Friday, 14 December 2018

The Godmanchester Gambit - Late Summer 1643 Part 1

Prince Rupert's actions at Bedford had done little to help the Royalist's eastward progress. The inexperienced Parliamentary regiments garrisoning Cambridge had refused to surrender the town and had sallied forth to slight the King's slowly developing siege works on several occasions. More worryingly for Charles were reports that the earl of Manchester and elements of his Eastern Association had marched south from Peterborough to occupy Huntingdon. If the rumours were true then his supply lines would suffer and an easy route back from the east would be denied him. Assured that the loss of Cambridge might finally break Parliaments will he chose not to abandon his siege and instead despatched the Earl of Forth to the rear with a substantial force of foote to claim Huntingdon for the crown.

The Royalist commanders are:

Patrick Ruthven - Earl of Forth is a 71 year old scot who has an extensive military experience both in Swedish service and in the Bishop's wars. Old but capable he has been the King's second in command since the civil war started.

Sir Arthur Aston also served in Sweden but his Catholicism coupled with his severe and imperious temperament means he is universally loathed by all who serve under him.

Charles Gerard is a Lancashire gentleman who saw service with the Dutch. Often at the forefront of a fight he has already been wounded twice in action.

Parliaments resolve had been stiffened by the bloodbath at Bedford and for the moment the "peace party" has been silenced. The Committee of Safety was nervous about sending more of its London reserves north to buttress Cambridge but did so with the knowledge that the Earl of Manchester had moved south to Huntingdon in order to cut off the King's supply routes through the area.

The Parliamentary commanders involved are:

Edward Montague -  the 2nd Earl of Manchester is a devout puritan who has inspired the men of the Eastern Association with his firm but fair command style. As a former friend of the King he is deeply troubled by the current military confrontation.

John Lambert is an untried Yorkshireman and military novice who has been under the influence of the Fairfax's for some years following a socially useful marriage.

There were not enough available commanders (through the random draw process) to create a full set for each side so both will be fighting at a slight disadvantage.

The terrain drawn by Parliament was a "boldly placed lunette" (small horseshoe shaped defensive embankment) and the Royalists drew a "great wood," which I arbitrarily split into two mini woods, because it looked more pleasing that way.

Having allowed the narrative to pin me down geographically to a specific area on the road from Cambridge to Huntingdon I mirrored the actual terrain by including a tributary of the River Ouse called Cook's Backwater which would have been the first obstacle encountered by Forth as he marched on the town.

The Royalists are unsure of the state of the bridge and have split their column in two, one to remain on the road and cross on the bridge, the other to cross via a small ford off to the right.

The force randomly drawn by the Royalists was an infantry heavy one and included:

A - John Skillings Regiment of Foote

B - Edward Pride's Regiment of Foote

C - Henry Vane's Regiment of Foote (with attached battalion gunne)

D - Edgar Burrow's Regiment of Foote

E - Lord Fairchild'd Regiment of Foote

Second Column:

F - John Tynte's Regiment of Foote

G - William Beddingfield's Regiment of Foote

H - Lord Ashburnham's Regiment of Foote

K - Henry Clayton's Regiment of Foote

L - Edgar De Vries' Regiment of Horse

The initial deployment map looks like this:

The forces drawn by Parliament were predominantly cavalry and are composed of the Eastern Association units under the Earl of Manchester in addition to a group of Bedford volunteers with a field piece (who'd moved into the area independently and dug a defensive work covering the main bridge over the river). Only the volunteers start the game on the board. I will place the Parliamentary unit cards in three locations, an advance guard in the trees to the east, whose unit type will be determined when the first Royalist unit enters the ford, and two groups who will only come onto the board as a result of a successful 1D6 roll (6 for the first turn, 5 and 6 for the next and so on). Should they appear on subsequent maps they will be identified as:

M - John Pynne's Regiment of Foote (with attached battalion gunne)

N - Thomas Leightons Dragoons

O - Oliver Cromwell's Regiment of Horse*

P - William Blackstone's Regiment of Horse

Q- Sir Arthur Hockley's Regiment of Horse

R - Bernard Monke's Regiment of Horse

S - Francis Devalier's Regiment of Horse

T - Nathaniel Hope's Regiment of Horse

John Lambert will be in overall command of the four unit force on the left of the map and the Earl of Manchester that on the right.

Six victory banners are needed for the win. Parliament gains victory banners in the usual way, while the Royalist can score for units destroyed and for units exiting the board via the Parliamentary board edge.

* Yup it's the man himself.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

I Have Questions

To be honest I have many many questions, but let's try and confine this to matters military for a moment.

It occurred to me the other night that through the wonders of the interwbz I have access to a collective military "hive mind" that is deeper and broader than good old wikiwhatsit and which might be able to throw some light on two equipment issues that I still can't get my head round.

Lets start with "fire pikes" or "fyrepyke's" if you will.

A gratuitous pike image nicked of the internet in case you didn't know what one looked like. Nasty aren't they?
I have contemporary reports of fire pikes being used during the siege of Bristol and even found somewhere, the loosest of descriptions, that they were "like unto a pyke but with fireworks withal upon them." Helpful I'm sure you'll agree. My long held belief has been that they were used as some sort of extended incendiary device to maybe set thatch and stuff alight on the other side of defence works but you have to question that when you think that fire arrows and mortars would do a more reliable job and would be cheaper and more readily available. The only other assumption I can make that is that they were probably used to intimidate / injure defenders of walls etc, using the reach of the pike, perhaps giving the pikemen a "use" in a scenario where they were unable to fulfil their primary function. Logically, apart from it being a drain on powder supplies one wonders why this concept was not extended to open battle. I can't believe that anyone in an opposing pike block would fancy having a firework shoved in their chops? Anywhoo if any one knows any more about fire pikes I'd be pleased to hear it.

While fire pikes might seem a little odd ball the next military equipment issue I have is the Caltrop.

A gratuitous image of caltrops, nicked off the internet in case you didn't know what one looked like. Also nasty.
They've been around, and documented, since the Roman's (and probably longer than that truth be known). They're easy and cheap to make, (blacksmiths could knock 'em out by the bucket load) and their design means that however you throw them they always land point upwards. Equip each soldier with a bag of them and scattered en masse in front of their position you have a fairly effective anti cavalry - hell anti infantry screen as well. Given that cavalry in general seems to have been pretty active on the offence during the 17th century why were these nasty little buggers not used? Did the military mind just"forget" their existence? 

Again, if anyone can offer any views on the matter I'll be pleased to hear them.

Monday, 3 December 2018

When Rupert Came To Bedford

The King finally arrived at Bishops Tachbrook to the south of Warwick to find Rupert and his independent command already waiting. 

At a Council of Warre it was agreed that a general clearance of the East Midlands would both benefit the rapidly emptying Royal purse and convince Parliament of the futility of continued resistance.

In early July Rupert and the King parted company, the King moving north to invest Leicester and the Prince moving south and east into the Parliamentary heartland.

The moves on the campaign map were:

Royalist troops from Nottingham attacked the northern suburbs of Leicester (1 action point in sacking the town) while the King's forces moving north from Warwick stormed it from the south, driving out its pro Parliament governor, disarming its trained band and installing Sir Barnabus Whitelock* as its new governor. (1 action point garrisoning the place).

