Tuesday 22 June 2021

For a Parliament Freely Chosen.

I’ll be the first one to admit that beyond a vague awareness of some troubles prior to the Restoration of the Stuarts I was non the wiser when it comes to the events described in this new volume from Helion. ‘For a Parliament Freely Chosen’ by Andrew Abram is No. 68 in the truly excellent Century of the Soldier series.

So, I read this book with much anticipation that I’d learn something new relating to one of the last episodes of rebellion during the last days of the Protectorate. I was not disappointed. The causes and entire course of the rebellion are covered in great detail using a wide variety of primary and secondary sources. The established view of Booth’s rebellion was that it was simply a local pro-Royalist uprising that went badly wrong in every aspect. The author challenges this view with a detailed analysis and reconstruction of Booth’s rebellion and its impact on Cheshire, adjacent counties amd England as a whole giving us a new insight into its causes and outcome.

Of particular interest is the description the events leading up to the rebellion, with descriptions of post-Civil War Cheshire and life under Cromwell and the Protectorate. There’s plenty of information relating to the persons and forces involved and of the final battle of the rebellion at Winnington Bridge. Paradoxically, given that the revolt was not seen as a Royalist-inspired one, but an objection to Parliament’s ‘government by army’ approach, even in defeat the rebellion was a success as it helped usher in the restoration of Charles Stuart, so not a bad result in my honest and partisan opinion.

As usual the book contains a vast array of contemporary black and white illustrations as well as present day images of various places of interest referred to in the book. The maps are clear and helpful for those not familiar with the geography (I was brought up in the NW so I know the area well). I like the content of the appendices as they contain the letters of Booth and his opponent General Lambert; reading contemporary personal correspondence always feels to me the best way of getting ‘into the heads’ of the various key players, and these do the job admirably.

Finally then, I learnt a great deal from reading this book, especially as I said right at the start that these events were an unknown to me, until now that it is, and I now consider myself to be much more aware of the events that befell the NW of England and N Wales in 1659. A thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable read and for English Civil War buffs I guess it must find a place on their book shelves. Highly recommended.

Monday 14 June 2021

This week’s game. Back to the Eighteenth Century.

This week I arranged an 18th century game using Black Powder for the Burrowers. It wasn’t based on anything in particular but I intimated that it was. I also took the opportunity to field some troops that had never yet had their baptism of fire, which turned out to be a mistake given the usual mantra that new units always run away!

The French were one of the belligerents. On the other was a combined allied force of English, Hanoverians, Brunswickers and Hessians. The French had more and slightly better cavalry and heavier guns, while the allies had a couple more battalions of infantry. Most of my French are Ebor WSS figures but there are some Cran Tara, Black Hussar and Foundry in there as well. I went with Ebor as I got an unmissable deal (working out at about 25 quid for a 40 figure battalion as I bought LOTS) and I thought I'd base the army around the French during the War of Polish Succession to account for their slightly out of date appearance. My toys so I do as I wish of course! The Allies are a mixture of (mainly) Cran Tara and  Minden with some Foundry and Warlord.

Paul, John and Nigel were the French while Neil (British and Brunswick), Richard (Hanoverians and English horse) and I ( Hessian and Hanoverian horse) were the allies. We used Black Powder 2 with my house rules, some of which we forgot of course.

Both sides were against the clock as there was a chance that either could be reinforced by a brigade entering in the flank of the enemy. This was decided by me rolling a dice each turn, adjusted depending upon how the battle was playing out, by which I mean that the side nominally loosing had a better chance to get reinforcements. In truth there were NEVER going to be any for either side but nobody else knew that. Tee Hee. Hopefully these photos, some of which were taken by Richard, give an idea of how the game played out.

The Allied line seen from
their right wing.
The stage is set for battle to begin.
The French left wing. Why on earth did I give them a redoubt?

A taste of things to come in terms of extreme dice rolling! Neil's first shot with his cannon scored four sixes! Their target, the Royal Italian were pulverised and forced to retreat. They never recovered.
This was me. I needed anything but a 1! 
Paul's first move on the French right was to launch his cavalry at the Brunswick brigade on our left. 

The Hanoverian cavalry brigade advanced towards the French  left wing.
Wave after wave of French cavalry kept the Brunswickers pinned down almost on the table's edge.
Slowly but surely the Brunswickers were being worn down.

Neil's Brunswickers were also attacked by French infantry. 
Yet more pressure on the poor Brunswickers (First time out on the table too!)

