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

Sunday, 25 March 2018

ECW - The Battle of Marston Moor - 2nd July 1644

Hot Rupert came spurring to Marston Moor;
Praise we the Lord!
Came spurring hard with thousands a score:
Praise we the Lord!
Beleaguered York, that we lay before,
He knew would be ours ere a week was o'er,
So to scatter our hosts he fiercely swore.
To the Lord our God be glory!

William Cox Bennett

With the snow of recent weeks now merely a fading memory, we played the postponed Marston Moor game yesterday, here at the Chateau Foy. Excellent fun - using my Commands & Colors-derived rules, we fought the battle to a result in about three and a half hours elapsed, which is not bad going at all, considering that I was umpiring...

Baron Stryker, true to type, embraced the role of Prince Rupert with his customary zeal, while Count Goya played out the part of the canny Lord Leven with a more calculating, cautious approach which was entirely appropriate.

The battle was set out according to the most reliable OOB listings I could find. Rupert was given a couple of choices before commencement:

(1) he could, if he wished, reposition the two advanced units of foot on his right - his own and Lord Byron's regiments - which earned him much criticism on the day from Lord Eythin; he opted not to change the set-up, and left them in their historic position

(2) along with his own regiment of horse, Rupert started in reserve, off the table, and could appear on either flank, as he wished; in this case he chose to join Goring's cavalry on his left flank, rather than the choice he made back in '44, when he joined Byron and Molyneux on the right

The game had some strong similarities to the original battle - both sides won their own left flank - Cromwell and Leslie with the horse on the Allies' left were successful, after an initial struggle which could have gone either way; Goring (with Rupert) won the cavalry fight on the other flank for the Royalists - rather easily, in fact. In the centre, the Allied foot was more cautiously handled than in the original, and Rupert surprised everyone by attacking in this area. This was a bold move, though there is a reported eye-witness account which claims that at one point he was heard to say, "erm - I wonder if I should have waited for them to attack...?". 

With luck, some form of battle narrative should suggest itself from the photos. The Allies won by 14 Victory Points to 9 - the units and leaders eliminated being:


Chisenall's Foot
Earl of Newcastle's Foot
Gibson / Ernle's Foot (combined)
Prince Rupert's Foot
Lord Molyneux's Horse
Trevor's Horse
Lord Byron's Horse
Chas Slingsby's Foot
Tillier's Foot
Warren's Foot
Cheater's Foot

plus a couple of cannons and a few commanded shot (which don't count), and also the following generals:

Lord Eythin
Sir Charles Lucas
Lord Molyneux


Earl of Manchester's Foot
Lord Eglinton's Horse
Bethell's Horse
Lambert's Horse
Earl of Manchester's Horse
Vermuyden's Horse
Fairfax's Horse
Fleetwood's Horse

plus one light cannon, plus

Sir Thomas Fairfax, who was killed in the cavalry fight near Long Marston

To my guests yesterday I offer, yet again, my heartfelt thanks for their good humour, patience, enthusiasm and excellent company. It should be recorded that, in honour of the substantial Covenanter presence on the field, our lunch menu featured haggis, neeps and tatties.

Very open terrain - view from the South-West (Allies on this side)...
...and from the South-East - the edge of the village of Long Marston is off the table,
and only there to provide some scenic context
Same two views, with the armies in position

Prince Rupert - his dog featured in the scenario rules. Earl of Newcastle's carriage
in the background.

Cromwell attacks the cavalry on the Royalist right flank

In the centre, Rupert shocks his opponent by attacking
Meanwhile, on the Royalist right, only a battered remnant of the horse remain, and they are
about to be finished off
...there you are - they've gone, and Lord Byron is now taking refuge with the
Foot, a bit further along
The battle in the centre is now building up, though Rupert could have done with some more troops
Having defeated the Royalists' horse on their right flank, Cromwell turns his attention to the foot
Meanwhile, on the Royalist left, Goring has virtually eliminated Fairfax's horse - this
was the most successful bit of the Royalists' day. The day before the real battle, the Allied
soldiers and horses exhausted all water supplies in the village of Long Marston - you
can see that we were taking no chances yesterday. [To even up the accidental advertising
 in this report, the sharp-eyed reader may observe that I have requisitioned a number of
Tesco's charity tokens to augment the stock of order counters - that's the blue, round
things - more accurately, the blue, round things which have "Tesco" written on them]  
Rupert running out of steam in the middle - the VPs are mounting up
Goring has complete control of the Royalists' left flank, though by this time it doesn't
really matter any more. Rupert, with his own regiment of horse, is in the centre of the
picture. Rupert conducted himself with conspicuous gallantry, as you would expect,
though he appeared to be the object of some personal vendetta from Lord Loudon's
Glasgow Foot (who, luckily for Rupert, couldn't shoot for toffee). Both Rupert
and his dog survived the day. Hurrah! 

