Thursday, 17 November 2011

English Civil War - The Battle of North Muskham

The Buildup

The rumour mill is in full flow that Oliver Cromwell is returned to the field of battle at least four weeks earlier than previously believed, if so that leaves us with a full house and a need for a scenario that doesn’t involve dear Oliver throwing his men at the Royalist gun-line.

So here goes.

The Background

Gathering as many men around him as possible Oliver Cromwell has marched from London on into the midlands seeking another confrontation with the King, sending out summons to the other Parliamentarian commanders to join him as soon as possible.  Despite their misgivings after Cromwell’s dubious grasp of tactics and reality during the Battle of Knockin, both Earl Michael de Blondeville and Sir Brian Cromwell have mustered their men and are marching to meet him at his encampment on the edge of Newark.  King Charles, hassled into a snap decision by his ‘assistant and better looking body double’ Lord Flasheart, has ordered an immediate march by the Royal army to Newark to protect this bastion of Royalist strength, and also to seek out Cromwell and crush him once and for all.  Hearing the news of Earl Michael and Sir Brian’s forces are also on the march Charles detaches a strong brigade of horse and Dragoons under the command of Princes Rupert to distract them, enabling Charles himself (egged on by Flasheart) to defeat Cromwell’s weaker army.

King Charles and Oliver Cromwell come face to face once more at the Battle of North Muskham, just North of Newark itself.  With their forces drawn up it is clear Charles holds the advantage of numbers.  However, Earl Michael and Sir Brian have evaded the impetuous Rupert (who managed to get caught up fox hunting by mistake) and are even now drawing close, with the red-faced Rupert hard on their heels.  Desperate to finish the job before the Parliamentarian forces combine and he, himself, is outnumbered Charles orders his men into the attack.

Facts and Figures, plus Scenario

Background finished, now for some detail; for those with the knowledge think Waterloo; Charles is Napoleon, hoping to finish Cromwell (Wellington - didn‘t think Aidan could resist such a title) before Earl Michael (arriving from reserve for the second week running) and Sir Brian, representing the Prussians, arrive having outwitted Rupert (Grouchy).  On a large battlefield (6ft width by 12ft length again) Cromwell deploys first, picking his side.  Charles and Flasheart deploy second, with a large brigade detached under Rupert off-table (around 2 horse regiments and all of Red’s vaunted Dragoons), facing Cromwell and get first turn.  

Earl Michael and Sir Brians forces arrive from turn 1, with 1 brigade a turn becoming active and available to be ordered onto the table.  They arrive on a short table edge furthest from the main armies.  Meanwhile Rupert, being far behind, arrives on a FOW roll from turn 4 onwards, arriving randomly on one or the other long sides, up to 12” in from the Parliamentarian reserves short table edge.

Victory Conditions:  The Royalists hope to scatter the main enemy army to the far corners of the country.  Should they succeed in convincingly defeating Cromwell’s force without substantial damage to themselves then they can claim victory.  Should the opposite happen and Charles’ army is heavily defeated then Parliamentary victory is acclaimed.  Fighting to start as early as possible on Tuesday, and finish by 9:45pm as usual.

Thoughts and cries of derision?

The Battle Itself

With no cries of derision the battle went ahead as planned, with Oliver Cromwell being replaced by the Earl of Essex (whose part a sober Aidan played admirably).  Essex’s force faced the vast bulk of King Charles (Red) army, minus Prince Rupert and his gallant band of 2 horse regiments and both dragoon regiments, who were still off chasing their tails hoping to find Sir Brian (Luke) and Earl Michael’s (Michael).  The chase would last well after they should have appeared on the tabletop, and in fact they never made it.

While Essex had single control over his forces, Charles had to face up to his right flank being commanded by a self-opinionated Lord Flasheart (Rick), and one of his two central foot brigades passing into the hands of one Sir Edmund Verny (although mostly called Bernie, and also known as Chris Fazey).  With deployment decided and models on the table Lord Flasheart foolishly suggested the defending Roundheads should try and steal the initiative, which they promptly did to his great disappointment.

The initial armies deployment from a Cavalier point of view, with Lord Flashearts troops in the foreground, while Verny’s foot are backed up by Lord Byron and Charles himself.  On the far Royalist left stand two horse brigades to hold the flank.  Essex has also anchored that flank with horse, and made good use of the hedgerows, looking anxiously to the West and the divorced couples manor house in the hope that re-enforcements are not far away.

The right honourable member for Parliaments suggestion of length is decried from the rest of the assembled members, however his wish is granted as the first of Earl Michael’s troops arrive in the form of two regiments of foot to the right of the manor house.  Essex is even more pleased with his horse commander, Oliver Cromwell, however when dear Oliver leads a daring and aggressive charge against his opposite number Prince Maurice and his brigade of horse.  Having dubiously managed to pack in all three of his regiments against Maurice’s two he sends one regiment packing, and the other toward the far corner of the battlefield, where Maurice spends the rest of the conflict trying to coerce them back into some kind of order.  Lord Byron meanwhile, has ordered his brigade of foot onto the hill in the hope of keeping pace and a line with Verney’s brigade.

