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

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Siege Testing – (2) Getting Started

Just baby steps to start off.

Today’s main priority for me was scarifying the South Lawn before the rain came, so the siege was delayed until late on. There was a lot of trying things which didn’t work too well, and then trying them again. My developing siege game is played in two modes – strategic and tactical. A strategic siege turn represents a complete day elapsed. At any point in a strategic turn, either side can declare a switch to tactical – a tactical turn represents about half an hour of more detailed action, and the game becomes simplified, up-and-down-the-table Commands & Colors until the tactical spell is over.

Middlehampton, ready for the siege
Thus a sally, or a storm, or anything outside the scope of the normal day of bombardment, digging and attrition requires a tactical switch.

Each army has a number (range 1-3) for each of the following indicators: Resolve, Vigour and Leadership. These affect the troops’ fighting effectiveness, and also their ability to carry out digging and other labouring tasks. I have a sketchy mechanism for controlling rations, and reduced rations can have an effect on Resolve and Vigour. There should be some system for Plague, but I haven’t worked that in yet. The fortress defenders also have the mixed blessing of a civilian population – these have a number of interesting attributes, but in particular they have a Loyalty Number, which can range from +3 (fiercely supportive of the garrison, will fight alongside them, if required) to -3 (hostile, require constant policing, prepared to revolt or collaborate with the enemy). Thus the townspeople can be a valuable source of labour, or they can be a major nuisance and distraction, and this has a knock-on to the Resolve and the effectiveness of the garrison.

At the start of each day, the Digging Number for the day is set. Initially, this is set by rolling 2D6 and taking the lower; in subsequent turns, roll a die at the start of the day – if it is higher than the Digging Number, increase the Digging Number by 1; if it is lower, reduce the DN by 1. The DN must be in the range 1 to 6, and is the score which must be achieved by diggers to complete a section of work on that day – it is, if you like, a simple, rather bovine abstraction of weather and other imponderables which make shovelling earth more or less difficult. It is possible, for example, for the DN to get so high that it becomes almost impossible for the besieger to make any progress.

Never had a use for the Giant Die before - here's today's Digging Number - seems clear enough...
In the Test Siege of Middlehampton (for such this is), the initial Digging No came up as a 3. The population is between 4 and 5 thousand, the soldiers placed there for defence include 3 companies of musketeers from the county trained bands, plus 2 full regiments of foot, 2 regts of horse and a total of 7 guns, of which only 3 are heavy. The townspeople – strong supporters of the King – have a Loyalty Number of 2 – they will gladly work to help the garrison, but will not fight. The initial scenario tests also revealed that there were 6 days available before the attacker (those Covenanters again) would appear.

Very neat job - no trace of the old suburb, and a nice new earthwork - these
boys are good - they will give you a competitive quotation for raised flower beds
The Military Governor of the Town, Sir Edward Bloat, took advantage of the available time, the easy Digging Number and the sunny disposition of the citizens to demolish the suburb of ramshackle sheds and farm buildings outside the town’s Stockgate, and – under the direction of his German chief engineer, Captain Von Schuwel – to erect an earthwork embankment in front of the section of the curtain wall west of the Stockgate, complete with a “mount” – an entrenched artillery position. This would give valuable protection for the old masonry wall footings, eliminate the risk of the suburb buildings providing shelter for the enemy, and add to his available firepower. The walkways and most of the towers of the old walls were unsuitable for artillery.

Man the Sconce

The rest of the town garrison are kept off the table for the moment - if I had little
houses with detachable roofs, I could put them inside the buildings, and maybe
they could all have cups of tea and sandwiches
He had also considered the alternative of building earthwork walls right around the suburb, and leaving it in place, but there was insufficient time to complete the work. He installed 2 of his heavy guns, plus Bertram’s company of the musketeers, in the Duke’s Sconce, a modern addition to the town’s defences, and waited for the visitors.

Lord Leven’s boys duly arrived, and got busy setting up a first parallel, placing the two heaviest cannon and an enormous mortar in emplacements to bombard the Sconce, which was seen as a major obstacle to an otherwise systematic operation to approach the walls of the town.

