Wednesday, 30 November 2011

English Civil War - A Winter of Discontent - The Campaign Overview

The story so far……….

Week 1

In an unusual break with traditional military logic King Charles gathered his forces and marched northward from Oxford in early October 1643. Shadowed by parliamentary forces lead by Earl Michael de Blondeville, assisted by the mercenary Lord Flasheart, Charles turned and defeated his pursuers at the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock. At the same time the army of the west gained control of Cirencester, Bristol and Gloucester. In reply Parliamentarian forces moved to secure Colchester and then to Reading.

End of week 1.
Week 2

The following week saw Charles meet up with Prince Rupert, and head into Cheshire. On the edges of the village of Bunbury Earl Michael and Lord Flasheart caught up with them once again, and this time inflicted a stinging defeat on the king, sending the Royalist army tumbling southwards once more. With Parliamentary Troops now holding the south coast ports of Dover, Portsmouth and Poole, as well as Arundel, Charles moved quickly to claim Sherbourne and Lyme Regis and block their passage into the West Country. 
End of week 2.

Week 3

Charles and Rupert were joined by Prince Maurice (Ruperts brother), the Duke of York and Lord Byron to fight an inconclusive draw near Dorchester against Earl Michael and Lord Flasheart. This ended the Royalist interest in Weymouth, but enabled them to gain Devon, holding Exeter, Dartmouth and Plymouth. Parliamentarian forces showed more interest in the midlands, bringing Norwich and Birmingham into the fold. A sour note for Earl Michael was the detection and dismantlement of his spy network by Royalist agents.
End of week 3.
The awards gained: The forces of the king, having thwarted the enemy at the battle of Much Wenlock, had supreme (misguided) confidence in their CO. However Charles spent most of the fighting around Dorchester not using his High Independence ability. They then moved into Lord Flashearts tavern, gaining an Untested regiment of horse. Parliament managed to set up a spy network, which was promptly dismantled, and produce an Academy trained regiment (Sir Adam Duckville's foote) which now performs as Superbly Trained.

We are now up to week four of the campaign, and I’ve attached a lovely map with squiggles on it.  The towns with crosses on are the ones held by the Parliamentarian forces, while the circles are the Royalist strongholds.  Perhaps following tradition the Roundheads have claimed Kent and that section of the coastline (although I have no idea what we’re doing in Birmingham, sorry Aidan), while the Royalists have branched out into the West Country.  I’ve added Falmouth because it surely should be on there, Wrexham though is more of a whim.  Overall we’ve seen a victory for each side and now a draw, and we look forward to Cromwell moving out from his constituency and joining the fight.

Week 4

The Battle of Broughton ended in a Royalist proclaimed draw, and, although it was their army which quit the field, gave the King the opportunity to draw up his men to force a decisive battle against the newly arrived Cromwell and his forces.  At the same time he opened negotiations with that well known mercenary Lord Flasheart about a possible transfer to the forces of light.  Little changed in the country for this action, Royalist troops used some of their few ships to sale to Liverpool and capture it, along with securing Chester, and when Parliamentarian troops gained that important regional centre of Wrexham they sacked it and forced them back to the other Roundhead prize; Shrewsbury.  The explosion of the powder magazine in Wrexham did not help the Roundhead cause. 

End of week 4.

Week 5

Kings Charles' victory over the arch-fiend Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Knockin in early November 1643 sent Royalist supporters into rapture around the country, and sent Cromwell back to London in disgrace, threatening not to reappear for a further 6 weeks.

In the days that followed the Royalists claimed the towns of Manchester, Wakefield and Wrexham. But promptly lost the last when the garrison revolted.  Parliamentarian troops chose to gain Lichfield and Leicester, although to what purpose nobody knows.

Things are not all rosy for Charles however, although Cromwell and his army are scattered or returned to London, Earl Michael de Blondevilles forces remain in the field at some strength, and Sir Brian Cromwell has returned to his home county confident of raising more regiments for his cause.  And to add to this Lord Flasheart, angry at the snub he received at Knockin, is becoming increasingly difficult to control or even retain as a royalist supporter.  Finally, as winter begins to bite, shotte and powder levels are beginning to dwindle. The next few weeks could be a nervy few for all. 

End of week 5.

 Week 6

Charles, Rupert, Flasheart, Earl Michael and the Cromwell's (like the Krays but with ruffs) all took a well deserved break just as characters looking suspiciously like them played the key parts in a sideshow in Cheshire.

The Battle of Middlewich was won by a whisker by the forces of Parliament, who, in a totally unrelated series of events, also captured Caernarvon and that well known regional centre of Wrexham, before using the M1 and A1 to reach Edinburgh.  In reply the Royalists cunningly captured Falmouth, and finally captured Hull via the use of kinda eggs.

This put the Royalists firmly in the lead in terms of powder centres, holding 7 to Parliaments 5 - five shots of powder for them next week! In terms of rewards the forces of the Roundheads gained the news that god is on their side (probably), while Charles received the unwelcome news that Lord Flasheart has appointed himself as a secondary general to the main Royalist army.

Rumour has it Oliver Cromwell may return this week, although whether he will be seeking another major confrontation is questionable, however his numbers of troops have been boosted by his brothers; Sir Brisn Cromwell, recruiting drive.
End of week 6.

Week 7

The unexpected return of Cromwell, assisting the Earl of Essex and his army, saw King Charles and his new best pal Lord Flasheart try and seize an opportunity to thrash 'Old Robin' and young Oliver before the rest of the Parliamentarian forces could join with them.

