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


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Hooptedoodle #219 - The Away Game (plastic mac & pilchard sandwiches)


This is really just a note to myself – I have seen some of the reaction to the recent Hillsborough verdict – I do not wish to make any me-too comment, nor falsely claim any personal involvement, but Liverpool was my home town, and I am well aware of the depth of feeling that has prevailed there for the 27 years since the tragedy.

Cold shadows that come down the years from 1989 are the extent of the government paranoia about civil unrest, urban terrorism and potential class war, and the growth in crowd trouble and neo-fascist hooliganism which marred soccer in those days. The cages behind the goals at Hillsborough where the fatal crush took place were designed as animal pens, quite simply because football crowds were viewed as exactly that – animals. Especially, I need hardly add, northern football crowds, where the proportion of Tory voters might safely be assumed to be very low indeed.

Maximum-wage heroes - Liverpool FC, season 1961-62 - Big Tam Leishman,
in the middle of the front row, still looks like something from Frankenstein's lab 
I am even less qualified to comment on this than I usually am – which may be saying something. The last time I went to watch an away league game of my beloved Liverpool FC predates Hillsborough by many years – it was on Saturday, 18th November 1961 (I checked), when I was a schoolboy – my mate Ken Bartlett got us tickets for the Huddersfield Town vs Liverpool match, in the old English League Division Two (in which Liverpool were staging, I think, a remarkable five-year run of 3rd place finishes, in the days when only the top two clubs were promoted at the season’s end!). Football crowds were not the high-profile violent menace which they had become by Thatcher’s time, but my 1961 memories of our day out involve very little of the match we went to see – all I can remember is the misery of the journey, the squalor and the sense of worthlessness which the police and the logistical arrangements instilled in the travelling fan.

Leeds Road, Huddersfield - pre-war photo
Ken and I were experienced visitors to Anfield, Liverpool’s home ground, though my parents insisted that I never went in the Kop end, which was famous for its passion and the surges on the terracing – as a small chap, I used to go to the Anfield Road end, which at times was scary enough.

Our trip to Huddersfield started quite early, queuing to board one of the old Football Special trains from Lime Street station. We were late getting on the train – we waited for our friend Tony Potter, but he didn’t show up, though we had a ticket for him, and we eventually gave up on him and squeezed on board. I was shaken by the police presence – I don’t know what the size of the travelling support was in those days; records show that the crowd at that game was 23,000-odd, which is not bad considering Huddersfield were having a poor season, and I guess the visitors might have brought 5,000 or so with them. In 1961 a good proportion of these would have been on the trains. There was a hefty contingent of Liverpool Police and Transport Police at Lime Street – including a good number of senior officers – the police were aggressive and profane throughout, even though there was no trouble at that time of the morning. I was upset that the police were so abusive, when it did not seem to be necessary.

It was a tradition that British Rail would use old or obsolete rolling stock for these trains – the fans, after all, were barely human, so it was probably deemed adequate. There was no heating, the toilets did not work, in some carriages there was no lighting, and only some of the carriage doors were unlocked – for security. We were also crammed in – 4-a-side in a filthy compartment designed to hold six. People standing or squatting in the corridors. Much shoving and swearing to get us all in.

The journey was cold and it took ages – the Football Specials, of course, had to work around the normal timetables of sensible trains for decent people, so the routing may have been odd, and we spent lots of time waiting at signals. We arrived in Huddersfield on a cold, soaking wet afternoon – it was already very dark at 2pm, when we got off the train. That was the first shock. We were not in a station – we were unloaded – had to jump down – in a siding somewhere, and were herded along what appeared to be a disused railway line, past derelict factories and rubbish dumps, accompanied by a lot of policemen – some of these had come on the train, some were local and met us there.

Industrial heartland - Huddersfield in the Old Days
The idea was to keep this horde off the streets of the town as completely as possible – it was a long, wet, muddy walk to the old Leeds Road ground, and only the later part of the walk was along paved streets. We got into the ground without incident, always with the watching constables, and the game itself was almost an unreal interlude (we won 2-1, Melia and Hunt scored the goals, though I don’t remember a great deal about it), and then it was time to get us all out of the town again.


The return march seems to have been more direct – we actually walked through central Huddersfield – I recall being surprised that they had trolley-buses – but you could not stop – certainly no chance of going into a pub or buying food. Prodded and abused, we were at least taken to a station this time. The train, however, was the same as before, and we reached Liverpool many hours late, frozen stiff, and I was seriously traumatised by the experience. I was never allowed to go to an away game again – in fact the home games were off limits for a few weeks as well.

