Sunday, 30 September 2018

Normal Service Will Be Resumed….

Sometime in the middle of next week!

I'd got everything ready to go, models..check, terrain…check, lighting check, then the Current Mrs Broom (hereinafter referred to as TCMB for brevity's sake) "reminded me", through the medium of huffy silence that I'd previously promised to spend the day sorting out our winter supply of kindling for the fires, (Big Bertha and Little Nell). Suitably chastened I headed up to the top barn and dug out my trusty hand axe while TCMB went shopping.

From a risk assessment point of view let's just examine the situation for a moment in case we can see any problems here. Okay, sulky old codger who'd rather be playing with his toy soldiers, dim lighting, freshly sharpened axe, person swinging the axe is all on his own. 

No. All looks good. What could possibly go wrong?

One of the down sides (and I'll come to a few others in a moment) of living in the land that time forgot is that a hospital of any sort is a goodly distance away and I confess that driving for 30 mins with a finger mostly held on by sellotape wasn't the way that I saw the day panning out. Fortunately the staff at La Croix Blanche are wonderful and I was quickly tutted at and stitched back together. The upside of the injury was that all further kindling production has (and pardon me for the pun) been put on the back burner for the moment, the downside was that with one hand swathed in bandages I didn't dare attempt to move those fiddly little 6mm buggers out of their box files.

And this is where I ran up against yet another problem with the rural idyll that I inhabit. because naturally I felt a little guilty that I'd led people on with all my sexy talk of imminent battles and such, I thought I'd post a brief explanation in the hope of buying some time. Unfortunately La Belle France has (at last count) 12 small areas of what they refer to as "zone blanche" or zero internet connectivity. 

Can you guess who lives in one of them? 

Now to be fair there wasn't a lot of due diligence done on this particular aspect when purchasing the property. I mean everywhere has the interwebz, right?


Thankfully, with the honour of France at stake, the government has moved heaven and earth to create a kind of temporary fix. The fix works (after a fashion) for the people in my hamlet - like 96 year old madame Trinquart, who has no use for anything not invented in France, for David and Laurien (who are up at 4am to tend to the cattle - in bed by 9, and don't even have a TV let alone a computer) and Michel who fell out of a tree head first onto a pitchfork in 1964 and isn't even sure what a computer is. As for us, it transpires there are too many trees between our "house" and the emergency transmitter thingy they erected at St were buggered... until the blessed and oft promised arrival of fibre sometime in 2019.

Now give TCMB her due, when we were faced with this problem in 2015 I resorted to one of my then new and unrefined gallic shrugs (still can't quite get it right but I like to think of it as a work in progress), however she's like a dog with a bone and refused to live in a world without connectivity. Exploring every avenue she found that Orange did a special mobile type internet access deal and since thats all that was available that's what we've ended up with. For the princely sum of 55 euros we get uninterrupted access to 20Gb of data. Download a movie or stream a bit of music and its suddenly gone, until the following month when our 20Gb gets refreshed.

So then, stymied in my attempts to warn my thousands of rapt followers (currently 16) TCMB and I have resorted to that most desperate of measures… La Poste! Sitting in the only car in the car park outside the post office in nearby Merinchal we can use their free for 30 minutes internet…which is where this post is coming to you from right now. If the French have doggers (and to be fair they probably invented it) we look like a likely pair. If anyone pulls in and flashes their lights I'm off!

And Finally. In 1986 a phone box was  installed at the bottom of our hamlet. Within a matter of months a local stream began to undercut it and no one has apparently ever used it. We received an apologetic letter from the Mairie a few months ago (think local council official, but with a lot more power) explaining that as part of a program being rolled out across France the phone box was to be removed. Now in common with too many other things to mention I have a bit of an aversion to mobile phones, which TCMB doesn't mind about since it gives her something to chide me over. A few days back she told me she'd ordered one, specifically for me, despite my protestations and that I needed to go to the bottom of the road to collect it from the courier.

My new mobile phone

Good to see she's still got her sense of humour!

Friday, 21 September 2018

To Armes!

Okay okay then... To Arms! 

You're really going to have to to try to get with the programme on the whole 17th Century spelling front you know.

The first part of the battle process is to determine the command set up for either side. My self penned campaign rules use cards for the individual commanders (see my previous posts for a better description). After a straight 1D6 roll the Royalist faction won first pick, took their command deck and discarded any leaders that wouldn't be available until after 1642. Using this smaller pack they (actually the current Mrs Broom) randomly selected a card that would be  their army general for the forthcoming engagement. They picked well - choosing the newly arrived piece of "hot stuff" from the continent, the not yet legendary Prince Rupert.