They failed. Miserably. The troops of Earl Michael de Blondeville and Sur Brian Cromwell being in plenty of time to rescue Cromwell and the rest, as well as inflicting a stinging defeat on Charles. The less said about Prince Ruperts non-appearance on the battlefield of North Muskham the better.

Cromwell and Essex headed back to London, hoping unrealistically that the stories of drunkenness, madness and previous defeats had been left behind. Lord Flasheart stalked off the battlefield, with his troops completely intact, bemoaning the Kings tactics and threatening to turncoat once more. Sir Brian headed for the seaside, and Earl Michael furtively took a similar road to Lord Flasheart. The king retired to Oxford (again) to practice his next song and dance routine.

In the battles being fought through the rest of the country Parliament succeeded in wooing the scots, adding Dunbar, Aberdeen and Inverness to their collection. The Royalists replied by cunningly gaining the port of Falmouth and Pembroke. 

Another week into the winter, and even the Kings drive is struggling to keep his men in the field against driving fog and blinding drizzle (or was that the other way round?). Following advice from Rupert (not necessarily the best idea) Charles has decided to gamble on one final confrontation against his enemies before the winter weather closes in, hoping to break their will to continue the war into 1644.

It will take him a number of weeks to bring his full force to bear, both sides will spend that time grappling to improve their chances of victory. 

End of week 7.

Week 8: The Beginning of the End

The Covenantor victory at the Battle of Alford ended the Royalist interest in Scotland for 1643, and left the Parliamentarian forces in an unassailable position. They had also gained the key town of Newark, as well as Lincoln and made an attempt to drive into the heartland of the Royalists by capturing Selby, cutting off York and Hull. The King, clearly unperturbed by these events, obviously has one eye on the 1644 bathing season, claiming Scarborough and Bridlington.

With one week to go this left the Parliamentarian forces in control of 21 towns and ports, to the Royalist 19, leaving a puritan victory to the campaign inevitable. However, in an unexpected turn of events the magazine at Caernarfon exploded, wiping out the Roundhead garrison.  If the Parliamentarians are able to stall enough for a stalemate, or claim victory in the large, and last, battle next Tuesday then they will be victorious in the campaign.  Should the Royalists claim victory against the odds then they will be fought their way to a credible overall draw in the campaign.  Although the final scenario is yet to be decided upon do not forget that victory at the Battle of Alford enables the Parliamentarians to pick their ground, and force the Royalists to deploy their forces first.  The Cavaliers do have one ace up their sleeves however, due to their capture of the powder magazine at Scarborough they have the first fire ability for each regiment for the first two rounds of shooting.
End of week 8 and overall final map.

Week 9: The End (yes, actually)

With King’s Charles victory at the Battle of Radway the 1643 campaigning season came to an end.  The forces of Parliament had gained a stranglehold on Scotland and the South-East, however the South-West and many of the countries vital ports remained in Royalist hands, and overall neither side could claim to be victors.

The King can look forward to summers on the beach at Scarborough, and a winter spent in comfort at Oxford with Prince Rupert.  Earl Michael, who can take much of the responsibility for the roundhead successes is heading to Lisborn for some much needed R&R, while Cromwell, Cromwell and Essex take stage in London as Parliament plans next years campaign.  Finally Lord Flasheart, who so nearly changed sides (and sometimes did but very quietly) has a few months holed up in that important 17th Century cultural centre of Wrecsam to consider his choice of ally for 1644.

Many thanks to Red and Michael, our main Royalist and Parlimentarian protagonists, along with Luke for buying into the ECW, and Aidan for providing laughs a plenty and a crucial victory and defeat for his side in the biggest battle, plus a splash of colour to the battlefield with his army.  Between him and Michael the Roundheads can take credit for the best looking bunch.  9 weeks may be the longest RGMB campaign in rather a long time, and ended at the right time; on a high.  Perhaps with the new rulebook in 2012 we can return and do it all again (I might even have painted something, Red‘s army certainly looked more colourful), not that 1644 was a particularly good year to be a royalist…….

English Civil War - The Battle of Radway

With the cold creeping in, and the increasing damp making misfires commonplace, King Charles has drawn his forces together for one last effort at winning a moral victory. The Parliamentarian commanders, with 1643 looking like ending in success are hoping to add the icing to the cake. The Earl of Essex and Oliver Cromwell, with Scotland secure and Earl Michael de Blondeville and Sir Brian Cromwells men once again in the field, are also marshalling their men on the village of Ratley, barely 10 miles away from the Royalist encampment.

A chance meeting of pickets and some low level discussions later and a date and place has been agreed. Charles winter campaign of 1643 will end on the 28th of November on the outskirts of a little known place called Radway in Warwickshire, curiously close to another battleground…..

Or so they thought!  Two changes of plan later and it was King Charles (Red), Prince Rupert (Chris Fazey) and Lord Flasheart (Rick/me) facing the forces of Earl Michael de Blondeville (Michael) and Sir Brian Cromwell (Luke), following a calamitous event - messieurs Essex and O. Cromwell (both Aidan) suddenly realising they had a (joint) prior engagement with a hairdresser in Loninium!  With the Royalists now with the upper hand in terms of numbers Earl Michael assumed command, and, satisfied that his side have won the 1643 campaigning season, he turns the troops towards home.  Charles, Rupert and Flasheart, saw their last chance of honour, and a possibility to trap and destroy the Parliamentarian army and set off in pursuit. They met the enemy rearguard on the edges of Radway where a river blocked the Parliamentarian path. There was a bridge, but by good Royalist fortune a regiment of dragoons had made it there first and started to stall like champions. As most of the Parliamentarian army looked to charge the bridge some turned to try and delay their pursuers one last time.

