Friday, 2 December 2011

Edgehill, Sunday, 23 October 1642

One month after the opening skirmish at Powick Bridge, King Charles' army found itself facing a Parliamentarian army under Robert Devereux, the 3rd Earl of Essex, in Warwickshire. Charles had deployed his force on the escarpment of Edgehill, blocking Essex's march into Oxfordshire to relieve Banbury.

Origin: Beesley, 1841, History of Banbury
reproduced at

Essex deployed among the hedgerows and fields of the Vale of the Red Horse, below Edgehill, taking advantage of the cover to protect both flanks. The Parliamentarians stood firm in their defensive posture through that fateful Autumn morning encouraging the King to march his men down onto the flats to force an engagement. The simple farming folk of Radway abandoned their fields that day, choosing rather to seek what shelter and comfort they could find ... be it Inn or Kirk!

Charles I holds a council of war on the eve of the battle of Edgehill
By Charles Landseer, 1799-1879
Here begins the second encounter of this DBA-RRR 1642 mini campaign (and here we depart from the historical record!).

The Parliamentarian foot outnumbered their Royalist counterparts and were better disciplined and well led. Charles knew his best hope lay in breaking Essex's line with a spirited charge of his cavaliers. After the Parliamentarian victory at the skirmish at Powick Bridge, Prince Rupert of the Rhine had his reputation to recover. Rupert's loss of mounted troops at Powick Bridge had been double that of the Parliamentarians and he had only managed to recover half of that number in the month that followed (thus the King deploys 11 elements). Parliament, however, came to Edgehill at full strength (12 elements). Unlike his historical counterpart, this time Charles decides not to spend the morning on the escarpment awaiting Essex's attack, but marches down early into the fields of the Vale to take advantage of the hedges and enclosed fields to protect his flanks.

Deployment: The King's army arrayed for battle in the foreground

Charles deployed with his dragoons (x1) on his left, a block of foot (2 x pike, 3 x shot) in this centre and the full weight of his mounted troops under Rupert's command on the right (4 x Knight). The King deployed in reserve with his lifeguard (1 x pistols). Essex deployed to the Parliamentarian right with his artillery (1 x cannon) flanked by his cavalry (1 x Cv) and pistols (1 x Pi). In the centre was a block of foot (2 x pike, 2 x shot) with a column of shot (3 x Sh) and cavalry to the rear.

Rupert seizes the initiative on the Royalist right
As the foot of both armies cautiously formed lines of battle, Prince Rupert sought to gain the initiative with an daring charge on the unprotected Parliamentarian left flank. Essex ordered up his cavalry reserve to secure his left while advancing his shot and artillery on his right. Essex's tercio in the centre stood firm behind the ploughed fields to their front (bad going, in this game). 

Essex's cavalry arrived in time to secure his left and as the King's cavaliers thundered over the field towards the Parliamentarian left. The centre wheeled to threaten Rupert's left flank. As Charles ordered his pistols forward to counter this threat, a sound like rolling thunder informed him that Essex's gunners have found their first targets among the straggling foot on the Royalist left. Rupert's troopers charged into contact as the first salvo from the Parliamentarian musketeers finds its mark.

The opening shots
Rupert orders his troopers to expand their line to contact the Parliamentarian foot and cavalry to the right of the ploughed fields. The lines collide with a sickening crash of flesh and steel, and despite their momentum, the cavaliers can't shake the Parliamentarian tercio. The pike deployed in depth in the centre obliterate the hapless left of Rupert's line, and, with muskets clubbed, the musketeers fight off the determined charge. Essex's cavalry also recoil their attackers on their far left but in the centre the cavaliers strike deep, sweeping away an entire regiment and exploiting the gap in Essex's line. 

The fresh Parliamentarian shot advance through the ploughed fields threatening to overpower the weakened Royalist left and Essex leads his pistols up the road in the centre trying to regain the initiative. On the right, Rupert's flank is in disarray, but by no means beaten.