The first thing to notice is the army size he can command. 12 units is not bad. Second, he has the abilities (in red) "Bold" and "Intelligencer" which he can only use as an army general. My campaign rules describe these abilities as:

Bold: A "Bold" moniker on a general's card means the leader and his army is always considered the attacker, regardless of the amount of cavalry fielded (the usual test). The attacker gets to set up his army after the defender and therefore gets to study his opponents dispositions. If a bold general faces an opponent with a similar trait then choose who is considered the most bold by the number of cavalry they field and failing that the highest roll on a 1D6.

Intelligencer: May view either two of the enemy command cards prior to the start of battle, three of the enemy army cards (chosen blind) prior to battle being decided on, or discover the hidden training status of two of the enemy on board units prior to battle start.

He can hold five, count 'em five, command cards at any one time which is pretty darned good and can campaign in any of the campaign map regions.

Drawing his three subordinate commanders (flanks and centre) was also done from the same reduced deck. These guys are not so much your brigadiers and colonels but "personalities" that act in addition to these unseen but hopefully sword waving slightly junior officers. The draw produced:

Quite often these random selections won't fly of course so I then conduct a secondary weeding out process such that:

Any of the three that have an army size greater or equal to the generals are removed (other than a 6 unit army general and 6 unit subordinates), followed by anyone not listed as having campaigned in the general's geographical area. (Not a problem in this case). If any cards remain they may be positioned to flank or centre as required where they may exercise any special (in black) abilities they possess. If any cards are omitted because they do not comply with these strictures they are still represented on board by non named character models.

So Capel and Langdale are okay but the dear old King with his 18 unit army size is removed from the mix and replaced on board by a regular and "unknown" command stand. Langdale has two (in black) character traits that he can use in his role as a subordinate leader, namely "Elan" and "Rash". My rules define these traits as:

Elan. All horse units directly under this leaders command (i.e. on the wing of the army to which they are assigned) have to be given the best of the training status counters, even if this is detrimental to the rest of the army. It does not alter the ratio of training status token available to the army as a whole. 

The army is a 12 unit army so will get two veteran, four trained and six raw training tokens. This trait does mean that the cavalry will always be of the best quality available but it also removes some of the uncertainty (in the opponents mind) of the hidden quality of other units.

Rash. All horse units directly under this leaders command (i.e. on the wing of the army they cover) are considered to be gallopers and are especially susceptible to chasing broken opponents off the field.

Rash cavalry and how they react in combat are covered in Msr Foys rules. Trust me it's not great if they decide to bugger off mid battle.

Each army general randomly draws a terrain card, the terrain it nominates being set out anywhere other than in the enemy's deployment zone (with the exception of any necessary river or road extensions).

Rupert drew, "a small swift river" which will have one bridge and a hidden ford somewhere along its length should the general choose to divert scouts to look for it. Further rules insist the river must pass from one board edge to any of the other three.

Lastly Rupert gets to choose two units from the army card deck. He (the current Mrs Broom) played safe and chose a horse and a foote unit to start off with. Since he has an army strength of 12 he is now dealt a further 10 unit cards from the army deck to make up his full force. (Note to self - I really need to get the current Mrs Broom a spangly leotard for this glamorous assistant thing I've dragged her into). The cards were a mixed bag that in total produced the following:

  • Three units of horse
  • Three units of foote
  • One unit of commanded shotte (which prior to winter 1643 must be used in other roles - such as a forlorn hope, artillery guards or baggage trayne guards).
  • One middling battery of gunnes
  • One unit of battalion gunnes (that must be attached to a foote unit) 
  • One great gunne battery (which automatically grants 1 temporary victory banner to whoever has the closest unit to it)

  • One baggage trayne unit (just vittals and such in this case)
  • One lollygaggers card

The lollygaggers card indicates that a unit has fallen behind on the march or got lost. The lollygaggers card is discarded and a new unit card drawn. To Ruperts delight the discarded lollygaggers card is replaced by a further horse unit, bringing him up to 4 horse and 12 units in total. His opponent now randomly draws one card out of Rupert's army card hand and its this unit that never makes it to the battle.

The unit removed as lollygagging was the middling gunne battery - perhaps it's up to its axles in mud somewhere on the crappy roads of 17th Century England?

And now we turn to his opponent.

Following the same year restrictions as the Royalists the Parliamentarian player also had to ensure that the choice of their general and his subordinates matched with the same geographical zone of Capel - the only one of the Royalists that was geographically specific. The cards were shuffled and Parliaments army general was duly selected... 

Mmm. The first thing that leaps out at you is the size of his army (though, as the current Mrs Broom keeps assuring me, size doesn't matter). In actual fact he'll only get 17 units because one is lost as "payment " for the extra officers and command staff required to marshall such a force. The four command cards he holds at any one time is an average rating for the deck and though he doesn't have any special attributes to boost his army's performance, as the Russians used to say, "quantity has a quality all of its own".

