Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Bemis Heights - A Polemos Ruse de Guerre Action

The Battle of Bemis Heights:

The action at Bemis Heights followed on from that at Freeman's Farm as part of what became known as the Battles of Saratoga.  A superior American force has spotted a British reconnaissance in force and intends to drive it back and if the opportunity arises, defeat the forces in front of it and take the defences.

This is the  next scenario in the Polemos Ruse de Guerre rulebook.  As I did for the previous scenario, I have made it smaller by increasing the number of men/guns that each base represents and reduced the playing area to 3'x2'. 

As in the last battle, I have re-set this into the War of 1812, since that is the period I have armies for!  It makes no difference in the rules...

Revised Orders of Battle:

United States:
C-in-C: Arnold

Morgan (Decisive): 1 base of Well-trained Riflemen, 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry
Poor (Capable): 3 bases of Infantry, 1 base of Light Infantry
Learned (Capable): 5 bases of Infantry, 1 base of Light Infantry
Broeck (Plodding): 2 bases of Poor Infantry, 2 bases of Poor Light Infantry

C-in-C: Burgoyne

Fraser (Decisive): 1 base of Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base of Infantry, 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 2 bases of 6lb Guns
Riedesel (Decisive): 1 base of Infantry, 1 base of 12lb Guns
Breymann (Capable): 2 bases of Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Trained Native Americans*, 1 base of 3lb Guns (one of the bases of Well-Trained Infantry is in the Freeman's Farm position)

*This unit is an amalgam of small contingents, hence the unusual rating.

The author makes the point that this scenario is biased somewhat in favour of the Americans.

The Set-Up:

The Americans are approaching through the woods; Morgan's light troops (right) and Learned's brigade (left)

A wider shot, including Broeck's militiamen (left) behind Gen Arnold.

Poor's Brigade

The British advanced position: Fraser's and Riedesel's Brigades are outnumbered, but have plenty of artillery...

Breymann's troops are in the rear position

And an overview of the whole battlefield.  Freeman's Farm is the position at the bottom-left.
The Battle:
The Americans press forward to try and crush the exposed British

First blood to the Americans!  The 24th Foot is immediately sent into a howling rout (bottom-left)!  Lindsay's light infantrymen are pushed back by Morgan's troops (right)

Morgan quickly organizes another assault through the woods (right); Learned pushes his troops forward to outflank the British guns

The British light infantrymen scurry for the rear too, their order completely broken by Morgan's men

The British gunners are still holding firm however: a whiff or two of grapeshot have broken some on the skirmishing New York militiamen (top)

Learned has tried to turn the flank, but swiftly handled guns and rapid cannister fire have broken one of his battalions (right)

The position: the British are under heavy pressure and their right has been completely caved in, but they are still resisting stoutly in the centre and on the left

Breymann has brought up his grenadiers and has launched a spoiling counter-attack against Poor's Brigade

With some success!  Poor's units recoil through the woods in disorder

Breymann orders his men forward too, to try and crush Poor's command entirely

Broeck tries again to take the guns, through the withering hail of cannister...

Morgan's troops have worked around the flank: only Burgoyne in person and his picked Grenadiers can stop them...

...and stop them they do!  Morgan's light infantrymen run away (bottom-right)!

Broeck has had to retire for a third time: his militiamen just cannot get near those guns!

Poor's brigade has lost a battalion in rout (top) and the remainder are shaken...some inspiring hat-waving leadership keeps them in the fight...for now...

Morgan launches another attack into the British rear since that must give the Americans victory...

However, several things happen at once:  Morgan's riflemen are worsted by the bayonets of the British grenadiers, and they flee the field in rout (bottom-right)! However, a stray shot kills Burgoyne at this moment of triumph - history does not record whether it was a Parthian shot from one of Morgan's riflemen or from one of the Massachusetts men leading the supporting troops.  At the same time (left), von Riedesel was also killed and his infantry routed, at which point British morale collapsed

A closer look at Morgan's rout

The capture of some guns, the rout of the infantry and the loss of the Commander-in-Chief and one of the German brigadiers in the space of 5 minutes has given the battle to the Americans...
Game Notes: A really enjoyable game, since, despite the American strength, this ended up being a close-run thing and the British had two moments when they could have won: Poor's brigade could have easily collapsed when hit from two sides, whilst, if Burgoyne had survived, he might have just stabilized the British right-rear long enough to form a much stronger defensive position.  Great fun!

The rules again performed admirably.  The British guns were a little lucky to survive repeated attacks, but not that lucky: they rolled just a little bit better than their opponents, which was enough.  The Americans had most of their luck early on, and crushed the British right in very short order indeed. 

One thing I did notice is that I was using my generals in close combat far too much.  This is a hangover I think from other Polemos games.  In the Napoleonic rules, it hardly ever makes sense to leave them out: the bonus is high and the threat relatively low; so they should only avoid combat if one is certain you are going to win.  In the ECW and Roman rules, they should only go in if you think that they will win - the chances of them being lost are too high otherwise.  In Polemos Ruse de Guerre, it is neatly balanced: that bonus is handy, but the risks are just high enough to make me think that I should be doing it very rarely.

Once again I think that for solitaire play, my decision to reduce the number of bases and the size of the board is well rewarded by decreasing the time but increasing the intensity of the game play.

Figures as ever by Baccus 6mm, the buildings were  a mixture of Baccus and Leven.


  1. Good to get so much action / story into a 3’ x 2’ space. My interest in the small table is ever growing.

    1. Thanks Norm. In many ways I am coming to actually prefer this size of game, at least for solo play. It concentrates the mind on fundamentals.