Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). 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 31 December 2017

The Battle of Otterburn: two DBA Refights

I had a go at re-fighting the Battle of Otterburn 1388, using the information given in a scenario published in Miniature Wargames 51.

The scenario is written in the now obsolete "a battle you may not have heard of" style and information on how to actually game the battle is quite sparse, beyond the Scots having c.5000 men, of whom 500 were men-at-arms and the remainder unarmoured foot soldier and the Rnglish having c.7000 men, including 1000 men-at-arms.  The wikipedia article linked to above gives smaller totals to both sides, which I find more believable - the figures in the article would have made Otterburn on a par with Hastings, in terms of size.  More information can be found here, and you can have a look at the site of the battle here. The watercourse is on a slightly different course now, and the land is drier (it was drained in previous centuries).

What was very useful information in the scenario concerns the timing of the battle; it was fought very late in the day and continued under the moonlight.  With that in mind, it seemed appropriate to penalize archery, which would encourage one or both sides to get stuck in to hand-to-hand combat.

In lieu of anything else, I used the DBA lists.  I do have my suspicions that they are radically inappropriate for this battle, but this really isn't my period.  I reduced the Scots to 10 bases to reflect their numerical inferiority.

More information here from the Douglas clan site

The Scots:
 Commander: James, Second Earl of Douglas
7 bases of Pikemen (4Pk, inc. the general's unit)
1 base of Archers (3Bw)
1 base of Mounted men-at-arms (3Kn)
1 base of Rabble (7Hd)

The English:
Commander: Harry Percy "Hotspur"
2 bases of Dismounted men-at-arms (4Bd, inc. the general's unit)
2 bases of Mounted men-at-arms (3Kn)
7 bases of Archers (4Lb)
1 base of Infantry (Sp)

I added an extra -1 to all missile fire, to reflect the poor light.

For the first game, I made the hills rough going; for the second I made them good going.  They look like they should be rough to me, but the dynamics of the actual battle suggest that that the English mounted men made quite good progress on their flank attack, this maybe good is the better rating.

I don't have any C14 troops so I used my late C15 / Wars of the Roses-era troops as proxies - they looked well enough!

The Set Up:
The view from Otterburn village along the stream

And another view

And to show the relief of the hills to the right

The Scots drawn up: a solid block of pikmen with some archers on the flank; the ill-equipped foot soldiers and the mounted knights are to the rear in reserve

Looking at both armies, Scots to the left, English to the right

A closer view of the main English position, with longbowmen and dismounted-men-at-arms intermixed in the front rank; note the position of the mounted knights off to the right flank (top-left)

The English knights
The First Battle:
The Scots waste no time in closing down the distance - the archers exchange salvos of arrows, causing some disorder in each line

A closer view of the Scots' advance; some of the pikemen have been pushed back

More arrows are exchanged causing a little bend in the Scots' line where the arrow fall is thickest

The English archers, having disposed of the Scots' archers before them,  try to gain a good vantage point for firing (right); the Scots' reserves move towards them

The melee begins in earnest: Douglas (centre) leads a ferocious charge which exterminates the English bowmen facing him; but all along the line, the Scots have gained the advantage

A closer look at the Scots' success!

The melee has developed; the Scots are winning in the centre, but the English seem to have developed an advantage on the right of the main line...

The English press home that advantage!  However, the remaining English troops in line are hard-pressed...

There is stalemate between the ill-equipped Scots' warriors and English bowmen on the hill; but the English knights have exterminated their opponents (right)

The position at the end of the battle - the Scots' have lost their fourth element and are thus defeated, despite having had the better of the central melee
 The Second Battle:

Quite pleased with how that went, I re-loaded and went again...

The toy soldiers troop back to their original positions!

The Scots' advance again!  A more active English army advances a detachment of archers earlier this time around

English archery again eliminates its Scottish opposition and also slightly disrupts the Scots' advance; note on the right that yet again the Scots archers have been destroyed by being outshot by their English opponents!

Another view, so one can see the flank developments in relation to each other

The battle lines join; the Scots eliminate a body of the English dismounted knights (centre-right) and have generally pushed the English back

The English reserves have been thrown in to attempt to stabilize the situation; the group of English longbowmen, benefiting from close support from the dismounted men-at-arms, is heroically resisting Douglas' own pikemen

Yet again, bowman takes on knifeman whilst the mounted contingents battle it out (top)

The English grimly hold on in the centre whilst triumphing on both flanks of the main press!

The English knights took a bit longer this time, but have again dispatched their Scottish opponents

Both the flanks of the Scots' main body have collapsed or are collapsing...

Hotspur himself eliminates the Scottish pikemen that cause the Scots army to lose heart and break

A confused mess, but generally now going the English way - they have even achieved the very improbable and forced back Douglas himself! (centre-left, by the green and white hooped banner)

Victory to Hotspur!  With the English knights across the line of retreat, it will be again a night of wraiths trying to evade pursuit across the Northumbrian border...
Game Notes:
Two very enjoyable games once I had managed to get the scenario into some kind of workable shape.  I re-iterate again that I have my doubts about the army lists: the English one seems more focused on the English army with the king present and the wars in France; and was Douglas' force mainly made up of "yeomen pikemen"?  I await with interest the comments of the learned!  I'd also be very interested if anyone could point me to any other refights of this battle.
DBA again did a great job of producing an exciting game with believable outcomes. I am however thinking of abandoning the zero-pip moves,  I think it would give a better game if a commander knows that he/she may only be able to move a single unit or group per turn and partly think it gives a better recreation of history if we think of all of the mishaps and pratfalls that may occur in warfare as being able to afflict all troops, even those doing very simple things.  I understand the objections about units appearing to suddenly stop moving for no reason, but I have never quite accepted that logic.  But all this needs a little more thought first...