The Hanoverian cavalry brigade was beaten badly by a combination of French artillery, infantry and  some dreadful dice rolling on my part (see above for the 'anything but a 1' result). 

The French cunningly screened their best infantry (the Garde Fran├žais and a battalion of Swiss) with a battalion of the Gardes Lorraine, who obligingly soaked up a great deal of damage before being forced to pull back.

French infantry of the Bourgoigne regiment supported by the Irish Rooth battalion attacking the English brigade.

My Hessian cavalry were very slow to get up into action, despite having a '9' commander! They looked on as the Hanoverians were demolished.

The English cavalry were led by a '6' rating brigadier but Richard still got them to move into musket range of the French.

The Hanoverians blundered and assaulted the church. 
The blundering Hanoverian infantry brigade  attacked the Irish in the church. After one turn of melee they routed after a dire break test, taking another battalion with them in the process. That left this battalion rather exposed and the brigade almost spent.
The Hanoverian grenadier battalion had advanced to occupy the farmyard but got no further for a while at least.

The Irish and HM 12th Foot locked in combat.
Meanwhile, having seen the Hanoverian cavalry disposed of, the Hessian  cavalry tried to break the French left by a series of futile charges.  In the background the Hanoverian infantry tried vainly to destroy the French centre. 

And still the French poured more horsemen at the Brunswickers, eventually they would break enough battalions to knock the brigade out of the game.

The centre as seen from behind the French line.

Swiss and Brunswickers locked in combat. It just wasn't the Brunswicker's day!

The Irish Bulkeley battalion in the churchyard were a thorn in the side of the Hanoverian brigade. 
The Hessian horse and dragoons on our right formed up for another attack on the French.
....it failed of course, and the Hessians were bounced back from whence they'd come.
The Brunswickers had defeated the Swiss but were now attacked by the Garde Fran├žais.

I love this figure of the the French Cuirassiers du Roi. The Brunswick grenadier battalion didn't.

After seeing of the Cuirassier du Roi the poor Brunswick grenadiers were hit by a squadron of the Royal Carabiniers.
Esme decided she would join the French army. Traitor!
HM 12th Foot had seen off the Irish Rooth battalion but were hit in the flank by Paul's horsemen. despite the flank attack the English held. 
At the end of the game the English brigade was still holding on in the face of  eight squadrons of French horse and the cream of their infantry. 

Well, talk about extremes! The dice just didn't fall right for the allies during this game. When we finished it was a clear French victory, given that half of our brigades were out of action. It was actually closer than the end result suggests. Black Powder being what they are it was a fast and bloody game, but maybe rather dull after the past couple of weeks of playing some rather more dynamic ancient games. Nevertheless it was great fun, and I had at long last  got my 18thC Brunswick, Hessian, Hanoverian and English on the table for the first time, on which basis it was expected that they'd not do terribly well so my expectations were met. The French played well and their horsemen under Paul kept the pressure on the Brunswick brigade throughout the battle.  I don't know what the French plan was but our went t*ts up from turn 1. Those dice scores! If only...........

Friday 4 June 2021

Duncan MacFarlene 1948-2021

I found out today of the passing of my friend Duncan. This is the notification posted on FB today by Dan Faulconbridge.

“It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of Duncan Macfarlane. 

Duncan was the original owner and editor of Wargames Illustrated, first publishing the magazine in August 1987, after having previously been the editor of Miniature Wargames.

Duncan passed away suddenly but peacefully on 28 May 2021, aged 73. He will be sadly missed by all those that knew him, and those within the hobby that didn’t have the good fortune to call him a friend will doubtless be aware of the debt of gratitude owed to him as both an innovator and stalwart of wargaming.

A full and proper obituary to Duncan will be forthcoming both online and in the pages of Wargames Illustrated magazine.

So long Dunc, thank you for all the memories.

Dan Faulconbridge

Current WIEditor”

I do hope his fine Trent Miniatures range is not lost to us. Another of the keystone wargaming greats has gone. Sad times indeed. 

