Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Sum Of All Affairs Now In Agitation

Here's a reminder of the situation as it stood at the close of the Summer, with armies organising and opportunistic local big wigs declaring for one faction or another. The King had made good on his control of the north but did not have the points to spend on besieging Hull, at least not when there were a lot of surrounding locations waiting to be seized at lesser cost. In the south the duplicitous Lord George Goring who'd been taking money from both parties for the defence of Portsmouth had finally declared for the King. Parliament, who'd had their suspicions about him for a while had already prepositioned an army nearby and under master Waller it had attempted and failed to storm the port. With Waller's force disbanded, royalist troops from Portsmouth moved north to occupy and garrison both the strategically important Basing House and the economic zone in and around Newbury.

For its part Parliament had used its control of the navy to move troops around the coast to secure Bristol and from there to march on Gloucester. With Royalist troops occupying Newbury the Committee of Safety despatched some of the London Trained Band regiments to block any further progress towards London by seizing the fortified and economically important town of Reading. Lastly a new army was created and ordered to assemble around Bedford under the Earl of Essex, it's  primary purpose being to rescue the King from the pernicious influence of his malignant advisors.

Where we were.

While marching across the North Midlands towards the King's supposed location, Essex's force unexpectedly came face to face with the young Prince Rupert at Newham Bridge*.

The Parliamentary Newsheet "The Moderate Intelligencer" gave an in-depth report of the battle, the front page of which can be seen below:

Apparently there were a few misconceptions about who won.

Following the battle between the two, the King's party, (being the victor), is allowed to spend 5 action points on the main campaign map (below) and importantly gets to allocate them first. The loser, Parliament, has only three to spend.

My campaign rules stipulate that if a geographical area for a battle has been established (and it was, during the pre game admin phase) then at least one action point must be spent by the victor in that geographical area.

The type of actions and their associated action point costs were detailed in an earlier post, "This Warre Without An Enemie," so nip back there and have a look if you find yourself wondering what I'm jabbering on about.

It is worth reiterating that to win the war a faction must control at least nine (red) economic zones at the end of a winter turn while the game is automatically lost by any faction that controls six or less locations (of any type) at the same point.

Where we are now.
With a lot of locations still hoping to keep their head's down and remain neutral until the whole nasty business blows over, we remain in a situation where grabbing the best available sites continues to take precedence over disputing anything already secured by the enemy.

From their base in Nottingham the King's forces spend one action point securing Tamworth, then moved on from there to take control of Worcester with a second. Since Newark is a strongly fortified site that both defends the approach to the north and offensively threatens the east taking it with a third action point (again from Nottingham) seemed to make sense. Always on the look out for control of the economic zones which will determine victory, the fourth action point was spent occupying Sheffield, (again from adjacent Nottingham) while in the south a move from Basing House saw the expenditure of the fifth action point persuading the good burghers of Salisbury that it  might be better to support the King than have their lovely town burnt to the ground. 

Watching the Royalist's consolidate in the north and the midlands, the Parliamentary Committee of Safety (ironically represented by my ex ECWS Royalist regimental Colonel) had only three action points with which to improve his overall position. Moving north from previously occupied Bedford he installed a garrison in the economic zone of Northampton for one point then skipped onward from there to Leicester with a second. Most importantly of all, for the defence of East Anglia he spent his last point moving from Leicester to install a garrison and a compliant governor in fortified Peterborough.

It should be recalled that while the general population of an area might be economically socially or politically biased to one faction or another, (like Wales or East Anglia) true power usually lay in the hands of a coterie of wealthy individuals and it was not unusual for those powerful individuals to pledge their areas to one faction or another, over and above the wishes of the great unwashed, if it suited their own narrow interests.

Thank God politics is not like that anymore, eh!

Oh wait…

For the anonymous blog follower who wanted to know whether young Ned Fellowes made it unscathed through the Newham Bridge battle I hope you will be reassured by the following letter whose courier was unfortunately intercepted and found hanging from a tree on the outskirts of Coventry.


So then, onwards. The second and final Autumn battle beckons - a clash of arms to be followed by "the big random events die roll" and another campaign map land grab. There are no battles fought in the winter quarter, but both sides get three action points and the Royalist's must choose a de facto capital (which becomes an economic zone) from one of the locations they then occupy.

Here's hoping Ned somehow gets his new socks.

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* Not of course a real location, but if it were I'd fancy it'd now be the site of a Maccie D or a Tesco Express.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

17th Century Insults. A Beginners Guide. Part 1

So your caught up in a 17th century dust up. I mean it could happen to anyone…right? 

Sure, your okay with your thrust and your parry, comfortable with the workings of your dog lock pistol…but let's be honest for a second here, just how good are you with the barbed one liners?

I mean, yes you'll look cool as you snip the buttons off your opponent's doublet with the tip of your Hounslow hanger…but if you really want to impress the tavern / market place / castle courtyard bystanders you'll need to make the bugger look like a witless lumpen bumshankle while you do it.

Thankfully help is at hand. Here's a list of genuine 17th Century insults rude words and phrases you can use to slap 'em down as you cut 'em up.

Simply shout "zwounds sirrah you…" then combine nouns 1- 10 with the adjectives A - J, as you see fit. Don't forget to finish with a sardonic twirl of the moustache a manic laugh and a hearty slap of the thigh.

