Sunday 2 January 2022

1776 And All That....

 A "Cheat" Campaign.

One of the easier methods of playing a campaign I've adopted over the years is to use an "oven ready" board game to generate the battles.

This means less work to set up the campaign parameters and systems for supply/politics etc. (assuming I know the game rules), no map work, scaling or other niggles. One just sets out the game and away we go; basically scenario generation the easy way.

Avalon hill's "1776" is one of my fave board games, is reasonably easily adapted for Solo and provides a lot of fun as a board game. As a "scenario generator" for the table it is one of the best, I reckon and has a place in my heart as being one of my earliest board game purchases.

It also has the advantage of having a number of ready-made small, short game scenarios which allows you to play without embarking on a marathon "whole war" exercise. Hence.....

The Saratoga Campaign:   

Using 3rd edition rules (cadged from the Web - since getting a copy THIS side of the water would break the bank) and home-printed Leader counters I set up as the Scenario Instructions. 

I will play the Colonials on the map (as Geo. Washington). I write initial orders each move for the various commanders of the independent commands scattered across the map. HOWEVER, people being people, there is always a change these officers will not obey my orders promptly or may even go off piste. The chances for this will be based on ad hoc Decision Tests, dependant upon their personalities and, where appropriate, affected by enemy action. 

The British will have an over all strategy based on their Victory conditions, but the actions of their individual commands will, like mine, be based on personality-tweaked Decision Tables. British forces above a certain size and a certain distance from my forces may also generate "Decoy Tokens". These will also act on ad hoc Decision Tables.

Also, I will abandon the IgoUgo system and activate all independent commands (inc. Washington and Decoys) by Token Draw.

Table battles will generate themselves, however I do not intend to fight sieges/assaults on forts on the table as 1) I want this to be a quick "experiment" and 2) thanks to the amazing Mr. Google one has no real excuse (beyond laziness or time or cost) not to model the actual forts reasonably accurately (once one could have blamed use of a "generic fort" on "the library never had a book showing it". The incredible resource that is the Interweb shoots THAT get-out down in flames).  

OK, so off we go.

First Move: 

Washington is activated (Yay!) and scuttles back into Pennsyvania to avoid any sudden moves by the large British force at New York. He dispatches Lafayette to gather heavy artillery from West Point before the British seize it.

British General Howe, at New York, decides to send three Decoys out, one by sea along the coast towards Princeton, one towards New Haven and one up the Hudson towards West Point (aka Fort Clinton).

Meanwhile Wayne shifts up the Delaware Valley to try to put the Catskills between him and the British and threaten the British garrison at Ft. Oswego.

General Burgoyne moves down from Canada towards Fort Ticonderoga. 

There is no action. 

Move Two:

Reinforcements are placed as the scenario rules.

Faced by Burgoyne's superior force Shuyler, at Ticonderoga, panics, abandons the fort and pulls out his troops and guns: moving towards Fort Stanwix. Warner, across the lake at at Mt. Independence likewise abandons his post and pulls back into the Green Mountains.

Burgoyne occupies Ticonderoga.

Wayne continues towards Fort Oswego. 

Howe advances into Connecticut to secure British supply lines.

Henry Clinton disembarks at West Point/Ft. Clinton.

Move Three:

Howe pushes into Massachusetts.

Burgoyne moves towards Albany, leaving a garrison at Ticonderoga.

While Wayne and Lafayette continue the advance on Oswego.

Warner moves behind Burgoyne and up towards Fort Stanwix.

Henry Clinton attacks and takes West Point/Fort Clinton. 

Move Four:

Howe pushes into New Hampshire to secure British supply lines, now threatened by the appearance of Stark.

Lafayette's force approaches Fort Oswego.  At Oswego Brandt wants to ambush the Colonials as they approach. The fort commander is against this and refuses to allow his garrison to take part in the adventure. Brandt and his force leave the fort by bateau and canoe. Lafayette attacks the fort and takes it, but suffers losses.

British troops under Grey land on the New Jersey coast to threaten Princeton. 

