Friday 28 January 2022

1776 And All That (Part Five)

Back to the map...

Next move for the 1776 map scenario.

Post battle I allow Gate's a 1x6D "retreat allowance"; not in the board game rules, since he had already had his "move" - and stayed put in Albany, but it seemed reasonable as he had got away and the British not been right on his tail. As did deducting 3 SP militia units for the troops which had actually scattered off-table (they went home). He proceeds up the Mohawk Valley. If activated again he can use the remainder of his Movement Points.

[I also, out of interest fought two rounds on the game's CRE based on what occurred on the table; the first with Gates standing and defending against an enfilade by Burgoyne's force alone. The second with Gates withdrawing against a reconnaissance in force - so as to allow Gates to end the battle. The losses matched the deductions I had made above. The only real difference to the result was that I allowed him "wigggle room" to move up the Mohawk.]

Grey passes through Princeton and crosses the Delaware at Coryell's Ferry, en route for Philadelphia, which he puts to siege. Washington has not the men to challenge this.

Brandt, by water, moves across lake Ontario to the head of Seneca, passing Lafayette, who is marching along the eastern shore of Ontario, en route for the St. Lawrence, and Warner, who has reached the lakeside near Oswego. 

Stark moves into New Hampshire, but so does Howe (after leaving Cornwallis and a small force at Bennington) and another British column which has come over the Green Mountains..

Burgoyne has elected to remain at Albany; presumably resting his men, gathering supplies and writing home to justify (and advertise) his actions.

As we saw, Gates moved up the Mohawk Valley. He then pulled over to rest and recuperate among the German farmers in the vicinity of Forts Dayton and Herkimer. There he is joined by about 2,000 militiamen*.

[*As generated by the scenario reinforcement rules. These should have arrived at Albany, but default to the nearest strategic town if that is in the hands of the enemy. I allowed them to default to Forth Stanwix  - in the hex next to the settlements and forts at Dayton/Herkimer - on the basis that 1) getting there from the vicinity of Albany was simple and logical and 2) all other major centres were in British hands, within a British controlled area or within a single move of a British force.]

However, next activated and hot on his heels is Clinton, who catches up with him on the 18th. 

Gates, despite losses due to stragglers and desertions, now has about 6,000 militia and 3,000 Continentals with him. Clinton leads fifteen (understrength) regiments of British Regulars, Flank Companies and Hessians, plus an artillery and supply train.

Gates now knows that Lafayette has moved as if to press into Canada, leaving Ft. Stanwix and Ft. Oswego exposed by Clinton's unexpected move up the Mohawk. He has also received news of Grey being across the Delaware (but does not know that he has reached Philadelphia). Gates is also aware that Washington desperately needs troops in Pennsylvania.

It is clear that Gates needs to preserve his force and not risk its destruction but we have another potential table battle. 

Clinton, particularly chagrined by Burgoyne's precipitous attack which allowed Gates to get away at Albany (and the unfair criticism he has himself received regarding this) will likely be aggressive and imaginative. Given that he was (historically) a promoter of imaginative flank marches and similar it seems reasonable that he would attempt something like that. 

I look at the data online on the area of Dayton/Hermiker/German Flats. It seems to me that, since he has been caught up with and cannot pull away without some kind of fight (he cannot risk being chased and caught while in line of march), Gates has three choices;

1) Hold position and fight Clinton in the area of Hermiker. This risks his whole force, which I think would be unwise.

2) Leave a blocking force at a suitable location at Dayton/Hermiker/German Flats to delay Clinton enough for Gates to get his main column away.

3) Send a small force back along the Mohawk valley to block Clinton further downriver. In theory the area of Little Falls Gorge and the road over the hills to the south looks good - but there are alternative routes here, and knowing Clinton he will use these to outflank any force in the vicinity of the gorge, and trap them.

Perhaps the area around what is now Jacksonburg looks best, or maybe at Hermiker Fort itself. Looking at Streetview, and taking away the canal, this looks a good place for a small formation to run interference on a larger.

The Table Transfer:

OK, the thing to do here, I think, is to again "play" the British - as Clinton will be feeling his way along the road from Albany, so what I will do is set up a basic table roughly according to local terrain at the point between Hermiker and Little Falls where hills seems to come right down to the Mohawk (roughly where the canal cuts off from the river), with no Colonial forces on the table (using Hidden Enemy rules) and Clinton  having to make his way across the board in a race against time. That should make for a short, if interesting game. 

Before I do that, however, I will have a couple of plays on the table as it is.. 

As always: feedback welcome.

Friday 21 January 2022

1776 And All That (Part Four)

Battle of Albany: Rules and Stuff....

The previous post was a general narrative, not a "dice by dice" commentary, but I'll set out some of the details below.

All "non me" decisions were made by using simple Ad Hoc Decision tables (see below). 

Activation of Generals/Brigade commanders - or detached/specialist units where appropriate - was by token using the 1 token per commander/unit, two blank token draw system; with drawing of tokens stopping when only two tokens remain in the tub.

Unit commanders/Leaders which had not moved/fired/carried out any action/been activated in a move can, automatically, fire/ remove disruption in line with their inherent abilities at move end. 

A note was kept of artillery ammunition used - limited to 12 salvoes per gun - but apart from tallying the number of moves expended and the special activities detailed below there was no bookkeeping.

