Monday, December 22, 2014

The Battle and the Gift

The Battle of Flatbrown Bridge

The Outskirts of Flatbrown, Connecticut
The town of Flatbrown, Connecticut had little going for it, aside from the bridge, which was flat, and brown, and, well, a bridge. There was also a stone wall which someone had half-built, and stopped, because there wasn’t much at Flatbrown to either wall in or wall out, so why bother, really? But half-built stone walls aren’t much to name a town for, and the bridge and the town came before the wall, so nobody was all that fussed to change the name anyway. But they were fussed about the British. And the town fathers, mothers, and even the odd aunt and uncle all agreed that fighting the British for the liberty of Flatbrown was worth the effort. So they raised a militia and stockpiled some powder, and even gathered up some old cannon from the French and Indian War. The powder and the cannon were enough to gain the interest (all be it temporary) of the Continental Army, who sent a small force to claim both. But what brought the interest of the Patriots also brought the interest of the British, and a detachment of British Regulars and Hessian jaegers set off to foil the Patriot plans. And where these two enemies met, was Flatbrown Bridge...

The Battle of Flatbrown Bridge is an imaginary battle of the American War of Independence, fought using my own simple rules, called Redcoats & Minutemen. As it happens, I had some cheap plastic 1/32 plastic soldiers from a visit a few years ago to Valley Forge. I had intended to make a simple game with them, and finally got around to it this past November (I got the bug again while researching a novel set during the war).

About the Rules

Redcoats & Minutemen is not intended to be a realistic simulation of 18th century warfare, or the American Revolution, though I have striven to give it the appropriate “flavor” for the period. It’s meant to be a quick and easy game, playable with little effort or expense, and easily accessible to younger gamers-in-training (“the wee bairns”) while holding enough challenge for older enthusiasts. Redcoats & Minutemen can be set up in just a few minutes, and played in thirty minutes to an hour. This action report is meant to give you a feel for how the game plays.

About the Battlefield

The Battlefield, Patriot View.
British Center: Three British Regular Regiments ("Redcoats") and a General
British Left (right of picture): Two Hessian Mercenary Regiments ("Hessians")
Patriot Left: Cavalry
Patriot Center: Militia (behind wall), General (in white), Mortar and crew in rear
Patriot Right: Field Gun and crew.
The battlefield is divided into 10 distinct rectangular sections. This was originally derived from an old set of foldable green-felt table protectors, two divided in thirds and one in half (further divided in the photos by wrapping a rubber band around the middle of each half, thus creating four sections). I thought this design would be a unique challenge, but it also creates a very simple battlefield to reproduce; 10 rectangles or squares arranged in an offset pattern 3/4/3. Redcoats & Minutemen is played entirely on this battlefield, and all movement and ranges are derived from this grid; you don’t need rulers to play. Terrain areas and objects are placed in the section, but a piece of terrain does not occupy the entire section but only the area covered by the terrain piece. Terrain also can’t cross section lines, except for a river. In the Battle of Flatbrown Bridge, the terrain consists of a wood on the middle left (Patriot view), the river crossing the middle, Flatbrown Bridge (living up to its name) on the middle right, and a stone fence partway across the Patriot center. Regiments can occupy as much of a section as they can fill, and can move freely around within a section, impeded only by terrain and the enemy. Enough of the details: On with the battle!

The Battle Rounds* Commence (*a turn involving both players)

The British Advance

British Redcoats fire on militia (behind fence. Yes, they really
are Hessian figures, but I don't have militia figures yet.)
In Battle Round one, the British won the Advantage (a die roll off) and rolled for Orders. Two dice were rolled for the two Hessian regiments, producing 1, 1 (Hessians, as mercenaries, can only receive orders based on their own dice, not the army as a whole). Three dice were rolled for the three Redcoat regiments, producing 5, 2, 1. The General rolled a 6, giving him 3 points to boost his Orders. He expended these points to make one of the Hessian dice a 4 (Infantry can receive orders on every 4 or better rolled). With this admittedly paltry set of options, the general ordered one Hessian regiment to advance across the Flatbrown Bridge and attack the Patriot’s Field Gun regiment. A regiment of Redcoats also advanced to the river’s edge, to fire upon the Patriot militia crouched behind the stone wall.
The Hessians fired, rolling 3 dice (4 - 1 for the range). Results: 4, 4, 1— all misses!
The Redcoats fired, rolling 2 dice (4 -1 for range, -1 for the protection of the fence): 5, 5— both hits!

The Patriots Respond

The Patriot General sends the Cavalry across the river.
This will be a Big Deal later. (Dun, dun, dun!)
The Patriot militia checked for a retreat (in heavy danger of a rout), rolling one die: 4. That was three more than the one figure remaining, which normally would force a retreat, but the fence boosted the militia’s morale as if it had one more figure, so the militia stood!  Ho, for the bravery of our stalwart citizens! (Three more than the number of figs remaining is a retreat; four more is a rout. Protective terrain boosts the morale.)