For his subordinates the good lady wife drew the following bunch of worthies from the pack:

So all of these lot served in the midlands at some point…check. None of them have an army size greater than the general…check and none of them are only allowable post '42…check. Black Tom Fairfax has a "Bold" attribute which he can't use since he's not in overall command and Hesilrige (he of lobsters fame) has "Elan" which I've already covered above. Note, I currently don't have any cuirassiers in my collection, primarily because they were a rare beast that disappeared as the war went on and partly because (unusually) I really don't like the baccus sculpts.

The noble Earl drew a terrain card and produced a two hex "Noisome Bog", placeable within the same restrictions as that imposed on Rupert.

And here it is for your scrutiny.
Ned was around when I first got the camera out…Ned? Ned?

For his Army he used his two unit choice to grab a foote and a horse unit (also playing safe) then had a further 15 army cards dealt to him. His initial army looked like this:

  • Four units of horse
  • Six units of foote
  • One unit of dragoons
  • One middling battery of gunnes
  • One unit of battalion gunnes (that must be attached to a foot unit)
  • One battery of great gunnes (which automatically grants 1 temporary victory banner to whoever has the closest unit to it)
  • One unit of baggage trayne (which because it contains ammunition and / or salacious correspondence grants 1 temporary victory banner to whoever has the closest unit to it)

  • One "oversized unit" card (adds an extra hit point / pip to one unit of the owners choice)

  • One "Home!"card, which after placement of training status markers reduces all units by one level. Veteran become Trayned, Trayned become Raw and Raw become Militia (ready to run at the drop of a hat).

The "oversized unit" card covers the odd situation of a popular colonel or a unit drawn from a very populous locality like London. The unit chosen to be over strength has an additional strength pip assigned to it, in place of an extra stand. I have perhaps unfairly limited its use to Parliamentarian forces only… discuss.

The "Home!" card represents the discontent running through an army being asked to campaign some  way from where they were recruited and where they are probably already in arrears with their pay. The desire to "see their own chimneys again" was a difficult one for any commander to deal with and generally manifested itself in either outright mutiny or more often an unwillingness to press home an attack. Units on both sides were to suffer from this affliction, Cornish foote and the London Trained Bandes being two obvious examples.

The latter two cards effects were noted and then the cards replaced by two new army card draws that threw up another foote unit and another middling gunne unit.

Both sides must obtain 6 victory banners to win, and while Rupert has one for his big gunne (the Queens Pocket Pistol) Essex already has two for the baggage trayne and his own big gunne (Roaring Meg). Both sets of victory banners count towards either factions total so long as they have the closest unit to the gunne or the baggage. If both sides are equidistant at some point the victory banner becomes void as long as the situation persists. Note the number of units equidistant is irrelevant.

Both sides have the ability at this point to withdraw from the forthcoming battle (if they don't like their force composition for example) and redraw commanders etc for a second go at it somewhere else. Withdrawing like this has campaign repercussions but I'll save that exciting bit of minutia for another time and in any case both Rupert and Essex are currently keen to have at it.

Seeing that Rupert has drawn the river terrain and will no doubt place it to his own advantage Essex decides to send out scouts to look for a an alternative crossing point. My campaign rules state:

A general faced with a river may detach a troop or troops of horse to scout for a fordable section. Any troop of horse designated as scouts are removed from the board (thereby reducing the parent units combat strength). The general rolls a 1D6 for each troop detached and makes a detection attempt at the start of every one of his turns. In Spring a score of 5 or 6 is needed, in Summer 4, 5 or 6 and in in Autumn a 6. Once successful he may nominate any river hex of his choice as fordable and may cross there as though it were a bridge. Enemy attempts to locate a ford after this point become void. All scouting units from either side return to their parent unit (only) after the discovering sides turn has been completed.

Essex detaches only one troop. Rupert, unusually, doesn't bother.

Both sides place their respective items of terrain, defender going second.

I placed Rupert's river with a view to constraining Essex's lads against the back of the board. If they want to come and fight they're going to have to either cross the bridge in dribs and drabs or find a ford somewhere.

With just two poxy bits of bog to play with, the best that Essex (my ex ECWS colonel on this occaision as it happens) could do was to try screening his forces from the sudden discovery and exploitation of a ford on his flank).

Here's what the map will look like - actual troop deployments will follow with the bat rep in the next post.

So we are all set. Essex has a lot of firepower but not a lot of staying power, Rupert greater tactical flexibility (with his five command cards) and a more useful piece of terrain with which to hinder the enemy.

