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 Selby 1644 - A Polemos ECW Refight

Miniature Wargames issue 84 contained a scenario for the little known Battle of Selby, 11 Apr 1644.  A victory for the Parliamentarians under Thomas Fairfax, it is credited with beginning the train of events which led to Marston Moor and the Royalist loss of the North of England to Parliament.

The scenario is basically an assault on a town in spite of the explicit warning in the Polemos ECW rules that street-fighting scenarios were not supported in its design - naturally since I am a gamer and this is the heretical gaming blog, I felt free to totally ignore this advice. The weakest points in the defence were apparently the gates - I gave these a Defence Value of 1.  The Horse of both sides did charge and fight up and down the streets of Selby apparently, so for this game I allowed this, but ruled that Horse could move no further than 1BW per turn and could only move up the main roads (these roads were artificially widened on the terrain to allow this).  I did allow units to overlap when attacking the gate, but only overlapping infantry would count when fighting in the built-up areas.

Order of Battle:

C-in-C: Fairfax (Good)
2-i-C: Meldrum (Average)

6 bases of Trained Foot (Shot-Heavy)
24 bases of Veteran Horse (Dutch tactics)

The King:

C-in-C: Lord Belasyse (Average)

4 bases of Veteran Foot (Shot-Heavy)
12 base of Trained Horse (Swedish tactics)

Fairfax is trying to capture Selby, Belasyse to hold it - very straightforward.

The Deployment:

A stylized view of Selby; Royalist infantry guard all the "gates" (i.e. road entry points) with the Royalist cavalry inside the town; Fairfax has surrounded the town to enable him to attack on multiple axes

A view towards one of the southern gates; the Ousegate is off to the right

Parliamentary Cavalry approach from the West

And approaching the North Gate

And from the bank of the Ouse, looking South into Selby
 The Battle:
Parliamentary infantry attempt to storm the Ousegate, but without success...

A second infantry assault against the other south gate

Fairfax looks on at the head of some Veteran Horse, hoping to exploit any opportunities

Cavalry attacking infantry in a town?  Worth a try here, perhaps

Musketry erupts around the North Gate

The Parliamentary infantry are repulsed with loss at the south gate

The cavalry attack on Westgate works!  The Royalist infantry are pushed back

However, a smart counter-attack at the south gate routs a unit of Parliamentary infantry

After some further fighting, the Royalist infantry at the Westgate rout

Fairfax leads his troopers to attack the south gate in person, supported by some foot; the Royalist foot becomes shaken and is pushed back

A wider shot shows the progress that Fairfax's troops are making in the south and west quarters

The Parliamentary Horse charge down the road, pushing back the Royalist Horse towards the Abbey and Market Square

The attack on Northgate has been a dismal failure so far, as the attacking infantry are again repulsed with loss

The Royalists are beginning to lose their grip on Ousegate (left); whilst their troops are routing away from the Southgate (right)

A stunning fightback by the Ousegate routs the attacking Parliamentary infantry, despite the losses incurred by the Royalist foot!

Parliamentary Horse advancing from Westgate have caused mass panic and confusion amongst the Royalsit Horse in the centre of the town!

The Royalist infantry at Northgate continue to subject the advancing Parliamentarians to a storm of musketry

The Ousegate is secured and the Royalist foot here are finally routed!

The Royalist Horse around the Market Square is under severe pressure from the veteran Roundhead troopers

Finally the Northgate is taken too!  The brave Royalists are finally routed...

Fairfax fights his way towards the Market Square, the red counters denoting the shaken Royalist cavalry

Having gained the gate, the Parliamentarian infantry push forward towards the Abbey from the North

The Royalist Cavalry under pressure by the boat bridge

Chaos in the town as Royalist cavalry begin to flee in any and all directions

Fairfax on the brink of victory, advancing up the road

Infantry advancing up from Ousegate complete the victory

Game Notes: An interesting game, although one which has perhaps left me with more questions than answers. The game seemed to reflect history quite closely, but was that because of or in spite of the rules I introduced?  It just seems so counter-intuitive to have Horse doing that much in built-up areas, but if the article accompanying the scenario is correct that seems to be the way it was.  From a more mechanical point of view, it also shows what an effect small rules can have - here, allowing overlaps for attacking the gates was allowed and this was a distinct advantage for the Parliamentarians - was it more real to allow this or to forbid this?  And what should the "defence value" of these types of urban areas should be?  The rules suggest that a strong-point like a stone church should be DV3, urban areas and woods DV2, so it seemed sensible to have the gates as DV1 (otherwise there would be no advantage in attacking the gates).  Maybe I should have made the gates DV2 to cavalry?

One thing that I am growing slightly more impatient with in these rules is the interactions between the state of 'Shaken' and the situational and terrain modifiers.  In some terrain actions, troops are described as being shaken when they are in it, and perhaps for the turn after, but then (presumably) automatically rally; but these are combined with separate movement and combat effects. It sometimes isn't quite clear at what point a base becomes eligible to take the terrain penalty.  I think the system would have worked more smoothly if these effects were separated to a greater or lesser degree.  For instance, if crossing terrain, then either have a movement and a combat modifier but get rid of the 'shaken'; or alternatively, just use the 'shaken' result (which brings its own negative combat modifiers anyway).  These cumulative factors create a lot of almost "sure thing" combat results.

For this game, I made the decision that the Royalist Horse had to use charges where possible; the results of the game reinforced my opinion that as written, the Royalist Horse is in for a thin time doing this unless they have a strong advantage in numbers or skill.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings from a wide variety of manufacturers, but mainly from Baccus and Timecast I believe.


  1. Nice set up. Thanks for including figure and building types. This just pushed me a little closer to doing 6mm ECW. Until now I've only done 15mm and one really neat 54mm game.

  2. Thanks very much Ray, I appreciate it.

  3. Well, after many repulses, i did not figure the Parly's had much of a change. I was wrong!

    Your Game notes are always a highlight of your BatReps for me. Something of interest and insightful in every one.

    1. And many thanks for your kind words about the "Game Notes" section. Ross MacFarlane's blog has always been an inspiration even though I don't use the same set-up or play the same periods as he does, because his explanations of why he adopts/rejects certain mechanics are always interesting. I try and capture something of the same tone in this section of my batreps, so even if a reader doesn't play the same periods or rules as I do, there is still something of use in there.

  4. That is the advantage of attacking on multiple axes - there is a reasonable chance of at least one victory to exploit. It also shows the systemic advantage of attacking; if the defender is defending a fixed position, and can't counter-attack to really exploit the advantage, usually the attacker can get away with some retreats.