Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Game 56 - Freeman's Farm / 1st Saratoga 1777 (again)

I’d recently played Field of Battle again – hosted by Sgt Steiner (previous post), then got into some good discussion on the Nations in Arms blog about the narrative element of the rules. So, with some free time, we decided to look at the game over a number of periods in the coming weeks/months – to see (1) how they would stack up with ‘period’ hacks (squares/pikes/range changes etc.) and (2) whether we were simply playing the same game, 100 years apart nominally, though not in terms of period feel.  I hope I know the answer to this, as it’s the narrative more than anything that seems to echo through these rules, and the fact that period flavour can be added easily, but any excuse for a game…

First up is The American Revolution (the figures are still on the table from the previous game of Glorious Morning), though I think ACW, Nine Years War and another WWII battle could be in the offing over the summer (and I should add, the Glorious Morning engine also works admirably for these of course). 

In theory, the ACW clash could be a larger game – hence the ranges would stay the same as units would be brigades over AWI battalions/regiments, though will that mean that it feels like the same game – as rifle muskets aren’t firing out to 15” of a sudden? Granted – AWI at lower scale/range, with minimum cavalry vs the ACW version with more troops, but similar terrain, could create some interesting questions, and it does bring up issues with regard to actual differences in terms of say, command and control, and quality of troops. It remains to be seen…

  • At 1st Saratoga however, we join the action as Fraser leaves the high ground to the west of Freeman’s Farm, and Hamilton has pushed skirmishers forward in the British centre, while Riedesel moves into the area from the east. CinC Burgoyne remains in the centre with Hamilton.
  • I’ve scaled most of the action from the map and OOB in W.J. Wood’s Battles of the Revolutionary War (as per previous version of the battle on this blog two years ago, then done with Volley & Bayonet, and I think I have corrected my mistakes from that occasion with a re-read, and some extra research on the net). That said, the table could probably have been a little more wooded.
  • Benedict Arnold has pleaded with Gates to release troops from the fortifications at Bemis Heights to the south, to stem the flow of scarlet columns advancing upon their position, and thus entangle the British in the woods…though Gates only allows Dearborn’s lights and Morgan’s infantry to move forward …at first.
  • In truth, Burgoyne’s British columns are spread widely, in terrain which will not allow mutual support, to his detriment.
  • Morgan’s light troops in turn meet with (the out of command) forward elements of Fraser’s scouts, composed of Tories, Indians and Sharpshooters.
 Arnold moves to the front, having gained Gates’ permission…
So we then use the FoB card schedule to dictate what happens next (and when), with reinforcements and movement dictated by card play (excellent Fog of War here):

Deployed: Morgan’s Rifles & Hamilton’s scouts (both OOC – due to extended position of Americans, and the fact that they have just shot the officers in the British scouting element at long range…)

1st British Move* Card – Hamilton moves into centre ground (in column)
1st American Move Card – Arnold sees the gap between Fraser on his left, and Burgoyne in the centre, and moves Poor’s Brigade in.
2nd British Move Card – Riedesel releases Artillery on the British left
2nd American Move Card – Gates releases Learned’s Brigade on the American left/centre (at Fraser – historically, but driven off)
3rd British Move Card – Riedesel advances from the British left, with most of his force, having seen the battle in the clearing.
Subsequent British Move Cards – Fraser releases a ‘single’ unit from the British right – otherwise they operate only in defence and remain near the high ground. (Historically he released 8 companies only to support).
American ‘Special Event’ Card – Arnold is recalled to Bemis Heights by Gates and takes no further part in the battle – put in deck after first shuffle. Poor will relieve him as Army Commander.

*(We opted to allow the Move One Command Group card to take effect here too.)

The map from Wood’s book was used Roughly six feet of the table width is used in this instance – at scale 1800 yds. Scaling the map gives us roughly the area around which troop movements are outlined, including the high ground across which Fraser arrives.