The point of this insignificant tale, if there is one, is that there was no trouble – maybe that is a vindication of the methods, I really don’t know. It was a competely routine transport exercise, to move PAYING CUSTOMERS (I capitalise that to remind myself that we were not, in fact, convicts or prisoners of war) to a public sporting event in a town that really was not so far away. It must have happened, just like that, many, many times, every weekend, all over the country. The police, famously, did not relish football duty on the weekend, and it was very obvious that the fans were uniformly regarded as vermin. Again, maybe we were – I certainly felt degraded and distressed by the experience – Ken and I were just naïve young boys from a decent school, and being shouted and sworn at on a routine basis was upsetting.

Of course, it was all right really – just a growing experience, something to toughen us up, but if you wanted to radicalize the working classes that was one way of going about it. My grandmother use to say that if you expect the worst of people, that’s just what you will get. It doesn’t seem particularly sensible that league football matches should become a long-running war between the police and the public, especially if they didn’t have to, but that was certainly the tradition.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Siege Testing - (5) Afterthoughts

The Siege Test was a success – there were a few things I now understand better, a few things I won’t bother with again, and a few things I didn’t get to try out properly – specifically mining and the little matter of provisions. These last bits I’ll look at again; for the moment, the chief success is that I played through a siege and it worked. It would have been awful if I had collected all these houses and fortress parts and trenches and gone to all this trouble and then the game had been a complete washout. So I’m very pleased with that.

Another valuable lesson was that it reminded me, once again, why I play wargames in the way I do, and what does or does not work for me. What (in short) I get out of it.

Well, I mostly play solo, for a number of reasons, and one reason that this is good for me is that I regard myself to some extent as a privileged witness to a bit of fake history. I’ve written this here before, and, yes, I am the presenter and the facilitator, and the fake history is more or less compromised by my own understanding and preferences (and bias, however unconscious), but the reason I still get a buzz from it, after all these years, is because I want to see what happens. It’s fun, it’s kind of educational, and in a solo setting I can attempt things which would not necessarily make an attractively balanced social game. So I can have campaigns which have heavily one-sided fights, I can even attempt a siege, for goodness sake. The concepts of victory and defeat – even the idea of the points value of an army – I understand what these are, but they are not things I normally consider as a priority.

One thing that I have learned in the past is that, in this kind of solo setting, a re-enactment, or any kind of walkthrough, doesn’t work. If I know what is going to happen then grinding through it is not worthwhile – no point – only passing moments of interest – no surprises. Nothing to learn, except about myself. Just a little fiddling around before it’s time to tidy the toys away. On the face of it, a siege might just be a perfect example of a procedural activity which doesn’t entertain for exactly that reason. Well, it was OK. In fact, I think I have demonstrated that a solo attempt at a siege has certain advantages.

I have read a lot of the better-known sources on how to make a siege into a game. The most useful, I think, is the famous Sandhurst game described very concisely in Chris Duffy’s Fire & Stone (David & Charles, 1975) – this sets out the important concept of accelerated time for the boring bits and the spadework, and dovetails this with a (Charge-based) tactical game to handle the exciting bits. It also sets out the pitfalls to be avoided and the need for a simple approach – I can’t recommend this too highly as a starting point. The snags are that the Sandhurst game uses simultaneous moves (and thus written orders) and – that’s right – an umpire. Ah. You can do anything with an umpire, I think.

The Duffy game is expanded a bit in Part XII of Henry Hyde’s The Wars of the Faltenian Succession, which appeared in Battlegames magazine a few years ago. This applies an alternate-move structure, and gets into more details about orders, event cards and Old School ideas like shell-burst templates and all that. It is a more detailed game, but it is still fundamentally the Duffy/Charge concept.

I also have the Perfect Captain’s Siege component of their Spanish Fury game (which is a free download from their excellent website). Like all the Perfect Captain games (and I’m sure they are very good), this relies on data cards for units, and some of the concepts are getting towards role-playing. That  excellent fellow Nundanket kindly loaned me the König Krieg documentation, which includes the famed (but rarely seen) siege game Festung Krieg – again, a source of good ideas, but to me it lacks the simple appeal of Duffy’s game.

One thing to avoid, I think, is stuffing as many tactical sequences as possible into a siege – for the leaguer of a fortified house that might be just the thing, but in a large siege it is also a means of avoiding the fact that it is a siege as far as possible. I tried to meet this head-on, rather than fudge the game into something more familiar.


Gary asked a very good question in response to my previous post – why, he asked, was there no attempt to put a secondary barrier inside the breach at Middlehampton?

