Monday, February 14, 2011

Crsyler's Farm, November 11,1813: A sample Heart's of Tin game

1:30 pm The American army appears.

On Sunday, I finally set up Crysler's Farm as a test game of Hearts of Tin. This is about the smallest size of battle that will work with the rules without a lot of fudging. I laid the battlefield out at roughly 6" to 100 yards and fielded 1 company for roughly 100 infantry, 50 light infantry or cavalry or 3 guns. I allowed 12 turns for the 3 hour battle. the table was 5 feet wide by 6 feet long. All infantry are musket armed, all artillery is smoothbore.

The order of battle for each side was (companies refers to game stands not historical companies): the numbers in brackets are estimates of the unit's strength. I reviewed a couple of accounts of the battle but relied mostly on Donald Grave's book Field of Glory since it was the most recent, the most detailed and appears to have been thoroughly researched.

Lt Col. Pearson: Army General & Brigade Commander. (note since Pearson is doubling as Army General and Brigade Commander, he is allowed to change his own orders without rolling or delay.)
49th Foot ( 304) 3 companies Veteran Line Infantry
89th Foot (240) 2 companies Veteran Line Infantry
Royal Artillery: (3 guns) 1 Elite field gun  (there were in fact 2 guns of the Royal Artillery and 1 gun of Canadian militia attached to the Advance Guard. rather than make scenario rules for the single gun, I merged them into one artillery unit. The Americans had a 2 gun detachment and a 4 gun detachment. I evened these out to 2 artillery units keeping the overall ratio of guns consistent despite the loss of detail).
All British Regular Infantry was played by the 41st Foot.

Barnes Detachment of the 89th: (144) 2 companies  Veteran Line Infantry
Advance Guard: (I treated this as a single unit under the rules)
       Flank Companies of the 49th (80) 1 company Veteran Line Infantry
       Fencibles: (108)  1 company Line Infantry played by Canadian Militia
Barnes and the Advance Guard are isolated rather than independent. They may only stand, retreat or react to an attack unless an ADC joins or the general moves close enough to order them.

Maj Heriott: Brigade Commander (posted in the woods with orders to slow and harass the enemy but to avoid destruction of his command)
Voltigeurs: (150) 3 stands  Light Infantry sharpshooters played by the Glengarries
Mohawks: (30) 1 company veteran Light Infantry .

Royal Navy: (3 gunboats) 1 gunboat with siege gun. Due to the steep river banks, all targets count as if in cover to the gunboat.


B. Gen Boyd. Army General.

1st Brigade. Col. Coles.  Ordered to support the 4th Brigade
12th Infantry (225) 2 companies line infantry
13th Infantry (225) 2 companies line infantry

3rd Brigade: BGen Covington. Ordered to wait until the British left was engaged then drive in the British right.
9th Infantry (300) 3 companies line infantry
16th Infantry (225) 2 companies line infantry
25th Infantry (372) 4 companies line infantry

4th Brigade  B. Gen Swartout: Ordered to turn the British left
11th Infantry (300) 3 companies line infantry
14th Infantry (125) 2 companies line infantry (I added the excess from the 12th & 13th
21st Infantry (425) 4 companies line infantry

The American 1st & 4th Brigades were played the 4th & 7th US, while the 3rd brigade was played by the 1st & 3rd Ohio Regiments.
2nd Dragoons (150): 3 Troops. (Played by the 2nd NY Dragoons) Independent

Reinforcments. All Independent units.
Turn 3 Artillery (2 guns) 1 field gun
Turn 6 or later (rolling 1 or less to arrive, 2 or less the next turn etc)
- Artillery (4 guns)  1 field gun.
Turn 9 or later (rolling 1 or less to arrive, 2 or less the next turn etc)
- Boat Guard (600)  6 companies of Elite Line infantry. (supposedly the "best men" in the army)

Terrain.:  The battle was fought over soggy but passable fields on a typical clearing along the banks of the St Lawrence. The field was crossed by a number of rail fences but these do not seem to have played a major role so have been left out apart from a few for colour. A series of ravines and gullies ran back from the river and these did play a role but were passable by all units including artillery so are Broken rather than Difficult.