The actual fighting/moving/morale rules were an amalgam of Andy Callan's LF&AAS and ideas nicked from SP/NMTB, plus house conventions.

a) Detached Town Force:

While the British were setting up on the table the detached force (two of Burgoyne's regiments) were sent to secure the warehouses in Albany. They arrived at the town gates at dawn.

How matters actually went for them was not revealed (to me/Burgoyne) until after Game Move six (i.e. no actual tests on progress were made until after Game Move move 6) and only then on a throw of 6 on a 1x6D test dice made at the END of each subsequent Game Move. 

At time of The Reveal the Detached Force tested for the circumstances below.

i) On arrival a 1x6d test is made to see if there were sentries at the town stockade/if they were awake.

1-2; they were absent, tucked up in bed.

3-4; they were asleep at their posts and the British lost one move in securing them quietly.

5; they were alert, fired a warning shot and sent a courier to alert Gates. If this occurred Gates will be informed of the presence of British troops in the town at the end of the fourth move after the British entered the town. The British lose a move to subduing the sentries. 

6; There were enemy militia units manning the stockade. If this occurred Gates will be informed of the presence of British troops in the town in four moves at the end of the fourth move after the British entering. Throw 1x6D for the number of Rebel militia companies present. On a result of a 6, roll again for more.

(This force number is cumulative with no upper limit. These units will be assumed to have been taken from Gates' force. IF Gates's whole force has already been deployed on the Table then companies making up this total units must be at once removed from any unengaged Rebel militia units thereon. Otherwise these units are not available to Gates.)

Resolve resulting combat on the 1776 CRT, each round of combat taking 4 table moves. 

IF the rebel militia defeat the British Detached Force then these units will arrive on the battlefield to support Gates with a throw of 6 on a 1x6D test at the end of each subsequent rebel move.

These militia units will arrive as a single force either on the track by the fort (held by Morgan) or on the access track from Albany previously used by the British (test for this). A Token for this force will be placed in the token tub and Activated as per normal rules.   

ii) If the British got into the town successfully then the Detached Force has to cover 1000 yards or so to get to the warehouse district. They march at 75yards  plus 1x6D x 25 yards per move.

Once the detached units enter the town itself they will test per move for problems, until the warehouses are secured, on the table below (if you cannot read any of the tables open them as new tab).

Once the warehouses are secured by the British the town is deemed taken and the Detached units and the town take no more part in the table battle.

b) Fraser and the Lights:

On move six Fraser moved off with the Light Companies, Jaegers/Rangers and Indians following waypoints marked on the Table. The rules I set for myself were as follows: 

Once he enters the woodland Fraser must test each subsequent move based on standard "Hidden Enemy" protocols (Throw a 1x6D each move. On a result of 6 a card draw takes place to see if he comes under attack), EXCEPT that all Red number cards under eight are removed from the deck and the following table used:

Note: the rebel companies activated on the above will be taken from as yet unactivated commanders on table.

If all commanders have already been activated it will be taken that these units are previously undiscovered local rebel units - i.e. reinforcements not shown on the Map Game. Such units will disperse at the end of the action and NOT subsequently appear on the Map.

However, whether this occurs or not Burgoyne (I) will have no idea of Fraser's actual progress or position on the Table until and unless:

1) There is a message from Fraser regarding his position and circumstances.

However, he will only report with updates if there is something salient to report (e.g. he has run into opposition in force greater than his own, come across enemy entrenchments etc. etc.). He will give a position, but may be out by a four inch radius - the centre point being calculated from the move distance from his start position towards his target, but adjusted for deviation (see below). This message will head towards Burgoyne at 8 inches per move.

2) The sound of reasonably extensive gunfire can be heard (say two moves' worth with at least four companies engaged).

Such an occurrence will be the result of him finding the flank of the main enemy position, as planned, and engaging OR his running into unexpected opposition generated by standard "Hidden Enemy" tests (taken each move). IF such gunfire is heard the location may be marked on the table but will only be approximate, i.e. within an eight inch radius of the calculated move distance centre point, adjusted for deviation (see below). 

3) His Indians raise a column of smoke indicating to Burgoyne that Fraser is in (or within six inches of) the agreed position to harass the enemy (the final waypoint).  

Calculating Fraser's position:

Once his position needs to be calculated he will, in theory, have moved four inches plus 1x6D inches per move between waypoints (these being already marked by "pules" of smoke on the table).

However, at the start of each move from a waypoint/his current position a 1x6D will be thrown to discover if he has deviated from his intended line of march.

On a result of 3 or 4 he makes a bee-line for the next Waypoint (no deviation). 

On a throw of 1 the line of march is 5 degrees off centre to the left of said bee-line, on a throw of 2 the line of march is 10 degrees off centre to the left.

On a throw of 5 the line of march is 5 degrees off centre to the right, on a throw of 6 the line of march is 10 degrees off centre to the right.  

Note: none of these calculations (neither the distance moved nor position relative to the Waypoints will be calculated UNTIL he has reported or gunfire is heard as per 1) or 2) above OR until after move 12. After move 12 test with a Dx6 per move. On the throw of a 6 some of his scouts have arrived at the planned destination and signalled - but the position of his main force must then be calculated and placed on the table. A Token for Fraser is then added to the token tub. .

c) Ad Hoc Tests

Throughout the game there were (as usual with me) a series of ad hoc tests whenever a decision was called for for a detached Leader/Unit and Enemy leader.

