Saturday, September 5, 2015

ECW Battle of Southam - OHW

Southam Initial Deployments
The first set of rules up for the Battle of Southam (see Battle of Southam Setupcomparison is Neil Thomas' One-Hour Wargames (see OHW Review).  The ECW variant posted on the AMWGroups Yahoo Group will be in effect for this replay. When referring to cavalry in the published variant, the descriptors of "Royalist" and "Parliamentarian" have been swapped.  Parliamentarian forces under Lord Brooke will always be the First Player.

The battle begins with Brooke advancing his trotters on both wings down from the heights in order to protect the advance of the foot.  The two regiments of foot on Brooke's left step off.  Roundhead guns open fire, targeting Royalist horse.  Royalist horse sustain five hits.  Royalists target the leading foot regiment and inflict four hits.  Orange arrows signify Parliamentarian movement, Blue arrows signify Royalist movements, and white arrows denote shooting.
Battle begins
Northampton responds by sending his two cavalry wings forward to meet the enemy horse.  Royalist guns inflicts four hits on the exposed foot.
Royalist horse advance
Brooke's guns change targets from the lead horse regiment to the lone Royalist foot regiment.  Both guns draw blood, inflicting six hits total.  Brooke's trotters on both wings fire into the Royalist horse.  Leading Royalist horse regiments each suffer three hits.  Trotters on the right wing run out of ammo.  Brooke's infantry come down from the heights and into the valley.
Heavy Parly fire
To reduce casualties from fire, both Royalist cavalry wings charge home into Parly horse.  Royalist guns target the lead Parly foot.  Artillery fire has no effect.

Royalist horse charge
In the clash of swords on both wings, the Parly trotters suffer.  The trotters on the left, hit by the charging left wing, takes four hits while the trotters on right take eight hits.  Trotters on the right witness more than 50% of their effectives go down. 
Cavalry clash of on both wings
Cavalry clash!
Parly foot advance
Brooke's guns switch bombardment back to the Royalist gun.  The Royalist gun takes heavy casualties (seven hits) but one of Brooke's guns goes silent due to lack of ammunition.  With cavalry clashing on its left, the leading Parly foot regiment wheels into the melee. Casualties mount in the Royalist ranks as the melees on both flanks swirl in desperation.
Well positioned Parly guns bombard
To relieve pressure on the outnumbered Royalist horse on the right, the trailing horse regiment charges into the Roundhead foot.  Royalist guns fire into the advancing Parly foot.  The purple bannered foot suffers four hits.
Royalists respond
Clash escalates on the Royalist right
In the three melees, Roundhead trotters take heavy casualties.  The trotters now have nine and twelve hits each and are approaching breakpoints of 15.  Not giving up, the Roundheads counterattack.  Having sustained heavy casualties from both artillery and melee, the Royalist horse on the left is destroyed by the trotters.  Casualties, likewise, mount on the Royalist right.
Melees rage on both wings
Royalist artillery continues bombarding the lead foot while the second supporting Royalist horse charges into the weakened trotter on the Royalist left.
Battle for control of the left
In the clash of horse and man, both of Brooke's horse are broken and scatter.  Royalist cavalry on the right wheel to threaten the foot.
Parly cavalry destroyed!
With one flank open and the other in jeopardy, artillery and musketry combine to hopefully stop Royalist cavalry from storming the heights.  Taking fire from two sources, the Royalist horse on the left take eight hits.  In the continuing pike vs horse melee on the right, the Royalist horse is approaching its breaking point with twelve hits.
Heavy fire from Roundhead forces
Undaunted by the heavy casualties, the remaining left wing Royalist horse charges up the hill and into the guns.  For now, the guns hold.
Into the guns!
With both flanks collapsing, Brooke presses on, deep into Royalist positions in the center.  While Parly musketry is getting too hot for the Royalist gun, Roundhead infantry charge into t
he Royalist foot.  
Brooke counters in the center
Push of pike
In the exchange, Royalists lose both the guns and a horse regiment.  The threat to the Brooke's left has dissipated.  Casualties rise rapidly in the infantry scrum near the bridge.
Royalist gun and horse are lost
On the heights, Royalist horse is not making much progress against the two Roundhead guns.  In the valley, Royalist dragoons pour heavy fire into the foot but run out of ammo in so doing.  Royalist foot gain the upper hand in the push of pike and scatter the Roundhead infantry.  Severely weakened by their exertions, the Royalist foot falls to musketry from the Roundhead foot astride the road.

