Being a Pike & Shotte battle royale played out at Gauntlet 2015.......
Summer 1643 and the Royalist cause is in the ascendancy. The Parliamentarian forces are on the back foot throughout the country in the face of Prince Rupert and his apparently invincible cavalier horse, and it appears, as it has so many times in history, that the war will be over by Christmas. Fearful of their fate following a victory for King Charles some of the lesser known parliamentary big wigs begin a plot with dreadful consequences. They approach that superpower of the pike and shotte era; Sweden, offering riches and most of the east end of London if they will intervene militarily to bring the war to a Parliamentary conclusion.
The Swedes reject the offer of the East end, but seem quite keen on the riches and manage to wangle in the offer of a 100 year lease on a sheep farm in Cumbria. Guaranteed a safe passage across the sea they arrive in Scarborough and begin a march southwards, sweeping all before them. It is at this point that the lesser known big wigs, and indeed the rest of an appalled England, discover that the Swedes have no intention of simply handing over control once the Royalists are defeated. Instead Queen Christina of Sweden intends an aggressive takeover; turning England into a province of Sweden, ruling both from afar in Stockholm, and from near with a puppet government in London. Once, of course, they have crushed every opposition, Royalist and Parliamentarian.
It is one thing arguing over which Englishman is in control of the country, and quite another to allow a foreigner to waltz in and take over, and within a remarkably swift time the English put aside their differences and join forces under the figurehead leadership of King Charles. Colonel Cromwell, Lord Fairfax, Rupert and Maurice are numbered amongst his command, leaving the question of king or parliament for a later time.
The Swedes march for London, intent on seizing the capital with its arsenal in the tower and its symbolic position, but distracted by the riches of York make slow progress. The English, with their Scottish allies, scramble to bring together enough forces to block this advance. Charles settles on an anonymous village called Little Pontefract in South Yorkshire as the mustering spot for his new Army of England, and dispatches riders to inform his commanders of this fact.
The Army of England slowly begins to form, but as Charles waits for re-enforcements the leading Swedish formation of a spread out invading army marches into view. More riders are sent, demanding the English commanders make haste, while the Swedes recognise they face a fight to clear the road and begin to concentrate their forces. Roughly half of each army is on the field of battle when the first cannon fires, and it is now up to the remainder to march to the sound of the guns!
This, gentlemen, is a simple scenario allowing us to place many, many models on a big table and play a large ECW battle to its conclusion on a single day. We happen to have several avid Swedish fans amongst our number, and so I have designed a background that allows them (with a major stretch of the imagination) to us their yellow-coats as they originally intended.
Those with an interest in mechanics can read the scenario below. Those without should skip to the first photo and the report. We played the battle using 28mm armies (some made up of old 25mm models) and the Pike & Shotte rules.
Setup and Deployment:
The battlefield will be 18ft long by 6ft wide with the English on one side and the Swedish on the other. 50% of each armies divisions will begin on the battlefield; most within 24” of their long table edge, two per side within 36” of their long table edge. The remaining 50% of the divisions will be in reserve. The reserves will arrive equally spaced on turns 2-5 at random points along their long table edge, with a small chance of arriving on the short table edges.
Starting and ending the battle:
The winner of a D6 roll-off chooses whether to setup first and go first, or to setup second and go second. The side who loses this roll-off may roll a single D6 before the battle starts but after deployment, and on a ‘6’ they may choose to go first instead – using their initiative! The battle ends at a predetermined time rather than a turn limit, e.g. a start time of 10am, and a finish time of 4pm.
The Swedes are looking to sweep the impudent English aside and continue their march to London, and will seek to destroy the English army as they do so. For the English they must destroy the invaders regardless of the cost. Both sides score victory points for breaking enemy divisions equal to the number of units (not including artillery) in the division. For example a broken division with 2 musketeer sleeves, 1 pike block and 2 troops of horse would be worth 5 VP’s. There were extra points available for the two sides, with the Swedes gaining 1 VP per unit within 12” of the enemy table edge at the end, and the English gaining 5 VP’s for each farm building being held at the end. Neither side knew the others extra conditions.
Powder and powder carts:
To ensure nobody gets too complacent about their powder situation, it was after all a serious issue in 17th century England, we will continue to use Aidan’s pack-of-cards for powder rules. However, we will also use powder wagons. Powder wagons are to be represented by a relevant model, and attached to a division, whose commander they take their movement orders from. They have no stats because they are unable to fight. If charged they will be automatically captured by the enemy in the movement phase (and put into use no doubt immediately). Nobody is daft enough to shoot at them. They may be declared to be part of a different division at the start of any friendly movement phase. Any friendly unit within 12” of a powder cart when shooting does not need to use a playing card to fire.