I gave this some thought at the time, though, to be honest, in the absence of a sensible reason to fight on, my own Resolve was beginning to droop! In Chester, in the ECW siege, they marshalled gangs of civilians to pile earth (and dung, apparently) in all the gates and behind the stone walls. In my test, Lord Bloat was handicapped in this, since the townspeople's Loyalty had slipped further to zero, at which point they are not a valid workforce, and his two remaining infantry units were all he had available to do any kind of work of this type (cavalry, dear boy, never dig). On average, at 2-hex range in my rules, a siege gun has a 5/12 chance of damaging the wall during a strategic (1 day) turn, so I reckon (and Lord Bloat may have reckoned) that two cannons might take best part of a week to generate 5 gravelsworth of damage and effect a viable breach - so there was maybe time to do something - one possibility was demolishing the buildings near the wall and piling up the rubble, but maybe he felt (? - we'll never know) that surrender to the Scots would be the less disastrous of the options - certainly their reputation at Newcastle and York was not too awful - they were ravenous and tended to nick stuff, but slaughter, rape and ransacking were off-limits to the Presbyterians. I think the 5-chips collapse rating is maybe too high (though this might have been an exceptionally strong wall) - from memory, I think the breach at Chester (the one above the Roman Garden!) came down within a day, once the Parlies got a few big guns inside the earthwork defences and set about it, and I think that particular bit of wall had a bank erected inside it, but it was soft, Bunter sandstone (never accept the job of Governor of a red stone fort). Methinks 5 chips is too high...

Big lesson for me from these few days is that it is very important to put more effort into a thorough context and scenario narrative. There should have been better reasons for doing things, there should have been clearer time constraints, the supply issue should have been more central and there should have been some threat of Mad Prince Rupert appearing from somewhere to give the Jocks a jolly good bashing.

I enjoyed my few days at Middlehampton very much - it had the rather academic resonance which is common to many solo games, but it looked and felt like a game. I need to re-examine some of these numbers in the rules - the old walls were too tough, the digging was very straightforward (especially since the garrison did very little to interfere) and mostly procedural. The Sconce didn't last long, but was a threat while it lasted - the Sconce, by the way, could have been used as two half-sconces, and placed against the walls as hornworks, but that would have brought the siege closer to the town more quickly (which, in the absence of a sensible storyline, maybe doesn't make a lot of difference).

If I had been Bloat, I think I might have agreed with the townspeople's guild that the best strategy would be to meet that nice Lord Leven and his pals on the lawn with a tray of drinks, and discuss terms right at the start. Mind you, my mindset, my library of books and (importantly) my religious views are not likely to coincide with theirs.

An interesting few evenings - time to tidy up now! I’ll set out my thoughts on mining and supply in a week or two. As ever, my humble thanks to anyone who took the time to read about the test game – I am still delighted but rather surprised to hear from readers.

Next test siege I run will be a Napoleonic one, with the Vauban fortress bits.




Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Siege Testing - (4) Bombardment, The Storm, Tactical Fights

I had limited time available this evening, but was keen to bring the Test Siege to some kind of conclusion, however predictable!

First of all I must offer thanks to Pyotr and Martin, who emailed me pictures of what a proper head of sap looked like. If I can identify some suitable figures in small 20mm, I could make up a couple of little set pieces. I could convert a couple of the Les Higgins ECW gunners, though they are a bit upright. I've had a look at various plastic sailors and pirates and so on - nothing obvious - I'll keep it in mind. Anyway, thanks very much - here's what yesterday's picture should have looked like.

Cross section view of a head of sap - notice how the follow-up men cut it deeper

The Test Siege of Middlehampton resumed with a few tactical turns initiated by the Scottish attackers; they quickly eliminated the cannon in the defenders' external earthwork, and drove the trained band musketeers away - the militia status of the trained band men requires them to take triple retreats, which simply eliminated them, since they had nowhere to go - presumably the survivors just ran away into the countryside.

Back to strategic turns - the big Scots siege cannons opened fire at close range on the old curtain wall, they soon started to cause damage, but in fact it took 3 days of steady fire before the wall collapsed.

The militia have mostly scarpered, and the damage chips are beginning to
accumulate against the wall
Tactical again. George Heriot's Regt of Foot stormed the breach, drove back Sir Henry Spale's Foot, and then broke the last intact Royalist Foot regiment, that of Col Leonard Winthrope. The Stockgate was opened, and the Scots streamed in. General William Baillie, the 2-in-C of the Scottish army, met the distraught Lord Bloat at the Market Cross, and accepted both his sword and the surrender of the town.

Eventually, the wall falls, and Heriot's RoF storm the breach


Spale's Foot attempt to stop them...