As the Parliamentarian centre advances, Essex is forced to order the shot on his left to fall back behind the pike block to protect its rear from the reforming Royalist horse. Observing this weakening of the defensive posture in the centre, Rupert orders his troopers to ride down the shot, and they are swept away while the remaining cavaliers converge on the now isolated troopers on the Parliamentarian left.

Essex's left flank collapses and sensing the immanence of his defeat, he leads a desperate charge in the centre supported by his musketeers, hoping to break the Royalist line at its weakest point. Musketry thunders across the Vale of the Horse, flesh feels the terrible bite of hot lead, and eyes on both sides stream from this burning devils breath.

Charles leads his lifeguard into the fray to allay the threat in his centre – the pistols of his heavy cavalry discharge in the faces of the of Parliamentarian musketeers who have hastily formed ranks the ploughed field ... despite this onslaught, they hold! At that very moment, Essex is leading his own desperate charge hoping to sweep away the musketeers on the Royalist centre left. As his cuirassiers pound in, Charles' musketeers give fire and give Essex's men some hot stuffe ...

Charles' musketeers found their mark and obliterated their Parliamentarian counterparts on Essex's left. Essex found himself dangerously exposed by the utter destruction of his left flank. Fully one third of his men lay smashed and bleeding on the fields beneath Edgehill. The resolve of his men was broken and they fell back in disorder. 

Likewise, King Charles' men, few of them having tasted battle before, showed little taste for further slaughter and withdrew to count the cost of this first serious engagement of the Civil War. It would be a cold night for the survivors and wounded of both armies, left to find what shelter and help they could, with empty stomaches turned by the experience of death at close quarters.

"No man nor horse got any meat that night and I had touched none since the Saturday before ... neither could I find my servant who had my cloak so that having nothing to keep me warm but a suit of iron [armour] I was obliged to walk about all night which proved very cold by reason of the sharp frost."
Edmond Ludlow, Officer of Essex's Lifeguard at Edgehill*

*In, Trevor Royle, Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638–1660 (Abacus, London, 2004) p. 199

Final result: 
  • Royalists lost 1 x Kn (1)
  • Parliamentarian lost 2 x Cv, 2 x Sh (4)
On to Brentford!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Powick Bridge, 12 September 1642

In  what is popularly characterised as the opening 'battle' of the English Civil Wars, the battle of Powick Bridge saw about 1000 Royalist cavalry and dragoons led by Prince Rupert defeat a similar force of Parliamentarian cavalry and dragoons led by Nathaniel Fiennes. This action took place in the narrow lanes and hedged enclosures near the hamlet of Lower Wick, north of Powick Bridge, in Worcestershire.

This first encounter in an English Civil War mini campaign for DBA-RRR designed by 'Cromwell' of Fanaticus employs 6 elements a side: 4 cavalry (parliamentarians) or Knights (Royalist), one dragoons and one shot.

Linear obstacles were included using the DBACW rules (Keep it Simple Rules) for this terrain type (slightly adapted to reflect troop types in DBA-RRR).

  • Stone walls: Foot, Gun/Cannons and mounted are classed as being 'in cover' when defending a stone wall (shooters firing into cover get -1 to distance shooting. Defenders get a +1 close combat modifier when in close combat). They are classed as bad going and only foot (excluding cannon/guns) can cross stone walls and they must have sufficient movement for the entirety of the base to clear the wall in that turn (ie. cannot be left straddling the wall). Groups can only cross in one element wide columns. I play it that it must always be clear which side of the wall a unit is on - so you cannot have an element of a group straddling the fence. They are impassible terrain when it comes to outcome moves for mounted and cannons/guns. Impetuous mounted do not advance across the wall if their opponent is destroyed/recoiled/flees.
  • Hedges are counted as 'minor linear obstacles' - they count as bad going and have the same effect on movement as stone walls. Hedges provide no modifiers to distance shooting or close combat.
  • Linear obstacles block line of sight except where the shooting element has its firing edge,  and/or the target has the edge being shot at, hard up against the wall/hedge.

