(Royalist reserves behind the Speenhamland hedge)
The after action report on the game we presented at Colours, on the 8th and 9th of September in support of the Pike & Shot Society and the Battlefields Trust. Yes, inevitably I spent most of the weekend talking, but we played through all the main areas of action – some of them more than once.
The battle was played with a simplified version of Armati Intro using double section units (no fatigue tallying and not bothering to adjudicate wheeling as the troops were formed up generally opposite their targets anyway).
We used the 1/3 sized measuring convention and the interpretations and modifications on the ECW page here ( ECW Armati (adaptations) ).
(scenes from the second battle of Newbury at Colours 2012)
In addition, any troops taking a hit whilst assaulting troops beyond fortifications or obstacles were allowed to use the break off rule, and cavalry were obliged to. I was always prepared to intervene to tweak oddities into ‘common sense’ shape, but never needed to.
Drawing the threads together, this is how Armati allowed us to tell the story.
(Manchester commits regiments to the assault on Shaw village)
We started by playing through Manchester’s attacks on Shaw and Shaw House. For simplicity we used the generic unit stats from the Naseby orbats ( here) .. Skirmishers and Forlorn Hopes in gardens and enclosures are not dispersed and gain +1 for holding terrain. Cavalry can go anywhere, but fight on their special FV when not in the open*.
Manchester’s foot made no headway whatsoever … The shooting and combats went mostly with the odds, and most of the regiments opted to break off when down to their third hit. Despite getting out of the fight, musketry then sent them on their way anyway. The tawny regiment put up a stubborn fight, and even a remarkably plucky charge down the road by cavalry failed to impress it.
(the defenders of Shaw house behind their ditch and rampart)
The attack on Shaw House bogged down and was eventually chased off by cavalry which an enterprising show visitor argued ought to be able to find a way over the Lambourne if unopposed. I need to think more about that – but at the time it brought to a satisfying conclusion a series of assaults that were not dislodging the stubborn Royalists.
(a yellow regiment of ‘trained band’ piles into Speen)
At the western end of the battlefield, Skippon’s attacks in Speen were much more productive. The dice did do their bit (but then with multiple attacks on both sides of the Royalist position, we might expect success to be amongst the range of outcomes): a few effective volleys helped prepare the assault while the Royalist guns blasted away to little effect – so under a ripple of charges the forward trenches gave way.
(Cromwell starts pulling out …)
By this time, Cromwell’s charge across the open fields north of Speen had flushed out a strong counter attack from Goring’s plentiful reserve of Horse. We gave Cromwell’s men the advantage in these attacks but despite that, fortune favoured Goring from first to last.
Given the historical narrative, we thought it entirely appropriate for Cromwell to dice for break offs when down to the last hit, and with both waves he was successful … This resulted in all of his Horse racing back towards their start points with Goring following up to see them off. It looked remarkably like history …
(Balfour tries to find some openings along the Kennet watermeadow)
Meanwhile, Balfour was riding up the watermeadows on the southern flank, but bouncing off defenders whenever he attempted to break into the enclosures or back streets. We had one or two Royalist regiments down there, so on the couple of occasions where the cavalry were successful, they were immediately counter-attacked and thrown back into the meadows. On a couple of occasions we drew interested show-goers into the command debate … but their view was the same as ours (there really was no obvious means of progress down there).
(Maurice’s infantry and guns being driven out of Speen)
As the short (late October**) day was drawing to a close, we saw stalemate the only outcome: yes, Skippon was almost inevitably clearing Maurice out of Speen, but the Speenhamland hedge was going to stop him in his tracks and we seriously doubted if he would be able to sustain much of an assault on that with Goring’s cavalry milling around his flanks, Cromwell having withdrawn.
(most of Manchester’s infantry were forced to retreat)
At the other end of the battlefield and compensating, in a way, for Maurice’s lack lustre defence of Speen, Astley had conducted an almost bloodless defence of Shaw, and Manchester’s attack for the day was broken – all his foot having been committed to the fray (as tenaciously as Cromwell could have wanted) …
We conducted the various actions above amidst much debate and speculation (an enjoyable wargames show!) but realistically we would have had to tweak the mechanisms very heavily to get an outcome much different to the events in 1644. The positions around Shaw and Speen are naturally very strong, and the rivers, combined with forces at Shaw House and Donnington Castle make it difficult to attack other than frontally at either end. Effectively, you have two back-to-back boccage battles at Shaw and Speen just separated sufficiently that they don’t join up into one compressed fight. Cromwell and Balfour try to find ways into the connecting ground between the two bookends but are unable to break in.
My thanks to everyone who joined in and to everyone who took an interest in our presentation.
I am indebted to Chris Scott whose book on the battles of Newbury has been an invaluable guide. The Battles of Newbury
* so cavalry vs shot in a garden results in 0 vs 2 (1 + the terrain bonus), making the sort of speculative forays cavalry make down lanes and across hedged fields in actions like this just about worthwhile. We made the ‘break off’ for detached foot like this compulsory (so if they lose that fight, the break/hang in/bug out decision is diced for rather than made by the player … which seemed to work very nicely – though seldom would the horse win the fight)
** early November by today’s calendars, that is …