A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 20 April 2013

ECW Playtest - Action at Meols Harcourt 1643

With my feeling a lot more energetic, a little sunshine outside and a spare Saturday to fill, Nick and I took the opportunity to give the new ECW armies a bit of a run out, and do some further testing of the ECW variant on Commands & Colors which I produced over the Winter.

This was real toe-in-the-water stuff. We deliberately kept the armies small – Parliament had 5 regts of Foot, 2 of Horse, a medium gun and 2 Leaders; the Royalists had 4 of Foot, 3 of Horse and 2 Leaders.

The action took place in April 1643 around the mythical village of Meols Harcourt, which controls some key crossings – a ford and an ancient stone bridge – over the River Hassop, which might well flow into the Lune further west. We also kept the game simple – since it was an early try-out we did not categorise any of the units as Veteran or Raw or Militia (though we could have done) – the only complication we deliberately included was that we made all the Royalist Horse Gallopers and their Parliamentary opposite numbers Trotters.

It went fine. We were a bit slow, perhaps, because of all the checking of rules and general unfamiliarity, but we hit no problems. It’s a nice, crisp game.

The action suffered a little from having no real objectives – obviously the forces had blundered into each other, and the idea was just to cause maximum damage. The Royalists had cavalry on both flanks – Lord Byron’s regiment crossed the river early on at the ford. Philip Egerton’s foot regiment hurried to prevent the crossing, but they were driven back and then very roughly handled once the horse were safely ashore. On the opposite flank a lengthy and vigorous fight between the remainder of the horse (2 regiments on either side) caused heavy loss to both sides, but was not decisive.

Eventually, the infantry forces in the centre came into contact, and the Royalists just about won the day in this area – a bit of a grinding match. On the Royalist left, Byron’s horse – delayed by a lack of orders (i.e. suitable cards) eventually rolled up the Parliamentarian right and the King’s men had won. Lord Byron and Sir Wm Fairfax were both wounded in the process. They’ll be back.

Observations on the Rules:

The Chaunce Cards had no effect at all today – only one was played, and it was a False Alarum. I would expect a typical game to have more of these.

We saw none of the unstoppable, rolling cavalry melees that Clive and I experienced at the first playtest. The Gallopers had an edge in the first round of any melee in which they were attacking, but did not necessarily sweep away the opposition. In this action the cavalry pretty much cancelled out, though I think the Parliament guys might have had some lucky dice to sustain that.

Artillery in melees, as designed, cannot fight back. The best they can possibly hope to do in such a situation is somehow survive until someone rescues them. If they are isolated, they are dead ducks in a melee.

Command Cards worked well – the Evade card was well used (one for each side) and a card called The Lord Is with Us produced a good advantage for the Royalists at the end, contributing bonus dice in three simultaneous close combats.

Harcourt House, home of Lord Meols

Meols village

Rigby's men [P] behind the tavern

Parliamentary horse on the left - Dodding's & Lambert's

The ford

Sir Wm Brereton's RoF [P]

Rigby's again - waiting for orders...

Belching Norah
It is recognisably C&C

Lord Byron's Horse [R] ford the river

The cavalry action beyond Harcourt, which lasted most of the afternoon

Philip Egerton's Foot unsuccessfully try to prevent the Royalist horse
crossing the ford

Prince Rupert's Horse just about hold on to defeat Dodding's

General view from the Parliament left, mid afternoon

Gallopers from the Northern Horse [R] attack Lambert's Trotters (who held them)

The infantry battle in the centre develops...

...and things look very bad for Rigby's, who should have stayed at the pub
As is usual now, Nick did the photos. Thank you, Nick.


  1. Looks good and using my limited experience of C&C to leverage my reading of the report, it sounds like a brisk,reasonable and enjoyable game.


  2. Attractive pictures, but the scenery looks a little bald for this type of battle. These may be small armies by Napoleonic standards, but must still be 4 to 5000 men a side, which I think is a full 'Battle' in the ECW!



  3. Very nice indeed Tony, I think the troops, the buildings, the terrain pieces and the overall look of the game is spot on. Interesting to read that the rules worked well, I thought they would but there's nothing like a proper playtest. Hopefully a couple more of those wonderful 'chaunce' cards will come up next game.

    Overall the pictures remind me of those old Stuart Asquith/George Gush games that I used to love looking at in the wargame mags.

    Hopefully I'll have your dragoons back to you in a couple of weeks which will add an extra dimension to the game.

    As you well know such smaller skirmishes and local punch ups were far more the ECW norm than the bigger set battles, often just a few hundred troops per side, which I find part of the attraction of the period.

    Great pictures Nick!

  4. I think the whole thing (figures & terrain) looks great Tony - you've achieved a lot in a very short time with this project and I'm looking forward to seeing more!

  5. Thank you all, gentlemen. I am pleased with the way things are going, but I agree with Louis about the terrain.

    My table and the unit basing are a matched set - no flock, no mess, and no problems with staging my battles in the Dining Hall. Any flock in the food and we are all in the soup. Apart from the Old School vibe, I've always done wargames that look like this, and I like it, but England's green and verdant land is maybe not shown to best effect with so much smooth green paint.

    Without compromising either my traditions or the formal dinners, I shall give serious thought to producing a few more convincing terrain pieces - still designed to be used with hexes - which might improve the look of the thing. The chief problem with such pieces, if course, is storing the beggars...