This adaption may have some 'bugs' still - but I/we just apply common sense to solving problems.

Beyond the initial campaign 'rules' I imposed some set-up and movement conditions in the first bound. I decided the parliamentarians should deploy on the bridge over the River Teme advancing in a column along the road (excepting the element of shot - mostly because there was not room). The Royalists deployed in the open fields (Wick field) out of direct sight of the exhausted Parliamentarian column.
The Royalists were given the opening move and then Fiennes' column was obliged to advance a full move along the road into the lanes beyond the bridge.
The action began with Rupert ordering half of his cavaliers to sweep wide on the Royalist right in the hope of catching Fiennes' column in the rear. The remainder of his mounted troops spurred on into the lane while the shot and dragoons secured the hamlet of Lower Wick. The Parliamentarian column was halted with a volley of musketry as they tramped down the lane.
Fiennes' dragoons were thrown back by the volley but they quickly took cover behind the hedges. Royalist and Parliamentarian horse faced each other at either ends of the lane awaiting the outcome of the musket duel that ensued. Meanwhile, Rupert's flanking manoeuvre continued. Fiennes' led the rear of his column out of the lanes to meet the charge.
As the fighting in the lanes reached a crescendo the cavaliers on Rupert's right wing pushed the Parliamentarian cavalry back to the banks of the Teme (which ended up as a paltry river in this game). Fiennes called more of his cavalry out of the lanes to counter this push and the impetuous cavaliers were caught in the flank with heavy losses (1 element of cavaliers (Kn) lost).
Rupert's cavaliers charge down the lane as the parliamentarian dragoons fall back in a hail of musketry.
Fiennes orders in a third troop of cavalry to support his hard pressed left flank. 
The impetuous advance of Rupert's cavaliers pushes the parliamentarian horse back into the river Teme but Fiennes  leads a decisive counter charge surrounding and decimating the Royalist left flank.
Sensing the tide of the battle was turning, Rupert led his remaining cavaliers in a thunderous charge down the lanes destroying the troop of cavalry facing them while his dragoons swept around the hamlet in a flanking manoeuvre. Rupert's decimated right fell back allowing Fiennes to send some cavalry back into the hamlet to slow the advance of the Royalist dragoons. The battle hung in the balance ... the first to destroy another element would be the victor.
At this apex of the battle, the parliamentarian foot managed to rally in the woods next to the hamlet and swept into contact with Rupert's mounted troops in the lanes. Unable to manoeuvre, the leading troop were trapped by a deadly volley of musketry at close quarters.
Alas, the dash and daring of Prince Rupert was not enough to carry the day. The Royalists fell back to lick their wounds destined to meet the parliamentarians in the first major battle of the civil wars in a little over a month at Edgehill.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

1643 ... somewhere in the west country (a solo DBA encounter)

