Thursday, 31 January 2019

The State Of The Nation

No the title's not a comment on Brexit, God knows I've tried to keep the blog politics free. Be warned however that after March I might be posting from either an internment camp in Calais or a refugee camp on the Isle Of Wight. 

Let's hope they have wifi. 

Oh, and mains drainage.

Anywhoo…back to more serious matters.

After the set backs at the end of Summer things in the Royalist camp seemed to go from bad to worse. The Queen had already taken her daughters with her to the Palace of St Germain where she raised money, and intrigued for the Royalist cause. Following the fire in Worcester she sent word to the King that the princes Charles and James, who'd remained with him thus far, should be sent to Bristol where more suitable lodging was to be had and where she was shortly due to arrive with a large convoy of arms and ammunition.

With the loss of his economic hub and nascent capital the King had been forced to greatly increase taxes in the areas under his control and this soon had a detrimental effect on public order. When the openly Catholic Queen arrived with her convoy, in what had been until recently a Parliament leaning city, her presence caused riots that the garrison only just managed to suppress. Forced to quickly embark again for the continent she took the opportunity to take both of her young sons with her.

There were problems on the army front too. Men had been slipping away for weeks, either to help with the harvest or because their pay was now months overdue. Rupert was so alarmed by the situation that in late October he wrote to the King suggesting he should drastically reduce the number of minor garrisons dotted across Royalist territory and re model the army along more professional lines. 

The fall of Bramton telegraphed to the Council of Warre that Waller had his sights set on capturing Gloucester. The consensus was that blocking his path to give battle would be to hazard all - with the odds far from in their favour. What they needed was a different stratagem; a diversion that would delay or redirect his advance until bad weather brought the campaigning season to its inevitable close. Fortunately for the Council of Warre, Prince Maurice, now in Worcester, had brought letters with him from gentlemen in the south pledging themselves to the King's cause.

Meanwhile in London the Committee of Safety were broadly in support of Waller's aim to take Gloucester since they accepted that the isolation of Bristol would weaken the King's position still further. Their recent successes on the battlefield had been encouraging, though some of the older members sensed that this was already beginning to undermine the unity of their cause. Negotiations for Scottish help were not going well, and there were those who'd begun to coalesce into an "Independent" faction who were fundamentally opposed to the religious reforms the Scots had demanded as the price of intervention. However misguided their views were deemed to be by more moderate heads, events in the north west were soon to lend credence to the Independents' view that they would not need their northern neighbours help at all.

As a result of their success at Bramton Parliament had five action points to spend on the main map and the King, who would normally have expected three, is reduced (after the loss of Worcester) to only two. Jonathan K has now relinquished the mantle of Parliament's campaign  map Generalissimo but Alex, his replacement, has already shaken things up with something unexpected.

A surge of unrest in the north west over increased Royalist taxes swiftly grew into open revolt. Seizing the moment Parliament used their near total command of the sea to ship arms and men of influence to organise a general uprising. Within weeks a string of towns and cities along the north west coast had declared for Parliament. (1 action point to ship arms etc to the neutral un garrisoned port at Carlisle, then 1 point to move from Carlisle to Egremont, 1 point to move from Egremont to Kendal and so on through Preston and Manchester. 5 points in total).

Meanwhile gentlemen of influence in Plymouth had been bribed persuaded to declare their ambivalent enthusiastic populace for the King's cause. Three small ships left Bristol late at night on the 20th October and slipped through the Parliament navies blockade to deliver Sir Ralph Godolphin's regiment of foote into the town. Known Parliament sympathisers were imprisoned and their goods seized. Almost overnight the King had a small second front in the south west and more importantly a reason for Waller to divert forces from his drive on Gloucester. (1 action point to send forces to a neutral un garrisoned port from Bristol. Parliaments control of the sea meant that after committing to the action I had to roll a die to determine if I'd been successful. I needed a 4, 5 or 6 on a 1D6 and thankfully got a 5. Godolphin didn't need his water wings after all).

The oft fought over and economically important  town of Northampton shouldn't have bothered locking its gates for having chased the Royalists out in Summer they found Rupert's boys were back again in force by the early Autumn. (1 action point to garrison an unoccupied connected site from Warwick).

So here's the map. I've done away with the flags since they were becoming so numerous they were getting in the way. Control of economic zones (currently 7 for parliament and 5 for the King) is now denoted by a suitably coloured fuzzy zone around them.

So its late Autumn next - and with the opening of two new fronts the possibility of a getting away from the grinding match in the Midlands for a while.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Siege Of Bramton - Early Autumn 1643 Part 2

The morning of the 13th October was a blustery one with the first of the autumn leaves skittering through Sir Edward Massie's encampment. Sanding the ink on a request for more powder Sir Edward noticed that another portion of Bramton's wall had fallen overnight, adding to the scree at the base of the breach that his cannon had created the day before.