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Late Romans v Goths, Huns and usurping Roman All Stars - Second Test on the River Mauris

It was a lovely warm sunny day here at The Burrow on Saturday, so it stood  to reason that we’d all be staying indoors to play another wargame! It was to be another Ancient game using Sword and Spear. Since the previous weekend I’d completed some more units, namely one of Roman heavy cavalry, and another three of Goths; an infantry warband, noble cavalry and normal Goth cavalry. Not a bad tally in a week.  We were joined this time by John the Red, so John, Paul, Nigel and myself played the good guy Romans while Richard, Conrad and Neil were the ‘Rebel Alliance’ of misguided Romans, Huns amd Goths. The objectives were simple; crush the enemy. Control of the crossing point for the Via Lunatis was also a requirement of victory. The river separated the armies but it was only a minor obstacle. A couple of olive groves, some small woods and a ruined temple completed the largely flat terrain. I always think that Ancient games look better if they’re NOT cluttered with terrain features. I hadn’t ‘pointed up’ the armies, suffice to say all my Romans and Goths were on the table, assisted by Conrad and Richard’s contingents. I’m never too keen on slavishly adhering to army lists but Sword and Spear do have a handy Excell spreadsheet set up for a whole bunch of armies which does the adding up etc for you and tells you when you can’t have any more of a certain troop type. Interestingly when I was totalling up the army strength values before calculating army break points etc both sides had 131, which was a fluke. I’d assumed the Romans would have been stronger but no. Incidentally (and I’ve probably mentioned this before) my goal for the Romans is to produce two separate and different armies to allow for some late fourth century civil warring. The Goths were only ever meant to be an allied contingent for one side or the other. Ooooops!

Our plan was based on the assumption that the Huns would deploy facing our right wing where the ground was devoid of any terrain other than the River Mauris. We deployed all our light cavalry on this flank with all our heavy cavalry on the left, ready for a massive strike against the enemy right. Our infantry occupied the centre, deployed in two lines. I kept a small reserve of three units back should the need arise. The enemy obligingly placed the Huns facing our right as expected, with the usurping Romans on the other flank. Their centre was a mass of Goth war bands  and heavy cavalry. Nasty. 

The initial setup. L to R we have Nautius Maximus, Paulinus Faceos, Comes Diligit Auditorus Iohannes Perubium, Praefectus Carceris Claudius Ciceris, and the Goth  Swarfega. 
Ishkabar of the Huns is out of shot, as am I, Maximus Parmo.
The Roman centre
Zillions of Goths can be seen in the distance. Five large warbands.
Our right wing was held by a mixture of Roman and Hun mercenary light cavalry. 
Our Hun mercenaries facing lots of enemy Huns across the river.

The Roman left wing. All our heavy cavalry and cataphracts.

Battle has been joined. We swiftly drove off the Hun light cavalry but in the centre the Goths are advancing rapidly towards our line.
Another shot of the centre as the Goths get closer.

Both sides squaring up against each other on our left.

Mayhem on the right as our cavalry smash into the rebel Romans and Goth heavy cavalry.

More action on the right.

In the centre the Goths have crossed the river and charged the Roman line.  One Roman unit  (Legio Usarienses Comitatenses) has already been defeated. Thankfully the war band facing it was also destroyed.

A wider view of the action on the right.

Meanwhile our light cavalry had been driven off by the Hun heavy cavalry allowing for the Goths to cross the river with their horsemen ad threaten the Roman right and rear. 

On our extreme left Iohannes Perubium had sent two units of heavy cavalry around the woods to try and turn the enemy flank, guarded by a couple of rebel Limitati units.

Swarfega's Goth cavalry swept round the right flank of our line and charged two of our Legios in the flank and rear. All the while pressure is mounting on the troops in the first line facing the Goths. Will they hold?

Maximus Parmo at the head of his last reserves, the Scholae Scutatorum Secundum. 

The Goth attack in the centre begins to crumble.

The pressure is off at last.

All the Goth warbands had been destroyed and although their cavalry were in our rear there were enough troops remaining to contain them....just! We did a quick tally of losses and the Roman/Goth/Hun alliance were over their army break point. We weren't far behind them but were still in the safe zone. The game could have gone any way right up till the last turn, and to say it was a tense and exciting game would be an understatement! A great game, a great set of rules and several hours of wargaming with a great group of 'The Burrowers' again.

Richard took quite a lot of photos during the course of the game, obviously hoping to chronicle his hoped for victory. These are some images captured looking at things from the other side of the table. I've not woven them into the main narrative as I often have issues uploading photos that end up in the wrong order. 

Our centre.
The Roman right wing, the two lines clearly seen.
The extreme right of the enemy line, where their Limitati  held up our cavalry for quote some time.
Goth heavy cavalry attacking the Roman line.
Goth warbands slugging it out with the Roman centre.

Maximus Parmo looking hopeful that a victory will be won.....
Goths v Cataphracts
More of our cataphracts. They didn't really get into action.
The rebel Roman legions
The Roman battle line at the start of the game.
Hun and Goth heavy cavalry about to take the fight to the rear of our infantry.