A series of night time raids on Northampton from Leicester broke down much of the town's unfinished northern defences and captured the balance of the cavalry who were the towns only defenders. Repeated requests for military assistance sent to the Commons were met with promises of assistance but nothing more. (1 action point spent sacking Northampton).

Passing through Northampton on his way south and east, Prince Rupert - as at Oxford, began to run short on supplies. Plundering, which had until now been contained and even punished, grew increasingly common and was indeed tacitly ignored now that the Prince, (influenced by his military experience on the continent) began to consider himself to be on hostile rebel soil. News of his licentious soldiery, sometimes exaggerated by the Parliamentary pamphleteers, spread ahead of him, stiffening the resolve of those towns thought to be in his path. (1 action point spent garrisoning Northampton).

Arriving outside Bedford Rupert issued the usual summons to surrender and waited until the appointed hour. The town was considered to be largely indefensible and in fact intelligence revealed it had just been abandoned by its small force of Parliamentary defenders. Common sense dictated that the civilian inhabitants should surrender immediately, but someone forgot to tell the ordinary menfolk of the town who barricaded themselves in the market square and armed themselves with whatever they could find. Unwilling to be held up, or to incur unnecessary casualties, the Prince sent in Lord Calthorpe's regiment of foote** to clear them out and see that their orderly submission was obtained. To the Prince's fury his foote were twice repulsed and when he personally led a second regiment into the town his force was ambushed by orchestrated mobs through the narrow streets and alleyways leading to the corn exchange. Splattered by the contents of a tosspot hurled from a third floor window, the Prince knew he could not let such impertinence go unpunished. The rest, as they say, is history. (1 action point sacking Bedford).

Yup another pamphlet - and NO, Sir Arthur Aston is not (unfortunately) dead as yet.
The House of Commons had been in a semi permanent uproar since the news of the their latest defeat and the loss of their Lord General. Though significant forces (not least the navy) remained under Parliaments command the voice of the peace party had been strengthened by the latest set back and a motion to strike some sort of rapprochement with the King seemed to be brewing until news of the butchery at Bedford reached their ears. As Pym himself said, (attending the chamber despite his increasingly poor health) "If this be how the King shall treat with his subjects property and lives then London despair you at his future tender mercies."

The following piece of doggerel was later found scratched on the door of St Peter's Church by those incarcerated and later put to the sword there late on the second day.

When Rupert came to Bedford
We were in a sorry plyght,
Our blood God's earth ystained by daye,
Our homes in blazing ruins laye
And stained the skye at night.

With matchlock and with culverin,
With caliver and drake,
He battered down our ancient town,
He shot our sons and fathers down,
And hell on earth did make.

Our children's cries, our widows' prayers
Ascended with the flame,
And called down the wrath divine
Upon the Royal Murderer's line,
And brought his kin to shame.

With their resolve stiffened by the terrible news coming in from the town, a force of armed volunteer London ferrymen*** forced their way through the Prince's spent rearguard and secured the town against further assault. (1 action point garrisoning Bedford). No prisoners were taken in the process.

Receiving alarming reports that the King's separate force had begun to probe eastwards from Northampton into Parliament's puritan East Anglian heartland, the Earl of Manchester was sent with his own independent command from Peterborough to secure Huntingdon against any easy incursion. (1 action point garrisoning Huntingdon). 

Finally, unaware of the true nature of Prince Maurice's constrained circumstances, a mixed force from Reigate secured the undefended, Parliament leaning, minor south coat port of Lewes against any future expeditions from beleaguered Chichester. (1 action point garrisoning the port).

Parliament is down to 7 economic zones and the King has gained one, moving up to 6.

The campaign map now looks like this - again with the migraine inducing green fuzzy areas to show where the main changes have taken place.

And so on we trot to late Summer 1643.

* Totally made up name.

** Yup - don't bother looking them up on wikipedia, they never existed in the real world.

*** There were an awful lot of ferrymen plying their trade on the Thames, but they could not by law be compelled to do service on the land. In the real world Parliament spent a lot of time of time pressuring groups of them to join up, with only patchy success.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Devils Dyke - Early Summer 1643 Part 2

Here's a quick reminder of the setup. Royalists (with the most cavalry) go first. Six victory banners are needed for the win.

Anyone who spots that in the following photo's the ridge and the hill are not orientated exactly as on the above map is a smart ass.
The King was having doubts. 

Having initially been all for the expedition to Warwick, (more in the hope of a kind word from the Queen than any hope of breaking the military stalemate) he had since had time to reflect on the entire exercise and had begun to worry the Lord might consider it a prideful conceit for which he should be punished. After an early awakening and an extended period for prayer his carriage and cavalry lifeguard  had finally caught up with the straggling Worcester army and had taken its position in the column.

Lord Byron had doubts too, doubts that at their current rate of progress they were ever going to get to Warwick and the rendezvous with Prince Rupert. Rousing the men before dawn he'd insisted on an early start to make up for lost time. On the advice of a local sympathiser the army had left the main track and set off across a broad swathe of heath parallel to an ancient tribal boundary known locally as the Devils Dyke. Though there were not known to be any rebel forces closer than Oxford the early morning mist was thick enough to allow for some sort of surprisal so he'd insisted that Colonel Baker's regiment of horse begin despatching patrols ahead and to either side of their course.

At the tail end of the column both literally and figuratively Lord Herbert of Raglan had taken up position alongside Lord Montague's regiment of horse and was conversing amiably with the regiments colonel when there was a sudden commotion and loud cries of "Huzzah" as the King and his entourage rattled paste. For a moment the wan face of the sad eyed monarch could be seen at the carriage window, but he was gone again before young Herbert could replace his hat.

Meanwhile, hidden by the mist and the intervening ridge, the Earl of Essex and his army were heading on a parallel course to broadly the same destination. The army had set out late that morning after the distribution of rations and seemed in fine humour. The Earl had eschewed his carriage and had chosen to ride in the midst of his foote, partly because the men, who'd refreshed themselves in the Spanish fashion at nearby Tidbury were in fine good humour. Laden down with booty they once more hailed him with cries of "hooray for old Robin." Though the ingrate Stamford had attached himself to Boyd's regiment of foote directly behind him, the Lord General had managed to ignore the man for most of the morning, content that his two competent commanders, Balfour up front and Gell to the rear had sent out scouts to ensure they were not surprised now they had drawn so close to Warwick.

It was not long after the suns warming rays had begun to melt the mist that the first of Baker's Royalist scouts came haring back to their regiment. Following a hurried exchange a messenger was sent immediately onward to Byron. The news when he received it was alarming. An entire enemy army was marching in the same direction as them less than a mile away on the other side of the ridge!

At Byron's signal the front of the Royalist column ground to a disorganised halt. After sending an urgent message to the King his orders to the units around him were to deploy off the track and adopt a defensive posture facing east. The King's design as far as he knew, was to link up with Rupert and create a force whose size would be difficult to match. An unanticipated battle now might result in losses that could frustrate that intent. If the mist held a little longer it was possible that the rebels might continue on their way and remain unaware of their presence.

