Wednesday saw me down to the Dueling Grounds to help test a run-through of marke's Pike and Shotte participation game at Hold the Line, the club-sponsored convention running this upcoming July 12th in Toronto. Register now!
Adwalton is evidently the lesser-known of the Yorkshire battles in the ECW (three guesses where marke's from?). The background was a Royalist attack on the town of Bradford. Deciding the town was indefensible, the Parliamentary defenders advanced to a strong defensive position outside of town. The King's men are looking to break through the defenders and take the town; the defenders are hoping to drive off the attackers.
|The Royalist opposition.|
Opting for Repulsive and Right, rather than Womantic and Wong, I assumed control of the Parliamentary right wing, and deployed my troops. I had three units of commanded shot, two of caracole cavalry, and the Brdford Militia. The parliamentary position was defined by three large enclosures, along with a broad ditch on our left. I deployed my shot along the hedge-line, placed the cavalry in support, and the militia in reserve.
|marke plans to make some in-scale hedges for the convention game. Bocage substitutes for now.|
To my left, Nick the Lemming took command of our centre (mixed pike and shot) and left (roughly the same mix as mine) enclosures. Across the table, he faced a broad line of mixed pike and shot, while the Royalist cavalry had concentrated across from me.
|In the distance you can see the royalist centre. The totally immovable Royalist centre.|
Our plan was fairly straightforward. I would fend off the Royalists on my flank until Nick could break them on the left (with the strong advantage of the ditch, we figured he'd have the best shot). He could then swing across to take the embroiled Royalists in the flank. In the early stages of the battle, the Royalists were kind enough to accommodate the plan, with their cavalry "weckwesswy" surging ahead to close on my position.
|The Woyalist cavalwy wecklessly wushes ahead.|
|Their centre doesn't ;)|
Unfortunately for the Royalists, coordination was an issue all game. Their centre steadfastly refused to advance for quite some time, which meant the bulk of the action took place on the flanks. First contact was made by the Royalist cavalry, which managed to charge in against my commanded shot defending the front of the enclosure.
My lads poured enough volleys into them, however, to first disrupt, and then bounce their charge. We messed up the rules a bit at first, but the essential simplicity of the Warlord system meant that within a turn or two, we more or less understood what we were doing.
|The Lord is with us. You can tell by our hats.|
On the right, things rather quickly turned into a scrum. I brought up my horse in support, and eventually turned the Bradford Militia to guard the enclosure flank, while the Royalists struggled in the close terrain. Hampered by the enclosure, the density of their units, and some abysmal command rolls, the cavalry struggled to bring their numbers to bear. While they had some early success (destroying one of the commanded shot units), their attack bogged down, while my units continued to pour fire into them.
|The scrum develops.|
|A chancy moment. The infantry are hard pressed, and the cavalry moves to support.|
|Infantry breaks in the centre, but the Royalists struggle to exploit the gap.|
|Parliamentary cavalry plugs the gap.|
On the left, things were going well. The Royalist infantry, commanded by ernieR, were getting bogged down by the ditch, and Nick was able to thin out their pike before it could close to combat. With the advantage of defending the enclosure, this would mean he was likely to repulse the Royalist shot should it get close enough to engage. In the meanwhile, the Royalist centre was apparently reconsidering this whole "monarchy" thing, as it adamantly refused to advance, failing pretty much every command roll made for it.
|The Royalist attack bogs down. Not enough room to interpenetrate, and his front line units are shaken.|
One of the things I like about the Warlord games is how well they lend themselves to multi-player. As part of a "team", I had a general sense of how things were going elsewhere (mostly from the shouts of glee issuing from Nick), but no sense of detail, and my world increasingly shrank down to the struggle immediately in front of me. Things there were heating up. While I was holding off the cavalry, my units were slowly degrading, and should the Royalists coordinate another good charge, it was entirely possible they'd break through into the enclosure, and sweep my position.
|Forward, the Bradford Militia. Note the one fellow who's changed his mind, and is "advancing to the rear".|
At about this point in the game, the esteemed DaveB arrived, and assumed command of the Parliamentary centre. Not that it did him much good, as the Royalist centre continued to refuse to move ;) Things on the right had stabilized, as the Royalist cavalry tangled themselves up, their fresh units stalled behind the exhausted ones in front. On our right, Nick was well on his way to breaking the assaulting Royalist infantry. Things were looking up.
|Turmoil on the right, glacial progress in the centre.|
Then things shifted. In front of me, the Royalists finally managed to clear a path (helped along by my matchlock fire eliminating some units, and recoiling others). They managed to get a unit around my flank, with only the (highly suspect) militia to hold them off. Worse, their centre finally managed to shuffle forward, and it looked as if we were in for a hot time.
|Finally! A path is cleared for a second charge.|
|Will Parliament hold?|
|Fight, boys, the Lord is with us!|
|The moment of truth.|
But the Lord was on our side. Nick broke the Royalist assault, DaveB poured fire into the advancing infantry, and the Bradford militia, bless them, not only disrupted the assaulting cavalry, but forced them to recoil! Not bad for a bunch of farmers with pitchforks.
The Royalists were now in a bad spot. Their right was broken, their centre was operating more or less independently, and they'd have to gamble the last of their horse could break through on the right. After a bit of wavering (their centre infantry advanced, fired, then retreated!), they opted to charge home against the remnants of my line.
|The militia collapse, but the cavarly break in the effort.|
It cost them the game. The Bradford militia decided they'd had enough for one day, and fled the field, but so did a unit of Royalist horse, which took their wing down below half, and broke it. With both wings shattered, and an increasingly isolated centre wondering what had happened, the Royalist army retreated. Bradford was saved!
As it turns out, much of the battle followed the historical precedent, with one notable exception. Historically, after the Royalist right broke, their Parliamentary opponents advanced out of the enclosure, to fall on the flank of the royalist centre (which, if you recall, is what Nick and I had planned to do). The Royalists, in response, redeployed part of their cavalry, which caught the advancing Parliamentarian shot in the open, without pike support, and routed them. Nick had to leave not long after he broke the Royalist attack. DaveB and I had our hands full with the final Royalist assault, and never bothered to advance Nick's wing. As a consequence, the Royalists opted for another assault on the enclosures, and it cost them.
|Parliamentary commendations to the Royalist command dice.|
This was a fun game, although one that ran counter to instincts. The hardest position for me to play, in terms of temperament, is static defense; my instinct is always to attack. This actually came up towards the end of the game, where I was sorely tempted to send out my cavalry, and try to break a unit of the Royalist horse, but I managed to do the sensible thing, and hold my position.
We caught a break in the game, as the atrocious command rolls the Royalists produced in the first half of the game meant they never really managed a coordinated attack, and their assault on my position bogged down enough that I could rally off the worse of the damage to my units. From my end, it felt quite close, but I can imagine how frustrating it must have been for the Royalist players. Serves them right for taking the side of a despot.
This is the third set of "Black Book" rules I've played from Warlord (the other two being Black Powder and Hail Caesar), and I have to say, I quite like them all. They're wonderful for multi-player, can resolve a game in an evening, and are marvelously flexible. As they rely both on scenario design and on players not being complete rectums, they're not well suited to tournament play, but as the odds of me every playing in a historical tournament are basically zero, that's not an issue. I may have to break down and take on a project for either BP or P&S at some point in the future.