The Swedes: Michael, Ian & Paul
The English: Aidan (The Earl of Montrose), Chris (Prince Rupert), Blue Team Dave, Rick (Lord Hopton).
The day dawned bright and clear and with the roar of Airbus engines on the tarmac outside. Later there would be storms and rain, but for that glorious morning all was wonder. First to arrive was Blue Team Dave (BTD), a staunch Englishman who, with much effort, put up the tables. By 9:30am the English team was complete with Chris and Aidan being joined by Rick (the organiser - myself), who crassly demanded the change of the tables into a different shape. The Swedes arrived with an air of superiority and wafted it around. They could now double-shot their ordinance and they knew it. Michael’s lovely models led a coalition which was completed by the stupendous collections of Ian and Paul. The Swedes were quick to display their military might, which the English quivered in fear at the sight of. As they were so fast to exit their travel cases the Swedes were given the task of deploying first and then going first.
With near 20’ of table length to deploy on Paul took the choice to move against the village of Little Pontefract on the Swedish left, Michael took the Swedes right with his flank anchored by the river, and Ian bridged the gap between the two with a stupendous array of ordinance. One look at the Swedish arsenal and the English agreed wholeheartedly that the open centre was not the place to be. BTD took the job of garrisoning Little Pontefract with three regiments (brigades) of foote, and was supported by Prince Rupert (Chris) just to his left with a strong brigade of horse. The centre was abandoned and the rest of the English, two large brigades of foote, concentrated their force against Michael on the English left.
|Two thirds of the Swedish army. Just try and count the ordinance...|
|The other third. No pictures of the English exist, they felt too inferior.|
|Deployment looking from behind the English left flank - Montrose's infantry is to the left of Hopton's which is on the edge of the farm.|
|Montrose to the left and Hopton to the right.|
|Ian's centre with many, many heavy guns.|
|Prince Rupert next to the village of Little Pontefract.|
|Daves troops within Little Pontefract itself.|
|Looking from behind the Swedish left flank, with Pauls Swedes, foot and leg nearest the camera.|
|More of Ian's gorgiously painted Swedes. If they hadn't have been trying to kill my side I'd have had to wax lyrical even more.|
|The join between Ian (near) and Michaels (far) armies at the central farm.|
|The English look.....concerned.|
The Ball Opens
The English commander, bizarrely being the Earl of Montrose (Aidan), failed to steal the initiative and the battle began with the Swedes moving forwards fairly slowly on all fronts. Michael’s men garrisoned part of the central farm complex, also known as Pistyll House Farm, and began a longwinded attempt to capture the farmhouse which some of Lord Hopton’s (Ricks) musketeers had hoped into during the deployment proceedings. Despite their superior numbers the Swedes best efforts were repeatedly thwarted by the thick walls and general English belligerence. Paul’s Swedish left flank moved up to the edges of Little Pontefract, and Ian opened fire with his grand battery on Prince Ruperts horse to little effect.
The English response was aggressive on one side, apathetic on the horse side, and stubborn in the village. Prince Ruperts horse refused to charge, and indeed spent most of the battle milling around on the edge of Little Pontefract with their CO desperately rolling command dice and fielding inconvenient questions about his lack of a poodle familiar. BTD was more successfully, garrisoning houses and blocking streets to deter the eager tourists from trying to conquer this part of Yorkshire, while the two big brigades of foote led by Lord Hopton and the Earl of Montrose went on the offensive. Hopton’s pike blocks and musketeers fought running battles with Michael Swedes around the farm, being careful to keep away from the road in case Ians ordinance should turn on them. The English musketeers in the farm house turned back all comers and the fighting swung back and forth. Montrose’s troops came up on the flank and began to apply pressure on the rest of Michaels troops, preventing them from assisting in the fight for the farm.
|The fighting in the farm starts immediately as Michael and Hopton's troops pile in.|
|The farmhouse under siege, the English musketeers within.|
|Hopton pushes Talbots pike beyond the farm.|
|The Swedes move slowly facing the English right. The English horse....don't move at all.|
|Bystanders enjoying a day in the country.|
|Michael in person.|
The rain arrived outside, and with it Swedish re-enforcements in what appeared the most convenient of places – directly behind Michaels foote, and positioned to close a gap which had opened between Paul and Ian’s men. The English high command, and several of the lowly born bunch too, had held high hopes of exploiting this gap with Ruperts horse, however the foppish cavaliers still refused to move, excepting one troop which caused panic in Paul’s Swedish ranks with a charge that was eventually seen off by a block of pike. Paul shrugged off this scare and continued his assault on the village, sending horse amongst the houses and wiping out some musketeer sleeves unlucky enough to be caught in the streets. Fire from the houses blunted the attack however, and it stalled as the brigade of re-enforcing infantry marched far too slowly towards the fighting. What had appeared good fortune for the Swedes now became a problem as not one, or two but three re-enforcing brigades arrived behind Michaels foote leaving scant room to deploy.