The head of the Royalist column comes to a halt and Skilling's, Pride's, and Vane's regiments of foote deploy in a defensive posture eastwards off the track. Again, feel free to blow cigarette smoke across the screen in order to simulate the early morning mist - if it helps.
Turn 1 & 2 Royalist.  The army moved two hexes along the track before one of the three scouting troops rolled a 5 which was sufficient to allow discovery of the Parliamentary army. On the second turn  the King played the Refuse Left card (which also allows units in the centre to activate) and the three foote regiments swung off the track to cover the gap between the ridge and Mill Hill. At the start of turn 2 one of the off board scouting units rolled well enough to return to Baker's regiment.

The news of nearby enemy soldiers discovered by one of Balfour's men did not alarm the Earl of Essex overmuch for as they had closed on Warwick he'd been half expecting it. A troop or two of enemy cavalry, as was reported, seemed scarcely worth the effort of deploying for battle but Essex was a cautious general and since he was in no rush he thought it a worthwhile opportunity to observe how quickly his new regiments would respond to the order.

On the Parliamentary side of the ridge Crocker's regiment makes for the commanding heights of Mill Hill while Noll's and Boyd's foote swing off the track and take up a defensive posture at the foot of the ridge. At the top centre of the picture Balfour's horse await the return of their scouts.

Turn 1 & 2 Parliament. Essex's scouts also discovered the enemy on the second turn but since their roll was the lowest possible to achieve it I arbitrarily decided that Essex wouldn't get the full picture just yet. The decision to deploy at the foot of the ridge, despite being at a disadvantage when attacking uphill (should anything come over the top) was taken to give a little retreating room between the units and the board edge. Units forced off the edge in combat count as lost and I'd been caught that way before. The units deployed were Crocker's RoF (heading for Mill Hill), then Noll's and Boyd's in the centre of the picture (with the attached Earl of Stamford - sporting an outrageous white ostrich plume behind them).

As soon as the drums began to beat on the Parliamentary side of the hill Byron knew the game was up. Anxious to secure the important high ground of Mill Hill he sent orders that Gilbert Flood's dragoons were to make haste to secure it. Wheeling about he watched them set off uphill at a handsome pace despite the palsied nags on which they had been mounted.

Turn 3 Royalist. Byron orders the dragoons to seize the hilltop. Another set of scouting horse return to Baker's regiment.

More scouts returned to Balfour and the full news of their discovery swiftly made its way down the column to where Essex and his aides were discussing the situation. It seemed the enemy wasn't just a troop or two of horse. A whole army was slowly traversing the other side of the ridge! A shocked Essex demanded a map, but none was to be had. A quick canter to the top of the ridge was followed by an even swifter descent. The mist was clinging to the ground more densely on the other side but what he'd seen there was enough to shock him. The army stretched out along the far side of the ridge had been flying the Royal Standard! There was no time for finesse. Aides were sent galloping in all directions with but a single order, deploy facing west and prepare to give battle.

Turn 3 Parliament. Essex gets the full bad news and units from the tail of the column gradually come onto the board and begin to deploy facing the Royalists.

Turn 4, 5 & 6 Royalist and Parliament. Scouts continue to return in dribs and drabs, their parent regiments slowly coming back up to strength. The Royalist dragoons finally made it to the top of the hill but unfortunately their height advantage allowed them to observe Balfour's horse swinging around the base of the hill and Croker's men advancing up it dragging a light battalion piece with them. Under desultory fire the King played an evade card and allowed the dragoons to canter back down the hill and out of harms way. By the end of turn 6 Crockers men had defiantly occupied the hilltop. 

The dragoons could see what was coming... and legged it (well technically I suppose they rode it) back down the hill.
When Byron received reports that Balfour's troopers were coming around the hill to attack the head of the army he ordered Baker's almost back to full strength regiment to engage it while he primed his pistols and led Bramley's horse up the hill in a furious charge, determined to sweep the rebel foote there from the summit. While some were caught by the sudden unexpected onrush his opponents were not the same regiment that had been so badly broken at Newham Bridge. Though its ranks were once again filled with raw recruits they were in a good defensive position and had enough experienced junior officers to give them the confidence to make a stand. With some of the foote firing from within the Mill itself and with the pikes forming a ring around its base it was not something that an angry Byron found he could just roll over.

Turn 7 Royalist & Parliament. I allowed the Parliamentary infantry the chance to form a pike stand on the hill, since it could hardly count as a built up area. That said, since Crockers men were classed as raw they were going to need a bloody good die roll to achieve it. The outcome was an unexpected 6! Result! Though they struck first at the advancing horse they caused no hits, while Byron managed one against them as they struggled to organise their defence.

Crocker's men hold their own. Yeah I know there's a double entendre there if you want to look for it. Shame on you and your dirty minds.
Recognising that some sort of action had begun at the head of the column Essex ordered his foote and artillery units to continue to establish a cohesive line parallel with the ridge but at the same time urged every horse unit he had to head towards the sound of gunfire coming from around the area of the mill.

Parliamentary lines begin to form across the way (top of picture) while the cavalry gallop to the sound of the guns - (out of view to the left).
While Byron and Bramley's horse were ineffectually skirmishing with Crockers foote atop the hill, Bakers regiment of horse trotted calmly around its base until they could see Balfours men coming their way. Pistols were spanned and horses corralled into a tightly bunched V as the opposition came slowly closer, clearly intent on the fighting going on above them.

Travelling along the line of deployed soldiery the King did his best to give a rousing speech to each and all but his thin reedy scottish voice did not carry well against the noise of an army readying itself for battle. Falling back on old favourites Lord Lindsey, currently attached to Pride's regiment, began the call and answer chant that usually proved better than any impromptu speech… "For the King and the cause!" he shouted. The assembled soldiery roared it back at him, "The Church and the Laws… he continued, spacing out each  line to allow for its repetition, "God save King Charles!"

At Essex's urging the cannon were hurriedly prepared for battle and after assigning positions for the columns last units he fell to discussing the situation with Sir John Gell whose horse had been the last unit to arrive. Though the foote were well supported by artillery on the Parliamentary left Sir John felt his cavalry might prove a useful back up. Essex who'd already decided that his cavalry should be deployed en masse as his rival Fairfax had done at Beaufort House would have none of it and insisted that Gell should head for Mill Hill where Balfour would be waiting for him. In response to the roar coming from the Royalist lines sober looking preachers addressed the ranks, exhorting them to do God's work and occasionally giving forth with the bits they could remember from Isiah 49:25.

Turn 8 Royalist and Parliamentarian. Byron continued hacking away at the defending foote on the hill but neither side could inflict serious injury on the other while Baker's newly raised regiment of horse nervously circled the base of the hill into charge range of Balfour's men. Note Gallopers have a longer charge range than Trotters. The last of the Parliamentarian column came on to the board, Sir John Gell's cavalry being sent immediately on towards Mill Hill.

Baker, astride the lead horse of his regiment could see that Balfour's men opposite had begun pointing in his direction and were asking for instructions. The second son of a wealthy saltpetre merchant he'd read all the latest military manuals but nothing had prepared him for this, his first taste of combat. The sun was shining and the last of the mist had gone which made it seem too nice a day for what was about to come. With a last squeeze of the crucifix hidden beneath his buff coat he gave the signal and spurred his horse forward, happy to let the Lord decide his fate.