By the way If you want to know a bit more about the personalities involved here, I'd encourage you to have a gander at the BCW website listed in the links selection.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

First Blood

You may recall from my last post that the hi tech random number generator employed for this campaign was about to help determine which of the two opposing factions would seize the military initiative.

The current Mrs Broom,* rolled a 1D6 and got a 2, so after adding a +1 for Parliaments inherent intelligence and organisational advantages we ended up with 3. Hmmm. Lucky die in hand I rolled for the King and got 5. No arguments there then. But what to do, what to do?

Parliaments pre game hold on Hull would provide a springboard from which they could break out and threaten control of the north. I pondered laying siege to the site but spending two of my four action points doing so (with no guarantee of success) pushed me into spending one action point occupying neutral Scarborough and one action point garrisoning Pontefract castle (both from my pre existing base in York) bottling them up against the coast while also crucially grabbing a fortified port. Taking advantage of Lord Goring's potentially limited time in control of Portsmouth a party of the cities defenders set out across country to man the walls of the strategically important Basing House, that being three action points spent so far. With one action point left I was in a bit of a quandary over what to do. Should I use the newly captured port at Scarborough to launch a naval landing party against somewhere juicy and uncommitted like Bristol? Parliament's control of the navy meant that I'd have to spend my action point and then roll a dice - with only a 50% chance of success. I didn't like those odds. Choosing the cowards way out I funnelled forces further north from Basing House to convince the reluctant population of Newbury that their economic potential would be best employed in the King's service.

Looking at the map from Parliament's perspective I tried, in true solo gamer style, to then advance the cause of Parliament. By the way, if any body fancies taking on the mantle of Parliamentary overlord for future turns, drop me a line.

First off, with only four action points to spend it seemed a futile waste to try and break out in the north by laying siege to Pontefract, York or Scarborough. Governor Hotham was going to have to bide his time within the walls of Hull for now. Taking advantage of Parliaments free one off siege of Portsmouth Sir William Waller launched his untested men against its defences. And failed. In fairness the "Mrs Broom random number generator"© rolled a 5 for the attack but the defenders also rolled a 5 and had +1 added to it for it being fortified, so it was a close run thing. Bugger. Parliaments strategy then became three fold; to prevent an unopposed move on London, to seize the maximum number of economic zones and to attempt to create an outflanking extra front for the Royalists to cope with. Departing from London a large naval party sailed unhindered around the south coast then up the Bristol channel to stop off in Bristol itself. After convincing the cities grandees of the righteousness of Parliaments cause, they were only too happy to create their own militia defence force and have a whip round to fund the Parliamentary troops onward overland march to Gloucester (which opened its gates to them without a fight). Two action points spent, two to go. Since the King's men were now in Newbury a force of the London Trained Bands were marched out of the capital to hold fortified Reading while Parliaments newly elected general Lord Essex began to muster an army in and around the environs of Bedford. With all my points used there was nothing left but the satisfaction of two further economic zones under the "Governments" control.

The map now looks like this:

Assuming it might be instructive to see what the people of our alternate timeline think of these terrible events I have attached front pages from two of the newly emerging political newsheets for your delight and delectation. First off is the Moderate Intelligencer published in Parliament controlled Bristol,

followed by Mercurious Publicus whose source is currently unknown though it's noted that copies first started to appear in the Newbury area.

As you can see, even amidst the turbulence and upheaval of civil war they've managed to ensure their readership are kept informed of the stories that really matter.

Ah the press...The more things change, the more they stay the same. You'll be glad I've spared you the page 3 woodcut.

So onwards. Autumn 1642 beckons and the first major clash of arms, or should that be armes? Lord Goring remains Portsmouth's Governor for now and like the bottled up Hotham his leader card has been removed from the commanders deck.

In the next instalment of 1642 And All That we will thrill to the mustering of generals and armies, the determining of locations and the the letting slip of war like hounds as we enter the first bloody cockpit of conflict. Or some such.

* It needs pointing out that the "Current Mrs Broom" appellation is not some sort of misogynistic boast but rather an acceptance that after 34 years of marriage she might eventually wake up to the fact that I'm a beardy old man that likes to play with toy soldiers. I am painfully aware that despite my proven prowess at painting moustaches on 6mm figures I could be replaced in a trice by a bloke with an all over tan, and a love of F1.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

This War Without an Enemie (An introduction to the Campaign Map)

Here's the main campaign map, based loosely on the GMT board game Unhappy King Charles showing major settlements, ports, areas of economic importance and stylised routes along which the armies of Parliament and the King may pass.

Each settlements base colour and flag shows the faction which currently controls it, with blue for the King, orange for Parliament and anything else being nonaligned. It should be noted that the flags do not indicate the location of an army or armies, merely that a garrison and an administration favourable to that garrison controls that locality.

