Monday, 10 November 2014

English Civil War Battle Report: The Witches Cauldron

An English Civil War battle report of the most unusual kind.  To describe every action, reaction, ebb and flow of this creation of Aidan’s warped imagination would require literary skill which escapes me.  I shall endeavour to do it some justice, and then let the pictures of the madness speak for themselves.

Be warned - There are many pictures of many models.  Many.

Upon the 9th November 2014 nine wargamers gathered in a hallowed hall underneath a picture of the queen, and intent on pushing 28mm scale 17th Century miniatures around a table.  One; Aidan, acted as umpire and devils advocate, dividing the players and their armies into two sides using playing cards, and then deploying them randomly around the table, with future re-enforcements also arriving at random points on a very odd shaped battlefield.  Those who once considered themselves Royalists became Parliamentarian, and Swedes became Royalists, and men who fought as if they were led by supporters of the king supported the rebels, not to mention those who fought like rebels fighting for the king.  Confusion reigned.  And even by the end of lunch it became clear that more confusion reigned as players sought conformation of whether the force approaching to their right was friend or foe, and whose side was winning, and who had the biscuits……..

To make it simple for the reader (for nothing was ever truly obvious), the players were:
For Parliament – Chris Fazey (General of the army, and possibly a very confused Lord of Montrose), Richard (me), Ian Shaw and Dennis.
For The King – Michael (King Charles I no less!), Ian Hedley, David Astbury and Luke.

King Charles I - aka Michael

Chris Fazey / A Very Confused Earl of Montrose / The Parliamentarian General

The Royalists get into the 'spirit' of things.  For left to right: Ian Hedley, Luke, David and Michael.

The Parliamentarians, from the left: Chris Fazey, Richard, Ian, Dennis.

The Map:

Study this map, for without it you will be as lost as that shepard and his sheep which turn up every battle only to be shoved from pillar to post as regiments march and counter march past them.

Map. Map. Map  -  Read the red circled descriptions and all be be clearer.

The Opening Moves:

A great many men wandered the mist-filled landscape of an unnamed English county (I suspect Bedfordshire), led by generals who had no real idea of what or who they faced, let alone where they were.  The first to come to their senses were the forces of the two generals; Chris and Michael, who found themselves and their combined four brigades facing each other across the centre of the battlefield next to a place called Wandsworth Hill (all names from the limited imagination of the author).  The sound of the musketry cut through the white, drawing the armies in towards it and the tramp of poorly maintained shoes and whinny of horses started to appear in all directions.  

The first two forces set up - Chris' Parliamentarians furthest away.

First to arrive on the scene, near a village mysteriously called ‘Luke’s Folly’, were a brigade of Luke’s Royalist horse, which, spotting they had arrived behind the Parliamentarian generals troops proceeded to hurtle down the slope towards the enemy.  Chris, alive to this danger screamed ‘hedgehog!’, and ‘charge!’.  Luckily his infantry did the former, and his horse the latter, although mainly towards Michael (did I mention he was the King?)and more newly arrived Royalists in the form of David and his infantry, who had turned up next to The King.  Further Royalist re-enforcements were on their way via the road from the Four Sails Windmill, and led by Ian Hedley.

Michael's (The King's) first two brigades deploy to take on Chris.

Ian Shaws Parliamentarian horse arriving with the intention of attacking, um, my parliamentarian troops......

Chris (Parliamentarian General) two brigades in the centre by Wandsworth Hill.

Lukes' horse arrives intent on stabbing Chris in the back.

David's first brigade arrives to support Michael in the centre.

Having established that we were on the same side mine and Ian Shaws troops garrison the church and my horse head off for a date with Michaels rearguard.

That date.

Chris does what he does best - Charge!

Chris was hedgehoged and surrounded, but it wasn’t all bad news as Dennis’ first brigade of horse arrived in Little Budworth and advanced along the road towards Wansworth Hill in the hope of being the cavalry, while my (Rick) and Ian Shaws horse brigades both turned up next to Biggin Hill Church.  I garrisoned the church and village with dragoons, and then led my horse regiments off to try and attack Michael’s rear, only to be stopped by his cuirassiers and heavy horse coming the opposite way intent on blocking me off.  A mounted skirmish ensued which lasted the length of the battle, and left both brigades broken by 3pm.  Ian, once he had worked out I was on his side (having deployed to attack me) made to follow my lead, only to have to pull up because more of David’s troops had just arrived next to Biggin Hill Church along the same road my horse had just used!  An early rebel charge by his horse was seen off by David.  Ian wasn’t the only one who had to turn and fight enemy behind him, as Ian Hedleys Royalists discovered Dennis’ infantry had found their way to the Four Sails Windmill and were advancing upon them.  The Royalists turned and prepared to fight.