Some would be specifically slewed (like the Gates example shown on the game report. Others less so. here are some VERY basic examples.

Where appropriate many such tests will be based on IMP and use two dice, with probabilities matching likely decisions (as in the gates test table in the previous post). As always; queries etc. invited re. this. 

d) Gates's Plan

We knew Burgoyne's battle plan. Did Gates have an actual plan? Or was he winging it?

There has recently been some discussion on the FB solo Group about Solo AIs, and how their "decisions" need, in some folk's eyes, to follow some kind of logical sequence or flow or plan, rather than being random. I'll post MY (idiosyncratic?) thoughts on this, and the place (or absence) of sequence, flow, planning and logic in human affairs  - and especially regarding definitive pre. 20thC battle plans (other than "this is where we'll go, and see what happens") - another time.

Meanwhile, here is a brief account of the Battle of Albany by that little known military historian Lambert Funtnell (Bart.).

"And so, with cautious Clinton hesitating beyond the creek to the south, and the brash Burgoyne pressing from the northern lakes, it would have appeared that Gates, encamped on the slopes above Albany, had placed himself in a trap of his own making. But not so.

Knowing his man, Gates, no doubt instinctively, felt he could rely upon Burgoyne to make some dramatic, and no doubt dashing, venture against his entrenchments. And so proved to be the case. True, his local levies would not stand to meet the steel-tipped musketry of the mercenary enemy; but all the better, for the old fox had a plan.

Throwing forward a taunting line of skirmishers to the Paltroon Creek bottom he drew the enemy on. Down from their secure ridge the British and their foreign lackeys came. Across the murky creek they splashed, then crawled their slow and mud-clagged way up the steep slopes on which his embattled redoubts lay. In vain, their gunners squandered their precious shells against the unyielding earthworks, where Gates's militia bands waited.

Then, just as the wily fox had foreseen; while the weary redcoats breasted his very palisades, his swift-heeled, local sons of the soil, after taking a toll with their trusty, if rustic, flintlocks, rushed to the security of their drilled and regular brethren in blue, waiting in serried ranks on the Schenectady Road.

From here, gathering his charges like a trusty shepherd, brushing aside the half-hearted efforts Fraser's savage auxiliaries and scattering of light troops, Gates and his loyal regiments slipped from his assailants' fingers; leaving the exhausted Burgoyne and his lackeys, panting with impotent frustration on the hilltop."

Next Post will continue the map campaign....

Thursday 20 January 2022

1776 And All That (Part Three - The Battle of Albany)

 The Battle: 

OK... Previous posts looked at how we got to where we are.

Burgoyne's (my) main force moves off just (two moves) before dawn. However, on arrival "On The Field" there is a chance the enemy will scupper British plans before things start by having units out n' about on patrol or as a screen (someone like Arnold insisting the job is done properly?).

The British units start in column of march along the Cahos Falls track, but screened/preceded by the Lights, Jaeger and Indians; who will "clear the ground, testing per move as per my standard Hidden Enemy protocols (but with a card deck of two black suits - as dummy cards - and one suit of red cards, minus the Character Cards, due to Gates's cautious personality).

As it happens this whole process, including the unlimbering of the heavy guns and the movement into their starting positions by the infantry, takes five moves in total with no enemy interference. Maybe they're still abed? The battle proper can now commence.

The battle opens with a volley from the guns into the enemy camp. No casualties, but it got their attention.

I randomly draw and place the various Rebel Commanders (their individual commands having been allocated on the Board Game board). 

Over the next few moves three out of the four rebel brigades activate, but only Morgan (based in the old fort overlooking Albany) does anything active, moving two of his regiments towards the firing of the British cannon - possibly intending to pot at the artilleryists with his rifles. But to do this properly he would have to come down off the hill he is tasked to defend. He resists the temptation.

(Note: that in randomised initial positions for the rebel brigades Arnold - who would likely have been pro-active - drew to man the defences facing Clinton, off table...)

The others Colonial brigade commanders elect to keep their men out of the direct fire from my heavy guns and back from their entrenchment line. Probably a wise move if Gates isn't going to to order an attack.

With neither side willing to make a serious move time passes. Burgoyne is waiting to hear from the Town and Fraser. Gates is simply cautious.

By move six Burgoyne gets an update from the town (see next post for the process used). There was no resistance at the town stockade. The troops were stoned by children while marching through the streets at one stage, and some men returned fire without orders (their names have been taken for later punishment). Luckily no casualties ensued, and the warehouse district was  secured without further incident.  

Meanwhile Fraser is still somewhere out there in the woods. 

Burgoyne now has a choice..

a) Call off today's attack on Gates's defences; holding position while sending more men into the town (perhaps the grenadiers?) in case Gates decides to move in that direction, meanwhile bringing up his supplies and back-up to nearer the town. At the same time he should be informing Clinton that the town is theirs, but that they should both coordinate an attack on Gates on the morrow. The only problem with calling off the attack is letting Fraser know.

b) Proceed with the original plan - but now that most of the enemy are visible it is very clear that Burgoyne does NOT have the three times superiority he ought to have to secure an attack on a fortified place. However, if Fraser paralyses Gates with his flank attack and distracts the commander of the main position, a sudden rush across the valley, following and supported by an all-out bombardment, might still succeed.

