Friday, 19 April 2013

Pike & Shotte Siege - The Swedish Attack Chester

With Michaels gardening leave in full swing he left his hoe and hotfooted it over to Wrexham for a meeting of minds in the first ever Pike & Shotte siege!  We ‘borrowed’ some extra rules from the Worcester battle report in the Pike & Shotte book, with my Royalist foote (4 foote regiments under Lord Flasheart) defending against the entire Swedish army commanded by the fearsome Gustavus Adolphus - fielding no less than 8 pieces of ordinance to batter at the walls of the city of Chester (yes, I had staked it for the campaign).  The only bright spot for the beleaguered Royalists being the incoming relief column of horse; 4 regiments of gallopers and two of dragoons led by Brigadier Wolfe.  Victory conditions where for the attackers to get 3 unshaken units inside the walls inside 10 turns. Each part of the walls counted as a building, and could take 10+1D6 hits from artillery before collapsing and creating a breach.

The Battle:

I had garrisoned the city walls by placing my musketeers in the towers (out of reach of ladders), and the pikemen on the walls and gateway.  I also kept a block of pike and some musketeers back behind the walls to act as a fire brigade if any area looked threatened.  Michaels artillery advanced and opened up, with the wall sections on each side of the gatehouse being the targets.  A regiment of Swedish foote was supposed to support each assault when the wall came down, but both seemed quite unwilling to move.  The bulk of the Swedes infantry, three full regiments of foote, set off on an outflanking manoeuvre, trying to get round the shorter side of the city walls where no pikemen awaited them at the top of the walls, just musketeers without support. 

The initial setup.

The bulk of the Swedish foote.

The Royalists positions.

The Swedish pike and dragoons passing a cottage with a distracting looking wench....

Unpainted but in charge - the Royalist chairman and board debate issues next to the supply train and minister.

Sadly (for the Swedes) this advance turned into a farce rapidly, with the constricting terrain of some woods and hedgerows ruining any semblance of a formation, and a consistent failure of their commander to be able to give orders!  Luckily for them that the Royalists had very little in the way of firepower to make them pay for forming a conga line!  Lord Flasheart, lurking around behind the gatehouse, decided things were not moving fast enough, and seeing an opportunity to sweep away the unsupported Swedish musketeers from in front of the gatehouse (the Swedes pike block was far away at the back of the board having a nice conversation with a ‘wench’ of dubious morals) he sent out the King’s Guard. The redcoated pikemen crashed into the musketeers, only to be halted by the hedgerow defences.  It didn’t take long for more Swedish musketeers to hit one flank, while some cavalry were unleashed on the other, and the King’s Guard understandable perished while Flasheart quickly shut the gate again!

The Swedish infantry begin their conga.

Flashearts daring move - sending out the King's Guard before shutting the door quickly when it all goes wrong!

 More important events were happening behind them however, as the Swedes guns finally brought down a section of the city walls.  Its defenders – Hopton’s pike – reformed in the breach, only to receive the same treatment from the nearly cannon, and disintegrate.  The Swedish conga had also finally shaken itself out into a formation of sorts, and, throwing its ladders up against the wall on the side of the city, they began their assault.  The Royalist musketeers   proved to be made of stern stuff however, and their attack failed to gain the battlements.  In the centre at the gatehouse another Flasheart farce saw the gatehouse be left unguarded as a series of orders for the redeployment of men to guard the breach to its left went wrong!  The Swedish yellow coats were swiftly up on their ladders, only for the King’s Guard musketeers to throw them back by weight of numbers before they could open the gate, and secure the battlements once more.

The wall comes down!

Time was running out for the Swedes, and no more so than when the Royalist re-enforcements arrived, streaming onto the battlefield and wiping out the Swedes artillery before charging onwards into their cavalry.  The Royalists had also managed to get another block of pike (Stradlings this time) into the breach, and with only cavalry available the Swedes were unable to take the breach.  Elsewhere the wall to the right of the gatehouse had held – although very badly damaged the Swedish artillery had rolled badly towards the end, and then rolled a fair number of double 1’s, taking it out of the fight.  The Royalist musketeers held the gatehouse and had thrown back the Swedish main assault on the side of the city once more, and time was up.  A victory for the Royalists with no Swedish troops having gained access to the city, and only some musketeers managing to reach the top of the walls.