Lukes' horse sweep majestically down the slope towards Chris' beleaguered infantry.

The centre with Chris in the middle, surrounded by David (right), Michael (cerntre), Luke (left).

Dennis' horse arrive in Little Budworth.

David's brigade arrives hot on the heels of mine and starts causing Ian concern at Biggin Hill Church.

Biggin Hill Church and my dragoons.

More of my dragoons next to Biggin Hill Church.

Chaos erupted.  Paranoia reigned.  Muskets sounded, Luke’s horse charged Chris, who beat them off, Dennis failed most of his horses command checks, my horse skirmished, and Ian tried to avoid charging Davids pike, which he did.  Just.  Aidan simply looked smug, as well he might.

The Middle Times:

The battlefield was huge, and there were plenty more troops desperate to get on and play their part.  Michael’s third (and last) brigade arrived in Little Budworth, long after Dennis’ horse had disappeared down the road, but just in time to meet his infantry who turned up to the north of the village, and joined his horse in failing almost every command check.  Luke’s Scottish infantry moved on through the village of ‘Luke’s Folly’, hoping to follow their horse down the hill to where beleaguered Chris lay, only to be suddenly faced by an infantry brigade led by Ian Shaw.  Being a larger formation the Scots moved out, deployed, and began to attack the Parliamentarian troops, who surprisingly held their own in a musketry battle, even shooting down the highlanders.  

Dennis' lovely Renegade Parliamentarian infantry arrive by Four Sails Windmill behind Ian Hedley's first brigade.

The immortal pig on wheels.

Not such good news for Parliamentarians Ian and Dennis at the other end of the battlefield as Ian Hedley revelled in marching two big infantry brigades on.  One in the Four Sails Windmill area; neatly sandwiching Dennis’s infantry between two larger Royalist forces, and one in the fields next to Biggin Hill Church.

Ian Hedley's 2nd brigade turns up to menace Ian Shaw.

Eye candy - Ian Hedley style.

Ian Hedley's 3rd brigade turns up on Dennis' flank by Four Sails Windmill.

Dennis' infantry.

The fight in the centre as Chris' troops get stuck into Michael.

Dennis' horse finally reaches Wandsworth Hill.

Sheep candy.  And horses.

Chris doing his thing - Parliamentarian troops on the attack.
A wide shot of the centre of the battlefield - my 2nd infantry platoon has arrived at the bottom to threaten the route too and from Little Budworth.

Luke's Scottish infantry arrive in 'Lukes Folly'.

Only to be faced by Ian's weaker Parliamentarian brigade.

Chris' horse vs Luke's in an initial clash.

Davids infantry - Eye candy by Aidan.

Davids Royalists pressuring Ian Shaws Parliamentarians around Biggin Hill Church.

Dennis' first infantry brigade near Four Sails Windmill.

The first Dennis Vs Ian Hedley confrontation.

Michael's troops flood into Little Budworth.

The centre.

This was such a shock that everyone stopped for lunch and quite missed a One Show presenter going past on a rickshaw.


After lunch had been devoured it began to look much better for the Rebels; both of my infantry brigades arrived.  The first next to Chris; cue feeble cheers and protestations that he didn’t really need rescuing but it was nice that I was offering moral support.  The second chose the field opposite Dennis’ troops outside Little Budworth as a deployment area.  Luke’s horse, having failed to break Chris’ own cavalry, was caught flatfooted by my infantry, and were clearly so surprised that they even fluffed a charge against a musketeer sleeve.  My return fire cut them to pieces and with Luke’s infantry unable to break free of Ian’s on the edge of ‘Lukes Folly’ Chris was thus rescued and his infantry began to shake out of their hedgehogs to face Michaels slowly approaching pike and shotte. 

My first brigade (table edge) arrive to threaten Luke's horse.

Michaels infantry in the centre.

Luke and Ian square up outside the village of 'Lukes Folly'.

 On the outskirts of Little Budworth I reached an agreement with Dennis and our two brigades turned towards the village to attack Michael’s infantry who had yet to leave its boundaries.  Further Parliamentarian luck came around Biggin Hill Church, where my horse had just about exhausted itself, but so had Michael’s, and neither Ian Hedleys newly arrived troops, nor Davids, seemed at all keen on moving anywhere, much to Ian Shaw’s relief!  No such luck for Dennis around the Four Sails Windmill however, as both of Ian’s Royalist brigades closed in and he was forced to fight a losing battle on both fronts.

Dennis' second infantry brigade arrives outside Little Budworth.

A messy centre, with Lukes horse being wiped out by my foote and Chris attacking Michaels advancing infantry.

Chris Vs Michael again - Chris claiming Wandsworth Hill.

