The Newport Skirmish: Notes and Thoughts from SDHistCon East 2023

This post on SDHistCon East 2023 comes from Mark S. Miklos, designer of GMT’s award-winning Battles of the American Revolutions (BoAR) series. That series, now in its 25th year, currently has 10 published volumes featuring 12 battles and 28 scenarios. Below, Miklos talks about his experience at SDHistCon East this August, including with leading a tour of Battle of Rhode Island locations and then running a tournament of his The Battle of Rhode Island (GMT, 2020). This piece was initially posted on GMT’s InsideGMT site. 

SDHistCon East, 2023

U.S. Naval War College Museum

Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Skirmish: Notes and Thoughts

First, I want to thank Dave Stiffler for filming and posting these videos:

Miklos Rhode Island Part 1

Miklos Rhode Island Part 2

Miklos Rhode Island Part 3

Miklos Rhode Island Part 4

Miklos Turkey Hill Part 1

Miklos Turkey Hill Part 2

Miklos Turkey Hill Part 3

I didn’t know he was doing that. I occasionally saw him pointing his phone at me but assumed he was taking some still shots.  I hope you enjoy hearing the story as much as I enjoyed telling it.

We were blessed with good weather.  As late as the night before, we were concerned that we might have to cancel because of the threat of thunderstorms in the middle of the day.  Overcast and damp when we started, and it was sunny when we finished as you can plainly see in the final video installments.

We were so fortunate to have several members of the local battlefield restoration committee at Butts Hill Fort where we began our tour.  They added granular detail to the story and led small groups around the fieldworks.  They were prepping for a Centennial celebration the next day which was just plain good luck for us.  They were very gracious, and I know our folks were grateful for that added experience.

Touring Butts Hill Fort earthworks


A couple photos from my talk at Butts Hill Fort

USNWC is the home of professional military wargaming in America.

I think there were a total of 60 paid attendees at SDHistCon East, of whom 27 took my battlefield tour.  Later that same day, 12 attendees joined us for the first of three “teach & play” sessions (a total of 14 eventually took part in teach and play.)  Eight folks entered the actual tournament: some for only one Heat, and some for the entire event.  I couldn’t be happier with the turnout, especially when you consider that several other designers were at the Con celebrating their games, including Mark Herman, Volko Ruhnke, Harold Buchanan, Sebastian Bae, and Dan Bullock.  Apologies if I overlooked someone.  Considering that we were at the Naval War College, there were a few WW II Pacific games going on, including Mark Herman who played in four games of Plan Orange simultaneously.   I also saw random pickup games occurring.  With all that to choose from, the turnout for BoAR was exceptional.

But numbers are one thing, and enthusiasm is another.  Boy, did we have fun!  The vibe during the teach & play was amazing and contagious.  I put three players into each game so that the British and Hessians would be played separately.  Rhode Island, like Brandywine, lends itself to a 3-player approach.  I floated among the tables for the three hours devoted to that session to answer questions, interpret rules, explain design elements, help folks a little bit, and to enjoy the battle narratives that were emerging at the different tables.  Significantly, I made many new gaming friends as I went.  It was just plain great.

Mike Smart (aka Zilla Blitz) and friends enjoying Rhode Island teach & play.

On the competitive side, we played three Heats of Rhode Island; one on Friday night and two on Saturday.  That fed into a semi-final on Saturday night followed by a Final on Sunday morning.  All matches until the Final used Rhode Island while the Final was Day 1 of the Battle of Newport.

Four players played in Heat 1 with Dave Stiffler getting a bye.  Tim Miller’s Americans beat Chris Mlynarczyk’s British while on the other table, Bruno Passacantando’s British defeated Larry Burman’s Americans.  Both victories were marginal.


Players locked in action during Heat 1

Six players played in Heat 2 with Tim Miller getting the bye.  Dave Stiffler and I won as the Americans, defeating Chris Mlynarczyk and Bruno Passacantando respectively.  Rob Doane won as the British, defeating Harold Buchanan.  Once again, all victories were marginal.

Four players played in Heat 3.  Dave Stiffler once again beat Chris Mlynarczyk but this time by a substantial victory as the Americans.  Meanwhile, on the other table, Bruno Passacantando’s Americans and Tim Miller’s British fought to a draw.

When we got to the semi-finals, we discovered that the 3rd and 4th seeded players, Bruno Passacantando and Rob Doane, could not play on.  Bruno had to leave to drive home and Rob, as curator of the museum and our host, had too many other duties.  He may have been OK to play the semi-final but would not have been able to play in the Final the next morning if he won his semi-final match.  I therefore went down the list of remaining players, by order of seeding, to populate the other two semi-final players.  Those players either had conflicts with other games they were already playing or admin duties with the Con.  As a result, one slot fell to me (the nominal 6th seed) and the other slot fell to Chris (the nominal 8th seed.)  Thus, the semifinal was set for Dave Stiffler to play Chris yet again, and for Tim Miller to play me.

Long shot of action in the room

American players managed to win both semi-final matches.  Dave, who had already won marginally and substantially, now managed a decisive victory against Chris Mlynarczyk.  I guess you could say he had Chris’ number that day.  At the other table, I squeaked by with a marginal victory as the American player over Tim Miller.  Unfortunately, Tim had overstacked a hex of Hessian units and when it was discovered, he elected to reduce all three units in the hex to conform to stacking limits.  The result was a net 6-point swing in Army Morale, and I gained 1.5 VPs, not to mention that it took the wind out of his offensive at a critical moment in the game.  It was a deficit from which he never fully recovered.

