Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire English Civil War, but with numerous discursions into battles from many different periods. 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, 13 June 2018

ECW Campaign Battle 11: The Battle of Swaffham

King Charles planned to complete his autumn campaign in triumph by marching back to his capital at the head of his victorious army.  To do this he need to march southeast, pick up Prince Rupert's army on the way from Chelmsford and then march on London from the northeast.  However, although he had a choice of two routes, the western route was threatened by the Earl of Essex from London itself whilst the eastern route was threatened by the Earl of Manchester, whose army had just scurried back to Bishop's Stortford.  The King picked the eastern route, thinking that Manchester would probably not try to intercept him, would fail to do so if he tried, and if he did succeed would be badly beaten by the King's veteran troopers.  On the first two counts at least, the King was absolutely incorrect and Manchester forced the King to halt his march and turn and fight in an isolated spot near Swaffham just off the road to Cambridge, with a small (but defensible) rise and some farmland  and a small pond.

Both sides knew that the stakes were high.  Manchester had to win and force the King to retreat, almost regardless of the cost - otherwise King Charles would be besieging London with an army of over 20,000 men by the end of the month...

The Forces:


King Charles I (Average)
Earl of Forth (Poor)

22 bases of Veteran Horse (S)
1 base of Veteran Dragoons
4 bases of Veteran Foot (SH)
4 bases of Raw Foot (SH)
2 bases of Guns


Earl of Manchester (Poor)
Cromwell (Good)

12 bases of Veteran Horse (D)
4 bases of Raw Horse (D)
1 base of Raw Dragoons
14 bases of Raw Foot (SH)
4 bases of Guns 

The Set-Up:

Royalists defending (bottom), Parliamentarians attacking (top).  The Royalist have put their Horse on the more open terrain to the left, with Foot defending the hill, enclosures and marshland.

Cromwell commands the veteran troopers on the Parliamentary Right

Foot and guns in the centre of the Parliamentary line

And looking a little further along

The Earl of Forth commands the Horse on the Royalist Left

King Charles on the summit of the hill, overseeing some of his Foot and Guns

King Charles has placed some Horse in the middle of his line to try and threaten the raw Parliamentary Foot

The view from behind the defenders in the enclosures
The Battle:

The battle beings with a mutual cannonade around the hill

Next, the Earl of Manchester advances a brigade of Foot towards the enclosures

The Royalist Foot reserve is brought forward to guard against any Parliamentary flanking movement

Another shot of the same

And a wider context shot - the Parliamentary Foot appeared in no great haste to actually assault the hedgerow lined with musketmen!

Cromwell (centre) leads forward his first brigade in a gentle trot.  Is he trying to provoke the Earl of Forth into charging?

The artillery exchange continues in the centre - some good shooting by the Roundheads discomfits the King's artillerists!

The lead brigades of Horse clash - Cromwell is in the thick of it, sword in hand (right) - but the Earl of Forth seems strangely absent...

...although his discretion has clearly paid dividends: the Roundheads seem to have rather the better of this first clash, initially

The King orders forward two battalia of veteran infantry!  Is he testing the resolve of the Roundhead Foot...?

Same moment, wider context shot

King Charles orders one of the central brigades of Horse to charge: they charge home, but are somewhat shaken...

Meanwhile, the leading Royalist Horse brigade on the left is coming apart.  One of its troops (centre) has routed its opponent, but it has two troops routing and a thrid one (bottom-left) is beginning to come apart...

One Royalist Horse troop punches through (centre), but the brigade overall is looking quite ragged, having been mainly beaten back by the Parliamentary Foot

A closer shot

Meanwhile at the edge of the enclosures, the musketry continues to rage, with lots of ammunition expended but little in the way of decisive results

Seeing his first brigade in more or less complete rout, the Earl of Forth (bottom-right) calls upon his second brigade (bottom)

Somewhat against the odds, the Parliamentary Foot in the centre has successfully beaten off the Royalist Horse, in the main - only that single troop in the centre has punched through, but is facing the Parliamentary reserves

The stalemate around the enclosures continues

The last troop from the leading Royalist Horse brigade is routed by Cromwell's second line

Cromwell himself is leading the attack into the next line of Parliamentary Horse.  Luck is with him again and the Roundhead troopers have very much got the upper hand...