Two of the town's councillors had arrived under a flag of truce at breakfast and Bramton's Governor William Blake was expected within the hour to begin the formal surrender negotiations. Massie had sent a messenger to Sir John Gilligan, his notional commander, requesting his urgent attendance at the meeting, for though the doddering old fool had spent a week achieving very little with the larger part of the Parliamentary army on the other side of town, etiquette demanded that the mans signature be the primary one on any document.

Two young ensigns from Sir John Merrick's regiment of foote posted atop the tower of St Stephens church were the first to raise the alarm. Engaged in childishly gobbing on a gravedigger far below they had been slow to see the column of horse and wagons coming down the road from Warwick. Their urgent shouts and hurried return led to a stamping out of camp fires and a rush to grab piled weapons. Responding to the sudden activity Massie's aide proffered him a perspective glass and he focussed it on the road.

Byron's men advance down the Warwick road

Sir John Lord Byron had paused his relief column at the first sight of Bramton's north tower. Ordering Gilbert Flood's dragoons to take the lead he attached himself and staff to Roger Owen's regiment of horse and reviewed the situation as his scouts came in. Away to his right and still unaware of his presence were several troops of Parliamentary horse, the riders dismounted with the horse grazing on the last of the summers grass. Forming a line running south were a series of gun battery's interspersed with several encamped regiments of foote. Dark lantern men had earlier indicated that the bulk of the Parliamentary army was several miles off on the other side of town and the forces guarding this side were too far back from the walls to prevent his column  from riding straight down the main road and into the town via the north gate. Byron had every confidence that Bramton's apparently fire eating Governor would, thusly re supplied and rearmed, hold out until the Royalist forces returned to the offensive early in the new year.

Byron's plan was a simple one. Get the dragoons and the numerous supply wagons into Bramton through the north gate using his three regiments of horse to hold the enemy out of range while they did so.

Byron's approach could not remain unobserved for long and sure enough as they reached the church drums began to beat in the enemy lines calling the rebel men to arms. Ordering Flood's dragoons to dash for the main gate Byron led Owen's horsemen off the track to cover the first of the carts trundling behind them.

Wagons roll! Flood's dragoons dash for the north gate (top of picture) while Byron covers the road.

Turn 1 Royalist. As indicated in the battle preamble (last but one post) I will be running this small battle without the use of the usual left right and centre C & C cards, the number of units activated being determined by the roll of an average dice.  Byron rolled a 3. The dragoons moved up to the castle walls,  the first of the wagon units moved forward 2 hexes down the road and Roger Owen's horse along with Byron swing out to cover any approach to the road.

Assuming that he'd been double crossed and that Bramton's Governor had been merely playing for time while he awaited reinforcements Massie flew into a rage. Sensing that his honour would be tarnished by being gulled so easily he sent riders to each of his three regiments of foote with but one instruction, advance on the road at once and prevent the passage of the enemies supplies.

View from the other side. Pynne's men advance toward the road with Norton's to their left and Flood's dragoons dead ahead.

T1 Parliament. Massie rolled a 4 so was able to get things moving pretty quickly. Pynne's regiment of foote, the furthest south of his units were quick upon it and forming a ragged line that moved two hexes (not covered at any point by enemy fire) towards the road. Norton's regiment in the middle, potentially chargeable by Byron's men, advanced only one hex while Blackstone's cavalry hurriedly mounted and retired 3 hexes behind Sir John Merrick's foote to reorganise themselves.

Byron was worried by the rapid response of Parliament's foote who'd managed to advance on the road more quickly than he'd anticipated but was pleased to see the tail end of his dragoons disappearing through the hurriedly unbarred north gate. While the wagon masters laid on with the whip the first of the carts clattered into the shadow of the towns north tower. Byron and Owen were obliged to shift alongside the huge breach in the town wall in order to continue to cover them. Forming the mid point flank guard of the Royalist column Lord Montague's horse trotted further out onto the heath, shadowing the retreating Parliamentary horse but keeping out of musket range of the rebel foote who had formed a defensive screen to cover against a sudden charge.

T2 Royalist. Byron threw a 4 and Flood's dragoons galloped through the north gate to secure 1 of the 4 victory banners needed for the win. The first of the wagon train units moved two hexes along the road until adjacent to the north tower and Byron and co moved opposite the breach in the wall. Lastly Montague's horse moved to threaten the north of the Parliament line.

