Wednesday, 21 April 2021

The big bundle at Badgeworth

Okay then, poor lighting...check

Finger grease on iPad camera lens...check

Let’s go!

The fluff

Rowland Laugherne was not a happy bunny. With two years arrears in pay still unpaid by the Parliament, he’d been easily convinced by an agent of the crown to turn his coat and march his modest force from Pembroke to the English border. The French gold that had come with the deal had been very welcome, the brisk order to cross into England two weeks later, not so much. 

His new masters had directed him to seize Gloucester, which was a task he’d have found near impossible if he’d had twice the force, however on approach he found the town in turmoil and its gates thrown open. 

Desperate to avoid a siege and the sort of privations they’d suffered four years earlier, the inhabitants had induced the small Parliamentarian garrison to evacuate, leaving the town defenceless. Agreeing to keep his Irish troops beyond the walls Rowland took possession of the place and sent a letter to the King advising him of his “triumph”.

Nearly two weeks passed before a reply was forthcoming, and rather than congratulations he received a terse directive to leave a small garrison behind and continue on to Oxford. Rowland doubted he would be as lucky a second time, but orders were orders...and coin was coin.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Black Tom Fairfax was equally unhappy, for his newly raised army had begun to dwindle in size through sickness and desertion. To make matters worse the Kings sudden move north into the West Midlands had left him and his remaining men in somewhat of a backwater. Hearing that Gloucester had surrendered itself to the Royalists, he deployed his force in a blocking position before Cheltenham and wrote to London for further instructions. 

The situation

Okey cokey then. Rowland Laugharne and his small army have left Gloucester and are travelling east  towards Oxford. They are heading for a bridge across a small but swiftly flowing stream called Norman’s brook (seriously) when scouts report movement on the hillside directly ahead. 

I’ll be playing as the Royalists in this battle and my AO (absent opponent) will be the defender. The forces are Wofun 18mm flats and the terrain is hexon.

The strategic map had called for two small (6 unit) armies to contest the south Midlands and the forces arrived at through the drawing of army composition cards were:

Royalist: 1x horse, 1x dragoon, 1x artillery, 3x foote. 3 leaders

Parliament: 1 x horse, 2x artillery, 3x foot, 3 leaders

Each 6 unit army would have a 1:2:3 ratio of veteran to trained to raw soldiery.

I’d intended to use Mr Callan’s excellent rule set for this campaign but after tinkering with them in order to make them work with hexes I ended up with a sub standard version of Msr Foys excellent C&C ECW variant. Bowing to the inevitable I took advantage of his latest Ramekin update and had at it. 

The victor of the battle would be the first to acquire 4 victory points. Both sides would score 1 point for the destruction of an enemy unit or leader and the Royalists could gain 1 victory point for each unit they managed to get off the opposite board edge.

The defenders took advantage of a small ridge on the far side of the river and a position where they could enfilade anything passing down the road to Cheltenham. Off to the right of the Royalist advance, in the far corner of the board, the Parliamentary horse were busy grazing in the water meadows.



Given how my AO works I could see which units he had in place but until engaged in combat I’d have  no indication of their training or morale level. 

Ramekin does away with the usual C&C order cards and introduces activation chips, the number of which are dependant on the overal commanders ranking (and any you might have saved up on one side). I’d rated Laugherne as average, which meant the number of activation chips available would be dependant on a roll of 2d4. Black Tom Fairfax would have been “good” and had better dice to roll for his activation chips but he was under the control of my AO for this game and his forces started with random order counters that saw “hold” for the artillery, “advance” for the foote and “charge” for the horse.

The plan

My initial thoughts were to head straight up the road, cross the bridge and just soak up any hits in a rush to get off the board - earning my points the easy way; closer inspection of the battlefield however suggested an alternative stratagem. 