Technicals - the Royalist forces now significantly outnumbered their opponents, so a couple of standard foot regiments and a Forlorn Hope changed sides to even it up.  The scenario was one picked from the Blackpowder book, page 118 to be exact, and we tried to get the deployments and rules as close as possible.  They Royalists deployed on the battlefield by mistake(!), and to rectify this the Parliamentarians had first turn.  They had to get 6 or more regiments across the bridge and off the far table edge by the end of the battle (9:45pm of course), any less and the Royalists won the battle, and claimed a share of the campaign spoils in a draw.  Anyone who claims to see Roman legionaries or Father Christmas in any of the following pictures should see a psychiatrist for some expensive and electric-shock related treatment.  Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera, so the Iphone deputised, and the lack of flash and detail at least hides some of the lack of paint on show.

The Battle:

The Royalist army was split into four parts; Lord Flasheart (Rick) commanding the infantry right of centre, Lord Byron and the Duke of York (both Red) those left of centre, and Rupert and Maurice (both being played by Chris) the large cavalry wings, and the dragoons at the bridge.  Red also took the role of King Charles.  For the Parliamentarians Michael controlled two of the infantry brigades (the two on their left side), and was the army general, while Luke had the other infantry brigade (Sir Brian’s men) and the horse brigade (Fairfax).

The Parlimentarians, having conferred frantically and declared their mission impossible, dispatched their horse towards the bridge with all haste, to be followed by one of Earl Michaels foot brigades.  The remaining two foot brigades, perhaps unaware that they had been marked for death and destruction, formed a line of pikes to hold back the veritable horde of Royalists standing around in the village of Radway.

And their off! Flasheart decides standing around is for pansies who have forgotten to stick their wig on properly, and leads his four foot regiments in a wild charge towards Earl Michael’s foot and cannon.  Unfortunately he had forgotten that to move so far meant no shooting, something that would hurt later. 

Not quite as rash as Rupert’s first suggestion however, and only a couple of poor command rolls prevented his horse being thrown into the front of the enemies pike on the right flank!  On the left Prince Maurice was more sedate, leading his brigade of horse forward slowly, while Bryon, York and Charles struggled to get their foot motivated, and lost one regiment instantly to a single cannon ball.  This failure to pass break tests would soon become a feature of the battle.

 Surviving the first volley of musketry, Lord Flashearts men closed to push of pike and started to slug it out blow for blow, with Rupert, now blocked from charging, champing at the bit for a breakthrough.

At the other end of the battlefield a desperate fight had developed, as Earl Michael’s Swedish foot regiment, resplendent in their yellow, and using the feared ‘Follow Me’ command, charged into the dragoons guarding the bridge, watched by Fairfax’s horse regiments.  Unbelievably the Swedes bounced off and dissipated; the Parliamentarians most powerful regiments vanishing in a flash!  It would be down to the horse to see the job done now.

A nicely painted Sir Edward Verney putting in a colourful appearance in support of the foot regiments fighting in the centre, dispelling rumours that he had actually died a year earlier.

Fear (and sponsorship by Red Bull) lends wings to the Parliamentary horse of Fairfax as they race across the bridge and fling themselves upon the dragoons, only to see the defenders resist every effort to dislodge them, the initial charge coming within a whisker of breaking them however.

And might well they worry, for behind them a disaster has occurred, with Maurice spotting an exposed flank and sending his gallopers to take advantage to the cheers of the kings foot regiments!  Two of Sir Brian’s foot regiments vanish in minutes, leaving the final one alone, and Earl Michael’s foot unsupported and under immense pressure.  They did succeed in shaking the Royalist gallopers and trotters however, and they would struggle to continue the pursuit of the remains of the Parliamentarians later.

Earl Michael’s men managed to drive the King’s Lifeguard (redcoats) back to their starting positions, but the pressure of numbers and some appalling break tests began to tell, with one Roundhead regiment after another fleeing.

Suddenly its down to a nasty push of pike fight, with three large regiments picking on two artillery and a standard Parliamentarian one.  The cannon crew swiftly flee, however Earl Michael’s foot give Hopton’s a very bloody nose and stick it out.

With their defensive line collapsing, and expecting Ruperts horse to be unleashed any moment the Parliamentarians continue to scrap for the bridge, with the remains of various foot brigades clustering, hoping Fairfax can find them an escape route.

Unbelievably they are granted a reprieve as Earl Michael’s foot, assailed in combat ion three sides refuse to give in and hold up the Royalist advance!

The bigger picture, showing how far behind the Royalists are from the Parliamentarian survivors by the bridge.  Rupert in particular is struggled to make his men understand the word ‘Charge’, probably something to do with his pronunciation of the ‘r’.  The roundheads need six regiments to escape to claim victory, and four horse, plus 3 foot, are gathered around the bridge.

Ruperts men sudden work out what their glorious leader was screaming at them (blue in the face by now) and launch a 40”+ charge on the rear of Fairfax’s horse.  Sadly for them they are seen off in short order, and retreat to wait for the rest of their brigade to arrive.

The magnificent last stand of Sir Michael’s foot; finally wiped out to a man by one of Byron’s regiments.

And not a moment too soon for the Royalists, as the dragoons suddenly, with no warning, melt away into the evening, and Fairfax’s horse pour across the bridge and away towards London.