After a careful study of the original GMT map I made the decision to reclassify a few of the sites:

London. Despite (at this point) having only modest outer defences the nation's capital boasted a potentially massive armed population broadly in support of the Parliament and a large urban area ideal for defence. Any attempt to take it would have met with large scale resistance and because of this perceived difficulty it has been made a "citadel".

Bristol. Had extensive defences commensurate with its economic importance. Unfortunately the perimeter was overlong for the size of the forces usually tasked with defending it - so its overall status has been set at "fortified" rather than the citadel status you might expect.

Oxford. Though a defensible site with its various river and tributary obstacles the city was barely fortified at all (to a 17th century standard) and as such starts the game as unfortified.

The campaign will be conducted with at least one and usually two randomly generated battle per season / per year, (other than the winter) the outcome of which will allow the two opposing faction leaders to seek control of territory on the campaign map below. The battles fought will not represent all of the fighting going on in that season, just the few that chance has allowed us to be party to. 

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 nine or less locations (of any type) at the same point. Most of the campaign and battle rules will be explained as the game progresses in order to avoid burdening you, my one dear reader, with an indigestible wodge of information. 

So it's August 22nd 1642 and the King has raised his standard at Nottingham castle, (only to see it blown down again over night). But what events have brought us to this terrible pass I hear you cry?

I'm glad you asked.

Here's a brief list:

Jan 1642 - The King fails to arrest his five leading opponents in Parliament and under growing public pressure the royal family leaves London.

Feb 1642 - The King refuses to surrender control of the militia to Parliament.

Mar 1642 - Parliament passes their own Militia Ordinance, legalising (in their eyes) control of the militia despite the Kings objections. King Charles sets up a court of sorts in York.

Apr 1642 - Attempting to seize control of the major arsenal at Hull, the King is embarrasingly refused entry to the town by Sir John Hotham.

Jun 1642 - Parliament presents a list of 19 proposals to the King for his acceptance, stripping him of many of his powers. The King rejects the proposals and seeks to legalise his own assembly of an army by issuing the first commissions of array.

Jul 1642 - Apparently unimpressed by the large amounts of ship money raised by Charles the fleet declares for Parliament and accepts the Earl of Warwick as its Admiral. Charles' forces attempt to storm Hull but are rebuffed and the Earl of Essex is commissioned as Captain General of the armies of Parliament.

Aug 1642 - Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice join their uncle the King. In Portsmouth Lord Goring has been busy playing both sides off against the middle securing £5,000 from Parliament to fortify the city against the King and £3,000 from the Queen to fortify it against Parliament. By August the 22nd when our game begins Goring has finally declared for the King. Parliament send some of their forces to take it from him.

The Summer turn of 1642 is where we start the campaign but it is unusual in that there is no major battle to decide progress on the main campaign map. Skirmishes have occurred all over the country, but the assembly and equipping of major armies is still being undertaken. While many leading figures have struggled with the moral rights and wrongs of the situation a goodly number have seen an opportunity  to settle old scores or obtain political and social advancement in their area.

To reflect this lack of preparation I'll let chance decide who seizes the initial military advantage with a simple 1D6 roll  - highest score wins. I shall roll for the Royalist faction and for Parliament I'll employ an extremely costly, state of the art, random number generating device - (i.e. the current Mrs Broom with another 1D6). I'm going to give Parliament a plus one advantage to that roll since on balance they seemed to have had better intelligence resources and more forces at an advanced state of readiness.

Normally the winner of a battle gets five actions to spend on influencing the main map while the loser gets three and a roll on a random events table, however in the first summer turn no battle takes place, each player gets four actions and there is no random event roll.

A players actions may include any of the following:

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.

Garrison - A neutral location connected by road to your map location may be converted to your factions ownership for the cost of one action. 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.

Sack - A non fortified enemy held location connected by road to one of your locations may be reduced to neutral status for the cost of one action. The player that initiated the sacking may not subsequently garrison the site with any remaining action points this quarter.

Fortify - One of the players non fortified locations may become fortified for the cost of three actions. No fortified site may be upgraded to citadel status.

In addition:

Ports: A controlled port allows the Parliamentary player to garrison any other neutral port on the map or sack any enemy controlled non fortified port. The Royalist player may attempt the same but after expending the action points to do so rolls 1D6. A roll of four to six indicates success but one to three a failure - reflecting the dominance of the Parliament controlled navy. Only one port / sea related action may take place per player per turn. A successfully seized port 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.

Roads: Some road networks marked by a dashed line cease to become passable to heavy traffic during the winter turn and do not count as a link to a neighbouring site.

