Wednesday, 23 November 2011

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.

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