In late summer 1643, a sizeable force of Sir Ralph Hopton's army surprise Waller's Parliamentarians near a hamlet in Somerset. The Royalists quickly deploy their mounted troops to the open ground on their right wing hoping to strike while Waller's foot struggle out of ground domindated by hedges. Knowing his foot is outnumbered in the centre but certain that his left flank is securely pinned on the hamlet where his dragoons lurk, the Royalist commander quickly takes the initiative on the right and charges the Parliamentarian artillery.
View from the Royalist rear - the cavaliers charge on the right is countered by Parliament's  heavy cuirassiers
The Parliamentarian commander, seeking to buy some time while his remaining shotte deploy to reinforce his beleaguered left, leads his heavy cuirassiers in a daring charge to break the Royalist foot that have rushed in to support the cavaliers. The cavaliers try to ride down the exposed Parliamentarian left but the momentum of their charge is broken at cannon's mouth. In the centre the Royalist foot deploy their pike in depth, and the musketeers steady themselves for the maelstrom of lead that will issue from the cuirassiers wheellocks as they smash into their ranks.
The cavaliers falter as the Parliamentarian heavy cavalry countercharge
The failure of the cavaliers to drive their charge home, coupled with the heavy losses among the Royalist mounted troops from cannon and musket fire, gives the Parliamentarian shotte time to deploy. Encouraged by the arrival of the foot, the horse teams are whipped into the melee and manage to draw the heavy guns back out of danger. But, the undaunted cavaliers wheel around and slam into the flank of the muskets forcing them to turn to meet the charge. The din of battle soars as the 'lobsters' drive into the Royalist foot decimating the front ranks of pike and musket, driving all before them with their commander at the very apex of the charge. Yet, seemingly out of nowhere, remnants of the Royalist mountet troops slam into the left flank of the cuirassiers - both commanders sense the moment of decision has come. Who will carry the day?
The high water mark - remnants of the first Royalist charge strike the exposed left of the
Parliamentarians while the cavalry reserve charges to support them.
Battle rages ... the smoke of musketry blinds those engaged ... the commanders rise in their saddles ... the gods of war roll their dice ...
Bella detesta matribus! (Horace)
Wars, the horror of mothers! The lobsters shrug off the challenge to their flank and decimate the Royalist centre. While in the distance, the hard-pressed Parliamentarian musketeers are savaged by the impetuous charge of the few remaining cavaliers, the remaining foot flee. The Royalist commander rushes to plug the gap in his line ... but the day is lost (4:1).
The Royalist heavy cavalry arrive too late.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Somewhere near Pevensey, 14 October 1066

One of my earliest projects when I began playing DBA was to paint up the armies for a 1066 campaign. Well, in 2011 I finally finished the Normans (the Anglo-Danes being pained many years ago) and this allows me to set in place a new tradition of playing Anglo-Danes vs. Normans each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066.

Tonight, Harold Godwinson's army achieved an even-more epic forced march and met Duke William's force on the road from Pevensey. What happened? Did King Harold II throw the Norman usurper back into the sea? Was the thunderous charge of William's knights too powerful for the exhausted Saxons? Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

DBA-RRR ECW – battlefield terrain

Having painted and based and fought an initial battle with my ECW army for DBA-RRR, I decided it was time to turn the paintbrush to some terrain to get that quintessential English feel to the battlefield. I have a box of resin buildings from the Hovels 15mmm Medieval range sitting around from a bygone period of affluence. Amongst them are some cracking pieces that will add atmosphere to my Civil Wars battles.
  • (6M5) Inn of half timber with thatched roof
  • (8M5) Bailiffs house, stone walls half timbered with tiled roof.
  • (3M5) Stable block in timber with thatched roof.
I have not quite decided how these buildings will fit into DBA-RRR. The could be used as a single built up area (BUA) if mounted appropriately. However, recent experience with other rules in the DBx family has got me thinking. Having played a number of games of DB ACW lately where we have used buildings scattered over the table (4' x 4') as impassible terrain features (with each building representing a hamlet or such at the scale of armies, rather than a single building).

If spaced with appropriate room for elements to move and deploy around them these buildings become very influential on the battlefield: providing shelter from artillery / musket fire; being a great feature to anchor a command's flank on; and at times as a hinderance when forming up into lines of battle. While you have to be careful not to overdo it (no more than 3-4 on a 4' x 4' table), they seem to add to the game rather than detract. Aesthetically as well as providing tactical challenges.

In the ECW context, I am thinking of introducing a similar approach as we have used in DB ACW. To that end I will experiment with the system we have used which is to do away with rules dictating the amount and placement of terrain and have the player who hosts the game set up a table with plausible terrain for an encounter and the guest (who sees the board for the first time the night we play) having the choice of which edge he/she deploys on.

A report on this approach will follow. In the mean time, here are a few pictures of the new buildings (Inn and Bailiffs house only) I took in a flood of sunlight today. Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Colonial adventure begins

Somewhat rashly I have purchased a bunch of painted and based british colonial figures. There are 20 bases (40 x 20 mm) or regular infantry in the classic redcoat - possibly best suited to the Zulu campaign. Given the number I have I guess I have the basis of a largish Colonial force - now I need to decide what enemies to put together and start working on the mounted and irregular troops for the Brits.