Balfour's Parliamentary horse were still short of men yet to return from their scouting mission and had indeed been preoccupied with the fighting on Mill Hill. Though they had been aware of the cavalier cavalry slowly closing on their position, when the enemy trumpets sounded the charge it came as somewhat of a surprise. Bunching together to present their pieces they nervously gave fire too early and thereby spent their powder to little effect. With almost double the mass of horseflesh, Baker and his leading horsemen drove through them like a hot knife through butter, while those following on behind overlapped them on either flank. Balfour bringing up the rear watched in grim fascination as his Tamworth recruits fell or ran. Becoming surrounded himself, he took several sword blows and even a close range pistol shot that failed to penetrate his breast plate before cutting his way clear of the maelstrom and riding off with the last surviving stragglers.

Turn 9 Royalist & Parliament. Playing Refuse Right, the King was able to charge Balfour with Baker's raw horse regiment. Expectations on my part were not high, but the concept was to tie Balfour's men down and prevent them interfering in the battle for Mill Hill. Sometimes the dice God's smile on you and this was one of those occasions. Baker's charging Galloper cavalry had four dice (one for each stand) and an extra one because they were Galloper cavalry charging Trotter cavalry. Balfour's men were already suffering one strength pip loss due to the still missing scouts so when Baker's chaps rolled two sabres and a horsemen the three hits wiped the boys from Tamworth out in one go. Balfour once again survived a leader loss check (as he did at St Martins In The Field) and once again was forced to run for his life toward the safety of his own lines. Parliaments move was still largely positional, galloping cavalry to the threatened head of the column and manoeuvring a field gun up onto the edge of the ridge in order to fire either across at Byron or down onto the Royalist foote away to one side.

The score stands at Parliament 0 Victory Banners, Royalists 1 Victory Banner.

Balfour runs for cover, (lower right of picture, heading towards the left) Gell's horse rush to meet him while a crazy bunch of gunners haul a saker up onto the ridge.

Gilbert Flood's Royalist dragoons had felt a bit shamefaced after their hurried retreat from the hill so when the order came to act as support to an increasingly frustrated Byron they willingly rode out to the base of the hill, dismounted, and began a ragged fusillade upon the concealed musketeers above. While the old wooden planks of the Mill had proved sufficient cover from the cavalry's pistol fire the heavier shot from the dragoon's carbines punched holes through wood and men with little problem. The return fire from the windows began to slacken.

Turn 10. Royalist. The dragoons moved up to the base of the hill and their fire caused a second hit on Crocker's men defending the Mill.

Sir John Gell had galloped his Parliamentary cavalry towards the sound of firing, anticipating Balfour's men would be waiting for him as Essex had claimed. Instead of Balfour's men he found just Balfour, bare headed and exhausted after yet another close encounter with death. Determined to exact some sort of revenge for this reversal he swung his regiment to the left and led it through the gap between Mill Hill and the ridge where a strung out regiment of dismounted enemy dragoons lay before him, ripe for the picking. Surging forward through the pass Gell laughed as the dragoons saw him coming and began to run. Without pikes to protect them they would be easy meat.

Turn 10 Parliament. Up until now I'd begun to think I should have painted my dragoon regiment in red since just like on Star Trek you know the red shirts are always going to be the first to die. Every battle they've been deployed in to date they've been rolled over and wiped out. Fortunately this time the Royalist faction had an evade card they could play which meant that the dragoons could run out of Gell's two hex charge range in the nick of time. What Gell had also failed to realise was that he'd just come within musket range of two enemy regiments of foote.

Flood's men began their dash for safety as soon as the Parliamentary cavalry had begun to charge so many had the chance to form a new line under the protective muskets of the adjacent friendly foote. As Sir John's men spurred their horses forward they were met with return fire from the dragoons to their front and two full on close range salvee's from the unseen Skilling's and Pride's regiments to their left. The carnage was over in seconds, Gell's regiment having ceased to exist as a fighting force. Gell, magically spared apart from a shot that hit him in the shoulder was unhorsed but managed to find a wounded remount on which he made his escape. Only twenty other survivors from the regiment made it out with him.

As old fish face Admiral Akbar once famously said… "It's a traaap!" (Apologies to any none Star Wars nerds out there who didn't get that). Gell's horse run into a wall of fire after the dragoons (on the left) scarpered out of charge range.
Turn 11 Royalist & Parliament. You can see the dice that were thrown in the picture above. Gell should have had the dragoons on toast but because of their nifty footwork didn't have a chance in the face of so much waiting firepower. 

The score now stands at Parliament 0 Victory Banners, Royalists 2 Victory Banners.

Skilling's men had never been in battle before that day and the result of their fire on the charging cavalry had stunned them. Marching over the spot where the bulk of the horse had fallen in order to block the pass enabled many a recruit to liberate something of value from the dead and dying lying all around them. Pride's veteran foote would probably have joined in but their officers kept them busy firing at the cannon perched on the top of the ridge.

After tending to their own lightly wounded Baker's cavalry set off in hot pursuit of the once again abandoned Balfour. Managing to avoid capture Balfour rode his wounded horse as fast as he could towards the friendly oncoming cavalry of Grainger's horse where he later found four bullet indentations in the steel back plate covering his buff coat.

Turn 12 Royalist & Parliamentarian. Balfour is beginning to demonstrate an usual amount of luck…some might even say that witchcraft is involved! Four attack dice failed to produce the single sabre icon necessary to finish him off.  The Parliamentary cannon returns fire on the Royalist below but fails to hit anything.

Roger Owen's and Lord Montague's horse had been at the tail end of the Royalist column and had heard the sounds of combat long before a rider arrived with news and new orders. Lord Herbert, still with Lord Lord Montague's regiment checked his pistols for the thousandth time and followed meekly as the the two regiments trotted off the track past their own lined up foote and out towards the enemy. Lining up opposite the Parliamentarians Lord Montague turned to reassure the young Lord when a stray ball from somewhere turned his head into a crimson mist. With Montague's officers struggling to restrain his horse and lower the colonels body gently to the ground Herbert realised with horror that they were now looking to him for leadership.

Lord Montague about to get his head blown off. 

Across the short divide between the two Royalist cavalry units and the enemy lines the order went out for the Parliamentary foote to begin a general advance. William Morrison and Roger Killigrew's foote began to move, supported by the first shot from the gunners to their right.

Parliament's "big gunne" fires in support of the advancing foote.

Turn 13 Royalist & Parliamentarian. The King only had a Probe Right flank card and since the two cavalry units were just sitting there it seemed like a good opportunity to goad the Parliamentarians into activity on that flank. When Essex looked at his own command cards he played an Attack Left Flank card in order to push the threatening cavalry back from whence they came. At this point there was no real intent to "achieve" anything other than a round of move and counter move. The cannon shot was aimed at Montague's horse and though it produced a flag (retreat result) this was nullified by the presence of Lord Herbert. From a narrative perspective it was this shot that removed the head of poor old colonel Montague.

Lord Herbert quickly realised that the advanced position colonel Montague had led them to had made them the target of every Parliamentary weapon within range, however retiring was not entirely consistent with the honour system inculcated into him since childhood. As terrified as he was there seemed only one direction in which he could go and that was…forward. With what he was certain was going to be his last act on this earth he shouted at the men on either side to follow him and spurred his horse into a gallop. Herbert instinctively shied away from the advancing enemy foote and aimed his wild eyed stallion at what appeared to be the weakest spot in the enemy line. Looking over his shoulder he was surprised and slightly gratified to see that both of the cavalry regiments were right behind him.