The Patriot general rolled his orders: Two dice for the cavalry regiment, one for the Field Gun, one for the Mortar, and one for the militia, producing 6, 6, 5, 5, 1. The General’s Order Dice was a 2, so he only gained 1 point to boost, which wouldn’t have any effect (he needs a minimum of 5 on an order die to issue orders to his specialized troops).

Unlike the British, the Patriot could spread his orders around as he liked, and he had enough to send orders to all his troops.
He sent the cavalry to ford the river, shielded by the woods. They had no enemy in range, so could not attack (cavalry can only engage in melee attacks against enemy in the same section).
The Field Gun, however, had a wide open line of sight to the Hessians on the bridge. “Get thee from our bridge, vile servants of the Devil!” quoth the artillery Captain (a fine preacher, if given to brimstone sermons). BOOM responded the gun: 6 dice, -1 for range: 6, 6, 6, 3, 1: The Hessians suffered horrible losses, with three/fourths of the regiment as casualties. Would they rout? The roll was a 1! Miraculously, the foul mercenaries stand!

The Militia, having only one die available, could not effectively return fire without abandoning the fence. This seemed unwise, so they held position and prepared for a certain assault.

But it was time for the mortar to speak, and most loudly it roared. Soaring over the heads of friend and foe, the shells exploded among the enemy like demons shrieking: 6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 1. An entire British regiment was wiped out!

The First Battle Round was over, and the Patriots had come out the best of it.

The Second Battle Round

The Second Battle Round began with both sides rolling a 5 on their respective dice. The tie meant the Advantage remained with the British general.

The British Assault

The British make an assault. They melee with the Cavalry.
They shoot the Militia. They shoot the Field Gun.
They achieve little.
The British Order roll was now down to two Redcoats dice (one regiment was lost) and two Hessian dice: The Redcoats had a 6 and a 3 available, the Hessians a 5 and a 1. The General rolled a boost die for a 2, giving him only 1 point to boost. He obviously boosted the Redcoat 3 to a 4. He could move two Redcoat regiments (or one twice) and move one Hessian regiment.
The British general ordered one Redcoat regiment forward to intercept and attack the cavalry— with bayonets! The Redcoats rolled 4 dice, for a 6, 3, 3, 4; only one hit!
As this was a melee, the cavalry fought back, rolling two dice (rather than its usual three): 5, 3. Each side gained a hit on the other, and each side lost a figure. (An attack on an enemy in the same section is a “melee.” It allows a regiment to hit with all its troops, but also gives the enemy the ability to fight back out-of-turn, though at weaker strength).
The cavalry rolled a retreat die: 3. This is only one higher than its remaining strength (2 out of 3 total), so it stands.
The British regulars, also having been hit, rolled a retreat die: 2. Not going anywhere.

The second British regiment fired on the militia again: 2 dice (penalized for range and the fence): 6, 4. The militia was hit, and having only one figure remaining, was eliminated. Weep, o ye wives and mothers!

The Hessian regiment moved forward to contact their weakened brethren, initiating a volley fire. However, the dice were not good, resulting in only two 5s from the rear regiment; volley fire requires a 6, so they missed.

The Patriot’s Brilliant Maneuver

Who let those horsemen in here?!?
The Patriots responded with another phenomenal Order roll: 6, 6, 6, 2, with the General also rolling a 6 for 3 boost points. The boost points weren’t needed, as the Patriots were down to three regiments, but Providence clearly favored the American cause this day!

The Patriot commander realized the British general had made a crucial blunder— he had left himself unprotected, alone in his section of the battlefield (okay, he had a staff tent, a nominal ceremonial guard, and the Loyalist mistress he acquired in Boston, but tactically he was alone).

The cavalry disengaged from the enemy and swooped down on the unsuspecting general! Alerted to the danger, he called upon the Deity to aid his escape. But the Deity smiled not upon the servant of tyranny, and the general rolled a 1 rather than the necessary 6. Caught with his pants down, the embarrassed commander could do naught but hand over his sword. The Battle of Flatbrown Bridge was over, and with cunning, skill, and the blessing of Providence, the Americans had won!
The Patriots are Victorious! Hoorah for Liberty and the Continental Congress!


This battle was very brief, in part due to the carelessness of the British commander (I take full responsibility; I honestly hadn’t considered the threat the cavalry posed by being so far forward). But this battle also featured seriously understrength forces; the actual rules call for sides of 8 regiments, rather than the 5 and 4 I gave my respective armies.
Nevertheless, this battle did demonstrate some of the key elements of the game, from the Order Dice to the varied strengths and weaknesses of the different forces, and hopefully gives you a feel for what the game can do.


And the rules are free. Just send me a request via e-mail to Parzival AT aol D0T come (no spaces, and replace AT and D0T with the appropriate symbols). Tell me how you found out about the game, and I'll send you a PDF of the rules. After that, all you have to do is gather up some plastic Patriots and Redcoats, a few dice, and have fun!

And have a Merry Christmas from Parzival!

--- Howard Shirley, aka Parzival

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