Arnold's Finest Hour
Fast Play Rules for the Battle of Saratoga 1777

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by Matt Fritz

Version 2: I made some changes to these rules. The original version can be found here. The rules were simplified and are now very similar to the rules I use for other battles. The rules for morale checks and charges were simplified.

Historical Background: Everyone remembers that Benedict Arnold was a traitor during the Revolutionary War. What is often forgotten is that prior to his treachery he was America's finest general. Perhaps his greatest display of leadership and courage was at the second battle of Saratoga, also known as Bemis Heights. It was at this battle that Arnold led a successful American attack against a British fort. His victory eventually forced General Burgoyne to surrender his army, and gave the French the encouragement they needed to declare war on the British. It was the turning point in the war, and one of the most important battles in American History.

Battle 1: Morgan's rifles had successfully scouted the British lines and taken up a position in the woods on the British right flank. After receiving fire from the riflemen the British 24th foot lowered bayonets and went into the woods to drive them away. They scattered the riflemen, but soon found themselves swarmed by other American units. Only a handful of survivors made it back to the British lines. American reinforcements arrived, including the charismatic Gen. Arnold. Sadly, Arnold would spend the entire battle cowering in the rear, rather than leading from the front.

The Americans tried to use the forest as cover for a move around the British left flank. General Von Riedesel spotted the danger and led a strong British force to block the maneuver. His men stopped the American advance in its tracks and stood toe to toe with several units of Continental line, breaking them one by one. It was wearying work, however, and when the Albany Militia moved up and charged the British fled, much to the surprise of Gen. Von Riedesel. In the center the Americans were making steady progress, led by Gen. Poor's brigade. Poor's men captured two British field cannons, forcing their way through the British line of defense. With the sun going down Poor's brigade raced for the British redoubts. Unfortunately by the time they got to the abatis protecting the British redoubts it was too late in the day to start an assault. The British had won the battle.

Battle 2: At the start of the battle the Americans withdrew Morgan's Brigade to use as a reserve, under the command of Benedict Arnold, for the final assault on the British redoubts. The rest of the American army advanced in the center, and tried to turn the British left flank. The British mounted a series of brilliant counterattacks to stop the American advance in the center. This strategy came at a cost, however, as both General Von Riedesel and General Burgoyne became casualties. The Grenadiers, Rangers, and Indians volunteered to serve as a rearguard while the British withdrew to the redoubts. The Rangers and Indians ambushed the Americans trying to sneak through the woods on the British left flank, buying time for the British to begin their retreat. In the center the brave Grenadiers were slowly picked apart as their fellows retired to the safety of the redoubts. The British field cannons were unable to keep up with the retreating infantry, and all but two were overrun and captured by the advancing Americans.

The British right redoubt was too powerful for the Americans to attack, so they concentrated their attacks on the left redoubt. The Americans hacked their way through the abatis in the front of the redoubt, suffering terrible damage from the defenders. One brigade moved between the redoubts, suffering fire from both sides, so they could attack the rear. As the sun set in the West the Americans stormed the redoubt from two directions, leading to savage hand to hand fighting. The British drove back both assaults at a heavy cost. The final American assault, featuring Gen. Arnold and Morgan's Brigade, didn't arrive in time. The British were relieved to have won a narrow victory, although they lost General Burgoyne, their commander in chief.

Victory Conditions: The Americans must capture one of the British redoubts.

The Map: The board is 7.5' x 5' and mostly clear terrain. The American end of the board is surrounded on three sides by forest. This can be represented by felt, or outlined with marker. I placed lichen (from model railroad store) along the edges. There are two redoubts (crude forts) at the British end of the table. The redoubts should be surrounded by abatis (pointy stakes) and open at the back. The redoubts and abatis can be drawn in marker or mapped out with whatever materials you have available. Here's a section of pointy stakes you can print and use for the abatis. The British Recon force must start the game deployed in the clearing. The remaining British forces must start in one of the redoubts. Learned and Poor's brigades may start anywhere in the woods in front of the British, and Morgan's brigade may start in the woods on the right flank of the British.

Building the Armies: I used Imex's plastic 1/72 scale Revolutionary War figures. Unfortunately this set doesn't include any of the unusual units like Brunswickers, Grenadiers, etc. I fashioned crude versions of these figures by carving their hats with a sharp knife and the judicious use of paint. The field cannons were from Imex's civil war sets, the redoubt cannons from Revell's Thirty Years War Artillery set, and the crew were modified revolutionary war figures. I mounted the figure three to a base, although two would have been better. Commanders were mounted individually, and Benedict Arnold was a mounted figure. The bases were painted green to match the felt on the gaming table. Each base was then given a ID label using computer generated mailing labels. The labels were color coded by regiment using colored pencils. My flags came from Warflag ( The flagstaffs were made from paperclips. All the continental line were painted in full uniforms to help distinguish them from the militia, who were painted in various civilian outfits. Here are some paper soldiers you can print and use: sarafigs.pdf. The black and white versions can be reproduced on a copying machine (print opposing sides on different colored paper) or given to the kids to color.

Orders of Battle: The number of bases in each unit is indicated inside the parentheses.


