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.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Polemos ECW: Battle of Cotes 1644 Refought

Miniature Wargames 17 contained a scenario for the little known battle during the War of the Three Kingdoms/English Civil War which took place at the village of Cotes which lies near Loughborough in Leicestershire.

The battle represents a Parliamentary attempt to take a bridge over the River Soar, in order to delay the junction of approaching Royalist armies.  Happily, although naturally you will have to get hold of a copy of the magazine to read the exact article, the author also wrote about the battle for the "Leicestershire Historian" journal if you would like more details.  If you would like to look at the area, look here on Google Maps.  The main area of the battlefield appears to have changed little, although Loughborough has grown since.

The orders of battle in the scenario are as follows:


Commander:  Sir Edward Hartopp (Plodding)

The Foot: 1 base of Trained Foot (Shot Heavy)
The Horse: 12 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch Tactics)
The Guns: 1 base of Artillery

Thornhaugh's Horse: 4 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch Tactics)


Commander: Lord Loughborough (Capable)

The Foot: 2 bases of Trained Foot (SH)
The Horse: 8 bases of Trained Horse (Swedish Tactics)

The River Soar is considered impassable.  The Royalist earthwork/barricade doesn't have any effect on firing, but has a Defence Value of 1 in Close Combat.  It also counts as an obstacle to cavalry.

The Set-Up:

This was the original set-up, which I abandoned when I realized it didn't leave enough room for manoeuvre on the bottom (West) section of the battlefield, where the majority of the action happened.

The same abandoned set-up, which shows the Stamford Hills (top-right)

This is the actual set-up used: Royalists at the bottom (West), Parliamentarians over the river between Stamford-on-Soar (top-left) and Cotes (right).  Thornhaugh's horse is located near Stamford.

And a closer-in shot of the bridges over the Soar and Cotes village.  Hartopp is with his infantry and guns.

A view along the Soar from behind Cotes.  The Parliamentary horse near Cotes are all in march column.
 The Battle:

...and for the first 25 minutes or so, not much happened!  Hartopp's foot and guns completely failed to do any damage at all to the Royalist foot guarding the barricade.  So Hartopp ordered Thornhaugh's Horse to advance over the Soar and come at the Royalists from the other flank

Hartopp continues to make no progress over the bridge! he moves the Foot forward to try and increase the effect of his shooting.  However, the Royalist musketry is rather more effective and the Parliamentarians are shaken

Another ten minutes pass and the Parliamentarians have another go

Thornhaugh's troopers attack the Royalist Foot who had strayed over the hedge

At last! After nearly two hours of combat, eventually the guns and muskets tell and push the Royalist foot back.

Exploiting their success, the first Parliamentarian cavalry form up.

The Royalist foot was routed, but then there is a stand-off between the cavalry of the two factions.  Hartopp cannot get through the order to charge!

Loughborough calculates that the odds for him can only worsen, so best to go now!  He spurs his horse to the gallop, shouting follow me!!...

The Horse of both sides clash!  The Royalists have the advantage on the right, but their right hand troops refuse to charge.

The Royalists rout two bases of Parliamentary Horse!  However, their comrades have failed to ahcieve the same success on the left

Hartopp leads his foot to drive the disorganized Royalist Horse from the field and captures Lord Loughborough himself.  The remaining Royalists break off at this point and the battle ends.

The Result:
The Royalists fought rather harder than in the real battle, but ended up suffering a worse defeat.  However, it is unlikely that Hartopp would feel able to hold onto the position given the time it took (two-and-a-half hours of game time) and his losses and would have to retreat as the Royalist main forces approached.

Game Notes:
An interesting little scenario that can be played with relatively small forces on a small battlefield (4'x3' here) but with enough variety to make it a good battle for learning the rules.  The Polemos ECW rules make it (realistically) difficult to control forces outside of the commander's eye, which explains the tardiness of Thornhaugh's flanking movement and its failure to charge (in game terms, he simply never had the tempo points to achieve the big advance at then end).

 One noticeable divergence from reality is that the artillery and musketry in real-life seem to have been much more effective than in the recreation. The chances of achieving anything with muskets are pretty small. I think the thing to do here is to rule that the Royalist infantry are either Raw or "Mixed" (i.e. 1:1 muskets:pikes) so that the Parliamentary foot and artillery have more chance of achieving a better result than a "halt" in the exchange of fire.
I think that it may be more realistic if Foot cannot follow-up recoiling enemy.  This would allow defeated infantry to escape.  As it is, the only time it is not worth following-up is if the Foot are needed to defend a strong point.
Dutch-school Horse continues to prove its worth in control terms.  The tendency of the Royalist Horse to become wildly disorganized in pursuit is very noticeable (and led directly to defeat here).
The Horse seem to me to maybe have a slightly too easy time of it against foot they outnumber in bases (if not in men).  Imagine a brigade of Horse of three bases (375 troopers) against a singe base of Foot (500 soldiers); if the Horse advances to contact, it will be immediately on a +3 in the subsequent close combat (+1 for advancing into combat, +1 for overlapping both flanks).  Does this seem generous to the horsemen?
Incidentally, I played this battle more aggressively than I would normally have been inclined to in order to get a result. If I had been playing this in a campaign, I can imagine a gentle stand-off after about 12 moves of not very much happening...
Figures from Baccus 6mm, buildings from Timecast.