Burgoyne elects to stick with the plan. 

Meanwhile, Gates, concerned by the tooled-up British force sitting on the hill opposite his position and the news from the town, moves himself and a Continental Army regiment up to the Main Redoubt. He starts positioning men to defend against an assault from the north. All this seems sensible.

Morgan's rifles push on to the creek, where they begin sniping at the grenadiers. Lincoln, commanding the small redoubt overlooking the bostals, following Morgan's example, orders a militia unit forward to harass Burgoyne's gunners. Both these moves are unauthorised by Gates, but he sees no reason to call them back.

The commander of the Grenadier brigade, von Riedesel, adjusts his line to meet the threat from the enemy skirmishers, who are now peppering his men, while the artillery opens fire on Lincoln's men as they make their way down the open slopes towards the cover by the creek. 

As more rebel skirmishers reach the creek von Riedesel has sudden change of mind. Perhaps hoping to tempt the skirmishers into crossing the creek he withdraws his command to the reverse slope of the small ridge he is on and tries to keep his men's' spirits up (removing Disorder Markers caused by the sniping). 

Up on the main ridge Gate's now makes what may prove to be the clinching move. Clearly concerned by the British across the creek, and, seeing the grenadiers taking advantage of the reverse slope, maybe he is wondering what else Burgoyne has concealed up his sleeve behind the track. Whatever the reason, Gates summons two Continental Army regiments from the woodland redoubt on the west up to the main ridge. This reduces the number of men guarding his flank, but will strengthen the Main Redoubt.

Unknown to Gates, it is still thought by the British colonels that the redcoats will likely get a very bloody nose if Burgoyne tries to assault with his five regiments against Gates's entrenched ten.

Burgoyne's guns, surprisingly, now exchange fire with Lincoln's militia, both sides taking hits, but the rain of heavy balls smashing though the trees around them, and the dropping howitzer shells are upsetting the inexperienced militiamen, who start to fall.

The next move von Riedesel reorganises his grenadiers in the safe area below the small ridge. Lincoln's skirmishers again open up on the gunners who, instructed by Burgoyne, also seek the safety of the reverse slope.

With the British gunners and grenadier on the reverse slope - and Lincoln's shaken skirmishers and Morgan's riflemen not being stupid enough to cross the creek - things have reached a stalemate in the valley. 

Only the Continental Army two regiments summoned by Gates (and which have decided to go the long way round to the Main Redoubt by road, rather than cross country and up the steep rear face of the hill) are moving.

It is now approaching midday. Suddenly, near eastern edge of the woodland west of the redoubts there is a plume of smoke... Fraser has signalled that he is in position.

Burgoyne at once launches one of his British brigades and von Riedesel's grenadiers brigade down the ridge towards the stream, and brings back his artillery crews to their guns. The gambler makes his throw..... 

Suddenly - and fortuitously for Burgoyne - there is a whooping and a hollering as Fraser's, Lights, Jaegers, Indians and Highlanders rush the westernmost of Gate's defences - catching the Continentals there by surprise; they are standing easy, and not even close-manning the barricades as Fraser's men sweep in. There is brief fight, before the shocked Continentals turn and run. Fraser's men have taken the woodside entrenchments at a single blow, but now have to halt to reorganise.

The Continental are running, but more due to surprise and shock than actual casualties. 

The British guns open up on the Main Redoubt, but do little damage. Gates hesitates, then orders two militia regiments to the man rear of the Main Redoubt, to prevent Fraser sweeping up the slope, and two more to man the front facing Burgoyne. 

Meanwhile the the Continental brigade who ran from Fraser's Lights and Indians reform, and the two regiments ahead of them (which were earlier ordered to march to the Main Redoubt) halt, and form line to face Fraser.

At the creek, Morgan's riflemen pull back - intimidated by the approach of the Grenadiers - and just in time as, with unexpected speed (good dice) these rush down the slope and splash across the stream to occupy the very position Morgan's men had recently stood.

With most of the British from the ridge now across the creek and Fraser's troops deployed to command the Schenectady road (his only viable line of retreat) Gates has a dilemma; to deal with Fraser now, or see off Burgoyne first. He hesitates.

Next move von  Riedesel is activated first. His men order their ranks and shed their disorder, five companies firing into the backs of Morgan's rifles, sowing more confusion.

Gates rides off the ridge to pass orders to the troops on the lower ground facing Fraser. He can be reasonable confident that his troops in the redoubts can hold Burgoyne's gamble, so it looks like he wants to concentrate on drive Fraser back into the woods. He has four regiments of Continentals and two of Militia to hand. He could also draw off another Continental regiment from the bostal redoubt, just to make sure. 

Burgoyne's guns batter the redoubt, while his redcoats reorganise themselves after crossing the creek. Burgoyne himself brings down one of the two reserve regiments from the ridge, leaving the other to protect the guns. 

Despite their disruption level, and the British forces from the ridge moving swiftly at them and in reach of both flanks - not to mention Morgan's rifles' speedy withdrawal on their right - Lincoln's skirmishers down by the creek and fronting the bostal redoubt, elect to hold position and open fire on the redcoats. They cause no damage, but one has to admire their (surprising) pluck.

