Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 02: The Battle of Ettington

Second Battle of the ECW campaign: The Battle of Ettington

This Battle occurred when the Earl of Essex tried to take advantage of Prince Rupert's successful attack on Gloucester, which left King Charles temporarily in a weaker situation than Essex.  Essex attacked but luckily for the King, his urgent summons to Prince Rupert led to a typical display of energy of that general, who managed to bring the majority of his Horse up to succour his sovereign...

The situation therefore, was not dissimilar to that of Edgehill, when two largely raw armies of very roughly  equal fighting strength engaged each other in the midst of middle England...

The Forces:

The Royalist Army:

C-in-C: King Charles (Average)

Right Wing: Prince Rupert (Good)
20 bases of Raw Horse (S)

Centre: Astley (Good)
12 bases of Raw Foot (M)
4 bases of Artillery

Left Wing: Forth (Poor)
6 bases of Veteran Horse (S)
14 bases of Raw Horse (S)
2 bases of Raw Foot (M)
1 base of Raw Dragoons

The Parliamentary Army:

C-in-C: Essex (Average)

Right Wing: Cromwell (Good)
12 bases of Veteran Horse (D)
2 bases of Raw Foot (SH)

Centre: Skippon (Good)
14 bases of Raw Foot (SH)
5 bases of Artillery

Left Wing: Brooke (Average)
16 bases of Raw Horse (SH)
1 base of Raw Dragoons
The Set-Up:

Essex' Army (bottom): Brooke is on the left, Skippon in the centre, Cromwell on the right; facing the King's Army: Prince Rupert

Looking down the lines: the Parliamentarians to the right, Royalists to the left

Same view, but encompassing the whole field

The massed Royalist Horse of Prince Rupert's wing

The Royalist centre under Astley.

The Royalist left under Forth.

Brooke's troopers on the Parliamentary left

And Cromwell's troopers - with a couple of battalia of foot mixed in - comprise the Parliamentary right
 The Battle:
The battle begins with Prince Rupert leading a small attack on the left of the Parliamentary foot.

And is blessed with some initial success, driving one battalia back in confusion

After which he switches his effort to a major attack on his wing: unfortunately only half of his troopers charge home

The Royalists have only achieved some minor successes (routing one troop of Parliamentary Horse and disordering another) but in general, there has been little effect

One unit of Parliamentary foot is routed, but the other is making a creditable defence

Meanwhile Brooke has launched a counter-attack and has achieved some success, although Prince Rupert (right) is leading his troopers in pursuit

The cavalry fighting swings in favour of the Parliamentary Horse

Prince Rupert's troopers rout another base of Roundhead horse

Large numbers of Royalist Horse are already fleeing...

The fighting on the left is intense, confused, but broadly going in favour of the roundheads...

The Parliamentary foot just manage to hold off the Royalist Horse

Furrther ahead, again Parliamentary Foot manage to push back Royalist Horse

The Royalist Horse are beginning to collapse, another large group being to flee to the rear...

A wider shot to show the exhaustion of the Royalist Horse on their right

Nothing can stop Prince Rupert himself mind!  More Parliamentary troopers are routed!

At this point Forth has launched his attack just before Cromwell launched his.  There have been a couple of successes but overall again, the Parliamentary Horse have been able to hold the attack and then launch the counter-attack - simply because not enough of the Royalist Horse has actually charged home...

A closer look: Cromwell in person leads his troopers to victory

One troop of Royalist Horse is winning its battle...