The banks of the St Lawrence appears to have been high enough that the artillery did not have a clear line of sight but they  are reported to have fired with effect and 24pdr shot have been dug up so I decided to allow them to blind fire like howitzers, counting their target as if it was in cover. .

The woods are a problem. They are described as swampy and I have walked such woods in Quebec and it can be heavy slogging. The Americans attacked through the woods in column and apparently covered the ground almost as fast as the troops crossing the fields. I eventually decided to screen off a wide area of woods which blocks line of sight and provides cover to light infantry but which does not slow movement. Within this area I scattered tree bases (old CD's) which were classed as Difficult terrain. (Individual trees and bits of greenery are for visual effect only and may be moved out of the way) The American columns could then move around these dense thickets but would be held up if they attempted to move in line and they channeled the columns into ambush zones.  It worked well and this will probably be my usual way of dealing with forests for the War of 1812.

Some accounts indicate that the British guns were on a slight rise that allowed them to fire shrapnel over head of their own infantry. The rise is small enough that it doesn't show in pictures. I decided to ignore it as there appeared to be plenty of gaps to fire through with the same effect.
The British columns move forward to deploy.

The American attack began, as did the historical one, with an attempt to push through the woods to turn the British flank Since visibility in such terrain is 3", the same as melee range, any contact is resolved using the melee rules. The Voltigeurs and Indians picked their places and waited in ambush. Since the Voltigeurs don't seemed to have suffered heavily and inflicted noticeable but not serious casualties, I ruled that the terrain would offer them cover in melee but nit count as an obstacle. The result of the first clash was a drawn melee. Since the skirmish stands only take 2 hits, this felt a little uncomfortable for them and they bugged out on the next move. The Americans came on again, this time with Coles, rolling much better for movement than the officer he was supporting and perhaps over interpreting his orders, leading a regiment in a charge. His troops inflicted 1 hit but he was shot out of the saddle which along with 2 other hits, was enough to send his brigade tumbling back. On their turn, the Voltigeurs tumbled back through the woods, all but 1 company was reduced to a single hit and self preservation kicked in.    The 4th brigade took over the advance again with the 21st deploying in the field as on the day and advanced under skirmish fire from a company of Voltigeurs on the edge of the forest. As the US Regulars in the woods charged forward with the bayonet, the Voltiguers evaded all along the line but Major Heriot, who was a little too far forward for an unattached commander, was surprised and captured (lost the die roll). The Mohawks who stood and fought for reasons that escape me, fought manfully but casualties were heavy and they withdrew from the field. (i.e. they took a 2nd hit)  
 The American attack through the woods begins

Out in the open, the British line had advanced to escort the guns into a suitable firing position. Once the artillery opened up, it fired with alarming accuracy. Its just as well that I hadn't tagged them as Superior as planned due to their allowance of shrapnel. the naval support was completely ineffectual at first due to the halving but eventually it kicked in, especially whenever it had a chance to enfilade.  Once the first American guns arrived, they started having a similar effect on the Advance Guard but BG Covington (i.e. me) got a little impatient and ordered his men forward. The troops committed to a frontal charge across the gully suffered horribly (and rolled even worse) and were repulsed. One regiment, however, was left out of the attack and was in position to flank the British defenders.
About 3pm, The American debouch from the woods and engage the british line. The battle is running about 30 minutes this point.

As the American left reformed and started rolling anxiously for the guns who were still 45 minutes away, the right emerged from the woods and engaged the waiting redcoats. The 21st balked at the prospect of charging in headlong (me again) and they and the 49th traded fire at about 100 yards. Coles, with a bandage wrapped around his head had somehow pushed his men to the front again and disdaining to deploy led his men forward in column.    The defensive fire from the 89th was adequate, just but the enthusiastic Americans rolled up, causing alarming casualties to the small regiment and almost pushing them back. Pearce called up the 49th, and some Voltigeurs, and rode to the head of the 89th to inspire the lads. Once again Coles went down and his men, now reduced to below 50% as well as being out fought, broke and scattered back through the woods.
The remnant of the 21st who had been caught up in the melee, were forced to retreat as well. The 4th Brigade unwisely attempted to renew the attack and were in turn broken after scaring the pants off the British and the GM.

The carnage on the left flank. 