Having crossed the creek, Burgoyne's leading British battalions slowly move up the main ridge, flanking Lincoln's skirmishers. 

At the next opportunity Morgan's rifles pull back further towards the defence line of the town, meanwhile, von Reidesel's Hessians, facing them, deploy towards the westernmost bostal (evidently he does not fancy going up the eastern arm, flanked as it is from both sides) while his British grenadier companies charge into the flank of Lincoln's skirmishers by the creek. Unsurprisingly these skedaddle up the hill; but not after some losses to the grenadiers' bayonets and being shot at, as they run, by the artillery.....

Frazers Light troops deploy, with his Rangers shooting up at the militia manning the rear slopes of  the Main Redoubt, while his Highlanders slog up the slope on their flank, where they are met by an (ineffective) volley from the militia there.

The Indians meanwhile scuttle between the redoubt hill and the woods, seemingly with the intent to flank the defences. Seeing this the brigadier at the redoubt swivels his reserve regiment of Continentals to face this threat, just in case.

South of the Main Redoubt the four Continental regiments advance on Fraser's light companies. If Gates's plan here is to secure the Schenectady road this looks likely to succeed.

And so another move ends as we creep into early to mid afternoon.

 Personally, at this stage, I cannot see Burgoyne's attack on the ridge succeeding without heavy loss. His only real hope, I feel, lies in Fraser so upsetting things on the flank of the Main Redoubt that the garrison here loses its nerve. I'm convinced that any attack on the entrenchments will prove costly. On the other hand, most of the Continental regiments are south of the Main Redoubt, facing Fraser, so the redcoats will mainly be up against untried militia... Maybe it's worth pushing luck a little further..? Burgoyne certainly thinks so.

Lincoln's skirmishers keep running, but as they scramble up the broken ground flanking the nearest bostal it's noticeable that some are slinking off the field, such is their level of disruption.

The British artillery again turns it's attention to the Main Redoubt, while Gates rides to help reduce the disruption among his Continental regiments threatening Fraser. The British light companies facing them open fire, to little effect. 

However, on the main ridge a sudden charge by the Highlanders and Rangers is too much for the militia on the west side of the redoubt, and they turn and flee, upsetting their supports. Just to make matters worse Burgoyne himself is the next commander to be activated. In good order his regiments make their way up the main ridge.

Over near the town fort Morgan steadies his rifles and awaits developments, while Lincoln rallies his skirmishers.

The Continentals to the south of the ridge adjust position to take into the account issues on the main ridge, and one regiment fires upon Fraser's light companies, causing little damage.

Up in the Main Redoubt the commander here seems to panic, drawing back a regiment from the north-facing entrenchments to bolster the unit of Continentals facing Fraser's highlanders, but upsetting them in the process. The Continentals would like to get off a volley into Fraser's men, but the range is too great. 

Next move, and Gate's on the south side of the ridge, can't see what's happening in the redoubt. By the same token, Burgoyne can't see what's occurring in the fortifications either. 

The MORE good luck for the British; Fraser is the first commander to be activated. The Rangers slam into the flank of one of the militia units in the Main Redoubt while the Highlanders, Fraser at their head, charge the Continentals. The militia unit panics and routs. The Continentals also turn and run, upsetting the nearby militia units at the entrenchments. Suddenly all is going to pot in the Main Redoubt as the commander here gets cut down by the Highlanders. The bagpipes of the Highlanders and the war whoops of their supporting Indians echo along the entrenchments, further upsetting the militia.

Next, the grenadiers start moving up the slope to the bostal, then (the luck is all going the Britishers' way) Burgoyne is activated! The lead British regiments reach the breastworks; they aren't even charging - but this is enough for the militia facing them. Already shaken by the other rebel units withdrawing or routing, and the falling of the redoubt commander, these too make off, only to be struck by a salvo from the British guns....

Lincoln and Morgan brace themselves for an attack, but do nothing aggressive.

Meanwhile, Gates is determined to secure the line of retreat to Schenectady, and, after getting his men in order, pushes two regiments towards Fraser's light infantry.

That last bound was a bad one for the Americans. The Main Redoubt has all but fallen and all the units in it have been discomforted in one way or another. However, Morgan and Lincoln still hold their entrenched positions and Gates has four Continental regiments in hand south of the Main Redoubt. All is not lost - and the British KNOW that they have been VERY lucky in getting into the Main Redoubt so cheaply...

Next go the British guns open up on Lincoln's redoubt, but to no discernible effect. The broken militia flee from the Main redoubt while the regimental commanders there make their own decisions to pull back and consolidate - the overall commander being hors de combat.

The Hessians start climbing the bostal. Burgoyne is activated and another of his regiments charges into the main redoubt, driving back a small militia unit.

To the south of the Main Redoubt the Continentals exchange fire on Fraser's lights and sort themselves out into defensive lines in case any enemy swarm down from the ridge. Gates rides off, hat in hand, to the routing militia - successfully rallying one regiment.

Next move - we are now into mid afternoon - Fraser's Lights south of the Main Redoubt again come under volley fire, and scurry back to the cover of the woodside entrenchments.