...but the Scots break into the Market Ground and drive off all attempts at resistance

With all his Foot troops eliminated, Lord Bloat surrenders to General Baillie

And the Covenanters march in - a total of 22 days from arriving on the table

The garrison lost about 3200 men, including 1700 prisoners; the besiegers
around 500; the townspeople suffered about 200 casualties 


Middlehampton is now for Parliament, gentlemen - better get that wall fixed

Monday, 25 April 2016

Siege Testing – (3) Scales, Artillery Ranges, Saps




Things are getting a little busier, as you see. The game is hex-based – I am confident it could be played without hexes, if you really like measuring things.

My hexes are 7” across the flats, and the game scale equates one hex to 200 paces across (or 100 toises, if you prefer the classic terminology). That fits with the size and theory of the (15mm scale) fortress pieces. A lot of the logic of the game is related to artillery ranges, so let’s get to that now. Since this is a little section on artillery, I’ll go into a little more detail than this discussion really needs – if the mechanisms strike you as reminiscent of Charge!, or the closely-related Sandhurst siege game rules in Chris Duffy’s Fire & Stone book, then I can only plead that this is not a bad source. I propose to use Commands & Colors style rules for melées and movement (though not the Command Cards), but I’ll stick with Chris Duffy for the artillery.

In the Tactical game, the maximum effective ranges for roundshot are:

Light guns      -           4 hexes
Medium guns -           5 hexes
Heavy guns    -           6 hexes

Subject to the range limitations of a particular piece, the effect of a shot is calculated by throwing two dice; one of these is the Accuracy Die (which is a black D6) – this has to turn up a number greater than or equal to the range in hexes for a hit. If it is a hit, a second (red) die gives the Effect; this die is a D6 if the target is close-order foot in the open, a D4 for horse, artillery, engineers or open-order foot in the open, or for close-order foot in soft cover (hedges, trees, temporary gabions), and it’s a D3 for anyone in hard cover (earthworks, stone walls). This score gives the number of figures lost. If, like me, you prefer your casualties to occur in whole sub-unit bases or not at all, then you have one more step – the owner of the target unit makes a Saving Throw (you may now groan). It works like this – we need to round odd hits up or down to a number of whole bases – if the unit suffering loss is organised with n figures per base, roll a Dn – an n-sided die; if the roll exceeds the number of odd hits, forget the odd hits; if it doesn’t, you lose a complete base.

Example: a medium cannon fires at a range of 5 hexes (its maximum) at an enemy unit of horse (and my horse is organised in bases of 3 figures). The horse are in the open.

(1) Roll the black D6 for Accuracy – at range 5 we need 5+ for a hit. Comes up 5 – good enough – a hit.

(2) Horse in the open are a middling sort of target, as discussed above – roll a D4 for casualties – comes up 2 – OK – 2 figures lost.

(3) Additional step because I want my losses to be counted in bases. At 3 figs/base, 2 figures is zero bases plus 2 odd figures. The Saving Throw has to be a D3, to match the base organisation – must roll a 3 (“beat the 2”) to save them. Throw is a 2 – tough – the horse lose a complete base.

Siege cannons (i.e. nominated wall-battering guns) and siege mortars have no tactical function at all, since they are too ponderous to move and too slow to load and fire in a tactical context (though they may be overrun during such a phase, of course).

The Strategic artillery system is basically the same, though there are additional rules for siege cannons and mortars in the Strategic game. If it seems odd that a 24-hour Strategic turn should produce similar casualty levels to a 30-minute Tactical turn then I can’t disagree – however, the arguments in favour of this oddity are thus:

(1) During a Strategic turn, rates of fire are deliberately slow (to avoid overheating the guns) and the troops would stay in cover and keep their heads down. A Tactical turn is a much more intense period of action.

(2) It is very convenient to make this assumption.

(3) Chris Duffy recommends it – if it was good enough for Sandhurst...

In the Strategic game, I had thought of giving siege cannons some extra range – maybe 8 hexes – but on the grounds that 6 hexes is already 1200 paces, the guns were pretty inaccurate and you can only fire at what you can see, I kept it at 6 hexes, like the other heavy guns – siege cannons, however, can break down walls. Fire on a section of wall is like other fire – the black Accuracy die tells you whether you hit the right place, and a D6 Effect die needs to score 4+ to do damage to an old-fashioned stone curtain wall, 5+ for a low Vauban wall with earth backing, and whatever else you fancy. A single, damaging hit to a wall is denoted by a piece of gravel placed below the target area (classy, eh?) – in my game, I have been working with the assumption that 5 such gravel-generating hits on the same section will produce a breach in the medieval walls of Middlehampton.

