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.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Battle of Nantwich 1644 - A Polemos ECW Refight

The Battle of Nantwich was fought on 25 Jan 1644 during the ECW / War of the Three Kingdoms.  Although a moderate-sized action for the First Civil War, it is one of the more famous actions and is still remembered today.  

A scenario for the battle was published back in Miniature Wargames issue 75.

A close-run thing in real-life, with perhaps both commanders making some mistakes, it is an ideal wargames scenario for the period, since the forces engaged were not too large.

For the Polemos ECW rules I use, the orders of battle were as follows:


C-in-C: Byron (Average)

1 x Cavalry Bde: 4 bases of Trained Horse (Swedish tactics)
1 x Cavalry Bde: 3 bases of Trained Horse (S)

General of Foot: Colonel Richard Gibson (Average)
1 x Foot Bde: 3 bases of Veteran Infantry (shot-heavy)
1 x Foot Bde: 3 bases of Raw Infantry (shot-heavy)

2 x bases of Guns


C-in-C: Fairfax (Good)

3 x Cavalry Bdes: 4 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch Tactics)
1 x Cavalry Bde: 3 bases of Trained Horse (D)

The Foot:

Colonel Brereton (Average)
1 x Foot Bde: 2 bases of Trained Infantry (shot-heavy)
1 x Foot Bde: 2 bases of Raw Infantry (mixed)
1 x Foot Bde: 1 base of Trained Infantry (shot-heavy); 1 base of Raw Infantry (mixed)
1 x Foot Bde: 2 bases of Veteran Infantry (shot)

1 x base of Guns

The Scenario:

This scenario is a straight fight as both sides are committed to an attack (although the initial manoeuvering was a lot more complicated than that). 

The hedges aren't considered too thick - only defence value 1 in this scenario (although DV2 might work too).

The Battle:

The battlefield from the South.  Acton is represented by the church, Nantwich is off to the east (bottom-right); note the Royalist cavalry and single battalia of Foot to the right, guarding against a Parliamentary move from Nantwich; and see also the Parliamenary horse opposing them (top-right)

The Royalist Centre on the road at Acton; local infantry to the left, 'Irish' infantry to the right.  The Parliamentary infantry is opposite amongst the fields.  The Parliamentary baggage is at the rear, accompanied by dragoons.

A wider shot, so one can see some of the Royalist cavalry to the west (left) and Parliamentary cavalry (top-left)

View from the West; Byron leads the advance guard of Royalist Horse
 The Battle:

It took quite a while for the battle to get going, but here the Irish infantry advance towards some Parliamentary cannon, overlooked by Fairfax himself (bottom-right); on the right, Parliamentary foot advance supported by Dragoons whilst on the left some Royalist Horse slowly edge forwards

Same shot, but note this time the second base of Irish infantry which has turned to the hedge and threatens the flank of the advancing Roundheads - more of this in the Game Notes.

Byron tries to charge the flank of the advancing Parliamentary Horse but his troopers refuse, becoming disordered in the process

The leading Parliamentary Horse quickly gain the upper-hand over their Royalist opponents, whilst Byron tries to restore some order

Some accurate artillery fire and musketry halt the Irish Regiment's advance a mere 50metres or so in front of the position; the Royalist Horse is stopped by the fire too

Meanwhile, musketeers from the Nantwich garrison advance to try and dislodge the Royalist flanking force

After a see-saw struggle, the Parliamentary forces overcome the Royalists in the centre around the church and capture some guns

Byron restores some order but there are enemies to his front and rear...

One of the Irish battalia manages to advance through the hail of fire and push back the Parliamentary defenders

A firefight between the contesting infantry is inconclusive, but obviously the position is precarious since the centre has been split...

Byron faces one troop of horse to the rear to try and give himself a chance against the much superior parliamentary horse...

He tries to order a charge at this most opportune moment, but yet again his troopers refuse and become shaken!

The fighting on the Nantwich flank is inconclusive and both sides retire

The Irish battalia's advance is crowned with success and glory!  As well as routing a battalia of Parliamentary infantry, they capture the Roundhead guns...and Fairfax himself!  Brereton takes over the forces of Parliament

However this infantry fight is going the other way: Parliamentary infantry have broken through the hedge and the Royalists are recoiling

Byron's troopers are surrounded, defeated and captured.  Only Byron himself escapes!

The end is nigh for the King's army: in the centre another unit of Irish infantry has routed some Parliamentary dragoons, but has been caught in the rear by Parliamentary infantry; the third Irish battalia guarding the road to Nantwich has been routed (top-left)

A daring advance routs some of the Royalist Horse and threatens the remaining Royalist guns

Another Royalist infantry unit goes down, and Colonel Gibson is taken

The Irish infantry routing

Note the centre-right; yet another Royalist infantry unit has been routed (routing in front of the church)

The last Irish unit tries to break-out forwards, but, against the odds, the Parliamentary Horse prevails and pushes the Royalists back...

...which routs!  The Royalist guns have been taken as well, and the Army has practically disintegrated.

Everywhere over the field the Royalists are routed or captured - victory for Parliament!
 Game Notes: A good game this, the scenario works reasonably well.  As ever, lots of the troop ratings are arguable but I don't think there is anything too controversial in there.  One change that could be made would be to delay the entry of the Parliamentary musketeers from Nantwich for a set number of turns rather than rely on tempo point shortfalls to slow them, as I did.  A more ambitious change would be to keep all units in their starting positions but put them all in march column; there is a definite argument for doing this as a closer reflection of some of the confusion that happened on the day rather than assume (as I did) that all the units would just form up and fight from where they were.
What this game did bring home was just how difficult it is to manoeuvre in the ECW in any kind of broken terrain.  I wondered actually if it was a bit too hard, as a result of the physicality of the game - particularly in how hedges and other linear obstacles work.  I feel that they are more disruptive perhaps, since a base cannot be on "both sides at once" as it would be in real life.  It is a noticeable difference between Polemos-type "big base" games and single figure/small element base games.  Terrain still disrupts, but the disruption feels more naturalistic and rarely to quite the same extent.  I wonder if this is a result of making terrain - and terrain rules - too authentic, and perhaps they need to be thought of as just 'areas'.  Polemos of course doesn't ignore this, but I wonder if it, and other rules like it, go far enough.  I think I am getting at there might be a "double-jeopardy" effect, where units are penalized on the table and in the rules for the same effect. Anyway, it felt quite an interesting game, this one.

Figures and terrain by Baccus 6mm.


  1. For me the big problem for Civil War commanders was retaining command and control. Units need to be kept in formation to allow them to be controlled and terrain is a big factor in disrupting a unit's formation and hence the command and control. I haven't played Polemos so I can't comment on the way this works in those rules but the concept seems fine to me

  2. I definitely agree with this. My only query is whether it is appropriate to have lots of game penalties, e.g:

    Increased tempo point (i.e. action point cost) if LOS between commander and unit is broken

    Reduced rate of move

    Increased shaken/disorder level (which have an inherent combat negative)

    A specific negative combat factor if there is fighting


    on top of all that, a physical disruption of the formation, because of the physical location of the hedges

    It's only the combination of the latter with all the former that might be overkill.