Saturday, 22 December 2018

Uneasy Lies The Head...

…That Wears A Crown.

The King tried for two weeks to break the resolve of the people of Cambridge but lacking the resources for a complete circumvallation he was unable to prevent a continuous trickle of reinforcements and supplies from getting into the city. By contrast, the loss of Huntingdon and the interdiction of Royalist supply lines left the King's forces underfed, short on ammunition, and unpaid.

By the beginning of September the inadequacies in the Royalist camp had caused the usual trickle of desertions to become a flood. Finally forced to listen to his advisors Charles subjected the plucky city to one final spiteful bombardment before beginning the difficult process of a withdrawal across unfriendly territory towards Leicester.

News of the Bedford outrage had been dismissed in court circles as blatant Parliamentarian propaganda and the Royalist pamphlets coming-out of Worcester had been quick to point their readers to a long list of puritan iconoclasm and destruction. Despite these rebuttals, as Charles's once proud army limped back towards more friendly territory the King became convinced that the recent set back at Cambridge was an obvious punishment from God. Praying continually for guidance the withdrawn monarch remained in his carriage for the majority of the journey, the stream of angry letters from the Queen remaining unread.

Prince Rupert, puzzled by the English reaction to the "pacification" of Bedford consolidated his position around Warwick frustrated by the amateur way his uncles strange little country chose to wage war, and pressed by those he trusted to reconsider his previous strategy of a bold thrust on London.

Frustrated at being relegated to an obvious backwater, Prince Maurice wrote to the King advising him of his intention to hand command of the isolated Royalist forces in the Portsmouth area to Lord Hopton. Without waiting for a reply he took ship to Bristol and travelled overland to Worcester convinced that his natural surfeit of "dash" would soon see him reassigned to a more exciting theatre of operations.

Summoned by the Committee of Safety to answer Oliver Cromwell's denunciation, the Earl of Manchester was in London when then King's forces began their withdrawal from Cambridge. With the Eastern Association's command structure dispersed and preoccupied by internecine squabbles the opportunity to trap the King and destroy his rapidly fraying army was lost.

A brief excerpt from Cromwell's denunciation to the Committee of Safety.

Rejoining his father Ferdinando, Black Tom Fairfax assumed command of several groups of the  previously dispossessed, determined to overthrow the Royalists near total dominance of the north.

Parliament had five action points to spend on the campaign map which fell out thusly:

Before his summons to London, and in conjunction with his orders to interdict Royalist supply lines the Earl of Manchester's cavalry heavy force overwhelmed the defenders of Northampton and forced them to retire towards Leicester and Warwick. (1 action point spent sacking the city).

A regiment of foote raised from the former volunteer Thames ferrymen marched from Bedford to occupy Northampton and its important woollen industry on the following day. (1 action point spent garrisoning the unoccupied site).

Ferdinando Fairfax moved north from Peterborough to protect the citizens of Boston (who in light of the recent Royalist outrage had petitioned Parliament to supply forces for their defence). (1 action point garrisoning Boston).

Tom Fairfax seized on the election of a pro Parliament mayor in Gainsborough and sent forces into the town to help round up any dissenting malignants. (1 action point garrisoning Gainsborough).

Finally given a small but independent command of his own Colonel Edward Massie seized Bath to protect Salisbury from any sudden Royalist diversionary incursion from Bristol. (1 action point garrisoning Bath).

The Royalists had only three action points and spent them in the following manner:

With the evident failure of both his and his uncles bold thrusts into rebel territory Prince Rupert used the  forces around Warwick to construct an extensive ring of defensive works, the better to protect the vital midlands centre of operations from direct assault while creating a barrier to any easy advance on Worcester. (2 action points spent fortifying Warwick).

One of the Royalist columns retreating around the south of Huntingdon headed for Northampton believing it to be still held for the King. Belatedly discovering its recent capture they stormed the town and though successful in pushing the defenders out they found the place in such a distressed state that no succour could be found there. Forced to continue their march for want of supplies they finally made it to Warwick a week later. (1 action point spent sacking Northampton).

The King left the bulk of his forces in the midlands under the command of Forth and Rupert and headed unhappily for Worcester. Arriving at Hartlebury castle not far from from his capital on the night of the 17th he was awoken by servants to observe a terrible orange glow on the horizon. The hand of God it seemed had struck once more.

