Wednesday, October 14, 2015

ECW Battle of Southam - Ironsides

The final ruleset of the trilogy under scrutiny using the Battle of Southam as the baseline is Howard Whitehouse's Ironsides.  Actually, Whitehouse's Ironsides forms the foundation for my interpretation and amendments to his rules.  Earlier trials tested One-Hour Wargames (see Southam BatRep using OHW) and Basic Baroque Impetvs (see Southam BatRep using Impetvs).

As a reminder the battle began with the deployments illustrated in the photo below.
Initial deployment 
Parliamentarian Army under Lord Brooke leads off the battle by advancing his line from the heights.  Brooke's guns open up against Northampton's gun deployed near the river.  In a spot of excellent shooting or good luck, the Royalist gun is hit and retreats back across the river searching for safety among the buildings of town.  The Royalist gun was not to take any meaningful part in the remainder of the battle.
Royalist gun retreats to safety
Middleton's horse on the Royalist right charges towards Brooke's Left Wing horse under Fiennes.  Passing its Response Test, Fiennes' trotters counter charge as horse crash together.  Both horse regiments take casualties in an even fight.  With neither gaining an upper hand, both recall.
Middleton charges on the right
while Carnarvon charges on the left
Middleton v Fiennes
Keeping pressure on the Parly's left wing, Northampton's horse moves through Middleton and then launches a charge towards Fiennes.  Disordered from the clash with Middleton, Fiennes calls for his troopers to retreat from the hard-charging cavaliers.  Fiennes' troops just manage to stay out of reach of the Royalist horse as Northampton becomes disordered from the charge. 
Northampton Horse pass through Middleton
and targets Fiennes
but Fiennes avoids contact for now.
On the Royalist left wing, Carnarvon charges towards Goodwin's Horse opposite him.  Goodwin counter charges.  In the clash, both regiments suffer heavy casualties but Carnarvon suffers more and falls back in disorder.  Brooke's Right Wing horse under Goodwin pursues, catching Carnarvon in retreat.  Caught while falling back in disorder, Carnarvon's command scatters.
Carnarvon charges and Goodwin counters
Carnarvon caught in pursuit and destroyed
Seeing the destruction of Carnarvon, Clark leads his regiment of horse towards the now nearly exhausted horse of Goodwin.  Unable to respond, Goodwin's Horse is caught blown and cut down where they stand.   
Clark's Horse charges the blown horse of Goodwin
Caught blown, Goodwin is destroyed
Witnessing the destruction of Goodwin's Horse and with Clark bearing down on the nearest Roundhead Regiment of Foot, Brooke intervenes to stiff his regiment's resolve.  Brooke's Foot is able to form a hedgehog before Clark's Horse smashes into it.  Seeing the foot form hedgehog, Clark attempts to rein in his pursuit but hits Brooke's Foot, nonetheless.  Each combatant takes some casualties and Clark recalls away from the hedgehog.
Flush with victory, Clark targets Brooke's Foot
Luckily, Brooke is ready to repel the attacking horse
Horse v. a row of pikes
After light casualties, Clark recalls
Northampton takes initiative away from the Roundheads and presses on in the center with his foot while Clark withdraws out of musket range.  Not far enough from Fiennes' Horse to get up a full head of steam on the Royalist right, Northampton's Horse pursues the Roundhead horse who fails to stand in the face of the threat and retires.  Unfortunately, Fiennes is not able to fall back far enough and is caught by the pursuing Northampton.  Fiennes takes heavy casualties and flees the scene with the Cavaliers in hot pursuit.
Royalists advance in the center
while Northanpton attacks on the right
and scatters Fiennes' Horse
Having lost both cavalry wings, Brooke presses his foot forward in an attempt to defeat the Royalist center before Cavalier horse can return to the fight.  Lord Brooke joins his own regiment to rally them while Holles' Foot advances along the road to cover Brooke.  Hampden's Foot charges the dismounted dragoons near the main road.  The dragoons discharge their weapons to no effect before falling back in front of the Parly foot.
Parly foot advance in the center
Maintaining initiative Clark advances back into action on the Royalist left to threaten Brooke's Foot in hedgehog while Northampton's Foot charges the bristling hog.  To protect his comrades from a one-two punch from the Royalist horse and foot, Holles leads his regiment in a supporting charge.  Holles catches Northampton before he can contact Brooke.  With Northampton, himself, leading the charge, Holles' Foot is destroyed.  On the right center, the dragoons pour an effective volley into Hampden's advancing foot and the casualties suffered force Hampden to recoil.
Foot charge and counter charge
Holles intercepts Northampton
Seeing the destruction of Holles, both Brooke and Hampden disengage with Brooke making it back up onto the heights.  With Royalist horse in his rear and two horse, one dragoon, and one foot regiment to his fore, Brooke quits the field.
Roundhead foot retire
while Royalist forces press on.
A Royalist victory in an exciting and tactically interesting fight.  This game was decided in less than three full turns and played as quickly as any of the other two.  I would classify all three as fast play and all three produced entertaining contests.

