Sunday, November 3, 2013

Playtesting Freeman's Farm Part I

I am setting up a Volley & Bayonet game for two friends at the moment and have been testing out various scales to play at.  After reading the notes section of Brendan Morrissey's "Saratoga:1777" (an Osprey book) it would seem to me that the best scale to play at is Greg Novak's "Wing Scale" which features smaller units than the standard Volley & Bayonet unit size but gives units better range and skirmishers a little more power.

There is no shortage of material on Freeman's Farm out there but how to best represent the battle on the tabletop?  The reinforcement schedule is tricky, and unit strength is also a factor.  I want to give these guys a taste of the battle itself and the decisions faced by the commanders.  I also have to balance it for what I actually have painted!

At a slightly reduced wing scale, I have enough units to represent Poor's Brigade, Learned's Brigade and Morgan's unit.  On the British side, Fraser's advanced column, Hamilton's Brigade, and a slightly under strength Brigade Von Riedesel are all present along with Artillery and skirmishers.  The initial battle I just completed shows I still have some issues to hammer out.
Fraser's Brigade slams into Poor's timely arrival

Connecticut Milita against the British regulars

both the lights and grenadiers retreat...

New Hampshire units

Learned's Brigade deploys for action

The entire Freeman's Farm battlefield - Poor's Brigade in the lower left fighting Fraser.  On the very right you can see Von Riedesel deploying
 This battle turned out to be very lopsided with dramatic reversals of fortune on both sides.  Hamilton's Brigade, instead of being attacked by Morgan, ended up attacking and were involved in a series of inconclusive charges.  Much like the real battle, this battle broke down into smaller engagements with the Continentals gaining the upper hand thanks to numbers.

Royal Artillery gunners.  They suffered a strength point loss thanks to Morgan's Rifles but never lost their guns, unlike the real battle.

9th Foot I think...

Von Riedesel's troops finally get into the fight.  They would lose an entire battalion charging stationary rifles in the open.

For lack of painted troops, I used Hazlett's Continentals for Dearborn's Lights.

Green Mou

Final Dispositions - Frazer's Brigade retreating lower left.

View from the Coulter Farm

Enoch Poor and his rag tag band of Continental Rabble!
 A few observations from this battle before we go live with my 2 buddies:

-reinforcement schedule must be nailed down.  I'd like units to arrive as they actually did, and be positioned where they were when the battle opened.
-artillery better positioned to be used by the british
-Morgan's guys should start the battle already stationary
-Hamilton's Brigade should be already on the field and not arriving when the battle starts.  The Rebels attacked him first.
-Consider making the Rebel units in Poor's Brigade 3 strength points (or consider making ALL units 3 strength points except for Fraser's Grenadiers and Lights, which should be 4).
-Consider making Dearborn and Morgan's units with morale of "5" or "6" making them much harder to break a la the actual battle.

Ketchum's classic work on Saratoga paints a very dismal and awful morale among the British troops at Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights as they were withering at the end of a very long supply line, surviving on half rations during a very cold and wet September/October in upstate New York.  British units I think should have a morale of 5 and even some Regulars and Hessians start with a morale of 4.  They would still retain their Regular status and enjoy all the benefits of well trained troops, but with a propensity to break a little faster than they normally would.

So the next playtest will be with the points noted above.

By the way, this game narrowly went to the Americans on account of the amount of British Battalions who routed and Fraser's Command reaching exhaustion first.



  1. Very nice AAR with, as always, great pictures. Your batttlefield is impressive, and the Learned's brigade is looking fantastic!

    1. Thanks, Phil. My AWI troops are my favorites!

  2. Yes, I like the table surface a lot! What is it?

    1. Ken,
      Much simpler than you'd think - it's plywood with brown latex paint and various colored flock generously applied while the paint was wet. Then I sprayed about about 4 or 5 coats of watered down elmer's glue on top.

      The multi-colored flocking really has garnered alot of favorable comments. I must admit I liked the single color look but ran out of that color during production!

      The only problem now is to build my desert board, I'll have to either flip this one over (not desireable), or use a large insulation foam board.

      I was going to try your idea out with the drop-cloth - that might be a winner.

      The table is 4 x 6.

  3. Yes, I like the table surface a lot! What is it?