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Bayonets & Tomahawks is a 2-player game, with one side controlling the French and the other the British. It can be adapted for team play as well (up to 2 players per side). The board covers the area from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia ('Isle Royale'), to 'Pays des Illinois' and northern Virginia. It includes wilderness sites, Indian villages and British and French colonies with their settlements. Movement is point-to-point on land. Pieces can also be transported at sea.
Pieces are distinctly shaped for instant recognition: square Brigades (line infantry — the pawns so to speak) and Artillery, triangular Light troops, octagonal Forts and rectangular 'Fleets' (naval squadrons). The French player starts with the most Indian allies in play. There are neutral Indians who will eventually join one side or the other. Hypothetical British and French units have also been added to reinforcement pools (some of the units sent to the West Indies from 1759 onward).
Bayonets & Tomahawks offers scenarios that range from one year duration to the full campaign (5 years). In each, the British player can achieve victory by capturing a set number of key sites by game end (e.g. Louisbourg, Québec, Ohio Forks, etc.). The French can win by preventing this or by knocking out the British colonies with raids in any single year. Each year has eight Action rounds where movement, constructions, and battles take place; and three Logistics rounds where fleets arrive with reinforcements, colonials enlist, pieces return to colonies for winter and reserve supply is drawn.
During play, two kinds of victory points (VPs) are recorded on distinct tracks: Raid VPs and Invasion VPs (key sites captured). Victory is checked at the beginning of each Winter logistics round.
Action tokens drive the game: both players start the year with one reserve action token and draw a new one at the beginning of each Action round. They then secretly bid one of their tokens for the present round. Each supply point (SP) on a token allows one stack of pieces to perform one action: e.g. raid, muster, movement, construction, etc. With a varying number of SP per token, there’s a built in degree of uncertainty for players regarding their capacity to act during each round. They can compensate somewhat with their reserve token. Initiative is based on the token spent the previous round (the more supply a player spends, the lower his initiative value is for the next round). In a round, the player with the initiative performs all his actions first, followed by the other player. Battles normally take place after all actions, but there are some exceptions — notably raids and double SPs!
Each gaming piece is the basic unit for battle. Likewise, each lane connecting 2 sites is the basic avenue for movement. Subtlety is in all the interactions possible. Thus players can focus entirely on strategy instead of adding up numerical values, figuring out odds, checking modifiers, etc.
Brigades and Artillery can move two spaces along main lanes only. Brigades are the only pieces allowed to construct forts and roads. Light troops are the only pieces who can use tracks and perform raids — and they can move one bonus space (three spaces in all). Fleets can transport pieces at sea and lend fire support.
The combat system is non-attritional. It is possible to be victorious without inflicting losses. And sometimes the winner of a battle will suffer higher losses than the loser — as it occasionally happened in that period. For battle resolution, each player gets 1 battle die per piece of his force and the outcome is decided by a single dice roll. Settlements give bonus Militia dice. Each piece uses a specific type of custom dice (green or white), with special icons that determine ‘hits’ (losses) and ‘breakthroughs’ (outmaneuvering, stealth). The player rolling the highest total of ‘hit’/’breakthrough’ results wins the fight. The custom dice reflect the capability of each unit type: for example ‘light’ dice (green) yield more breakthroughs, ‘regular’ dice (white) yield more hits — especially against other brigades — and so on. It takes two hits to eliminate a piece: the first hit flips the piece and the second hit eliminates it. It is removed to the losses box, from whence a portion of the lost pieces may return in subsequent logistics rounds.
Indians alliances (or defections) can be triggered by specific Action tokens if conditions are met. Reinforcements tokens are mixed with pieces to be drawn. They can put in play special units (artillery, light troops), boost colonial reinforcements or cancel some reinforcements.
Taken all together, these mechanics combine to immerse players in what Volko calls "the fascinating military asymmetries of our 18th-Century colonial frontier." If you enjoy this period of history, or if you just want to have fun with a diverse unit mix and interesting game mechanics, Bayonets & Tomahawks will bring you many hours of enjoyment.
Scenario 1 (short): Vaudreuil’s ‘Petite Guerre’ 1755 (1 year)
Description: no war is declared yet, but the British perform sneak attacks on the French at sea and in North America. The meagre forces sent there are unadequate for the over-ambitious quadruple offensive targeting forts Duquesne, Niagara, Beauséjour and Saint-Frédéric. The French could make their life difficult…
Outcome: Historically, the main British force under Braddock was crushed in the wilderness. The offensive on Fort Saint-Frédéric was transformed in a desperate defense of Lake George's South End against a French attack. The Fort Niagara expedition stopped dead in its tracks for fear of French deployment on Lake Ontario. Only the feebly defended Fort Beauséjour fell in Acadia.
Scenario 2 (medium): Loudoun’s Dilemna 1757 (1 year)
Description: at last, the now fully mobilized British army has adequate forces in North America. Collaboration of colonial forces is at a low ebb, though.
Outcome: Historically, Loudoun chose to concentrate almost all his metropolitan forces on the capture of Louisbourg. But unexpectedly, a strong combined French fleet blocked his attempt. Meanwhile, the French with almost 2,000 Indian allies devastated the defenseless British colonies. It culminated in the destruction of fort William Henry.
Scenario 3 (long): Amherst’s Juggernaut 1758-59 (2 years)
Description: Thanks to Pitt subsidies, the British have overwhelming support of the colonial forces. Now, begins a race against time before peace occurs in distant Europe — or their conquests might be returned to France like in the last war. They must do better than General Amherst who let the war drag uselessly in 1760 with enormous cost for the Crown...* The conquest of New France must be completed in 1759.
* author Jonathan R. Dull about the 1760 campaign: “It resembled the end game of a poor chess player bringing every piece into action against an opponent with nothing left but a few pawns rather than moving quickly to checkmate.”
Campaign (longest): The French & Indian War 1755-59 (5 years)
As the FRENCH, you’ve held back the numerous British colonists for over a century with Indian alliances and raids. But it’s not enough anymore…. You must combine wilderness tactics with European-style battle imposed by your enemy. You endeavor with relentless raids to knock the British colonies out of the war. On the other hand, you must delay the British army wherever they attack. And make the best of your scarce reinforcements and navy.
GAME DESIGN: Marc Rodrigue
DEVELOPMENT: Barry Setser