However it is too late for the remainder of the Parliamentarian foot, as Rupert and his horse return and send them reeling away on the wrong side of the river.  With 9:45pm upon us, Royalist foot regiments closing in to assist Rupert, and the enemy foot looking extremely unlikely to recover the Roundheads concede and victory goes to the Royalists, along with a share of honour in the campaign.


I picked the scenario on the basis that being in the Blackpowder book would mean it was general well balanced rather than risk the campaign result on an oddity, and it didn’t disappoint!  Although extreme pessimism seemed to reign on the Roundheads side through the early parts they got organised, and their plan was general quite sound, with the horse and a foot brigade marked for escape, and the rest as a delaying force.  

Their undoing was the heroic, and at times mathematically unlikely, survival of the dragoons by the bridge  Even then the last ditch defence by Michael’s foot regiment, and Chris/Rupert’s failure to launch an early charge following the breakthrough, gave the Royalists a taste of fear and possible defeat, and it was only right at the last moment that the Royalist horse caught up and prevented the Parliamentarian foot from escape and victory.

So a nice balanced game overall, and keeping the result of the battle, and of the campaign hidden right down to the last moments of the last battle, nice place to sign off I think.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Romans - A Hail Caesar Project - Part 4

Time for the post on Painting Romans

Now it must first be noted that most of the process I'm using has at best been copied (and at worse pinched) from others methods and ideas. Because i a nice person who is afraid of being sued I will put the credits at the bottom.

My painting - a nod to my own technique, a combination of base colours followed by a lighter series of dry brushing with some washed used sparingly for skin/guns/metal etc. This tended to produce quite good results (I thought), however incredibly slowly, meaning that by the time one unit was done I would have lost the will to live and abandoned the task, bit of a problem when your army is 8-9 units big at least. My lack of dedication and slowness in painting technique adds to the lack of time I have to paint due to work and (mostly) the bio-Titan (a 19 month old with a fascination with paint and brushes), to mean I hadn't finished a model, let alone a unit, since feb 2010.

 A previous effort; ECW musketeers.

The revolution - having watched a number of people building and painting their armies happily, and suffered the (sometimes slight sometimes acute) embarrassment of turning up with unpainted models I wondered what the secret was. In some cases time appeared a factor, the player simply had more of it, and in others a single-mindedness to finish before they used anything. Neither approach looked likely to help me, but a third way had potential, relying on an effect from more of a distance than the close-up "eyes painted and face correctly shaded" ideals I was using. It seemed to cut painting time down to a minimum, and I had seen, and envied, the results on the tabletop myself. I resolved to gave it a shot, and so far it appears to be bringing me results. The full process used is below:

Modelling - stick model together, stick models to bases in blocks of 4 on a 4cm by 4cm base. The bases are plasticard which I cut to the right sizes. I use plastic glue (humbrol mainly), rather than superglue, i find it cheaper and easier to use (do have to wait a bit for it to dry but I think i, although revert back to superglue for metal or resin models. Then attach sand using pva glue covering base.

Painting - I undercoat the model in chaos black spray paint, then paint the entire model with a cost of brown (medium-dark), before adding/dry brushing another couple of layers of the same brown on, a bit slighter each time.

Once that's done it's metal (armour, swords etc) followed by flesh, all of which is done in one shade, although sometimes a couple of coats to make it strong enough, and done quickly. Then some details; red shields, beige sword slings are the obvious, the command group needs more. Then only tidying up, with brown mainly but also metal where the flesh can carried over. All is done quickly and without any aim of perfection which would slow the job down. The command group needs a couple of greys for the wolf skin, and some cream for the tunics and gold and bronze for the standard and horn respectively. No effort is made to do details like eyes, buckles etc.

On the subject of tunics; the traditional red all round would be nice, but much more time consuming so the lighter brown is left. In actual fact the dye for the wool was often unavailable and plain cream or brown tunics worn and that satisfies my historical accuracies committee.

The bases get the same base coat of brown, but then a lighter coat of a different brown in a change from my usual 3 coats plus. This is partly for speed, but mostly because the flock will cover 90% of it.

 The Cohorts post paint but pre-Dip.

The Dip - Painting finished and onto the next bit: the infamous Dip - I have the strong quick shade one. Now the size of the neck of the dip can means its rather tricky to get a 4cm square base in, so following some advice I use a paint brush to put it on the model, which works nicely because I can then remove excess bits in areas like faces with ease, plus you don't waste as much trying to flick it off after dipping. I tried dipping first but the sheer volume of shade on the model was a disaster and I had to use a brush to take most of it off. Once dipped (or painted etc) I leave the model for 24hrs, which goes against my impatience streak, but is necessary for the dip to dry 100%, no kidding here - first couple of attempts went horribly wrong. 

 Post-Dip shiny-ness.  Actually didn’t look as bad as if you had actually dipped it in the stuff, probably because by ‘painting’ it on I hadn’t used as much.

After the 24hrs it's onto the flock (mix of two greens from gale force nine, attached to 90% of the base using pva glue), then once that is dry (another min of 12hrs I reckon, but I left it 24 because I was at work anyway) a coat of the army painter anti-shine matt varnish. This does two things; one it takes off the shine and gives the effect, and two it cements the flock to the base. I think any matt varnish should do the job to be honest but I'd bought that one with the dip so used it.  Big tip - use Dip and Varnish in good humidity conditions; cold and damp is disastrous!

