Saturday 30 March 2013

Battle of Hopton Heath 1643 - Scenario

A couple of weeks ago myself and Ian played another game of Pike and Shotte, but this time re-fighting an actual civil war battle.  To use a 'proper' scenario is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, and having so many historical interests it has been very difficult for me to stay with one period long enough to get a pair of historically scaled forces together.  'Fire and Fury' was the only area of real success for me with playing scenarios - the Battle of Bull Run being memorable and epic in particular.  The 15mm armies of blue and grey allowing me to paint and complete as fast as my enthusiasm could carry me.

Hopton Heath ready for the March 2013 refight with 'Pike and Shotte'

I bought the scenario book for Hopton Heath about 22 years ago or so and played it once with the ruleset it was intended for: 'Forlorn Hope'.  I had quite a large collection of poorly painted Minifigs then (since retired) and the smaller figure scale of 1:33 meant that I could play it, which I did so on my barrack room floor.  That play-test so many years ago was slow and indecisive. The tiny forces made casualties very hard to inflict and the difficult terrain meant it took ages to move anything.  All in all disappointing (as was all but one game using Forlorn Hope, and that one was was only because I won a resounding victory though it took two whole days to play!).

This time I used the same scenario book but scaled at 1:20 which gives really nice sized units for Pike and Shotte in my opinion.  Some preparation was necessary, the most obvious being re-scaling the units then making cards for each unit to show which unit they were representing and the brigade to whom they belonged.  Special unit features such as morale was also shown on the card for ease of reference.

Nothing to see here: Mostly woodland in the 'Old Deer Park'

The History Bit
The actual battle was fought in Staffordshire 370 years ago to the week of the game 19th March 1643.  ( I have just noticed the anniversary but didn't realise at the time of playing!).  In the actual battle the Parliamentarians intended to rendevous to combine forces to attack the Royalists holding Stafford.  The Royalists were forewarned of this and diverted a force to attack the Roundheads before they could strike.  The Parliamentarian Commander Sir John Gell successfully met up with Colonel William Brereton's advance party and took up a position at Hopton Heath on the hill overlooking the road from Lichfield to Stafford.  The Parliamentarians were a mix of Infantry, Cavalry, lots of artillery, dragoons and Clubmen(!).  The Royalists were mostly cavalry, with dragoons and one small unit of infantry...and one large cannon called 'Roaring Meg' (not to be confused with the mortar at Goodrich Castle).

The Parliamentarians formed their infantry on the hill with their guns supporting.  The clubmen are also deployed on the hill. The cavalry are off on the left flank to the side of the hill giving protection to the infantry's left. Enclosures protect the infantry on their right flank.  The hill is protected by rabbit warrens. The rabbits are clearly anti-Royalist as the whole front of the hill to the road facing the Royalists is covered by the horsey-leg breakers that are the rabbits holes.  Gell's deployment was superb.  To further protect his force dragoons were placed far forward in the farm enclosures on the Royalist side.

The Royalists under the Earl of Northampton had little choice but to face the Parliamentarians with their cavalry.

View from behind the Royalists lines at the excellent Parliament position

The Actual Historical Battle
The Royalist Earl of Northampton sent his dragoons to clear the Parliament dragoons to secure his flanks (but didn't succeed on the right).  The Earl of Northampton then cleared his right with cavalry.  An artillery bombardment then followed in which the many Roundhead guns were notably unsuccessful in their shooting.  The Royalist 'Roaring Meg' having much more impact; 'the first round killed six of the men and hurt four and the next made such a lane through them that they had little mind to close again'.

Northampton then charged with his cavalry which routed all of Brereton's Roundhead cavalry.  The clubmen fled at the sight of this.  Northampton then wheeled up into the flank of Gell's by now worried infantry, who managed drive off the cavalry nonetheless with musket fire.  The cavalry turned on the exposed guns and captured some after a see-saw fight.