Parly foot destroyed
Royalist foot destroyed
Facing two Roundhead foot, the remaining Royalist dragoons charge into the badly mauled foot standing astride the road.  Teetering on destruction, one little shove is all it takes to destroy the Roundhead foot.  Finally, on the heights, the Royalist cavalry goes down.
Dragoons lead a desperate charge
Roundhead foot bear down on the dragoons
With the Parly artillery immobile, only two active units remain on the field.  Having taken heavy casualties, the Royalist dragoons turn and charge into the remaining Parly foot in an attempt to hold the field.
The last clash
On the brink of destruction itself with fourteen hits, the lone remaining Roundhead foot regiment finished off the Royalist dragoons.
Parliament Victory
Parliament is victorious but only just!

While a typical game lasts 15 turns, this engagement took 12 turns to decide.  It was a close contest, for sure.  The outcome came down to the last melee with a Roundhead foot only one hit away from destruction being able to eliminate the badly damaged dragoons. 

That came down to a nail biter and the last roll!  The game played quickly and almost certainly took less than one hour to complete.  The inclusion of artillery in the variant was a good addition but there remain a few changes I may consider.  First to address is the interaction between artillery and attacking cavalry (or infantry).  Even attacking uphill, the Royalist horse ought to have been able to either overcome or at least break off.  Once stuck in, units may not break off the melee.  Perhaps cavalry ought to be able to perform such a maneuver and call off when engaged in hand-to-hand combat?

Units can rack up hits at an almost alarming rate.  With no interpenetration allowed, Royalists may have been better served to field their horse abreast rather than in tandem.  Still, lots to think about and I now have a good feel for Thomas' OHW rules.  Next OHW game may actually witness some tactical finesse.  More analysis to follow on OHW.  

The next game in the series will move up the complexity scale with my introduction of Impetvs Basic Baroque.


  1. Great looking units and After Action Report writing (a lovely read) looking forward to your Impetvs Basic Baroque article....well done Jon!


    1. Thank you very much, Phil! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Very nice write up and photos. Great looking minis too!

  3. A very attractive set up. Your figures look very good, too. I found your report on the ECW OHW variant most helpful, as I want to embark on that period for small, tactical games - perhaps linked by a campaign system like that in 1644 - but without having to learn complex rules.
    I look forward to reading how you fared with Basic Baroque.

    1. OHW rules would certainly fit the bill for small actions with short, uncomplicated rules. I think the pike and shot rules section needs some amendments and clarifications but the basic mechanisms are solid.

  4. Great battle report - good to see the figures out on the table! I would suggest that the inability to break off from melee fairly reflects the way that battles in the ECW played out. It may be annoying not to have much control, but I'm sure Charles I gritted his teeth every time his horse disappeared in to the distance!
    In my GNW rules I give artillery a devastating close range volley (+3) to represent canister, but automatic elimination if contacted in hand to hand. This makes them hard to charge but doesn't tie troops up in a slogging match with artillery. I also wonder whether ECW artillery should be half hits at long range - it was a pretty ineffective battlefield arm all things considered? Then allow full d6 hits at short range perhaps? It is a very 'tinkerable' system.

    1. Very good to see that you enjoyed the BatRep, Nate! It has been a very long time since my ECW collection has seen the light of the game room. Good to get them out and into action.

      For your GNW variant, are you basing your variation on the P&S rules or the Horse and Musket rules? H&M rules have a RETREAT rule for cavalry that do not defeat an enemy. I think this same rule might apply to P&S and cavalry against pike armed foot.

      Artillery only has one range. At what point are you making the break between short and long? For cavalry vs artillery requires more thought.

      Good input!

    2. My artillery short range is equivalent to one infantry move - 15cm/6". It means at least 1 turn for infantry in the beaten zone. The GNW is basically the H&M rules, with period flavour added. I have my units recoil from combat if they take 4 hits in a single turn (my units take 16 hits rather than 15 - I'm a square sort of person) so 25% of original unit strength. Have a look at the rules page on my blog - you'll see quite a few deviations from the original, although the core mechanics remain.

