Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Freeman's Farm Table Top Is Set And Ready To Go


Battle of Freeman's Farm table top. Two British commands enter the table in the center.
Morgan's riflemen await in the woods.

Click on all pictures to enlarge.

After quite a few adjustments to my Freeman's Farm table top terrain, I have finally settled on what looks right to me. This is the game that I will be hosting at the upcoming Seven Years War Association Convention on August 5th through 7th, 2021 in South Bend, Indiana.

I usually make a first pass at setting up my game terrain and lay out the troops to make sure that the terrain is playable - that is, it has sufficient room to maneuver the troops without causing traffic jams. I might find that there is not enough flank space to move the figures or there might be too many building or terrain obstacles to use in a game. Sometimes what looks good in a static display does not translate very well into a playable game. Playability is important in any wargame, but it is even more so when one is designing a game to host at a wargame convention.

One key element to consider: if you plan on having some troops arrive on the table several turns down the road, you want to make sure that the movement rates in the rules allow enough time for the troops to actually close with the enemy and have it on the table top. It does not make for a good game experience for a player. 

Another consideration is that there are enough troops to spread around for each player to game with. Freeman's Farm is a relatively small battle. For example, if there are 10 units per side it will be difficult to divide the units into four commands on one side. In this example, I would divide the troops into three commands consisting of one command with four units and two more commands of 3 units plus one cannon.

You may recall my theorem called "Jim's Rule of Fours" which states that the maximum number of combat units that a wargamer can comfortably handle is four. An experienced player can probably handle more, but if one player has six units in his command and the other players have four elements, then the game pace will slow down because the one player is moving more stuff each game turn than the other players. So I try to keep wargame player commands at no more than four combat elements. Elements are regiments of infantry, cavalry and batteries of artillery.

With all of this in mind, let's take a look at the British commands in my Freeman's Farm game.

The center of Burgoyne's army at Freeman's Farm was commanded by Brigadier General Hamilton and consisted of four British regiments: 9th, 20th, 21st and 62nd; two batteries of Royal Artillery, and some small groups of chosen men to act as sort of skirmishers to scout ahead of the brigade. 

The British left wing of the army consisted of ALL of the elite troops in Burgoyne's army: converged grenadiers and light infantry from the British regiments, converged Brunswick grenadiers and a light battalion, and various units of scouts or chosen men.

I could probably divide the entire British army into two commands for the game: Fraser's and Hamilton's brigades, but then I end up with a game that has a 12 foot long table  and only four or five players in the game (2 British and 3 American players). However, I am sure that the convention manager would not appreciate allocating a 12 foot by 6 foot table to a game that only allows for four players,

So some adjustments are necessary for this convention game.

I decided to divide Hamilton's brigade into two regiments of British infantry (larage 40 figure units) and a cannon model and a handful of light infantry scouts. That gets me to four elements for the two players that command Hamilton's brigade. 

Simon Fraser's Advance Guard has two large elite battalions of 48 figures each: British grenadiers and light infantry that were converged from their parent regiments. Both battalions are large enough to be divided into two sections of 24 figures, thus giving this player 4 elements. There were also some Indians and Canadian light troops that I could add to each command, but I am running out of space on this flank to employ all of those troops. This means that I will have to shift the terrain in the center to the British left which will create more space for Fraser's brigade on the right side of the British army.

This gives me three players on the British side, so far. There were also some Brunswick troops involved in the battle, but they were late arrivals to the battlefield and I wouldn't want to give the Brunswick command to one player, and then have that player sit around for something like six turns before he could start moving troops.  One thought is to feed some of the Brunswick regiments into the battle when the British players start losing regiments due to battle attrition. This isn't quite how Freeman's Farm was fought, but the idea makes for a more playable wargame.

Simon Fraser's advance guard of grenadiers and light infantry arrive on the table on the left flank of the British army.

A part of Hamilton's British Brigade

The other half of Hamilton's British Brigade

The American army has some similar problems with regard to breaking it up into "wargamer commands" and I will dwell on this in another blog post, shortly.

I will likely end up with six players in the game, three per side, and then feed in fresh units to players whose commands get all shot up and depleted, or rout. I might be able to stretch it out to four players per side, but this would be difficult to pull off and still give each player 3 to 4 command elements.

What do you think? Comments are appreciated.S


  1. A fine looking table and an interesting discussion on converting history into gaming.

  2. Quite a handsome battlefield display, Jim. I like your notion on number of units to command. I had not thought of formalizing it to four units each but find in the many remote games I have been playing that three to six unit commands make a lot of sense. One day, I will make the trek to the SYWA convention.

  3. Whoa! I look forward to seeing closeups on Saturday.

    Thanks for the note on numbers of units per player. I am considering running an ACW game with the kids at work, and a brigade (of three-base regiments) seems the easiest thing to assign each player. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee of how many people turn up to an event, so an actual specific battle is unlikely.

  4. As ever, your table looks superb.
    I don't think that we can add much to such detailed planning. My only musing suggestion is that sometimes players are happy to observe prior to coming into 'action', so commanding late-arriving forces may not be the turn off that you think it is? Or, even to move on map ahead of actually reaching the tabletop?
    Regards, James

  5. I have to agree with comments above, your table setup looks amazing. Definitely one of the more picturesque terrain displays, and very inspiring.