 Other differences in game play for the first turn include:
  • Portsmouth is held by Lord Goring but Parliamentary forces had already begun to gather near it prior to the commencement of hostilities. The Parliament player may attempt a free siege action. If the Royalists hold off the besiegers then Lord Goring's command card must be withdrawn from the Royalist deck as I shall assume he remains the city's governor. If at a later point in the campaign Parliament takes the site his card may be returned to the deck.
  • In Wales, there can be no Parliamentary actions taken that originate from the Pembroke location until after the site itself has been placed under siege. Pembroke was a location that was mostly sympathetic to Parliament. Local dignitaries negotiated a truce with the surrounding areas in order to avoid the terrible strife that war would bring.
So then lets roll the dice shall we?

<<drum roll>> And the result for gaining the initiative goes to... <<fumbles with a golden envelope>> …

Nuts & Bolts Part 4 (Terrain)

This campaign will focus solely on full scale battles rather than smaller skirmishes. Given the large numbers of men in an army and the way they had to be deployed in order to get the best from their weaponry it should come as no surprise to discover that most generals sought out large open areas of flat terrain when forced to fight. Fitting in nicely with this premise the basic C & C hex board is a useful 13 hexes wide by 9 deep and has dotted lines to delineate flanks from centre. On top of this area I shall place tiles denoting specific bits of terrain chosen, surprise surprise, by random draw of terrain cards. The cards include fortifications, hills, escarpments, rivers, hamlets, redoubts, town walls, ditches rough ground, bog etc etc.

Unlike the 'old skool' plain green of the main battleground hexes, the terrain items I've made are flocked and textured. (I seem to come out in hives or some such whenever I'm exposed to too much flock, hence the decision to minimise its use). Here's an example or three.

A "ruthless vast and and gloomy wood by nature made for murder…"
(with apologies to Bill Shakespeare).
The guy in the foreground is called Ned by the way.
Ned posing on a bridge over the river dribble.

A four hex river section - and yes I think Ned's in there somewhere.

A two hex road tile with additional hostelry and stables.
Ned's inside having a pint.

Usually both sides gets to draw / deploy one of two terrain pieces allowed in a game but certain generals have an ability entitled 'chooser of ground' and they may draw and deploy both of the terrain pieces to their best advantage. It should be noted that roads don't count as a terrain type in themselves, merely serving to join areas of activity as they would in the real world.

A few fairly common sense terrain deployment rules apply, such that:
  • A river must stretch from one board edge to any of the other three and will always have a bridge and at least one ford (to be potentially located by the player in game). 
  • A settlement must be connected by road to any two of the three board edges in a similar manner to a river.
  • Enclosed land must be adjacent to a road or a settlement.
  • No man made terrain type may be placed adjacent to a 'noisome' bog tile.
  • No defence works may be dug adjacent to a river tile.
  • No terrain piece may be placed in the first two rows of the opponents board edge.

You get the picture I'm sure.

Nuts and Bolts - Part 3 (Army Composition)

Okay then, only a few things left to cover pre campaign kick off.

If anyone is still out there after this rambling series of posts I promise we'll soon get down to some actual action. 

In Nuts and Bolts - Part 2 I explained that each general's army was composed of a set number of units, typically 6, 12 or 18. Each unit is composed of a a variable number of stands depending on its type. Before battle commences the general may choose any two units from the army card deck but must then randomly draw further army cards until he reaches his total army size. Unfortunately for the bigger armies, more men equals a need for more staff work and officers. An army of 18 points has to spend one of those 18 points on the the three other leaders that normally come for free. All those extra plumes, silk sashes and big lace collars come at a cost!

The unit cards include, horse, foote, artillery, baggage trayne, commanded shotte, dragoons, and a few surprises too. They look a bit like this:

Each unit is composed of a number of 3cm x 3cm stands, which is shown as a series of boxes on the top right of each card. Shaded boxes indicate the stands are mounted.

Each army is assigned a number of training status tokens (Veteran, Trayned, Raw) that are initially issued in the ratio of 1:2:3. These status tokens are placed behind each unit and remain hidden, usually until combat occurs. Normally an army of 12 units will, for example, contain 2 Veteran, 4 Trayned and 6 Raw units tokens - though which unit gets which status token is up to whoever is in command.

There are two sizes of army that never battle, i.e. 18 v 6 or 12 v 6. It is assumed (through a masterful slight of hand) that with such a disparity in numbers the smaller side will retreat or look for reinforcements. Note that even with two similar sized armies the actual units which compose them may differ markedly in capability.

After the winter of 1643 neither faction may field an 18 point army without giving up a strategic map locations garrison to make up the man power.

Nuts & Bolts Part 2 - (or how to lose your target audience).

