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.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 05: The Battle of the River Ribble

Smarting from his defeat at the hands of the Marquis of Newcastle in February, Fairfax cast aside for a new strategy.  Feeling that his army was not yet ready to resume the struggle with Newcastle's army, and deciding that York appeared unlikely to fall quickly to an assault, which would also render him vulnerable to Newcastle, whether he succeeded or not, decided to march southwest in order to succour Brereton and with luck, defeat or destroy Derby's small Royalist force in Lancashire.  Quickly marching upon the latter, Derby attempted to escape but failed and was forced to give battle, defending the line of the Ribble against Farifax's advancing army...

The Forces:


F.Fairfax (Poor)
T. Fairfax (Good):

6 bases of Veteran Horse, 10 bases of Raw Horse
1 base of Raw Dragoons
2 bases of Veteran Foot, 2 bases of Raw Foot
1 Gun


Derby (Poor): 

6 bases of Raw Horse
4 bases of Raw Foot
1 Gun

 The Set-Up:

A view of the centre and right of the Royalist position.  The centre is fixed on the dominating central hill.

The centre-left of the Royalist position.

A closer view of the Royalist centre.  Note the battalia of Foot in reserve (top) able to quickly march in any direction

A battalia of Foot in a hamlet on the other side of the stream.

Thomas Fairfax commands the Parliamentary left, consisting of the veteran Horse and the Dragoons

The centre, of mixed Horse and Foot

And the Parliamentary Right, facing the hamlet and the stream.

The view from behind the Royalist Foot on the central hill

And again!
 The Battle:
The battle begins with an infantry attack on the defended hamlet

Derby makes a bold stroke, sending his Horse into the charge down the slope!

Although the Parliamentarians have recoiled, the Royalist Foot in the hamlet have been routed*

The charge of the Royalist Horse in the centre has met with some success!  Fairfax's guns have been captured and the Foot battalia have been pushed back...

Fairfax's Foot rout!  One of the Royalist Horse troops has also been routed*

However, the reserve Parliamentary Horse brigade catches the pursuing Royalist Horse in a state of disorder...

Fairfax assaults the hill directly but suffers heavy casualties!

And is seen off!!

A second Royalist Horse troop is routed

Fairfax's Horse are still stuck on the slopes of the hill, and the left-hand troop has been routed by the advancing Royalist Foot

And a third attack fails! Although some of the Royalist Foot and Guns have been pushed back

A fourth attack succeeds...finally!

Thomas Fairfax's attack on the left develops and routs the remainder of Derby's troops who begin to run headlong to the rear...
 Game Results:
The Royalists didn't fight amiss, but in the end were defeated and suffered heavily.  
Royalist Losses: c.1350 Foot, c.980 Horse, 2 Guns
Parliamentary Losses: c.450 Foot, c. 250 Horse (2 guns were lost but were re-captured).

Game Notes:
I thought that Derby fought this battle more skillfully than Ferdinando Fairfax but in the end the superiority in numbers and skill of the Parliamentary armies told.  The sacrifice of a battalia of Foot around the Hamlet to draw off Fairfax's best infantry seemed justified.  Charging the Parliamentary Horse early on was risky, but the situation justified the risk since waiting for the attack to develop would spell almost certain defeat.  The deployment was such as to force Fairfax to commence the action with his Raw centre troops rather than wait for Thomas Fairfax's veteran Horse to develop its flank attack.

*The mechanics of the phenomenon is this: two recoil results in sequential phases is an automatic rout.  In the infantry assault on the hamlet, the result in the first phase was defender recoil, in the second phase it was both sides recoil (this happens on an equal score); so attacker recoils, defender routs.  In the Horse attack on the Foot, it was even more interesting.  The first result was a 0 - both sides recoil.  In the next phase - IIRC, this was on the following turn, one side resumed the attack and achieved the same result.  Unless I am missing something (very possible!) this results in a mutual rout.

There were no noticeable mechanical issues in this game with the Polemos: ECW rules.  I am much happier with the game now I have sat down and mathematically worked out "what works".

For anyone who may be interested, this is the pile of extra stuff I use for playing Polemos ECW: the rulebook, pen and paper, some casualty markers, spare Dragoon bases (as they switch between mounted and dismounted), dice, tape-measure and little measuring bases.

 And this is what I write in the book: the tempo points for each side, and the initial morale level.  I also record the tempo bids for each side on this sheet.  Naturally I change the tempo points and morale level as the game progresses.  I also keep a tally chart of bases lost, since that effects both numbers

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Baccus and Timecast, the game was played on a 6'x4' table and took about 90 minutes.



  1. A very interesting battle made more-so by the dynamic of the terrain and the Royalist casualties bearing witness to that.

    Your call on mutual rout seems quite reasonable in view of the consecutive action, but I can understand you raising an eyebrow - it seems the sort of thing that must have cropped up in play-testing.

  2. Thanks Norm. I don't have any problem with the outcome per se, I just thought it was a quite distinctive feature of these rules. I don't know of any historical basis for this in the ECW (this may well be simply ignorance on my part) but IIRC it did happen during the Jacobite Wars, so it may well be a reasonable possibility.