The Parliamentary Foot have now reached musket range; a stalemate ensues as the better-armed Parliamentarians have the advantage in the firefight, but cannot cause decisive damage

The shot from above shows how thinned Rupert's Horse has become

A closer view

Cromwell has routed his immediate opponents and is putting severe pressure on the Royalists' left wing

A closer view

More success for the Parliamentary troopers on the same wing

A last desperate charge by Prince Rupert's last line has routed a couple more troops of Roundheads, but has not achieved enough to reverse the fortunes of the day

Unchanged in the centre; musketry discomfits the Royalists, but the Parliamentary foot feel no need to bring the affair to push of pike

A wider view of the broadly static centre

Cromwell's Horse plunge on, capturing Forth

A lone successful troop of cavaliers pursues! (bottom-right)

But is about to be hot and destroyed by Cromwell's reserves

The remaining cavaliers on this flank are being cleared out by the roundheads

Prince Rupert's Wing has practically collapsed and this leads to the collapse of the King's Army's morale...

Prince Rupert makes his escape by cutting down a unit of Dragoons and escaping forward..

The Royalist foot remain secure on their position

But Cromwell is victorious on his wing
Game Result:
A fairly crushing Parliamentary victory!

Parliamentary losses amounted to c.1150 (600 foot, 150 dragoons, 350 horse)
Royalist losses however were c.2600 horse and 8 guns (abandoned in the retreat - the heroic gunners did manage to hold off the Parliamentary foot during the battle, despite the odds!)

Game Notes:
Well an interesting game.  And all those figures on the table looked good!  But overall, quite disappointing since I think that on a systemic level, these rules, which have served me quite well for many battles, just can't cope without some major changes - the odds are just too stacked against the Royalist Horse.  I did make some changes, as previously discussed, by removing the "shaken" penalties for failed charges or standard charges.  And they still got made into mincemeat, because in this size of battle, it meant that so many charges just didn't happen.  So, typically, in a 6 vs 6 situation, only 50% of the Royalist Horse is likely to charge home.  Add to that that when this happens, the flanking Parliamentary units will eliminate much of the advantage of the extra bonus for charging.  So, what to do?  The problems are three-fold:

1 - I don't know how to calibrate any changes I make.

2 - Experimenting during the campaign spoils the fun of the campaign.

3 - Taken on an individual level, the rules as written seem fine.

Perhaps the solution is to start testing for charges on a brigade basis.  Or allow "Swedish"-trained Horse to fight either way, depending on the situation.

On the other hand, the changes to the musketry rules (in essence, allowing all musketry to be 1 'pip' more effective, seemed to work well.  It did throw up a couple of minor points however:

Should artillery be less effective against Parliamentary Foot than Royalist Foot in 1642?

Should artillery be allowed to recoil?  It seems unlikely, given that it can't choose to move unlimbered?

These points are pretty minor, however.

So, I have some thinking to do about rules!  And whether I should delay the campaign until I am truly happy with the way cavalry interacts.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, rules Polemos: ECW.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

ECW Campaign: September 1642

The English Civil War: September 1642

The Fairfaxes were approached by a group of "devout and god-fearing men" from Cumbria, claiming that they had sufficient strength to allow the forces of God to overthrow the "devilish forces of papery" that controlled Carlisle for the King.  The townsfolk of Nottingham sent a delegation to Essex, asking for troops to serve as a garrison there and protect it from the fate that had befallen Derby the previous month.

Meldrun moved to Grantham with orders to begin recruiting a new army for service in the East Midlands.  Fernando Fairfax moved up to Carlisle, but the promises of support melted away as the city's governor had arrested and hanged the plotters.  This led to his son bringing up the rest of the army and seizing the city by storm.  John Hampden left the main army to go to St.Albans and Ballard to London to start recruiting yet another new army.  Bedford moved to Sherborne and began to besiege it.  Essex, responding to Royalist moves, moved to Stow-on-the-Wold to prevent the relief of Oxford.  Portsmouth fell to Waller, surrendered by Goring.

Prince Rupert with 5000 Horse conducted a successful lightning attack on Gloucester, storming the city and capturing its token garrison, despite its strong defences.  Hopton moved into Devon to recruit reinforcements for his army.  Derby returned to Preston now the route to Shrewsbury was open through Liverpool.  Following on from Prince Rupert's success the King moved to and took Worcester.