Recon Force - Gen. Burgoyne

Right Wing - Gen. Fraser
Butler's Rangers & Indians (2)
British Light Infantry (6)
British 24th Foot (5)
2 Field Cannons

Left Wing - Gen. Von Riedesel
British Grenadiers (6)
Brunswick Von Spaeth Regiment (6)
2 Field Cannons

In Redoubts - von Breymann
Canadian Militia (2)
Brunswick Von Specht Regiment (5)
Brunswick Grenadiers (6)
2 Redoubt cannons


Morgan's Brigade - Daniel Morgan
Virginia Rifles (4)
Dearborn Light Infantry (4)

Learned's Brigade - Gen. Learned
2nd Mass (4)
8th Mass (4)
9th Mass (4)
NY Militia (4)

Poor's Brigade - Gen. Poor
1st NH (4)
2nd NH (4)
3rd NH (4)
1st NY (4)
2nd NY (4)
4th NY (4)
1st Conn Militia (4)
2nd Conn Militia (4)

Enter Turn Two:

Patterson's Brigade - Gen. Patterson
10th Mass (3)
11th Mass (3)
12th Mass (3)
14th Mass (3)

Glover's Brigade - Gen. Glover
1st Mass (3)
4th Mass (3)
13th Mass (3)
15th Mass (3)
2nd Albany Militia (3)
Duchess & Ulster Militia (3)

Gen. Benedict Arnold

Turn Sequence:
1. Americans Move
2. Americans Shoot
3. British Move
4. British Shoot
5. Charges
6. Melees

Formations: There are only two formations - line and column. The names of these formations can be very confusing for the students. At school, when they are told to "get in line" they line up one behind the other, in what we call column formation. With the kids I call the formations "firing line" (like a firing squad), and "marching column." Lines may be single or double rank, and may bend. Columns are single company. The British light infantry and Virginia Rifles may deploy in line with up to one stand width between stands. Inside the redoubts there are no formations, bases can move individually. Units may change formation at the start or end of their movement, but can only change formation once per turn.

Movement: Infantry can move 6" if they are in line formation or 12" if they are in column formation. Commanders may move 12". Field cannons can move 6" but may not fire on a turn when it was moved. Redoubt cannons may not move, but all cannons can pivot in place during movement and still fire. Units may about face (turn 180 degrees) once per turn. Units may move backward while still facing to the front at half speed. Units cannot cross the abatis until cut a gap through it. Units may not move within 1" of an enemy unit except when charging.

Fire: Units that are in line formation and artillery that didn't move this turn may fire. Range is measured from the center of a unit to the nearest part of the target unit. Units may only fire to the front and may not fire through narrow gaps between friendly units, or over the heads of friendly units. Roll one die per base or two dice per gun model. The chart indicates the number needed for a hit. Remove one base for each hit rolled by the firing unit. It takes three hits in the same turn to remove an artillery base. Note that you only use the 1" firing column when shooting at a charging unit. If a unit is reduced to a single surviving base then the last base is immediately removed unless it is inside the redoubt.









 Virginia Rifles




 Field Cannon




 Redoubt Cannon





Charges: Both sides may charge during the charge phase. A unit may not declare a charge unless it is in line formation and within 6" of an enemy unit. If it matters the Americans charge first. A player may measure to see if a unit is within charge range. One enemy unit must be chosen as the target of the charge. A unit that wishes to charge must first pass a morale check. If the unit fails moral nothing happens, it cannot charge this turn. If the unit passes its morale check then the target must pass a morale check. If the target fails it loses one base and immediately retreats 12", the charging unit is moved into the position vacated by the retreating target unit. If artillery is the target and it fails morale it is eliminated. If the target passes the morale check it has the option of firing at the chargers or counter charging. If the unit counter charges the two units meet in the middle and fight a melee. If the target decides to fire at the chargers it does so at a range of 1". If the charging unit survives the fire it moves into contact with the target and they fight a melee.

Morale Checks: If a unit has to take a morale check Roll one die and add any modifiers. If the roll is less than or equal to the number of bases (plus a commander if one is present), then it has passed. If the role is greater then it fails. Butler's Rangers, Indians, and Artillery must roll a 4 or less to pass a morale check.

Morale Die Roll Modifiers
Militia +1
Grenadiers, Lights, Morgan's Brigade -1

Melee: If a charging unit contacts an enemy unit there will be a melee. Each side rolls a die and applies the modifiers. High roll wins. The loser removes a stand and retreats 12". He must spend the next turn reforming. If the roll is a tie each side removes a stand and rolls again.

Melee Die Roll Modifiers
More stands than opponent +1
Hitting the flank or rear +1
Commander leading charge +1
Militia unit or artillery crew -1
Defending redoubt wall +2
Grenadier +1

Commanders: A Commander may join or leave one of his units during movement. This unit gets a +1 bonus on all melee rolls and the officer counts as a base when testing morale. Every time a unit with an attached commander is completely eliminated by enemy fire (last base removed), or is engaged in a melee (win or lose) roll one die. If the roll is a 6 the commander is a casualty and is removed from play. This is the only way a commander can be eliminated.

Attacking the redoubt: To attack the walls of the redoubt the abatis must be cleared first. A unit must spend one turn in contact with the abatis to clear it. The unit must not move during the turn that it is clearing the abatis, and it must pass any morale checks caused by enemy fire. No unit may cross the abatis on the turn it is being cleared. Once the abatis is clear attackers may charge units defending the wall. The walls will protect the defenders from enemy fire. If a unit defending the wall is hit by enemy fire roll 1D6 for each hit. If the roll is a 1-4 then there is not effect, if the roll is 5-6 the hit counts.

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