Wednesday, 30 November 2011

English Civil War - A Winter of Discontent - The Campaign Overview

The story so far……….

Week 1

In an unusual break with traditional military logic King Charles gathered his forces and marched northward from Oxford in early October 1643. Shadowed by parliamentary forces lead by Earl Michael de Blondeville, assisted by the mercenary Lord Flasheart, Charles turned and defeated his pursuers at the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock. At the same time the army of the west gained control of Cirencester, Bristol and Gloucester. In reply Parliamentarian forces moved to secure Colchester and then to Reading.

End of week 1.
Week 2

The following week saw Charles meet up with Prince Rupert, and head into Cheshire. On the edges of the village of Bunbury Earl Michael and Lord Flasheart caught up with them once again, and this time inflicted a stinging defeat on the king, sending the Royalist army tumbling southwards once more. With Parliamentary Troops now holding the south coast ports of Dover, Portsmouth and Poole, as well as Arundel, Charles moved quickly to claim Sherbourne and Lyme Regis and block their passage into the West Country. 
End of week 2.

Week 3

Charles and Rupert were joined by Prince Maurice (Ruperts brother), the Duke of York and Lord Byron to fight an inconclusive draw near Dorchester against Earl Michael and Lord Flasheart. This ended the Royalist interest in Weymouth, but enabled them to gain Devon, holding Exeter, Dartmouth and Plymouth. Parliamentarian forces showed more interest in the midlands, bringing Norwich and Birmingham into the fold. A sour note for Earl Michael was the detection and dismantlement of his spy network by Royalist agents.
End of week 3.
The awards gained: The forces of the king, having thwarted the enemy at the battle of Much Wenlock, had supreme (misguided) confidence in their CO. However Charles spent most of the fighting around Dorchester not using his High Independence ability. They then moved into Lord Flashearts tavern, gaining an Untested regiment of horse. Parliament managed to set up a spy network, which was promptly dismantled, and produce an Academy trained regiment (Sir Adam Duckville's foote) which now performs as Superbly Trained.

We are now up to week four of the campaign, and I’ve attached a lovely map with squiggles on it.  The towns with crosses on are the ones held by the Parliamentarian forces, while the circles are the Royalist strongholds.  Perhaps following tradition the Roundheads have claimed Kent and that section of the coastline (although I have no idea what we’re doing in Birmingham, sorry Aidan), while the Royalists have branched out into the West Country.  I’ve added Falmouth because it surely should be on there, Wrexham though is more of a whim.  Overall we’ve seen a victory for each side and now a draw, and we look forward to Cromwell moving out from his constituency and joining the fight.

Week 4

The Battle of Broughton ended in a Royalist proclaimed draw, and, although it was their army which quit the field, gave the King the opportunity to draw up his men to force a decisive battle against the newly arrived Cromwell and his forces.  At the same time he opened negotiations with that well known mercenary Lord Flasheart about a possible transfer to the forces of light.  Little changed in the country for this action, Royalist troops used some of their few ships to sale to Liverpool and capture it, along with securing Chester, and when Parliamentarian troops gained that important regional centre of Wrexham they sacked it and forced them back to the other Roundhead prize; Shrewsbury.  The explosion of the powder magazine in Wrexham did not help the Roundhead cause. 

End of week 4.

Week 5

Kings Charles' victory over the arch-fiend Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Knockin in early November 1643 sent Royalist supporters into rapture around the country, and sent Cromwell back to London in disgrace, threatening not to reappear for a further 6 weeks.

In the days that followed the Royalists claimed the towns of Manchester, Wakefield and Wrexham. But promptly lost the last when the garrison revolted.  Parliamentarian troops chose to gain Lichfield and Leicester, although to what purpose nobody knows.

Things are not all rosy for Charles however, although Cromwell and his army are scattered or returned to London, Earl Michael de Blondevilles forces remain in the field at some strength, and Sir Brian Cromwell has returned to his home county confident of raising more regiments for his cause.  And to add to this Lord Flasheart, angry at the snub he received at Knockin, is becoming increasingly difficult to control or even retain as a royalist supporter.  Finally, as winter begins to bite, shotte and powder levels are beginning to dwindle. The next few weeks could be a nervy few for all. 

End of week 5.

 Week 6

Charles, Rupert, Flasheart, Earl Michael and the Cromwell's (like the Krays but with ruffs) all took a well deserved break just as characters looking suspiciously like them played the key parts in a sideshow in Cheshire.

The Battle of Middlewich was won by a whisker by the forces of Parliament, who, in a totally unrelated series of events, also captured Caernarvon and that well known regional centre of Wrexham, before using the M1 and A1 to reach Edinburgh.  In reply the Royalists cunningly captured Falmouth, and finally captured Hull via the use of kinda eggs.