The North:

The King:
Newcastle at Newcastle with 2000
Derby at Preston with 1000
1000 at York

Fairfax at Carlisle with 5000
1000 at Hull
1000 at Manchester

The Midlands:


The King:
Prince Rupert at Gloucester with 6000
King Charles at Worcester with 9000
Prince Maurice at Shrewsbury with 1000
Byron at Oxford with 1000
1000 at Nottingham

Essex at Stow-on-the-Wold with 13,000
Foppingham at Oxford with 3000
2000 at Bristol

The South:

The King:
Hopton with 6000 at Dartmoor

Ballard with 2000 in London
Bedford with 3000 at Sherborne
Waller with 2000 at Portsmouth

Despite the successful taking of Portsmouth and Carlisle, the month felt like a victory for the King: the storming of Gloucester and the occupation of Worcester were in some ways equivalent, but with the latter two in much more useful places than the former.  The moving over the Severn allows the King to simultaneously threaten:
1: Bristol
2: The relief of Oxford
3: A lightning strike on London
Additionally, some unfortunate outbreaks of desertion and disease in siege lines have left the Parliamentary forces in the South and Southwest vulnerable to counter-attack.  Parliament may need to be aggressive in the North to try and pull reinforcements away from the King.  Essex must decide whether carrying on at Oxford is worth the risk to Bristol.  Bedford will have no choice but to retreat on Bristol or Portsmouth, should Hopton attack.  However, this attack would pull Hopton away from his best recruiting area: Cornwall.  It may be better for Hopton merely to threaten until his army is at full strength - knowing that his Cornishmen will become progressively less useful as the war progresses. 

ECW Campaign: August 1642

The English Civil War: August 1642

The King gained intelligence that his supporters in Ipswich were ready to strike but considering that he had no means of supporting them he sent secret messages to the local leaders not to strike but to wait for a more favourable moment.  He also received affirmations of support from the North-East that the area was solidly in support of the King's cause.

The King moved his army from Nottingham to Shrewsbury, arresting Parliamentary notables from Derby and installing his own supporters instead.  Hopton, based around Bridgewater, conducted intensive training to improve the quality of his cavalry troopers.  Derby advanced from Preston to secure Liverpool for the King.

The Earl of Essex detached a force of 3000 men under Foppingham to lay siege to Byron in Oxford, whilst training some of his troops.  Bedford moved his small army to attack Hopton near Bridgewater, but was forced to withdraw back to Wells after a sanguinary drawn fight in the area of Latcham, which cost the Royalists about 1100 men and the Parliamentarians about twice that..  Fernando Fairfax occupied the Bolton Castle area.  Waller continued the siege of Portsmouth, with some success.

The North:

3000 in Newcastle, 1000 in York, Derby with 1000 in Liverpool
1000 in Hull, 1000 in Manchester, F. Fairfax in Bolton Castle with 5000

The Midlands: 
Royalists: 1000 in Newark, Charles with c.16000 in Shrewsbury, Byron in Oxford with 1000; Parliamn

1000 in Newark
Charles with c.16000 in Shrewsbury
Byron in Oxford with 1000 

Foppingham with 3000 besieging Oxford
Essex with c.12000 in Northampton
1000 in Bristol

Hopton with 3000 in Bridgewater
Goring with a token force in Portsmouth

Waller with 3000 besieging Portsmouth
Bedford with 4000 in Wells
1000 in London

On balance, this month felt like a very marginal advantage to Parliament: good progress in the sieges of Portsmouth and Oxford balancing out the loss of Liverpool and the failure to do more damage to Hopton in Somerset.

Although this is my second attempt at this campaign, and I have also played the boardgame in its own right, I feel myself treading quite gingerly here, since I don't think I have a good understanding of the best strategies and tactics of this game yet.

Any comments about strategies gratefully received!