Montrose had pushed his brigade hard and they were pressing the Swedes far back into their deployment zone, near the windmill hill. Hopton’s infantry had managed to score the first victory points for the English when they broke one of Michael’s smaller brigades in the fighting around the farm, claiming a meagre 4 VP’s, and some of the English troops started to move beyond the farm to assist Montrose. Ian, seeing Michael under sustained pressure, turned half of his force and began wheeling it around to try and take the English attackers in the flank. English re-enforcements arrived in the shape of Polish(!) troops – winged lancers no less. However they had chosen the far side of the river to appear, and before they could cross the bridge and join the main battle more Swedes arrived behind them. Making the best of a bad job they settled into the farm there and fought an inconclusive running battle with the equally foreign infantry trying to defeat them. More English re-enforcements arrived in the form of infantry behind Montrose’s men; some more of Aidans foote as well as one of BTD’s regiments. These worthies marched along the road towards the centre and deployed to thwart Ian’s outflanking attempt.
|Swedish re-enforcements begin to arrive in just the right place.|
|Chaos in Little Pontefract.|
|A big shot of the Swedish right. Note: the English troops pushing beyond the farm and pressing towards the windmill, and the Polish arriving on the far side of the river.|
|Bloody fighting for the farm house.|
The Middle Ground
Sit-rep. Michaels under pressure. Montrose is pushing troops into his lines and the Swedes superiority in numbers isn’t counting because most of the now four brigades there are jammed up in the rear and only one is fighting a combination of Montrose’s and Hopton’s men. Hopton’s musketeers, after a protracted and bloody fight, have claimed the farmhouse for good, and most of Michaels troops have now been pushed out of the farm. Ians supporting infantry has met strong resistance from Montrose’s second infantry brigade and elements of Hopton’s and has stopped on the other side of the road to give fire. In the centre Prince Rupert has been unable to move anything anywhere and, despairing, has gone to watch an open-air Bjork concert. Not a moment too soon either as his last attempt at affecting the fight for Little Pontefract finishes off the work Ian’s heavy ordinance began and his horse brigade is broken and spent. The Swedes claim 6 victory points, along with an additional 3 when they manage to break one of BTD’s regiments in the village. BTD is undeterred however and fights stubbornly on to Paul’s frustration, with the Swedes really struggling to make headway.
In the minutes before Prince Rupert departed with the immortal words “sod this for a icelandic singer” a moment of pure cinema. More English re-enforcements arrive along the centre of the battlefield, and for just a short time Prince Rupert (now Rick, still no poodle), Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell (both Aidan) were on the field in command of a brigade of horse each. Reality swiftly inserted itself with Ruperts failure, followed by Fairfax’s brave but remarkably British attempt at charging Ians heavy guns ending with his destructions (4 more VP’s for the Swedes). Cromwell managed to do much better however, leading a troop of his Ironsides directly through the edges of the farm and meeting the Swedish horse, which had finally untangled some of itself, coming the other way.
|"For God and the King!"|
|The Swedes begin to move into Little Pontefract but meet heavy resistance.|
|Part of Ians centre wheels right to pressure/cut off the English troops around the farm.|
|"Charge!" Fairfax on his doomed attempt to charge the guns.|
|Pike block vs pike block in the tight streets.|
|The Polish find employment.|
|Gratuitous nicely painted Swedish mortar shot.|
The End Is Nigh
The final actions of an action-packed occasion, and to start with Little Pontefract the Swedish had sent in a pike block, musketeers and cannon to try and succeed where their horse had failed, but their attack had again stalled amongst the houses and streets and dug in heels of the English defenders who appeared to have taken root. No breakthrough towards London to be had there. The rest of Pauls troops still had not overcome a fear of Prince Rupert riding them down, and together with a substantial proportion of Ians men were in the open preparing for a charge that never arrived. The large brigade of Pauls infantry that had arrived so promptly and in such a good location behind his lines was still in march column struggling through a farm and played no part in proceedings apart from looking very pretty.
