Bounds Brook, 1777. A Sharp Practice 2 playtest
As part of the playtest process with any rule set we develop, one of the most interesting and enjoyable phases comes fairly late in the day, that of using history as a yardstick by which to measure what we have produced. That may sound like it should be one of the first things we do, and it is certainly the case that the earlier phases see us developing scenarios which are designed to test one specific area of the rules; maybe that musketry, maybe that’s close combat or morale and leadership. However, once we have the rules assembled and running well, we get the chance to run out some scenarios which are inspired by historical events and just play the game to make. By this stage we know that the individual mechanisms work and we know that the game is fun to play, but this last phase just allows us to road test the game with lots of historical re-fights. Last week we played through Bunker Hill with a really tense and remarkably exciting games, the British just snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. This week we wanted to do something a bit different and we decided on a slightly disguised version of Bounds Brook from the Spring of 1777.
Here’s the table. You can see the Rebel Colonists have a Deployment Point in the earthwork overlooking the ford (a bridge in reality, but I wanted to disguise the scenario), while the British have a Deployment Point off to the right and a second Deployment Point on the road at the top of the picture. In fact this latter is a moveable Deployment Point as the main British attack is to come from the North on the left had side of the river, but I was keen that the Colonists did not know this from the outset. The Moveable Deployment Point would allow the British to shift this across the river and, effectively, perform a flank march against the Rebel held positions, as happened historically.
The game began with the Hessians deploying facing the Ford on the right hand-table edge. Here two Groups of Grenadiers and one group of Jaeger demonstrated to draw the Yankee attention.
Their success was immediately obvious as the Rebel gun in the earthworks opened up….
…and some Colonist riflemen deployed off to their right to cover the ford.
With the Yankees so deployed, the British Guards and Light Infantry deployed across the river on the American left and began their attack, spurred on by their thrusting commander, Sir Charles Fortescue. Some Colonial Ranger assisted them in their advance, leading the way through the side roads. Brave men one and all.
Perturbed by this development, two Groups of rebellious Militia deployed to black their passage.
However, on came the Light Bobs at the head of the British advance.
The militia commander attempted to set alight to a house to block the British advance. The Militia can be seen presenting their rifles, ready to face the onslaught from the British.
But now the action was to shift to the ford where the Hessian jaegers pushed onwards, hoping to cross the river before the militia could react.
And in the gardens across the river the Rangers threatened the Militia’s flanks….
…while the Guards pushed on with alacrity, passing the Light Infantry who traded fire with the Militia.
Meanwhile, on the right, the Hessian Grenadiers moved on with a measured pace, braving the fire from the rebel gun and the Yankee riflemen.
But what is this I hear? A whistle playing Yankee Doodle? Indeed it is. Colonel Benjamin Brady’s Continentals have marched to the sound of the guns and (unhistorically!) come to assist the militia (we wanted to make this a fairer fight than the original battle where the militia got a rather bloody nose).
Inspired by the arrival of their big brothers, the Militia deploy to oppose the ford crossing.
Here’s a snap of the table at this point. As we can see, the Hessians are contesting the ford while the Light Infantry and Rangers are shooting the Militia out of their position along the rail fence between the homesteads. The Guards, thrusting as ever, are headed straight for the redoubt where the rebel gun is still keeping a steady fire on the ford.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? With a manly bound, the Guards are up with the bayonet…
…obliging the rebel gunners to flee into the corn (it’s as high as an elephant’s eye round these parts).
Yet Colonel Brady could still save the day. “Onwards boys, for liberty!” he cries (deluded chap that he is).
Up with this we shall not put cry the Guards and man the earthwork.
Brady’s Continentals form up, but the Light Bobs push up to support the Guards.
The Continentals present before delivering a controlled volley, while the Guards fire at will into the ranks so blue.
But by the ford the Hessians overcome the milita and push on. The Yankee force morale tumbles.
Discretion being the better part of valour, and indeed valor in this case, Colonel Benjamin Brady declares that he’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for the pesky meddling Hessians and retires from the field. Hurrah for King George, but full marks to the Continentals who, for a moment, looked like giving the Guards a bloody nose had they not been obliged to withdraw. Only the sight of the rag-tag militia streaming from the field saved the bacon of the lobsterbacks.
A fun game, with the scenario designed to punish the British if they dawdled. Had the British Guards not been so aggressive, the Continentals would have secured the flank and the militia could have reformed under their protection. As it was, we saw some action very typical of the conflict, with the more methodical Hessians doing solid service as opposed to a very aggressive British force who hurled themselves against the enemy. The Yankee militia did their best but it was an unequal fight, but their riflemen did manage to harass the Hessians.
In our next report we want to run through some of the game mechanisms in some detail, so watch out for that next week.