A. Auguless - puffed up or overly proud.

B. Cague Pawed - left handed.

C. Jugbitten - drunken

D. Roynish - scabby and base

E. Giddy - frivolous and stupid

F. Naughty - wicked

G. Salty - lecherous

H. Hard favoured - ugly

I. Meal'd - stained or spotted

J. Motley minded - foolish

1. Bellshangle - a buffoon

2. Bratchett - a small barking dog

3. Quakebreach - a coward

4. Mumblecrust - a toothless idiot

5. Claybrained clodpoll -  dumb as a rock

6. Spavined nag - a decrepit old horse

7. Whey faced poltroon - White faced coward

8. Coxcomb - well dressed and overly self regarding

9. Dandypratt - a well dressed fool

10. Caitiff -- a wretch or villain

There you go. See how I've managed to combine a vanity project blog with a pinch of genuine education. Who says learning can't be fun. I think I'll call it  'blogucation'.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Newham Bridge - Autumn 1642 Part 2

At the end of the last post Essex had just seen his cavalry get stomped on and his attempt to seize the main bridge over the river thwarted through a combination of raw recruits and bad luck. On the plus side the victorious royalist cavalry were now a spent force on the wrong side of the field coupled with the fact that his scouts had just discovered a small ford a little way down from the bridge. This was the opportunity the Lord General had been waiting for. Now he could get his foote regiments across the river in strength. The scores on the doors (as the late Bruce Forsyth might have said) were Parliament 2 victory banners and the Royalists 3. Total required to win is 6. At this point the situation looks a lot like this:

Rupert's master gunner supervised the team levering the Queen's Pocket Pistol back into its previous position and urged haste upon the mattrosses sponging out its lengthy bore. With his gunner's quadrant laid along the barrel he ensured that the wedges driven under the trail brought its iron snout back down to the angle he'd just used to good effect and threw a handful of straw in the air to check the windage. With just enough powder for the one iron and the one stone ball currently available, he knew he had to make every shot count. With the charge laid and the ball and the wadding rammed home he allowed the gunners to remove the cover over the touch hole, prick the bag of powder inside the base of the barrel and the Sergeant to advance with his lighted linstock. Having now had bitter experience of the first shot the firelocks guarding the gunne edged away and to a man put their fingers in the ears. The first shot for the Devil, the second shot for God and the third shot for the King ran the gunners maxim. The roar when it came did not disappoint.

Still exhilarated by his command's success Sir William Russell ordered his regiment to swing to the right and march to the foot of the bridge. Yellow coated bodies lay in great profusion here and it would have been an effort to prevent his men from breaking ranks to plunder them but for a serious development downstream.

Thomas Butler's regiment had been in column, marching up the road towards the bridge when the yellow coats had appeared over the hump before them. The Colonel's regiment was in a dreadful position, for any shots fired at them would have passed straight through the ranks from front to rear thereby wreaking terrible destruction. To his relief Sir William on his left had seen the threat in time and his ambuscade had sent the enemy tumbling back the way they'd come. Sensitive to their vulnerability he was about to give the order to come off the road and deploy in line when one of his company Captain's noticed a second group of enemy foote flanking them via a previously unnoticed ford. Butler wasted no time in bringing the regiment to a halt and ordering the company commander's to turn their men to the right. Far from being vulnerable it now seemed they were in a perfect position to enfilade the sodden and disorganised Parliamentary foote as the scrambled up the nearby river bank. With his men's muskets resting on a low wall that flanked the track he waited for Russell's foote to draw alongside before giving the order to give fire.

The disputed crossing of the ford
Thomas Leighton's infantry were not really aware of the gravity of the moment as they scrambled up the far bank of the Lud, for they had no way of knowing they were to be part of a double pronged attack. Frozen cold, wet and muddy they tried to form up in the scrub on the far side but were met by a deadly hail of lead from their apparently pre warned opponents. With the majority of their senior commanders immediately struck down the junior officers were unable to prevent their men from preferring the bitter chill of the Lud to the bitter embrace of death. Streaming back across the river, discarding anything that might hinder their flight, they drew scornful jeers from Harbin's regiment that had been following close behind.

The Earl of Stamford had been distinctly unhappy with Essex's handling of events and following the slaughter of the cavalry across the river, had been forced to affect an insouciant attitude as a cannon ball blew gobbets of soldier onto the artfully slashed sleeve of his very expensive doublet. Such matters could not of course go unaddressed, and while the Lord General seemed powerless to do anything about the enemy cannon, Stamford was making notes, the better to inform his friend William Lenthal, the Speaker of the House. He was in the process of calling for table, parchment, quill and ink when the second of the Royalist cannon shots landed squarely amongst Bamfield's already battered foote.

T6. Royalist. I'm going to cut down on the blue italic notes in an effort to reduce the word count. Suffice it to say the Rupert played an Attack Centre card that allowed him to fire the big cannon while also engaging the Parliamentary lads that were crossing the river. The big gun pulled off another flukey shot and even though the Royalist infantry fire was reduced by terrain (the river ford) and the movement of Sir William Russell's men they were still able to produce two hits on the enemy and make them scarper.
T6. Parliament. Played the Lord is With US - which he clearly wasn't. They hauled the badly shot up regiment out of the ford before it could be hit again and destroyed, fired a saker from the river bank at the Royalist infantry behind the wall on the road, and missed, then ordered Dodding's foote over the bridge in an belated attempt at the old one two.

Score is still Parliament 2, Royalist 3

With their shot disappearing into the growing pall of smoke around the river the Royalist Master Gunner had no idea where it had fallen. Ordering an immediate realignment of the gunne and the use of the last ball he was frustrated to discover that the force of the explosives mighty kick had partially dismounted the barrel from the carriage. Commanding the gyn* to be erected over the gun he ordered its urgent remounting.

Over by the bridge George Dodding's foote were busy following in the footsteps of Crocker's men, the crash of cannon and the crack of muskets drowning out the pitiful moaning of the wounded yellow jackets that they were forced to march over. This time as they crossed the bridges hump they did not find the enemy waiting for them but rather found them straight ahead flank exposed and busily discharging their muskets at something further down river. In the wrong formation and with no time to deploy the  roundheads rushed forward, muskets clubbed as they waded in to the unsuspecting enemy.

