Saturday 21 July 2018

Battle of Adwalton

Last Tuesday night Mark and I got together to play another scenario from the excellent Pike & Shotte supplement  - to Defy a King. If you are into this period I can wholeheartedly recommend this book – it has a number of excellent scenarios, rules on sieges and many more army lists to cover the period.

This time we elected to fight a rather one sided affair called the Battle of Adwalton Moor…

The Forces arranged for Battle

In terms of background the real battle was fought on the 30th June 1643

Things kicked off when c10,000 Royalist troops marched on the Parliamentarian stronghold of Bradford. In defence of the town, Lord Fairfax advanced with 3,500 men and the two armies met on Adwalton Moor. The two to one advantage was to prove decisive.

William Cavendish Earl of Newcastle commanded the Royalist Army of the North.  His deputy was General James King (later Lord Eythin).  General George Goring the lieutenant-general of the Horse was absent from the battle having been captured by Sir Thomas Fairfax at the Battle of Wakefield on 24th May 1643.

Ferdinando Lord Fairfax commanded the Parliamentary Army with his son Sir Thomas Fairfax and Sergeant-Major-General John Gifford as his subordinate commanders.

According to British  The Royalist army comprised some 6,000 Foot and 3,000 Horse and Dragoons. The Royalist army brought to the battle a powerful train of artillery including two demi-cannon nick-named ‘Gog and Magog’.

The Parliamentary army comprised some 4,000 Foot and 1,500 Horse and Dragoons.  In addition the Parliamentary army was accompanied by a large crowd of local countrymen, termed ‘clubmen’ and armed largely with agricultural implements.

The Royalist Foot was short on firearms with a large proportion of pikemen.

The Parliamentary Foot comprised mainly musketeers.

The overwhelming number of Royalist pikemen eventually forced the Parliamentarians back and when their lines broke, the Royalist cavalry completed the victory.

The victory ensured Royalist control over most of northern England for the rest of that year.

As far as the terrain was concerned we took the map from the book – the distinguishing feature were the rows of hedgelines that the Parliamentarians defended.

Again in terms of forces these were taken straight from the book with the same dispostions

The Royalist Army mustered with 10 Regiments of Horse
Six units of Pike
Six units of Musketeers
And two medium pieces of artillery

Facing them were

3 units of horse
6 units of musketeers
3 small field guns
And two units of clubmen

The Parliamentarian Forces watch the enemy approach

Clearly the stronger the side the Royalist march forward - their cavalry wings spurring forward

The Right Wing edges forward

Whilst the Left tries to sweep round

The Left Cavalry wing swiftly engages with the rebels on their rear right flank

Its timer for the plodders to do their work...

Desultory fire from the Rebel ranks has no impact on the advancing pikes

The Royalist right wing cavalry ride up to the hedgeline and exchange fire

The Governments forces are now taking a beating across the line

Breakthrough - the first pike block forces a line break - the cavalry swift to sieze the iniative

The local clubmen are no match for trained troops

The Royalist cavalry finally win in the rear

The Parliamentarian left wing crumbles - infantry guns and horse all charged down

A Kings Pike forces their way up the road

The Parliamentarians are now in full rout

A complete victory for the King

A great little game - there was always going to be one winner but fun all the less...

More soon

Thursday 12 July 2018

Ambush on the Nile Part 2

So last week we played a big Sudan Colonial game using the Men Who Would Be Kings ruleset – If you haven’t read that one can I suggest that you head there first and read that one before this post. Don’t worry there will be a link at the end of that post to bring you back here.

Last week’s game was a massive win for the locals – the sight of Dervishes pouring over the dunes and butchering the plucky Brits was somewhat out of keeping with the period but made for a fantastic game. So how did the same game play with a completely different set of rules?

This time we were going to use our trusty favourite Black Powder and I think it is fair to say they delivered an equally fascinating and exciting game.

Scene of some of the heaviest fighting - horses, camels, guns, natives whats not to like

The orders of battle, the set up and the terrain were exactly as before. The only difference being the assignment of commanders – each player received two Commanders with the British being given better ratings. Even the players who fought out last Mondays encounter fought in exactly the same position using the same troops.