My river / stream tiles are done in a way which has the course of the water following the hex edges, with the occasional diversion across the body of a hex indicating a site where a bridge or a ford might exist. Having placed the terrain tiles down I realised that such a ford was there on the very far right flank of the Royalist position and that crossing there would take me outside the range of the cannon on the ridge. Given my initial dispositions I’d still have to endure a few turns of artillery fire but the swing round to the right seemed a far better option than taking fire for the duration of my advance.

The C&C rules as they stand are excellent but I did think I could add two elements from Mr Callan’s set that I especially liked, without upsetting the apple cart. To that end I introduced the concept of disruption due to manoevering through difficult terrain, (the effects of which  are a simple combat dice reduction) and “blown” status for horse that travel their maximum speed of 3 hexes twice in a row, or once if the move ends in melee.

Now Msr Foy had been at pains to point out that a couple of his Ramekin concepts had been discarded over time, the two activation chips on a unit allowing a double move being one example. I resolved to keep things as written and test them out for myself since I strongly suspected that the pressure of Msr Foy having to umpire zoom games may have caused them to be forgotten and that over time this has been confused with “not necessary / workable”.

I decided to allow the force that rolled highest for activation chips to gain the initiative in each turn and surprisingly given their poorer commander my Royalist boys went first. The double activation chips I placed on my veteran horse at the front of the column allowed them to go haring off to the flank while my Foote who were plodding along in their wake soon came under fire from the cannons on the ridge. 

The Parliamentary cannon fire from the ridge. Only the presence of an officer prevented my second Foote regiment from retiring. The red hand on the white counter by the guns indicates a “hold position” order.

To my dismay the Parliamentary gunners soon got their eye in and the first casualties came in almost from the off. The foote moved from their starting position and stumbled over the rough ground in order to be better placed to cover the bridge and the ford. The horse had “charge” as their randomly drawn order and duly headed towards me at full 3 hex speed, reaching the ford in their first move.

Having gone last in the first turn, Black Tom’s boys went first in the second turn. His charging horse were one stand bigger than their Royalist opponents, which gives them an extra combat dice, (Mr Callan’s influence) and since this campaign is post 1644 I rated all horse to be essentially gallopers. 

My chaps were one stand light and unable to utilise their veteran status advantage since their attackers turned out be trained, not raw. The result of the Parliamentary horses charge was 2 hits on my 3 strength unit plus a retreat flag. The attached leader was not hit and I could’ve used his influence to ignore the retreat flag but breaking off contact was a blessing in such circumstances, so they thundered back the way they’d just come with their tails between their legs. The saving Grace here was two fold. Not only would I get the next turn and thus be able to move further away, but the Parliamentary horse had become “blown” as a result of their second 3 hex charge and melee. Being blown they could they not advance into my vacated hex, this inability also denying them a follow up bonus attack that would no doubt have finished off my boys and gifted them the first victory point. Phew! With their “charge” order now used, Black Toms horse would have to draw a new order from the bag.

Successful but out of puff.
A turn or so later my horse had achieved a place of safety and had been assigned enough activation chips to attempt to rally. The Ramekin rules as written allow a unit to rally back to full strength and can make good 1 hit loss per 5 or 6 rolled if an officer is attached to the unit. Two activation chips allowed two rolls, and freakishly I got two sixes, bringing my horse back up to full strength. I have to assume that the hits on them had only been light wounds and that they’d heeded the generals instruction to just “walk it off”. Lol.

Royalist horse in a place of safety, side on in left foreground.

The Parliamentary cavalry that had given them such a pounding would remain blown for the rest of the game and thus be unable to charge into melee again. The new order they received from a random draw was “advance” which was not going to do them any favours. Ideally they should have pulled back over the ford but the advance order precludes any moves back towards their board edge. 

While my sides foote formed a strung out column heading for the ford, the Parliamentary Foote struggled to cover the bridge and the ford, both of which at this point remained viable crossing points. To bolster the lads by the bridge a Parliamentary leader attached himself to them. 

Still under fire from the guns on the ridge I unlimbered my own cannon and covered them from assault by dismounting dragoons on their flank.


