Saturday, 21 May 2011

Battle of Middleton Common #ecw #wargame

Having finished up my English Civil War army ( 132 figures/3300 men a side) I thought I ought to give them an outing on the war-games table. Having checked out the ECW rules on the freewargamerules website I decided that Pike and Shot by John Armatys looked the neatest. The feature I really liked was that units suffered "counters" for any adverse event, and that the counters reduced not only their combat effectiveness, but also their mobility - lovely images of units becoming more and more sluggish as the game evolved. The aspect I least liked was that firing and melee were done in variable sized figure groups - depending on type of troops/encounter and counters held. Having been raised on Quarrie I'm a great believer in the figures vs modified die roll combat table.


The game setting was not particularly imaginative - but this was the age of linear warfare. The two sides were drawn up lengthways along the 3ft x 6ft dining table, with no more objective than to destroy the opposition. Both sides had 2 pike and musket blocks in the centre, with one in reserve, and cavalry units (3 each) split between the two wings plus a reserve. In addition the Roundheads had a unit of dragoons, and the Royalists a rabble of local peasantry.

centre line

First turn saw all units advance to contact. In turn 2 the Roundhead's Cuirassiers charged into the Royalist cavalry on the Roundhead right flank. Both rolled as Nervous (which would become a feature if the Roundhead experience). The cuirassiers won the first round.


On the Roundhead left flank the NMA Lobsters had charged up the Royalist horse and let rip with their pistols, but there were no casualties. By the third turn melees were happening across the front. The NMA horse on the left lost to the Royalists, the Blue Royalist infantry bested the first NMA battalion, and the Royalists Grey Regiment beat the Parliamentarian Russets. The Russets were rolled as nervous (as were most of the NMA!) and broke. The Cuirassiers on the right flank won again against the Royalist cavalry, but the refused to break. It was at this point that it dawned on me with these rules that every Melee here was effectively going to be a fight to the death, and the winner was as likely to exit the game giving chase as the loser was.

On the fourth turn the rabble who'd been advancing through a wood towards the Dragoons who'd secured a small farmhouse and suffered little from musketry finally tried to charge the Dragoon but failed their morale check. The Royalist cavalry won the second round of melee on the left flank, the cuirassiers finally broke the Royalist horse on the right flank, and the NMA won the second round of Melee against the Royalist Blues. The Royalists Greys reformed, and the Roundhead CinC managed to rally the fleeing Russets.


Turn five saw things turn more in the Roundheads favour. On their right flank the cavalry was routing (pursued uncontrollably by the Cuirassier), and the rabble was pulling back. On the left flank the Royalist cavalry was finally broken. In the centre though the NMA were finally broken by the Blues. Turn 6 saw the table begin to clear with Royalsit cavalry on both flanks routing off the table. In the centre the NMA continued to rout, the CinC failing to rally them (nice "rousing speech") rules though. The dragoons pursued the mob up towards the Royalist artillery ( all artillery being particularly ineffective all game). Turn 7 saw the Royalist reserve cavalry and infantry begin to move forward on the centre-left, and the Dragoons finally rout the rabble by musketry. Turn 8 the rallied NMA Horse from the left flank had though rallied, and charged the Blues in the flank whilst the Roundhead Orange Regiment charged them in the front. Needless to say it was carnage with the Roundheads scoring 6 counters and 1 figure, the Royalists only 1 counter.

Turn 9 the NMA horse gave chase to the fleeing Blues. The Royalists Whites in the centre finally decided to charge the Orange regiment which had putting a desultory musketry fire inoto them but failed the morale test. The Royalists Greys had more luck, charging the reforming Russets and winning 1:0. In turn 10 the Dragoons mounted up having seen off the rabble, while the NMA horse charged the Royalist Mounted Gentlemen, but lost 1:2 and broke!


The Whites failed to charge again, whilst the Orange poured more fire into them. The Russets turned the tide against the Greys, winning 3:2 and inflicting 3 figure casualties, causing the Greys to break.


Next turn the Dragoons charged the first of the Royalists guns on the ridge behind the battlefield and routed it for no loss.


The Royalist Gentlemen returned the favour charging and routing the forward NMA gun. Whites and Orange continued their firefight, the Whites almost breaking.


Turn 12 saw the second Royalist gun lost to an NMA charge on the left flank, and the Gentlemen charge the second NMA battalion - but lose 0:2. Turn 13 saw the melee and one firefight continue and in turn 14 the tide finally turned decisively in the NMAs favour as Horse broke the Gentlemen and the Orange finally broke the Whites by fire - the Whites only hanging on as long as they did due to the presence of their CinC.

With Turn 15 we were finally into the end game. The NMA horse pursuing the Gentlemen careered into the Royalist reserve, the Green Regiment, winning 1:0, the Orange Regiment pursued the fleeing Whites and the reformed Russets advanced on the flank/rear of the Greens - the sole Royalist unit left under command.


The melee lasted into the next round, NMA Horse and Russets against the Whites, and in turn 17 the Greens finally broke, and the Parliamentarians were left in command of the field.

Thoughts -

Just goes to show you should never have preconceptions about rule mechanics. The counter system in the end didn't have the effect I anticipated - since one a unit was in combat and taking counters it was almost inevitable it would stay in combat til it broke or followed up - in both cases counters didn't then have an effect. The group system on the other hand worked pretty well. What really surprised me was how few figure casualties there were - barely a dozen, which just doesn't tally with reality. The fact that melees resulted in one side fleeing and the other side pursuing off table is probably reasonable for cavalry - but not for infantry (you're not going to chase someone far if you've got to carry a 15ft pike! The whole push-of-pike thing wasn't a separate feature of the rules - I knew that - and still want to add it - although the overall effect of the melees was probably about right.

So I think next time I play I think I'll make the following modifications:

  • Abandon the counters and just count counter damage as figures - less die roll and less paperwork
  • Adjust the experience assignment to 2D so there are far fewer nervous units
  • Stop infantry pursuits after 2 turns, and enhance the chance of rallying after 1
  • Allow units that pursue off table to return after something like 6+D6 turns
  • Tweak melee to better reflect push-of-pike
  • Keep the grouping system!

***Imported from old blog***

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