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.

Friday, 4 May 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 08: The Battle of Feltham

Immediately upon hearing that Prince Rupert, leading the main Royalist field army in the South, has conducted a lightning march, sacked St. Albans and approached London from the North, the Earl of Essex abandoned his nascent siege works around Oxford and marched back Eastwards to save the capital and Parliament from the Royalists.  Knowing that Prince Rupert is capable of pulling off the most audacious coup de main, Essex knew that he must attack the Royalist army as soon as possible, before Rupert could execute some audacious stroke to make himself master of London.  Rupert therefore met Essex on the westward approaches to the city, hoping to stop Essex in his tracks and then assault the walls as soon as possible thereafter. 

Both generals knew that the stakes were higher than in any previous battle of the war, as a decisive Royalist victory could render the Parliamentary position somewhere between very difficult and utterly irretrievable...

The Forces:

Royalists:





Prince Rupert (Good)

Prince Maurice (Average):
28 bases of Veteran Horse (S), 1 base of Veteran Dragoons

Byron (Average)
10 bases of Veteran Horse (S), 1 base of Veteran Dragoons
4 bases of Veteran Foot (SH)
1 base of Artillery

Astley (Good)
12 bases of Veteran Foot (SH)
4 bases of Artillery
(38 Horse, 2 Dragoons, 16 Foot, 5 Guns)

Parliament:

Earl of Essex (Average)



Willoughby (Average):
18 bases of Veteran Horse (D), 4 bases of Raw Horse (D), 1 base of Raw Dragoons
4 bases of Veteran Foot (SH)
1 base of Artillery

Stamford (Average):
10 bases of Veteran Horse (D), 1 base of Veteran Dragoons
4 bases of Veteran Foot (SH), 4 bases of Raw Foot (SH)
2 bases of Artillery

Brooke (Average):
6 bases of Veteran Horse (D)
2 bases of Veteran Foot (SH), 8 bases of Raw Foot (SH)
3 bases of Artillery

(38 Horse, 2 Dragoons, 22 Foot, 6 Guns)

The terrain consists of a moderate town (DV2) and two streams.  The small clumps of trees and hedges by the river have no tactical value.
 
 The Set-Up:
 

The view from the West looking East: Rupert's army (top) defends the settlement and the watercourses from the advancing Parliamentary army

Byron's contingent defends the Royalist Right - a strong position behind the stream

Astley's veteran infantry holds the remainder of the stream and the town of Feltham

A closer view

Prince Maurice's Horse in seven brigades (and a dragoon detachment) on the Royalist left (the majority of these regiments had been serving directly under Prince Rupert before he took up command of the army)

The view along the lines: cavaliers to the right, roundheads to the left

Willoughby's massed ranks of Eastern Association Horse (for those following the campaign in detail, this was Cromwell's command in earlier engagements)

The Foot of Willoughby (left) and Brooke (right) form the Parliamentary centre

The remainder of Brooke's Foot

Stamford's Horse and Foot on the Parliamentary left.

The view of the approaching Parliamentary forces from behind the town
 The Battle:
Willoughby's Eastern Foot approach Prince Maurice's Horse...

Brooke's Foot advances towards the town...

Stamford advances against the stream defining the Royalist right

In the initial fighting, Willoughby's Foot gain the advantage over Maurice's Horse, who take casualties and lose some of their order...

Another view of the same

Intense musketry exchanges break out at the edge of the town...

Cannon fire and musketry fire erupt all along the stream...

Prince Maurice manages to get his Horse to close with Willoughby's Foot: overall, they have the advantage

Casualties mount around the edge of the town, particularly amongst Brooke's infantrymen...

Royalist counter-battery fire proves (surprisingly) effective!

Honours seem about even so far between Willoughby's Foot and Maurice's Horse: two battalia of the former have broken, one of the latter has too and is about to be followed by a second (see the two shaken markers with the base of Horse (centre))

Another view of the same: Parliamentary Foot start to run! (centre)

Willoughby's Horse enter the fight to support the attack of the Foot - again, honours seem quite even...perhaps a slight advantage to the Parliamentary troopers...

Prince Rupert makes a bold stroke: seeing the disorder amongst the raw Parliamentary Foot fighting outside the town, he orders Astley to attack out of the village.  Brooke's raw Foot, already shaken from musketry casualties, is immediately on the back foot...

Another view

Both sides feed further reinforcements of Horse into the fight on the Royalist left...

Astley's lead brigade is entirely successful, routing the entire Parliamentary Foot brigade which was facing them

Some of Willoughby's troopers continue to make progress, although the fight is becoming more-and-more broken up into combats between 2-4 troops.

Royalist troopers have routed the pair of Parliamentary Horse troops (centre) which are about to carry away a further two troops of Roundhead Horse in their flight!

Prince Maurice's leading troops confront a reserve brigade of Parliamentary Horse

A battalia of Brooke's Foot pulls off an audacious attack on the edge of the town, capturing a pair of Royalist guns as they do so

Brooke tries to plug the gap in the centre by employing his reserve brigades to stop Astley's attack (bottom); note the stream of routing Parliamentary Foot (top-left to centre, and centre-right)

The remnants of Prince Maurice's leading brigade prepares to be engaged by superior numbers...

