First Game in Virginia – Battle of Cowpens

I was able to get out for my first game here in Virginia.  I journeyed up I-81 to Your Hobby Place in Martinsburg, where store owner Dave was putting on a scenario of the Battle of Cowpens during the American War of Independence.  I’ve always found the AWI interesting, so was more than happy to be able to make the game.  The group there is using the Black Powder rules.

Dave had the forces deployed historically, but except for a few scenario limitations, we were free to fight the battle from that point on.  The Colonials were deployed in three lines, with the skirmishers out front, two regiments of  militia in the second line, and with the Continental regulars and experienced Virginia militia on the hill with the Colonial cavalry behind.  The British marched onto the board in two lines with the British Legion and the British regulars in front with the 17th Dragoons on the flanks of the line and a pair of unlimbered guns .  The second line consisted of the Highlander infantry and the British Legion cavalry.  The Colonials had a number of officers, including the very competent Daniel Morgan.  The British on the other hand, had only one officer capable of issuing orders – Banastre Tarleton.  This was to represent both the single-mindedness of Tarleton as well as the effects of the sharpshooters on the British officer corp (which suffered 40% casualties in the fight).

With little command and control capability, the British opted for a general advance.  Our efforts to come to grips with the enemy early were hampered by mediocre command rolls early on, which left our units in front of the sharpshooters too long and caused us to suck up some additional casualties.  One of the units of British regulars was staggered with excessive hits and recoiled.  Without adequate command capability, we were never really able to get them back into the the fray.  Eventually we were able to close the range and execute a charge against the two units of militia, with the Legion cavalry on one side and the legion infantry and a unit of regulars against the other militia unit.  Both militia units took heavy casualties and would rout… but not without a fight.  The British regulars took a couple of hits and reached their stamina point, requiring morale tests for all further casualties.  Against the Legion infantry, the militia threw 4 sixes on 4 dice,  pushing them to their stamina point as well.   It didn’t happen in the same way as the historical battle, but the outcome was the same – after dealing with the militia the British line was shot up, disordered, and in no shape to decisively engage the Colonial regulars.

The British dressed the lines and made an attempt to rally the Legion infantry, but that was a slow process.  The Legion cavalry launched a desperate charge against the Continental regulars, but were repulsed.  The sharpshooters returned and poured some fire into the British regulars on the right, who were already shaky and promptly routed.  One unit of Colonial dragoons now rode around and attacked the British 17th Dragoons on the far right of the British line.  The 17th dragoons were driven back and disordered, allowing the Colonial dragoons to charge the flank of the Legion infantry.  When the Legion routed, the British ceded the field of battle to the “Americans”.

The game was a hoot and definitely a good introduction to gaming in Virgina.  The rest of the gamers there were very affable and easy going.  Dave’s shop offers an excellent place to play, with a very nice selection of minis, rules, board games, and other related stuff.  The shop also has a LOT of game  space.

The Black Powder rules were definitely in the ” don’t sweat the small stuff ” vein.   Movement was definitely not protractor-powered and there were relatively few modifiers to combat and morale.  Command and control is on the Warmaster model, so commanders can activate units until they fail and units can potentially make zero, one, two, or three moves in a turn.  I personally like games with less certainty in where units will be, etc., so I really enjoyed the game.  I think I might prefer Piquet Field of Battle a little bit for rules with that similar effect, but I still enjoyed the game a lot and definitely plan on showing up for more of the games in the future.


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8 responses to “First Game in Virginia – Battle of Cowpens”

  1. Andy says :

    Nice looking shop!

  2. Art says :

    It would actually be “Gaming In WEST Virginia”, Martinsburg is in that little sliver of WV between Virginia and Maryland.

  3. Brian says :

    True Art,

    The shop is in fact in West Virginia. For a boy raised deep in the heart of Texas, this idea that you can drive a few minutes and cross a state line (and especially 2-3 of them) is still a foreign concept… The nearest state line was about 6 hours away. I’d say it’s all just Virginia to me, but my wife would kill me (she spent most of her formative childhood in Lynchburg, VA and attended UVA).

  4. Dave Fisher says :

    Great Review Brian! I am glad you enjoyed the scenario. I appreciate the kind remarks about our shop and look forward to your next visit. I personally prefer “Western Virginia” as our locale.

    Anyone interested in visiting the shop can find directions at


  5. Mik says :

    I’m glad you found a good place to play out there Brian! Great writeup as usual and the pics look great.

  6. Dr. Robert G. Parker says :

    Dear Dave

    This is extremely interesting to me. My relative, Thomas Leslie fought at the battle of Cowpens. I know little of the battle but have read how clever “The Wagoneer” Morgan was in the strategy he used. Is this a one time game you set up??? Did you happen to film the game??

    How did you happen to pick this battle?

    Dr. Robert Parker


    • Dave Fisher says :


      This is one of my favorite periods to wargame with the Black Powder Rules. We have done the Battle of Cowpens and it has always been a fun game to participate in. This year at Historicon we are doing 2 Tomahawk and Muskets scenarios on Friday leading into a game of Black Powder on Saturday. The T&M games will be the New Garden Skirmishes and the Black Powder game will be Guilford Courthouse.

  7. redcaer1690 says :

    Great looking game, inspiration for yet another project!

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