The gap between the two forces closed within moments. Forgetting to draw his pistols he rode straight through the mattrosses serving the Parliamentary cannon, drawing his sword only when confronted by the handful of firelocks guarding it. A tall man well outside of sword reach grinned and aimed his musket at Herbert's chest. Before he could fire he was suddenly swept aside by a tide of horseflesh and flashing steel. Exultant and unstoppable Herbert's men rushed onwards into the flank of a Lord Grey's still forming horse and broke them in an instant. With a path cleared for them Owen's horse followed through and suddenly found themselves in the rear of a blue coated enemy foote regiment where a group of very well dressed notables was hurrying to mount horse. With out pausing to think they rode in amongst them and let the slaughter begin. Amongst those soon left face down in the churned up mud was a portly fellow in an orange sash.

Essex bites the dust and Lord Stamford (attached to the blue coated foote) rushes to get out of the way.

With their honour satisfied and the regiment's lost colonel revenged Lord Herbert gave the signal to sound the retreat. It was only as they raced back towards the abandoned cannon that he realised Owen's men did not appear to be coming with them.

Still on the way towards Mill Hill, Grainger's Parliamentary regiment of horse were made suddenly aware of a unexpected commotion erupting to their rear. Turning to face the threat they charged straight into Owen's horse who were far too occupied to see them coming. With surprise on their side Grainger's men managed to inflict heavy casualties.

Overawed by the unexpected Royalist charge Lord Stamford dashed out of the way to the foot of the ridge while colonel Boyd hurriedly ordered his regiment to about face and engage the interlopers. As Owen's troopers fought a desperate rearguard action Boyd's men overran them from the flank, dragging the troopers from their horses and butchering them where they lay despite their pleas for quarter.

Turn 14 Royalist & Parliamentarian. Playing a Probe Right Flank card allowed the two forward cavalry units to do something but I initially had a little trouble deciding quite what that should be. Throwing caution to the wind I opted to charge the big gunne and its attached artillery firelocks. The dice rolled by Montague's regiment were sabre, foot, artillery and horse which effectively cleared the hex in a single bound. Advancing into the breakthrough hex brought them adjacent to Lord Grey's horse which I allowed them to make a bonus attack on with little expectation of success. With five dice for full strength Gallopers v Trotters Lord Herbert rolled 3 sabres (so three hits) 1 artillery and 1 retreat flag. Honouring the retreat flag result brought Grey's survivors into the path of Owen's follow up charge. The already beat up regiment of horse had one strength point left when Owen's men rolled 2 further hits and destroyed them. Now it was Owen's turn to advance into the empty 'breakthrough hex' where they would be allowed to make their single bonus attack. Lord Essex and his aides had been comfortably out of the way for the balance of the game but now found themselves directly in the enemy's path. You can see Owen's bonus attack die roll in the picture above. Parliament's Lord General was dead.

In one turn the score had changed dramatically to become Parliament 1 Victory Banner and the Royalists 5 Victory Banners.

On the other side of the field Lord Byron's men were out of ammunition, powder, and ideas. It had been "warm work and well attended" but unable to break the raw Parliamanetarian foote on Mill Hill he reluctantly ordered his men to pull back while he rode over to request help from the colonel of Skilling's regiment. As the foote began to advance uphill firing by intraduction the weight of shot proved enough to convince the surviving members of Crocker's regiment to quit their flimsy shelter and make a run for it.

Turn 15 Royalist. Realising that Crockers regiment had already taken two hits out of three during the game I used the newly drawn Attack Left Flank card to finally provide the firepower needed to inflict the last hit and drive them off the hill. This outcome immediately ended the game with a 6:1 Royalist win.


When the random card draws produced the commanders, the terrain and the units, my initial thought for both parties was that the best outcome would be for one side to discover the other but then stay their hand as a portion of their opponents marched off the board. This of course did not happen, both sides scouts discovering each other on turn 2. I think Jonathan Freitag also highlighted this possibility.

The deployment of the individual units within each column seemed logical to me - cavalry at front and rear but it didn't make for a good deployment if you intended (as Essex did) to send all your cavalry to one side of the battlefield. Many Parliamentarian turns were lost in that deployment and the cavalry, when they arrived were deployed and chewed up piecemeal.

Some of the scouts were slow to return to their parent unit (the return achieved by a die roll of 4, 5 or 6 per unit per turn). This slow return left Balfour's men understrength when engaged - with disastrous consequences for them. Lesson to be learned here. Never attack with understrength units if possible.

The majority of both sides foote remained in line on either side of the ridge for most of the game. Having marched foote units into the fire of waiting enemies before (especially at Sydenham Heath) I wasn't willing to cede points that easily this time. Maybe that was a mistake?

Essex had one more unit than the Royalists but with a few more guns and a few less cavalry probably shouldn't have plumped for a cavalry action around Mill Hill on unequal terms.

The new rules for non veteran foote forming a pike stand worked well. Crocker's raw men withstood all that Byron could throw at them and would undoubtedly have been swept away early on before this rule change.

The Outcome:

King Charles was seen to clap his hands in delight when advised of the battles outcome but refused Byron's request to pursue the retreating disordered enemy before retiring to give thanks to God for the victory.

Lord Byron was extremely frustrated by what he perceived (correctly) as a lost chance to totally destroy Parliaments main marching army. On reaching Warwick however the King managed to mollify him a little by arranging for a special medal to be struck in honour of his gallant service.

Edward Somerset Lord Herbert of Raglan was knighted on the battlefield for his extreme bravery and decisive action. Sir Edward viewed the King's desire not to waste his latent military expertise in further futile negotiations with the Irish as somewhat of a mixed blessing.

Lord Lindsey who'd served as little more than cheer leader to the Royalist foote could at least boast that he'd been there on the day and as a consolation prize of sorts managed to secure excellent accommodation (with a very well stocked cellar) in Warwick.

On the Parliamentary side Lord Essex's loss was greeted with both great sadness and in some quarters not a little relief. The deaths of so many men not withstanding, the Lord General's dilatory approach to battle and his tardy pursuit of the Royalists had led some in the commons to question his true loyalties. Within days of the news being received in London the nascent independent and presbyterian wings of the house began their own battle to secure their choice of his replacement.

Sir William Balfour had twice survived the destruction of regiments he'd been part of and had begun to suspect this was mostly due to the use of outmoded tactics. As Parliaments seemingly inexhaustible supply of reinforcements once more filled out his regiment he set to training his new recruits in the Swedish fashion.

Sir John Gell recovered slowly from his shoulder wound despite (or because of) the ministrations of the very best chirurgeons. His already sour demeanour became gradually worse as drink failed to ease his constant pain. Throughout the rest of the war his ill temper and ill usage of captives and civilians would earn him a dismal reputation with any troops that served under him.

Lord Stamford (aided by the lack of any meaningful pursuit) managed to successfully organise the retreat of the remaining demoralised Parliamentary regiments to Oxford. Though this service was well received in the commons he now bore the taint of being involved in two decisive defeats and knew he would never be trusted with the independent command his rank and social standing demanded. Feeling sidelined and slighted he secretly wrote to Sir Edward Hyde, hoping to explore the possibility of a change in allegiance.