Ahh c'mon. Don't begrudge me a pamphlet it is nearly Christmas!
Note that Master Spalding the pamphleteer managed to mix up Prince Rupert with his brother Prince Maurice, the only adult royal actually present in Worcester, and the man who was actually instrumental in directing the fire fighting efforts.

Yup the fickle hand of fate (in the form of TCMB) had rolled the dice and produced the following result from the revised random events table:

12. A Great Fire. A great fire breaks out in one of the two factions capital cities. The capital city loses its status as an economic zone for one year and the affected faction loses 1 action point from their post battle totals for the next season. Roll 1D6 - 1-2 Royalist Capital, 3-6 Parliaments. Note Parliament's capital is always London.


The final campaign map for the Summer looks like this:

Note the loss of Worcester's economic zone status.
So in summary the Royalist expansion has been checked for the moment and the temporary loss of their capital's manufacturing and recruitment focus will both degrade their next seasons post battle performance and force them into a semi permanent defensive posture. Parliament, though internally riven by competing religious and political factions has not only held the King but shows signs of pushing back in the north east.

The King now controls 4 of the 9 economic zones required to win and Parliament 7.

We'll get back to the action in the new year if I can still reach the keyboard over a bellyful of mince pies.

Finally...Merry Christmas and a peaceful new year to all of you from The Current Mrs Broom and I.


Thursday, 20 December 2018

Parish Notices

Just a few notices relevant to the blog and the campaign in general. First off is a change to the Random Events die roll. The war is now a year old and while the number of possible random events has decreased the magnitude of those remaining reflects (I hope) the sense of situations gaining a momentum of their own.

The rationale is / was - that a number of the items on the original events list seem less likely to occur a year into the conflict. For instance the chances of a location suddenly declaring for one side or another is certainly going to decrease as war weariness or even the allegiance of other nearby localities becomes established. I hope I've left enough of the interesting and potentially important possibilities in along with the staples you'd be bound to expect. Both the King and Parliament were always going to try lobbying the scots for support for instance.

Anywhoo the random events will now be rolled for with 2d6 and are composed of the following:

2. Reinforcements. All parties in the ongoing Irish conflict agree to a ceasefire. From this point on, (after pre battle training status markers have been deployed) Royalist forces may convert one "raw" foote unit to "trayned" status. If this result is rolled again, the conflict is deemed to have reignited and this bonus is permanently lost.

3. Revolt. The faction with the least controlled locations rolls 1D6.
  • 1-3 They must remove one of their garrisons and return its site to neutral status.
  • 4-6 They must indicate one of their locations, which will immediately changes ownership to that of the opposing faction.
4. Allies. Roll 1D6. The Scottish government intervenes on the side of Parliament if the roll was between 1-5 and for the King if the roll was a 6. Whichever faction receives Scottish support gets one additional campaign map action point per season while the alliance is in effect. The extra action point may only be spent in the north or the midlands. Two Scottish generals are added to the allied factions command card pack. If this event is rolled again the Scots withdraw permanently from the game - their armies and their two generals needed to deal with an outbreak of trouble at home. Any faction allied to the Scots immediately loses the alliance and any of the benefits this may have given them.

5. 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.

6. New Modelled. Effective only if rolled after Winter 1643 otherwise re roll. Roll 1D6. 1-5 Parliament's armies are remodelled, 6 the King's. Select six commander cards from the remodelling faction with the largest order card hand size - and then randomly discard two. From the four remaining leaders choose the overall new modelled army general, the other three (regardless of army sizes) being assigned to flank's and centre. If this event is rolled again the opposing faction becomes remodelled in the same manner. 

The remodelled force for either side is composed of 12 units in the proportion of four veteran to four trained to four raw. All of the army general and his chosen flank commander's traits remain in force. 

7. Decisive Battle. If the side with the fewest controlled locations loses the next battle their political will is deemed to have broken and they will sue for peace.

8. A Great Storm. Many of Parliament's ships are badly damaged by a great storm. The restrictions on Royalist movements by sea are lifted.

