Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday 28 December 2013

ECW – The Battle of Netherfield (1644)

Good grief - Col Trevor's boys, who won the battle almost on their own
This was a bit of a spur of the moment – Nick and I set up the battlefield to have a quick playtest of the amended C&C_ECW rules (faster movement for foot units, if remote from the enemy) and to try a more open field than usual, better for cavalry.

Nick was the Royalist commander, and made his customary gung-ho start, with units of his “galloper” horse charging off on both flanks, with no attempt at either support or co-ordination. I smiled to myself and prepared to fight off these foolhardy diversions, thinking ahead to my inevitable push to victory in the centre.

It never happened. Nick’s right flank cavalry pinned my left flank in the corner of the table, and his left flank attack, notably Col Marcus Trevor’s Horse, with some support from Tyldesley’s regiment, somehow routed two of my veteran foot units in rapid succession, and then set about my militia foot, whom I had kept carefully out of harm’s way, but who now simply melted away. And so it continued - the rules for rolling cavalry melees worked to stunning effect. Normally they result in the cavalry overreaching themselves, but this time they just annihilated my right and centre. Admittedly there was an element of luck in the dice rolls, but I have not been so thoroughly trounced in a wargame for many a year – I lost 8-0 on Victory Counters in about 80 minutes total playing time. I have no idea what my Parliamentarian losses were – must have been thousands, and I lost a general – but I do know that the Royalists lost a grand total of 2 cavalry bases – which is approx. 200 killed and wounded. It was, in short, a whitewash, but such a glorious one that it was a privilege to be on the receiving end.

As usual, Nick did the photography.

Oh yes - the changes to the infantry movement rules seemed to work nicely, though the course of the battle was such that I almost forgot to notice such details.

Royalist light artillery - all the artillery was worse than useless

Artistic view of Lord Molyneux's horses' backsides

Downtown Netherfield, before the trouble started

General view - Royalists advancing from the right - in the centre of the picture
 you see Trevor's horse, on a very serious mission

…and, a bit later on, looking back the other way

The Parliamentarian left flank horse, pinned in a corner

Lord Byron's Foot recapture the village of Netherfield

Trevor's Horse, after a brief repulse, continue the rampage

This typifies the whole day - I presented my worthy opponent with a Hazzard a
Chaunce card, which should normally result in his troops all being struck
down with colic or worse, but on this occasion it merely resulted in Tyldesley's
Horse (as it turned out) becoming even more dangerous than before. On
the grounds that I can never be so unlucky again, I take all this in good spirit
(mumble, mumble…)

Just to make sure that the size of the victory did not go unnoticed, our
photographer wishes to emphasise that this is how many Victory Counters he got...
…and this is how many I got

Late Edit: Overnight I received a friendly email from Daniel, a regular correspondent, who points out in a jocular way that such a catastrophic defeat – especially at the hands of an 11-year-old opponent – suggests gross ineptitude in at least one of two areas: my generalship and my rule-writing. How, he asks, can I regard such a disaster as any kind of privilege? Where is my fighting spirit, my self-esteem?

I've been thinking about this.

I am happy to accept that he is probably correct, and go along with the humour of the situation, but I have played wargames for many years now – I’ve seen most things there are to see, within the scope of the periods and the types of games in which I have been involved. Though I have known underdeveloped rules to produce some silly results, only once before, in all those years, have I seen the chance element in a properly tested game take complete control of a cavalry attack and produce such an event. People can live their entire lives and never see a straight flush, an avalanche, a perfect storm, an alignment of the little planets of probability in such a way that normal logic and rational expectation are suspended.

We can – we probably will – play the same game again today, and it won’t play out the same way. It couldn’t possibly. Yesterday’s result was certainly a freak, but then all results of a game involving chance are freaks in their own way – this was notable only for its extreme degree. If the cavalry sweep the table in the replay then the rules are definitely crazy, but they won’t. The perfect storm of dice and cards comes along rarely enough to be memorable, and to be strangely thrilling, when it does, for the sad little, faintly autistic people like me who devote some of their precious time to watching for such things.

History is full of unexplained, almost miraculous events which decided battles. Maybe this story is a gentle argument in favour of keeping the chance element in rules fairly high. I can make excuses as much as I like, but historians will never know for sure what brought about the disintegration of my army at Netherfield(!), in the same way that they still argue about what exactly turned the real battles of Montgomery and Adwalton Moor, among numerous others, in the same war.


  1. Very interesting...and your artistic view of horses' backsides is sending me to bed with a chuckle.

  2. I thoughtnit was a portrait of Piers Morgan...

  3. Oh dear, I think that's known as a thrashing!

  4. Young Nick is a lad after my own heart, unleash the cavalry and go for it!!! My congrats to him on a great victory, I trust you recall our games here in N Wales when my cavalry unnerved you a little :-))
    Jan 14 will see a big refight of Marston Moor in my mate's garage, 30foot table, 1000s of figures all in 20 mm
    cheers Old John

  5. Great looking game and of course it was a 'fluke' victory...