Appendix 1 - afterthoughts...

With the battlefield dismantled and everything put away, the dining room returns to its normal calm. With Glenn Gould playing Bach on the hi-fi, it's hard to believe that so many thousands fought and died here just yesterday, a feeling which is not unlike what I experienced when I walked across the Marston Moor battlefield in the pouring rain only a few weeks ago - it's just farmland now - odd how the years take away the suffering...

So, if one day the battlefield archeologists visit my tabletop battlefield, what will they find? - just a family dining room?

Not necessarily! - they might find evidence of my splendid new play-mats from the Early Learning Centre, which add greatly to the stability and the evenness of my battlefield, and would probably serve to deaden the sound of tiny hooves in the basement below - if we had one, that is.

Appendix 2 - the Rules

Mostly, everything went well. The game is intended to allow a large action to be fought to an understandable finish in a short time, and that was accomplished without problems. A couple of things I learned, which may appear on Version 2_70 in due course:

(1) Artillery is worse than useless - arguably even more useless than it should be. Easily fixed - I'll go back to fielding two artillery pieces in each unit of medium or heavy field artillery - that should fix it. 

(2) The scenario rule to handle parties of commanded shot attached to units of horse was something of a wash-out. Since loss of these musketeers did not involve Victory Points, it would have been better to state that if they became separated from their parent unit of horse (normally as a result of the horse galloping off at cavalry speeds, which happened a lot, both in the real battle and the toy one) then they would simply retire quietly to a nearby hostelry. Trying to keep track of them and make sensible use of them after separation was not useful.

(3) The latest version of my rule which tries to give "Galloper" cavalry a reasonable advantage over "Trotters" has become too fiddly again - it would be handier and simpler if they just got an extra Battle Die in all combats. My attempts to do something more subtle really only produced a small extra measure of irritation...


  1. Brilliant! I'm glad you got to play it, after 'snow stopped play' the other week. My, that's a good looking battle. I bet Cromwell took all the credit again.

  2. If I had just thought to unleash Boye he would have jumped on Lord Leven's lap and licked his face thus distracting him and allowing me to raid the victory point token jar. Hopefully the king will not be too mad with me!

    Another great game using Tony's fabulous collection of soldiers and his clever terrain system. Great lunch too.

  3. A grand spectacle indeed!

  4. Wrong result....again! However a brilliant game by the looks of things. Well done to all.

  5. That looks fabulous Tony. That's a lot of soldiers! Looks like one of the old engravings.

  6. Another outstanding report, Foy, and your soldiers are simply sans pareil.

  7. Thank you all very much, gentlemen - it's been a marvellous, rather obsessive little project for me, the set-up for this game, and I've enjoyed the research and the reading greatly. Not a battle I knew a great deal about, though I have quite a number of books on the subject, so it was great fun comparing accounts from different ages and different viewpoints.

    The post-battle blame-shifting and glory-claiming (that's after the actual battle, not the game!) is a study of its own. Among so much sorrow caused by this battle and these wars, at a personal level the downfall and subsequent exile of the unfortunate Newcastle still seem grossly unfair to me - the poor man completely ruined himself in his tireless support of a king who showed very little appreciation.

    I have been reminded that, after his victory at Adwalton Moor, this same man should be referred to as the Marquess of Newcastle, not the Earl - my apologies for this. In fact, I am aware of his correct title - my excuses for the lapse are:

    (1) I've got very used to referring to the "Earl of Newcastle" and the "City of Newcastle" to distinguish the two, and the habit is hard to break.
    (2) To be quite honest, I'm never sure whether it should be Marquess or Marquis, so I swerve the issue.
    (3) Unless I have the right teeth in, I find "Marquess of Newcastle" a bit of a tongue-twister - very like Stuart Reid, in fact, if you have seen the Pegasus DVD of MM.

