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The Battle of Saratoga, 1777

The American War of Independence, Black Powder, 28mm

Last week we decided to try out the new Black Powder rules (see review), using the Freeman’s Farm scenario they described in the rule book. The crowd who designed Black Powder like to use abnormally large tables – far bigger than the largest we regularly game on on a club night. Therefore we decided to scale everything down slightly, and use firing ranges and movement rates that were two-thirds of the ones they listed. It was still quite a big game though, but it allowed us to fight it out on a more manageable 8×6 foot table.awi-jan09-002Freeman’s farm – better known as the First Battle of Saratoga involved an encounter between British and American columns, in a clearing in the woods of upstate New York Colony. The British had more troops, but in this version of the battle the onus was on them to attack.awi-jan09-033The assault was spearheaded by two British columns – each of which crossed Mill Creek by a different crossing, to the east and west of a small wood. The historical battlefield was a far more thickly wooded that the version in this scenario, but in Black Powder line troops don’t do particularly well in trees, hence the sparse cover. On the British left Bill Gilchrist (playing both General Burgoyne and Brigadier Hamilton) swept over the creek and  past Freeman’s Farm.awi-jan09-015 On the right the advance of Brigadier Fraser (played by Ken Pearce) was altogether more cautious, but equally determined. At the start the only Americans on the table were Morgan’s riflemen, a few skirmishers and a regiment of  American line, under the command of General Arnold (played by Dougie Trail).  Reinforcements arrived just as the British crossed the stream – Brigadier Poor’s command on the right (commanded by Dougie) and Brigadier Learned’s on the right, under my own command.awi-jan09-039On the British left Hamilton’s men fanned out into line, then advanced towards the Americans. For a moment it looked like they might sweep all before them, but the American line held, and as more troops arrived they began outflanking the British left. Over on the other side of the table Fraser launched a charge with the British Grenadiers, but the Massachusetts line regiment they attacked stood its ground, and a hectic melee ensued.awi-jan09-004Both sides supported the fight, but British attempts to outflank the American left through the woods were thwarted when Dearborn’s Light infantry routed their British counterparts. the battle there degenerated into a hard-fought slugging match, with the American’s slowly giving ground, while still preventing the British from using their superior numbers to good effect.awi-jan09-032At that point the whole battle changed, as Poor’s Americans hit Hamilton’s British in the flank around Freeman’s Farm. Within two turns Bill’s command had been destroyed, leaving Dougie free to intervene on my side of the table. The British Grenadiers had been taking heavy casualties, and at that moment they broke, which effectively reduced Ken’s brigade to half strength. He wisely decided to pull back, his withdrawal covered by the Hessian troops of General von Riedesel (played by Jim Louttit). Therefore our refight of the Battle of Saratoga ended in a clear American victory.What we all found impressive was the speed with which Black Powder worked. The rules were simple enough for us all to grasp them fairly quickly, but they were subtle too albeit quirky, and it’ll take several games before we can really say we know what we’re doing. However, we all pretty much agreed that the rules get a thumbs up, and we’ll certainly try them again very soon – next week in fact!awi-jan09-022



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