And done! Didn't actually time the period taken to paint each model or unit but due to the bio-Titan I tend to have to do bits in short bursts so it would be tricky. The mere success of painting the two cohorts has brought back the joy of painting however, and I'm varying the subject matter by working on some English Civil War pikemen at the same time (more on that somewhere else sometime).

Next up is a unit of auxiliaries, although I need to buy some command groups before I can complete anything.

And not to forget the credits, two ‘thank you‘s‘:
Firstly to Michael for his tips on basing (which caused me to go with the 90% flock cover - a very good move), and for information on ‘Dipping’.  Also for his single-minded determination to embarrass the rest of us by painting models he has purchased.
To Andy for the info on humidity and using the varnish, saving me from packing the whole lot in before I’d really started!
And the biggest thanks to Aidan, because it’s his quick painting technique I’m using and exposing to everyone else, and because he responsible for me purchasing the Army Painter system in the first place, even though he now claims he said not too.  Plus his ECW army makes me feel bad every time I play a game.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Winter of Discontent - Week 8

The Covenantor victory at the Battle of Alford ended the Royalist interest in Scotland for 1643, and left the Parliamentarian forces in an unassailable position. They had also gained the key town of Newark, as well as Lincoln and made an attempt to drive into the heartland of the Royalists by capturing Selby, cutting off York and Hull. The King, clearly unperturbed by these events, obviously has one eye on the 1644 bathing season, claiming Scarborough and Bridlington.

With one week to go this left the Parliamentarian forces in control of 21 towns and ports, to the Royalist 19, leaving a puritan victory to the campaign inevitable. However, in an unexpected turn of events the magazine at Caernarfon exploded, wiping out the Roundhead garrison.  If the Parliamentarians are able to stall enough for a stalemate, or claim victory in the large, and last, battle next Tuesday then they will be victorious in the campaign.  Should the Royalists claim victory against the odds then they will be fought their way to a credible overall draw in the campaign.  Although the final scenario is yet to be decided upon do not forget that victory at the Battle of Alford enables the Parlimentarians to pick their ground, and force the Royalists to deploy their forces first.  The Cavaliers do have one ace up their sleeves however, due to their capture of the powder magazine at Scarborough they have the first fire ability for each regiment for the first two rounds of shooting.

As before, Red for Royalists, Blue for Parliamentarians, and a big cross for the now extinct town of Caernarfon.

English Civil War - The Battle of Alford

This weeks scenario has it basis in the 1645 Battle of Alford. Without going into too much detail Alford is North-West of Aberdeen, and the site of one of the Royalist Earl of Montrose famous victories. This one, unlike the others, saw him outnumber his reluctant Covenanter enemy Baille, and having driven away the enemies horse wings the Royalists wiped out the entire of the enemy foot centre in a crushing victory (no pressure there then Red).

This week Lord Flasheart and Earl Michael de Blondeville will be joining forces for the first time since the Battle of Broughton, however, with our battle taking place North of the border they will be adopting different names once more as Maj. General William Baille (the commander of the Covenantor foot) and the Earl of Balacarres (commander of the horse).  With Charles taking the part of the Earl of Montrose.  

There will be a (badly drawn) map of the battlefield, with both sides drawn up in the traditional style of foot with horse wings.  We will need almost all of mine, Red’s and Michael’s models, with the exception of the cannon (no, not even Falconet’s Red), due to the total lack of them.  The Covenanter’s will only need one commander each however.  The lack of trust in their subordinates, and poor quality of those available, ensured they did not delegate their powers.  To compound this Colonel Alexander Lindsey; the Earl of Balcarres as he will be know, is classed as High Independence (so that’s +1 to his command rating if first to give orders, but blundering on a 1,1 or 6,6).  Meanwhile the commander; Maj. General William Baille is the opposite and of Low Decisiveness (must re-roll if gets 3 moves).

In contrast Montrose is one of the great success stories of the civil war, and finally has the boot on the other foot.  He is permitted up to five (including himself) command figures, with two to be classed as High Independence, and one as Low Decisiveness.  Lord Gordon (master of horse on the right) and Napier are the former, while Viscount Aboyne (master of horse on the left) is the latter.  The other two posts are for Angus MacDonald (foot) and Col. James Farquharson (foot) - pronounce that if you can.  Finally to pile the worry upon the Covenanter’s two regiments of Royalist foot are to be termed Elite (4+) to represent the veteran Irish fighters.

The deck appears stacked, however the victory conditions are that the Royalists must rival the historic success of Montrose, and convincingly decimate the Covenanter’s; with 10 Covenantor regiments in the field this equals reducing them to fewer than 4 before time expires.  

The Battle Itself:

And so to the day of the battle itself, and with the table set the Covenanters were in position first, the impetuous Lord Balcarre (myself/Rick) taking control of the left flank of two horse and three foot regiments, while the more hesitant army commander Maj. General Baille (Michael) took the right, with one horse, three foot and the forlorn hope under his direct control.  The Royalists were somewhat sluggish, having to finish their chips and vinegar first, before unpacking the entire army man for man.  The position of army commander; the Earl of Montrose, went to Chris Fazey, who also controlled the horse of the bonkers Lord Gordon (2 horse and one dragoon regiment on the Royalist right flank).  Red became the hesitant Viscount Aboyne (left flank of horse) and Lord Byron, controlling all four large foot regiments that made up the Royalist centre.  As noted previously there were no cannon involved in the making of this film.