T7. Royalist. Rupert played Scout Centre which only allows activation of one unit. The big gun missed the infantry it was firing on so I chose to sell it in the narrative as an equipment breakdown. 
T7. Parliament. Progress at last for Parliament. The unstructured pell mell charge into Russell's foote over on the other side of the bridge causes 1 hit but fails to kill or wound the attached leader. The saker on the extreme right of Parliaments position finally lobs a ball at the buggers looting the dead cavalier horse across the bog - and misses. 

Overall score remains the same

Sir William Russell's men had been taken by surprise when the roundhead foote had raced over the bridge and crashed into their flank. Fortunately their targets on the river ford were already in retreat so with no other distractions the melee became a giant but deadly scrum. Pikes were thrust, musket butts swung and swords slashed as both sides became possessed by a desperate kill or be killed frenzy.

Though neither formation had seen combat before this day, Sir William's men had been "recruited" from his coalfields while Dodding's were mostly mercers from London. Gradually the tough physical life of the miners began to tell in their favour. Like Hesilrige's cavalry earlier, the tipping point was unobserved and unarticulated but equally sudden. Dodding's men broke and ran. Russell's men chased a few onto the bridge but were not able to keep up with the main forces mad flight.

Sensing glory to be had, Sir William reorganised his men and sought to encamp his regiment on the bridge itself. In response a desultory fire from the demoralised survivors of Crocker's and Bamfield's foote on either side of the Parliament bridge head chopped down the crew of Sir William's battalion light gunne but did little real harm to the troops sheltered by the stone on either side.

There won't be much left of that bridge at this rate.

T8. Royalist. Though suffering from 1 previous loss Russell's men rolled well causing two hits on the roundhead infantry and a flag (retreat) die. Being raw and with no leader to help matters the Parliamentarians leg it to the base line, as good as done.
T8. Parliamentarian. Essex plays an Attack Centre card which boded well until I realised the units he needed to use had only remnants remaining. Their limited firepower never managed to shift the Royalists off the bridge.

Almost forgotten about and quietly steaming with indignation was the Colonel of Wroughton's horse. Forced to guard the back of the column while on the march his troopers had then been consigned to a backwater of the battle on the far right flank - for no other reason it seemed than to keep the constantly complaining Lord Capel as far away from Prince Rupert as was possible.

Restless, he watched the Parliamentarian foote surge across a ford no one knew existed only to be thrown back in confusion, leaving an avenue of exploitation he had no orders to pursue. Perhaps it was Lord Capel who rode up once to often to offer a a suggestion about their formation, or maybe it was just that Wroughton sensed the opportunity before him would not wait for orders. Either way; cometh the hour cometh the man. Signalling to his trumpeter to blow the charge he seized Capel's bridle and as the unit surged forward he dragged the frightened Lord along with them into the fray.

The Parliamentarian artillery on the riverbank had also had a quiet battle until Wroughton's horse charged suddenly across their frontage for nothing so far had really been in range. Though both saker battery's were already loaded, just in case, the gunnes raw and inexperienced crews never managed to hit the speeding horsemen as they thundered by. Even Harbin' s foot about to march down onto the ford and dead ahead of the cavalry didn't get any decent shots off.

Wroughton's charge - Lord Capel trying to look brave and as though it was all his idea while somehow managing to keep near the back.
Having slipped the massive gun barrel back into its cradle Rupert's Master Gunner kissed the last stone ball and saw it loaded. Through all the smoke around the bridge he never saw his shot crash once again amongst the stunned and shattered block of Bamfield's regiment. The renewed carnage proved just too much for them to stand. Physically overpowering the remaining officers the shattered remnants of the regiment ran for their lives. Unscathed, the Earl of Stamford was forced to hide from the crazed survivors among the bushes.

Wroughton's men plunged into the ford, taking fire from Harbin's foote as they came on. Several troopers were hit including Colonel Wroughton himself, who, leading from the front, was shot in the head and died in the saddle.

T9. Royalist. Rupert finally managed to get a card that allowed the use of the cavalry on the right. The big gunne rolled another flukey shot and eliminated the infantry it had been whittling down all game.
T9. Parliament. Yet more bad dice. You can't dodge a cannonball when its got your name on it. The strike on Wroughton and his horse was one bit of good news but note that Capel as an attached leader didn't even get a scratch when the leader loss test was taken.

Score now Parliament 2 victory banners, Royalist 4 victory banners.

Spurring their mounts up onto the Lud's opposite bank the cavalry smashed into Harbin's foot who had at least managed to deploy in line. Forced back by the impact and the ferocity, they became utterly disorganised. Wheeling to the right the cavaliers took on the remnants of Leighton's foote; filled with the desire to revenge their Colonel. Demoralised and lacking sufficient pikes after their earlier rough handling the roundhead troops were brutally cut down where they stood.

Watching events unfold with horror, the crew of Parliament's nearby big gunne, who'd been able to do nothing all battle for want of powder, hid beneath its carriage, brandishing whatever weapons they could improvise or find.

Desperate to plug the gap in his line, Essex summoned Colonel Hutchinson and bid his dragoons  engage the enemy's rampaging horse. Obligingly they rode around its flank, dismounted and began a desultory fire that did little to draw their opponents attention.

The final moments. Leighton's regiment (top of the picture) is about to be eliminated
Turn 10. Royalist. Having managed to get Wroughton's men across the river they begin to wreak havoc among the disorganised and already damaged units that surround them. After destroying Leighton's foot, the horse find that only they and Harbin's foote remain adjacent to the big gunne a situation which nullifies the temporary victory banners value since the Parliament player can no longer claim complete control of it. The effect is to reduce Parliaments victory banner holding by one.

Turn 10. Parliament. After playing Probe Centre, Harbin's and Hutchinson's men give fire - with a depressing lack of effect.

Score now stands at Parliament 1 victory banner, Royalist 5 victory banners.