Well that's that then. Five badly needed points for the King on the campaign map and three for the Parliament. There's going to be some head scratching about how best to spend them, that's for certain.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Devils Dyke - Early Summer 1643 Part 1

The latest letter from Queen Henrietta Maria in the Hague to the King had been the literary lash that was needed to galvanise Charles from his melancholic inertia:

"Your folly is so great I do not understand it. Delays have always ruined you. You are already beginning again your olde game of yielding everything you do. Unless you do begin to act the King all will soon be ruined, and if you do that, you ruin me in ruining yourself; and that, could I have believed it, I should never have quitted England; for my journey is rendered ridiculous by what you do, or fail to do, having broken all the resolutions that you and I had taken, except of going where you are, and there you do nothing."*

Gathering the leaders present for a council of warre the King gave instruction that the army in and around Worcester should rendezvous with Prince Rupert and the substantial forces he still commanded near Warwick. Once co joined the Royalist's would, he declared, push the rebels out of the important manufacturing towns of the east midlands before marching south once again towards London. After the Queens private scolding Charles insisted on leading the expedition; the only commanders immediately available to advise and support him on this occasion being:

The Earl of Lindsey is a loyal scot who has seen extensive overseas military service in both the Swedish and Spanish sphere's of influence.

Sir John Lord Byron is a capable cavalry commander who'd fought for the King in the first Bishop's War, but who had been somewhat in the shadow of Prince Rupert (now absent) and Lord Henry Wilmot (who'd been killed at St Martin's in the Field). The "rash" trait indicates he and his regiment are likely to gallop off the field after plunder if the opportunity presents itself.

Lord Herbert, is a likeable and intelligent young man who'd just returned to the court to advise the King on his progress in the negotiations with the Catholic Confederates of Ireland. A military novice he's been unfortunate enough to have returned to Worcester just in time to be 'shoe horned' into this mission.**

Recognising that Prince Maurice - newly installed as Lord General of the South East, could do little but act as an irritant, Charles ordered him to improve the defences of the towns still under his command and to sally forth only when a weaknesses in the enemy's position was perceived. Though supplies of armes and powder were still being shipped into Portsmouth from across the channel the men to use them were now in scarce supply following the debacle at Beaufort House.

In response to rumours of a Parliamentary delegation being received in Edinburgh the Marquis of Newcastle was given special dispensation to begin his own discussions with the Covenanters. Charles' instruction had been to offer them whatsoever they desired, but to string the discussions out for as long as possible, privately conceding to the worried Catholic Marquis that any religious or political concessions made would naturally be reneged upon once the English question was settled in his favour.

For Parliament the loss of Gloucester had been a blow that had served to cast yet more doubt on the abilities of its Lord General. Why the commons asked, had Essex not returned promptly to the city's defence following the conquest of Oxford and why did his army consume twice the supplies and move twice as slowly as that of General Fairfax? Forced into a furious letter writing campaign to justify himself and also to damn with faint praise his new rivals triumph over "so small an opponent" Essex's army drifted north towards Warwick with the vague intention of investing the place or bringing Rupert to battle somehow. Essex's entourage included the following:

Sir John Gell is a small minded politically motivated individual whose only real motive for joining Parliament has been to oppose his families chief rivals - the Grey's who are active in the King's service. Ruthless and noted for his plundering he is not liked by Essex.

The Earl of Stamford, previously took a very limited part in the battle of Newham Bridge and wrote a letter of complaint to the Speaker of The House about Essex's poor decision making there. Shuffled out of the way to become governor of Northampton, his lack of tact and poor relations with the civilian leaders saw him back under Essex's baleful gaze within a matter of months.

Sir William Balfour has been in a number of significant engagements since the war started, his previous Dutch military service in the Scottish brigade having prepared him well for the rigours of campaigning.

On the morning of the 28th June both the King's Royalist army and Essex's Parliamentarian force  found themselves marching towards Warwick unaware of each others presence on either side of the 1000 year old earthwork known locally as the Devils Dyke. An early morning mist, lack of adequate scouting and a general overconfidence had contributed to each others ignorance of their increasingly perilous situation.

The random terrain draw produced a windmill on a hill for the Parliamentarians and a long low ridge for the Royalists, from which the scenario draws its name.

Note: Windy Miller action figure not included.

Forces randomly drawn were:


3 x horse
5 x foote
2 x light battalion gunnes
2 x middling gunnes
1 x artillery / baggage train firelock guard company
1 x baggage trayne
1 x great gunne


5 x horse
5 x foote
1 x dragoon
1 x middling gunne
1 x great gunne
1 x baggage trayne

The initial deployments look like this:

An eye waveringly small map (sorry mappe) of both sides initial dispositions. I've made it this small out of spite on the basis that if I have to go blind painting 6mm figures, then I'm going to take you lot with me.

Both armies have entered the board from the right hand side and are moving slowly in column to exit on the left.

Until they discover their nearby opponents both armies must continue to move at 1 hex per turn in the indicated direction. Each sides 1 hex column move is purchased by the play of a command card - irrespective of its content. If units pass off the left hand board edge prior to discovery of the enemy they may not return to be included in the battle. Units still to arrive on map after the enemy discovery can enter on any of the hexes adjacent to the army's original path.

The mist preventing each side's view of each other is rapidly thinning in the morning sun and will be completely gone by turn 5 at which point both sides will automatically spot each other.

Both sides have deducted three strength points from their lead cavalry units to act as scouts. Each scouting troop will roll 1D6 per turn in an attempt to discover the enemy. First turn requires a 6, second a 5 or 6. Once the enemy is discovered, the scouts will return to their parent unit on a roll of 4, 5 or 6. the parent unit being gradually reinforced by removing loss pips as this occurs.

I intend to try out a couple of suggested rules amendments in this battle such that:

Galloper horse only receive a +1 die advantage over Trotter horse during any charge to contact melee. If subsequently performing a melee from an adjacent hex without a 'run up' this +1 advantage is void.

All categories of foote may now attempt to form a pike stand (when notified they are being charged by horse). Veterans still retain their automatic ability to do this, Trained foote may achieve it on a 1D6 roll of 4, 5 or 6 and Raw foote on a roll of 5 or 6.

There will be no command card deductions made to the generals hand when units enter pike stand since I now view this as a tactical rather an operational restriction.

Okay then, lets have at it once again shall we!

*The letter content is a bastardised amalgam of two letters sent to Charles from the hague during early 1642.

** In the real world young Herbert was involved in the Irish war ceasefire negotiations and went on to recruit a force in south wales that was destroyed almost as soon as it came into being - derisively known at the time as the Mushrump (mushroom) army.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

C'est La Vie Dans La Creuse

Now fair warning, in my last post I did point out that this particular missive wasn't going to be about toy soldiers so you might want to skip this one and come back next week?


Oh all right then. 

In an off topic post early on in this blogs history I had occasion to moan a bit (or whine like a bitch, according to TCMB) about the many and varied disadvantages of the place I now call home. I think it's only fair that while I'm fiddle faddling about waiting for a piece of castle wall to dry that I set the record straight and highlight some of the wonders of the LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, sorry I meant Department 23 otherwise known as The Creuse. It is a land of farming folk, of trees, cows and the Chasse. It is France how it used to be 50 years ago, unchanged, (presumably the people here never got the memo).