In the very centre Fairfax had come to grief but Ian had not been able to capitalise and advance to the English table edge for fear of the mass of English infantry now around the central farm. The road from long edge to long edge had become no-mans land, with Ians musketeers and light cannon trading fire across the hedgerows with Hopton and Aidans musketeers before the latter charged in with most of his brigade, and began to overwhelm the end of Ians line. Fighting in the central farm had settled down with some late aggressive moves from Hopton driving the last yellow-coated troops out, but a storming party still held one of the farm outbuildings for the invaders. Hopton was having to be more cautious with enemy (Ian) troops on his right now and his brigade near broken. No such subtleties sullied Montroses’ work however, throwing his infantry and Cromwells horse into the fight. The Swedes massed reserves, mostly mounted and so far penned in behind Michaels fighting infantry, had begun their breakout through an emerging gap between the central farm which housed the majority of Hopton’s men, and Montroses’ infantry. Cromwell led his ironsides in a frantic hedge-hopping charge to confront them, driving them back and holding the line. At this point a disaster for the Swedes as Michaels large infantry brigade, which had been fighting both Montrose and Hopton with little support all day, broke, handing 9 victory points to the jubilant English.
|The English press right up to the windmill hill, preventing the Swedes from using their superior numbers.|
|Excellent shot of some usual suspects - left to right; Ian and Paul to the left for the Swedes, Dave and Aidan for the English,|
|Temporary commander of Hopton's brigade for part of the afternoon - Michael was indeed fortunate that was the only time for his dice were excellent!|
|Left to right; Aidan, Ian, Michael,|
|Caught in one of my own shot - blue tshirt is me.|
|Fighting around windmill hill.|
|The English press forwards. Later Montrose would remark that they came closer to the Swedes board edge than the Swedes had managed to their own.|
|Paul's column of re-enforcements struggling to arrive.|
|Paul's troops on the edge of the village.|
|Montrose's second large infantry brigade charges in across the road to prevent the Swedes from outflanking the farm.|
|Fighting across hedgerows as Hopton's men exchange fire with the enemy musketeers.|
|The Winged Lancers have their day on the other side of the river.|
|A last shot of the chaos surrounding the windmill.|
With the players, if not the armies, reaching exhaustion time was called at approximately 4pm and the points were added up. The English had managed to lose both Fairfax (4) and Rupert’s (6) horse brigades, as well as one of BTD’s foot regiments (3) in the village, a total of 13 victory points to the Swedes. The invaders hadn’t managed to reach the last 12” of the English deployment zone with any of their units and missed out on gaining extra victory points there. For the Swedes themselves it was Michael who had taken a hard pounding, losing a smaller grey-coated infantry brigade (4) early on, and then the large yellow coats (9) at the death. The rest of the Swedes had taken casualties throughout but nowhere near enough. The tipping point was, however, the farm buildings, of which the Polish were still holding the one farthest to the left flank of the English army, and Hopton’s musketeers had survived constant assaults to retain the central farmhouse for an extra 10 victory points. At 23 victory points to 13 the underdog English (and Polish) army had won the field and the day!
The glory that was the Swedish army on its tables awaiting deployment to the field brought home the reality of a nasty spot for the English players. The Swedes outnumbered them in foote and horse (both only just) and ordinance (by a country mile), and were individually superior before their class act line-up of special characters took place. The English players attempted to gain some small amount of parity, and only Dave shunned the use of specials, with Montrose leading the army (thanks to his command value of 10), and Rupert, Hopton, Fairfax and Cromwell all making appearences. King Charles and his lifeguard regiment were in reserve but didn’t arrive in time.
Despite this it looked like it should be an easy Swedish victory and the early talk was of recycling the English units to make it more entertaining. However the English did have experience on its side, and Aidan and Rick combined nicely to isolate, contain and press home a heavy attack against Michael which neither of the other two Swedes were able to assist in. This, as well as the stubborn defence of the village, was the prime reasoning for the English’s unlikely victory. A side note would be that had Hopton lost another unit shaken in the centre 9 more victory points would have been for the Swedes, and the Farmhouse in the central farm also looked certain to be lost in the opening couple of hours. The reserves seemed to be arriving in all the right places for the Swedes, but due to the aggressive attacks by Montrose/Aidan the bulk of them were never in a position to affect the outcome, whereas for the English the Polish brigade captured a farm, and Cromwell stormed forwards to plug a big gap at a crucial time. A close battle then, with a clear winner, and a spectacular layout. Well worth doing.
A war of numbers:
31 regiments of infantry totaling 1200+ infantry
29 regiments of horse totalling 250+ horsemen
28+ cannon (22+ on the Swedish side…..)
114 square foot – the approximate size of the battlefield
25 minutes – the amount of time each turn was allowed
1 – the number of flasks of tea the English fielded
7 – the number of players involved