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.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

ECW Campaign: May 1643

The English Civil War: May 1643

 The county of Norfolk and the Port of Dover sent messages to Parliament, assuring it of their continued loyalty and support.

Waller advanced across South Wales, taking Swansea, Bridgend and Cardiff.  Rupert's siege of Gloucester came to an end with the fall of that city.

Cavendish attacked the Fairfaxes at the Battle of Adlington near Preston, defeating Thomas Fairfax's army and capturing Ferdinando Fairfax.  The Parliamentarians retreated upon Blackburn whilst Cavendish settled down to besiege Preston.  The Marquis of Newcastle successfully concluded the siege of Carlisle.  Vasey remained in Liverpool training his Horse.  Groby took Derby.

Bedford advanced from Dorchester, taking Bridgewater.

John Hampden moved southwards and took Chichester.  Cromwell moved to Chelmsford to recruit.

Things were very quiet on the main front between Wycombe and Oxford: both Essex and King Charles remained stationary, concentrating on training their troops.

The North:

The Royalists:
Newcastle is at Carlisle with c.5000
Cavendish is besieging Preston with c.6000
Vasey is at Liverpool with c.6000

Fairfax is at Blackburn with c.5000

The Midlands:

The Royalists:
Forth is at Shrewsbury with c.3000

The Parliamentarians:
Waller is at Cardiff with c.5000
Groby is at Derby with c.5000
Wark is at King's Lynn with c.6000

The South:

The Royalists:
King Charles is at Oxford with c.15000
Goring is on Dartmoor with c.2000
Prince Rupert is at Gloucester with c.4000

The Parliamentarians:
Cromwell is at Chelmsford with c.2000
Essex is at Wycombe with c.15000
Bedford is at Bridgewater with c.8000
Hampden is at Chichester with c.4000
Massey is at Bristol with c.2000

c.1000 at Reading

Game Notes:
Another interesting month, as Cavendish's victory over Fairfax restores Royalist fortunes in the North-West: how different the situation looks form merely two months ago, when the Fairfaxes and Brereton were eliminating Derby's Lancastrian Royalist army.  Combined with the taking of Carlisle and Gloucester by the Royalists, the pendulum seems to have swung back towards the King.  The Parliamentary forces in the South, South-West, Wales and Midlands are strong but they must be brought into decisive action in the next months to pull the Royalist forces in different directions.  In this regard at least, Waller at Cardiff and Bedford at Bridgewater -and perhaps also Groby at Derby - are particularly well placed to start these necessary offensive movements.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 06: The Battle of Adlington

After the Parliamentary victories in the region last month, the Royalists needed to strike back in the North-West.  Vasey had been recruiting heavily around Shrewsbury and had a larger army than Fairfax, but his troops were nearly all raw recruits and on balance Fairfax's veterans looked stronger.  Therefore the Royalists decided to strike from the North with Cavendish's portion of the Marquis of Newcastle's army.  At worst, the Royalists felt that this might weaken Fairfax sufficiently for a second attack by Vasey to be successful.  However, Cavendish's force itself was roughly equivalent to Fairfax's army (slightly better Foot, slightly inferior Horse) and there was a reasonable chance that Fairfax could be defeated.  Fairfax did not shy away from the fight however, preferring to mass all his forces rather than garrison Preston.

The Forces:

Royalist Army:

(n.b. I think this is the right one!)

Cavendish (Average):
12 bases of Veteran Horse, 10 bases of Raw Horse
1 base of Raw Dragoons
6 bases of Veteran Foot
2 bases of Artillery

Parliamentary Army:

T.Fairfax (Good)

F.Fairfax (Average)

16 bases of Veteran Horse
1 base of Veteran Dragoons
2 bases of Veteran Foot, 2 bases of Raw Foot
1 base of Artillery

Brereton (Poor)

6 bases of Veteran Horse
2 bases of Veteran Foot
1 base of Artillery

The very observant will have noticed that Ferdinando Fairfax is rated higher than previously, but Brereton lower.  The reason for that is that F.Fairfax is rated as a better fighting tactician than commander-in-chief by The King's War, and the reverse for Brereton.  I leave those more knowledgeable about the period - and the conflict in the North of England specifically - to ponder on the justice of this... 
The Set-Up:

Cavendish's Royal Army to the South (bottom), Fairfax's Army to the North (top)

Another view, the Fairfaxes & Brereton to the left, Cavendish to the right.  The Parliamentarians' position is based around a small settlement (bottom-left) and some neighbouring enclosures (left); Fairfax's Horse are largely massed in the open ground on each flank.

The Royalist Right - Veteran Horse to the front, supported by raw troopers to the rear.

Cavendish is situated with the Royalist Foot in the centre, with a brigade of Horse and another battalia of Foot in reserve.

A closer view of Cavendish's right-hand brigade

And his left-hand brigade.

