GMT 2021 Summer Sale was a great period for me as I was able to acquire multiple fantastic games, some of them as fresh as from 2021. One of the titles I had my eyes on for a long time, was design by Marc Rodriguez and his Bayonets & Tomahawks. In the busy wargamer and blogger calendar the time has come to familiarize myself more with this position – and share some initial session reports and first impressions. Enjoy!

About the Game

But first things first. Let me tell you a little about the game. Bayonets & Tomahawks is a 2-player strategic game focusing on the French & Indian War 1755-1760 – colonial part of European 7-Years War. One player controls the British and the other controls the French and most Indians. Indian diplomacy, raids, constructions, naval operations, sieges: nothing is left out in order to immerse players in the fascinating military asymmetries of the 18th-Century colonial frontier.

So how does it play? B&T is card driven. Interestingly, unlike most card assisted war games player don’t manage a hand of cards. Each player starts the year with one undisclosed reserve Action card picked randomly. At the beginning of each Action round, both players draw a new card. They must then choose one of their 2 cards to play for the current round.

The Action points (AP) on the cards in play determine how many stacks of pieces a player can activate during the current round. In addition the cards trigger events and determine initiative for the next Action round – I really like how the first player in the round was resolved here. Movement is point to point. Pieces can also move via sea zones.

With this short game mechanics introduction let me now jump to Scenario 1.

Scenario 1 – Vaudreuil’s Petite Guerre (1755) – historical background

A closer look at the components

It is important to note that the game have various set-ups, from a very short, 1-turn scenarios to the full campaign. It really allows you to gradually learn it – and I started this exactly that way, playing solo – with my 6 and 8 years sons as “bots”, choosing from closed set of actions presented by Daddy each turn. That proved to be a fantastic mode!

But let us focus now on the 1755 scenario historical background. It is pretty varied and complicated but let me briefly summarize it:

  • Since 1749, the French authorities want to secure the link between their colonies of Canada and Louisiana via the Ohio River. French control of that area is contested by Virginia’s expansion. Tensions escalate, then the famous Jumonville incident, sparks open confrontation between Canada and Virginia. It reverberates to Europe.
  • In the east, Massachusetts builds forts northward along the Kennebec river in Maine to protect its expansion from Canada and its Alnôbak (Abenaki) allies.
  • Acadia and Nova Scotia are entangled in Father Le Loutre’s War since 1749, involving the Mi’kmaq people. Though no war is declared yet with France, the Royal Navy seizes French ships to deprive it of sailors for the war to come.
  • Redcoat regiments are raised and sent to North America to attack New France. Louis XV gets wind of this plan and also sends regiments to Louisbourg and Québec.
  • Previous intercolonial wars saw the Canadians either win or get out of a tight spot. Thus, Canada’s Governor Vaudreuil is confident and relies on the long-standing experience in wilderness warfare of Canadians alongside their numerous indigenous allies.

Does it looks like a barrel of powder ready to be ignited by a single spark? Yes, it is and that is exactly what happened – the crawling conflict quickly escalated, both in America and Europe and involved multiple countries.

Session Report

I am fan of picture-rich session reports and that will be no different. The younger son (Jakub) was leading French & Indian troops while older (Natan) had a tough task of mobilizing the British for inevitable. Let us see how it went!

Above the 1755 scenario set-up. You can enlarge in the new window by clicking on it and evaluate the situation – the numbers 1, 2, 3 are raid and victory points for particular spaces.
The French – historically – start with heavy raids. The whole border goes into flames – for every 8 raid points gained (above we see 5) player gets 1 Victory Point.
The whole year is divided into build-up and campaign turns, split by arrival of reinforcements. Both players decided to place most of the new forces in the North.
That British build-up was not a coincidence – quickly after that the First battle of Chignectou ensues. French manage to repel the attack.
Still, Natan is persistent – he tries again, but his younger brother lands some additional units!
Thus the Second battle of Chignectou ensues. Despite the losses, the French manage to repeal the attack for the second time.
In the Central Theater, British, mainly Colonial Troops, moves forward into Champlain Valley reaching as far as Montreal. There they are severely beaten and almost cut from supplies!
The game ends in French victory – pretty decisive but not overwhelmingly.

Historically, the British succeeded in only one of their numerous objectives. Indigenous and French light units endangered the tenuous British supply lines. A wave of sustained raids devastated British colonial settlements all along the frontier. This is also exactly what happened in our game – it seems the history likes to repeat!

First Impressions

Let me share now the initial impressions about the game:

  • as each good historical wargame, it is very thematic and you immerse yourself into this colonial conflict pretty quickly
  • GMT stands-up to its reputation and the components are top-notch; I especially like the triangle light units – it is hard to explain, but they have the “right feel” being depicted that way
  • it is really suitable for the solitaire play – you can do it alone with the rules suggested by author, or you can play with children as great randomizers 🙂
  • it is great that the game have so many scenarios; I already see how the long, multi-year campaign will play differently in comparison to a short, one-year skirmish
  • one thing you need to wrap your head around and play couple of times before becoming proficient is battle resolution. Each units hits specific adversaries in specific priority order. Just try couple of times and you will learn it.

You might be sure I will be playing more of this game – boys are also very excited about it!