Let me throw some stats at you. The department is 2,149 square miles in area and has less than 120,000 people in it. For the most part it looks a lot like this…

Check out that natural beauty daddyo. There might be a person or two out there…somewhere.
To restate the point - there's just no one here, and the few that are look remarkably similar. (I harbour a deep suspicion that the woman who serves me in the pharmacie at Merinchal, sprints out the back of the shop when I'm finished and changes hats ready to serve me a few minutes later when I bimble into the La Poste several doors down). The lack of people and the demographic; mostly farmers and old people, seems instrumental in distorting the very fabric of time itself. Once you've been immersed in its general sleepiness for more than a few weeks you are incapable of being returned to any 'normal' form of civilisation. I myself have now developed a world weary gallic shrug of indifference when confronted by anything new. To illustrate the point three cars at a traffic roundabout in the busy metropolis sleepy market town of Aubusson is considered a traffic jam. You get the picture.

Aubusson - busy metropolis by day, fun packed thrill centre by night. Not.
For those that remain unconvinced that such a bucolic world could still exist out there let me bore you yet further with an illustration.

About a month or so ago, in the sweet spot that exists between the end of the tourist season and the closing of every door and shutter in early October I'd made my way into Aubusson to pick up some bits and bobs, wondering how I was going to fill the hour before collecting TCMB from her French lesson in Felletin. I'd driven down the grand rue in the centre of town when I was forced to come to a stop behind two cars. Yup…a traffic jam. I waited a few seconds and fiddled with the radio expecting things to move, but they didn't. Winding down the window I could see an old woman with a shopping bag chatting to the driver in the foremost car. Both her and the driver seemed oblivious to the fact that people were unable to get by. I have attached a picture of the crime scene below.

Note the narrowness of the road and the rush hour crowds.
Finally the driver in the car ahead of me got out and I was convinced he was going to give them a piece of his mind, to demand that they move along, but no, it seemed he knew them and was intending to join the conversation. Looking in the mirror to see if I could just somehow reverse and find a back road to go around I realised a woman in a little Peugeot 106 had pulled up behind me, neatly blocking me in. Drumming my fingers on the wheel and slowly constructing the French in my head for "can we all just move along please," I was relieved to hear the impatient "parp" of the Peugeot's horn from behind. Surely a natives intolerance of the blockage would get them moving? Nope not a bit of it. Not a head was turned. I threw my hands up in a sympathetic despairing gesture for the benefit of the woman behind but she wasn't watching, no she'd got out of the car with her shopping bag and nipped into an adjacent shop. What the hell do you do? I looked around me for inspiration until suddenly it hit me, When in Rome…

About three parts of the way up the road in the picture is a red fronted building which as luck would have it is a bar / tabac. Having previously promised TCMB that I would embrace the full experience of life in France I got out of the car sat at one of the green alcoved tables and ordered a coffee. I must have been there a good ten minutes, sipping at the tiny cup of super strong brew and attempting to decipher the news in a copy of La Montagne before I looked up and realised that the chatting folks and the two cars ahead of me had at some point disappeared. Thankful that the driver of the little Peugeot had still not returned from her shopping trip I paid for my drink and ambled over to the car filled with a strange sense of Frenchness at having become the uncaring blockage in the road.

Still reading?


I'm obviously going to have to try harder, especially since the word count is nowhere near one of my usually super long stultifying posts. Erm, I know, let me tell you about Agnes (pronounced Anne yess).

Agnes inhabits a house on the far edge of our hamlet and is what I would have described in the UK as a "crusty," you know, white but with dreadlocks bad teeth and the odd piercing in a painful looking place. Agnes was the first person to come to our door to welcome us to the bourg, though admittedly it was about two months after we'd moved in. She was carrying a bunch of spring flowers which I thought was a nice touch until I realised she'd harvested them from a spot by our door. Anyhow we let her in and despite the fact that she was so drunk she fell off the chair onto the kitchen floor we accepted her invitation to dinner because, as she explained in very broken English, we were from Angleterre and therefore clearly unable to cook for ourselves in any recognised sense. Concerned that we might starve to death on her watch she apparently felt duty bound to fill us with a few regional specialities - if only to stave off the inevitable.

Now I hadn't at that point connected Agnes with the ramshackle cottage past the Mairie's up by the graveyard, but when we went for dinner that Sunday her location sort of made sense. Agnes rented the place from some deaf / blind old geezer who never came near and clearly hadn't done any repair work on the property since the Germans left. This suited Agnes down to the ground because there was no one to comment on her extensive 'weed' cultivation and anyway as she pointed out admiringly to the old Renault 4 door now serving as a lounge window, she was capable of making her own repairs.

Dinner was cooking nicely on the huge wood burning stove, a stove so big it didn't fit in the fireplace, (which meant anyone entering the kitchen had to limbo around and under its tar coated exhaust stack) and the table (four or five loose planks on breeze blocks) was surrounded by eight or nine chairs from every period of furniture known to man and every piece of it in some kind of structural distress. Selecting mine from one with at least four firm legs I braced myself for the best that native cuisine could provide.

Unfortunately it wasn't long in coming.

Clutching my penknife (she had a relaxed attitude towards cutlery) I made appreciative 'mmmm' type noises as she dragged an enormous pot off the range and brought it over to the table. At this point her dog Jayke whined a little and slunk off to hide under the stairs. TCMB and I exchanged worried looks, realising that while our glasses remained steadfastly empty half of the bottle of wine we'd bought with us had somehow evaporated in the ten minutes since we'd crossed the threshold.

The meal was lovingly served, by which I mean dolloped onto our 'plates' with a huge ladle, and at last I was able to behold the culinary munificence I'd been starving myself all morning for. Apparently, 'pot au feu', as I now know it to be, consists of one single huge boiled potato the size of a baby's head, swimming in a green ooze that two days before had been cabbage, the whole ensemble was topped with an under cooked piece of pink bristly meat - which I kept telling myself had to be pork - and not as I was be beginning to suspect, her previous dinner guests.

Now a dog under the table can be a useful ally in such a socially awkward situation, I mean they eat just about anything you can slip them, but his little sod knew what was what and had dutifully made herself scarce. So munch munch munch we went, her two children excusing themselves from the table as we struggled to make conversation through the clouds of steam and marijuana smoke. Finally having convinced her that she'd given us far too much for our tiny English bellies to accommodate we were relieved to see her shrug and scrape everyones plate off back into the pot.

We'd done pretty well to get through it all to be honest and having made the obligatory reciprocal arrangement of "you really must come over to ours for lunch next week" gesture, thought we'd made good our escape. Indeed we were half way back down the chemin (track) giggling like a pair of school kids when she came running after us with the pot. Agnes had realised there was enough in it for another couple of meals and was insistent that we take it and heat it up again when we wanted more. With fixed looks of surprise and delight on our faces we took the offering from her and told her we'd bring the pot back as soon as we'd finished with it. Oh no that wasn't necessary, she explained. After she had invited us she'd realised she hadn't got a pot in her house that was big enough but had luckily found the one we'd just eaten out of at the deschetterie (the tip).

Oh how we laughed.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A Perfect Diurnal

John Pym had breathed a sigh of relief at the the outcome of the Beaufort House battle and spies in the Royalist camp had confirmed that its political effects appeared to have far outweighed its military importance. Suddenly irresolute and with lingering question marks in his mind about the loyalty and competency of some of his senior commanders Charles had been blocked from access to the south west at the same time as Rupert's push to London though Oxford had stalled for want of supplies.

