Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Crysler's Farm playtest

I've mentioned before that Doug, Mark and I are interested in playing a series of War of 1812 games at Enfilade over the next couple of years during the bicentennial.  It looks like Crysler's Farm and Sackett's Harbor are on the docket for 2013.  We played through an out of the box Crysler's Farm at Enfilade last May, and nobody was happy with the result.  So Mark, Doug and I talked through some potential changes. We played with the Regimental Fire and Fury rules using the QRS for 1812. These are written for 15mm figures, so for our 28's we made a couple of changes.  First we agree to keep the movement distances the same.  However, we did double the firing ranges.  One can discuss how this alters the ground scale, etc., but we found it didn't unbalance the game, didn't make it a shooting game, it worked fine.

Today seemed like the perfect day to give our changes a playtest.  It's my last Truant's game as we begin heading into the school year.  Mark, Joe, Al, Rocky and I gathered at The Game Matrix for one final hurrah.

Mark, Doug and I talked up some changes that would make the game more competitive for the British.  The battle was the age old story of a veteran, well-led small force wreaking havoc on a less talented, poorly led large force.  The small force was a British army defending outside Montreal against a larger American force led by the nefarious James Wilkinson, sick in his bed on a barge.

In our Enfilade game, the Americans arrived on the table, set up, all at once and just rolled over the Brits, despite the difficult terrain. For this scenario, we added some house rules and staggered the American set up.  The big change we allowed in the rules was to give the British veteran units a +1 add to their fire, and the one crack British unit a +2.  A departure to be sure, but it offset the size of the American force overall, as well as the size of the American units, which was also sizable.

The Americans began with Swartout's brigade in position to fight the unit of Canadian Fencibles and the 89th across the ravines on the left, and Cole's small brigade ready to take on the Canadian Voltigeurs in the woods on the right flank.  Covington's brigade was marching on to the table, while Boyd's British regulars were holding the center behind a rail fence.
Cole's brigade dances with the Canadian Voltigeurs on the American right.  Eventually the American numbers told and the Voltigeurs were driven off.
The best hope for the Americans is to be very aggressive.  Their units tend to be larger, but once they start taking casualties, will become much more likely to become tardy or stall altogether.

I ran Swartout's and Coles's brigades.  Both are poor commanders, so a -1 for their command rolls.  This didn't make a big difference on the right as I pushed Cole's two regiments pretty rapidly against the Voltigeurs in extended order in the woods.  Though Joe peppered me pretty good, I also had a pretty good turn of fire, and when his command roll made him tardy, was able to charge him, and scatter him.

Against Rocky, on the left, however, things didn't go quite so well. I lined up my brigade and advanced across the ravine, took some pretty effective fire and then the units in the center and on the right broke. I generally rolled poorly for command on this flank, averaging something like a 3 or less, while with Cole's brigade it was a 7 or more. I also misinterpreted the rules for in command and out of command, and the upshot is two of my three units in Swartout's brigade broke, could never recover their morale and routed off the table.
Swartout's disaster.  The last American unit (left) dukes it out with two British units as its two brigade mates broke (center) and fled the field.
In the center, Al moved his units as quickly as possible into the center, and took on Joe's two British line units with some assistance from Rocky.  Al also used the two American gun sections to stabilize my situation on the left, as well as the small unit of American light dragoons, as Rocky overextended himself in driving my remnants off.  Joe was gradually being overwhelmed in the center as Cole's brigade emerged from the woods and threatened his flank left (our right right.) As Rocky's command lost contact with Joe, the gigantic American Boat battalion appeared to his front and the light dragoons prepared to charge the 89th in the flank.  We called the game as it became clear the British would have to withdraw or be destroyed.
D.C. militia impersonate U.S. regulars as Al advances Covington's brigade in the center.
The situation at game end.  The American center (far) has advanced past the British right, isolating the 89th and Fencibles.  American reinforcements move in for the kill.
Though the British gun (right) has just nailed the remnants of Cole's brigade, holding off a catastrophic flanking movement, the two redcoat units holding the center are wounded and badly outnumbered by Covington's troops and will have to retreat.

There were lots of things that had to go right for the Americans to win.  First, we played a very aggressive game.  As a result, we took loads of casualties.  Cole's success in the woods was also a pretty lucky break.  Things had to go right in order to actually get my hands on Joe there.  Rocky didn't help things by advancing beyond support range for Joe, and made a fight in the center, where the real battle was going to be, much more tenuous.

All in all the game went well, but deserves additional play just to be sure for Enfilade.  Just as a note, neither Mark or myself had any of the actual units at the battle.  We substituted what we had for the units in the game.

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