Sunday, 29 December 2019

The Battle of Stratton

Having a few days off between Christmas and New Years I made plans to get at least one game in.  Initially it was to be an  ECW game using Pike and Shotte and an ACW game using Fire and Fury. It looks like the ACW game has been postponed (I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make it anyway now) but Murdock and I got our ECW game in yesterday.
This game was the opening round of our campaign using the Partizan Press books as a guide. We chose the Battle Stratton as a natural starting point. For this game we needed a lot of hedges judging by the map in the PP book English Civil War Scenarios, Vol. 2.  I had large number of hedges that I had inherited from Jeff partially finished (see this entry), however they were tidy, more modern, than one would find in your typical 17th century landscape; so I made some irregular hedging using the same methods and materials as described in this post.

We needed another terrain feature for this scenario and that was the remains of an iron age hill fort that the Parliamentarians were ensconced in. 
This piece falls into the "Close but Not Quite" category. As you can see with my 28mm figures, it is perfectly scaled 15mm...
 Although not much info is available about it (not even a Wikipedia page) I did find a little info and seems it was a small univallate hill fort with very little of it remaining today.
 The most prominent feature being a monument built in the early 18th century which I did not include for obvious reasons.

It turns out I needed another cannon as well, specifically a light gun. Although I didn't have a light cannon I did have the recently released galloper gun from Warlord Games; so I assembled it and painted up the crew to stand in for the light cannon.
I also took this opportunity to paint up some 1st. Corp artillery figures I had picked up for a spare cannon.
Really wonderful models. The face of the artillery officer is a highlight- sculpted to be painted.

So, on to the main event...

The Battle of Stratton (also known as The Battle of Stamford Hill) is early in the 2nd civil war, 16 May 1643. Having defeated Hopton earlier, the Earl of Stamford sent the majority of his cavalry away to occupy Bodmin. Despite outnumbering the Royalists, his forces were for the most part raw recruits and to mitigate the vulnerability of lacking sufficient cavalry, he took up a defensive position at the hill fort, and erected some hasty defences. 

Here the table is set up with the hill fort at top left as we look at the numerous hedges the Royalists regiments will have to cross. The brown strips are roads, of which their are two off camera to the right and one off camera to the left. All lead to the hill fort.
From the Royalist table edge with the enemy lining the hedges and behind defences in the distance:
Stamford's troops await the Royalist attackers:

As the Royalist commander I had the lesser forces, generally smaller regiments however nearly all my troops were veteran whereas two of the Parliamentarian battalias were composed entirely of Raw troops, although they did consist of larger regiments. Royalist foot troops were organised into 4 "divisions" each consisting of 2 small regiments and a gun. 

My initial plan was largely dictated by the terrain. I had three roads leading up the hill which I would have to make some use of. My plan was to advance one foot division up each road and move my cavalry up the road on my left, not out pacing the infantry.

Unfortunately I blew that plan up as soon as I started commanding regiments. To really make progress I had to clear the defenders in the fields on either side of the roads so I sent one regiment from each division to do that along with all of  Col. Godolphin's on my left. 

Hopton's men found it slow going; with the enemy to their front almost immediately and the hedges impeding  their movement. Here they are on turn 3 not much further along than in the picture above...
Sir Grenville's foot is caught in column on the road and charged by Merrick's pike. Bad news for the Royalists...
They gone...

After seeing off  Grenville's, Merrick's hops the hedge and successfully blocks the advance of Sir Berkely's :

In another display of plan deviation, the cavalry trot up the road in column only to get stuck in column; John Stowell's troop of horse get charged through a hedge by enemy pike men. They, somewhat unpredictably, loose the combat and flee from the field!

To add insult to injury, the same pike men win two more combats against Royalist horse, disordering them and forcing them to retire, completely neutering the Royalists' "advantage".
 In the photo below you can see the Parliamentarian pike men picnic-ing in amongst the Royalists Dragoons (on the right in red) and horse, whist Sir John Digby (foreground) looks on helplessly. 
 As the battle comes to a close, the majority of the Royalist foot have left, never getting more than about 18" from their table edge.

In summary, the general plan was OK but as the Royalist commander, my execution was very poor. In particular the issuing of orders. During the first 3 or 4 turns I forgot that units on roads and in column gained a +2 command value bonus. That was aggravated by the way I issued my orders as I consistently ordered my foot units to "advance to the hedge, cross hedge and form line".  What I should have ordered was "Advance to hedge, form line and cross hedge." That way, when I came up short on the command roll they would have been against the hedge in line instead of on the other side of the hedge in column (that's bad when in range of the enemy). In my haste to get up the hill I was tactically unsound. I did the same thing with my horse on my left flank. 

I also forgot lots of things rules-wise again; sometimes to my advantage, sometimes to my disadvantage (the Proximity rule went out the window, for example). Not sure if we missed something about horse and foot in melee, as the text of the rules suggests that foot in melee with horse was at a severe disadvantage but we couldn't find actual rules that supported the sentiment of the text and as a consequence the foot faired very well. 

We use a variation of the Movement rules crossing obstacles as found on the QRF at the back of the book. There are actually 3 different sets of rules: the rules under Obstacles on page 41; the Alternative rules listed on the same page;  the rules on the QRS which say it takes a whole turn(!) for a formed unit to cross an obstacle. We play it takes one whole move (ie  6" for foot) to cross an obstacle, as opposed to one whole turn. Although using them as printed in the text would certainly allow for more movement, we felt it costing a move was a good compromise.

Another issue is I still haven't quite nailed down is correlating the units sizes of P&S with the figure count in the Partizan books or how to best represent Raw and Veteran troops. Generally veteran troops we make Elite 4+. As disorder can really stall things, the Elite rule reduces regiments spending a lot of time standing around. Many of the units in the Partizan books are Small in P&S which makes them extremely vulnerable. If you have a whole battalia made up of Small units it can end up Broken pretty quick. Even if the units are all Veteran, the Elite rule isn't going to help with that. 

In summation...
...more work is needed!


  1. That looks like a terrific table and the hedgerows you made earlier in the year really work well. It looks like a fun game in spite of the few stumbles with the rules.

  2. I'm always sorry to see the Royalists come off second best but what a great battle report! The table looks great and your narrative was very easy to follow.

    I've heard great things about those Partizan scenario books - I must check them out!

    1. The scenario books are wonderful but as they are written with Forlorn Hope in mind some adjustment will be needed for adapting them for other rule sets and indeed even to balance them if that is a concern. The author is concerned with portraying each battle as accurately as possible which means that some scenarios are quite one sided- just like they were in reality.

  3. Great looking table. Surely nothing prevents you from combimning units for game purposes rather than strictly adhering to X number of small units?

    1. I would amalgamate small units into larger units too!

    2. I suppose I could have. There is actually an alternative approach where I could have brigaded all the pike and all the musket in each division and that would have given me a small unit of pike and medium unit of musket. I think that would have served my purposes better given that the muskets would have been better able to do their job and I could march my pike up the road.

  4. Your hedge covered table looks great!

  5. Thank you for the compliments guys. It is always fun to get the toys out; fortunately getting the odd rule wrong didn't really have much of an effect on the outcome of the game or diminish my enjoyment. It would just be nice to get through a game and realise I got everything right!

  6. Looks superb, handsome armies and hedges...

  7. Very nicely done indeed. Masses of hedgerows look great, really must make some at some point

  8. Thank you guys. I think when we estimated the hedging needs it was something like 43'. We fell short of that but not by too much.

  9. Great looking game! Too bad the plan fell apart. 😀