You’ll note also that I have used some historical precedent.
  • The British scouting element is poorly commanded, and loses what officers it has early on to 'sniping', hence ‘Out Of Command’ at start.
  • Fraser does not get involved in terms of supporting the flank, hence only releases units late on move cards.
  • Learned’s attack against him is ‘somewhat half-hearted’, hence reduced Combat dice.
  • Arnold left the battle several times to ask for help from Gates, before finally being recalled, hence the special event card recalling him – inserted after first shuffle.
BRITISH OOB (Army Morale 14)
Gen ‘Gentleman Johnny’ Burgoyne D12

Right Flank / Scouting Force:
Fraser D10
(With historical deployment – most of this force remains uncommitted, though the American player does not realise this at game start)
  • Converged Lights C12 D8 (terrain movement benefits, skirmish etc. – a VERY powerful unit…and yet, will prove hard to release)
  • Converged Grenadiers C12 D8
  • 24th Foot C10 D6
  • Brunswick Rifles C10 D6
  • Indians/Canadians/Tories/Marksmen C8 D4
Centre Force:
Hamilton D10
  • 9th Foot C10 D6
  • 20th Foot C10 D6
  • 21st Foot C10 D6
  • 62nd Foot C12 D6
  • Arty 3&6 pdrs C10 D6
 Left Flank Force...marching to sound of guns (units outlined below will reach the battlefield):
Riedesel D10
  • Arty 3&6pdrs C10 D6 (early release)
  • Companies from Regt Rhetz C8 D6
  • Regt Riedesel C10 D6

AMERICAN OOB (Army Morale 14)
Gen Gates (Stays to the south at Bemis Heights, but may recall Arnold on ‘Special Event’ card at which point Poor takes charge)
Gen Arnold D10
Morgan’s rifles & Dearborn’s Lights C10 D6

Gen Enoch Poor D10
  • New Hampshire Continentals C10 D6
  • NH Continentals C10 D6
  • NH Continentals C10 D6
  • New York Continentals C10 D6
  • NY Continentals C10 D6
  • Latimer’s Connecticut Militia C8 D4
  • Cook’s Conn Militia C8 D4
Gen Learned D8
  • Learned’s Continentals C8 D6
  • NY Continentals C8 D6
  • Massachusetts Continentals C8 D6
  • Mass Continentals C8 D6
  • Mass Continentals C8 D6
The Sequence decks are: British:Skilled, American:Average – main difference being leadership and move command group cards (which could be the key to ‘unleashing’ Fraser from the right flank.
The initial setup: with Fraser deployed on the British right, despite later restrictions, and Hamilton/Burgoyne moving in the centre, and Riedesel on the far left.

'Don't worry none Zeke. Here we are again where it's hottest!'
Morgan's riflemen and other light infantry deployed at the farm, start an early firefight with the Out of Command British light troops.

 With early British move opportunities (cards), reinforcements are able to reach the action early, with the British considering the open American left flank.

 American move cards start to emerge...with Arnold moving Poor's brigade in the centre, however...

 ...a massive movement opportunity (3 segments) allows Learned's Brigade (who would prove decisive early on), to close the gap to the British right and start a long running firefight - which would end in charge and counter-charge.

Although the American right is protected only by the militia - a fact which does not go unnoticed.

 The British right becomes embroiled in musketry, as Fraser's position is attacked by Learned.

 The 'Death D20' is deployed. Roll a one on this and the commander gets cut down, leaving units Out of Command and confused. (The dice is so big, that it has its own Latvian MIG Pilot! No, really.)

 Of course, with all the confusion, the Hessians on the American right, have started to threaten the Militia on the flank. This could be a disaster!

 Time for reinforcements. "To the FLANK!"

Finally, the move card that unlocks Fraser's brigade, and allows a timely charge.

 'Let 'em have it boys!' The American right will not hold.

 While the centre sees desperate melees.

 The Militia decide not to stand (predictably).

More American routs in the centre, as British bayonets go in hard.

The Americans are also seeing routs on their left. Their Army Morale has also been reduced to zero now, with the British fight-back.

 Despite the fact that they have broken the British centre in the last turn with a run of nine cards...after the British run of nine.

 ...but it's too late. The Army Morale card is turned, and they fail the roll. With their morale points gone, they flee the field.

 The scene at game end: The British right has held, the centre partially broken, while the American right is a confused mess.

The historical precedence did mean that the battle was very similar to recorded events. The advantage of course is that in a wargame, we can let Fraser move more freely next time, and/or improve Learned’s troops’ quality (I'm not sure he needed improvement on the day), though the historical setup was not a bad thing as of course; the rules did still lend themselves to the interesting narrative. Fraser went to melee at exactly the right time, with the best unit on the table. The American flank was left unsecured which created a dilemma for troops which could have been used to hammer the centre earlier. So despite historical similarities, there was more than enough excitement to keep things fresh. 

Historically, the British drove the Americans from the field, though were battered and in poor shape in terms of attempting to take Bemis Heights without reinforcement the following month. We could certainly see parallels here.