They were only meant to act as a diversion but their very first shot found its mark, with one of the enemy cannon on the ridge bowled over and ripped from its carriage.

Got it in one! Black Tom’s artillery takes a pounding.

On the other side of the field the blown parliamentary horse turned the tables on one of my regiments that had boxed them in to the corner of the map. Rolling straight through them before any attempt could be made to form a pike stand, they scattered the survivors in all directions. The scores on the doors (was that from the generation game?) now stood at 1 victory point each.

We were only four turns in about now and with honours about even. 

Then everything changed. 

The speculative deployment of my cannon came up trumps again. Spotting the Parliamentary Foote moving up onto the bridge they fired and caused a one hit loss. Because they’d taken a hit the leader who’d been attached to them had to test to see if he’d become a casualty. The chances are pretty low, needing two crossed sabre symbols on two dice, but sometimes Lady Luck is with you. The Parliamentary leader was dead!

With his death the order to advance counter became void and while the men on the bridge dithered a second hammer blow struck. 

“Don’t worry, there’s no way they could hit me from....aaargh”

The raw Parliamentary foote take to their heels

Now it just so happened that my loitering Royalist horse, all bandaged up and hydrated with lucozade (or some such) were within charge range. Falling upon the demoralised foote they secured another hit and two retreat flags. Now that would be bad, but since it turned out the foote were raw they were obliged to retreat two hexes for every flag. The remnants took to their heels and ended up right in the edge of the board. Scores now stood at 2:1 to me (for the death of their leader).

Having charged and melee’d my horse were now blown, but they could still manage a gentle canter over the bodies of the enemy dead on the bridge. Remounting swiftly my dragoon’s followed in their wake.

With the Parliamentary foote’s general dead and his order counter now void, it was the start of the next turn when a new order counter was drawn from the order bag. The order picked was retreat and reform. The broken unit on the board edge was the first to comply, leaving the game and scoring me another victory point. The other foot units were also affected by this order and they too began to fall back from the ford. The scores were now 3:1 to me and although my own foote regiments by the ford had taken serious casualties trying to tie down the enemy horse (which for brevity’s sake I have not described) there was now nothing Black Tom could do to prevent my two mounted units from toddling off the Parliamentary board edge. 

5:1 to me...and the win!

The aftermath

Fairfax’s battered regiments fell back on Oxford but Laugherne kept up the pressure and when camp fever broke out in the town Black Tom retired into the Thames valley itself. With the West Midlands and the south Midlands more or less under control the King ordered a great celebratory feast be held in Warwick. Needless to say, the suppliers never got paid.

Conclusions

The game took 7 turns overall and with a couple of coffee breaks was only three and a half hours from start to finish. Ramekin worked very well in place of the C&C order cards and along with C&C ECW will remain my rules of choice for this campaign and the ECW in general. 

I’m not sure that a unit should be able to rally back up to full strength, as happened in the game, but I can’t discount the possibility that I didn’t read it right so I’ll go back and look at that again. When used with my three stand 6mm bods a foote regiments three hit capacity worked well, but these 18mm chaps have six stands and I felt they fell apart rather too quickly, so more thought about that is required as well. 

The Royalists now control three regions and since they only have two small armies in the field they can build one more, either as a separate entity or use the capacity to increase an existing one up to medium size. A fellow blogger has volunteered to make the strategic decisions for whichever faction moves last in future turns, hopefully adding a little more unpredictably to proceedings. The next game turn will be late Autumn 1647 and I’ll be reporting on what’s coming next in a week or so. 

In the meantime I’ll be finishing another unit of archers and starting work on project x which I can now reveal will be a Wellsian invasion of Britain by the dastardly Prussians, circa 1885.

Toodle ooh.


20 comments:

  1. Good game, good game! It works well on those Hexon tiles which don't take up that much space for a full C&C 'board'. The little chaps look good.