Score: Royalists 1 (for getting the dragoons into the town), Parliament 0

Massie hurriedly attached himself to Richard Norton's foote and urged the regiment forward at the best possible speed, conscious that it had now become a race to block the road and prevent the passage of the enemy supplies. As they climbed the gentle incline to the town Colonel Norton saw the opportunity to harass the enemy and ordered his musketeers to begin firing by intraduction. Though this action reduced the speed of the regiments advance Massie was overjoyed to see cart horses fall in their traces and wagon masters leap to take cover in the roadside ditch. Norton's men were not the only ones to achieve success. Pynne's foote marching through the long grass on a parallel course employed the same tactic against the bulk of Byron's horse, some of whom also fell to their long range fire. Trying to maintain the line of advance, Merrick's foote hesitantly stepped out towards the enemy regiment of horse before them as their own cavalry, now reformed, took up position to their rear.

Pynne's and Norton's men give fire and start to whittle down the opposition, Merrick's foote and Blackstone's horse move to protect the Parliament flank (in the foreground).

T2 Parliament. Massie threw a 4. Pynne's foot advanced one hex and fired at Owen's horse, despite the reduced number of dice for moving and firing and they scored one hit. Byron survived the subsequent leader loss check. Norton's advance with Massie also scored one hit on the wagon train unit, (I'd given them a two hit capacity since they take up two base lengths). Merrick and Blackstone's men moved forward and repositioned themselves to prevent the Royalist cavalry swinging around the rear of the Parliament lines unopposed.

Galled by the fire of the insolent rebel foote Byron ordered Owen to charge them and charge they did, racing along the road then swinging down the hill to hit them in the flank. Unfortunately for Byron and Owen, Pynne's men were grizzled veterans and as soon as the cavalry trumpets began to sound their opponents commanders were already shouting "prepare to receive horse." As the cavalry thundered down the hill they found themselves racing towards a thicket of pikes which forced them to pull up sharply and resort to firing their pistols into the packed mass instead.

Byron and Owen charge home.

With musket shot whizzing around their ears the remaining carts by the tower drove off the road and retired a pace, the civilian contractors confident that they were not being paid nearly enough to hazard their lives in such a manner.

At the rear of the Royalist column, Horace Bramley's horse cantered onto the common and took up a threatening position alongside Montague's horse.

T3 Royalist. Byron only threw a 3 and seeing that his men were lined up against the town wall like targets in a shooting gallery they elected to charge the unit shooting at them. It was only as the charge went home that Pynne's regiments training status was revealed. Randomly placed at game start Pynne's men had been marked as veterans and so were instantly able to form a pike stand without any requirement for a die roll. The pike stand is allowed to strike first with one die against the attacking cavalry but didn't achieve any of the required symbols, while in reply with their single die Byron and Owen's men rolled a retreat flag. Since a pike stand cannot retreat the result is re translated into a 1 hit loss. The rest of the move was spent repositioning units and getting the valuable carts (2 victory banners each) out of musket range.

As much to bolster their nerve as anything Merrick's Parliamentary foote advanced cautiously into musket range of the gathering Royalist horse. Their long range fire boosted the men's morale but wasted valuable powder and achieved little other than to conceal their opponents behind a cloud of sulphurous smoke. Blackstone's horse also nervous at the numbers opposing them trotted behind the foote content for the moment to present a semblance of a threat. In the shadow of Bramton's north tower Norton's foote continued a steady pursuit of the hurriedly disappearing carts, the distance between them growing and the effectiveness of their shot falling off despite their efforts. In the lea of the town wall Pynne's veteran foote continued to hold off Byron and Owen's horse, the distinction between attacker and defender gradually becoming more blurred as the battle progressed.

Royalist horse gather in the bottom left corner. Norton and Merrick's men waste their powder while Pynne's boys (top centre ish) remain locked in melee with Byron.

T3 Parliament. Massie threw a 4 this time but other than frustrating the Royalist's plans didn't achieve much. A lot of movement and a lot of ineffective fire just about sums it up, though I guess that pinning the enemy in place counts for something.

Frustrated that the enemy foote had not broken and taken to their heels Byron became fixated on destroying them. Retiring briefly he reorganised his ranks and charged again. Having seen the "invincible" Royalist cavalry off even briefly, the morale of Pynne's men soared. When Byron and his men returned to the fray they found their opponent just as implacable and their own losses mounting at the same pace as the rebels.

Still too close to danger for their liking the civilian carters whipped their nags into a frenzy as they dragged the heavily laden wagons over the rutted heath and away from the battle. Watching from a distance Colonel Bramley decided there remained a danger that the supplies might be lost and elected to charge the Norton's foote in the flank to buy the wagons time. Though Norton's foote were not veterans they had been thoroughly trained and like Pynne's men they had the time and the presence of mind to form a defensive hedgehog as Bramley's cavalry approached. Both sides pulled up short, the horsemen discharging their pistols to little effect and the hastily redeploying musketeers only managing a ragged volley in reply.