9. Foreign Intervention. Roll 1D6. 4-6 sees the Duke of Lorraine send supplies and soldiers to back the King. The Royalist faction gains one off map economic zone as long as they control a port on the south coast of England.

10. Change of Allegiance. Significant portions of the navy mutiny over lack of pay, declare for the King, and defect. Both sides must now dice for successful naval actions after the expenditure of a strategic map action point. 1D6 roll. 1-3 is a failure 4-6 a success. This option is null and void if the Royalists do not control a port.

11. Clubmen. The player who controls the least number of economic locations must remove one of their unfortified garrisons and mark the location on the campaign map in green. At the end of the next season roll 1D6 in addition to the new random events die roll. 
  • 1-3 The unrest has spread to another connected site (of any type other than a citadel). Mark the new site, (chosen by the player with the most controlled locations) in green. 
  • 4-6 The unrest has died out and the site returns to neutral status.
Note that a clubmen controlled site may be sacked or laid siege to in subsequent turns.

12. A Great Fire. A great fire breaks out in one of the two factions capital cities. The capital city loses its status as an economic zone for one year and the affected faction loses 1 action point from their post battle totals for the next season. Roll 1D6 - 1-2 Royalist Capital, 3-6 Parliaments. Note Parliament's capital is always London.

On the subject of ECW / BCW campaigns in general (and I assume that you are reading this because its a time period that interests you) you may have missed the fact that there are a number of other campaigns either ongoing or about to start. Special thanks are due to Kaptain Kobold and Jonathan Freitag for reminding me of this the other day. The Campaigns I know of to date include Pete over at Grid Based Wargaming (full scale total country at war), Elenderil at Small But Perfectly Formed (which promises to be a county level - Lancashire conflict) and a chap or chapette over at Heretical Gaming (full scale total country at war). I suspect that Kaptain Kobold at the Stronghold Rebuilt is also considering running one in the near future so keep your eye open for that if you can. I haven't put links in to this text for their blogs because I'm too darned lazy but you'll find all of them on my blog list over on the right there if you wish to go and visit them.

I'd like to take this opportunity as well to extend special thanks to the guys at the porno sites based in Cambodia, Indonesia and Russia, who've boosted my page viewing stats by a factor of around 100% recently. It's good to know that amongst those squalid dens of iniquity there is a clear desire to learn more about 17th century military history. Who knew?

Okay then, the campaign map update is next on the cards and having just got TCMB to roll on the new random events table I have to say the outcome is definitely an interesting one.


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Godmanchester Gambit - Late Summer 1643 Part 2

It had taken twenty four men a week to drag the abandoned Royalist cannon from Bedford to the outskirts of Huntingdon. Blacksmith and part time rabble rouser Barnabus Crouch had hoped to present it to the Parliamentary forces he'd heard would be there but finding none had agreed to join the locals blocking the King's main supply route across the River Ouse instead.

The first wagons "taxed" by the citizens militia had been barely escorted and provided the arms and ammunition to equip the growing band of militant townsfolk. By the end of the week, despite little in the way of internal organization, they had dug a half moon defensive work and fought off several small Royalist patrols looking for their missing vittals.

The morning of the 17th broke bright and warm, heralding another day of the seemingly endless baking August heat. Barnabus, as was his custom, awoke from a beery stupor and waddled down to the river to relieve himself. Perched on the edge of the steep bank he was in the process of taking his ease when he gave a startled yelp, miss buttoned his fly, and ran back into the camp to raise the alarm. The column of men he'd seen marching towards the river from Cambridge was too good a target to miss. Bullying his half awake gun crew into action, he shouted at the militia to bestir themselves and while they ran around like headless chickens he settled down to handling an altogether bigger weapon than the one he'd just been using.

Dim light, shaky camera phone, and tiny figures…what a perfect combination. Barnabus Crouch and his gunne.

The Earl of Manchester had acted swiftly on his orders to secure Huntingdon for the Parliament, aware from the off that it would allow his forces to interdict the King's supply lines to Cambridge. Given that time was of the essence he'd split his column into three. Four regiments of horse under John Lambert were sent ahead to reconnoitre the south of the town, Thomas Leighton's dragoons were sent to secure the bridge across the river to the east, and Manchester with John Pynne's foote and Cromwell and Blackstone's regiments of horse had circled north of the town to approach down the Hartford road. Though a God fearing man, and a puritan by persuasion, he'd been surprised by reports that Cromwell's psalm singing cavalrymen included some who frequently experienced "visions" and some who'd been heard to "speak in tongues."