If the Royalist high water mark had now been reached then Parliaments economic superiority would, the Committee of Safety reasoned, soon prevail. Assuming the King would now prove more receptive to negotiation Pym authorised delegates to attend upon his majesty in Worcester to present conditions for a permanent end to hostilities. Meanwhile, frustrated by the continued impasse in the north the ever cunning politician secretly sent a group of special representatives to Scotland to discuss the religious and political concessions needed to secure Scottish Covenanter support for a joint military alliance.

Okay cokey then. Following the Beaufort House debacle, Parliament has five action points to spend on the main campaign map and the Royalists only three. Since I was allocating the points for Parliament, I found myself confronted with an agony of choice. The options I chose were intended to secure another economic zone (9 needed for the win) and to simultaneously force the King back from the south west and London. Here's where I started from:

For any Barbara Streisand fans out there, here's - 'The Way We Were'.
The moves taken were:

The re equipped forces in Bridgewater sent two regiments to garrison Glastonbury after the Marquis of Hertford had been forced out by the continued beating up of his quarters during the early spring. (1 action point spent on garrisoning a neutral location).

In early May a large cavalry force based in Salisbury forced their way into Newbury, set fire to the magazine, slighted its limited defences, chased the bulk of the garrison towards Basing House and returned to their base with 30 barrels of powder two light gunnes and several cartloads of cheese. (1 action point - spent on sacking Newbury).

In what was meant to be a co ordinated assault - but turned out not to be - a regiment of dragoons arrived the night after the Salisbury forces sacking of Newbury and after overcoming an ill armed and terrified citizens militia took the opportunity to secure control of the town and its important economic potential. (1 action point - spent on garrisoning Newbury).

The Earl of Essex and Parliaments main marching army had been based in the Gloucester area for several months, slowly re equipping after their beating at Newham Bridge. Responding to the Committee of Safety's desperate pleas to prevent Rupert from occupying Oxford, Essex struck out across country, stripping Gloucester of its defences, but arriving too late to prevent the Prince from securing the university plate.** Despite Essex's tardiness the army's mere presence coupled with its continued interdiction of supplies from Warwick forced Rupert to eventually retire back into the midlands. (1 action point - spent on sacking of Oxford, which in narrative terms has been explained more as a sort of area denial outcome).

Angry at the Earl of Essex's refusal to bottle his army up in abandoned Oxford (for fear so he said of being besieged in turn in so indefensible a location), the Earl of Manchester ordered units from Bedford to occupy the city and arrest the traitorous university leaders who'd initially welcomed the Prince. (1 action point - spent on a garrisoning Oxford. It is worth reaffirming that a single location may conduct any number of actions but may only affect an adjacent target site once per turn. This is chiefly why one site initiates a sacking move and another site is subsequently used to occupy the newly vacated location).

Poor old John only had three points to spend but here's how he spent them:

Forces from Newcastle rode north to garrison Berwick (I'd previously pointed out that should the Scots at some point enter the war they could merely walk into Berwick, Corbridge or Carlisle thereby invading England without having to fight to gain a foothold). (1 action point - spent on garrisoning a neutral location).

With only two points left to spend he could have contested and at least nullified Parliaments recent gains in Newbury or Glastonbury but instead, rather like the King himself, he focussed his attention on the fortified city of Gloucester. Offering up the required two points he laid siege to the place. (2 action points spent on a siege). Here are the campaign siege rules by way of a refresher:

Siege - A fortified town / citadel enemy controlled map location connected by road to one of your map locations may be placed under siege for the cost of two actions. A successful siege allows an enemy held location to be immediately converted to your control. Attacker and defender each roll 1D6 and compare totals. Defenders add one to their total if the location is fortified and two if it is counted as a citadel, (for example London or York). Locations under siege unconnected by road to at least one of their own friendly sites must deduct one from their die roll unless the besieged site is also a port. The highest modified die roll wins. The location is either overrun and changes ownership or the siege is broken and the besieging forces withdraw. If the attacker wins control then this new location may then be used as a staging post from which a further action may then be taken - if sufficient action points remain to do so.

The Current Mrs Broom brandished her dice and after rolling them revealed that the defenders had rolled a 4 and the attackers only 2. The defenders had +1 added to the score because the site is fortified so actually ended up with 5 against the attackers 2. The Royalist forces under the command of Prince Rupert had failed to breach the walls and the stout resistance of the city's defenders had caused the King's men to withdraw. John was not best pleased.

I was adjusting the new campaign map when I was reminded that the end of quarter random event roll had not yet been taken. Heart in mouth I disturbed the queen of crochet once again and bid her roll a 1D20 and a 1D6. She rolled an 8 on the 1 D20 and a 3 on the 1D6. For those successfully warned away from from reading my previous post "Nothing to See Here," this was the outcome her roll produced.

8. Ceasefire. A temporary truce is declared while both factions discuss an end to the conflict. Sensing that the talks are going nowhere one side breaks faith and gains the element of surprise in a sudden military strike / coup de main. Roll 1D6: 1-4 sees the King's forces break faith and 5-6 Parliament. The faction that breaks faith may automatically occupy and change ownership of any one enemy controlled none fortified location (connected by road to one of their own friendly sites) or lay siege to a fortified location (connected by road to one of their own friendly sites) with both sides rolling 1D6 and the defender suffering a single minus 1 die modifier.

I ran this past John and despite the previous result he went for a further attack on Gloucester. TCMB rolled 4 for the Royalists and a 1 for Parliament. Even without the surprise effect (-1) modifier bringing them down to zero it was clear that the Kings treachery had secured a major (if very sneaky) victory. The narrative explanation I came up with goes something like this...

Having gulled the Parliamentary representatives into an extensive time wasting exercise the King agreed to their suggestion of a general ceasefire but ordered the retiring besiegers of Gloucester to halt and return to the area. Seeing that Parliaments negotiators remained as intransigent as ever he sent an urgent coded missive to Prince Rupert. Aided by a dark cloudy night and without the tell tale glow of burning match* a company of firelocks under Sir William Vavasour scaled the walls of Gloucester's east gate and 'neutralised' the defenders. With its defences unexpectedly breached and enemies pouring in the governor was compelled to surrender the city along with its two powder mills its 1500 defenders and its meagre reserve of arms and ammunition.

Okay indulge me a bit - you know by now that I like my made up pamphlets. Here's Master Slade's attempt at either 24hr rolling news - or 'fake news' depending on your viewpoint.

The final map for the end of spring is shown below. The major areas of change have been haloed in a delightful fuzzy green in order to induce migraines show the areas of change.

How things stand now
The Royalists are grimly holding on to 5 economic zones but Parliament have 8 out of the 9 required for a winter period win. We'll be moving on to early summer 1643 for the next battle but unfortunately I've a village to paint this week, (thankfully only a model one) so its likely there'll be some sort of twaddle type nonsense post next rather than a toy soldier one. Apologies in advance.

* Matchlock muskets are fired using a length of burning match cord, whose glowing end would often give away a soldiers position at night. Firelocks used a piece of flint to ignite the powder in the pan and though initially used to guard places where things like gunpowder were present also had their uses in "surprisals and ambuscades."

** Silver plate, chalices cups etc - usually melted down and turned into coinage to pay for the war effort.