Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire English Civil War, but with numerous discursions into battles from many different periods. The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 001- The Battle of Latcham August 1642

The first major encounter of my re-fight of the English Civil War occurred in Somerset, in the parish of Latcham near the Wells Road.  A Parliamentary force under the Earl of Bedford, marching to take Bridgewater and push Hopton's Royalist army back into Cornwall, encountered the latter-named general's force occupying a position interdicting the main road, consisting of a steep hill and some defensible farm enclosures.

Royalist Forces:

 General – Hopton (Good)

6 bases Veteran Horse (S - "Swedish")
2 bases Veteran Foot (M - "Mixed i.e. 1:1 shot:pike ratio)
2 bases Raw Foot (M)
1 base Guns

Parliamentary Forces:

General – Earl of Bedford (Poor)
6 bases Raw Horse (D - "Dutch")
8 bases Raw Foot (SH - "Shot-Heavy")
2 bases Guns

The Battle:

Bedford's men (bottom) face Hopton's men defending some farm enclosures and a steep hill (top-left)*

Veteran Cornish infantry defend the most exposed enclosure

Foot and guns defend the rear enclosure, supported by half of the army's horse

One Royalist battalia is told off to hold the steep hill (right); the remainder of the Royalist horse are in the gap between the high ground and the enclosures

The Parliamentary army

The Parliamentary foot forms the centre of the army

The Parliamentary right has horse in support of the foot
 The Battle:
The battle begins with the Parliamentary centre advancing, hoping to pin and envelop the Royalist foot in the enclosure

The Royalist Horse move up to threaten Bedford's right

Bedford moves his guns up close to try and cause some disorder in the Royalist ranks

Hopton throws half his horse into the battle:  a battalia of raw Parliamentary foot is swept away (right), whilst the Parliamentary horse is coming off worse (centre - see the red shaken marker)

The Parliamentary foot labour against the Royalists

The Royalist horse are successful...and pursue in some disorder...

Despite having fewer muskets, the more skillful Royalist foot cause some casualties and disorder in the attacking Parliamentary soldiers

Routing Parliamentary horse and foot (bottom-centre); however the second line of Parliamentary horse hits the pursuing Royalists (top)

The Parliamentary enveloping move is progressing slowly; but casualties and disorder are becoming severe in the centre

Hopton, sword in hand has driven off some of the Parliamentary foot and horse on the other flank - however, again, Parliamentary horse has managed to hit pursuing Royalist cavalry in the midst of its wild pursuit

The second line of Parliamentary horse has restored the situation (centre-left)

Hopton's foot launch a charge to clear the infantry to their front and the Parliamentary foot start to rout

A closer view

The last Royalist cavalry troops on the hill-side flank launch another charge, disordering the Parliamentary horse

Bedford's infantry in the centre rout - he moves his reserve battalia up to save the retreating guns

The lead Royalist horse has pursued wildly off the table and not returned; the raw Parliamentary foot on this wing has fought skillfully and got the better of the remaining Royalist horse

A closer view, as the pressure increases on Hopton

A further Parliamentary horse unit is routed

Bedford in person manages to halt the central Royalist pursuit

The rather confused situation at the end of the battle; as both sides' morale begins to falter, neither general feels inclined to risk a further attack.

Game Results:
A draw in campaign terms, although this effectively means a victory for Hopton, since Bedford must  withdraw.  Even after some of the routed bases were rallied off-table, the losses were still quite large for such a small encounter:  the Royalist lost over 1000 men, most of them in the hard-pressed Horse, whilst the Parliamentarians lost around double that, the majority in the ranks of the Foot. On balance however, this is roughly equal in effect, since Bedford should be able to replace his raw musketeers and pikemen with greater ease than Hopton can replace experienced cavalry troopers.

Game Notes:
A good game - I have a decent amount of experience now with these Polemos:ECW rules, so the games can really rattle along.  If you noticed the yellow disks, they were to mark "shaken" effects from terrain rather than combat.  With any luck, I will have finished painting new shaken markers of both types before the next battle!

Followers of this blog will know that I have expressed several times certain reservations about the balance of power between "gallopers" and "trotters" in these rules.  This game further confirmed that.  In some ways I feel like a "veteran" of Polemos ECW battles and I know what works - and this feels entirely to the detriment of the Royalists.  But knowing this is encouraging me to play the Royalists very ahistorically.  So what to do?  Certain possibilities suggest themselves:

Ditch the distinction between "Swedish" and "Dutch" tactics and allow both sides to use either tactic at will
Make a "0" outcome (i.e. equal scores) Swedish horse charge home unshaken, as opposed to shaken +1
Make pursuing troops only at +1 shaken, not automatically at 2 shaken levels
Ditch the charge rules entirely; let the Swedish horse have +2 for getting into contact, but they still have to do the 2 shaken levels pursuit.

Any thoughts on the above?

In addition, with shooting combat, I have re-calibrated the effects as follows:

1-2 Target halts
3-4 Target halts, shaken +1
5+ Target halts, shaken +2

This encourages the (historical) increasing reliance on firepower as opposed to pike usage.  At present, as written, shot-heavy troops are at too much of a disadvantage against troops with more pikes.

The end of the battle was quite interesting.  I had to roll a die for each general to see if they wanted to continue to attack at that point, since I was struggling to work out which general should be on the offensive at that point!  Since war is a straight win-loss proposition then one side should always have the advantage - but here it felt impossible to work out the balance of advantage...hence both sides were happy to conclude the battle.

*Apologies for this photo

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