Fraser is activated. He sorts out his Highlanders and moves them forward in the Main Redoubt, while his Rangers both advance and give a harassing fire to those of the redoubt garrison still showing fight. Meanwhile his Indians, like a bad movie, rush to the skyline of the Main Redoubt ridge and glower down on the Continentals below and to the south.

Over towards the town Morgan decides to hold his ground, while von Reidesel's men carry on, clambering up the up the western bostal stream-bed.

In the Main Redoubt Burgoyne's regiments either get themselves back into order or open fire - or, in once case, charge the defenders; forcing one militia regiment to break off contact and routing another. These units fall back through the other rebel units in the redoubt, causing more disorder - as well as upsetting Lincoln's skirmishers on their flank. To all intents and purposes the Main Redoubt has now fallen to the British.  

While the British guns open up on his redoubt, Lincoln's skirmishers in turn open fire on the British Grenadiers, causing some shock - and that ends another move.

Next go Fraser sorts out his men, moving the Highlanders towards the woods. His Lights reform down by the woodland entrenchments. Some of his Indians and rangers open fire on their nearest Continentals, but to little effect. 

The remaining rebels begin to withdraw in good order from the Main Redoubt.

By the bostal some of the Hessians reform themselves, others open fire on Lincoln's men, who also come under fire from the artillery. The British grenadier companies charge and push back Lincoln's skirmishers, while Morgan shifts HIS rifles over the bostal ridge to support Lincoln.

One of Burgoyne's regiments charges one of the militia units falling back from the redoubt and speeds it on it's way, while another flanks Lincoln' skirmishers. End of the move - and Gates doesn't get activated.....

At the beginning of the next bound Fraser's Indians and Lights fire upon the Continentals below the Main Redoubt, while his Rangers and Highlanders deploy. Another broken militia unit flees off table and the British guns fire off one of their last salvoes into Lincoln's redoubt.

But then Gates is activated.. I reckon he now has some serious choices to make...

Gates's Options

It looks to me that Gates is in a bit of a pickle.  

He has six militia regiments already at breaking point or actually broken (both have already left the table), with one of his Continental regiments wavering.

He has lost the Main Redoubt to the enemy. 

However, he still has four Continental Army regiments in the south which are more or less intact and in good order.

Although Lincoln and Morgan's are redoubts holding steady, and their regiments (seven militia and once CA) are relatively unblooded and secure, there is a danger they will soon be attacked by Burgoyne and von Reidesal's troops. Experience has shown that the militia will likely not stand when charged. 

Even if the British are thrown back from or hold off attacking these redoubts today they will still hold the Main Redoubt, and likely cut the Schenectady road - Gates's only line of retreat - if they bring some of their heavy guns up to the main redoubt overnight.  

Gates knows that, off-table, the town has been occupied and that Clinton (with fifteen regiments and more heavy guns) waits in the wings, likely to attack Arnold's four militia regiments tomorrow.

Although it looks like an attack on Lincoln's redoubt is imminent, if this falls Burgoyne may well be satisfied with the day's gains and may not risk pressing on further south. If this turns out to be the case - or if Lincoln holds - then this could allow Gates to extract him and Morgan to join with the Continental Army units, plus the militia units now retreating from the Main Redoubt. With his force concentrated (and stabilised) south of the Main Redoubt he can then decide to either:

1) Push past Fraser's Light Infantry, extract Morgan and Lincoln from their redoubts before they are assaulted and pull his force away down the Schenectady road (informing Arnold of the plan and instructing him to also withdraw towards Schenectady in the night). 

Pluses: He gets his army away pretty much intact and avoids another action tomorrow - with the combined armies of Burgoyne and Clinton attacking him; leaving him a chance to fight another day.

Negatives; This is admitting defeat, plus he will be abandoning Albany and his heavy supplies in the Main Redoubt. 

2) Attempt to establish a new defensive position off-table behind Arnold (who is holding the south-facing defences).

Pluses: His army is still pretty much intact and he may well give a bloody nose to the combined armies of Burgoyne and Clinton if they attack him tomorrow.

 Negatives; He will be abandoning Albany and his heavy supplies in the Main Redoubt. He may become trapped and put to siege, rather than assaulted. If he loses, whether in open battle or siege, his army will likely to be lost to the Struggle.

3) Reorganise on-table and attempt to retake the Main Redoubt. 

Pluses: He may regain his heavy supplies in the Main Redoubt, making a night-time retreat to Schenectady less humiliating, plus securing the Schenectady road to allow the extraction of Lincoln and Morgan (and off-table Arnold).

Negatives: He may lose heavily, Lincoln and Morgan could be cut off, and swamped - or forced to accept terms - tomorrow. 

4) Reorganise on-table and attempt to retake Albany. 

Pluses: His army is still pretty much intact and he may well give a bloody nose to the combined armies of Burgoyne and Clinton if they attack him tomorrow.

 Negatives; He will be abandoning his heavy supplies in the Main Redoubt. He may become trapped and put to siege in Albany, rather than assaulted. If he loses, whether by storm or siege, his army will likely to be lost to the Struggle.

5) Leaving Morgan and Lincoln in position, reorganise on-table and attack Burgoyne with what forces he has at what seems the best place - possibly pushing Burgoyne back. 