And finally, the Royalist left: again, more Veteran Horse supported by some raw recruits

Brereton's small force is assigned the Parliamentarian right flank

A closer view of the hamlet

and of the Foot lining the hedges around the enclosures

and again

A small brigade of veteran Foot and guns defends the gap between the enclosures and the stream

Ferdinando Fairfax leads the Horse on the left flank
The Battle:
Cavendish's basic conception of operations was to pin the Parliamentarian Horse on the flanks whilst his slightly superior Foot assaulted the centre

More Royalist Foot approach in measured fashion

A wider overview

The Royalist Foot approach the hedgerows and the musketry begins - so far, to little effect!

The Royalist Foot advance further to the right, but achieve little initially

The Foot are well and truly engaged!

The 4 Royalist guns achieve fire superiority over the 2-guns of the Parliamentarians

After some hard-fighting, the Royalist Foot get over the hedge, driving back the Parliamentarian Foot - note that the disorder for all combatants is increasing from moving about in the narrow enclosed terrain

After some further hard fighting, and a little bit of luck, the Royalist Foot are triumphant and two battalia of Parliamentarians are routed - the remaining battalia has held its own so far and

Outside the enclosures, the infantry combat is indecisive.

Cavendish reforms his Foot ready for the next phase of the assault

Cavendish moves up his reserve foot battalia ((centre-left, moving diagonally) to exploit the gap in the Parliamentary line

Meanwhile, Fairfax has launched his attack, hoping to create space to use one of his reserve brigades against the flank of the Royalist foot

A wave of massed Horse advances into combat!

Unluckily, Ferdinando Fairfax is unhorsed and captured!  The troop he was leading is pushed back

The results of the combat are mixed, but here the Parliamentarians have had greater success

The other leading Royalist brigade has enjoyed somewhat greater success.

Another view

Royalist Horse in flight! (And to be fair, a troop of Roundhead Horse too (top-centre)

With the same result, but the proportions reversed, for the clash of the other brigade!

Some of the Parliamentarian troopers charge on and push back some of the Royalist second line

Overall, both sides have lost about 50% of their front line troops of Horse on this flank

A third attack finally breaks the resistance of the Parliamentary Foot in the centre

A wider shot of the same: the Parliamentary Dragoons have dismounted to delay any further advancce

The Parliamentary Horse rout their opponents, but recoil in their turn too, their ardour spent

A close-up of that routing Royalist Horse troop

The Royalist Foot is now free to develop its attack on the second of Fairfax's Foot brigades - combined fire destroys his guns

The Royalist Horse on their right attempt to re-establish their line

Fairfax throws in one of his second-line brigades in an all-or-nothing charge!

Which worked a little (see the shaken Royalist Horse (left) and routing Royalist troopers (bottom-centre) but overall the Parliamentarians have suffered some losses too (top-right & top-left), and are in chronic disorder

Many troops of Fairfax's Horse are now running

Both sides have suffered great losses in the melee, but it looks like the Royalist line has more or less held (just!)

A closer view - the depleted Royalist Horse is just about holding on...

The remaining Parliamentary Foot are now in a very awkward position, but are still not giving up

The position at the end of the cavalry struggle - Fairfax declines to throw in his last brigade (centre-top) knowing that a reverse must lead to the extermination of two-thirds of his army; and achieving spectacular success seems doubtful, since the Royalists also have an uncommitted Horse brigade in reserve

The final position in the centre as Parliamentary morale wavered and cracked...

The wider context at the end of the battle
Game Results:
A desperate struggle, with high losses, but undoubtedly a Royalist triumph, having achieved the breakthrough in the centre.  Ultimately Cavendish was able to engage and defeat the raw Parliamentary Foot which unhinged the defence, whilst Fairfax's Horse was so weakened by the time it reached the raw Royalist Cavalry troopers that he could gain no real advantage.  Brereton was hardly engaged however, with the exception of his guns and a battalia of Foot.

Royalist Losses: c. 800 Horse, 220 Foot, 25 Dragoons
Parliamentary Losses: c.1050 Horse, 1200 Foot, 45 Dragoons, 2 Guns; Ferdinando Fairfax captured

Fairfax will have to retreat towards Manchester, leaving Preston, although still in the hands of a skeleton Parliamentary garrison, at risk from Cavendish's army...

Game Notes:
A very exciting between two very well-matched armies.  There were no major issues with the mechanics of the game.  Fighting in enclosures is a very tricky affair, since troops get shaken as soon as they move into them, and everytime they move whilst inside them - so (usually) every other turn is spent reforming!  This battle took 20 turns, so representing about an hour and forty minutes of real life battle time.  I don't think either side fought amiss, but that little bit of luck was with Cavendish.  I think the main Royalist point of advantage was minimizing the exposure of their raw Horse to immediate attack, whilst the raw Parliamentary Foot were engaged and defeated in the centre.
Now I have it all sorted, I am much happier with the interplay of using galloping charges and trotting advances in mounted combat in these rules.  As both sides know the optimal strategies, they can then mess about with them, occasionally choosing the sub-optimal path at certain points to disrupt the calculations of their opponents.  Charging at equal odds, although it isn't usually the optimal strategy, does mean that with a modest amount of luck, a poor situation can be redeemed!

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Baccus and Timecast, the game was played on a 6'x4' table and took about two hours. Rules were the Polemos: ECW set.