Rupert's men on the bridge began firing over the parapet into the backs of the dismounted dragoons. Looking for an enemy that would stand, the cavaliers return their attention to Harbin's regiment and force them to retire. When the cavalry follows up, the unsupported gunners decide discretion is the better part of valour and leg it, abandoning their massive piece of ordnance.

With his communications breaking down Essex was forced to stand and simply watch events unfold. The single saker battery still manned to his right flank fires another shot at the gradually reforming cavalier cavalry across the bog and forces them to retire to the edge of their weapons effective range.

Turn 11 Royalist. Having destroyed Leighton's foote and forced Harbin's men away from the cannon they are the only unit adjacent to it and therefore take control of its temporary victory banner status - bringing them up to a game winning score of 6. 

The game ends immediately.

Though Essex still had a few uncommitted regiment's he could see defeat in the eyes of every man around him. Far away on the left flank he noticed John Pynne's regiment, untouched by enemy action marching away from the battlefield unbidden. Accepting the day has been lost he instructed his aides to signal the retreat and detailed an order for a general regrouping back at Nettleton.

The outcome.

The Parliamentary forces suffered a major drubbing based partly on poor morale, bad positioning and overconfident mediocre leadership. Fed into battle in dribs and drabs the infantry lost combat effectiveness and while they remained in existence they didn't have the hitting power left to them when they needed it. As for the cavalry, well that debacle might have been avoided by using a bit more savvy over their positioning since Hesilrige unwittingly advanced onto the edge of the cavaliers charge range allowing them to storm across the board and hit him in one go.

The Royalists had a lucky win. Understrength but well led by an experienced if somewhat snotty young General. By luck or good judgement they more often than not had the right unit in the right place at the right time -  not to mention some very favourable die rolls and a freakishly accurate big gunne.   

NB - Msr Foy's rules allow gun battery's to be overrun and destroyed but ascribes them no intrinsic victory banner value. I suspect this might be a hangover from the original Napoleonic rule set and a period where such units were far more commonplace? History shows that the number of guns captured was often commented on in the contemporary description of civil war battles so as a compromise the concept of the largest pieces being prized assets which have a capture related banner value (albeit temporary) was born. I hope this well meaning tweak does not affect game play, but I guess well see. I also make several references to units forming line or column. You should note this has no effect on game play is not in the rules and is merely there for the purposes of narrative and visual licence.

Essex withdrew to nearby Nettleton, his forces gradually coming back up to strength as survivors drifted in and reinforcements from the seemingly bottomless recruitment pit of London arrived. After the Speaker of the House showed Essex's friend and promoter Pym a letter he'd received from the Earl of Stamford, Pym quietly arranged for the Earl to be sidelined to a governership as soon as a suitably bad one came along.

Hesilrige - took several weeks to recover from his head wound, and during that time began recruiting a new unit which would be clad in the toughest of armour, rendering his men invulnerable to the swift but lightly armed cavaliers.

Prince Rupert - received warm congratulations from his uncle since his victory had helped boost morale
and increase recruitment. He was summoned back to court to receive a new title and a very large purse of monies.

Maramaduke Langdale - was publicly criticised by Rupert for failing to pursue the defeated remnants of the Parliamentarian horse from the field and for allowing his men to stand idly to one side while the battle raged on without them. Stung by this criticism Langdale sought service with the Marquis of Newcastle who was only too pleased to receive such a capable commander and only too happy to annoy the arrogant young Prince who'd condemned him.

Lord Capel - wrote several tracts describing how he came to lead the cavalry attack that had crossed the Lud and broken the back of Parliamentary resistance. He also urged the King that on the evidence of the Newham Bridge battle he should begin constructing as many massive cannon as his budget would allow.

Overall Conclusion.

The rules worked really well (though I am now aware of a few none game altering mistakes I made in their interpretation) and produced a fun 11 turn game in just over 4 hours. While I suspect I may not have shuffled the turn cards well enough to give enough variety, Rupert with his bigger command card selection always seemed to get the one he really needed while Essex more often didn't. The one thing I couldn't fudge by incompetence was the fall of the combat dice - the outcomes of which were invariably good or just plain flukey for Rupert and poor to bad for Essex. I'm sure we've all experienced games like that.  

Given that the Royalist won this encounter they now have 5 Action Points to spend on the main campaign map while the losing Parliamentarians only have 3, and it is to that map that I shall return in the next post. 

In theory there is still one more battle to be fought before the end of the Autumn season followed by a roll on the random events table which I hope will throw a spanner in the works for someone.

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* Gyn - a large wooden tripod structure with an attached block and tackle, used to lift heavy weights like gun barrels. Not sure if the term is still in use, but I doubt it. See - every day's a learnin' day.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Newham Bridge - Autumn 1642 Part 1

And the award for the 2018 longest blog post of the year goes to…

You have been warned!
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Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, stepped down from his carriage and pulled his gold trimmed cassock close against the chill wind. Fallen leaves lay thick in the wet carriage ruts and the smell of a hundred smoky campfires filled the air. An aide proffered him a hot-spiced wine while others set up the campaign table and weighted down the curling corners of a map with their pistols. 

Parliament's new Lord General took in the view around him, comparing it to the almost abstract information set out on the parchment, nodding as he identified a feature here and a feature there.

The old salt road along which his force had travelled wound gently away to the left, crossing the river Lud by way of a double span stone bridge before continuing south away from Nettleton* where he'd been happily quartered and prettily entertained these past two nights. To his right, across the river, the first of Hesilrige's cavalry, who'd chosen to cross several miles upstream, began slowly moving into view. Thanking God for at least one active subordinate he sent out a summons for his senior officers to attend upon him and scowled at the damp soldiery huddled around their meager fires.