Having played all the well regarded rule sets out there and even home brewed a few, (which didn't turn out all that well) I came across something odd last year that piqued my interest. Many of you I'm sure will be aware of the Command and Colours game system - but while browsing on a certain Monsieur Foy's Blog I found a variant of Mr Borg's C&C system specifically adapted for the ECW (or BCW if you prefer) available as a free download. To my amazement it seemed to have everything that I was looking for in a rule set and then a little bit more. I have enthusiastically co opted it (with Msr Foy's approval) for this campaign. I would encourage any and all to go and have a look at the rules and his excellent site.

Now for the scary bit, and I'll whisper this (for I am advised by those in the know that it will immediately drive away a good half of my target audience) it uses hexes! There I said it. Hexes. As an expat in exile in deepest darkest France I now play solo, but in earlier halcyon times there were opponents who sought advantage in over or under measurement, who would consistently increase the movement range of a unit by the length of a gnats cock every turn, hoping I wouldn't notice. (You won't be reading this but I'm looking at you Mr Haden). Hexes of course remove all possibility of exploiting the ubiquitous 'Tamworth inch' - (with apologies to anyone not cognisant with the vagaries of measurement in the the 1970's UK car industry - vagaries that meant no two cars were ever quite the same) and while I'm no longer troubled by 'others' I can never find my bloody tape measure after I've put it somewhere 'safe, so hexes it is. Get over it. Sheesh.

So then, having told you where to go if you want to know how the battles will be fought and having deliberately decided to only reveal the campaign mechanics as we go along I still find that I need to explain a couple of things that help to drive the campaign engine.

First off are the Commander Cards, which when randomly chosen will give each faction a leader and a set of subordinate commanders for the battle to come. They look a bit like this:

There are 22 commanders per faction with two extra independents for the Scottish generals Leven and Argyll (who may be involved should Scotland elect to support one faction or another through a random events die roll). The campaign's commander cards focus purely on the opposing generals and the three subordinates they will assign to influence their armies wings and centre. Each character drawn is represented on the battlefield (along with a coterie of runners and flunkies) and are vulnerable to being captured or killed.

On the right hand side, which forms the back of the card, is the year from which this commander becomes available to the player along with their faction specific banner. It must be remembered that in the real world a number of accomplished but less well connected individuals took a while to rise to positions of influence, witness Cromwell who will not be considered for command at campaign level until the start of 1644. On the same note, no commanders appearance is ever guaranteed. In every winter admin turn each faction player is obliged to randomly remove one leader card permanently from their commander card pack regardless of the year from which the individual is expected to become available. It is possible therefore that young Cromwell may never make it to the higher levels of command, having being killed in some nameless battle, fallen ill on the march or even left the country in political disgrace.

Okay back to the cards. Over on the left is where the important stuff is. Beneath their cameo picture is a list of the commanders attributes, some in red and some in black, (not every commander actually has any noteworthy attributes by the way). The ones in red are used when this individual is in command of an entire army and the ones in black affect only the units on their wing of the battlefield if they are chosen for a subordinate position.

If the individual is in overall command of an army, the fan of cards depicts the number of C & C ECW command cards this leader (you) may hold at any one time. The command cards dictate the number and type of actions available to the army at any one time.

The big black number on the bottom right is the number of units this leader may have in their army, but does not specify what those units are. There'll be more on this later. The size of the army also indicates, to an extent, the position of the chosen individual within the social hierarchy of the time. Since an army general may only have subordinates who could muster equal or smaller sized armies than them it becomes possible to have several capable subordinates controlled by a socially superior duffer.

Finally along the bottom of the card, in blue, are the areas of England in which the leader in question is known to have campaigned. Having randomly chosen a leader for a faction, his subordinates are drawn from a reduced deck ensuring compliance with their overall leaders year of availability and region, a process that needs to be mirrored by the opponent. Though a number (like Rupert) appeared all over the shop, most were confined to areas where they had personal influence or geographical connections. This aspect of the campaign should probably be considered optional but I like to ensure my Waller's and my Marquis of Newcastle's are unlikely to ever meet.

As to the regions in which a general may campaign, the North starts at the scottish border and extends down to around Manchester  / Gainsborough. The Midlands runs from the welsh border and right across the country in a band that takes in East Anglia. Wales is well, Wales, and the South runs from the tip of Cornwall (encompassing Bristol and London) to the furthest reaches of Kent. Despite all evidence to the contrary you'll be surprised to learn I actually have a geography A level!

Scotland is not depicted on the campaign map but both Scottish intercession and subsequent withdrawal from the conflict is catered for in the campaign rules.

