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 31 March 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 04: The Battle of Somerton

The Earl of Essex realized that time was short to try and relieve Oxford - it must fall within 2-8 weeks, so he therefore had to resolve to try the fortunes of battle, come what may, or be prepared to leave the prize of Oxford to its fate.  He therefore resolved to march via Banbury to try and relieve the place.  King Charles, knowing the object of this march, had to decide if he should partly abandon the siege in order to concentrate his whole force for the battle - but delay the capture of the city - or leave a force sufficient to maintain the siege fully and risk battle with a slightly weakened force.  He boldly chose the latter, finding a position in the Somerton-Heyford-Aston area, and rejoicing that recent rain and melted snow had made the rivers unusually difficult obstacles...

The Forces:


King Charles (Average)

Prince Rupert (Good): 24 bases of Veteran Horse, 4 bases of Raw Horse, 1 base of Raw Dragoons

Prince Maurice (Average): 6 bases of Raw Foot, 10 bases of Raw Horse, 1 base of Raw Dragoons

Astley (Good): 4 bases of Veteran Foot, 2 bases of Raw Foot

4 bases of Artillery

Earl of Essex (Average)

Cromwell (Good): 16 bases of Veteran Horse, 1 base of Veteran Dragoons

Brooke (Poor): 4 bases of Veteran Horse, 1 base of Veteran Dragoons, 6 bases of Raw Foot

Skippon (Good): 6 bases of Veteran Foot, 4 bases of Raw Foot
4 bases of Artillery

The Set-Up:

The battlefield: the Parliamentarians have approached from the North (bottom).  Skippon's infantry have the centre, with Brooke supporting him to the rear and left.  Cromwell's horse, with 1,000 foot detached from Skippon, are on the right.  Facing them are Astley's foot on the Royalist Right (left); Prince Rupert's Horse, Foot and Guns on and around the hill in the centre of the Royalist positions, and Prince Maurice's troops are facing Cromwell on the other flank.

Another view of the same

A closer view of Prince Rupert's command: the foot and guns in the front line, supported by troop after troop of Horse to the rear and both flanks

Astley defends the enclosures around the hamlet

A detachment of Prince Maurice's foot, accompanied by a couple of guns, defends the bridge; a few Dragoons at the edge of the woods also provide some support.  Prince Maurice's Horse are in the rear.

Cromwell's forces face the bridge: Foot, Dragoons and Guns at the fore, with Horse supporting in the rear.  Cromwell has kept his rear brigades in march rather than fighting formation.

Skippon's Foot and Guns prepare to lead the attack.
The Battle:
Cromwell moves his detachment of Foot and Guns to the bridge and is immediately brought under fire by the Royalist guns and Dragoons

Brooke's Foot and (dismounted) Dragoons advance to begin trading fire with Astley's infantry defending the enclosures - with some effect (note casualty marker)

And another view (note the casualty marker just hidden behind the Parliamentary Foot's flag (centre)

The to-and-fro of firing continues: neither side is keen to come to grips

Meanwhile, slowly but surely, Skippon has advanced his infantry towards the centre of the Royalist position, dominated by a single hill.

Meanwhile some excellent gunnery and musketry from the Royalist Dragoons has caused the Parliamentary gunners to abandon their pieces and run off! This lucky (i.e. freak!) result will severely hamper any Parliamentary attempt to storm the bridge.

The exchange of musketry, wounding but inconclusive, continues on the Royalist right.

Skippon arranged his Foot and Guns ready to being the assault on the hill; the Earl of Essex (bottom) looks on approvingly over his subordinates arrangements

The guns on each side open up - the Parliamentary gunners are beginning to take significant casualties

Cromwell's attack cannot get forward on his flank

So he slips a brigade of Horse over the river (bottom-centre) to assist the main attack

Skippon's Foot closes with Prince Rupert's Foot and Guns...

Cromwell beats his sword on the ground in frustration - without his fire taking effect, and at the right time, he knows that any charge across the bridge will be futile!

Casualties mount around the enclosure but neither side can get forward...

Skippon's Foot has got in close however and is causing casualties in the ranks of Rupert's Horse (centre-left)

Skippon pushes his men up the hill at reach pike-point with Rupert's Foot and Guns

And achieves a brilliant success! The Royalist guns are taken and a battalia of Foot is routed - Skippon reaches the summit

However, the remainder of his Foot are stopped in theit tracks on the slope

King Charles and Prince Rupert scurry out of the way of Skippon's victorious Foot!