Now that the soldiers have returned to their storage boxes, remaining to complete is a recap and summary of how these three sets of rules modeled the ECW battlefield.  What did I like and dislike about each?  What were their strengths and weaknesses?  After having played the same battle with three sets of rules, which set do I prefer?

From the BatReps from each of the three battles, which contest did the reader prefer and why? 


  1. My impression was:

    1st - Impetus
    2nd - Ironside
    3rd - One Hour

    But I was not there to feel how they went, so my impressions don't really count for much.

    -- Jeff

    1. Ah, Jeff, your impressions are valuable. That you could rank the three based solely on another's BatReps is commendable and I appreciate your participation..

  2. I love this idea. What a great way to decide which rule set you really like.

  3. Happy to look at such beautiful armies and charges, love the Ironside one!

  4. lovely looking game and painted units!

  5. I have to say I second Jeff, Impetus, Ironside and then one hour wargame, that's the impression I get from reading the bat reps so interested in what your view is! I'm using pike and shot for ecw,the war of three kingdoms or whatever it's currently called and quite liking it , maybe one more refight?
    All the best Iain

    1. Until I review my notes and cogitate on the topic a bit, I am uncertain whether Impetvs or Ironsides with get the top spot. There are features that I like in both. OHW will rank #3 for as it did for you and Jeff.

      I appreciate your assessment.

  6. Great looking game and AAR! It will be interesting to see which one you prefer.


    1. Hmm hard to say.

      I would say Ironsides tied with Impetus with One Hour bringing up the rear.

      I wasn't aware that HW, whose work I really admire, had written an ECW set. I'd be interested to hear what you have to make of them. .

    2. Christopher, thanks! I will know when the dust settles from the three actions.

    3. CK, that how I lean towards rankings too. Both Impetvs and Ironsides produced better games in my mind. I enjoyed all three, though.

      Whitehouse's Ironsides has been around for a very long time. His rules, Old Trousers, uses the same game engine. I discovered Ironsides in MWAN #93 in 1998. 1998? Yes, I have been playing this set of rules for nearly thirty years!

  7. I enjoyed all three, and they all seemed to give reasonable results. Thanks for the write ups and I look forward to your conclusions!

    1. I enjoyed all three games too, although, there are mechanisms I liked better than others.

      Glad you enjoyed the comparisons, Peter!

  8. Okay, Jonathan, the obvious solution to my mind is to pick a different ECW scenario and have a new "fight off" between "Ironside" and "Impetus".

    -- Jeff

    1. Good idea, Jeff! I have other neglected collections vying for table time, though. This was a fun exercise that has not quite yet run its course.

  9. Like above comments, I'd probably go with Impetus as a no1, not only because they play well, but also because you're using the same rules framework for the medieval/dark age period if I understand correctly. My parallel reference is the usage of the Black Powder family with Hail Caesar, Pike & Shotte and Last Argument of Kings. I don't play as often as I'd like (work and family life demands attention) so having a familiar system really makes it much easier to "fall into character" and remember rules after a gaming break of weeks if not months sometimes. This raises the quality of a game for me, as I really dislike stopping the game flow to constantly check quick refs or searching in rules books for a certain detail.

    1. Not only medieval as in Reconquista but Impetvs has been employed in Punic Wars and Great Italian Wars too. Even my Samurai Battles project got an Impetvs treatment. All have been very good fun.

      As for the Southam comparison, all three games (OHW, Impetvs, and Ironsides) were all played exclusively from the QRS. All played to conclusion quite rapidly.

      Having a familiar system able to leap across multiple periods helps with rules' retention, for sure. One must make sure that these inter-period hops don't result in games that all experience the same "sameness" if you know what I mean.

      Always appreciate your thoughtfulness, Soren.

    2. One of the problems we have had with our current ECW rule set ("Warr Without an Enemie") is that at first we kept inadvertently "cross-gaming" . . . that is applying 'rules' from other rule sets, not in fact the way our current set works.

      So, yes, familiar "rules" are an advantage in one way . . . but they do often get in the way when playing different rules.

      -- Jeff

  10. No intelligent thoughts to offer on any of these rules sets (other than OHW, too basic for my tastes) but your ECW figures look fantastic. I am always tempted by this period when I see figures nicely done.

    1. Michael! I can understand your position on OHW. For me, both Impetvs and Ironsides produced more interesting games in about the same amount of time. One size does not fit all...well, unless of course, your are referring to OHW!

      Happy to tempt you into ECW!

  11. OHW is definitely the worst of the lot. I do not know Ironsides in detail (so sorry if I missed some crucial bits), but are very much aware of BI. Based on that, I would vote for Impetus and then the reasoning:
    1) Impetus is always a bit of gamble, high risk, big reward situations and encourages to use certain units in daring way (but supported).
    2) Movement is relatively 'liberal', and to obtain flank attack, requires quite bit of work. In any case, movement system is not about exact angles and millimeters.
    3) Units tend to wear really fast in BI when they start falling apart.

  12. Jonathan, I am about to start playing ECW with the Ironsides rules, so I am VERY interested in exactly what changes you made to it!