Friday, 14 October 2011

Chatterton Hill: Getting an American to play the Yanks.

This coming weekend it's my turn to organise a game for the local group. It's to be the third in my series of refighting actions chronologically from the American War of Independence. I'm using mostly 10mm figures from Old Glory supplemented by some from Pendraken and Irregular. The rules are only very slightly adapted from a version of "Fire and Fury Regimental" which was freely downloadable from their website a few years ago. (See "Downloads, AWI Collection" in my sidebar for our version) This means I have 1 figure representing 10 men - most 1 inch wide stands being 50 men. In my group's opinion the rules work a treat and give a good flavour of this period.  The only modification I'm now making is to shorten artillery ranges by one range band as I found both my first two games were spoiled somewhat by artillery reaching too far and being too effective.   I started off, naturally, with Bunker Hill, and the scale on my 9 feet by 5 feet table meant I could represent  both Bunker and Breed's Hill , with the famous redoubt, the whole of the Charlestown Peninsula with parts of Boston Harbour and the British naval support. Here's a photo of that game.

General view of the redoubt, Charlestown and Boston harbour with the British bringing up a reserve brigade by small boats which will row into Back Bay and take the rebels in the rear

The British won our game rather convincingly. This was partly due to their skillful tactics and the Americans' mistakes over deployment and bringing up reserves, but also because I was a novice with the rules as GM and made several American units too weak and the British artillery support too plentiful for a balanced wargame. Better luck next time Yanks........

Battle of Long Island (New York campaign)
The next time was a year or so later - August 1776. This was a much bigger game and I'd spent several months basing and painting more British, Americans and adding a sizable Hessian contingent. Those familiar with this campaign might think of the Battle of Long Island as a walk over, since the British mounted a strong right hook outflanking movement and caught the Americans by surprise. However you can make a good game of it by making the American force just big enough to hold the area with some good troops (and the crack Maryland and Delaware regiments were there that day), and give the Americans some reserves and very long range harassing fire from the heavy guns in the Brooklyn fortified lines about a mile away. The Americans can win the game if they hold on for the historical time of about 3-4 hours maximum. If the GM works it right then British Dragoons, Light Infantry and Grenadiers can add an exciting addition to the game by surprising the American flank after the 9am historical arrival time.  You can see how I did all this by accessing the briefings under "AWI Collection" in  the right hand sidebar, and here are a few photos to give you an idea of what it looked like.
American commanders, Edward and Pete, look on apprehensively as Richard advances the Hessian forces from Flatbush village

A closer look at those Hessians a move further on. Artillery are deployed to canister the defenders of Flatbush Pass lurking in the trees.

But the Americans were able to give the Hessians a good hiding and turn to face the Light Dragoons who were the Vanguard of the British flanking force

 The Americans overturned history and won our game, partly through sensible use of some good troops but mainly because their opponents made mistakes. The British and Hessian brief made clear that the troops on the table were to mount a holding action to pin the Rebels to the passes and ridge so they could be taken in the rear by the flanking column. However, our wargamers decided this meant engaging in close action as they couldn’t see the Americans concealed in the trees by numbered unit markers, including some dummies. The British on the left went in by field columns, the American first volley got a 0 on a D10 - the best result possible, at close range, and virtually shattered one brigade. After that the British did succeed in pinning them down but at great loss. The numerous Hessian force made one coherent attack on Flatbush Pass but ignored Bedford Pass. This meant that the Americans at Bedford pass gradually closed in on their flank. They were held, just, by those holding Flatbush Pass, and Hessian losses were such that they unfortunately fulfilled the failure criteria outlined to Richard by me before the game, thus:

The end result was that the Americans had troops to spare to face the column led by General Clinton coming up the rear slope and would most likely have held them back for the specified time limit had our game played to a complete conclusion.

Battle of Chatterton Hill

If you’ve stayed with me so far, thank you, I’ve now got to the point of this post. All this was in 2009 and 2010 and I thought it necessary by way of a brief background to where I am now with my AWI chronological refight. Regarding the New York campaign, I looked at Harlem Heights and realised it was just a big skirmish, not suitable for my group. Further on was the “battle” of White Plains which appears to be a misnoma as the only real fighting was for Chatterton Hill at the extreme right flank of General Washington’s fortified position on the hills behind White Plains village and Courthouse.  It seems to me that, with a slight bit of tweaking of ground scale and orders of battle a good wargame can be created.