Since I was using 4 single figures per company rather than a base or a larger grouping, it looked like both sides might be finished but some reordering and a quick tally showed that the British brigade still had 8 out of 10 companies inaction, even though 2 were down to a single figure. The American 3rd Brigade had 5 out of 9 companies still in action so the battle wasn't quite over. Rather than play it safe, the American general launched one more assault on Barnes detachment and the 2 nearly annihilated each other but belatedly an ADC led the Advance moved up in support and turned the tables. At this point, although the Boat guard had forced marched onto the table  about 15 minutes earlier than its historical counter parts, the American army was essentially broken. .Out of curiosity more than anything else, I decided to push on with the final act, the British charge on the guns and the counter charge of the Dragoons. 

Drawing in the Advance Guard, the British line, 6 companies, advanced in line towards the gun. A heavy but not terribly effective fire didn't look set to hold them so the guns limbered up to head for the protection of the Boat Guard while the Dragoons duly charged to cover the movement. Defensive fire knocked down 2 and no hits were scored in return so the Dragoons tumbled backwards as the sun set on turn 12.

. The cavalry are repulsed. The issue with small non-based companies is evident, there are actually 6 companies in line from 3 units but at a glance, it looks more like 3. Having larger companies or putting them on bases to hold their frontage, or doing both, would improve the optics.

So what did I think? There were a few niggling things wrong about the latest changes that mean they had to be backed out but on the whole I was pleased with how things went.  The sequence of events and timetable didn't exactly match the original but it was close and the variations in large part that was due to combat results and on the whole the game played out in the same fashion as the battle despite some close calls. 

Casualties also worked out not too bad if you apply the 25% lost as killed, seriously wounded or missing rule of thumb from the after the battle section. (Each "company" of line infantry stood in for 100 men so essentially each hit was about 25 men, The 2 hit light infantry and cavalry each stood for 50 so the ratio holds). The British took about 28 hits, divided by 4 and multiplied by 25 represents about 175 men vs the 200 or so reported killed, wounded and stragglers. The American killed, wounded and missing are less well reported but are variously estimated at between 300 and 400. In the game    there was also a failure to hold a roll call as the retreat began but they took roughly 60 hits, again dividing by 4 and multiplying by 25 comes to  375 permanent losses. 

Timewise, it took about 2 hours to play out the 3 hour battle but then it was a very small one. 

The only "fudging" in the game, apart from the setup, troop classification etc, was to issue orders based on interpretations of the historical ones. Obviously a different battle plan might have had a different result and indeed, the dice almost changed the fortunes of the day as it was.  So I am pleased.

I'm also pleased that the decision to cut down my table and field smaller armies means I will not have to sell off the 1812 lads to make room for more 1840's ones.



  1. That looks to have been a good game Ross. In a bit of a rush for now, so I'll try to have a proper read of this post later in the week.

  2. Not an unalloyed success for the Irish - but stirring stuff nonetheless. I'm always impressed by the look of your battlefields Ross, a good combination between clutter and playability. I may have to look into some scatter myself.

  3. Thanks Conrad, At times I'm a bit embarrassed at the dilapidated state of some of the bits but overall I like to think of it as Old School simplicity and improvisation touched by a natural messiness.

    After all, nature is never neat.


  4. Hi Ross,
    I have been assuming that the poured lines of sand/ballast/cat litter represent roads. Is that right?

    Referring back to your teaser-translator post (and thanks again for that), when you are doing a WWII scenario and the map shows no roads, do you play it that way or add what seems reasonable road-wise?

    I am kicking around the idea of running that scenario as you sent it, but not with my busted Soldiers East rules. I might try Storm of Steel or Keith Barker's Panzer8 set ( or Blaze Away ( -- or one of the other dozens of downloaded sets I have considered from time to time.

    Thanks again.
    Say rowr-rrr to Hector for me.

  5. Yes the sand is for roads & paths. I add them to scenarios if it matters or for looks. That is, for WWII etc or if their are reinforcements arriving, I'll add them but don't for ancients.

    There's a few extra ones in the Chrysler's Farm game where I hadn't fully cleaned off a preceding game.

    I had some fun games with Storm of Steel back around 2002/3. Haven't checked them recently.