Gell took command of his greatly disorded force and by force of command managed to adopt his infantry into a defensive posture. The Royalist cavalry attacked the guns again and another brutal see-saw fight developed, though the Parliamentarians succeeded in dragging their guns to safety.  Northampton then went for Gell's infantry but the Roundheads stood firm and apparantly unhorsed Northampton who then refused quarter and was killed.  Sir Thomas Byron took over command and charged Gell's infantry again and he too was seriously wounded along with several other senior officers.

At this point Brereton's infantry was spotted making their way to the battlefield from their long march.  The Royalists failed to rally and withdrew off the battlefield as night fell taking the guns they captured with them.  The Parliamentarians decided to withdraw away from Stafford during the night, giving the strategic victory to the Royalists despite having won the battle (depending on which history books you read...a much debated point!).

Notoriously Gell refused to hand Northampton's body over to his son for burial unless his captured guns wagons powder and prisoners were returned.  The Royalists refused these demands so Gell had Northampton buried at a church in Derby.

Behind Gell's infantry - A strong hilltop position

The Wargame
I opted to go Parliament, mainly because they were going to be more static and I thought it would give Ian a more interesting game.  Ian's objective was to break the Parliamentarian position to leave remove the threat to Stafford.  This did mean that Ian would have very difficult task and a hard choice to make right from the outset.  My dragoons being postioned so close to his troops forced combat immediately. No flank marches or sneaky manouvres in this battle - it was going to be sabres drawn from the first throw!

Ian sent his infantry to attack the dragoons in the farm enclosures in his position right at the beginning.  This was a good move and was successful.  Ian then marshalled his first brigade of Horse to attack at an oblique at Brereton's horse facing him.  This would mean he avoided the rabbit warrens that would disorder his horse, and possibly leave Gell's infantry open to attack as per history.

My cavalry met his attack at the halt and with pistols drawn in the 'caracole' style of the early war Roundhead cavalry.  This was quite successful and emptied Royalist saddles.  The first round of combat was inconclusive but bloody.

Each new turn I had to dice for reinforcements. This was Brereton's infantry which arrived in small numbers in before darkness in the real battle.  The chances of them arriving increased per dot on a D6 each game turn.

Raw units ('Freshly Raised' in Pike and Shotte') also had to dice when attacked to see how they would react.  My dice were truly puritan as my raw units threw 'Sterling Job' The troops do their duty -no effect' and survived being overcome by terror or panic.  This was good news for me as it meant I wouldn't have units running off all over the place.

The second game turn saw the cavalry battle continue with the Royalists getting the worst of it.  Ian's second cavalry brigade refused orders to advance so his troops in combat were unsupported

Clubmen - nice and safe the way we like it thank you very much!

The view from my extreme right.  Not much happening here. The cavalry action is on my far left (in the distance)

I maintained my position with Gell's infantry and guns on the hill and let my cavalry push their advantage and continue the cavalry combat with all of their modifiers for winning and supported.  Ian's cavalry broke and tried to flee but were slowed by the terrain around the farmhouse and enclosures.  As they broke I followed up with a sweeping advance upon the same enemy. Trapped they were cut down to a man or fled.  At this point victory was conceded by the Royalists.

Brereton's well-supported cavalry counter-attack Northampton's Brigade trapping them and cutting them down
The Royalist Second Cavalry Brigade - refusing its orders to advance seals the fate of the Royalist Army

A fascinating scenario which played really well with Pike and Shotte as the rules.  What a contrast to the game I played with Forlorn Hope all those years ago.  Pike and Shotte gave a game that played in 3 game turns and lasted probably less time than the real battle!  I really enjoy the challenge presented by playing a historical scenario and its great to see the real problems facing the commanders replicated on the table.  In terms of wargaming, the Royalist player really is up against it as he has a large cavalry force with which to evict a strong Roundhead force in a superb position.  Ian probably did exactly the right thing by going for the Roundhead cavalry and avoiding the uphill slog over the rabbit warrens and being destroyed by musket fire and grapeshot!  If his second cavalry brigade obeyed orders he could have turned the Parliament flank and hit the Roundheads hard. Once his first brigade was gone there was no way his army was going to force that position.