Pluses: He may regain his heavy supplies in the Main Redoubt. By rebuffing Burgoyne this will make a night-time retreat to Schenectady less humiliating, plus securing the Schenectady road to allow a retreat overnight.

Negatives: He may lose heavily and be knocked back with losses. If so,  Lincoln and Morgan could be cut off, and swamped - or forced to accept terms – tomorrow.

None of the above are ideal, but then, he is in a bad position. I scribble a quick Ad Hoc Decision table: 

Result is a nine - Option 1. Given Gates's situation I will switch player and play him, with Burgoyne "going on automatic".  An aid is sent off to inform Morgan and Lincoln.

But before any action can be taken first Burgoyne, then von Reidesel are activated and throw their regiments at Lincoln's troops, Morgan's Rifles and the remaining dispirited garrison of the Main Reboubt. The militia on the slopes from the Main Redoubt and in Lincoln's redoubt will not meet the bayonets of the Hessians and Redcoats and three units break. Morgan's men retreat to their supports.

Gates has suddenly had the situation taken out of his hands. With more than half his army routed or wavering near breaking point all that can be done is to salvage what he can from the wreck and pull back towards Schenectady. Luckily Burgoyne and Reidesel's men are too exhausted to pursue. All is over bar the withdrawal.

In campaign terms this was not a disaster for the rebels. Losing Albany and the supply train was bad, but Gates got away with most of his army.

Burgoyne will claim this as a win - but in strategic terms it was not. OK, Albany was taken and Burgoyne's army suffered minimal casualties in pushing gates off his perch, but now Gates can head north towards Lafayette. Had Burgoyne waited for Clinton to be ready this could (and should) have been a decisive victory.


Well, that was an exciting little game which did NOT end as I expected - I fully anticipated Burgoyne getting a bloody nose; but then I hadn't fought this kind of fight with these rules before.

The result was partly due to a LOT of luck on the British side regarding Gates's initial dispositions, good Leader Activation/good movement dice and Fraser's successful progress though the woods. Add to that mix a LOT of aggressive action test results on the part of the British junior commanders (plus the failure, on EACH occasion when tested, of the militia to hold the ground they were given when faced with a bayonet charge) and maybe this was too one-sided a fight. 

The British artillery was pretty ineffective though.

Technical thoughts: I need to make some different colour-coded markers for Disruption Levels and Casualties.

I may consider making some "formation change templates".

I maybe need to research/revisit/revise the rules regarding heavy gunnery, esp. howitzers.

I need to do some more reading-up on British officer casualties.  

Had I not been doing a lot of reading which challenges a lot of the myths about the AWI I would have been more concerned by the results.

As it is, the adjusting of the traditional picture of the effectiveness (or otherwise) of musketry and the taking into consideration how British troops ACTUALLY behaved and fought in this period (amongst other things the lying down/using reverse slopes when under fire during this period - a practice I had previously understood to have been adopted later, in the Napoleonic Wars, rapidity of approach, flexibility and the speedy nature of British charges) meant that the rules seemed to reflect the reality quite well.

Next post will consider some of the rules and off-table action processes I used for this game, along with some technical notes and decision table examples. 

As always, any thoughts, queries, critiques and comments welcome. 


Friday 7 January 2022

1776 And All That (Part the Second)

The Battle Prep.:

Having had a good old poke about online looking at period, near period and modern (from Victorian to modern topographical) maps I have come up with a rough sketch map of the area, with which I'm reasonably happy.

On this I have set out what I think is a reasonable position for Gates to adopt, based on the decisions made in the previous post.

Using this map (and as I am "playing" him) I have formulated Burgoyne's general plan of approach. 

Burgoyne will NOT launch a major attack via the town (street fighting is too messy.. Plus he does not want his troops and Indians running amok among the warehouses - he want the town and its supplies intact). Instead, he will move towards the town, then pull most of his force off the Albany/Ft. Edward road and up the track to Cahos Falls (and the Mohawk River  - with its portage and ferry connections). This gives him two practical lines of retreat to his bridgehead if he is repulsed. Here he will set up his main line of battle and his batteries.
From the above map I have cut a "Table Map" (below) scaled to my Wargames Table and covering the area most likely to be affected by Burgoyne's' (my) plan; i.e. the northern flank of gates's position. This terrain will be laid out on the Wargames Table.  

I have allowed Gates to dig-in (basic entrenchments) during the time Burgoyne has been faffing about. This seems fair and in character. it will also make my job (as Burgoyne) harder.

While the rough layout of Gates's defences has been viewed from the high ground north of the Paltroon Creek valley and probed by his scouts, Burgoyne (i.e. me) does not know how exactly how Gates has deployed his actual forces.

Clinton, to the south, is still an unknown quantity. In theory he could "march to the guns" once the battle gets started in earnest. This will be an in-game decision, but would complicate matters as, assuming Gates will have set up some kind of defence to cover himself from Clinton, he would have to fight his way onto the ridge or into the town or even across Normans Creek (or even be really clever and try to outflank Gates by crossing Normans Creek further upstream). To be fair this ought to be fought as a separate action.

The British Battle Plan 

This is a real Gambler's Throw...