This put the Royalists firmly in the lead in terms of powder centres, holding 7 to Parliaments 5 - five shots of powder for them next week! In terms of rewards the forces of the Roundheads gained the news that god is on their side (probably), while Charles received the unwelcome news that Lord Flasheart has appointed himself as a secondary general to the main Royalist army.

Rumour has it Oliver Cromwell may return this week, although whether he will be seeking another major confrontation is questionable, however his numbers of troops have been boosted by his brothers; Sir Brisn Cromwell, recruiting drive.
End of week 6.

Week 7

The unexpected return of Cromwell, assisting the Earl of Essex and his army, saw King Charles and his new best pal Lord Flasheart try and seize an opportunity to thrash 'Old Robin' and young Oliver before the rest of the Parliamentarian forces could join with them.

They failed. Miserably. The troops of Earl Michael de Blondeville and Sur Brian Cromwell being in plenty of time to rescue Cromwell and the rest, as well as inflicting a stinging defeat on Charles. The less said about Prince Ruperts non-appearance on the battlefield of North Muskham the better.

Cromwell and Essex headed back to London, hoping unrealistically that the stories of drunkenness, madness and previous defeats had been left behind. Lord Flasheart stalked off the battlefield, with his troops completely intact, bemoaning the Kings tactics and threatening to turncoat once more. Sir Brian headed for the seaside, and Earl Michael furtively took a similar road to Lord Flasheart. The king retired to Oxford (again) to practice his next song and dance routine.

In the battles being fought through the rest of the country Parliament succeeded in wooing the scots, adding Dunbar, Aberdeen and Inverness to their collection. The Royalists replied by cunningly gaining the port of Falmouth and Pembroke. 

Another week into the winter, and even the Kings drive is struggling to keep his men in the field against driving fog and blinding drizzle (or was that the other way round?). Following advice from Rupert (not necessarily the best idea) Charles has decided to gamble on one final confrontation against his enemies before the winter weather closes in, hoping to break their will to continue the war into 1644.

It will take him a number of weeks to bring his full force to bear, both sides will spend that time grappling to improve their chances of victory. 

End of week 7.

Week 8: The Beginning of the End

The Covenantor victory at the Battle of Alford ended the Royalist interest in Scotland for 1643, and left the Parliamentarian forces in an unassailable position. They had also gained the key town of Newark, as well as Lincoln and made an attempt to drive into the heartland of the Royalists by capturing Selby, cutting off York and Hull. The King, clearly unperturbed by these events, obviously has one eye on the 1644 bathing season, claiming Scarborough and Bridlington.

With one week to go this left the Parliamentarian forces in control of 21 towns and ports, to the Royalist 19, leaving a puritan victory to the campaign inevitable. However, in an unexpected turn of events the magazine at Caernarfon exploded, wiping out the Roundhead garrison.  If the Parliamentarians are able to stall enough for a stalemate, or claim victory in the large, and last, battle next Tuesday then they will be victorious in the campaign.  Should the Royalists claim victory against the odds then they will be fought their way to a credible overall draw in the campaign.  Although the final scenario is yet to be decided upon do not forget that victory at the Battle of Alford enables the Parliamentarians to pick their ground, and force the Royalists to deploy their forces first.  The Cavaliers do have one ace up their sleeves however, due to their capture of the powder magazine at Scarborough they have the first fire ability for each regiment for the first two rounds of shooting.
End of week 8 and overall final map.

Week 9: The End (yes, actually)

With King’s Charles victory at the Battle of Radway the 1643 campaigning season came to an end.  The forces of Parliament had gained a stranglehold on Scotland and the South-East, however the South-West and many of the countries vital ports remained in Royalist hands, and overall neither side could claim to be victors.

The King can look forward to summers on the beach at Scarborough, and a winter spent in comfort at Oxford with Prince Rupert.  Earl Michael, who can take much of the responsibility for the roundhead successes is heading to Lisborn for some much needed R&R, while Cromwell, Cromwell and Essex take stage in London as Parliament plans next years campaign.  Finally Lord Flasheart, who so nearly changed sides (and sometimes did but very quietly) has a few months holed up in that important 17th Century cultural centre of Wrecsam to consider his choice of ally for 1644.

Many thanks to Red and Michael, our main Royalist and Parlimentarian protagonists, along with Luke for buying into the ECW, and Aidan for providing laughs a plenty and a crucial victory and defeat for his side in the biggest battle, plus a splash of colour to the battlefield with his army.  Between him and Michael the Roundheads can take credit for the best looking bunch.  9 weeks may be the longest RGMB campaign in rather a long time, and ended at the right time; on a high.  Perhaps with the new rulebook in 2012 we can return and do it all again (I might even have painted something, Red‘s army certainly looked more colourful), not that 1644 was a particularly good year to be a royalist…….

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