is resolved hex by hex, but another statement refers to them being resolved by unit cluster, and it seems to be assumed that units from different hexes can attack one target hex.

I gave up after a few turns, because I just couldn't be doing with trying to work how how I was supposed to play the game.

I suspect that, one day, I might have a go at putting some workable mechanisms to this game. And the counters kind of act as an order of battle for trying it with other games - a simple square-grid Battle Cry type of game would serve for example. But for now I think this game is going into storage, Although I do have it to thank for introducing me to a small part of my new home country's history.

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