A report from the Committee of Safety had brought confirmation that the King's malignant advisors now had an army of their own, a force he would have to intercept and disperse if he was to free the monarch from their pernicious influence. With only vague updates on where his opponents were heading and still nursing the hope that the situation would be resolved before a military confrontation could occur his pace had been slow, giving his new soldiers (as he explained in a letter to the Speaker of the House) time to get accustomed to the rigors’ of the march. Unfortunately as they travelled further north and west the men had grown restless, unhappy they were being compelled to serve so far from friends and family. No more could be heard the cry "hooray for old Robin", for now the sullen rank and file were ever more like to shout out…“Home, Home!”

The Lord General's enquiries revealed that worry over the state of the bridge ahead had been the cause of yet another day’s delayed progress. The few halfhearted attempts to locate a ford by his Captain General, the Earl of Stamford, had been hampered by a river swollen with autumnal rain. The army had been halted in the drizzle above an hour and while the Earl had dithered his moribund foote regiments had encamped themselves, stirring now only to strip the area of livestock and things combustible.

Angrily Essex ordered another inspection of the bridge and sent out yet more scouts to either find a ford or see if a diversion to the next nearest bridge at Whitbury would be possible. His Dutch engineer returned swiftly, the look on his face requiring no translation. ‘The Lord General might yet adventure his foote upon it,’ he remarked, ‘though it would be most unwise for his artillery to attempt the same.’

I intend to insert notes relating to the game play in blue italic beneath any of the relevant paragraphs. In this manner recalcitrant readers who have still not visited prometheusinaspic.blogspot.com to have a gander at the FREE rules these battles are powered by may skip the mechanics of the game and focus on the grand narrative sweep of events. I would of course like to take this opportunity to champion Msr Foy's rules by immediately highlighting the first of a few campaign driven digressions from them. In the previous post I highlighted the fact that either player would be able to detach strength points from their cavalry prior to battle in order to scout for a ford across a river. On this occasion only the Parliamentary player chose to do so. The Royalist player, realising he was up against a bigger force did not wish to lower the staying / striking power of one of his cavalry regiments by detaching a troop, especially since there was a bridge already in evidence. The Parliamentary player looked at the number of units he had, realised they were all going to find it hard to get across the bridge, and opted to scout for a ford in order to obtain an extra crossing point. To this end the Parliamentary player was aided by drawing an 'oversized unit card' during his force set up (see previous post). Having chosen a cavalry unit to be oversized he then deducted the extra forces gained to go scouting - thereby having lost none of their original combat effectiveness. Sweet.

A local man, hatless and extremely nervous was brought forth to confirm that the nearby Whitbury bridge was still in good repair. With a sigh Essex gave the order for the army to move downstream on the morrow, resigning himself both to the loss of yet another days march west, and a further letter of explanation to the commons regarding his (according to them) dilatory progress. Helped back into the relative warmth of his carriage he lit a pipe and settled down to write to Pym about the deficiencies in pay and supplies that the army was now experiencing, deficiencies that the commons needed to urgently address. He'd barely dipped quill in ink when the first shouts of alarm rang out across the camp.
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The King's Counsel of Warre had agreed in early October that a move to the west was the most sensible course of action, securing the recruits and resources they urgently needed from areas already expressing loyalty to the crown. The army, though still growing, was in great want of every necessity and the King knew it needed to be better armed and fully provisioned before he dared risk it in the field.

Taking the best of the regiments raised to date, the impetuous Prince Rupert had received approval from his uncle to make a nuisance of himself in the midlands, his objective being to lead Parliament’s new field army away from the King while he set the balance of his forces in better order.

Riding up and down the length of his independent command to keep it moving was a necessary but frustrating business that the young Prince hated, for the huge cannon that Lord Capel had insisted on bringing with them had reduced the army’s progress to a crawl. Arguments over its efficacy had become so heated that Rupert had taken to spending more and more time scouting ahead with a coterie of junior officers, leaving the glowering Langdale to ensure that everyone else kept following in his wake.

Having passed unmolested through the town of Newham the Prince had just regained the old salt road to Nettleton when an ensign galloped up to him with exciting news.

Ahead, the road led to an old stone bridge that crossed a small but swiftly flowing river. On the other side, columns of smoke rose from campfires whose source was lost behind the bushes hugging the rivers course. Whistling his puddlehund “Boy” to him he raised his perspective glass and twisted it to bring the area into closer focus.

There were fires there all right. So many fires that there could only be one explanation. Hurriedly he dispatched a rider back to the main column with orders for them to make haste. His mentor The Prince of Orange had always insisted on hitting the enemy first, and hitting them hard. Silently he cursed Capel’s cannon, hoping it would not hinder a rapid deployment and the element of surprise.

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The alarm raised in the Parliamentarian camp at the sudden appearance of horsemen to their fore had seen weapons seized, fires stamped out, and the hurried clustering of men around their company colours. Drummers drummed and shouting officers’ prodded the herds of men into the correct rank and file with partizan and halberds end. File leaders lit match and reluctantly musketeers unwrapped the rags they’d laid about their pans to keep them dry. Forming a long line facing the river, the regiments fanned out in the pre planned deployment posture that the Lord General had drafted the week before. Worried looks and wild rumours circulated amongst those that could not see beyond the man in front, but those that laughed it off as another false alarm were quickly silenced when the powder issue started.

It was expected that a general on the march would sketch out and often practise along the way the deployment of his forces from column to battle formation. Such a plan would be impossible to change at short notice and may or may not, in Essex's case, be less than ideal for the terrain the army finds itself in during an unexpected contact with the enemy.
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The Royalist column had managed to double its pace but as Langdale’s three cavalry regiments caught up with the Prince a great commotion could be heard across the river. By the time his foote reached the field it became apparent that all surprise was lost. Noticing enemy horse away to his left Rupert directed Langdale’s men to cover them and placed his three regiments of infantry in the centre with orders to bottle up the enemy at the bridge. When Capel and his cannon finally arrived with Wroughton's regiment of horse** Rupert kept the massive piece limbered and sent the sullen looking Lord off to his right along with the Colonel's cavalry in order that his flank was not left hanging in mid air. 