The growing heat was wearisome to all and while Manchester allowed the dusty column to halt for a spell in the shade of a small wood his aides ushered forward a young ensign who'd come hot foot from colonel Leighton with a message. The dragoons had approached the bridge they'd been designated to seize through the edge of the same wood but had discovered a group of militia already occupying the area. Whilst keeping under cover for the moment the colonel desired to know the Earl's instructions. Manchester was still considering this unexpected development when further and much more unwelcome news reached him. The Royalists were coming.

The map - by way of a reminder

The Earl of Forth was also troubled by the heat and having already passed this way the week before, on the march to Cambridge, knew that the bridge across the Ouse's tributary would not support the lengthy column of foote soldiers he'd brought with him. Deciding to split the column in two he sent one portion up the main road towards Huntingdon while the second element would cross via a small ford to the right and then rejoin him. Bypassing the town and failing to garrison it before today had been a big mistake, but if the Earl could get some of his men into it before the reportedly advancing forces of Parliament he knew that they could hold it.

The marching columns that passed his position seemed comfortingly endless but the Earl wished he'd been spared a few more cavalry and perhaps some of the guns now attempting to batter Cambridge into submission.

The Royalist column diverges - the Earl of Forth sits between them. Note the unusual deployment of trotter cavalry led by a "Dutchee"  (in a square rather than an arrowhead).

Sir Arthur Aston rode in a huffy silence at the head of Skilling's regiment of foote, the better to avoid the dust thrown up by the columns passage. The bridge ahead of him crossed a tributary of the river Ouse and the road it carried led straight into Huntingdon where he looked forward to taking his ease. The boorish eastern flea pit apparently had no trained band of its own and given the lack of any resistance to the massive army at his back he felt sure that he'd beat the old dotard Forth to the best of the available accommodation.

Charles Gerrard had attached himself to Henry Clayton's regiment of foote and watched as Edgar de Vries and his regiment of foreign volunteer horse rode past to take up the lead. The "Dutchee" spoke very little English and Gerrard wasn't entirely sure that the scouts he'd requested be sent ahead had actually been despatched. Sir Arthur Aston with Skillings foote in tow reached the bridge at about the same time as De Vries' cavalry splashed into the ford.

Men flinched and horses flattened their ears as a mighty crack split the air and a cloud of dirty smoke blew through the undergrowth on the rivers far bank. A grey streak arced across the rivers floodplain skipped off the turf just to the left of Ashburnham's regiment and ploughed through the closed up ranks like a ball through a row of skittles.

The Earl of Manchester and his men were also surprised by the cannon fire and eagerly awaited the return of officers that had been sent to the dragoons position to observe the oncoming enemy. Cromwell and his regiment were eager to be at it, but hidden from view behind the woods they were held in place by a direct order from Manchester and the despatch of the Earl's chaplain to engage the troopers in lengthy prayers.

The Earl of Manchester, Cromwell and John Pynne's regiment bestir themselves at the sound of battle.

Startled by the unexpected cannon fire but able to broadly pinpoint the weapons position by the cloud of smoke De Vries spurred his troopers on into the dappled shade of the ford with a view to charging up on to the other side and catching the weapon in the flank. Behind him Charles Gerard and the officers of Henry Clayton's foote urged their men into a shambling run toward the same spot, intent on getting into cover or out of the cannons apparent arc of fire.

At the base of the bridge on the opposite side of the battlefield Sir Arthur Aston noticed the lack of additional gunfire and ordered Skilling's foote to double across the river with the similar intention of catching the gunne in the flank. With the pike to the fore they disgorged on the other side straight into a ragged volley of musket fire from the irregulars behind their freshly dug earthen embankment.