T4 Royalist. Byron threw a 4 but having failed to get the wagons unmolested through the town gate could only win by eliminating enemy combat units. Since this involved charging (mostly) prepared defensive pike formations it would come down to a battle of attrition with luck deciding who scored the needed points first. As if to highlight the precarious nature of their strategy Byron and Owen racked up a second hit from the pikes on their follow up charge and by way of a reply threw another flag icon that as before was translated into a hit on Pynne's foote.

Norton's Parliamentary foote had by this time formed a fully defensive posture and the musketeers sheltering beneath the pikes began to pick off Bramleys horsemen with impunity. Bramley, nonplussed at this turn of events retired out of musket range to consult with his officers.

T4 Parliament. Massie threw a 5 for all the good it did him. Blackwell's horse cantered over to support Norton's men and just about everyone fired to little or no effect, the exception being Norton's pike stand which forced Bramley's horse to retire with a flag result on their single die roll. Note that Norton's trained foote needed a 4, 5 or a 6 to form pike stand and threw a 5.

Lord Montague sat at the head of his regiment for several minutes and watched as the opposing rebel foote blazed away at his men to no effect, presumably in order to bolster their own shaky morale. Judging them therefore to be raw and ill trained he waited until their supporting cavalry had been drawn away by Bramley's attack before launching his own charge against them. They should have folded; they should have run; but they didn't. In his over confidence Lord Montague had taken his time to close, confident that his steady menacing approach would make them break. Encouraged by the example of Norton's regiment to their left Merrick's men used the time that Montague inadvertently granted them to form their own "sort of" pike stand. With his horses to canny to just run onto the outstretched pikes, Montague like the other Royalist cavalry commanders, had to resort to pistolling the close packed enemy from as near as he could get.

Meanwhile, as Blackwell's horse blithely cantered across his frontage to support Norton's foote Horace Bramley found himself presented with a less daunting prospect than a forest of pikes and without thinking charged. The Parliamentary horse were deployed in the dutch manner and duly turned to let fly with their pistols as he closed. Though their fire did some damage Bramley's men were amongst them before a second stinging volley could be organised. Misunderstanding their colonels signal to retire and reform Blackwell's men became infected by panic and as the contagion spread they raced from the field, every man for himself.

T5 Royalist. Byron only threw a 2 so was a bit stuck for options. Lord Montague's charge in earlier games would have rolled right over the (as it turned out) raw foote in front of him. After tweaking the rules on forming pike stands recently, a raw unit needs a 5 or 6 to form one and actually managed to throw a six. Merrick's pikemen didn't score any hits on Montague's cavalry but by way of a reply they managed a flag result which as before became a hit on the raw foote. The only bright point for Byron at this moment was the two hits and the two flag results rolled against Blackwell's horse though even this proved to be problematic. Crippled and easy pray for a follow up strike the two flag's rolled meant a double retreat that took them out of anyones range but not off the board, so in other words badly beat up, but not scoring any points for the Royalists through an actual unit elimination. Note Bramley's horse chose not to advance into the vacant hex.

With all of the protagonists tiring and ammunition running low Colonel Pynne waited until the rapidly thinning enemy cavalry made yet another charge and gave fire with everything his men had left. Horses and men tumbled in heaps before the line of pikes and just as suddenly as they came on… the survivors turned and rode off. Pynne's remaining smoke blackened men were to numb to cheer.

Turn 5 Parliament. Massie threw a 4 but though almost everyone fired or melee'd it was only Pynne's men that scored the hit that finally destroyed Owen's horse and scored a victory banner for Parliament. Byron managed to survive the leader loss check.

Score Royalists 1 victory banner, Parliament 1 victory banner.

With the balance of Owen's regiment dead or riding off the battlefield Byron managed to spur his mount to Bramton's gate and with musket shot striking the woodwork all around him convinced the reluctant guards to open the doors enough to let him and his few remaining staff into the town.

While this disaster was unfolding Montague's and Bramley's horse combined their attacks against the encircled men of Merrick's foote. With nowhere left to run the embattled musketeers and pikemen discovered a sudden new resolve to "take one with you." Bramley's horse were thrown back in confusion but Montague's renewed assault whittled away the defenders to the point at which they stood on the very edge of destruction with only the billowing smoke concealing from the defenders the desperate nature of their position.

As the battle wore on the onlooking wagon masters came to the unspoken conclusion that they would not be enjoying the "delights" of Bramton that night, and with relief at their deliverance began to retire on Warwick.

Turn 6 Royalist. Byron threw a 4 but was still mired in a series of attritional conflicts that would profit him nothing. The combined assault on Merrick's men came within a gnats cock of breaking the raw foote unit, but didn't, and sensing that the day might be lost Byron ordered the vulnerable wagon train units further out of harms way.