A gaggle of wheelwright's and mattrosses removed their hats as they scurried past the Prince's excited entourage, clearly relieved to be heading away from danger as they made their way back along the track. The sight of them reminded Rupert that the battery of guns stuck in the mud somewhere to his rear was a loss he'd already suffered without a single shot being fired.

During the force determination portion of the previous post the Royalist's drew the "lollygaggers" card, which meant one unit of their 12 unit army had been delayed. Randomly drawing from the Royalist army's hand of cards TCMB selected a battery of middling gunnes. 

Initial deployment. Apologies for the eye wateringly small font.


At game start the forces were deployed as depicted above. Sadly the promised inclusion of Black Tom Fairfax and his regiment of cavalry (see previous post) was prevented by an encounter with a three hundred foot high feline called Midge who has apparently developed pronounced Royalist sympathies. Tom and his men are recovering in hospital being repainted and rebased sometime this week. So that my Lord Essex was not in any way disadvantaged an extra unscripted battery of sakers now occupies the extreme left flank of his formation - in  Black Tom's stead.


The Royalist's were counted as the attacker in this battle because their general (Rupert) had the 'bold ' trait on his commander card.  The Parliamentary player, as defender, set his units out first. The attacker, observing where the defender has positioned himself, seeks to set up his own units to take advantage of any observable weakness… or not… given my shocking lack of tactical skill.

Using the ratio 1:2:3 (Veteran, Trayned, Raw) concealed training status markers are placed behind every unit on the board.  Because both Langdale and Hesilrige have the '√©lan' trait the cavalry units on their wings of the army receive the highest rated training status tokens, regardless of what this leaves for the rest of the army. Usually all training status counters remain concealed until melee combat occurs, whereupon the training status of the units involved are revealed in order to calculate their effectiveness in trading 'handy blows'. On this occasion, prior to kick off, Prince Rupert also chooses to use another of his command traits - 'intelligencer' to discover (by means of captured deserters I assume) the training status of Hutchinson's dragoons  and Crocker's regiment's of foote directly across on the other side of the bridge. 


Oh dear… both are raw.

Victory banners are awarded for each opposing unit or leader destroyed or forced off board during the game (though regular gunne battery's and some minor units like the one stand artillery guards do not count towards this total).  Both factions in this battle start with a number of temporary victory banners already under their belt. The Royalists have one temporary banner for control of their own big gunne, while the Parliamentary army starts with two, one for their own big gunne and one for the unusually valuable contents of their baggage trayne unit. The first side to accrue 6 banners immediately wins the game, the temporary banners count towards this total as long as they are controlled. (See previous post for a more detailed explanation of "controlled").

The Royalists move first. The five command cards they've been dealt are, 1 Bombard, 2 x Charge of Horse, 1 Refuse left and 1 Attack Centre.
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Ignoring Capel's aide who'd been sent to enquire when it might please the Prince to order a withdrawal, Rupert watched the slowly forming ranks of pike and shotte on the far side of the river and realised that massed as they were they presented a perfect target for the usually inaccurate artillerymen. Reversing his previous instruction he sent an Ensign to see that Capel's mighty gunne was unlimbered and trained on the myriad targets across the bridge. Slowly the thirty pair of oxen that had dragged their charge to this point were coaxed into swinging the massive barrel around to aim across the river then the 130 foot long train of bellowing beasts were unhitched and used to drag the limbers back behind the lines. Sweating with exertion despite the chill, gunners, gunners mates and even the small group of firelocks deputised to protect the crew in action hurried to unload powder and a number of the massive stone balls they would shortly seek to lob amongst the enemy.

Appraising Colonel's Henry Clayton, Thomas Butler and Sir William Russell of his intentions Rupert watched their men spread out in line and to the steady beat of the drums begin marching towards the bridge. Confident that anything crossing it would be sure of a deadly reception he cantered after Clayton's regiment and bid them pivot to the left a little, the better to counter any sudden onrush by the enemy's horse.

Turn 1. Royalist. Playing the Attack Centre card allows Rupert to activate up to five units in the central part of the battlefield. The big gunne is unlimbered for one activation  the three infantry regiments are moved for three activations and Rupert and his coterie of advisors also move to a separate hex between Clayton's foote and Lingen's horse for the last of the five allowed. The unlimbering is not required as an action but given the size of the piece and the effort required I thought it merited the expenditure. The foote units got to move further and faster than usual since at no point were they in musket range of the enemy. Having played his card Rupert draws a replacement and gets Scout Centre.

Essex and his aides watched the approaching Royalist force with great anxiety, an anxiety that slowly  transformed into relief as their lack of numbers and the absence of the Royal Standard became apparent. Sensing he could crush this opposition through weight of numbers alone, but with as yet no discovery of a ford across the river, the Lord General realised that control of the bridge was going to be vital.

Flags flying and with their own drums beating William Bamfield's foote were ordered up to the bend in the river adjacent to the bridge, pushing their wheeled robinet battalion light gunne ahead of them. Following in their tracks, but with considerably more exertion, the crew of a saker dragged their charge with ropes across the churned up meadow. Finding a piece of hard flat ground behind Bamfield's men they swung the gunne to aim across the river, the intention being to cover the ground in front of their own cavalry.

Leading the attempt to seize the initiative, Francis Crocker's regiment were marshalled into the semblance of a column and with pike and officers to the fore marched up the road and onto the bridge. Taking longer to become organised, George Dodding's Foote also formed column and with slightly more circumspection followed Crocker's regiment along the road towards the bridge…their slower pace and apparent lack of enthusiasm causing a degree of distance to develop between the two units.


Crocker's Boys take the bridge…huzzah!

