Monday, March 14, 2016

Battle of Birmingham Meeting House 9/11/1777- Play test

In preparation for my game at Enfilade in May I ran a play test of my Battle of Birmingham Meeting house game this past Saturday.  The rules used for this were Guns of Liberty by Eric Burgess.  You can find him and the rules at  The scenario came out of the Stenhouse Games book, "An Army of Professionals: American War of Independence Scenarios for Busy People" which can be found here:

The battle itself is an extension of the larger Battle of Brandywine.  General Howe marched out of Philadelphia on the morning of 9/11/1777 to face off against Washington who was encamped near the Brandywine creek.  A heavy fog shielded Howe's advance and faulty intelligence was fed back to Washington who believed that the bulk of the attack was coming from his front across Chadd's Ford.  Howe had sent Knyphausen to hold Washington in place while Howe with Cornwallis force marched 17 miles to Washington's right to attack from the flank.  Late in the afternoon word came back to Washington about Howe's advance and Washington dispatched General Sullivan to take charge of Stirling's and Stephen's forces and refuse his flank to stop Howe.  This battle centered around the Birmingham Meeting House.  Here is where our game takes off.

Scenario Objectives: The British had to either rout the majority of the Patriot force or place a forces behind the Patriots and cut off their escape route past the Birmingham House.  The Patriots win by negating the British objectives. The game last 9 turns. Turn 8 is considered a twilight turn where ranges became halved for fire.

A quick word about the terrain. The felt patches are the woods, A single stand of trees designated "light" woods and 2 stands were "heavy" woods.  The Birmingham House is situated at the crossroads with a stone wall enclosure.  Birmingham Hill is across from the house.  Osbourne's Hill is in the distance. North is the upper right hand corner. The road running essentially North/South is the S. Birmingham Rd (currently) and the road running East/West is MeetingHouse Rd. (currently).

The first few pictures of the battlefield.  The farthest hill is Osbourne's Hill and the starting British positions with Howe commanding the Left, Cornwallis the Center and Rowdan on the right.  The Patriots were setup on Birmingham Hill with Stirling holding the right, Stephen the center and Sullivan the Left (closest to the trees).

On turn 1 the Patriots shifted to their right attempting to spread out across the road and occupy the grounds of the meeting house.

The first turn for the British saw limited movement due to the scenario design. In order to allow the British units to rest from their forced march, the only units allowed to move were the British Lite Infantry, the Jaegers and British Dragoons.  The Lites and Jaegers marched across the open field to the line shifting Patriots.  The Dragoons took a wide turn to their right to out flank the house and headed into the heavy woods.

British forces under Howe's control

The rest of the British forces follow up after resting for a turn.

The lite and Jaeger's close the gap on the Patriots. In the distance the Dragoons begin their flanking move.

A little command confusion among the Patriots saw them shuffling from left to right a few times, trying to decide where to meet the bulk of the British forces.

The Patriot center under Stephen starts to stretch out along the hill while Stirling continues to take up positions between the hill and the house.

Close up of the Patriot Right.

The British continue to move forward. The Dragoons in the distance rush around the meeting house as the Patriots move into the grounds around the house. Missing their chance to stop the Dragoons.

Both sides exchange fire.

Grenadiers supporting the Artillery as it opens fire on the rebels. 

Jaegers take a moment before pushing on.

The first and only leader casualty of the night went to Rawdon. Shot down in his prime.  His replacement turned out to be a mere shadow of his former commander. 

The casualties started to mount on both sides with Patriots falling back against the oncoming British.

The Patriots held the Birmingham House for most of the game, holding off repeated attacks by the British.

The British lick their wounds after trading fire with troops holding house and grounds.

Holding the crossroads and preventing the British from pushing forward.

The Jaegers allow the British line to pass through and attack.

The wear and tear of battle begins to shred the Patriot line. One by one they begin to fall back to escape the British fire and allow themselves a chance to rally.

More casualties on both sides. The Patriots forced the British to fight and die for every yard.

The Patriots give ground taking themselves out of musket range.

Remember those pesky British Dragoons who went into the woods. Well they finally popped out of the other side and met up with Patriot force and were decimated by accurate musket fire.

British reinforcements arrive and push forward down the road.

Overview of the battle field with the British preparing to take the meeting house and hill vacated by the Patriots.  The Patriots steadily fall back.

The British continue their advance but are feeling the effects of the battle.

General Greene arrives on the scene to help slow down the British so Sullivan's troops can escape.

By the end of turn 8 the British command had decided they couldn't push forward any longer having taken some major casualties and the presence of Greene's troops ended the battle.  While Sullivan's troops  were out numbered and took a beating they held up the British advance for enough turns to make a British victory impossible.  

A few words about the rules and scenario.

Guns of Liberty is an excellent set of rules. I have never used them before and read them only a few days prior to running the game. By the second or third turn the players were controlling the action with me just answering a few questions.  Unlike other rule sets I did NOT spend all night looking up rules and scratching my head wondering what I was going to do about situations that arose during the game.  Everything ran smoothly.  What a joy for a first time out and the group loved the feel and how quickly everything flowed. Morale is the central key to the game and British have better morale than the Patriots.  
The scenarios also worked out really well.  It was easy to use and only took a little tweaking to make the stats fit into the framework of Guns of Liberty.

I'm looking forward to putting this on at Enfilade.

Jesse who commanded on the side of the Patriots also did a blog post about the battle. You can read it here:


  1. Great to see Guns of Liberty being used! I see you use 10mm figures and base you figures 4 to a stand. I'm assuming that posed no problems with the default basing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. We did not notice an issue and since I didn't make mention of the basing differences no one noticed. I still used the 15mm ranges for movement and fire.

  2. Great looking play test of a game, Vic. The troops look very nicely painted too. When I saw the "Disorder" markers, I thought of Black Powder :)

  3. Looks good, and glad to hear Eric's rules played well!
    It may just be the lighting but the shade of green of the felt for the woods just seems to clash with the excellent look f the rest of the table. I wonder if hitting them with some light spays of dark green light green, dark brown and tan spray paints might not improve the look considerably. If it fails, the other side will still be solid green...

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I picked up the felt on my way to the game so I never had a chance to Doctor them up in anyway.