The bulk of the Swedish foote finally make it into contact, but are unable to defeat Talbots whitecoats.

The Royalists horse arrive and charge.

Last gasp at the gatehouse, but the day is lost for the Swedes.

The Royalists Attack

Having played one more than the required 10 turns, we decided to switch it round and have the Royalists attack instead.  The Swedes kindly lent them their 8 cannon, which the Royalists supplemented with another Saker and a mortar to compensate for their fewer numbers (1 less foot regiment than the Swedes used).

The Battle:

I placed one small brigade of foote (Talbots – whitecoats) on the side of the city to try and force a way over the walls, while the bulk of the army formed two columns of attack.  The first to the left of the windmill was to assault a breach in the walls created to the left of the gatehouse.  The second to the right of the windmill was to assault the gateway itself – supposedly an easier target for my cannon to batter down than a wall.  The horse awaited at the back for the Swedish mounted re-enforcement column to appear in its random location.  Michael followed my setup – pike on the walls and muskets in the towers, with some reserves.

The initial setup, Talbots brigade in the white in the foreground.

The central attack column.

Talbots ill-fated, and failure of an attack.

The first clash came on my left, where Talbots foot reached the walls swiftly and began to climb, only to suffer a calamitous defeat and have their pike scattered!  The rest of the brigade was reduced to ineffectively trading fire with the Swedes musketeers for the remains of the battle.  My focus on taking down the walls however, brought more joy, with a breach being swiftly created to the left of the gatehouse, and the pikemen guarding it suffering casualties from the falling rock.  My hopes of a swift assault and victory were ruined however, by some very poor command rolls which saw my troops not move for a number of turns!  The cannon pounded the enemy in the breach, but elsewhere also seemed incapable of hitting the city gate where the rest of the army waited.

The Swedish wall collapses.

Flasheart screams for the assault to begin, but no Royalist will be first into the breach.

To compound matters the Swedish horse arrived, and launched itself into the back of my army, scattering much of my own horse and artillery.  No joy was to be had on my right either, where the gate finally fell, and the King’s Guard pike charged in, scattering the enemy pike and gaining the city, before coming to grief itself in the Swedish counter attack.  Their support, Stradlings foote, had abandoned the gate and headed for some walls which Michael had temporarily abandoned to re-enforce the gatehouse, only to re-occupy just in time, and the assault failed.

The Swedish horse arrive.

Lord Flasheart, victory slipping away, seized the initiative and shouted ‘Follow Me!’ to a regiment of horse and succeeded in clearing the breach, only to find the Swedes had more pike and muskets behind it, and the rest of his army was disintegrating under the hammer blows inflicted by their horse.  The day was lost and he retreated – Victory to the Swedes.

The Royalist attack stalled.


Whether attacking, defending, winning or losing, it was all very good fun!  Attacking the castle appears more difficult than defending it; making sure your cannon don’t have their lines of sight block by your foote moving up, allocating enough men to each hoped for breach, waiting for the re-enforcements to arrive!  Michaels horse certainly did a bit better than mine, helped by cuirassiers and hitting the main body of the Royalist army straight away.  I did a bit better than Michael because I had learnt from a couple of his mistakes, and was more focused with my attacks and artillery, and my foote didn’t have to try and redeploy to the side of the castle.  With the varying angles of hedgerows etc we were very loose with formations rather than enforce the rules on it exactly, which actually looked quite good when a group of horse charged down a lane, or a cluster of infantry assaulted the walls, one of the joys of Pike & Shotte being it has a much lower competitive nature and you can just ‘wing it’ without unbalancing it.  Finally a note about the number of vehicles which appear in the pictures – the bio-titan was hard at work for most of the day!

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