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge 1644: A Polemos Refight

I recently had a go at re-fighting the Battle of Cropredy Bridge, which took place in the summer of 1644 (and perhaps a clearer look here).  This was slightly more challenging than I had first realized...

The problem I encountered was in relation to the scenario.  I have two scenarios for this battle, one in Wargames Illustrated 15 and one in Don Featherstone's Wargaming Pike & Shot.

Neither scenario was particularly usable as written, although Don Featherstone's was the closer.  The main problem is that neither writer gives the strengths of the forces actually present, although there is close agreement on the strengths of King Charles' and Waller's respective armies overall.  So anyway, I had to do a bit of educated guessing and came up with:

The King's Army:

C-in-C: King Charles I (not present)

Rear Guard Infantry:
2 bases Trained Foot (Shot-Heavy)

Rear Guard Cavalry:
Northampton (Good)
6 bases of Veteran Horse (Swedish)

Cleveland (Good)
6 bases of Veteran Horse (Swedish)

The Parliamentary Army:

C-in-C: William Waller (Average)

2 bases Trained Foot (Shot-Heavy)
2 bases Veteran Foot (Shot-Heavy)

Hazelrig (Average)
4 bases of Trained Cuirassiers (Dutch) (n.b. I though that these had been destroyed at Roundway Down and the regiment was re-raised as a normal regiment of Horse; but I'm no expert, so I just went with what was in the scenario)
8 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch)

Middleton (Poor)
8 bases of Raw Horse (Dutch)

Wemyss (Poor) *if desired only
3 bases of Guns
2 bases of Light Guns

This represents Parliamentary forces of about 2500 Horse, 2000 Foot and 10-11 guns; whilst the Royalist Rear Guard comes out at 1500 Horse and 1000 Foot.  Any better ideas about this would be very gratefully received.

I set up the game assuming that the leading Parliamentary elements had deployed and the Royalist Rear Guard had assumed line of battle out of march column.  If desired, and ideally if one had a slightly wider table to allow the Parliamentary columns to be a bit deeper, then one might start everyone in column of march and let things proceed from there.

The bridges were solid defensible structures - if they are attacked, count them as having DV1 in addition to its normal defensive qualities.

The Battle

The Royalist rear guard has just deployed off the road (bottom); Waller's troops have just crossed Cropredy bridge and deployed (top) and Middleton's troopers have half-crossed the ford at Slat's mill (top-left)

The view between the lines, with the Royalists to the right, Parliamentarians to the left and Middleton's flanking detachment at the bottom

The view from behind Middleton's column

And the view from behind Middleton's troops

Hazelrig's cuirassiers on the right of the Parliamentary line

And across the line - the Parliamentary guns are on the left

The Royalist foot

Cleveland's Horse

And Northampton's Horse
The Battle:
The cavalry of both sides advance, whilst Northampton detaches around 400 troopers to hold off Middleton (top-right); the Parliamentary Horse have been slightly better handled and have judged their moment to attack to perfection, not allowing the Royalist cavaliers to charge with speed and ferocity

The Horse clashes

The cuirassiers can't maintain the pace of the regular Horse and have fallen slightly behind, creating an echelon effect

Honours are mixed in the fist clashes, with some shaken units on both sides

After the next round of fighting however, the Parliamentary Horse's superior discipline has overcome the superior skill of the Royalists and several troops of their Horse break and run for the rear (centre)

The Royalists gain the upper hand on the cuirassiers

Waller brings up his second line of Horse on the left to complete the defeat of the Royalists and punch a hole in their line, between the Royalist Foot and the remaining intact Royalist Horse

A closer view of the advancing Parliamentary Horse

The leading troops of Cuirassiers are now in full rout themselves, however

Middleton repeats the nifty handling of the Parliamentary Horse on his flank too and manages to get the impetus and initiate the combat

Cleveland's command is now in full flight and the Royalist Foot (left) is looking very exposed

Cleveland himself leads his last troopers into combat, severely disordering the remaining Cuirassiers

Middleton's novice Horse pull off a fine advance and rout some troops of Northampton's veterans!

A closer view of Middleton's success

Some well aimed musketry sees off the last troopers of Cleveland's command

Flush with confidence, the Parliamentarians try a risky attack on steady foot, but it seems to pay off and the Royalist Foot becomes shaken

And they are soon in rout!

The last troops of Cuirassiers do some damage to their Royalist opponents

Middleton brings up his second line (right) to deal with the one stubborn regiment of Royalist cavalry still resisting him (centre)

But the Royalist army's morale is shot and soon all units are running for safety

The final defeat of the Royalist infantry
Game Notes:
An enjoyable game, although it worked out as quite a straightforward victory for the Parliamentarians.  This was partly a mixture of good luck for the Roundheads, who seemed to do consistently better with the dice at crucial moments, but also bad tactics: the Royalists were too aggressive and made life too easy for Waller's men - the thing to do would have been (as historically) to have the Parliamentarians advance further and likely become more disjointed, so the counter-attack would have been more likely to create cracks in the line and exploitable mini-flanks to turn.  As it was, Waller kept on winning the tempo at crucial moments, allowing his troopers to advance to contact, thus gaining a modest tactical advantage but perhaps more importantly, preventing the opportunity for the fiercer Cavalier charge to take effect.  This was what swung it for Middleton - on a more even distribution of luck, the chances are that at least his first brigade would be routed by Northampton's troopers but that didn't happen - showing again the usefulness of the Polemos system's tempo system for generating unusual possibilities for the solo player.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.

Rules were the Polemos ECW set.