Turn 1& 2 Parliament - Turn 1 Royalist. It had been my intention from the start to allow some of the Royalist units to cross the river before catching them with the timely 1D6 generated arrival of the separated Parliamentary forces. Of course when you desperately need reinforcements or a flank move to occur they never show up and when you want them to stay out of the way for a while they appear on turn 1. I rolled a 6 for Manchester's boys and had to content myself with the knowledge that they were at least out of sight behind the woods. Lambert was thankfully a 2 (no show). Though the narrative distorts the timeline I was not sure at this point which Parliamentary unit type was lurking in the woods by the ford. The citizens militia managed to inflict one hit on Skilling's men and Crouch's cannon caused one hit on Ashburnham's foot as can be seen below.

Skilling's foote and Ashburnham's foote take hits. Sir Arthur Aston is busy at the back of them tying his shoe lace or some such.

Pride's regiment who'd been about to follow Skilling's men over the bridge were swung off the track and led by their officers to the river bank opposite the position from which it was thought the cannon had fired. Knowing they were going to try to keep the enemy's heads down while Skilling's men caught their opponents in the flank was small consolation to soldiers who'd just been lined up no more than forty yards in front of an unseen cannon.

Surging up the slippery incline of the ford the troopers of De Vries's foreign volunteer cavalry wheeled to their right along the riverbank, priming and spanning their pistols as they advanced on what looked to be the site of the errant cannon. Following their continental training they advanced with the intention of getting into pistol range, some of them wondering what the black "O" thing was poking out of the earthen embankment to their front.

The Dutchman's regiment of trotters prepares to give Crouch a darned good thrashing. Clayton's foote enter the ford

Turn 2 Royalist. Wiping out the potential irritant of the cannon and militia seemed to be the logical thing to do especially as the more units I could get across the river (and potentially off the board edge to score points) the better. The advance through the ford activated the Parliamentary unit in the woods next to it and I now knew they were Leighton's dragoons.

Crouch's men had cheered at the hit on the Royalist foote across the other side of the flood plain but after a ragged volley from the citizens militia at the soldiers coming over the bridge many of them had dropped their weapons and legged it. Fortunately for Barnabus an old soldier from the war in the low countries was part of his gun team and had seen the enemy cavalry dash for the ford. Anticipating an attack in the flank he commenced loading their home made case shot while Crouch and the other gunners levered the heavy carriage round through 90 degrees. They'd barely pricked the charge and readied the linstock when the thunder of hooves could be heard approaching. The gunners looked fearfully at each other, ready to run, as Crouch applied the lit taper to the touch hole.

De Vreis's men had trotted into position and raised their pistols ready to fire over the embankment at the gunners on the other side. Sadly many of them never got to pull their triggers. The cannon fired, the blast so loud that its effect was felt rather than heard. The second and third ranks of cavalry were liberally spattered with chunks of their comrades from the first. Panic ensued. The raw troopers wheeled about and literally deaf to the entreaties of their leader raced pell mell back towards the safety of the ford.

Turn 3 Parliament. Manchester played a Fire and Hold card which gave any attacking foote or artillery units one extra dice. The remaining citizens militia threw a retreat flag, meaning the troopers, who were raw, had to retire two hexes towards their own board edge. Unfortunately such a move meant they had to pass through the ford to achieve this and equally unfortunately the ford was already occupied by Henry Clayton's oncoming foote. Since the troopers second retreat hex was blocked they were forced to take a hit (one for every retreat move they are unable to make). Next to fire was Crouch's cannon which also obtained a retreat flag against the cavalry. Still unable to do that they were forced to take a further two hits - making three hits on a four strength unit!

On the other flank Skilling's men dragged their wounded into cover of the bridge abutment and took up position to return fire, De Vries' cavalry however were in total disarray, milling about on a river bank turned into a slippery mire by the hooves of a hundred or so frightened horses.

Turn 3 Royalist. Forth managed to play a Rally card that he'd been hoping to save until later. Three dice produced 1 foote and 1 horse icon, thereby reducing the hits on the cavalry and the foote decribed above.

Leighton's dragoons, concealed in the woods opposite the ford were still awaiting orders from the Earl of Manchester when the confused and wounded enemy cavalry ended up right under the muzzles of their carbines. More horses and riders dropped as the dragoons gave fire from a completely unexpected direction.