  8. I got a couple of email questions.

    The very smart, designer Lego blocks are to mark the lines where the Centre becomes the Flank for the C&C rules - there are lines painted on the table, but they tend to be masked by the terrain tiles.

    The Dog Rule. For this scenario, any unit of Horse which had Prince Rupert attached would get an extra Battle Die in melee - however, this only applied if his dog was still with him. If a unit to which he was attached suffered loss, it would be necessary to test to see if Rupert was OK. Standard test is to roll two battle die - of they both come up "sabres" then the general officer is a casualty. For this scenario, we added the extra rule that if the test came up with just ONE "sabres" symbol then the dog would be removed, and Rupert would be, as it were, rendered impotent. It didn't happen in the game - Rupert and Boye came through unscathed - but in any case our rules made it clear that if the dog had to go, he had merely run away.

    Killing 5000 men as part of a game is acceptable, but if one dog gets it then we are all in trouble.

  9. Hi Tony,

    This looks brilliant, very inspiring! Reminds me of Clive Lane's Napoleonic games on a hex grid with Airfix soldiers.



    1. Thanks Jay - you reminded me of them, and I dug up the articles in Practical Wargaming by Clive Lane. I didn't realise he had published a book on the subject, too, which is interesting, though - since i found the magazine articles rather difficult to get much from - I'm not sure the book would have helped me much. The PW articles do have pictures which look strangely familiar, now you mention it, and I'm impressed that Clive got his club to adopt hexes - as is often the case, his argument in favour of a grid system smacks a bit of tub-thumping, which suggests that he got rather a lot of flak for his hexes back in the 1980s. I got a lot of flak for mine in the 1970s, so it's fair enough! - I'll maybe post a couple of the photos, with due credit for the source, just for general interest.

  10. What a magnificent spectacle Tony, breathtaking :) I do admire the way you stick at a project. Glad the magnetic Boye came through unscathed. Lovely dining room too!

    I'm in hotel land at the moment so your post made for a good read, sitting by the window overlooking the English Channel with the rain lashing down!

    1. Hi Lee - hope the move all goes brilliantly - all the very best with everything!

      Yes, I've really enjoyed being able to study all levels of unnecessary detail of Marston Moor - very good therapy to try to study something in a decent amount of depth. I'll be pleased to read about something else now, for a change of scenery, but I must confess that as a last shot i ordered up another book on the subject, on a personal recommendation - David Cooke's "The Road to Marston Moor" - I previously got a lot out of David's book on Yorkshire sieges, and the one on the ECW in Yorkshire.

  11. Superb looking game Tony and it sounds it was enjoyed by all.

    1. Thanks James - yes, it was a good day and my visitors pitched in like good fellows. There's a general issue - I'm never sure whether guest players really do enjoy themselves, or just say they do, in case I become dangerous...

  12. As commonly happens, I received some analytical comments by email from the Netherlands. One of the less intellectual aspects of this was a brief discussion of whether Rupert was required to clean up after his dog - did he carry a supply of plastic bags? One of the recurrent themes enjoyed by the worthy professor and myself is the application of a modern Health & Safety and PC regime to the history of the world. A sort of Far Side slant on the recorded past.

    With apologies for lowering the scholastic tone of our military study, this led to an exchange on whether a single dog would constitute a significant bio-hazard, given that the field would be covered by the natural outputs of some 20,000 horses, not mentioning that a great many men and horses were blown to bits, hacked to pieces etc on the day.

    This wasn't really a serious addition to the discussion, but - since i live on a farm which has a great many horses - it is pertinent anyway, and i mentioned the matter to the Contesse later. Why, for example (and I believe this has been mentioned here before), do modern horse-riders not have to carry very large plastic bags when they go out, and clean up after themselves?

    The answer, of course (duh!), is that horses are vegetarians, and thus less of a bio-hazard. So that's a comfort - especially when they leave evidence of their passing in our gateway.

    That's quite enough of that - blame the Prof - he made me mention it.