It’s not my intention to say much about my game today, I plan to give a full report after our group game. But by a nice coincidence, a few weeks ago  my great friend, Chris M., was visiting from the USA with his wife, Julie, and we needed a game to wile away a few hours during his trip. Chris readily agreed to help me test the scenario for Chatterton Hill, and he was also keen to have a game with my 10mm armies. Apart from being my mentor for many years on anything military and American, Chris is a veteran wargamer, Civil War re-enactor, and general “good egg” ; he actually got me all my Old Glory figures in the US and I collected them when I visited him in 2008 - saving me a lot of pounds. How better to represent the artful Americans than to get an artful American to play their commander!

True to form, Chris’s plan sucked in my Hessians then counter attacked with his best troops from the wooded river line. This disrupted several regiments and artillery batteries and held up my main attack sufficiently for him to reform in the woods and on Chatterton Hill to meet any further assaults from the safety of this difficult ground.  My attempt to outflank his left at the bridge across the Bronx river faltered due to the clever “Manoeuvre Die Roll” in F&F, which meant the progress of my column was far from predictable. We only got 5 moves done but I was content to concede victory to my visitor who was clearly going to hold the hill and his line of communications for the 10 moves I had allowed.
Thanks, Chris, for all your help in re-shaping this for my own group - hopefully more on that next week.

I should add that the following pictures show my new home-made polystyrene terrain tiles which has replaced the sand table. I started off with a few basics and am currently doing about another dozen to give more variety. I can give more info on this in another posting if there is any interest - that's up to my readers.

Chris doesn't smile often for the camera, but I got lucky with this shot! What a nice guy....I think it must be the English beer!

But seriously folks - now Chris has to contemplate a battalion of Hessians heading in march column  towards his line of communications, and has pulled one of his own battalions out of the woods to try to meet them. (note my camouflaged dice rolling tower at right, made to the "Wargames Illustrated" design standard)

Major General Leslie's British brigade attempts to cross the difficult terrain of the Bronx River

Having crossed they begin to engage American Militia and Riflemen in a firefight on the lower slopes of Chatterton Hill
"Oh look, there's a spider!" Julie comes in and, ignoring my new terrain, straight away spots the object of her phobia on the garage ceiling, not doing any harm to anything except flies....


  1. Chris
    You really are on a roll with your new blog. Great posting, love the sand table, such a shame to have missed the boat and not gamed on it before it was relegated to history and the great beach by the sea. The replacement terrain system is however very impressive and a piece on ‘how too make’ would, I feel, be of some interest to some of us.

    Best of luck with the forth coming re-fight.

  2. Thanks Terry. I'll wait till I've done the next batch of tiles complete before compiling a "tutorial".

  3. Good work - lovely set up. Commiserations on being beaten by the dastardly republicans.

    I must steal that dice tower idea...

  4. Thanks Conrad, I never mind being beaten by a worthy opponent.
    I've put the "Wargames Illustrated" plans for the Dice Tower in my Downloads section in the sidebar so anyone can access. It is in a Collection called "Plans" but for some reason that isn't showing up - just click on AWI Collection to get there.

  5. Learning as I go along!......I've now managed to reveal "Plans" in the Download sidebar - so just go there to access the dice tower.

  6. Hi Chris, I'm just getting caught up on your blog. In particular I was ogling the Bunker Hill game, thinking about how 10mm really earn their keep by "fitting into" really well done terrain, and wondering whether that was perhaps a sand table.

    Then I caught the bit about terrain squares down below. Its been along time since I have had terrain tiles and the thought of storing them makes them a non-started for me. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to hear more about them, not just the making but the planning as well.

    Lots of great stuff here, thank you!


  7. Ross
    Thanks for your very encouraging comments and welcome to my blog. With advancing years the 9 feet by 5 feet sand table began to prove rather a time consuming and tiring way of setting up a game, though it had given my group over 15 years of realistic looking games. I used my recovery from hospitalisation last summer to get rid of the sand but keep the box-like table with its handy shelves for drinks and rules and storage space underneath. So the two first AWI games were on the sand and Chatterton Hill was the inaugural game for my home made tiles. Apologies for neither posting about our full refight of Chatterton Hill nor a "how-to" on the tiles. My art and craft work has been building up this year and I'm not finding so much time now I'm fully "recovered" and back to work! But they will come sometime.

  8. Very nice indeed

    Take care