The British Plan is to set up their heavy artillery on the northern ridge (using the track to the Ft. Edward road for access) to play on the enemy, while a reconnaissance in force (Light Companies, Jaegers and Indians under Fraser) moves through the woodlands to the west-cum-north-west to feel out Gates's western flank and attract his attention to that point of the field.

When the time is ripe, and gates engaged on his flank, the main force will then make as if to push from the northern ridge, across the relatively open area of mainly farmland in the Patroon creek valley, to demonstrate, and if opportunity allows, attack Gates's north facing entrenchments.

At the same time, with Gates now distracted, two picked regiments will swiftly enter the town and secure the warehouse district (off table). Once the docks and warehouses are secured one regiment may be used to push up to the dilapidated fort and secure that and the defences facing Gates's position. However, that would be a bonus and at the discretion of the officer in command.

We may find the Gates has placed forces in the town. If these are in any strength the attempt to take the warehouses will be aborted. 

Meanwhile a force made up of Hessian and British Grenadiers, under Von Riedesel, supported by a sudden and concentrated artillery barrage, will thrust up the bostals where the two small tributaries of the Platroon cut into the slopes of Gates's ridge, near the north end of the town entrenchment, to take the small redoubt there. 

[There are no tracks actually marked on the period maps, but it seems reasonable to assume that these little valleys would be regularly used to access the top of the ridge from the valley/farmland - see pic from Mr. Google above, looking up towards the ridge - and thus, at the very least, have paths up them.] 

With both his flanks threatened it is thought Gates will likely pull back from his defences facing the Paltroon Valley, possibly allowing these to be overrun by the British by the main force with light losses.

He may withdraw into the town of course, or pull back to his southern (south-facing) defences, and hunker down there.

However, with luck - and bearing in mind Clinton breathing down his neck in the south - forcing him to fall back MAY end with him attempting to withdraw along to the track to Schenectady (and Lafayette) rather than heading into Albany to make a fight of it there. However, this will rely on him not feeling too pressed by the Lights and Indians.

If he takes the Schenectady route he can then be 
harassed by the lights and Indians to see him on his way.

If he simply concentrates in the south then a combined attack by both Burgoyne and Clinton should end him tomorrow. 

If he pulls into Albany this will be a bit of a pain (and a risk to the warehouses?), but the combined heavy artillery of Burgoyne and Clinton on the heights should make him see sense in a day or two.

Gates's Plan:

Not known to me... We can guess at:

First: To preserve his army as a fighting force.
Second: To see off the British.
Third: To hold Albany and prevent the warehouses etc. falling into British hands.

If he succeeds achieving a stalemate there is a light chance that the British may falter, giving Lafayette the chance to come to Gate's assistance in the coming weeks.

Of course, with gung-ho commanders like Arnold in his army he may have difficulties here and there.

Victory Conditions:

I'm a great believer in Victory Conditions suiting the contemporary narrative, not being "points" based, based on the military ideal or some retrospective concept of "aims" as imposed by historians.

With Gates his (unknown to me and to be decided post battle) Victory Conditions will match with the above plan. With Burgoyne self-interest will have an influence on the British Victory conditions...

OK, if Gates pulls out towards Lafayette this will not achieve a decisive victory for the British since Gates's army will likely have suffered few serous losses. However, from Burgoyne's personal point of view this is possibly the best result since it will mean:

1) Burgoyne 
(and not Clinton) will have been seen to have defeated the enemy - and alone, with no help from "sluggard" Clinton.

Burgoyne (and not Clinton) will have captured Albany intact (Yay Burgoyne!).

3) As a result it will be Burgoyne 
(and not Clinton) who will be seen to have given the Rebels a bloody nose, and hence it will be Burgoyne who will be lionised in the newsheets, given a vote of thanks in Parliament, congratulated by the king etc. etc. etc.  Who knows, there may even be a complimentary cartoon to prop up on the mantelpiece... ? Or maybe there's even a play in it..? Here's dreaming....

So let's say British Conditions are:

First: Push Gates from his northern defences and secure the warehouses in Albany, with minimal losses.

Take Albany, pushing Gates aside, and effecting a junction with Clinton.

Third: Drive Gates reeling towards Schenectady and take Albany.

Pre-Battle Thoughts:

This has the makings of an interesting fight. The British plan is perhaps over complex - a real Gambler's Plan - which could go VERY astray. Gates (or at least his sub-commanders) is a bit of an unknown quantity. He may be sensibly cautious. He may be prompted by others to be more aggressive. 

Apropos Burgoyne himself; I first became aware of the fascinating "Gentleman Johnny" at school via a play reading of Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" (I read "The Sergeant") and, about the same time, an account of Saratoga in my childhood book club copy of "Great Military Battles" by Cyril Bentham Falls. I have yet to read any of Burgoyne's plays, but have seen some of his verse. An interesting guy...

In passing, I stumbled across this somewhat idiosyncratic biography of Burgoyne online the other day.. A little odd, and somewhat dated perhaps, but I found it amusing - plus providing some interesting scenarios in his earlier adventures... 

So.. All I have to do now is finish some scratch-built field defences and set up the table, and we're away.... I will try to make sure the post battle report contains details of the "Decision Process" and C&C Difficulty issues.  Watch, as they say, this space....

New Year. New House. New Plans..

New hope...? Well, we're in the new house at last.... I now have: A garage to convert into a workshop for, amongst other things, modelli...