    Whenever you refer to "Mr Callan's rules" I can't help but hear Lonely. No offence intended sir!

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    1. None taken old fruit. Yeah the hexon C&C set up is just to big for my small kitchen table and looks a bit lost on a 6x4 one as you can see. The plus side is there’s plenty of room left for all the usual gaming gubbins.

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  2. A nice looking game with the Wofun figures looking good in the photos. I like the sound of your next project too:)

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    1. Hi Steve. Yeah the next project is soaking up a lot of my time, behind the scenes as it were. I wanted to do colonial stuff but for some reason I ended up reading “The Battle of Dorkimg” and events spiralled out of control from there. Lol.

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  3. Excellent report as always and I’m glad ramekin worked. My usual rule for all rules allowing recovery is that the first hit ( casualty) can never be rallied off.
    The Wofun look good on the board.
    Looking forward to the next instalment

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    1. Hi Graham, yeah that’d be my way of doing things too, Thanks for the positive vibes!

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    2. That's the way I do it too. Can't put the starch back in once it has been taken out.

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    3. That's a good suggestion - you can't rally off the first hit - this will be in the next update. Thank you, gentlemen - the cheque is in the post...

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  4. HI there JBM, a most impressive set up you have there my friend, the WoFuns and the tiles work great together. Glad it's all starting to kick off, and that you have retained that wonderful narrative style.

    I enjoyed following the development of Tony's ECW variant C&C a few years back, I really liked the specially designed command cards and the brilliant Hazzard A Chance cards. Will be interesting to see how things go using Ramekin, which really opens the game up in my limited trials with it.

    Anyway, as you know I was in my previous life a pikeman in the Blew Regiment, London Trained Bands, a printer by trade as befitted the role and our battle cry of 'London and Liberty' was feared by those dastardly King's men :) So, I love this period and look forward to reading more.

    All the best, go Black Tom,
    Lee.

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    1. Hi Lee, the hazard cards didn’t come into play this time, luck of the dice and all that, but they are bound to turn up at some point. I agree with you about Ramekin - it slipped seamlessly into the flow of the game. London and Liberty? No sir, surely you mean “the king and the cause, the church and the laws!” Lol.

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  5. Super looking battle and an engaging narrative as expected tapped out from your talented fingers.

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    1. Cheers Jonathan, it was nice to play something familiar again.

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  6. Great narrative, nice to see the Hexon out, I particularly like the hex edge water ways rather than them being 'in hex'. The Wofun work well with the 4" hex. (Project 'x' is sounding good).

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    1. Hi Norm, there’s no random political events in this campaign, so I’ll be free styling the narrative this time! I’m looking forward to getting project X out of the blocks. The period it’s grounded in is totally new to me, so I’m thoroughly enjoying all the research at the moment.

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  7. Great looking game,painting/staining the edge was definitely worth it! The tyrants are doing well,I look forward to further missives!
    Best Iain

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    1. Cheers Iain, the Wofun stuff looks really nice in a good light. Sadly this is difficult to do justice too given my limited photographic abilities and resources.

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  8. A lovely looking game and a splendid narrative sir...
    As always...
    Project X sounds good... The Battle of Dorking is a classic piece of 19th century invasion literature...
    Have you had any thoughts on what figures you will be using?.

    All the best. Aly

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    1. Hi Aly, I’m now the proud owner of lots of British & Prussian units from Fighting 15’s, plus some “extras” from Blotz and Ironclad Miniatures to spice things up a bit. There’ll be some small elements of VSF involved...but not the really crazy stuff.

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  9. Great-looking game and a nice report! Also good to see the use of 'bundle' as in my 1970s schooldays.. The shout would go up, and spectators rush in from all corners - closely followed by prefects (selected for speed and strength) to stop the fun.. happy days.

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    1. Hi David, it was only after I’d posted to the blog that I realised a lot of people might not understand the title! Good to know my experience of school playground fights in the 1970’s was not unique!

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