 Lord Byron insisted that historically the Royalists waited in ambush behind the hill (Royalists to the left), so it was left to the Covenanters to take first turn and make the first offensive move from the starting positions you see here.

 The aggressive Earl of Balcarre is first off the mark, driving Lord Gordon’s dragoons back, and advancing swiftly into musketry range.

 His horse swiftly come a cropper however, in a way that followed historical events nicely, when Lord Gordon’s horse counter attack, driving one regiment from the field and the other to lick its wounds behind the foot.  It would play little part in the rest of the battle.

 On the right hand side of the Covenanter line the hesitancy of Maj. General Baille started to take effect, as his foot waited in vain for orders that simply didn’t come.

 The sole involvement early on being a horse clash on the right, where Viscount Aboyne’s men got the better of Baille’s horse not once, but twice, but a well placed double 6 ensured they remained in play, abet a lot further back than the rest of the Covenanter army.

 With Baille’s foot held back by their commanders inability to roll under 9 (for 4 turns running) it was leftto the Earl of Balcarre to push on with the attack.  Following history both Covenantor horse flanks had been destroyed or rendered useless, so the Royalist horse turned inwards to attack the flanks of Balcarres foot regiments, just as Lord Byron pushed his own forwards to assist.

 The attack on Tabot’s (whitecoats) regiment failed, and the Royalist trotters were forced to retreat, thanks in no small part to the enfilading fire from Bailles Forlorn Hope.  Hopton’ (bluecoats) large regiment was forced to retreat however, but Gordon’s horse found a charge into the front of the pike a completely different prospect, and soon fled, along with their brigade commander, from the field, leaving Montrose to command the remaining troops himself.

 With the failure of the horse charge the lead regiment of Byron’s command came under heavy musketry fire, and also fled, with Byron amongst them!  The tide had turned in favour of the Covenanters, victory for the Royalists looked far, far away, and most importantly with the demise of Byron the Earl of Montrose (Chris) gained control of virtually the entire Royalist army, leaving Red just the Viscount Aboyne and his few horse to command.

 Montrose redressed his lines, bringing the foot regiment off the hill to mend the hole, while Viscount Aboyne scored a victory with his second attempt (and 3rd ‘Follow Me’ order)to charge the flank of Talot’s whitecoats, driving them from the field.  Baille remained indecisive.  An attempt to follow this success up by Montrose failed however, as his foot regiment was firstly defeated in combat, then destroyed by the musketry of Hopton and Stradling’s (blackcoats) foot regiment, leaving a hole again.  Still Baille did nothing.

The Earl of Balcarre then gave the order to his remaining horse regiment to ‘charge the dragoons on the hill!’.  They thought he said ‘Charge the pikemen in the front!’, and did so - blunder all round, and a substantial defeat for the horse, although somehow they still remained on the field near the edge of the village of Alford.

 By this time Montrose and Aboyne seemed to have assumed that Bailles men were not going anywhere, and were lining up for a final tilt at the remains of the Earl of Balcarres forces when suddenly Baille became all decisive!  In a turn where not a command role was failed he outflanked Montrose’s foot, poured fire into Aboyne’s horse, and finally attacked the house containing Aboyne’s dragoons.

 The attack on the house however did not go as planned, with the dragoons causing the foot regiment to flee!  Along with the sudden demise of Hopton and Talbot (Balcarres last two foot regiments) to more dragoon and musketry fire, this was almost a turning point, putting the Royalists within a long reach of a very unlikely victory.

Baille outflanked the other Royalist foot regiment however, and even a last charge by the last of Aboyne’s horse could not dislodge his redcoats.  Time and the battle had run its course and although they had made a good fight back towards the end it was the Royalists who tasted defeat, and the Covenanters that secured a further victory for Parliament.


An interesting battle, I had tilted the scenario the Royalists way (Elite troops, more commanders, less hesitancy), but given them a tough target to achieve victory - 7 out of 10 Covenantor regiments to be destroyed by the end.  However it was the government troops, and in particular my flank that took the fight to them.  My tactics were quite cavalier in a sort of ‘charge and the devil take them!’ kind of way, but seemed to put early pressure on and work.  However towards the end the pressure of fighting most of the Royalist army had taken its toll, and I ended with only one regiment of horse left.  The first two thirds of the battle the Royalists were on the back foot, and a government victory never seemed in doubt, however, with the speed that Blackpowder often conjures up, it turned around and given another 2-3 turns I think we would have been in real trouble and facing defeat.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Romans - A Hail Caesar Project - Part 3

An update of sorts, although I haven’t done any painting in the last few days, dedicating my time to looking after Ben (who isn’t well) and desperately casting around in vain to try and improve my finances (which look even worse), I did spend some since the last update on the short Italians.  Indeed several even made a camo appearance in the last English Civil War battle; The Battle of North Muskham, looking very pigmy-like standing next to a Renegade Miniatures Saker.

Onto actual progress and all the models I have are now based, undercoated black and then painted a nice colour of Vallejo Chocolate Brown.  I have now moved onto more detailed painting, and I’m working towards having two Legionary cohorts ready for ‘Dipping’ and spraying soon.  To tide me over I’ve taken a couple of pictures (below), which the eagle-eyed among the 2 rabid dogs and a mongoose who read this post (you know who you are) will note includes a couple of pet projects; some civil war pikemen undergoing a trial of rapid painting, and a familiar red-coated figure hoping to get some action in closer to December.

