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

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Battle of Nantwich – History Is Still Bunk

Major Tom Morgan's dragoons at Henhull Farm
Yesterday Chester and Alan came around to fight the Battle of Nantwich with me (background and setup are in the previous post). We had deliberately agreed not to be constrained by history, but our game ended up quite a bit different from the original.

In the real battle, Fairfax, with the Parliament forces, decided against a frontal assault on the Royalist position at Acton Church, and since the Royalists were short of cavalry at the beginning of the action, he did a smart left swerve, and headed for the besieged town of Nantwich, in the hope that the garrison could be added to his army.

We didn’t do that. Our Fairfax went straight at the church, and ran out of steam very quickly. The hedged farm enclosures did handicap the cavalry, realistically, but slowed everything down too. Fairfax’s units of foot kept retreating back into the enclosures whenever they were sent on the attack, but there was no sign of any offensive movement from the Royalist forces.

Again, in the real battle, once Fairfax set off on his diagonal march to Nantwich, acting Maj.Gen Richard Gibson fell upon him with the Royalist foot, and the battle was a close call until suddenly – for unexplained reasons – the veteran Royalist regiments of Warren and Earnley broke and ran, and the battle ended quickly and very expensively for the King’s army in Cheshire, with some 1700 prisoners being taken.

Our version, as I have explained, was nothing like this. There were some very bloody exchanges, but it became fairly static, and the number of Victory Banner counters rose steadily until it reached 6-each – 7 needed for the win.

At this point, we took a break for dinner, aware that it was not easy to see how a finishing stroke might be produced. We needn’t have worried, on resumption Fairfax’s last remaining unit of cavalry, Brereton’s Cheshire Horse, closed in to finish off Earnley’s battered veterans, and were promptly hit by an astounding volley of musketry which routed them – game over. Royalist win. History is overturned yet again.

Parliament starting position

Richard Gibson at Acton Church with the only Royalists to be in place at midday

Lord Byron's Horse in a hurry for some reason - oh yes, they are late - that's the reason

Lord Molyneux's horses have a close look at a Merit hedge, which may well pre-date the ECW

General view from the Parliamentary left at around the time that Fairfax's attack got badly bogged down 

Victuals - Royalist ale...

...and Puritan pork pies?

The garrison at Nantwich - they did nothing all day

At top left you can catch a very rare glimpse of Lord Byron, the Royalist commander,
within sight of the action

With total disregard for history, the Royalists set up a very strong position  based
on Darfold Hall - not that anyone was attacking, mind you

Amazing shooting - the final throw, as Earnley's muskets see off the Cheshire Horse
to win the day. Three cheers for His Majesty...



  1. Hurrah for the King! And confusion to Parliament!

  2. Splendid stuff! Enjoyed picking out the units in the pics, I like the way the units sit in the hexes, especially the built up areas, churchyard, villages etc, and those square enclosures break up the hex pattern and work really well. Overall, how did the C&C/ECW rules work in giving a true period feel? Did any of those wonderfully sinister 'chaunce cards' come up and influence the game? The fact that a veteran Royalist regiment of horse 'broke and ran' can always be explained away as one of those unpredictable elements of battle of course. Great game.

    1. Hi Lee - rules went OK - no real problems. We played far too slowly, but that was down to the players (plus unfamiliarity) rather than the rules themselves. Might consider a gentle time limit on turns in future. We had a scenario option to allow players to use their turn to exchange up to two cards instead of giving orders. It was used a couple of times, so I guess it was useful.

      We had 2 Chaunce Card events - one was a False Alarum, but the other was the Coronel's Trubble Again, which renders a unit unable to take orders until visited by a Leader. The unit was Tyldesley's (Royalist) horse, and they were about to get a visit from Richard Gibson to make things better when he was unfortunately removed by a cannonball - they were spectators thereafter.

      Terrain was OK - enclosure rules worked OK, though the enclosures themselves really slowed down the attack. In a situation like this, an infantry attack only works if you have huge superiority in numbers, and veteran foot with support and a Leader are not going to run away uness something remarkable happens.

      The Horse are a lot more fun, racing about the place, but they tend to disappear like snowballs in hell - very easy to throw them away, especially if you follow up a success.

      Those stick-on road hexes are awful - must get something better than them. MDF hexes sound like a better idea.

      I'm keen to try some more detailed rules next, to do some forming column of march and all that. Just for variety.

      The pork pies were pretty good, but the Indian meal in the evening was super...

    2. I can recommend Jim at products for wargamers as a good chap for an MDF hex.

  3. Well it looks and reads like a good game.

    I did wonder about the off road parts of the road hexes. I suppose chalk and washable paint have been dismissed? or bowing to ECW stereotypes, laying down felt or sand and outlining all roads in tall hedges? Well perhaps not then.

    1. The roads were a terrible mistake. As I said in the post about the preparation for the game, the roads have no function in the game, but I made a late decision to use these silly hex plates - leftovers from a wacky idea of yesteryear - just to give the layout a little extra logic.

      They looked so awful when I was setting up that I was seriously intending to remove them before the game, but in the event we agreed to leave them in place unless they started causing a nuisance by sliding around. They don't look good - embarrassing. What I need to do is get some proper 7-inch hexes of 3mm MDF cut, and paint those to match the baseboard, with whatever road or other scenic detail is required painted on them. I'll do bases for wooded areas while I'm at it.

      I feel a bit better about it now...

  4. I thought the roads actually gave the overall layout a more realistic look. I guess even if they are not of any advantage under C&C rules they do -as you say - give logic to the game by connecting the various villages, manor Houses, farms etc. I like the idea! I know you are not a man for flock, but my first thought was to use some nice scenic material to create a realistic track surface on MDF hexes.

    1. Either that or paint the existing one's with the same shade of green you use for bases and table... a bit of sand or flock for the road surface.... and to stop them slipping, a think coat of one of the rubber glues will give a bit of friction....?????

    2. Good thoughts, chaps - thanks for this. In fact the funny printed hexes are pretty close to the baseboard colour, but because they were a bit flimsy I sealed them in matt finish laminator pouches and cut them to size. Great, eh? Only problems are that the laminator makes them look a lot paler, the matt pouches are still a bit shiny, I managed to shrink them very slightly in the final printing, and they curl up a bit. Oh, and they're slippy, so I have to BluTack them. Oh - and they look ridiculous.

      Apart from that they are, as you see, perfect. I'll get to the MDF as suggested - maybe even a bit of flock on the road (aaargh! - nurse, the screens...)

      Cheers - Tony