Monday, February 29, 2016

The Battle of Braddock Down - Part One: the Scenario

Hey folks,  it's finally time for another historical refight on the blog, and as is my preference it is for a smaller and arguably more obscure engagement, this time from the English Civil Wars.

Truth be told it would almost be disingenuous to call the historical outcome of Braddock Down, 19 January 1643, a battle.  The actual engagement was about as brief and one sided as you could ask for; but with a little more resolve it need not have been so one sided, after all both sides were of roughly similar sizes and the weaker Parliamentarian forces were at least deployed and ready when they sighted their foe.

The battle such as it was is well described in the slim volume 'The Civil War in the South-West' by John Barratt

One of the royalist commanders of the day, Sir Bevil Grenville noted "Sir Ralph Hopton resolved to march over to them and leave all to the mercy of God and valour of our side...[The Parliamentarians] courage failed them as they stood not our first charge of foot but fled in great disorder."  but could it have been otherwise.  Other reports suggest an attack in the rear by local clubmen may have helped the parliamentarians along, but they had at least begun the day well ordered and presented.  so what went awry?

Portraying the battle

This is the sort of small engagement that should be within the ability of any reasonable collection of models to represent in some way; Lutzen or even Naseby this ain't!  A total of around 9,000 men were engaged on the day and as the map below will show, the battlefield was a small one and easy to represent on table.  The first major issue would be selection of rules and you will all have your favourite, but I've chosen mine, Black Powder.

Now straight away, you may say 'but these don't cover the English Civil War! surely Pike and Shotte would be the obvious choice if you are going to use Warlord Games' rules?'  You may think that, but I personally dislike their application of companies of pike and shotte operating loosely - quasi-independently - of one another.  Black Powder does not permit such liberty, and all that is really missing is some allowance for the weapons and tactics of the period.  I keep this to a bare minimum, and so add a couple of extra rules, the most complex being the 'Stand of Pike' which replaces 'Form Square'
  • 'Stand of Pike' units within which at least 1/3 are armed with pike, may form a stand of pike.  This may be done as an ordered manoeuvre, or as an initiative action during a players own turn, or may be attempted as a reaction to a threat of a charge during the opponents' turn, for which the unit must pass a command check.  If successful the unit withdraws it's muskets behind the pike bases, to whatever facing is deemed appropriate.  the facing of the pikemen remains the same.  A unit in SoP may not move, except to wheel on the spot around its' centre once per turn upto 90 degrees.  A SoP may only fire with once dice, to its' flank arcs.  units charging the SoP lose their charge bonus and must beat the unit by a clear 2 point margin (casualties, support etc) to force a break test.  A SoP loses all melee benefits if charged from the flank or rear, and a unit may not form a SoP if reacting to a charge from the flank or rear.  Unlike in later periods, cavalry will always at least try to charge an SoP.  Units failing to form a SoP as a reaction roll to a charge will instead be placed in disorder before rolling for combat.
  • Certain Parliamentarian cavalry is considered Unwilling to Charge.  These suffer a -1 command penalty if issuing charge orders.
  • Artillery does not have the luxury of quality limbers, mainly pulled by plough horses and oxen.  Therefore all movement is at the manhandled speed at all times
As the game was played in 15mm, the rules were scaled down to centimetres, which makes a 6x4 foot table more than enough for the whole battle.  A four foot square space would well serve  if pressed, though modification to the reserve timing of the artillery (see below) would then be advised.

For the army lists a standard notation of the commander (his command level and any traits applied) followed by the units under his command is used.  for units the four key stats in the rules - Hand to Hand, Shooting, Morale and Stamina - are given in brackets in that order, followed by any special notation and the recommended number of bases.  Cavalry have pistols and infantry musket and pike unless specifically noted otherwise.

Some gaps remained to be filled so far as the commanders of the day, but I've tried to reflect the forces of the battle as best I can, whilst at least intending to make the battle one either side could win...

The forces: Royalists

From Somerset gentry and with some experience from the Thirty Years War to fall back upon, Hopton had flashes of brilliance but was if anything an overrated commander.  His army however was undoubtedly the better of the two in the field on that day, formed around a core of veteran infantry.