The Royalist Horse in the centre has been thrown back by the reserves of Manchester's Foot

The musketry exchange continues: the attackers continue to get slightly the worst of it, but not decisively so

A battalia of Royalist foot advances on the centre of Manchester's line

But the second line of the Royalist Horse on the Left is now broken

A wider shot of the Royalist Centre and Left: one can see that the Royalist Left is under extreme pressure

The Parliamentary infantry's musketry has halted the Royalist attack (left) and restored its defensive line (right)

The third line of Royalist Horse engages and at last has some success - except against the invincible Cromwell (right)!

The leading Parliamentary brigade is routed (centre & left), with the exception of Cromwell's own troop (bottom-right)

The Royalist Foot in the centre cannot get forward in the face of the musket fire

The Earl of Forth leads a small reserve Horse brigade in a charge against Cromwell's isolated troop - again, the Cavaliers charge home but in disorder...

The second Parliamentary Horse brigade advances (from top), easily getting the better of this isolated Royalist troop

A troop of Royalist Horse and a battalia of Foot do manage to get into contact in the centre

And yet another half-cocked Royalist charge goes in!

There is no stopping Cromwell this day!  His troop defeats the Royalist reserves and the Earl of Forth is captured too!

The Royalists are having no luck today.  Defying the odds, the raw Parliamentary troopers have forced back the veteran Royalist Horse and Foot in the centre

And the same is repeated on the other side of the centre, although here at least the Royalists are getting the better of one battalia of Foot (centre)

A closer shot

Half of the central Royalist attack in full retreat

And the other half is mainly defeated too! Only that isolated troop (centre) has been successful

This shot shows how the cavalry fight is beginning to swirl around towards the Royalist Rear

The final Royalist Horse brigade is not routed in its entirety, but has been broken up into individual combats - there is nothing now to stop the Parliamentary reserves on this flank

Disorder and casualties mount around the enclosures, but neither side risks an attack over the hedge

A wider shot - the infantry battle is largely a desultory stalemate now

The Royalist centre lookig very weak, although the Parliamentary centre has suffered some losses too

The position at the end of the battle - with Cromwell approaching the Royalist rear, King Charles was obliged to flee.
Game Results: A fairly convincing victory for Parliament.  Losses were:

Royalists: c. 1300 Horse, c.1100 Foot, Earl of Forth captured
Parliamentarians: . c.700 Horse, c.1200 Foot

Although the casualties don't look too far apart, the losses of veteran Royalists are more strategically important than losses in the raw Parliamentary Foot.  And more importantly than either, the King's defeat and retreat would prevent a link-up between Prince Rupert and Charles this month.  Folloing the battle, some of the captured Royalists deserted to the Parliamentary side.

Game Notes: The King had very little luck in this battle. His deployment seemed quite sound and the best that Manchester could really manage, considering that this was a must-win battle for him, was to set up so that the Veteran Horse on his side had a straight fight with the Veteran Horse on the Royalist side, giving him a 50:50 chance of success.  Cromwell's leadership advantage over Forth more than equalized the dubious Royalist charge-ability advantage.  And this was enough for success for the Parliamentarians.  The Royalists equally had no luck in the centre, really, losing combats they really should have won.  Surely God was on the side of the Roundheads this day.
Infantry attacks onto defended locations without a major advantage in skill and/or numbers continue to be suicidally unpromising.  The Royalist charge ability continues to be blessing and curse in equal measure! The only rules point of note was to look again at the effectiveness of firing.  I still believe that the rules change to improve the effectiveness of musketry was vital, because otherwise units of 50:50 shot:pike were so much more effective than shot-heavy units.  However, this change has also made all musketry and artillery more effective; in some cases, I am wondering if that is too effective.  I am still considering this however and I am by no means sure that the change is wrong.  I just don't think I have a clear enough idea of how effective musketry should be.  Anyway, no real rules issues in this game.

Rules were Polemos: ECW, figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Timecast.


  1. Great report! Impressive mass effect and beautiful armies!

  2. Many thanks, Phil. I am hoping to bring more such battles to the table later in the year and will possibly try and do some more of the bigger historical engagements as well.