The Final began on Sunday morning at around 9:30 AM.  We had to set the board up and several attendees stopped by to chat because we were playing on the Big Board Games 6’x4′ board, and it is very visual.  Locals remarked things like, “Hey, I live in that hex,” or “That’s my friend’s house,” or “That’s where I buy my beer.”  It was very cool.  Cooler still is the fact that we were playing among the Rev War exhibits in the museum.  More than once I looked up from the gameboard to set eyes upon a swivel gun salvaged from the wreck of one of the scuttled British frigates or to view detailed historical maps or other artifacts from the period.

Dave and I both wanted the British, so we bid.  We tied the first bid at 1.  On the second bid I went 0 and gave Dave the British for his bid of 1.  They British start the game down one in Army Morale, now they were down two.  This, coupled with the Allies having at-start momentum, I felt was an appropriate starting point for the Allies.

It takes the Allies several turns to come up.  For a time, Dave brought the Hessians on his left flank out to positions in front of his works, and even some British units in front of Irish’s redoubt as well, although he pulled everyone back in once I got a little closer and maintained the threat of a double move.

Action at the big board during the Final

His long-range defensive fire was tame with an occasional retreat or a harmless disruption.  My line continued to close in.  At last, with my Army Morale maxed at 21 and his just inside Fatigued at 14, (I had hit on a mortar shot and a Howitzer shot and had played a card to lower his morale as well), and with it being my turn on the bottom half of turn 5 and thus being poised for a back-to-back move, I decided to hit the walls.  Well, in a muzzle-flash, everything changed.

Dave hit 6 out of 6 artillery shots but what’s more, five of those hits were step losses (the other was a disruption), and one of those step losses was also a leader loss, killing General Nathanael Greene in the process.  For all I know there may have been one more hit causing a retreat and maybe a miss or two but by then I was too stunned to remember clearly.  From a morale of 21, I now fell to Fatigued at 14 and from Fatigued, he now climbed right back up to either 19 or 20 as I recall.  My ensuing attacks were no longer remotely optimal and predictably, most of them failed miserably, causing even more morale degradation and SP losses.  I had a wary eye cast on the SP Lost Track because the British can win decisively by eliminating a certain number of Franco-American infantry SPs and I was inching closer to that trigger point.

To add insult to injury, my Army Morale eventually hit 8 which caused the French Army to do a resolve check.  In a worst-case scenario, the entire French army may quit the field.  I was lucky (sarcasm intended!)  I only rolled more American Army Morale loss.

Die rolling action during the final. Note we’re playing on a Big Board Games 4’x6′ copy and we are set up among the Rev War exhibits in the museum.

To seal my eventual defeat, I failed to get the initiative for the top of Turn 6.  Dave was holding four Momentum Chits by then and used one to influence his initiative die roll. His counter attacks against the paltry forces I still had adjacent to his outer defenses sealed my doom.  At one point I was verbalizing my hope to lose substantially by my morale falling to 0 before he could beat me decisively (The Mlynarczyk gambit.)  No such luck.  Dave finished me off to win a decisive victory with my Army Morale sitting on “1.”

I wasn’t even able to take a single British redoubt.  My best hope was at Card’s Redout where my engineer unit negated his fieldworks advantage.  I managed a 2:1 attack with perhaps a +2 DRM and got a good roll but alas, the result was a step loss and so the defending unit remained in the hex, and I was not able to move in to take it.

Dave played a masterful defense, marshaling his forces at precisely the right places.  Might things have gone somewhat differently if his defensive artillery fire at the critical moment had not been so effective?  We’ll never know.  But hey, it’s NEVER the dice.  On this given day, British gunnery was more than expert and threw back the American hordes and their Gallic allies.  God Save The King!


Dave took home the “Luce Award.”  a beautiful trophy-plaque designed and donated by Tim Miller to commemorate the Newport Skirmish.

Me and Harold Buchanan

Thank you to everyone who participated in the tour, the teach & play, and the tournament.  Thank you to Harold Buchanan and his staff from SDHistCon for putting this event together.  Thank you to Rob Doane, curator of the US Naval War College Museum, and his Director Ryan, for hosting and for helping to make this an extraordinary experience.  Rob Doane’s museum tour and Pete Pellegrino’s campus tour were a nice bonus as well.


Touring the campus, inside and out.

Game play aside, it’s an experience I will never forget.

Miklos Rhode Island Part 1 

Miklos Rhode Island Part 2

Miklos Rhode Island Part 3

Miklos Rhode Island Part 4

Miklos Turkey Hill Part 1 

Miklos Turkey Hill Part 2

Miklos Turkey Hill Part 3

About the author:

Mark Miklos, a first-generation American of Slovak descent, is the designer of GMT Games’s award-winning Battles of the American Revolutions (BoAR) series. Launched in 1998 with the Battle of Saratoga, the series is now in its 25th year and going strong. To date, there are 10 volumes featuring 12 battles and 28 scenarios. BoAR games have been played competitively at the Word Boardgame Championships (WBC) for 22 years. They are also the centerpiece of the all-Rev-War tournament “RevCon,” held annually at Prezcon. BoAR games have a wide and diverse following of both national and international players.

Mark graduated with a degree in history from the University of South Carolina, is honorably discharged from the USNR, and is a Certified Professional in Food Safety. He has taught history, owned a tour and transportation company in historic Charleston, S.C., been operations manager for a small manufacturing company, and the fencing coach at The Citadel and at Vassar College. He has spent the past 27 years in restaurant operations, training, and food safety culminating as the Director of Food Safety and QA Programming at the National Restaurant Association. Today he is semi-retired and a partner in the firm, Active Food Safety, LLC.

Mark and his wife Darlene have been married for 32 years. They live in the Atlanta, GA area. They have two grown sons and one 20-month old granddaughter. They enjoy long distance trekking, canoeing and camping, travel in general and visiting wineries, and watching their beloved Gamecocks and Yankees, in person when possible.

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