A hint of the confused cavalry fighting, as brigades become smaller as they advance - attacking is generally the safest move for Horse in this game, almost regardless of numerical odds.

Prince Maurice's reserves finally finish off the last of Willoughby's Foot, which had penetrated almost half-a-mile into the Royalist position

Prince Maurice's troopers crush the majority of another brigade of Parliamentary Horse!

A closer look at the victorious cavaliers and the routing roundheads...

Elsewhere, the fighting is ebbing-and-froing; on balance, the Parliamentarian Horse is perhaps still winning slightly more than its fair share of combats..

A successful attack by a troop of Parliamentary Horse puts the flanking battalia of Astley's lead brigade into deep trouble...

Willoughby's troopers seem to have suddenly gained the upper hand over the remainder of Prince Maurice's Horse!

After their run of successes, the remainder of Astley's leading brigade is routed by a flank attack as Essex brings uncommitted troops from the second line on his left to support his centre...

Astley brings forward his second line to restore the defences around the town...

Fighting continues to rage fiercely on the Royalist left, as the Horse of each side continues to be committed to the fight...

Prince Maurice's troopers continue to score some notable successes...

....but some of their brigades have been entirely overwhelmed

The additional Parliamentary reserves of Horse shifted from the left turn the tide in the centre...

Astley's Foot regains control of the entirety of the town...status quo ante prevails in the centre

Another view, showing the Parliamentary reserves shoring up the centre

The last brigade of Horse on the Royalist left is shattered - only some individual troops are left in the fight on this flank

Both sides have suffered huge losses in the cavalry fighting between Willoughby's and Prince Maurice's contingents but broadly speaking, the Parliamentarians have triumphed and turned the Royalist flank

The last troops from Prince Maurice's lead brigades are routed

Astley's Foot cannot be shifted from the centre

But the Royalist Army was becoming (more) demoralized by this point and Prince Rupert felt that he had no option but to retreat to save the rest of his force; the Parliamentary army was only doing one notch better, mind - this is the final position on the Royalist Left

And in the Centre

And on the centre-right; much fire was exchanged and blood spilt, but neither side gained the advantage which would have enabled a successful attack.  Overall this mutual pinning worked to Essex's advantage.

And the entire Royalist right
Game Results:
A very sanguinary affair!  I think it would be fair to say that the Parliamentary casualties were appreciably heavier, but the Royalist lost more combat power - this was partly as the Royalist troops were nearly all veterans and many of the Parliamentary losses were amongst their newer levies, but also because a cavalry trooper in this campaign has (very roughly) four times the effectiveness of a foot soldier (with many caveats, of course). However, casualties and attrition were not really the point here - Essex needed  to win and force Prince Rupert to retreat to avert the danger to London.

Royalist losses: c.850 Foot, 1950 Horse 4 Guns
Parliamentary losses: c.2900 Foot, 990 Horse

Game Notes:
Given the circumstances and my previous experiments and comments, one may have noticed the distinct lack of uncontrolled pursuits.  This was because the Royalist Horse, although able to charge, effectively fought as "Dutch" Horse and trotted into combat instead.  Given the parity of forces in terms of skill and numbers, this is the only rational choice in these rules, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Earl of Essex won this game by virtue being able to re-deploy the second and third lines of his left to shore up his centre just when it was possible that the Royalists might have destroyed in entirely.  Rupert tried to do the same thing, but the distances were so much shorter for the Parliamentary forces to the point of contact that Essex was able to throw his troopers into action before the cavaliers could get into position.   The importance of the indecisive musketry and artillery firefight over the stream was that this stopped Prince Rupert shifting his troops quickly, or attacking effectively.

One thing to note in this game was how the brigades broke up - particularly the Horse brigades in the fighting.  I am not sure how realistic this is.  However, I do know that in the rules the easiest way to gain an advantage is to attack, so the Horse of both sides ends up having to be aggressive.  It does seem to create some realistic effects on the macro-scale though: attacking is so much easier than fancy manoeuvre, that the latter is hardly indulged in at all, except by troops in reserve.

I do think that on balance the morale system in the Polemos Napoleonics rules is a little neater, because that allows a more progressive failure than the morale system in Polemos: ECW which is pitched entirely at army level.  In the Napoleonic game, brigades which suffer losses to their battalions may break - which will lead to the breaking of their divisions when enough brigades are lost - which in turn leads to the breaking of Corps, and so on.  I get that "wings" are probably a bit amorphous, but I do wonder if brigades in the ECW should suffer morale failure together.

Anyway, a very interesting and intense game!  Rules were the Polemos: ECW set, figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Timecast and Leven.



 

2 comments:

  1. Impressive number of cavalry on the field, the strength of 6mm I think. The breakdown of 'brigades' / 'wings' is an interesting point. I likewise get wings, but with the organisation of units into brigades being prime, I would have expected that to be the first point that command issues would appear (I say this as not having period knowledge and would not want to second guess the designer).

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  2. Thanks Norm. The interesting thing is that brigades are an important entity in terms of command in Polemos ECW, but they have no importance in terms of morale (again, unlike in Polemos Napoleonics, in which the brigade is key for both reasons).

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