Charge, Charge, Debate and Victory:

It was 3pm, and the end was clearly in sight as various forces faced exhaustion, defeat, or stood on the brink of glory.  Firstly the easy to recount, and the battle for Biggin Hill Church never really got going beyond some early horse skirmishing between Ian Shaw and David, and some desultorily musket fire from the dragoons in the church itself.  My and Michaels horse to the north were long out of the game, and Ian Hedley couldn’t buy a passed command check for love, money, or minced pies.  The minced pies were incidentally David’s, and they were lovely even if they were not conducive to rolling command checks.

At Little Budworth my infantry led Dennis’ troops as we assaulted Michaels Royalists in and around the buildings.  Our superior numbers were beginning to tell, although not quite quickly enough to be a decisive victory by the end of the battle.  Another hour and it may have been curtains, blinds and turn backs for the Royalists.  

Mine and Dennis' troops attack Michaels Royalists in Little Budworth.

The most decisive action was at the Four Sails Windmill, where Dennis’ Parliamentarians were completely wiped out to a man by Ian Hedley’s vengeful Royalists.  At the other end of the battlefield Ian Shaw’s infantry had done a sterling job pinning the larger, more powerful, Scottish forces in ‘Lukes Folly’, but a charge and one horrific dice roll later and what looked like an excellent opportunity to wipe out a Scots pike block turned into a nightmare for the parliamentarians, with their own shotte and Ian’s CO scattered to the four winds instead.  Ian was defeated and Luke held ‘Lukes Folly’, but had been prevented from joining in the attack on Chris and the Rebel centre.

Dennis caught between Ian Hedleys two brigades and wiped out.

Ian Hedley couldn't make his brigade advance further than the tables edge!

The last two hours, and several turns, of combat in the centre around Wandsworth Hill could most accurately be described as messy.  With Lukes Royalist horse disposed of Chris turned his infantry and horse towards the approaching foote of Michael, and as usual charged in to great success.  One of Michael’s brigades broke, and the other was roughly handled while one of my Rebel regiments of foot and one of Chris’ faced down Davids brigade which was trying to interfere.  Chris took this opportunity to move troops onto Wandsworth Hill to claim it for Parliament, and to send a cuirassier unit through to capture another small rise deep in Michaels’ rear, much to the shock of King Charles I who was standing next to it!  Dennis’ horse brigade had finally made it was far as Wandsworth Hill, only to attacked from the right by the last arrival of the day – more of Ian Hedleys Royalists!  In this continuation of what had become the Ian Vs. Dennis saga the Parliamentarian replied with interest, and although it initially looked as if Ian might recapture Wandsworth Hill, it turned into a rout the Royalists away from the centre.

Fighting in the centre.

Davids troops in the centre begin to move up in support of Michaels Royalists, but its too late to stop Chris crippling them.

Ian Hedleys 4th and last brigade arrives to challenge Dennis' horse near Wandsworth Hill.

My unnecessary transport units.

Shepard vs Dennis.

Central and mine and Chris' infantry combine.

Dennis wiped out around Four Sail Windmill.

As above.

Dennis revenge - defeating Ians horse (just) near Wandsworth Hill.

Bitter fighting as my troops wade into Little Budworth.

Followed by Dennis'.

The village of 'Lukes Folly' sees a greater folly as Ian Shaws brigade commander falls leading his unit (far side) to certain victory, only to lose.

Dennis' counter attack against Ian H in the centre.

4pm arrived, and with it the battles end.  It was left to the umpire, the meddling Aidan, to decide upon a victor, and under pressure to declare anything but a draw he stated that the day went to Parliament!  This was on the basis that they had relieved/rescued Chris and his men, and controlled the centre of the battlefield.  Although he did also note that the Royalists controlled almost all of the outlying areas.  Chris was pronounced as the battle winner for the Rebels; he had held out for so long against odds of up to 3-1 and then went on the offensive at the end to capture Wandsworth Hill and defeat Michael – Cromwell would have been proud!

Final Positions:

'Lukes Folly' - Strongly held by the Royalists.

Wandsworth Hill - held by the parliamentarians. 

Four Sails Windmill - Solely Royalist.

Biggin Hill Church - held by the Parliamentarians despite the number of Royalists.

Little Budworth - Contested, Parliamentarians with the upper hand.

The centre again.

Final shot of the whole table.


  1. What can I say? This post is amazing, love the splendid armies, love the tables (beautiful terrain and buildings), love the details such as pigs or barrels, love the write up...thanks for sharing, and of course, blog followed!
    Btw, do you know what's the background picture, Cliff of Moher, Ararn Island?

    1. Thanks Phil, although I can only take credit for 1 out of 6 ECW armies which were used, and one of the smaller ones too. I'm afraid the background is a generic blogger one which I liked, and which I felt provided the best contrast to aid reading/vision. It is very beautiful however.

    2. Ok, thanks for your answer, waiting for next post!