Sir Ralph Hopton
(being Royalist, he's indulged in a full portrait)
Ralph Hopton Commander in Chief (command: 8; traits: aggressive)
  • Hoptons Buffs (7/-/4+/3) +1 cavalry shock in melee resolution, 6 stands
  • Horse (6/1/4+/3) +1 shock, 6 stands
  • Dragoons (5/1/5+/3) Marauder, Carbines.  6 stands
  • Forlorn Hope (3/2/5+/2) Skirmishers.  No pike. 4 stands
Sir Bevil Grenville (command:8)
  • Grenvilles Cornish veterans (6/2/4+/3) Tough Fighters.  4 Pike and 3 shot stands
  • Slanning's regt. (5/2/4+/3)  3 pike and 3 shot stands
  • Travanion's regt. (5/2/4+/3)  3 pike and 3 shot stands
  • Godolphin's regt. (5/2/4+/3)  3 pike and 3 shot stands
  • Mohun's regt. (5/2/4+/3)  3 pike and 3 shot stands
Lord Warwick Mohun (command:7)
  • 2 Saker cannon (1/3-2-1/5+/1).  Light cannon ranged.  1 stand each
The forces: Parliament

Col. Ruthven was judged a competent commander, but by no means a spectacular talent, his army was largely made up of his own Scottish troops with recent local recruits added.  His artillery was still on it's way to the battlefield...
Col. William Ruthven
(being Parliamentarian, he can afford only an engraving)

Col. William Ruthven Commander in Chief (command: 8; traits: none)
  • Ruthven's first Scottish (5/3/4+/3) 2 Pike and 4 shot stands
  • Ruthven's second Scottish (5/3/4+/3) 2 Pike and 4 shot stands
  • Ruthven's third Scottish (5/3/4+/3) 2 Pike and 4 shot stands
  • Cornish militia (4/2/5+/3)  Wavering.  2 pike and 4 shot stands
Col. Carew (command:8)
  • Carews first troop of Heavy Horse (7/-/4+/3) +1 cavalry shock, 6 stands
  • Carews second troop of Heavy Horse (7/-/4+/3) +1 cavalry shock, 6 stands
  • Carews first troop of Light Horse (5/1/4+/3) Marauders, Unwilling to Charge, 6 stands
  • Carews second troop of Light Horse (5/1/4+/3) Marauders, Unwilling to Charge, 6 stands
Sir Shilston Carmedy (command:7)
  • 2 Demi-cannon (1/3-2-1/5+/2).  Heavy cannon ranged.  1 stand each
  • 1 Culverin (1/3-2-1/5+/1) Light cannon ranged. 1 stand
  • Guards of the artillery train (3/2/4+/2) Skirmishers.  4 stands
Note that Carmedy and all his command begins the battle in reserve on the Liskeard road, and will not appear until turn four.

Also be aware that for both sides their commander in chief also has command of a brigade, this being such a small battle you may wish to ignore the Black Powder rule that ends the players order issuing if the CinC fails a command check, rather treat him in this case as the same as any other subordinate general.  The forces are limited enough already.

The Battlefield and Initial Deployments

Download full version from the Battlefields Trust: HERE

The battlefield for the game is relatively simple, playing essentially across a gentle fold in moorland, with both armies beginning the battle on gentle rises, neither of which will confer any defensive advantage.  Middle Top House sits on the Liskeard road and has some small field enclosures associated with it which Hopton made use of.  Marshland fills the depression on the moor, and impinges upon the deployment of the Parliamentarians, arguably protecting their flank.  The marsh should be considered difficult ground for any entering it.  Fields are to the Parliament rear into which some troops were still deployed, though from accounts certainly not the Cornish who presumably were put in the front line to stop them drifting away.  Woodland is to the rear of the Royalists.

Deployment at least for the most historical play should emulate the map below; if tried a second time players may wish to deploy freely however, to see if they can do better than their gentlemen of the day...

Royalists to the right, yes, technically that's upside down.
In 15mm scale terms the two armies are about 60cm apart at the start of the game, for faster play you may wish to close the gap, but I do not recommend shortening the space to less than about 40cm, else there will be little to no manoeuvre!  Carmedy's artillery is placed on the Liskerad road behind the Parliament deployments in line on turn four, from turn five it may receive orders.

And so as it's getting late and this has actually become rather a long feature.  We'll leave it there.  Up next, what happened when we actually played out the scenario ourselves.


  1. Looking forward to the game write up...

  2. That looks an interesting scenario. How many troops do the bases represent (not knowing the rules myself)?

  3. JWH:

    The forces on the day were 4000 Parliamentarians and 5000 Royalists, with 4 and 5 foot regiments respectively. Allowing for the small forces of cavalry available to each side on the day of maybe 500 men for the round heads and 3-400 for the cavaliers, it is reasonable to judge that the foot regiments were around 8-900 men each, for most units I went for a default 6 bases, therefore each base represents 150 men or so - four figures a base gives a rough representational scale of 1:36. On unit had seven bases to indicate its veteran status.

    All this said, one element I like in BP is the tendency to consider units as basically the same size on table, and to reflect their superior numbers and so on through amendments to the fighting values, stamina or morale. I personally find strictly adhering to irregular numbers of figures in a unit frustrating so tend to avoid it.

    Hope that helps.

  4. That does help, thanks very much.