Turn 1. Parliament. Essex started with 4 command cards which were 1 x Attack Centre, 1 x Rally, 1 x Co ordinated Advance and 1 x Probe Right. The Lord General plays Attack Centre, moving the units detailed above and spending one activation searching for a ford. The searching for a ford option is not part of Msr Foy's rule set and is something I'm experimenting with at the mo. Every troop / strength point of cavalry detached to search for a ford gets to roll 1D6 with some seasons requiring a lower score than others. Because it is Autumn and the river is running high Essex's troopers require a 6 but only roll a 2. Having played his card Essex draws a replacement and gets Refuse Right.

Score at the end of turn 1. Parliament 2 victory banners, Royalist 1 victory banner.

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Across the bank on the other side of the river Sir William Russell's Royalist regiment of foote were advancing across the water meadow towards the left hand abutment of the bridge when a forest of enemy pike shafts was observed coming over its humped back. 

Coming to the halt the front ranks of shotte on either flank went through the motions they'd been so recently drilled in. Priming their pans they cast off any loose powder, charged their weapons with powder and ball, rammed the lot home with their scouring sticks then blew on their coals before adjusting the length of smouldering match gripped within each serpent.

A mob of yellow coated pikemen came into view, officers to the fore, flags flying bravely in the breeze, advancing across the bridge despite the levelled muskets of Russell's men not a 100 foot away to their right.

Reluctant musketeer and file leader Ned Fellows found himself in the front rank of Russell's regiment that morning. As the yellow coats advanced and the Sergeant to his left gave the order to present, his musket wavered as he flicked open the pan with his thumb. Pressed into joining the colours by his master he had no love of the soldiering life and did not see those on the bridge as any kind of enemy. Though not an overly religious lad he knew for a fact that killing a man was deemed a mortal sin and by so doing he was about to doom his soul for all eternity. Closing his eyes he let the musket barrel continue to wander where it would, reasoning that if he did not aim then should his ball actually strike a man it would be by God's will alone and therefore no sin of his. When the sergeant's mouth formed the shape "give fire" he pulled the tricker (sic) and the S shaped metal serpent holding the match dipped its smouldering tip into the exposed pan of fine grain powder. For a second nothing happened, then with a mighty bang and a kick like a mule in his shoulder the weapon went off. Choking on the sulphurous cloud released by the mass of musketry he uncocked his match and marched to the rear to begin the reloading process while the man behind him stepped forward to fill his place. At the back of the queue, hurriedly preparing his musket for a second shot, he could see nothing of the results of his regiments attack and had no idea of wether things had transpired for good or ill.


Ned (somewhere on the right) letting the Lord do the killing for him.

Turn 2. Royalist. Rupert used the Scout Centre card which only allowed the activation of one unit. After discarding it he's allowed to draw two cards and choose one of them. Wishing to continue his push in the centre he keeps hold of an Attack Centre and discards Evade.

With his soldiers marching boldly to secure the bridge Essex's spirits were further lifted by the news that a shallow crossing point of the Lud had just been discovered only a couple of hundred yards down from the bridge. Things seemed to be going well until the sound of drums and shouted orders was suddenly eclipsed by the thunderous crack of nearby musketry. All heads turn towards the bridge as a horde of panicked yellow coats stampeded back over it towards safety, desperate to escape the winnowing hail of lead they'd just found on the other side. Fortunately, Colonel Crocker, who'd been in the front rank, was dragged back by two of his Captains and managed to martial enough of his remaining junior officers to  prevent a total rout of the regiment's raw recruits. Though badly shocked by the experience enough survivors eventually rallied and the regiment reformed on the side of the road where it was shielded from further fire by the bridges stone abutment.


Ooh look…it's a ford, well fancy that. And it's been right under our noses all along!

Turn 2. Parliament. Faced with two hits on Crockers regiment, (three would have destroyed it) Essex used his Rally card in order to bring the unit back from the brink. One loss pip is subsequently removed. The dice used in the game look like this by the way:




Score at the end of turn 2. Parliament 2 victory banners, Royalist 1 victory banner.

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William Bamfield's foote had not long moved up to the bend in the river next to the bridge on the Parliamentary side of the river when Lord Capel's cannon fired its first shot. Prior to that day the loudest noise most of the Colonel's men had ever been exposed to was that of the local church bells and the effect of such a sound was indescribable. Terrified, the men in the front rack had the doubly unnerving sight of the cannons huge projectile arcing up into the air then plunging down again towards them. Fixed in their ranks and files they could do nothing to avoid the inevitable impact, the result of which ploughed soldiers down like skittles and showered the men to either side with the bowels and brains of their comrades.*** Still gently steaming, the ball rolled to a stop mere feet from the regiments open mouthed Colonel.


Capel's Cannon - and the firelock lads alongside (presumably with fingers in ears)

Turn 3. Royalist. Rupert plays the Bombard card but only has the big gun he can use. Aiming at Bamfield's regiment he rolled one die and produced an infantry symbol - so a hit! Because Colonel Bamfield's men were playing host to the Earl of Stamford at the time they were hit (as an attached leader) it was necessary to see if this worthy gentleman became a casualty. Two crossed sabres were needed from the roll of two dice. Since only one came up we can assume the noble Earl merely brushed some of the dirt he'd been showered with off the intricate lace of his falling band, perhaps with the nonchalant flick of a silk handkerchief.  Rupert draws a new card and gets another Scout Centre.

Desperate to draw attention from the bridge and the new found crossing point Essex signalled the attentive yet impatient Hesilrige on the other side of the river to advance. With several of his men accoutred in the finest armour privilege could provide Hesilrige was confident they were about to drive all before them. Packed close together, knee to knee, the unit trotted forward, a wall of horse flesh and steel moving steadily towards the still forming Royalist cavalry. With bugle's blowing Thomas Waites' and James Sheffield's regular regiments of horse kept pace to either side.