A quick mention towards The Plan, because there is a general building plan going on.  The overall aim is to create the following army:
5 Cohorts of Legionaries
2 Cohorts of Auxiliaries
2 Squadrons of Auxiliary cavalry
1 Scorpion
Approximately 4 command figures

This is based on my cohorts of infantry (where did that ‘I’ word come from?) being 16 strong (8 men wide by 2 deep), and the cavalry being 8 strong in a 4by2 formation.  Overall I’ve priced this as costing around £80, so I’m hoping the few bits currently on Ebay will come good at the last moment tomorrow night, and that Christmas, and the following birthday, will be kind to my empire building.  Finally, and somewhat sadly, my finances have reached another low mark, this one being particularly desperate, so unless I can land a decent job soon my Romans can look nice and be completed but will never get a game in due to travel costs!

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Winter of Discontent - Week 7

This is an update post for the English Civil War campaign we are currently running at the RGMB club, mainly to get the map of the areas each faction holds online.  The places marked by a red dot being the Royalist held areas, and the blue dot the Parliamentary areas.  With but a couple of weeks remaining, and the side with the most dots winning we are getting towards the sharp end, and to save those poor eyes from counting I can confirm that currently the Parliamentarians lead with 18 territories/towns over the Royalists 17, all to fight for before winter stops play.  I'll put a copy of the narrative of the whole campaign up when all is finished.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

English Civil War - The Battle of North Muskham

The Buildup

The rumour mill is in full flow that Oliver Cromwell is returned to the field of battle at least four weeks earlier than previously believed, if so that leaves us with a full house and a need for a scenario that doesn’t involve dear Oliver throwing his men at the Royalist gun-line.

So here goes.

The Background

Gathering as many men around him as possible Oliver Cromwell has marched from London on into the midlands seeking another confrontation with the King, sending out summons to the other Parliamentarian commanders to join him as soon as possible.  Despite their misgivings after Cromwell’s dubious grasp of tactics and reality during the Battle of Knockin, both Earl Michael de Blondeville and Sir Brian Cromwell have mustered their men and are marching to meet him at his encampment on the edge of Newark.  King Charles, hassled into a snap decision by his ‘assistant and better looking body double’ Lord Flasheart, has ordered an immediate march by the Royal army to Newark to protect this bastion of Royalist strength, and also to seek out Cromwell and crush him once and for all.  Hearing the news of Earl Michael and Sir Brian’s forces are also on the march Charles detaches a strong brigade of horse and Dragoons under the command of Princes Rupert to distract them, enabling Charles himself (egged on by Flasheart) to defeat Cromwell’s weaker army.

King Charles and Oliver Cromwell come face to face once more at the Battle of North Muskham, just North of Newark itself.  With their forces drawn up it is clear Charles holds the advantage of numbers.  However, Earl Michael and Sir Brian have evaded the impetuous Rupert (who managed to get caught up fox hunting by mistake) and are even now drawing close, with the red-faced Rupert hard on their heels.  Desperate to finish the job before the Parliamentarian forces combine and he, himself, is outnumbered Charles orders his men into the attack.

Facts and Figures, plus Scenario

Background finished, now for some detail; for those with the knowledge think Waterloo; Charles is Napoleon, hoping to finish Cromwell (Wellington - didn‘t think Aidan could resist such a title) before Earl Michael (arriving from reserve for the second week running) and Sir Brian, representing the Prussians, arrive having outwitted Rupert (Grouchy).  On a large battlefield (6ft width by 12ft length again) Cromwell deploys first, picking his side.  Charles and Flasheart deploy second, with a large brigade detached under Rupert off-table (around 2 horse regiments and all of Red’s vaunted Dragoons), facing Cromwell and get first turn.  

Earl Michael and Sir Brians forces arrive from turn 1, with 1 brigade a turn becoming active and available to be ordered onto the table.  They arrive on a short table edge furthest from the main armies.  Meanwhile Rupert, being far behind, arrives on a FOW roll from turn 4 onwards, arriving randomly on one or the other long sides, up to 12” in from the Parliamentarian reserves short table edge.

Victory Conditions:  The Royalists hope to scatter the main enemy army to the far corners of the country.  Should they succeed in convincingly defeating Cromwell’s force without substantial damage to themselves then they can claim victory.  Should the opposite happen and Charles’ army is heavily defeated then Parliamentary victory is acclaimed.  Fighting to start as early as possible on Tuesday, and finish by 9:45pm as usual.

Thoughts and cries of derision?

The Battle Itself

With no cries of derision the battle went ahead as planned, with Oliver Cromwell being replaced by the Earl of Essex (whose part a sober Aidan played admirably).  Essex’s force faced the vast bulk of King Charles (Red) army, minus Prince Rupert and his gallant band of 2 horse regiments and both dragoon regiments, who were still off chasing their tails hoping to find Sir Brian (Luke) and Earl Michael’s (Michael).  The chase would last well after they should have appeared on the tabletop, and in fact they never made it.

While Essex had single control over his forces, Charles had to face up to his right flank being commanded by a self-opinionated Lord Flasheart (Rick), and one of his two central foot brigades passing into the hands of one Sir Edmund Verny (although mostly called Bernie, and also known as Chris Fazey).  With deployment decided and models on the table Lord Flasheart foolishly suggested the defending Roundheads should try and steal the initiative, which they promptly did to his great disappointment.

The initial armies deployment from a Cavalier point of view, with Lord Flashearts troops in the foreground, while Verny’s foot are backed up by Lord Byron and Charles himself.  On the far Royalist left stand two horse brigades to hold the flank.  Essex has also anchored that flank with horse, and made good use of the hedgerows, looking anxiously to the West and the divorced couples manor house in the hope that re-enforcements are not far away.