Tally ho!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

For God, Kinge and Parliament!

I have at last completed sufficient elements to field an early English Civil Wars Royalist army for DBA-RRR. I have not gone so far as to research individual units for the colour scheme - rather I have stuck to a more generic approach to the army so far.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Pirate Bears!

I can't resist a bit of fatherly bragging by offering a peek at the first miniature my daughter has painted. She has wanted to paint 'knights' with me for a long time now so I gave her a handful of Eureka Miniatures' wonderful Teddy Bear Pirates for her seventh birthday.

This was her first bear - painted immediately after she opened the parcel. Well done sweetheart!

A sticky swab indeed!

Grab the honey and run!

For God, King and Parliament

My attention is straying away from matters ancient and medieval to pursue my interest in the English Civil Wars. I have early war Parliamentarian and Royalist armies on the painting table. I am planning on using the DBA-RRR rules extension (12 element armies) with plans for expanding the size of the armies in time to allow 'big battle' DBA-RRR with 36 elements a side. There are also Scots and Irish armies to consider in the future - I look forward to getting my hands on some of the Khurasan Miniatures Confederate Irish in the future.

Anyway ... I've decided to take an approach of painting the armies three elements at a time - this way it takes me about three sessions to complete the group to a state where they are game-ready. I'm finding the concept of having completed elements to ponder early in the project is good for morale and keeping me enthusiastic.

The first offering is three mounted elements of my Parliamentary army. For both armies I wanted to achieve the look of troops that have tasted 'the dust of the road' ... dirty, powder-stained buffcoats rather than the pristine armies that we often see painted up. I'm not sure if its worked very well yet ... but maybe by the end of the project I'll have it in hand!

This approach harks back to my experience as a 'Routier' with the Pike and Musket Society in Australia. We went to great lengths to maintain the 'Inescapable Military Feel' (TM) in our encampments through liberal exposure to mud, blood and excrement. I recall one of the primary rules of the society way back when it was founded in the early 1980s was that 'any soldier that is found to be looking cleaner than the Captain was to be made to roll in the dust of the road ... this is the sort of thing going through my head as I paint.

Pikemen next ...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Normans / West Frankish (DBA III/51) 888–1072 CE

After many years sitting in the wings the West Franks / Normans are prepared for action!

The miniatures have been sitting on the painting pile for years - maybe a decade! At last they can take the field. I've painted the army with a few extra spears so I can eventually morph this into a East Frankish army too (need hordes and dismounting blades).

I think they look better in person than in the pictures - the lighting I use seem to bring up too many of the imperfections - and there are plenty of those!

My next project is my 1642/3 English Civil War Parliamentarians and Royalist armies for use in DBA-RRR rules.

Then I feel the need to get stuck into the unpainted lead pile and complete some Book 4 armies I have been collecting – Serbian Empire (1180–1459 CE), Albanian (1345–1479 CE), Navarrese (1234–1430 CE), Early Swiss (1240–1400 CE), Prussian (1200–1283 CE), Lithuanian (1132–1435 CE), and 2 x Post Mongol Russian armies (1246–1533 CE).

Quite aside from this some background research is going into some armies for the Hordes of the Empire: Colonial Warfare during the age of expansion variant on the WRG HOTT rules. First up will be Colonial British versus the Maori, I think. I've been inspired by comrades from across the ditch and them maybe some Zulu.

Yeah ... OK, that could take some time. ;)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

hic milites exierunt dehestenga

Here the knights have set out from Hastings ...

At last my Museum Normans are nearing completion. Just a few remaining touch-ups, the rest of the shields (no small task) and dip/varnish to go. I've had them for years and have always been put off by painting so many horses. Something I don't dread as much as I used to.

Shields designs are a mix of material taken directly form the Bayeux Tapestry and copies of the (far superior) work done by Neldoreth.

This one doesn't look to scary - better give him a touch up

Amazing how photography brings up the imperfections - back to the paintbrush!

Thanks for looking.