I have four of the books produced by Caliver Books for ECW scenarios and I'm still building up towards decent sized forces for these.  Really looking forward to when I can though. Nothing beats trying to replicate history and facing the same challenges commanders faced in 1643, albeit with dice, lead figures and good set of rules! :-)

Saturday 16 March 2013

Sir Ralph Hopton

or Baron Hopton of Stratton as he became known following his success in the hard fought battle in 1643.  Baron Hopton was one of the most faithful of King Charles I's commanders, and he achieved several great victories in his battles against his old friend, Sir William Waller.

Hopton was famously blown up by one of his own gunpowder wagons, by the apparent careless smoking habits of prisoners being transported.  The Clay Pipe seemed to be a great cause of spectacular demise in the gunpowder age!  Hopton survived this incident and went on to command the Royalist Western Army again.
For anyone wishing to read more about this great commander, then the link here:
will provide plenty of information.

The figures are a good mixture of the finest of manufacturers of ECW figures.  Sir Ralph Hopton is one of the  excellent personality figures by Bicorne Miniatures.  The figure appears to be cast without moustache or beard, but the only portraits I have seen of him show Sir Ralph with a moustache and beard of the mid-17th Century style.  So I added these with some brushwork.

The staff officer is one from the set recently brought out by Renegade.  These are such useful figures and could be used as commanders in their own right.

The other senior officer is also from Bicorne Miniatures and is one from their King's Lifeguard of Horse set.

I have to say how much I enjoyed painting the command stands.  I find them very labour intensive as they are the figures who will always get the most scrutiny, but the result is always very satisfying.  Thankfully an army only needs a few senior commanders painted up!

Thursday 7 March 2013

Latest Show Haul - 'Overlord' Abingdon

Two posts in a week from me...outrageous! This time it's just a chance to follow the lead (or 'lead'as in metal -  it's all in the pronunciation!) of others in showing the goodies they bought from a show. It's always interesting to see what other gamers have bought - and it's also a good indication to me as to whether I'm totally bonkers spending as much at shows as I sometimes do!

The Abingdon Club has been running for 20 years this year and the show for about as long.  It's funny but I think I went to their first show and it still seems like a 'new' show to me unlike Salute or Colours.  Interestingly the club member taking the money on the front desk last Sunday asked everyone how they first heard of the show.  My whispered sharply answer of 'The voices in my head' seemed to amuse him immensely and then I confessed to having been there since their first show, so the real answer seemed considerably more bland.

I have never joined a club, being content to have a regular opponent, and also to solo play as well as to entertain the occasional interested friends.  I think I was always put off joining a club from the day I attended a wargames centre out in the east of England (gone now I think), where the players were the most argumentative, set of unfortunates I have ever had the misfortune to meet. The game organiser stayed well out of it and just brought in cake and tea. His role as umpire thrown to the wind as he left the players to argue. The good thing about this whole blog thing is that I know now that there are darned fine bunch of wargamers out there and that I was cursed on that day by being in the presence of bad sorts (except the two guys I went there with - and one chap on the opposition - who seemed as perplexed as me I should add!).

Anyway, my purchases.   'The Last Valley' caught my eye again as they did at the last show I was at.  These days I am getting more gaming in than I have in the last 10 years combined.  Scenery has become so much more important to me. Thus these impulse buys came back with me.  A lovely pieced of Marshland and some fabulous stone walls and walled fields.

I also purchased these ruined Greek columns. I nearly bought some of these at 'Colours' at Newbury last year and regretted not doing so.  They just shout out Ancient Greece and will set the scene immediately it is on the table. I have a tiny force of Greeks which I will add to soon.

I should say that almost everything I bought was not on my list! I gave into Wargamer's impulse.  I was going to get some Vallejo paints but couldn't find anyone selling any there.  I bought some of the excellent Miniature Paints from the Redoubt stand.  I will get paints from any source I can now other than Games Workshop.  That whole 'Space Marine' copyright saga turned me right off them. I never have liked bullies.