Cometh the hour cometh the man. As the enemy cavalry retired to focus on Merrick's isolated regiment Massie realised that the breach in the wall lay open and undefended. Giving the order to form an assault column Norton's regiment managed a shambling run to the gap in the wall and then an awkward climb over the shifting mounds of broken masonry. Stumbling down the other side into an open square they immediately came under a desultory fire from the surrounding buildings.

Massie's gamble pays off.  Norton's men take a hit from the defenders in the surrounding buildings.
Turn 6 Parliament. Massie rolled a 3 so it didn't look like he could do much until I remembered that there were 2 temporary victory banners to be gained while Parliament held the breach in the wall. I took a liberty with the movement rates since I assumed that storming a breach would require an urgency not present in regular marching or changing formation on the battlefield. For the record I have managed (once) a shambling run with a pike, though I wouldn't want to repeat it. As soon as Norton's men seized the breach the scenario rules called for an immediate attack with 3 dice from the defenders concealed within the buildings. The three dice were rolled and did a achieve one hit. Massie, first through the breach with sword in hand survived the leader loss check.  

Still surrounded and defying the odds Merrick's raw foote managed to inflict a further hit on Montague's horse whose composure was beginning to wear a little thin. The two temporary victory banners for Massie's occupation of the breach are added to the scores on the doors to give:

Royalist 1 victory banner. Parliament 3 victory banners.

Hearing that enemy soldiers had stormed the breach Byron and his remaining staff officers headed further into the town to try and locate Flood's dragoons, leaving Bramton's trained bandsmen alone to attempt to stem the flow.

Turn 7 Royalist. Byron only managed to throw a 2 and had to pin all his hopes on eliminating Massie and Norton's men with fire from the surrounding buildings. The scenario allowed for three dice to reflect the defenders fire but they failed to score a single hit.

Filled with a terrible lust for blood and plunder Norton's men ran wild, kicking in doors and putting anyone that came their way to the sword. As the attackers found the cover of the buildings and began to run amok the fire from the defenders slackened.

Norton's men run amok. Mrs Miggin's pie shop starts to burn.
With Bramley's horse moving off to chase down easier prey Lord Montague's men began to suspect that the foote they were facing could not in fact be broken. When Lord Montague himself strayed too close and was pulled from his horse and shot the remainder of his regiment broke and ran.

Turn 7 Parliament. Massie rolled a 4 for activations. Norton's men attacked the surrounding buildings and inflicted 2 hits on the defenders, (future defensive fire from the town would be reduced to 1 die from here on in). The loss of Montague's horse unit brought the victory banner total for Parliament to 4 and the game was called with a resounding win for Parliament.

The outcome.

Sir John Gilligan whom Massie had summoned earlier that morning, arrived in time to accept the formal surrender of the town and received the fulsome thanks of a grateful Parliament. Sir John later consigned Massie's part in the affair to a brief paragraph in his report to the Committee of Safety.

Lord Byron and Flood's dragoons were disarmed and allowed to leave the town for Warwick under escort. Despite Massie's violent disapproval their escort eventually set about them not 10 miles from Bramton and stripped them of their clothes and possessions.

Okay then another win for Parliament. 5 points for them to spend on the campaign map and only 2 (they lost one for the great fire in Worcester) for the King. Methinks the Royalist cause is beginning to look a little shaky.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The Structual Dynamics Of Flow *

January's been crap so far. If yours has been the same I hope a quick schadenfreude laugh at the following tale of woe will cheer you up.

I'm going to ignore the expensive engine management system meltdown that our car had recently because though it kind of adds weight to the crap January assertion it contains little in the way of actual humor. It did have tears though, lots of tears; if that helps. Instead I'll start the story on the day that TCMB left me on my own to go and spend a couple of nights helping a friend who'd broken their leg in a skiing accident. 

To anyone cognisant with my earlier post "Normal Service Will Be Resumed" the fact that I was being left unsupervised by an adult for any length of time should be an obvious cause for alarm, I however was focussed solely on two days of uninterrupted gaming and model making bliss.

On the morning she was due to depart TCMB pointed out that our badly draining shower was getting worse. In a bit of a huff I set to with the drain cleaning chemicals and a plunger but it became quickly apparent that my intervention was doing little to solve the problem and indeed appeared to be making it worse. Every time the toilets were flushed the shower made ominous gurgling noises and "liquid" would rise up through the shower tray and not go down again.

Now a brief digression is necessary at this point so bear with me. Our house was built circa 1780 and mains drainage was not really a "thing" back then. In fact our hamlet is still not connected to the mains and every house has its own fosse septique (septic tank) ours being a large tank buried in the garden about 40m away from the house. They usually need emptying every four or five years and between clearances they catch everything flushed or poured down the sink. 