Cromwell, hearing the reports of nearby gunfire could abide to wait no longer. Without waiting for permission from the nearby Earl he sounded the charge and led his pack of eager horsemen around the corner of the wood, leaving Manchester's chaplain still in the middle of a cautionary text about the sins of the flesh. With a curse Manchester and his staff gave chase. Ahead of them a small group of horsemen were attempting to reform amid heaps of whinnying horseflesh and bloodstained buff coats. Cromwell's men were in amongst them before they even saw them coming and the butchery, for butchery it was, was over in moments.

Cromwell's horse charge home while Manchester gives chase.
Across the fords sandy bed the river flowed in crimson clouds. De Vries' few surviving horsemen rammed their way through their own oncoming foote followed closely by Cromwell's maddened troopers. Caught in the fords narrow defile Clayton's men were unable to deploy, breaking into individual groups that struggled to splash their way up or down stream away from the hacking, stampeding, Parliamentary troopers. The body of Charles Gerard who'd been with Claytons men that morning was never found.

Turn 4 Parliament. Manchester played Assault Left Flank which allowed the activation of three units. The dragoons in the woods fired on De Vries' cavalry, causing one hit (so back to a three hit total) and Cromwell's horse charged around the wood to hit the remaining horsemen before they could recover. Using 5 dice (four for the number of units and one because they were galloper versus trotter) they managed crossed sabres and since the Royalist horse were already done, a pointless retreat flag. Advancing into the vacant hex they were allowed a single bonus attack which was made on Clayton's boys down in the ford. With the number of dice rolled reduced by one due to the defenders terrain they still managed two foote and a crossed sabres which killed off the hapless defenders in one go. When a unit is destroyed in combat any attached leaders must also dice to see if they are hit. The roll of an additional die produced a sabre indicating that Gerard had also fallen. So to recap. Horse regiment eliminated, foote regiment eliminated and a leader killed, which translates into three victory banners gained by Parliament in one turn.

Scores on the doors… Parliament 3 victory banners, Royalist 0 victory banners.

Unsure of the level of opposition they'd just encountered the Earl of Forth ordered the rest of his infantry units to hurry forward and engage the enemy. Mindful of their original orders and no longer under fire form the embankment Skilling's foote moved off the bridge and advanced cautiously down the road to Huntingdon. They were wise to be cautious.

Turn 4 Royalist. With a crap hand of cards the Earl of Forth played March to Victory which allowed nearly all of his army to move forward as one toward the bridge and the ford.

John Lambert had been approaching from the south of Huntingdon when the sound of gunfire indicated some sort of engagement breaking out ahead. Attached to Hockley's horse and with Monk's and Devalier's on his left and right respectively he cut across country until he came in sight of the Cambridge road and the column of Skilling's Royalist foote to his front.

Turn 5 Parliament. Lambert's men finally arrived on board after a 1D6 roll of 4. Only three units of the four were able to deploy due to initial space restrictions.

Pride's regiment of foote who'd ended up on the opposite side of the riverbank to the enemy cannon finally gave fire in a coordinated volley, though no one could precisely say what they'd just fired at or even if they'd hit anything. Meanwhile Ashburnham's foote had deployed quickly on the far side of the ford and their rapid fire discouraged Cromwell's men from any thoughts of a further advance to the Royalist side.

Turn 5 Royalist. Pride's men had actually eliminated the citizens militia with its fire despite the modifier enjoyed for the defensive terrain piece. Unfortunately they do not count towards victory point totals. The attack on Cromwell's men suffered from a terrain modifier and did not produce any meaningful damage.

As Lambert's three regiment's charged home the officers of Skilling's exposed foote screamed the order to prepare to receive horse. Amazingly the raw soldiery remembered enough of their scant training to achieve the semblance of a pike stand. Some of Devalier's men were unhorsed and the bulk of their charge broken by the foot's rapid response but many of the defenders were also shot down before the pike screen was fully in place.

Lambert's three regiments of horse attack Skilling's men in pike stand. Both sides take casualties.

Hockley's horse hit Skilling's men from a different angle but the troopers horses would not push themselves into the hedgehog of steel points and Hockley ordered his men back out of range to reform and have another go. Believing (incorrectly) that Devalier's and Hockley's men would roll over the opposing foote Monk's horse raced to position themselves across the Cambridge to Huntingon road so that no enemy units would be able to make it to the town unopposed.