The Bring and Buy was interesting with a good variety of goodies.  I only bought one thing from there and that was the book 'Berlin' by Anthony Beevor.  I already own 'Stalingrad' by the same author and it really is so well written. For £1 I didn't feel I could go wrong with buying 'Berlin'! :-)

...And finally...are those Dark Age figures in the top pic?..Yes they are.  It happened!.  This is my first delve into another period for nearly a year.  I visited the Conquest Miniature stand and picked up their lovely Norman Infantry figures.  I built 27 of them in two sessions and have already undercoated them...all this whilst Prince Rupert's foot are patiently waiting for me to complete their officers and re-base them!  I have small Norman and Saxon armies which I started (scarily) about 18 years ago and based singly. I played a game of Warhammer with them once I think but since then they have been left forlornly in their boxes.  Now I feel is the time to get them out. I know they will play great with 'Hail Caesar' so I will set about re-basing my existing Old Glory and Gripping Beast chaps and build up my forces to create my 'playable armies'. I'm happy to go buy units from lots of history periods as long as I can get playable armies for each. Nearly forgot - I bought Saxon Thegns from Wargames Factory but I have yet to assemble them.

Well, that's all for now. I'm up in 5 hours to shoot at Bisley all day. Pity the weather is forecast to be the wettest days of the week.  Still I love days off :-)

Saturday 2 March 2013

ECW Clubmen

Something a little out of the ordinary this post.  I completed this mob of Clubmen only this morning and I couldn't wait to get some pics of them up on-line today.  They have jumped the queue somewhat as I was going to put pics of Sir Ralph Hopton up! Next time for him perhaps.

These figures are a mix of Wargames Foundry figures that I painted around 15 or so years ago and Warlord Games clubmen figures.  I wanted figures that I could mix with my old Foundry chaps, so I went with Warlord because they fit in better than the others and also looked great fun. They are somewhat bumpkin-like with a comical charm about them.  They seem to represent an angry assortment of villagers quite nicely, providing a suitable mix of age ranges, weaponry and perceived IQ (much like a village I once lived in!).  They are led by their local grandee who no doubt feels he is doing the right thing in taking charge, due to his social rank, but also probably knowing that they would have gathered whether he was there or not!  At least his reputation will remain intact!

"If you plunder or take our cattle,
be assured we will bid you battle"
(From contemporary Clubman Banner)

The Clubmen were formed in local defence 'clubs' (named so because of that and not because some may have carried clubs...ignore Wiki in this case).  A whole variety of ad-hoc weapons would have been carried, along with fowling pieces and no doubt, muskets and pikes from trained bands armouries, and the private collections of their social betters, as well as from deserters, the fallen etc.

Clubmen tried to be a neutral force to protect their homes and families in the areas where they lived.  Sometimes this did mean becoming allies of one of the local sides.  Across England it tended to be the Royalists who robbed and oppressed the locals and pushed them into taking up arms. 12,000 Clubmen gathered to besiege Hereford after depredations by Hereford's governor, the Royalist Sir Barnabas Scudamore.  In the West country, the Royalists frequently had to contend with fighting bands of Clubmen.

"...And up yours too!!!"

Cromwell had some difficulty with Clubmen in Dorset.  He showed his leadership skill by going on the offensive immediately against them and preventing the Clubmen from gaining confidence and spreading their power.  Cromwell's view once he had defeated a large force was: '....and we have taken about 300, many of which are poor silly creatures, whom if you please to let me send home, they promise to be very dutiful for time to come, and will be hanged before they come out again.'

As you can see there are some real characters amongst this lot and they were so much fun to paint up.  If you are interested in reading further about the fascinating history of this ad-hoc group of organisations which was capable of changing the balance of power in their localities then the following websites might be of interest:

I used some snippets of the above in my research.

Tomorrow brings forth another dilemma....I'm off to the 'Overlord' wargames show at Abingdon tomorrow.  Will I be tempted by new things? Will I carry on my ECW collection or pause?  I started the major ECW re-vamp back in May (or there abouts) and I keep dipping into making shopping lists for other periods.  I have a large number of different periods which I never quite a got a 'playable' army for. A little bit of focus here and there and I can get them like my ECW collection. It's a dilemma but a nice one.  We must surely have one of the best hobbies there is. :-)  I'll post up the last of my pics of the clubmen for now.

"There be bogies at sixxe of the hour" (!)