    3. If you remove stands, your amendment of 4 x 4 = 16 total hits is a good one. As I read the rules, I kept thinking what prompted a hit threshold of a '15' hit total? Was this from extensive playtesting, On Recoil, what prompted the decision to Recoil on 4 hits in one turn vs loss of a stand? Loss of a stand would be a visual trigger. Losing two stands in one turn could lead to a double Recoil.

      I will take a look at your H&M variant.

  5. Nice one Jonathan! Great report and beautiful tables and figures.


  6. Nice report and critique of the OHW rules. Writing rules seem to chiefly be a compromise between depicting realism while creating a playable and fun gaming frame. I personally don't like when that frame is too restrictive or adds can't/don't to unit abilities. Better to add difficult command dice rolls as a filter on unlikely/complicated maneuvers. I think you could probably get a nice result, if you make small adjustments to the gaming engine, giving it your own periodical feeling.

    1. Thanks, Soren!

      We view the wargame design world through the same rose-colored glasses.

  7. Nicely done, a beautiful report with great looking minis, well explained...very nice!

    1. That is a fine compliment, Phil! Much appreciated!

  8. That really was quick and decisive!
    Such a detailed report makes it easy to decide whether these rules are for you or not. Added to that are the excellent photos of your most attractive figures.
    It's interesting that wargames rules seem to have gone full circle back to the simple, yet effective sets put together by the likes of Featherstone, Grant and Zimmermann, with their focus on minimalist rules and the game. I wonder whether the 'fashion' will swing again to ever more detail, complexity and special rules, or settle somewhere around a happy medium? Perhaps the 'blessing' is to have all levels available simultaneously to suit tastes, scales and time availability?

    1. Hi James!

      Yes, that was quick and decisive. Your kind comments are most welcome.

      In OHW, I am uncertain whether playing to the "Last Man" is good thing, though. Maybe adding an army Breakpoint might be something to consider?

      I agree with your assessment of circularity and pendulum swings in wargame design. I have witnessed at least one circuit of that trend. Could the cycle be related to the demographics of gamers? Cycles are bound to repeat.

      Your observation could be the source of many an interesting post and discussion.

    2. "Maybe adding an army Breakpoint might be something to consider?"

      For the scenarios in the book, with only six units per side and with an objective to be attained, the break point probably makes things too difficult. However for games like this, or games with 7-12 units per side maybe, I would see it as being a useful addition.

  9. Great looking game and fine narrative/rules exposition. They seem like they would work well with a few tweaks for small actions!

    In very broad terms, I suspect that preferred rules complexity varies with age:

    Very young/new to the hobby - very simple rules
    at adolescence and Young Adulthood - complex rules.

    Middle age - as work and family demands restrict hobby time, less complex rules, bolstered by the realization that no matter how complex the rules, it is still a GAME, and the player's decisions are and should be the prime drivers of the outcome.

    Retirement (I'll let you know in 10 or more years) Perhaps the Soggybotom Living Assistance Center for retired Kriegspielers
    (SLACK)? The aides there help set up and take down the games, in addition to their other duties, replacing the Recreation Therapy Dept! :-)

    1. Thanks, Peter! With a recommended force size of between four and six units, OHW would be well suited for small scale actions.

      Cannot disagree with your logic regarding game complexity and aging. Are we in a bi-modal trough whereby the young and the old dominate historical gaming? Has the Adolescent/Young Adult cohort been squeezed out or engaged in other activities?

      Retirement Community for Wargamers...I like that notion!

  10. Great bat rep , seems like a very bloody action, lovely looking figures, I look forward to seeing how it goes with impetus

    1. Thanks, Iain!

      It was a very bloody affair, for sure!
      With neither force breakpoints nor morale rules, everyone fights to their final Hit Point and last unit.

      I wager Impetvs provides for a different feel to the game. We will see.

  11. Very, very impressive, Jonathan!

  12. Replies
    1. Glad you approve! My plan is to refight this battle twice more under two more rulesets.

  13. Excellent AAR and I like your well painted miniatures.


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