Okay drainage lecture over. 

Being in possession of a thin but flexible 10m drain unblocker I decided to "up the ante" and show the damned pipe work who was boss; after all it could only be a simple blockage. To use the device I would have to climb into a small cupboard and stick my head through a gap in a false wall to look for an appropriate inspection / insertion point in the pipework. The gap was so tiny that I had to take my glasses off to squeeze my head through but suitably fired up I went for it. It took a few minutes for my eyes to become accustomed to the gloom but when they did I was annoyed to discover that though there was indeed an inspection / insertion point it was comfortably out of reach. Resigned to calling a plumber I tried to get my head back through the hole in the wall... and couldn't. The more I tried the more painful it became. My first reaction was to call out to the wife but with a sudden chill of realization I remembered she'd gone. The thought of being trapped by the head in a cupboard for two days subsisting on a diet of fiberglass insulation wasn't a pleasant one so I opted to swap a few centimeters of ear flesh as a trade off for my freedom.

Back in the land of the living and with a band aid on either ear (it's certainly a look) I consulted the interwebz for a plumber. In the UK I'd have posted the job on one of several sites and been inundated within minutes by plumbers competing and undercutting each other for the work, however in the land that time forgot google could only point me to two that might be within striking distance.

Selecting one I drove to them through a snow storm and (ear plasters flapping) used broken French and the medium of dance to tell him about my "catastrophe dans la canalisation." After a bit of oooh la laaing (yes they do do that) he assured me, he'd get right on it.

Two days later I  discovered that the lack of a working toilet or running water can do strange things to a man. I like to think it was the threat of the wild eyed maniac with the strange flapping ear adornments coming round to use his facilities that finally drove my errant plumber into action, but well probably never know. When he did finally show his face he brought with him the finest of precision high tech drain clearing gizmo's available to a man at the very top of his profession… a plunger.

The plunger - to no ones surprise, failed to do anything other than make a bad situation worse so at somewhat of a loss he stomped off into the garden to inspect the fosse septique. After a bit of hemming, hawing and prodding at our toxic lake with a very long stick (which has served to put me off spearfishing for life) he advised me that there was a blockage in the pipe (well duh) but that he could do nothing until the 40m of underground pipe from the house had been exposed. By good fortune, he explained, he had a friend who could come round with a mini digger that very afternoon whereupon he would attempt to turn our back garden into something approximating the third day at Paschendale for the very reasonable prix of 2,000 euro.


Now as it happens, despite my otherwise limited skill set I can dig holes. Horrified by the cost of a digger I declined the man's offer, dragged out my spade and in the failing evening light set to. The pipe was a metre down and through pit after pit I began to trace its course back towards the house, not in a straight line as mandated by law of course but in a curious series of "S" bends and knuckle joints. At around 9pm  and working under a spotlight in the snow I had a brain wave.

Underneath our salon (lounge) is a cave (cellar) accessed by a huge and very heavy hinged door in the floor. It would have been used to store root vegetables once upon a time but its low ceiling and awkward access means its not really somewhere we go. I've only been down there a couple of times but in a flash I suddenly recalled that the pipe to the fosse septique ran through it and that there might be a inspection / entry point from which I could use my extendable doohickey to find the blockage.

Covered in mud I gingerly moved the furniture and risking a hernia heaved the trap door open. Going down the steps I played my torch (flashlight for my cousins across the pond) across the wall and found not only the pipe in question but joy of joys the very rodding / inspection point I'd been looking for all along.

Now, the access point was at head height and though a simple screw on affair it seemed stuck. Balancing my torch on a rock I twisted it until I felt it loosen a bit. Another turn was followed by a sudden whoosh! The cap flew off over my shoulder, propelled by a jet of filth which also knocked the torch to the floor, where it went out. Unable to see, I found myself being hosed from top to toe by a tsunami of backed up sewage that would just not stop spewing from the pipe whatever I did. With God knows what in my hair, my beard, my mouth etc etc I groped around on the floor of the rapidly filling cellar for the torch, eventually giving up when everything I closed my fingers around proved to be "squishy". Fortunately I have no immediate neighbours for they would most definitely have been forced to report the sounds of sobbing and loud maniacal laughter coming from the cellar of our house to the local Gendarmerie.

For brevity's sake I'll gloss over the 30 plus buckets of filth I had to scoop out of the cellar, the fact that it was a further day and a half before I freed the blockage using chimney sweeping rods, or that at no point during this process was I able to wash other than outside in the snow with a basin of water.

My finest hour. Two things of note: Firstly 73 is both my favourite prime number and how old I currently feel.  Secondly the brown stuff on my jeans and T shirt may or may not be mud.

Oh how "The Current Mrs Broom" laughed upon her return.