Panic sets in on the Royalist left and centre with Cromwell’s success, and Charles starts ordering his foot to fulfil all kinds of strange manoeuvres, ending in some kind of zig-zag formation aimed at fending off the rampant (good word) Roundhead horse.  Brigadier Wolfe (in the black, with the all-blank cavalry brigade) is on hand to assist in sending Cromwell’s own regiment realling back to his own lines, from where he didn’t move again, and wiping out the two smaller Roundhead horse regiments.

But even as the Cavaliers resounding three cheers ring out the real threat arrives; Sir Brian Cromwell (you know, the OTHER one) arrives with all his horses (3 regiments to be exact) and all his foot (2 standard, 1 small - 3 regiments that would be then!).  This sends Charles into even more panic, although he does hatch a devilish and possibly illegal scheme to slow them down……

A rare shot to break the mood of Lord Flashearts men, struggling to make way against, he admitted, weak opposition.  The English hedges were roundly cursed, as was the inability of Flashearts foot regiments to follow any kind of order or hit anything with their muskets, while the Parliamentarians pounded away with cannon and musketry, threatening several times to drive a regiment from the field.

Back to the Royalist left flank and Charles cunning plan; Brigadier Wolfe and yet another follow me order taking one of Earl Michael’s foot at a dashingly unsporting angle, before going on to do the same to one of Sir Brian’s regiments.  Although none were lost to this attack, it disrupted the Roundhead plans to some extent, and they remained unable to chase Wolfe and his horse away throughout the battle.  The other black horse regiment wasn’t so lucky, and a nasty enfilading volley put pay to their plans of tavern domination and ownership of hat shops.

Charles forms his foot regiments up in a nice long unbroken line of pike in the hope of blocking out Parliaments superiority in horse numbers with a wall they could not charge.  This made them sluggish however, and most thoughts of pressing home the attack on Essex seemed to have faded in favour of surviving the flank attack.  This left them open to musketry and cannon fire, an opportunity the Roundheads did not pass up.

Sir Brian even sent one of his foot regiments in to assault the larger Royalist one, forcing a draw, and then sending their bigger opponents staggering backwards to open a hole in the line for the horse to attack.  

With elsewhere turning rapidly into a debacle, and time slipping away, on the Royalist right Lord Flasheart grew tired of the seemingly ineffective musketry his troops were producing and ordered a massed charge!  Quotes about the evade rule, and the hedgerow effect prevented contact this time.  At the same momnet Verny lost one of his regiments to the heavy firepower of Essex’s troops, leaving Flashearts left flank exposed, but no Roundhead regiments were in a position to take advantage.

With Maurice floundering, Byron facing horse attacks on his flanks, Wolfe playing cat and mouse with Sir Brians foot (and losing) and Verney reduced and stalled in the field in front of Essex’s cannon and foot, the remaining slim hope for victory was with Lord Flasheart on the right.  However all the manouvering and pressuring was for nil, with only a Saker battery wiped out by the big charge, and one regiment forced to retreat.  Flashearts men were in a strong position, but the rest of the field belonged to Parliament and nothing could be gained by fighting on.

The Aftermath

A slightly disappointing battle for me; having surrendered by horse for Red to use on the left flank my foot then refused to push swiftly through the hedges and farm buildings and their musketry was ineffective against Aidan’s excellent rolls.  My big charge when it came was well tilted against a weaker opponent, but too late in the day to be able to capitalise on, and in any case the dice didn’t go wonderfully well for me anyway even in combat.  The plan (although Charle/Red claimed to know not that there was a plan at all) was for all the foot regiments to go in on a reduced front and send Essex’s/Aidans forces reeling, winning the battle before Luke and Michael’s troops could assist.  The two horse brigades on our left were to threaten and stall these re-enforcements.

Sadly the Roundheads didn’t play ball (winning the initiative, charging with Cromwell, turning up early as re-enforcements) while the king got more dodgy in terms of tactics as the game went on.  The four large foot regiments were diverted and stalled by first Cromwell’s attack, and then Sir Brian’s horse arriving, and were unable to join Flasheart in his attack on the main Parliamentarian force.  In an ironic reversal of two weeks ago it was a line of the Kings troops standing and being pounded by Essex’s gun line.

On a game playing point of view one thing stood out for me, and that was the slow speed at which it was conducted, we only managed five turns, which for Blackpowder is slow.  On the Royalist side we should have given Chris more support in what he could do, and perhaps more troops so he could feel he was actually doing something; 2 regiments always seems very few when it comes to your turn.  Apart from that more looking up rules, and spending time talking and thinking about manoeuvres seem to be to blame.  Perhaps a time limit on each turn would be of benefit? 

No comments:

Post a Comment