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 7 October 2017

Battle of Benburb 5th June 1646 - A Polemos ECW Refight

The Battle of Benburb was the biggest and perhaps most important victory of the Confederate Irish in the entire War of the Three Kingdoms.  A scenario for it was published in Miniature Wargames 85:

It is a very suitable battle for wargaming, with not too many troops or too much difficult terrain.  The whole campaign and the day of battle is full of interest, but, as suggested in the scenario, I only played out the main battle at dusk (after an attempt to turn the Confederate flank has failed and the Confederate horse has turned up).

Orders of Battle:

Irish Confederacy:

C-in-C: Lord General O'Neill (Good)
2-i-C: Phelim O'Neill (Average)
Commander of the Horse: Brien O'Neill (Average)

Foot: 10 bases of Trained Foot (Mixed)
Horse: 4 bases of Raw Horse (Dutch tactics)

Ulster Protestants' Army:

C-in-C: Maj-General Monro (Average)
Commander of the Horse: Montgomery (Average)

Foot: 11 bases of Trained Foot (Shot Heavy), 1 base of Trained Foot (Shot)*
Horse: 6 bases of Raw Horse (Dutch tactics)
Guns: 3 bases of Light guns

*Used because Monro had used a unit of Commanded Shot earlier in the day; feel free to use another shot-heavy unit instead

The game is a straight-forward battle; the game can only last for a maximum of 18 turns (an hour-and-a-half) since this part of the battle didn't begin until 8pm.

The Deployment:

Postition from behind the Ulster Protestants: they are located on the Derrycreevy Hill, facing the Confederates on Drumflugh; Benburb would be off the top of the board.  The River Blackwater is to the right.

From just behind the Protestant infantry, looking over the stream at the Confederates

The Confederate battle order

And from behind the Confederate position; the Confederate Horse has just arrived to the right

And a closer shot
 The Battle:
Responding to the (ineffective) Protestant artillery fire, O'Neill orders an advance.  Monro puts some of his cavalry into march column to try and slip them across and past the Confederate flank.

Monro also moves his other Horse towards the left flank in march column (bottom-left)

Being more active than in the original battle, Monro advances his foot and tries to hit the Confederates just as they are crossing the stream; the Confederates retire, some in disorder

The Confederates cross the stream lower down under O'Neill's personal supervision

Monro orders a general attack against the Confederate infantry

Montgomery and O'Neill lead their respective Foot into the fray

The Protestants succeed! The Confederates are driven back, some in rout

The Protestants are successful everywhere along the line of the stream

O'Neill has been captured by the Protestant Foot, so Phelim O'Neill takes over and launches a speedy counter-attack; the Confederates push the Protestant Centre back

Confederate Cavalry try to turn the flank but are held

This about sums up the Confederates' day...

The Protestant Horse defeat the Confederate Horse...

The Confederate counter-attack is halted, and Protestant infantry stream across the stream in the gaps...

And the Confederate left flank is turned

The Confederate Horse do achieve a bit of unlikely success, but overall the situation is desperate...

The Confederate left flank is simply untenable

Another view - at this point Confederate morale collapsed (unsurprisingly)
Game Notes:
Interesting but not wholly satisfactory in this sharp reversal of fortunes compared to real life!  I think my tactics for the Protestants were rather better than Monro's on the day, aggressively hitting the Confederates at the greatest moment of disorder (just after crossing the stream) - this explained part of the difference.  That said, I think that the effective -2 penalty for attacking across a stream is probably just too harsh on an opposed D6 roll,, especially since the follow up combat will be at -4 or -6. Overall, I think it adds to the sense that I am getting with more experience with these rules that there are slightly too many factors with slightly too great effects and those effects are distributed between individual situational modifiers and "shaken" results.

 I chose not to incorporate fatigue into the game, although it was clearly a factor in real life, because blanket "shaken" or "-1 to everything" seemed too harsh.  I'm thinking now that perhaps it needs to be in; or as an alternative, increase the TP cost for actions to produce a more lethargic performance on an army-wide basis.  

I'm  quite looking forward to giving this one another go  at some point in the relatively near future.

Figures as ever by Baccus 6mm.


  1. Enjoyed reading this AAR. I recently did Benburb in 10mm with Baroque and got a similar result. The Protestant horse generally more effective and the Irish having similar trouble at the stream crossing.

    Owen Roe clearly knew what he was about😀

  2. Yes. Or Monro really didn't...

  3. Apparently Leven had some inkling of that when he left Monro in charge.

  4. I think it was because the Irish where properly armed for this battle and had proper generals in the O Neills as they where trained in the Spainish Army and not a poorly armed peasent army even though the English/Scottish army had cannons more foot soilders and more cavalry.

    1. Very possibly you are correct, although always difficult to know and not fall foul of halo effects.