Thursday, April 29, 2010

Battle of Newbury I

We are on a roll here at Lead Gardens with another face to face game last Saturday!... this time pitting Eric and I in a historic ECW scenario in 40mm. Eric had not yet played "Victory Without Quarter" so since he roundly trounced me in the 18th century I thought I might give him a go in 17th.

The historic battle occurred in the year 1643 when King Charles ably marched his army to block the line of the retreating Parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex. It was one of the critical battles of the war and one of the largest so it would be a fun challenge to reproduce on the tabletop. The tabletop battle was set up based on several map sources including the excellent ones at the UK Battlefield Resources website and the hex map of the battle from the GMT game series "This Accursed Civil War" (interestingly named after a quote lamenting the death of the Royalist Lord Falkland who was killed at Newbury). The maps were brought into Adobe Illustrator and with a few adjustments a reasonably accurate table was cooked up using my old GeoHex to get the sense of the contours of the ground a bit more accurate than is possible using my usual stacked foam hills. For the OB, I used both the GMT game scenario as well as the excellent Nafziger OBs available ( and generously donated and now for free!) at the U.S Army's CARL website. I was able to scale a reasonably good scenario with the figures I had making each "regiment" of figures on the table represent one of the "tertios" of the actual battle.

In the foreground, Skippon's brigade holds "Round Hill" with the Regiments of the London Trained Band in reserve...on the left the enclosures in front of the village of Skinners Green...and in the distance the main body of Royalist foot.

These first few pics show the initial starting positions of each side. (unfortunately the overview picture of the whole table was corrupted so it didn't want to upload...and the usual caveats about blurry pics etc...blamed on my reserve camera that had to be pressed in to service). In order to help getting familiar with the scenario I placed the activation cards for each unit on the table so when Eric arrived he was able to see who was who in his army, (he had declared for the Kinge! he would play the part of Charles I). I took on the role of Essex commanding those dour Parliamentarians.

This image shows the best overview of the table I have, but it gives the general layout....Royalists are approaching from the left...the famous "Round Hill" is the projection of the ridge on the right, and occupied by the main body of Parliamentary foot under Skippon and with their Horse under Stapleton off to their right. Prince Ruperts horse is off in the distance on the Royalist left...the King is positioned in the center just behind the Royalist guns.

Outnumbered 4:3, Parliamentary Horse with their initiative cards laid out before the game face the Royalist left wing across the open expanse of "Wash Common"

Round Hill was actually just a projection of slightly higher ground so I just represented it by extending the main area of the ridge.

Roundhead foot hold the enclosures in front of Skinners Green

A fire and brimstone preacher encourages the Londoners before the battle opens.

Phillip Skippon commands on Round Hill

Sir Phillip Stapelton leading the Roundhead right wing

The battle began with the Royalist Left wing beginning its move forward under Rupert. The card driven initiative sequence of VWC made it difficult for the Royalist to get their attack under way.
But the combination of initiative draws and an event card that called for Stapelton to order a "glory seeking" advance eventually drew the horse into a brawl.

The cavalry melee was see-saw for a few turns with both sides seeing units break to the rear but eventually to reform and return to the fray.

Meanwhile the armies advanced in the center to engage on the forward slopes of Round Hill. The musketry was intense for several turns with the Parliamentarians rolling well and the King having several ineffective rolls (in the real battle the Royalists were short on powder and this had a significant effect on their infantry attack.)

Stapelton leads another charge of Essex's horse.

Throughout the fight the battle in front of Skinners Green was bogged in the heavy patchwork of enclosures, with the Royalist foot never being able to make headway against the stout Roundhead defense.

Late in the day,... the historic battle was 12 hours long and so played with a variable turn length rule so that each time the "Time Passes" card came up we would roll a d6 to see how many 30 minute periods would pass on the clock...with a 1-2 being 30minutes, 3-4 being 60min. and 5-6 being an hour and a half of elapsed time. This allowed us to play out the battle in an easy afternoon's (about 2 1/2 hours) game time.

The two most decisive moments in the battle occured when the Parliamentarian center drove off the Royalist center and began to advance...and almost at the same time Essex rode over to the right wing and threw himself into a final charge of the scattered Royalist horse who were having trouble rallying...

....and a final blast of shot broke the 5th Royalist unit ending the game at 4:30pm on the game clock. The end came with 5 Royalist units routed versus 3 Parliamentarian, still a close game....and a historically similar outcome. The real battle ended with the Royalists running low on powder and both sides content to trade artillery fire until nightfall brought the battle to a close and saw retreat forced on the King the next day.

A couple of images of the final moments of the battle with the desultory fight in the enclosures winding down.

So Parliament came up with the win and best of all we had a great time and as usual, the rules worked great with just a few minor adjustments that we added to the rules...this was the first time I've used them in a face to face game and we found that they played quickly and felt right for the period...someday I'll hopefully be able to send our suggestions off to the author, Clarence Henderson.


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Very nice report and great looking game!


Bluebear Jeff said...

Wonderful images. You have some great-looking units, sir.

What "minor adjustments" did you make on VWQ? I've played and enjoyed it . . . but such a large battle makes me wonder how well it worked.

By the way, how many units (and of what) did you have on the table?

-- Jeff

Fitz-Badger said...

Excellent miniatures and terrain and very nice report!

littlejohn said...

Thanks guys, always appreciate your tuning in...Jeff, Thanks for reminding me , I had forgot to include the OB...

Here it is:


4 units of Foot
5 units of Horse
1 Gun


6 units Foot
3 units horse (1 is fully armored)
1 gun

each side had a CinC and 2 wing commanders

In the historic battle Parliament enjoyed an advantage in Foot and the Royalists had the advantage of Horse.

Bluebear Jeff said...

Wow, I had the impression of a lot more units than that . . . with just ten units and three commanders a side, VWQ should have handled it pretty well.

Thank you.

-- Jeff

littlejohn said...

...and actually I fogot to mention that each side had a unit of commanded muskets...(who didn't show up in the pics). Yes those 40mms really can fill up a table.

As to adjustments to the VWC rules:

-- we added a -2 modifier to routing units attempting to rally.

--we said that if a unit passed any morale test that it would loose its "shaken" status automatically

--horse units that won a melee and pursued were marked shaken to represent disorder gained in the pursuit

BaronVonJ said...

Great report. Been waiting to play these rules, and you have prompted me to get er done.

Capt Bill said...

Wow! I truely admire your scenarios and troops...

Pjotr said...

Excellent blog. I'm very impressed by the quality of the photographs. I've linked the Lead Gardens in my blog.


Neil said...

Looks like a great set of rules . . . Nice armies too!

tidders2 said...

Great piccies, great battle report.

The result - a blow to the Royalist cause. We shall see if the Wiltshire royalists manage a victory at the upcoming battle of Hungerford.

-- Allan
(ECW Blog -