Nuts & Bolts - Part 1

If there were a self help group for war gamers, one where we'd sit in a circle on stackable chairs, late at night, in the back room of a community centre, when it came to my turn to introduce myself I'd clear my throat nervously and avoiding everyone's eye I'd mutter, "Err hi. I'm err the Jolly Broom Man and, <<gets an encouraging nod and a smile from the group's bearded moderator>>...err I'm a METHOD WAR GAMER."

The shame of it.

That's right. You see it's not enough for me to push little groups of tin men around on a board. Oh no. No, I've got to know how it feels to eat the same crappy food they would have eaten, itch in the same damp smelly clothing they would have worn and use the same unreliably lethal weapons they used. In short I am a war gamer and … a re enactor.

Now that revelations out in the open, (primarily in the hope of convincing you I know something of the realities of 17th century warfare) I'd best explain where I hope to be going with this blog. Having exiled myself to deepest darkest France a few years back, and having mostly stopped our old farmhouse from falling down I've decided I can spare a little time from the current Mrs Broom's extensive list of daily chores, to embark on a series of linked war games in one of the two historical periods for which I have a particular passion, run for my own entertainment and maybe, who knows, that of a wider audience. 

The major battles of the British Civil War were fought with massed ranks of infantry and cavalry, which is something that's both difficult and expensive to replicate with larger (28mm) scale miniatures. In order to avoid bankruptcy or the unfortunate 'four men taking a flag for a walk' effect I chose to build my armies around the 6mm Wars of the European Crisis range from

I confess I'd been painfully ignorant of the scale and what was available in it until I happened upon Lee's Figure Painting Therapy Project blog The units he'd produced were exceptional and quickly forced me to abandon my own half finished and increasingly expensive 15mm efforts in order to embrace the joys of 6. I've never met the guy but he certainly deserves a hat tip for the inspiration. Cheers Lee!

Being a gamer rather than a painter I found the 6mm scale allowed me to produce units in an almost assembly line manner, actually completing a sizeable number of units before painting fatigue drew things to a close (for now). Sadly an Edgehill or a Naseby is not currently possible with the numbers that I've got to date - so I'll have to content myself with slightly smaller battles and allow those massive but fairly rare encounters to occur out of view.

Official order of battle guidelines were naturally available during the period detailing the correct size and structure of both horse and foote units, but these represented the ideal and as the war dragged on they were rarely if ever achieved since sickness desertion and casualties often equalled or exceeded the number of new recruits a colonel could obtain. In order to maintain regular combat frontages, understrength regiments of foote were often amalgamated (prior to battle) into groups of around 500 men, termed battalia. These mixed units were quite common and helped form my decision to avoid referencing specific regiments uniforms or colours in my campaign.*

Though it seemed a good idea to spend the next ten years lovingly recreating my armies on a 1:1 scale, according to the current Mrs Broom I have 'other things to do' << sighs >> so this would naturally prove impossible. Pushed on by compromise but wanting some sort of mass to my units I finally settled on a ratio of 10:1 for the horse / foote and 5:1 for artillery / baggage. With 20 men on a 3cm square stand, my foote units (with three stands per unit) work out to be around 600 men in the real world, (so either a large battalia or a smallish regiment, take your pick).

A Battalia / Regiment of Foote

Horse units also varied considerably in number. Mine are based so that one 3cm square stand of 8 figures represents a troop of 80, two stands a squadron of 160 and two squadrons a regiment of 320. In the rare event of a unit being up to or even over strength, (and it did sometimes occur - think London Trained Bandes), the same number of models are used but its capacity to absorb casualties is improved.

I haven't bothered overmuch with pike / shotte ratios in each unit, which will horrify some. As long as a unit has a mixture of both I have assumed (there'll be a lot of assuming going on by the way) that the desire to close with and kill the enemy (or not), as reflected by their training status should go some way to making up for any pike or musket deficiencies. My own black powder matchlock (Meg) makes a very efficient club I can assure you.

I like simplicity on the table and like to keep markers etc to the minimum. Behind each unit is a small tab that has terrain on one side and its training status on the other. My armies come in three sizes for battle based on the number (not type) of units they contain. The units within each army may be Veteran, Trayned or Raw and although these ratings always occur in a ratio of 1:2:3 which unit is which may be concealed until combat takes place. Again with a view to reducing markers and clutter horse units display their combat posture in the way they are set out on the table. A Trotter regiment of four stands is set up in a block while a Galloper unit is set out in an inverted T shape, as below.

Gallopers at the ready

I'm afraid that a crappy camera and poor lighting are going to be the order of the day for a while. Obviously if I can get a win on spot the ball or my pools coupon comes good that could all change in a flash. Perhaps I can pick up some better equipment by cashing in the Green Shield stamp albums I found in the loft before we moved?

A man can dream.

* That and fear of the "experts" out there who were bound to find fault with something I produced however accurate I tried to be!