Turn 6 Parliament. Manchester played Charge of Horse. Skilling's foote opted to try to form a pike stand when informed they were being charged. The change to the original rules allowing raw and trained units to attempt this worked well and Skilling's boys rolled a 5 (needing a 5 or 6). Devalier's cavalry who were the first to make contact took a hit and inflicted one in return while Hockley's men received a flag result forcing them to retire. Over on the other side of the battlefield Cromwell's men moved back towards their own lines in order to reform and no doubt do a bit of giving thanks to God.

The Earl of Forth still did not have a clear picture of what his forces had encountered on the other side of the river but it seemed to be both an organised and a stout resistance. Awaiting the reports of the aides he'd despatched to find out what was going on he began to wonder if the decision to go back and secure Huntingdon had been made a week too late.

Turn 6 Royalist. Forth only managed to push units forward towards the bridge and the ford. The one capable of crossing the ford, (Ashburnham's) had already previously taken a hit from the cannon so sending them into an opposed river crossing seemed to be akin to handing Parliament a victory banner on a plate. Over by the bridge the follow up infantry in the column had adopted a defensive posture on the Royalist bank, anticipating a cavalry charge across it at any moment.

All around Skilling's hedgehog of pikes lay a carpet of fallen, but with three regiments of horse circling them and no support forthcoming the outcome was probably inevitable. The brave foot soldiers gave as good as they got, but in the end it was not enough.

Skilling's men are finally done for.

Though Lambert was himself unhorsed and his regiments took casualties in the assault they finally managed to break their opponents and watched the survivors including Sir Arthur Aston stream back across the bridge to safety.

Aston survived the leader loss die roll but the loss of Skilling's men gave Parliament a fourth victory banner and I chose to call the game at this point. 

I'm often tempted to play a battle beyond a point the combatants themselves would have deemed sensible to achieve the satisfaction of a truly crushing victory. On this occasion I tried to keep in mind the orders and the personalities of the two opposing commanders. The Earl of Manchester had blocked the King's advance and would be able to secure Huntingdon with the two regiments of horse that were still to be deployed (through lack of initial on board space). The Earl of Forth was old but certainly no fool. The chances of pushing through to Huntingdon against significant and unanticipated resistance would only lead to large scale losses which the King could ill afford. The convoys of supplies were going to have to find another way to Cambridge from here on in. 

Both sides stared at each other across the river for the balance of the afternoon, Manchester unwilling to sacrifice his cavalry on the pikes of a still sizeable and now readied Royalist foote contingent and the Earl of Forth unwilling to push his infantry through two choke point meat grinders to achieve a potentially redundant strategic objective. As night fell the Royalist forces withdrew towards Cambridge, the burning match cord they left hanging in the bushes concealing their withdrawal until the following morning.

The Outcome:

Sir Arthur Aston spent a productive afternoon arranging the hanging of a dozen men who'd attempted to desert, then saw to it that the elderly occupants of Brockhurst Hall were dispossessed of their property so that he might rest in comfort after an evenings light despoiling.

The Earl of Forth arrived back at the Royalist siege lines in the early hours of the morning but was unable to report on events to the King who had suddenly become indisposed. His sulky indisposition was to last a further three days.

John Lambert was unhorsed during the final charge against Skilling's men and suffered a halberd cut that pierced the leather of his buff coat. Placed in charge of the bridge defences he held his men at instant readiness until dawn revealed the Royalist's night time withdrawal.

Oliver Cromwell became engaged in a furious argument with the Earl of Manchester over the generals  unwillingness to cross the river and engage the stalled Royalist infantry. Oliver went on to denounce the Earl to the House of Commons, creating an enmity that would endure long after the hostilities had ceased.*

The Earl of Manchester achieved the Committee of Safeties order to secure Huntingdon and the subsequent interdiction of the Royalist supply train was to have serious consequences for the King. Tarred by the suspicion of divided loyalties after Cromwell's denunciation he was never again to enjoy the complete confidence of the Parliament.

So then a solid Parliamentary win, five points to spend on the campaign map, and the excitement of the random events die roll still to come.

Be still my beating heart.

* An incident that actually happened in the real world, though at a different time and place.

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.

Observations:

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.