Gates, at Albany is reinforced. He now has a force here of approx. 6,000 men and sufficient supplies to put up a good fight. He decided to stay put in the vicinity of Albany. However, he has neglected to entrench.

Meanwhile both Burgoyne (12 regiments plus Indians and a battery of heavy guns) and Clinton (15 regiments and a battery of heavy guns) move towards Albany with the intention to attack Gates. Both forces enter the Albany hex.

"Fight On The table" Table Decision Time:

1) Gates's Decision:

With Gates at Albany, and the two British armies under Clinton and Burgoyne headed to the town, we now have a possible Field Battle looming.

Now, the 1776 Game Moves are "a month" long. This would seem to be plenty of time for Gates to decide on what he wants to do before the arrival of the British. Would he elect to stay put, or push off to avoid what could turn out to be a pincer movement, or what? We will allow Gates to decide.

However, although the map moves are a month long the hexes on the map only represent about 18.5 miles across. As mentioned above; Gates had, in theory, good time to decide what to do IF approached by the British forces. BUT both British forces arrived in the Albany hex after the halfway stage of their moves and after using different amounts of that move; Burgoyne after three fifths of his move and Clinton five fifths.

This allows Gates time to attack Burgoyne BEFORE Clinton even reaches the hex, but would he..?

Working on the (Traditional? Unfair?) reading of Gate's character I'm going for a 3x6D test: 

3: Leaving a small force to hold Albany, Gates steals away with the remainder of his army northwards towards Ft. Stanwix (and Lafayette's force) to avoid "the trap". 

4-6: Gates calls a Council of War* and abides by their decision (Arnold and Morgan will press for an attack on Burgoyne).

7-8: Leaving a holding force in Albany town to distract Clinton, Gates moves to the north of Albany and approaches Burgoyne. Whether he attacks or holds to simply block will be decided once he is close to the enemy (fought as an "Encounter" battle). 

9-11: Gates digs-in in the vicinity of Albany to provide a defence against attack from both directions

12-13: Leaving a holding force in Albany town to distract Burgoyne, Gates moves south to Normans Creek hold there to await Clinton's attack or to attack Clinton (to be decided once he is close to the enemy. Fight as a Face to Face battle). This, however, may leave time for Burgoyne to attack him from behind. 

14-15: Gates calls a Council of War and ignores their decision*; remaining in situ at Albany without digging-in. He will await attack.

16-17: Leaving a small force to hold Albany, Gates moves his whole force to attack one of the British armies (dice for which, fight as an "Encounter" battle).

18: Gates despatches Arnold with a small force to swing past Burgoyne and move to retake Ticonderoga while taking his main force across the Hudson and towards New York. 

(*Councils of War: I would use the method described on my Post "Technical Interlude: Council... What Council....?" but with the various Leaders with Gates acting as "Councillors" with starting cards based on their known characters.

IF Gates chooses to ignore the Council decision then Leaders who have voted strongly against him may very well decide to engage in independent action - i.e. disobey orders on a dice test. If Gates goes along with the Council decision, but certain Leaders who had proved very much against the consensus remain "unconvinced" they MAY consider disobeying orders on a dice test.)

I make the dice check: an Eleven. Gates will garrison Albany and attempt to dig-in nearby to withstand an attack from any quarter before any British forces press home. If the British are prompt he will only have time to put together scratch defences (Arnold goes SPARE !!).

2) British Decisions:

A very basic dice test (not to mention their orders) has already decided that both British forces will press on to Albany. However, whether either force will press home an attack on Gates's force (if it is still in situ) is unknown; as is how prompt they will be and whether they can/will coordinate with each other in any way.

Burgoyne has advanced via Forts Miller and Hardy (not on the 1776 game map) on the west side of the Hudson. He has already stolen a march on Gates, and crossed the Mohawk River (??? Commandeering the ferries and local canoes? Portaging his bridge of boats ALL the way from the Hudson up the Mohawk to pass the falls? Sky-hooks? Goodness knows.. Looks ruddy difficult to me - but that's one of the anomalies of board game movement. Mind you, I have no idea how Gates's/Schuyler's army crossed it either in real life, so there we go... Let's say Burgoyne got his bridge of boats to come down the Hudson and crossed the Mohawk at the confluence with the Hudson while Gates was asleep....).

