Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cryslers' Testing Farm

Its only been a week since I played this game but it feels like a year because of my surprise immersion into the fictional 1/72 card table game. I'll be honest, that was so easy and fun and so much like what I pictured for my 40mm toy soldiers that it had me poking about upstairs with tape and figures again recalculating the optimum balance between size and number of grid squares and playing with 2 1/2D 40mm terrain mock ups. It took a forced wander through past blog posts to remind me that there have been other games that had been interesting and fun and get me back on track.

Luckily, the bits that about the card table/portable games that work best for me are not terribly applicable to the War of 1812 so that is safe, and it is today's topic.

The American attack goes askew when the main attack stalls in the woods (where the smoke can be seen through the trees) so an impatient, unsupported attack goes in on the center left only to be hit by a wall or 6's from the British artillery, gunboat and skirmishers and forced to fall back as the British center advances.

I've lost track but this is the 5th or 6th time at least that I have played Cryslers Farm using various rules. It is an interesting little action on the cusp between skirmish and battle like so many War of 1812 battles.  Basically, with 2 battalions plus a few detachments totalling close to 1,000 men, the British gave a bit of a drubbing to an American force of 8 battalions plus a squadron of cavalry totalling around 2,500, give or take 500 men. The Americans fought well and the British, though well trained had a high percentage of officers and men who had not seen action before. The more I look at the battle, the more it seems to come down to generalship and command control that allowed the British and Canadians to make good use of terrain and aggressive, confident, troop handling to best the various American attacks piecemeal  and so demoralized the opposing commander that he broke off the attack as fresh troops were arriving on the field.

If unfamiliar with the battle the wikipedia article nicely puts it in context.'s_Farm

And for a previous Hearts of Tin run at it including orders of battle both, real and game, check here:

November 2011 chrsylers farm game.

I didn't think to look back and anyway my basing and table size has changed and the rules were an earlier version but the game OB that was used was essentially the same, give or take a stand here and there. I did give the British "General"  a +1 to his orders dice and gave the American "General" a -1. He of course took this as a sign and proceded to roll as low as possible as often as possible.

The American center then attacked with support by a straggler from the left. It was repulsed once but rallied and came back as the British line advanced.

Once again I was happy how the rules worked in this context.
The number of turns was about right, at an average of 15 minutes each, compared to the real thing and the playing time only a little less. The troops also covered appropriate amounts of ground apart from the troops in the woods who moved a little too slow. Using my usual rule of 1/4 of stands lost represent killed, wounded and missing, the casualty figures were also reasonably close. 

I was initially concerned that the low stand count would leave the game vulnerable to a string of good/bad luck but although thete was a string of those, one almost leading to an early destruction of the British left wing, in the end there were enough counter balances that none of the strings of luck were decisive and since both sides had them, they balanced out.

The 3rd attack was scattered as the American General fumbled for the orders to send his cavalry (still hiding between the house and the wood)  forward into the British flank and bring his remaining guns forward, 
For the War of 1812 the number of infantry battalions will always be fairly low and cavalry usually limited to a single squadron so I will plan on keeping to a 1 figure = 30 to 50 men ratio giving mostly 4 stand battalions with a few 6 stand ones. Cavalry squadrons and skirmisher detachments will probably stay as 3 individuals.

Three years ago I looked on Cryslers Farm as an example of the smallest viable Hearts of Tin games. Now that I have experience and acceptance of small as well as medium games, and as the rules have evolved,  I see this as  an average game.  With figures based, terrain organized and a variety of small scenarios pre-prepared, I could see the War of 1812 providing both quick games, average ones and the occasional longer game. At the original proposed scale of 1:10 there would only have been medium to extra large games.

This gives me  a very comfortable format and rules for the War of 1812 and 1837 rebellions combined so I will press on. It doesn't require me to paint alot of new troops but there is scope for sufficient to keep me happy and the small numbers will let me do extras for occasional and what if  use.  I still intend to replace the 100 or so stylistically different Sash & Sabre figures (enquiries welcome) just because I can and to give me something to sculpt, cast and paint.

 I try to cover various wargaming approaches with my collection and a workable 1812 solution fills the "refight historical battles" niche while being able to  loan troops to Oberhilse and Faraway for horse and musket armies with more cavalry and easier terrain.

"Happy happy" as the expression goes.
Meanwhile back in the woods the 3rd Brigade is finally in position to debouch and hit the weakened British regulars.
However, I've seen enough to know that this route won't satisfy me for the later 19thC in 40mm. I'm still stuck there.

One attractive option is to do a larger version of the downstairs 1/72nd game with 4 figure battalion units. The small game is being designed to fit, troops and terrain, into the drawer in the desk downstairs which would leave the 40s holding the upstairs for Atlantica with almost no limits. One key element would be the ablity to build terrain to make a built up area of  3 or 4 squares look like a town not a few buildings. I can do that to some extent now with my existing buildings but only by taking up 6 or 9 squares and even then there is the temptation to see it as a lower level action,

Another option is to veer more towards a smaller scale "Colonial"  game for the 40s, a TS&TF sort of thing (or original MacDuff). My enthusiasm is low for that though and I think I would need my bigger table back to not feel crowded and it would call for more diorama like scenery and loads of figures, more of each type than I like to think about.

Lastly I have not dismissed a Rattle of Dice approach with smallish battalions of single figures. This would be similar but maybe something about it might allow that Toy Soldier feel without needing buckets of figures. Something to investigate when I get back from Huzzah in May.

Too late! The American General has hit his break point.
Everybody back to the boats!

In the meantime the Emperor is a bit upset with this whole Free State, Republic thing and has decided to support the expedition to replace the old Duke on the throne of the Duchy of Hungover. He has dispatched an all arms force and cavalry from both allied armies are currently disembarking and should be ready for action by tomorrow.


  1. Ross Mac,

    Yet another very interesting blog entry ... and the photographs that accompany the battle report are great! I find them truly inspiring (and make me want to fight a wargame ASAP) ... and I love the gunboat!

    All the best,


  2. Thanks Bob, I had to gently rip the steam engine out to make room for the gun. Now its an optional upgrade!