The common all-garden damage markers I borrowed from our driveway - this is
good whinstone, but it's a bit dark to match the walls - do you think I could get a
sample of some rather paler Cotswold stuff from my local garden centre?
Mortars also feature in the Strategic game – the range is up to 6 hexes, like heavy cannons, but the target need not be in direct sight and the effect of cover is negated. There are strict limits on the number of mortars (just one in my present game!).

Right – that was a fairly lengthy introduction to the idea that “artillery range”, broadly speaking, is 6 hexes, and this is relevant to the necessary task of Sapping Forward. In the last instalment, I mentioned that the digging of parallels and other general-purpose trenches requires infantry bases to match or better the day’s Digging Number. The procedures for such trenches mean that the position is first of all protected with gabions, to offer “soft” cover to the shovellers while work goes ahead, and then the main challenge is to score enough decent dice rolls to complete the work. Digging toward the fortress is a different deal altogether – in this situation, specialist sappers work towards the front (well, obliquely toward the front, to avoid the sap being enfiladed), and the particular challenge is staying protected from the enemy’s fire while working. In this, the challenge has less to do with the state of the ground, and more with the proximity to the enemy. Accordingly, digging a forward sap requires an engineering presence of some sort (I have sappers for my Napoleonic armies, but for the time being for the ECW I have to attach a designated “engineer” figure and imagine there are sappers present), and some infantry to follow up to widen the sap into a trench in the normal “Digging Number” way.

The current situation is a bit crude - the token "Engineer" is followed up by some
infantry, who will enlarge the sap to full trench proportions - in this form, without
any identifiable sappers, it looks a bit like a firing squad. I hope improved elegance
will follow soon.
The actual head of the sap is traced out, one hex at a time, using gabions, and the infantry follow up with the trench work. To advance the head of the sap is automatic until the sap gets within the 6-hex artillery range zone, and therafter success requires a roll of 2D6 – and at least one of these dice must come up equal to or less than the distance in hexes from the walls (or the covered way, if it is that kind of fortress). It gets slower and more fiddly the nearer you get.

Once the sap has reached the correct distance, digging a parallel and new gun positions is simply a question of doing the spadework with dice against the Digging Number. Since the Strategic game allows the besiegers to move troops to anywhere which is not forward of the heads of sap, some good dice can enable a complete parallel to be dug in a single day.

Enough nuts and bolts for the moment. In the Test Siege of Middlehampton, the attackers (Leven’s Covenanter army) were forced by the existence of the Duke’s Sconce (a modern outwork) to build their First Parallel further from the walls than they might have chosen. Once they had taken the outwork, they sapped forward without incident and constructed the Second Parallel just outside artillery range of the walls. Leven opted not to advance this first sap any further, for fear of some form of sally on the part of the defenders.

Now within range of the town’s heavier guns, further sapping was rather slower, and an engineer was among the (few) casualties, but it brought the Third Parallel within 4 hexes (800 paces) of the walls, and a position was constructed for the giant mortar (Auld Aggie). This mortar, along with the two heavy guns captured in the Sconce, now produced a steady fire on the town which mostly served to frighten the inhabitants. There were a few casualties on both sides, but the Loyalty of the townspeople had now slid to 1 (“indifferent to the garrison, but not yet a threat to them”), as a result of the Governor’s unpopular demolition of the northern suburbs and the harrowing effects of night bombardment by the Scots.

Still the forward saps continued – still there was no action on the part of Lord Bloat to disrupt the approach work with any kind of sally. By the end of the 13th day of the siege, a Fourth Parallel was ready, and the mighty siege cannons were in place opposite the section of the curtain wall which had no earthwork protection.

Not looking good for the Royalist town of Middlehampton?

Siege cannons in place to start bombarding the old North Wall

The Scots' works, with the Second Parallel in the foreground

Lord Bloat (mounted, with red plume) must surely be thinking of asking for terms.
We have to assume that he has faithfully promised the line of red-coated musketeers
manning the earthwork outside the walls that he will open the Stockgate to let
them in pretty smartish when the time comes 

I'm not sure who this little drummer is, nor why he's involved - I guess I must
have accidentally included him as one of the singly-based engineers. He has
a certain plucky quality - I like him - he's a sort of talisman for the Resolve
Number of the garrison, but I fear his time is running out
That’s as far as I’ve got – thus far I have to say that the sapping is slow and would not necessarily be a lot of fun in a competitive game, though it is fine for a solo effort. The artillery is not as effective as I expected, which is probably historically correct – I could have done more with sallies if the garrison had been stronger.

Next steps will be the start of the bombardment of the curtain wall, and I might say a bit about food supply – let’s see how it goes!



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.