Astley boldly takes the initiative, advancing out of the enclosure to tackle Brooke's Dragoons (left); the remainder of the fighting remains bitter but inconclusive

Another view

Prince Rupert launches a counter-attack with one of his Foot battalia and chases off some of the Parliamentary gunners

Prince Rupert throws in a cavalry brigade to try and drive Skippon off the hill and restore the position: honours are even at this point, although Prince Rupert only narrowly involves being killed or captured when the troop he was personally leading is driven back in disorder (centre)

He scuttles away for the second time, as Skippon routs one of the Cavalier troops

However, Skippon has lost most of his guns - and one of his Foot battalia has been routed too (top-centre)

Cromwell's Horse brigade advances into the Royalists at pistol point and immediately push the Cavaliers back (note the casualty markers)

Astley's Foot chase off Brooke's Dragoons

Astley moves forward the battalia guarding his flank to threaten the flank of Skippon's advance

Two parliamentary battalia (the ones at the front-left of the advance) have become isolated by the advance of Prince Rupert's Horse (bottom-right)

Prince Rupert's leading Foot push back Skippon's reserves...Essex makes sure he sonesn't get too close (bottom-right)

Cromwell's victorious troopers trot forward having routed one of Rupert's brigades (this is just to the right of the hill, from the Parliamentary viewpoint)

A wider context shot of the same

Prince Rupert begins to tighten the vice on the isolated Parliamentary Foot...(bottom-left)

Skippon's leading battalia routs the last of Prince Rupert's Horse which was contesting the hill...but Skippon is unhorsed and captured at the moment of triumph!

Essex desperately calls on Brooke to send some Horse up to stem the gap in the centre caused by the defeat of another Foot battalia and troop of Horse (bottom-centre)

Prince Rupert routs the Parliamentary Foot,,,

A bold charge, despite the odds, comes up lucky and pushes back Cromwell's troopers

Prince Rupert pursues (gently and in control!) the defeated Roundhead Foot

The position at the end of the battle, as the Parliamentary Army's morale begins to crumble - Essex has managed to form a semi-solid line with a brigade of Cromwell's troopers

A wider context shot

Cromwell never did get anywhere over on the right...

The end.
Game Results:
Both armies lost a lot of cohesion as many units were broken on both sides, but the actual casualties were not quite as heavy as they might have been (although still bloody enough)...

Royalists: c.1800 Horse, 740 Foot, "many gunners" (although they recovered the 6 guns lost in the battle during the Parliamentary retreat)
Parliamentarians: c.1100 Horse, c.2450 Foot, c.175 Dragoons, 8 Guns

More importantly, Charles I's bold front has paid off and the Siege of Oxford can continue without having incurred any delay.

Game Notes:
A very enjoyable and interesting game.  When I rolled up the terrain, I saw that Charles I was showing yet again an unerring eye for a really good position!  Unlike the last time however, when Essex simply refused to attack, the Parliamentary Army had no choice but to try and tackle it.  In some ways, this is the epitome of the operational art - organizing the campaign so that the enemy army must attack a strong position of one's own choosing.
Given the difficulties, I think that Essex's plan was okay - some pinning attacks and then a major assault on the key to the enemy position.  And as it happened, this worked okay.  Unfortunately however, too many little things didn't work so by the time that the crest was taken, Skippon's impetus was exhausted.  The attack of Cromwell's Horse caused great damage initially, but the ground was such that Prince Rupert's men were able to restore the situation and rout or destroy most of this brigade.
The only mechanical issue I had was that rallying seems a bit too easy, particularly for the non-tempo player.  This is because units under fire (but not if they have fought in close combat) can usually rally a shaken point.  This makes it harder for "fire" based units to achieve effect, because their opponent can rally quite easily.  The way to do it is to be the non-tempo player, hope that one gets a shaken result, gain the tempo next turn, then attack.  Very hard to pull that off reliably.  I am thinking of making two slight changes to the rules:

1 - bases that have been fired upon cannot rally shaken points

2 - bases shaken by fire may immediately withdraw 1BW voluntarily

Otherwise, I felt that the game rules coped pretty well with the game

Figures by Baccus 6mm, building from Timecast (I think!), rules were Polemos: ECW, played on a 6'x4' mat over about 2 1/2 hours.