Newbury at Stoke

Stoke Challenge 04aA day out at Stoke Challenge gave me an opportunity to wrap up the Newbury project.   Having made the adjustments after the local warm up game I was able to run a full 5-player version at COW and then a simple 2-player game at Stoke (Cobridge) …

Stoke Challenge 01

I think the 5-player arrangement is more or less optimal: Parliament (Waller) 2 players Skippon/Cromwell and Balfour; Parliament (Manchester) 1 player Manchester/Ludlow; Royalist (King Charles) 2 players, Maurice and Astley/Goring.

Both games resulted in a draw/successful defence for the King.  In the COW game, Manchester’s men were still going at nightfall (it’s a short day in late October, of course), and had broken into Shaw House … which would have been decisive had it been achieved earlier in the day.    The King’s army tested to break but continued in the game.

At Stoke, Astley and Manchester broke, but not before Manchester’s foot drove right up to the hedge behind which was the King and his extensive guard.   Not with sufficient remaining strength to carry the position, of course, but it looked good.

With one player only for the Western attack, Cromwell barely committed in the open fields to the North.   This probably took the pressure off Maurice (and certainly off Goring): it is problematic what Cromwell can try to achieve in this battle but he certainly must engage and try to compromise the Speen position.

COW 2013 08a(Parliamentarian foot occupy Shaw House in the final stages of the refight at COW 2013)

Here is a basic pictorial run through of the version played at Stoke Challenge:

The scenario begins mid-morning: Waller had marched North behind the King’s position in the villages between Newbury and Donnington Castle.   Attacking from the west, Waller has driven Maurice’s defenders back through the village of Speen where they have prepared positions.  The remnants of Maurice’s cavalry are withdrawn to reserve, exhausted.

newbury-battlefield-01(these are the positions before the battle begins: on table, Maurice has been pushed back through Speen, Astley defends the line of Shaw to Shaw House)

Stoke Challenge 00(Maurice’s prepared positions in Speen village)

To the North, the King’s position is anchored on Donnington Castle (off table) and Shaw House.

Stoke Challenge 08(Dug in Royalists defend a strong position at Shaw House)

At Shaw House, Manchester has been attacking during the morning, otherwise, on the Eastern side of the battle, troops are just moving up.   Lord Astley has drawn his defenders up in Shaw village, defending the natural earthwork of the lanes up to Shaw House

Stoke Challenge 06(Newbury … Eastern edge: Manchester’s foot move up)

Stoke Challenge 11(Lord Astley’s troops defend the lane which runs up from the London – Bath road through Shaw village)

The Southern ‘flank’ of the King’s  defences is held by musketeers and dragoons drawn up in the gardens and enclosures of Speen and Speenhamland.   Between these and the river Kennet, the water meadow is boggy but open and proves reasonable going for Balfour’s Parliamentary cavalry.

Stoke Challenge 05(Musketeers face South in the gardens of Speen village)

Likewise, to the North of Speen there is open heath leading right through to the central position beyond Speenhamland hedge.   Some of this is in range of the guns of Donnington and Shaw House, but Cromwell deploys a couple of strong regiments here intent on committing Goring’s Cavalry reserve to an action.

Stoke Challenge 09(Cromwell’s small veteran force approach from the North West)

If Manchester can get involved decisively enough, and Waller can defeat some of the defenders in Speen, the combined effect will reduce the King’s army to its ‘break point’ at which it will dice to stay in the game.  If it fails, the King’s army will ask for terms, and Parliament will have won the battle.

If the fighting goes the other way, then, severally, Waller and Manchester will end up at their break points, and unless they dice successfully, they will break off the fight.

If the Parliamentarians are beaten off, or darkness falls, the King has survived the attack and can begin preparations to move out of the trap.

Stoke Challenge 10(attack from the West: Skippon’s foot are fully committed in the fight for Speen, Balfour’s horse push up the water meadow)

Stoke Challenge 13(attack from the East: Manchester’s foot have fallen back freeing Astley to threaten Ludlow’s horse who are fighting south of the London road)

Historically, of course, neither attack really bit home, and there were bitter recriminations within the Parliamentarian command – Cromwell particularly rounding on Manchester who he thought had missed a great opportunity to finish the war by not pressing the attack sooner and more vigorously.

Having worked through this scenario many times now, I think this almost entirely politics: militarily, Parliament lacks the odds generally necessary to carry prepared positions such as they faced at Newbury – numbers are, as usual with this war, uncertain, but might be around 10,000 for the King, 15,000 between the two Parliamentarian forces (so odds of 3:2 in favour of the attacker).

For Armati game purposes, I treated the villages of Speen and Shaw as ‘open‘ for foot units fighting through them, with a ‘prot’ of +1 to troops defending prepared positions and behind the Speenhamland hedge.   All villages and back gardens were treated as ‘woods’ rather than ‘rough ground’ for cavalry (this is an absolute must as cavalry do move through them, attack the enclosures etc. so I suspect the RG terrain type in Armati should just be ignored for ECW battles).   Crossing hedges causes disorder, and the move stops (disordered) on the far side of the obstacle.

Thus adapted, the ECW Armati variant advocated here (notes here) has done a very good job of resolving this battle legibly and enjoyably … the games have taken 2 – 2.5 hours*.

I think this game has given good value and will now go into the back collection as I decide on the new project.  I will look at creating a resource page for the scenario.

COW 2013 08b(the King, finishing the game at COW in some trouble … saved by the shortness of the late October daylight)

*For those who enjoy longer games you could easily pad it out for longer play (I chivvy the players along to get a good ‘feature film’ length game, but many players will happily take twice the time I allow them to make decisions and moves … so there is a 4-5 hour game in it if you want, especially if you use 28mm figures which tend to take longer to move anyway)

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