The right honourable member for Parliaments suggestion of length is decried from the rest of the assembled members, however his wish is granted as the first of Earl Michael’s troops arrive in the form of two regiments of foot to the right of the manor house.  Essex is even more pleased with his horse commander, Oliver Cromwell, however when dear Oliver leads a daring and aggressive charge against his opposite number Prince Maurice and his brigade of horse.  Having dubiously managed to pack in all three of his regiments against Maurice’s two he sends one regiment packing, and the other toward the far corner of the battlefield, where Maurice spends the rest of the conflict trying to coerce them back into some kind of order.  Lord Byron meanwhile, has ordered his brigade of foot onto the hill in the hope of keeping pace and a line with Verney’s brigade.

Panic sets in on the Royalist left and centre with Cromwell’s success, and Charles starts ordering his foot to fulfil all kinds of strange manoeuvres, ending in some kind of zig-zag formation aimed at fending off the rampant (good word) Roundhead horse.  Brigadier Wolfe (in the black, with the all-blank cavalry brigade) is on hand to assist in sending Cromwell’s own regiment realling back to his own lines, from where he didn’t move again, and wiping out the two smaller Roundhead horse regiments.

But even as the Cavaliers resounding three cheers ring out the real threat arrives; Sir Brian Cromwell (you know, the OTHER one) arrives with all his horses (3 regiments to be exact) and all his foot (2 standard, 1 small - 3 regiments that would be then!).  This sends Charles into even more panic, although he does hatch a devilish and possibly illegal scheme to slow them down……

A rare shot to break the mood of Lord Flashearts men, struggling to make way against, he admitted, weak opposition.  The English hedges were roundly cursed, as was the inability of Flashearts foot regiments to follow any kind of order or hit anything with their muskets, while the Parliamentarians pounded away with cannon and musketry, threatening several times to drive a regiment from the field.

Back to the Royalist left flank and Charles cunning plan; Brigadier Wolfe and yet another follow me order taking one of Earl Michael’s foot at a dashingly unsporting angle, before going on to do the same to one of Sir Brian’s regiments.  Although none were lost to this attack, it disrupted the Roundhead plans to some extent, and they remained unable to chase Wolfe and his horse away throughout the battle.  The other black horse regiment wasn’t so lucky, and a nasty enfilading volley put pay to their plans of tavern domination and ownership of hat shops.

Charles forms his foot regiments up in a nice long unbroken line of pike in the hope of blocking out Parliaments superiority in horse numbers with a wall they could not charge.  This made them sluggish however, and most thoughts of pressing home the attack on Essex seemed to have faded in favour of surviving the flank attack.  This left them open to musketry and cannon fire, an opportunity the Roundheads did not pass up.

Sir Brian even sent one of his foot regiments in to assault the larger Royalist one, forcing a draw, and then sending their bigger opponents staggering backwards to open a hole in the line for the horse to attack.  

With elsewhere turning rapidly into a debacle, and time slipping away, on the Royalist right Lord Flasheart grew tired of the seemingly ineffective musketry his troops were producing and ordered a massed charge!  Quotes about the evade rule, and the hedgerow effect prevented contact this time.  At the same momnet Verny lost one of his regiments to the heavy firepower of Essex’s troops, leaving Flashearts left flank exposed, but no Roundhead regiments were in a position to take advantage.

With Maurice floundering, Byron facing horse attacks on his flanks, Wolfe playing cat and mouse with Sir Brians foot (and losing) and Verney reduced and stalled in the field in front of Essex’s cannon and foot, the remaining slim hope for victory was with Lord Flasheart on the right.  However all the manouvering and pressuring was for nil, with only a Saker battery wiped out by the big charge, and one regiment forced to retreat.  Flashearts men were in a strong position, but the rest of the field belonged to Parliament and nothing could be gained by fighting on.

The Aftermath

A slightly disappointing battle for me; having surrendered by horse for Red to use on the left flank my foot then refused to push swiftly through the hedges and farm buildings and their musketry was ineffective against Aidan’s excellent rolls.  My big charge when it came was well tilted against a weaker opponent, but too late in the day to be able to capitalise on, and in any case the dice didn’t go wonderfully well for me anyway even in combat.  The plan (although Charle/Red claimed to know not that there was a plan at all) was for all the foot regiments to go in on a reduced front and send Essex’s/Aidans forces reeling, winning the battle before Luke and Michael’s troops could assist.  The two horse brigades on our left were to threaten and stall these re-enforcements.

Sadly the Roundheads didn’t play ball (winning the initiative, charging with Cromwell, turning up early as re-enforcements) while the king got more dodgy in terms of tactics as the game went on.  The four large foot regiments were diverted and stalled by first Cromwell’s attack, and then Sir Brian’s horse arriving, and were unable to join Flasheart in his attack on the main Parliamentarian force.  In an ironic reversal of two weeks ago it was a line of the Kings troops standing and being pounded by Essex’s gun line.

On a game playing point of view one thing stood out for me, and that was the slow speed at which it was conducted, we only managed five turns, which for Blackpowder is slow.  On the Royalist side we should have given Chris more support in what he could do, and perhaps more troops so he could feel he was actually doing something; 2 regiments always seems very few when it comes to your turn.  Apart from that more looking up rules, and spending time talking and thinking about manoeuvres seem to be to blame.  Perhaps a time limit on each turn would be of benefit?