Hesilrige's boys…before


Turn 3. Parliament. Essex plays Attack Right Flank which allows him to finally trigger the advance of his three best units. In the 'real' world Heselrige's cuirassier regiment of lobsters were not formed until 1643. New card drawn is Probe Centre.

Score at the end of turn 2. Parliament 2 victory banners, Royalist 1 victory banner.
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Langdale had been waiting patiently for the opposing cavalry to make its move. Closing at a deliberately steady pace they seemed unstoppable. Conscious that his own troopers were nowhere near as well equipped, most possessing but a sword and if lucky a single pistol, he'd ordered a deliberate change from the more conventional cavalry tactics. Knowing they could not afford to stand off and fire a while before engaging, as was usual, Langdale had previously discussed the issue with the Prince and between them they had hit upon another stratagem. As gunfire erupted around the bridge, his bugler blew the charge and the bulk of his horse progressed quickly from the trot to the canter and then to the gallop, surging towards the oncoming enemy in a wild V shaped wave. 


A brooding Yorkshire bigwig (Langdale) eyeing up the other lot.

Surprised at the enemy suddenly coming on and adjudging the moment incorrectly Hesilrige drew both his previously cocked and loaded pistols and let fly at the swiftly approaching force. Taking their cue from their leader the foremost riders from all three Parliamentary regiments followed suit but to no obvious effect. Having fired at too long a range the majority of their shot came nowhere near their targets while some that did strike home were already spent. 

In a sudden jarring collision the two forces became one. Snarling horsemen atop wild eyed horses slashed at buff coat back and breast. Royalist pistols unused in a traditional volley were fired at point blank range, often pressed against their opponents before discharge. Responding to some sudden unexpected group dynamic Hesilrige's regiment, in the centre of the Parliamentary force collapsed. Wounded horsemen attempting to retire were cut down from behind and a terrible slaughter began. On  the Parliamentary right flank Waite's horse began to waver but on the left the roundhead troopers trapped on one side against a noisome bog fought back with a desperation that caused their assailants to recoil and reform.

Hesilrige, initially stunned by a poleaxe strike to the back of his head which was only stopped from killing him by the 'secret' under his hat,**** was surrounded by a little knot of protective troopers who found themselves gradually pushed back amongst the ranks of Lord Forbes neighbouring horse. As his regiment disintegrated all around him Hesilrige was scarce able to speak due to the wound he'd received let alone enforce any kind of order. 

Turn 4. Royalist. Each Royalist unit paired off against an individual opposing Parliamentarian unit. The charging galloper class of cavalry get an extra dice when attacking trotters. 4 troops became four dice that had one added to it for the aforementioned bonus and one added from the charge of horse card that had just been played. The result in the middle was a devastating 1 infantry (so no good) and four horse which equates to four hits that eliminates the unit. Hesilrige  as an attached leader took a casualty test (needing 1 crossed sabre die) but survived. Because the hex was still occupied no breakthrough occurred and no advance and bonus combat was therefore possible. On the left Parliamentary flank Waite's unit took three hits against its four stand allowance, so also became largely combat ineffective. During their battle back phase the reduced roundhead horse managed one hit on Dallion's regiment and a retreat flag on Lingen's which was enforced because the unit had no attached leader was not veteran and could not receive support from two adjacent units.

Turn 4. Parliamentary. Essex only has a probe right flank card to play and this allows only two units on that flank to activate. Currently there are only two units left to him on that flank so it proves sufficient to order both of them to try to retreat.

With the destruction of Hesilrige's regiment the score is now 2 victory banners all.


Hesilrige's boys…after

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Langdale slumped forward in his saddle, all his fury vented. The roundhead horse or what was left of them had taken to their heels and pursuit with his own blown mounts would prove impossible. Dismounting troopers took what they could from the fallen, the pitiful whimpers of wounded men and horses ignored for the moment.

Turn 5. Royalist. The play of a second Charge of Horse card saw predictably terrible results for the roundheads. An elimination of the remains of Waite's horse led to a breakthrough and bonus attack that whittled Forbes' boys down to almost nothing The remaining Parliamentary horse were either cut down where they stood or left running for the hills (towards the board edge) with a semi conscious Hesilrige amongst them. Rupert draws a new card and gets - Probe Left Flank.

Turn 5. Parliament. With total disaster unfolding on his right Essex played a Co ordinated Advance card that allowed him to bring the last of his cavalry off the field, push a saker on the far left up to the riverbank and in the centre two uncommitted regiments of foote were marched towards the newly discovered ford. His replacement card was The Lord Is With Us. I didn't have time to consult the rules too closely at this point so even though the last of the roundhead cavalry had just left the board, because it was a result of my orders and not a combat outcome I didn't give Rupert the benefit of the victory banner. And you thought I was biased…pah! 

Scores are now Parliament 2 victory banners and Royalist 3 victory banners.

And here we must leave it for today I'm afraid, since the old finger looks like its ready to fall off again. 

If you are an insomnia sufferer don't worry, part two (with an actual conclusion) will be along after I've found some more sellotape to keep the digit properly affixed.

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* All place names are a total figment of my imagination and if they actually exist bare no geographical relevance to the north midlands where this battle is being fought. Yes you're right, I'm still running in fear of the authenticity police, who, if I used an actual location, might seek to prove that the river never ran off to the right if viewed from the church spire etc.

** The units named did actually exist, but I have chosen obscure and ill documented ones in another craven attempt to avoid the public humiliation of an 'expert' pointing out that I've depicted Prince Rupert's Lifeguard with the wrong type of trouser fly buttons, or some such.

*** Taken from a 'real world' description given by Sergeant Henry Foster who'd been present at Newbury

**** A small metal skull cap that could be worn beneath a hat. Every day's a school day in this place ain't it.