On the plus side - I've learned to stop biting my nails.

* The post title is a geeky homage to a brilliantly funny but very dark series called "The Patriot." Seriously you should check it out man.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Siege Of Bramton - Early Autumn 1643 Part 1

With Pym now gravelly ill and the end of the campaigning season in sight the remaining members of the Committee of Safety were split on how best to proceed. The Royalists had been pushed back out of striking range of London and with their de facto capital still smouldering were thought unlikely to return to the offensive for the balance of the year.

Amongst the Committee members Denzil Holles and Henry Marten wanted to push on into the Midlands to take advantage of their opponents current disarray, while Merrick and Hampden (in light of the Scots continued politicking for country wide religious concessions) wanted to open a second front elsewhere.

Sir William Waller, who'd been busy raising a new force south of Oxford, was sympathetic to Holles and Merrick's viewpoint and realised that the severing of land communications with the Royalist's economic powerhouse in Bristol might prove enough of a blow to now render the King's position untenable. To have a chance of achieving it he would need to reconquer Gloucester before the winter arrived. With this in mind he marshalled his forces and in late September set out westwards.

The town of Bramton* had been fortified at great expense in the late 1300's and though the wool trade it had fostered had since gone elsewhere, leaving it to wither on the vine, its ancient walls still provided a modicum of protection to the single depleted regiment of foote and the highly disliked governor William Blake that Rupert had placed there in the wake of his heady summer advance. Though its defences were known to be weak Waller refused to leave it as threat to his supply lines so on the morning of the 2nd of October he encamped his forces on either side of the town and summoned the Governor to surrender.

Worried that he'd be hung if he surrendered the place without at least a token show of resistance Blake reluctantly declined Waller's initial offer and sent riders off to Warwick to inform Prince Rupert of his (completely untrue) intent to hold out as long as he could against overwhelming odds. For their part the good folk of Bramton began to wonder how depleted the defending garrison actually needed to be before they could safely rise up and just hand the place over. Responding to a summons from London to explain his strategy, Waller was absent from his army for over a week and as a consequence - to everyone's disappointment, very little of note occurred.

With their leader away Waller's septuagenarian second in command Sir John Gilligan continued dithering around the south west of the town with the the greater part of the army while to the north east the more dynamic Sir Edward Massie had been tasked with cutting the Warwick road and providing a diversion to the expected main assault.

On the 12th of October with still no agreement from Gilligan on when the assault would actually be made Massie ordered his bored gunners to make a few ranging shots and was surprised and delighted when a large section of the ancient outer wall collapsed with only minor effort.

If Massie was surprised and delighted Blake was even more so for with the walls breached he knew he could now seek terms and march away with his honour (and the length of his neck) safely preserved. He was in the process of assembling a delegation to arrange a parley when bad news arrived from the north tower. Reinforcements were coming down the road from Warwick!

Bramton North East - which sounds a lot like a railway station.

The portion of the Parliamentarian army we are concerned with is under the command of Sir Edward Massie who is finally exercising the independence he was promised at the start of the year. He is not looking to throw away lives on attempting to storm the breach but will do so if no delegation from the town is forthcoming. This is, in modern parlance, his time to shine. You've met him before at Sydenham Heath where he marched his men into a firestorm from prepared Royalist defences. He looks a bit like this.

Massie drew a "bold lunette" terrain card and the the following forces:

A - William Blackstone's regiment of horse
B - Sir John Merrick's regiment of foote
C - Richard Norton's regiment of foote
D - John Pynne's regiment of foote
N/A - two cannon
One over strength unit card which I've assigned to Norton's regiment (can take 4 hits rather than 3)

Meanwhile over in the blue corner we have:

The equally capable and now medal wearing (after his service at the Devils Dyke) Sir John Lord Byron.

Sir John is leading a flying column to bolster the defenders of Bramton, composed of dragoons to reinforce the garrison and three cavalry regiments to escort the long line of supply wagons demanded by its "bravely resisting Governor." Though his scouts have observed Massie's position Sir John believes it is the weaker of the two forces before the town, weak enough and far enough back that his cavalry will be able to screen the wagons as they pass through the North gate with their supplies.

The Royalists drew a "grate fortification" terrain card and the following forces:

E - Horace Bramley's regiment of horse
F - Lord Montague's regiment of horse
G - Roger Owen's regiment of horse
H - Gilbert Floods regiment of dragoons
N/A - two baggage trayne cards.

Gratuitous sexy terrain pic. I present the breached walls of Bramton for your delight and delectation.

