Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Warr comes to merrie Englande….

My English Civil War troops were engaged in their first ever battle yesterday at the RGMB, am I’m pleased to say came away with victory in their metal grasp!

A swiftly organised game of Warhammer English Civil War took the place of the planned Warhammer Fantasy battle, as Ian’s Coventer (Scottish Government) troops fought the combined English forces of my Royalists (hurrah!) and Aidan’s Parliamentarians (boo hiss). It was a 1,300pts a side, with the Royalist and traitor alliance contributing equal numbers, and we played a Pitched Battle scenario to give us an introduction to the rules.
A brief overview of the battle:

The Scottish managed to setup in a ‘Dutch’ formation, of two regiments in the centre, and one in reserve behind them (one regiment = 1 pike unit and 2 sleeves of shot), while a strong cavalry presences (lancers and trotters) was maintained on the flanks. The English also set up their regiments of foot in the centre with musketeers to the fore, but choose to deploy their two units of cavalry on the left hand side, and used a skirmishing ‘Forlorn Hope’ to try and cover the right from marauding lancers.

Royalist musketeers.

The initial clashes were loud, but saw few casualties, as the musketeers of both sides opened up, and both the English and the Scottish cavalry advanced to fire at point blank range with their pistols into each other. An early clash of cavalry on the English left saw the Scots come off significantly worse and the whole of their right flank collapsed as the horsemen disappeared back over the horizon. The roundhead horsemen headed off to run down the Scots ‘saker’ artillery piece (which managed three shots - two over’s and a misfire!), while the cavaliers turned inward towards the centre.

Both sides obviously decided that a decisive blow against the oppositions foote was the way to achieve victory, and advanced down the centre, hemmed in by buildings on the English right, and trees on their left. The remaining Scottish horsemen - lancers by trade - began a cat and mouse game with a small unit of veteran Parliamentarian pike, and the Forlorn Hope down the English right beyond the buildings - although which was which nobody was really sure!
The centre did produce the decisive blow in a ‘push of pike‘, and it was dealt by the English; one unit of pike seeing off highlanders, musketeers and longbow-armed infantry - four units in all - before making for the Scots board edge and Edinburgh! The other two units of pike also found success easy to come by and the Scots reeled back across the field. In a sideshow on the English right the remaining Scots horse finally ran out of ammunition and summoned the courage to charge the obstructive Parliamentarian pike unit, coming off substantially worse and fleeing from the field.

With the enemy destroyed or routing it looked a solid English victory, until a small reverse for a unit of Parliamentarian pike in the centre caused panic to leap down the line! Two, previously victorious, units of pike ran, along with the Royalist Colonel General and his gallopers. The English musketeers stood firm however, and the battle was won.

Captain Blackadder & his Parliamentarian troops.

Analysis and first impressions of the Rules:

My first impression is easy to recall - damn you get a lot of men for 1,300pts! The Scots army initially seemed to dwarf the English, although upon closer inspection there were a similar number of men on the field, the Scots definitely had the edge in cavalry number though at approximately 30 men to 16. The English fielded approximately 110 foote, the Scots a similar number, although more missile troops. In hindsight a bigger table than the 6ft by 4ft we used would be a better idea should the size of battles increase, certainly the deployment in regiments left us with not enough space for all of our troops.
Down to the game mechanics - the Warhammer basis for the rules gave the English side a definitely advantage because both myself and Aidan regularly play Warhammer Fantasy, enabling us to use our experience to chose our tactics and pick our fights and angles. This was even more important in a game where all the participants are of similar quality - no immune to psychology or terminator-armoured nutcases here! The biggest change was in terms of panic; which can spread like wildfire down the lines. Initial success can send the enemy reeling backwards en-masse, and the English victories in combat meant we did not have to have this horror visited upon us until the final turn, but that the Scots struggled to recover from the first moment of the ‘push of pike’ contest. The equality of the different sides also helps to bring tactics to the front, rather than relying on un-killable characters and magic spells which takes some of the skill out of Fantasy.

In terms of unit types the musketeers were fairly ineffective, and may be best saved until the enemy is less than 12” away for two-ranked salvo fire and maximum effect. The pike units were excellent for the English, even when they had to charge instead of stand, and cavalry stands no chance of defeating them in a straight fight. Its worth noting though that had the Scots hit them in the flank I think it would have been a massively different story. In cavalry terms both sides did more fighting with their pistols than their swords, and it remains to be seen if they would more effective charging the enemy flanks. Artillery - just the one gun on the field, and the Scots ‘saker’ did not cover itself with glory, however the fear of grapeshot kept the enemy cavalry far from it.

Enjoyment level - I did really like the game, although I will note that it always helps to win, even if most of your army is doing a runner at the end! Rules like the limiting of powder, the massed panic and the inability of infantry to charge cavalry give the game a ECW taste rather than a fantasy one, and although I’m sure some die-hards historical fans will argue that they are not realistic enough I enjoyed the effect given, and it definitely continues to give me the historical bug. However, I do think its only when you play on the losing side and still enjoy yourself that you know how truly entertaining a game is, so I’ll have to wait for that, rumours of a campaign are afoot in the distant future……..

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