A regiment of foot (of 3 bases, in full Vigour) gets to throw 3D6 – that becomes 4D6 if they have an engineer attached. To build a section of trench, one of the dice must be equal to or greater than the Digging No. To build a gun emplacement, 2 dice must meet the number. If the work is not completed, the position of what is planned is denoted by gabions, and until such time as the earthwork is finished the diggers get reduced cover. I haven’t done any forward sapping yet – the plan is that the engineers will be more important in this.

One of the gun emplacements isn't finished - just a few gabions, which will give
the diggers very little protection in the meantime

Good view here of the new earthworks pieces from Fat Frank - I rather like them

It became obvious very quickly that the Scots’ heavy guns were going to make little impression on Von Schuvel’s fine Sconce, so, concerned about the time in which the town was to be taken, Leven ordered an assault on the Sconce, to attempt to take it by escalade. So the call went up - "Tactical"! The advancing foot were hit by a storm of iron from the artillery, and two regiments were stopped with heavy losses, but the remaining 3 units in the assault pressed on, and captured the outwork very easily, in the end. The cannon were taken, and turned on the town, and the musketeer company, though it is said they asked for quarter, were cut down to a man.

This very serious mortar was Leven's original main hope for blasting the Royalists
out of the Sconce, which would be a better idea if it was less inaccurate - the mortar
has an additional disadvantage in that it is possible for the grenado (shell) to ignite
but not the propellant charge, which requires a lot of sprinting on the part of the
gunners, and usually wrecks the mortar

The besiegers' two Full Cannons are the main wall crushers, but they have to be
at close range to score consistent hits

That’s as far as I’ve got. I haven’t even started working with food supplies, and there’s a pile of stuff (not least the dreaded mining, for which I have a cunning scheme) which I shall get to. It is very easy to come up with draft rules which make it impossible to cause any casualties in certain situations. Tweakle, tweakle. Fix it and move on.

With the Sconce in Parliament’s hands, the spadework should proceed in a more standard manner. I say this, kind of hoping that it implies that I know what that should be – in fact I am learning a lot as I go along. Keep Chris Duffy's book open at the right page.

Good fun – chaotic, but good.

More soon.


  1. Clearly I'm a wargamer.. I find this step by step stuff fascinating!

  2. I'm with Steve on this.

    The siege looks good and sounds like fun but I'm really enjoying following the development of the proces as well.

  3. Have I missed a post in which you explain where the earthworks come from? I googled Fat Frank and got only (admittedly amusing) abuse about a footballer and/or adverts for an Alberta based hot dog vendor.

    1. Ah yes - apologies - did post late last night, not helped by half a bottle of Montepulciano, and the Quality Team had gone home. I omitted some photos (which are now inserted) and also omitted a link to Fat Frank. I like his work - I got 15mm straight trenches, angled trenches and gun emplacements, and he included some end pieces - construction is a textured coating on resin foam, on a cork mat base. Sections are 6" long - these are made to order, so he can cope with some degree of customization - degree of flock etc - I requested he leave off the WW2 sandbags. He's based in Stornoway at present - I've seen his scenery pieces on eBay for a year or two, but they were so cheap I didn't take them seriously. More fool me. All hand made items, and he's a good bloke to deal with - if you are not enthusiastic about paying eBay overheads, message him through his Facebook page - I found him very quick and obliging.

      Try these links:



    2. A beautifully engaging and witty post. Your approach to siege warfare seems to have the lightness of touch that gives a very plausible but fun game. Thanks.

    3. It's nice seeing someone work through a new system like this. I'm looking forward to your progress

  4. I admire the amount of effort you have put in to this area of warfare that is so seldom seen on the wargames table. I await the next installment with great interest. Will we also be seeing a Napoleonic version?

  5. Gentlemen - thanks very much for supportive reception - much of what I'm doing here is borrowed from nobler sources! - Ian - you bet - the intention is that the Napoleonic version will be a pretty close cousin!