Sunday, 13 September 2020

Saratoga - with 'Hold the Line'

 Following on from Steve's recent drive for perfection with simple rules, and his post game protocols for analysis ...and also using the amendments for the AWI boardgame 'Hold the Line' that he kindly sent me... we returned to a favourite old battle.

The British master plan to sever the northern colonies from the rest of the Atlantic seaboard had come unhinged, leaving 'Gentleman Jonny' Burgoyne's northern army dangerously isolated. He could either retreat back to Canada, or make one last attempt to break through the American defences on Bemis Heights and open the road to the Hudson Valley. (Musket & Saber)

 Now, if I recall, I'm 2 for 3 on our versions of this one, having played it with Volley and Bayonet, and other rules - including Musket & Sabre - the boardgame variant from which we constructed the scenario. For Fitz today was all to play for. (He won of we're both 2 for 4...revenge!)

The boardgame map (musket & Sabre) that we used to set up.

American defences at the heights.
American units also hold the woods on the British right, facing Fraser.

British attack begins in the centre and right. Most of their additional action points focused here in the early stages.
...though that doesn't prevent a 'completely mad' flanking move, which destabilised the British assault.

British guards would be disappointing on the day.
Good cover provided for American lights, which did not fulfill their promise early on, but soon came good.

British guards repelled from 1st melee ...yes, you heard me right!
German grenadiers push back (apparently) American continentals, then walk straight into the range of the guns on Bemis Heights.
...and a little outflanking action.

Despite early success German Jagers were pushed out of the woods.

'You do realise there are bloody big cannons over there...right?'

By game end, the British main attack had faltered, with heavy losses, while the flanks had been forced to admit defeat. 

A very nice set of rules, easily played, with lots of subtlety. ...Steve's protocol below:

'I could literally sell these sheets to the Hessians and tell them it's like, trouser material or something...'

(hmmm of these re-enactors is not like the others ...)

The 'Steve Protocol' Questions

How long did the game last?
About 2-3 hours. We got a lot of time to talk cr*p throughout.

What was the scenario? 
Our favourite epic - Saratoga, granted with some maneuver toward Bemis Heights in there.

What happened?
The British attack in the centre was foiled by an American counterattack led by Arnold. The Germans went for a flank surprise, that turned to disaster.

Extraordinary Events
British guards 'bounced' off militia in the woods with terrible rolls. German grenadiers were fought off twice, then butchered by artillery. American tactics played to the rules - the British player was far too cavalier!!!

Who Won?  Why?
The Americans. ...see above...

Did you enjoy the game?
Oh yes. This is a fascinating set of rules - simplicity with subtlety. Points values can be added to via the die roll - which adds pure drama, though again, it's what you do with that extra little bit of luck that wins or loses the game. It really seems very period-esque.

Advanced Questions

Details and chrome that's missing
We used hexes - which though making everything very easy to move, took away a little bit from the linear warfare nature of AWI. But that's minor.

Final Thoughts
A great set of pickup rules, with lots of period flavour by virtue of choosing where to put those extra points into use. We thought it would play like Maurice, though the difference being that there - you can pretty much predict what your opponent is going to do. Here, it's a lot more difficult to do so.


  1. Really nice to see the Musket and Sabre rules drive this game. Looks splendid with the troops on the hexes. Guards bouncing off militia ...... hmm, reminds me of Musket and Sabre Germantown :-)

    1. Thanks Norm.
      Yes, I knew there was something familiar about less than stellar guard units...
      Feels like we've been here before lol

    2. Norm, I think only the game map from Musket & Sabre "Saratoga" was used. Rules look to be "Hold the Line."

    3. Correct yes, thanks J - though we did use M&S for same battle back in 2016, with the same hex layout.

      Fitz - in timely fashion - can't remember his defeats in this battle, though has made much of today's victory LOL

    4. Ah yes, it was the counters shown in the first pictures that threw me.

    5. Yes - I used them to identify units. Part of me of course wants to try the same battle with the M&S boardgame rules again, while it's still set up :)

  2. Fine looking action, Darren! What was the size (in hexes) of your game board used in fighting this action? You played Saratoga with "Maurice" rules? I need to go back and search your archives...

    1. Thanks Jonathan.
      Those hexes are approximately 4.75" across the flats - and were secretly manufactured by a company I used to work for.
      This battlefield was 16 hexes long (flat to flat) by 14 wide (stilted).
      You can imagine me trying to explain what they were I kinda lied.

      We did actually use Musket & Sabre for one of the previous games (Nov 16) and then Volley & Bayonet in 2017, but I am sure we have used another set too for the same battle - it may have been FoB...

      I remain astonished that this blog is old enough to have archives now.
      Whenever I look back at my old posts, there is a stale smell of damp in the air ...or it could be the stilted writing style of course ;)

  3. Nice looking game sir, sounds like the rules were pretty good to.

    1. Yeah they are v nice. Very quick and painless.
      Reminds me, we must sort the podcast out. I will talk to my mate again.

    2. Cool, I keep reminding myself about the podcast at really stupid times when I have no chance of doing anything about it!. I reckon there may well be a whole episode in the epic saga of getting the thing up and running!!.

    3. I always remember when I'm doing a particular stupid/annoying/uncannily accurate accent, and think, this would be fab for the podcast...

      'it all started with an idea, which got forgotten about, then became another idea...we forgot that one too'

      I sense the podcast will be like classic Python...

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Ray
      It's tough to get a game in now.

      Mind you, our 'rule of 6' reflects our lack of rolling them, when we need em.

  5. A good looking game. Hold the Line rules are fun and simple rules to use.

    1. Thanks Peter.
      Yes - a lot of subtlety there, and just as good, if not better, than other more complex systems in terms of results and gameplay.

  6. Always interesting to hear your thoughts on Rules, and a nice looking game.
    Have you done anything more on the Modern Hyboria project?

    1. Thanks Jack.
      Yes - I got a set called 'Battlespace' on wargames vault - which are simple rules for man to man in modern situations.

      My thoughts were Aquilonian SeALs attempting to rescue a descendant of the Nemdedian royal family in a western jungle setting - then shipped to Turan for counterinsurgency operations...

  7. Darren this game looked excellent! I think the Hold the Line with the extra command points is key to playing bigger battles. I'm taking a hard look at the Hold the Line game versus "Fields if Honor AWI" as my 2 top contenders for rules for the Germantown megagame.

    That militia unit who stopped the foot guards must have been commanded by John Stark or Nathan Hale! You should retire them with battle honors!

    1. Thank you sir. Yes, it's a great system.
      We found ourselves saying not only 'where do I need to spend those extra pips', but also, and perhaps for the first time. 'he'll be expecting me to spend them here' ...which is a great bonus - a simple system that lends itself to deception and guile.

      The Militia have received a coat of gloss varnish in their honour :)

      The 'Steve Protocol' is forever part of the world wide wargames vocabulary now :)

    2. Darren, I was going to ask about the "Steve Protocol" and if I could use those in the future!! Well done, sir.

    3. It's perfect. I'll be using it for all future games.
      The 'Steve Protocol' is go!

  8. Fun game report and nice looking to boot. Nice analysis at the end. 😀

    1. Thanks Stew.
      Yes , adopting the 'Steve Protocol' (see above) gives a good thread of comparable analysis to every game now.

  9. Good looking table and troops, and a nice concise narrative, "Steve Protocol" included! :-)

    1. Thanks G
      Though for some reason, as well as being a good reference for the game analysis,'The Steve Protocol' stirs up images of a 1970s spy movie set in Berlin with Michael Caine and Dustin Hoffman, that was never actually made. me old fashioned...