Unfortunately there is no battle report but rather a delve into some of the variations of the games. I have chucked in a few photos

In the first game we saw the British slaughtered by a more numerous native horde and perhaps this justifies the points system in play for TMWWBK ruleset. Had the forces been evenly matched on points the result might have been different. The second game saw the result reversed and arguably a better result for historical accuracy. Again the battle was fought in about 2 hours – a rapid game of highs and low points for both sides and certainly some very tense moments. Last week it was evident that the British were going to seriously struggle but this week my forces held their own and delivered their own killer blows to the Mahdist forces. Perhaps most importantly in the first game it was quite evident that the British were going to come off second best quite early on, the second game was a much more tense affair and had die rolls been different the Mahdists could have inflicted some serious damage.

The rear of the column held up well through out the game

Throughout the second game virtually all the British troops suffered casualties and many hit shaken status but there commanders were able to withdraw these units and keep them in the field through rallying orders. Both sides played with no break points.

Why did the same game play out so differently? There was clearly a combination of factors here which I have explained in the past when we tried a comparable exercise with a Zulu game.

Dressing the lines - command rolls much more effective

Firstly the command activations are so very different. In the TMWWBK every unit has an activation value – fail that and the unit doesn’t move/fight/fire but you move onto the next one. The activation levels for both sides were fairly comparable – ie the British Infantry were as likely to move as the natives. In BP the units are commanded by designated commanders who give orders to their troops. Depending upon the success roll could move once, twice or three times in a turn. We certainly had more movement , flanking attacks and positioning in the Black Powder game and given the that command ratings of the British were better than their opponents they were the more likely to carry out the commands.

British Infantry taking continuous fire from the locals

The Black Powder game certainly delivered a more dynamic narrative with cavalry sweeping forward. Guns being overrun in the flanks and regularly watching your troops not wanting to move forward (both sides)

Clearly command actions had a part to play but so did shooting – unlike TMMWBK where you have to order your units to shoot everybody who can shoot /fling spears can do so after their moves. This automatic firing coupled with the fact that you only roll a few dice for fire effect with BP units significantly changes the dynamic. Both sides had rifle fire but for the Dervishes to win they had to get their fanatical spearmen into charge range too inflict damage. On several occasions the mad fuzzies not only suffered casualties on their approach but were literally blown away by closing fire as they launched their assaults. The vast majority of British casualties came from the Dervish rifle units who although not as effective as a British line were able to both disorder and inflict losses. Arguably greater coordination between the Sudanese rifle units and their spear wielding colleagues might have delivered better results.

Cavalry charging - as they should

Another key difference were the saving throws of each unit and the punishment a unit could take. In TMWWBK each time a casualty is taken a figure is removed and by default the fighting prowess of the unit is diminished. This clearly worked in the Dervishes favour in the first game as there are no saving throws but for the BP game not only did the Brits more often than not have better morale (save) they also benefited from their stalwart nature( in BP British Infantry typically get to reroll one failed save and automatically pass their first break). Ultimately this meant the British units had a better battlefield staying power and this was reflected in the final result – every unit had suffered casualties but only one had been wiped out.

At the height of the battle the British were in serious danger of defeat

In summary a combination of greater firepower, better commanders and more disciplined units albeit numerically smaller won the day in our Black Powder game and yet got slaughtered to a man in TMWWBK rules. Clearly for big battles the Black Powder rules are going to give a more historical result but in defence of TMWWBK they were never designed for big battles.

Some of the fiercest fighting was along the river bank

Following the conclusion of our games we sat around and chatted about the two versions. Both games had been equally fun and so very different but I believe there was a concensus that the second of the two games had proved the better and more playable (not having to remove individual figures from the field of play) might have had something to do with it. Furthermore we all agreed that the scenario is crucial in any colonial game. Had the British been in their defensive lines from the start it would have just been a slaughter and not a great deal of fun for either side. The Ambush scenario provided the Mahdist side with an opportunity to win and that all you need for a Colonial game to succeed.

What these games also provided was a wonderful spectacle on the table top and hopefully these games (and others in the future) vindicated the many hours it took to paint the units. Indeed there are still several units I want to add to the collection and once I have completed my Khartoum build I have a mind to turn my attention to these.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

RAF Flypast 100th Anniversary

Earlier today I took the opportunity of taking my lunch hour in Green Park London (along with 10's of thousands of others) to watch the commemorative flypast celebrating 100 years of the RAF.

It was great and very British - well done to the RAF !

No text just a few pictures (cursing the fact that after 40+ straight sunny days in London the event was on a day when it was overcast).

The camera was set for high speed hence the rotors on the planes and choppers look static

Its coming home !!!