He still has time to attack Gates (12 days) before Clinton. However, discretion (dice test) overcoming his gambler's instincts he elects to spend 6 days digging-in, so that he has a bolt-hole if repulsed by Gates/thrown back after an unsuccessful attack on on Albany, resting his army, seeking supplies locally and trying to make contact with Clinton (simple dice test per day for this; fail on each occasion).

After this six days are up Burgoyne hesitates (has he lost his nerve?) and spends two more days trying ascertain Clinton's whereabouts and intentions. On the third day (28th) he moves to engage Gates, whatever the risk.

Clinton is likewise on the west side of the Hudson. When within 18 miles of Albany he halts, resting his men and seeking news of Burgoyne for two days.

While Burgoyne is moving towards Gates' army Clinton's scouts make contact with him. Clinton wishes to further rest his men and secure supplies, as well as reconnoitring the ground beyond Norman's Kill/Gates's position. He will not attack until the 29th.

On hearing this Burgoyne halts, his men camping rough while his indians and scouts reconnoitre Gate's position. He WILL attack on the 29th, whether Clinton supports or not.

[Note: All of the above "decisions"  were simple dice tests with modifiers based on Personality and circumstances.]

We have a battle.....  All we need to know is what the field will be like....

4) My Decision - How To Set Out The Table: 

OK.. Gates has decided to stay put somewhere in the hex. Burgoyne has elected to attack him, wherever he is.

Looking at old maps (I LOVE the Interweb) Albany itself has a fort (described by contemporaries as dilapidated and apparently mainly used as a prison) and stockade but appears to be dominated by patches of higher ground outside the enceinte.

Basically it looks like the adage "If you want to defend this place I wouldn't do it from here" seems VERY apt.

Digging-in at the town itself seems a daft thing to do - especially as both British forces are accompanied by heavy artillery. However, entrenching on the heights above the town might be considered - denying the town to the enemy and keeping supply lines open up the Hudson (in theory...) if the British lay siege. This seems an option.

The Mohawk River has already been crossed by Burgoyne (to enter the hex - goodness knows how; see above).

However, in reality this river is a serious obstacle and Gates might consider moving towards the Mohawk and using that to protect his flank/rear before settling into a defensive posture. The angle between the Mohawk and the Hudson, by the Falls, looks secure - but I'm going to assume that that is Burgoyne's bridgehead (aka deathtrap?). Of course Gates could rest a flank on the Hudson between Burgoyne and Albany. 

Between Clinton and Albany is the river Normans Creek (aka Normans Kill - not on the game map and close enough to Albany got Clinton not to have reached it yet). From StreetView and Google maps is not a creek you want to have to fight across. Gates might very well consider using this obstacle.

On the other hand, the terrain around Albany seems wooded with a number of slopes, hills and other places suitable for defence.

Hmmm...... Do I decide for Gates, or make another test? I guess that depends on whether I am going to "Fight the Battle" as one of the British forces or as Gates (basically I'd chose the one with the hardest job, just to make life interesting).

I COULD have gone to an annotated map and worked the moves day-by day, but we already know what the British are going to get up to....

So..... I toss a dice for Gates.

1-2) He will dig-in on the gentle ridge that seems to run from Albany town eastwards, resting a flank on the town's fort.

3) He will dig-in on the banks of Normans Creek, commanding the main crossing.

4-5) He will dig-in on the larger north-south ridge between Burgoyne (at the Mohawk/Hudson confluence) and Albany.

6) He will march to the Mohawk in the vicinity of the ferries at Schenectady and dig-in, using the river to guard his flank and giving him the option of pulling back upriver towards Ft. Stanwix and Lafayette if defeated.

I dice. He opts for No. 1.

I will set up a table with a wooded ridge with the fort/Albany at one end. Gates will be somewhere on it. I will play Burgoyne. He has fewer troops. He will have no idea of Gates's exact dispositions. There is no guarantee Clinton will help, even on the second day....

Watch this space for the fight....

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