This is an unusual (for this blog) game in that there are only a small number of units and commanders on either side and their number and deployment does not lend itself to the classic C & C card play / flank / centre / flank layout. Apart from a few scenario scenario specific rules, set out below, and game mechanic tweaks (forgive me Master Foy for I know not what I do) I have adopted a one off unit activation system for this battle that goes a bit like this:

At turn start each side rolls 1d6 to determine who holds the initiative. The highest roller wins and of course any ties are simply re rolled. The winner becomes the activating player and rolls a single average die to establish how many units he may activate that turn before the turn passes to the opposing player who follows the same process. Once both players have completed what might be termed a "bound" the exercise is repeated until the required number of victory banners are obtained and one side wins.

The previously explored amendments to the current rules allowing the potential deployment in hedgehog / pike stand of less well trained units still stands but as a result of receiving Simon Miller's excellent "For King & Parliament" rules as a Christmas prezzie I have reduced the basic size of galloper units from 4 bases to three. I have no problem accepting that Mr Miller's knowledge of unit organisation (especially on cavalry) far outweighs my own foot slogger biased research.

Anywhoo, further tinkerings with cavalry charges and melee have produced the following... which I'll trial in this battle and see how it goes.

a) Galloper cavalry charging Trotter cavalry will now gain two extra dice for the shock of their impact, but since that shock relies heavily on the close up fire of difficult to reload pistols will only be allowed once per game per unit. This advantage I believe is countered by their now three hit fragility.

On the receiving end of this, Trotter cavalry get to fire their pistols just before the gallopers reach them (ie in the adjacent hex) using one of their potential battle back post melee C & C dice. Any crossed sabre or horse icon thrown will cause an immediate one pip strength loss to the charging unit, while a flag result will remove one of their two bonus C & C dice. After the two forces meet and a melee occurs hits are taken by the defending trotters and, assuming they survive, they get to battle back but without the one die they used in pre contact fire. We'll see how that goes.

b) Trotter cavalry charging galloper cavalry may be counter charged (without the gallopers additional bonus dice) at the last minute, unless the target is raw or chooses to evade. Should a counter charge be launched then the situation outlined in a) & b) above is used.

I know, I know, it's probably just useless messing around with a fairly sound set of rules but hey I'm a war gamer man… it's what we do!

From a scenario specific angle any Parliamentarian unit in an adjacent hex to the town wall must (during the Royalist's turn) have one C & C die rolled against it to reflect fire from the defences, while any Parliamentarian unit moving into the breach / town square hex must have 3 dice rolled against it immediately - (reflecting musket fire and hurled piss pots from the surrounding houses) and once during every Royalist turn it remains there.

4 victory banners are required for the win with Parliament able to claim 2 for each baggage trayne unit destroyed and 2 temporary victory banners for any turn they occupy the breach in the wall hex. The Royalists gain 2 victory banners for each baggage trayne unit they manage to get through the towns north gate and 1 point for the dragoons, these points being in addition to the usual leader loss and unit loss victory banners normally awarded.

Hopefully you'll come back next week for the result.

*yup totally made up place again.

Monday, 7 January 2019


It's amazing what the interwebz throws up sometimes isn't it? I was searching for something or other when I came across this you tube video of a re enactment of the battle of Wallingford. 

For some reason it rang a few bells so I gave it a quick look see and bugger me there I was along with the other blew coates of Sir William Pennyman's Regiment attempting to drive off those pesky rebels.

Thought I'd share it for your general delight and delectation. I'm the numpty that's second man in on the right at 1:14 marching up hill. Think I appear again (fleetingly thank God) a little later but we'll gloss over that.

Just goes to show. There's always some smart arse around with a camera when you least expect it. Lol.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Wot No Post?

Apologies for another digression from the ongoing ECW campaign but after granting myself a brief holiday from the blogosphere over Xmas I've now gone and contracted deadly man flu* and may not see out the week.

While the pathologists report may conclude that the contagion came from recent contact with a small overcrowded island in the North Sea, I personally suspect that it has been visited on me as righteous punishment for a recent shameful (and unsuccessful) flirtation with 2mm miniatures.

Given my potentially imminent demise it occurred to me that I might yet shuffle off this mortal coil without anyone knowing where my inter web blogger 'handle" came from, and because (through lack of interest) literally no one has ever asked about it I thought I'd inflict the following video on you by way of an explanation. 

Bet you don't make it past the 2 minute mark!

Apparently when I signed up for this war gamey thing back in the day - I like many, forgot to read the small print. Little did I realise that I'd just become contractually obliged to involve myself in a lifetime of historical re enactment, beards, real ale and folk music. (Fortunately TCMB and a crack legal team eventually secured a waiver that's allowed me to avoid any active involvement in Border Morris).

Okay, I'm off to stare mournfully at my lead pile in the hope that it might start painting itself. A man can dream.

* A strange disease that in women manifests as a version of the common cold mild enough for them to continue every day life but which in the male renders the victim immobile in a sniffling heap of moping self pity.