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, 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.


  1. Hi. I follow your posts with interest. I had similar problems with the rules and eventually moved on. Do you go to the Joy of Six show?

    1. Hi,

      Many thanks for following, I appreciate it. I always try to get to Joy of 6, although sometimes it proves impossible. I am reasonably hopeful that this year the stars will align and I will be there.

      Which set did you move onto?

    2. Keep up you efforts, they are appreciated. I moved on to an upcoming set to be called Twilight of Divine Right, a version of a set for later on (1680-1720). It is generally for larger battles than Polemos, or at least doing them easier. So you can't do the smaller battle you can do with Polemos but we think it is better for large battles. Something like Cheriton is a small 'starter' battle but mainly it is aimed at Edgehill, Naseby, etc.

      We are always at Joy of 6 doing the GNW game, come and chat.


    3. Thanks Nick, I will make a point of it, if I can get there.

  2. I bought 10 different ECW rulesets two years ago. A friend and I went over the merits of each of them and ended up choosing Black Powder, which was the one set we had originally rejected before I made the purchase. It came down to playability and flexibility for us. I like features of most of the ones we went through, but in thosr cases, the negatives outweighed the positives. We also went with Baccus figures. Nice report.

    1. Thanks very much Justin.

      I did give Black Powder a go a few years back (although for Napoleonics rather than ECW). I thought they were quite neat in many ways - the command system looked like a fun way of doing big battles, especially multi-player and I thought the way it does troop statlines / special abilities was quite interesting - as you say, it scores very highly for flexibility and playability. But I thought there was a lot of fundamental wonkiness in how the combat mechanics worked, which ruled it out for me in the end.

  3. Well done! Looks great! My Royalist horse ripped through the Parliament horse in our last game, which is an interesting difference

    1. Thanks Paul, I appreciate that.

      How did that happen - I'd be genuinely be very interested in knowing. The way I am playing, the Royalist Horse is getting savaged every single time, unless the Royalist troopers are much better in quality.

      There is more to it than this, but ignoring all the small stuff (and playing as written in the rules):

      A Parliamentary brigade of 6 Horse attacks a Royalist brigade of 6 Horse (everyone is equal skill):
      all 6 Horse bases advance to contact, thus each rolls at +1.
      The chances are strong that the Roundheads will win the first round of combat 4:2 or 5:1. Usually this will convert into a rout in the second phase. As the Royalist Horse collapses, the remaining Parliamentary troopers will get more and more flank overlap advantages, skewing the combats even more. As the Parliamentary Horse does not have to pursue, then they can maintain their line, ready for the next combat.

      OTOH, reverse the situation and have the Royalists attack. The likelihood is firstly that only 4 of the 6 will charge. Of these 4, 2-3 will charge shaken. Charging shaken effectively eliminates the charge bonus, so the attack is 50:50, in the first round. However, as long as the Parliamentary Horse suffer no more than a recoil, the advantage swings to them in the second round (a recoil result is not as bad as being shaken). So the chances are that the Royalists will win 0-2 of these 6 combats. When they do win, they will then have to pursue. As long as the Parliamentarians have a reserve, the odds are highly in favour of them winning very easily.

      Currently the only situation that really favours the Royalist Horse is when they are attacking inferior quality troops with a tactical advantage and the Parliamentary Horse has no reserves - at this point, the Parliamentary Horse will be destroyed in short order. Apart from that situation, I am at a loss.

      I fully appreciate that this may be a "solo play" problem and that there is a way to overcome this tactical impasse that I haven't spotted - if so, I would absolutely love someone to help me out!

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  5. Nice to see the big battle on your table and interesting to see your dilema with the rules, especially as you are so familiar with them and the maths / chance that you show in the above reply. I hope other users wade in at this point to flesh out this discussion.

    1. Thanks very much Norm - I don't see my blog as concentrating on the "pretty" side of the hobby, but I thought it did look quite good with so many troops on the table, especially the Horse - I guess there were about 650 mounted model soldiers on the table at the beginning.

      I too hope to get some people pitching in with comments on the Horse combat side: Polemos players, to say if I am overlooking certain tactical techniques or messing up one or more of the rules; but ECW enthusiasts more generally, to say how they think that the odds should stack up in these situations, or what mechanisms may be suitable.

    2. Over on the Wargames Website, Guy Farrish has spotted one error that I am making: the test to attack *should* be by brigade. I had misread a rule on a previous page that seemed to indicate that charging should be resolved by base, but it is clear that it should be resolved by brigade. This should help the Royalists a little.

  6. The scope of your battle in 6mm looks terrific! Although not familiar with Polemos, I am surprised that the "Swedish" style horse especially Rupert would fail to charge home about 50% of the time. I have always been under the impression from my readings that starting the Royalist horse was not the issue; stopping them was!

    1. And many thanks - I do quite like the look of it. I am sure that I have mentioned it somewhere before, but Arthur Harman once wrote that the look he wanted for the ECW was reminiscent of some of the period illustrations, rather than of the Sealed Knot at work: I think 6mm allows one to achieve that without using a huge table.

  7. Well, it fails to charge home when the odds are even: if we think that Rupert's troopers were better than their opponents in 1642-3, the rules make perfect sense...

    Cromwell obviously had it right: "your troops are most
    of them old decayed serving men, and tapsters and such kind of fellows, and ... their [royalist] troops are gentlemen's sons, younger sons, persons of quality ... You
    must get men of a spirit ... that is like to go as far
    as a gentleman will go; or else ... you will be beaten still.'

    Anyway, in essence "Charging" in Polemos is a brilliant method of sweeping away inferior or disordered troops; it is not as effective as "Advancing" against peer-quality enemies.