Saturday, 12 March 2016

Battle of Worcester 1651

Mark was free for a game and we decided to play ECW Principles of War as we hadn't played this period in a very long time.  Won't bore you with the details other than this is the last battle of the Civil Wars in which King Charles II of Scotland attempts to avenge his fathers death by using a Scottish army to secure England against Cromwell and Parliament.  With the odds against him he is cornered at Worcester and the last Royalist Army is destroyed and Britain becomes a military dictatorship under Cromwell for the next decade.  Wikipedia and the Battlefield Trust have very good write ups on the campaign and battle.

Mark elected to go Cromwell and I attempted to keep the Royalist cause alive!

Above is the battlefield.  The River Severn cuts north up the table whilst the River Teme flows into the Severn from the west.  Cromwell has two pontoons across the Teme and Severn at their confluence.  Midway on the Teme is Powick Bridge which has been partly demolished (Incidentally, this is where the first clash of the Civil Wars began!).  The road then continues to the parish of St John where it divides towards Wales and Worcester.  Worcester is a fortified city with an intact bridge across the Severn.  King Charles is holding Worcester and a star fort to its East called Fort Royal.  Parliament troops hold the hills to the east of Worcester, Cromwells main veteran troops are massed on the hill to the south and a strong Parliamentarian force is positioned to the south of the Teme.  Between Powick and the Severn a Scots contingent is trying to prevent a crossing and a small Scots Cavalry reserve is in position at St Johns ready to reinforce either flank.

Mark decides to launch an assault with all three commands, trusting in his numerical superiority and better quality troops.  The Scots only advantage is the terrain and interior lines of communication.  I have to decide where to hold and where, if possible, I can launch an attack.  I decide to reinforce Charles with the cavalry and launch a counter attack from Worcester.

Fortunately for me, Mark hadn't appreciated that the force he had ordered to assault Fort Royal was his weakest.  He understood that the fall of the fort would result in an army morale check for the Scots and he hoped that this would assist his assaults to the south.  He hadn't expected a counter attack from the weak Scottish army!

With his superior artillery he was able to repulse the Scottish dragoons weakly holding the crossing.  Determined to exploit this success, a veteran brigade of infantry stormed across the pontoons.  Without confidence (my dice had been predictably shocking) I flung a Scots brigade against it and hoped that my superior pike ratio might tip the balance - it did - and as Mark rolled a twenty I couldn't help rub it in with a Phil-like victory jig!  Mark tried to recover by throwing his cuirassiers across the bridge but miraculously the weakened Scots grimly saw them off.

Mark had not expected this set back and instead of supporting Cromwells attack from his southern force he had ordered them to use their artillery to drive away the flimsy Scots defence around Powick Bridge and then use planks to storm across.  He had hoped that this would stretch the thin Scottish line and help with a quick collapse in  this sector.  However, a battery of Scots light artillery delayed the advance and the stout defence of the pontoon had enabled the local Scottish commander to redeploy his meagre force to repel this next attack.

Meanwhile, the defence of the river had enabled Charles to attack in the north.  Mark had quickly launched assaults against Fort Royal and I barely held the position (again shocking dice!).  However, as the garrison of Worcester emerged with Charles at their head they were able to hold the Parliamentarian attack, and then as the cavalry reinforced the King, flanks were charged and within a few moves the whole Parliamentarian force had routed!  The Royalists had won and history had been reversed.

Mark had relied on an aggressive plan when perhaps holding the force in the north on defence would have been prudent.  He had been unlucky in his attacks across the Severn and although the assault across the Teme looked feasible, the battle would not be won in the 16 turns we decided the game should last.  Also, another objective was the closing of all roads to Worcester, and with the Welsh road and the Stratford road open the Royalists had secured another two objectives.

My army had been weakened in the fight outside Worcester and I didn't fancy heading south to attack Cromwell's still impressive army.  Therefore, I think the King would probably retreat in the night along one of the open roads.

This was a great fight with some very hard decisions for both sides.  I think this would play well with more players and I will put it on again for all of us.

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