Wrotham Common

“Sir, We hear by letters that the Lord Morton will be in West Melfordshire this day or soon after. Whether he will go northward or southward we know not, but we earnestly desire you to take order for the best intelligence which way he marches, and that your forces may be at such places as may most conveniently succour in the north if there be occasion, or if Lord Morton shall march southward that he may not get between your army and these parts. We doubt not but you will forthwith send such succour into Melfordshire as may suppress the enemy in their recruitment and secure your association.”

Sir Francis Pickwick placed the letter from London on the table and pondered its implications once more. In an attempt to halt a string of Royalist victories, in which Lord Morton had defeated a large Roundhead force just two weeks prior and taken two fortifications with his significant siege train in the days after he, Sir Francis, had been dispatched by Parliament to restore Parliamentarian fortunes in the county of Melfordshire. Finally the elusive Morton, and his Royalist army that had done such damage, had been bought to battle…

Despite much of his horse being detached, and discarding much of the baggage, Sir Francis marched his army briskly towards Morton, determined to bring him to battle. Then, on the 27th day of  March, Sir Francis deployed his army on the fields near the village of Wrotham. To his front lay several enclosures and in the distance a low hill just northeast of Wrotham. The Roundheads comprised 3,600 foot arrayed in six regiments and were supported by 600 harqubusiers, 200 dragoons and a small number of sakers and other light pieces. Below, several troops of Colonel Thomas Harrison’s Regiment of Horse on the Roundhead left.

Lord Morton has a tendency to field a significant number of gunnes, no doubt ideal for the reduction of several fortified positions in Melfordshire. The most recent engagement was to be no different. Opposite the ranks of the Roundheads a significant number of Royalist sakers, supported by a number demi-culverins, were deployed. To their left and right were a number of Royalist foot. Saftely to the rear a number of Royalist horse took up a position near Morton and other Papist gentlemen.

The battle opened with a barrage of cannon fire. Sir Francis engaging Royalist foot on the hill on the Royalist left. In contrast the gunnes of the Royalists, massed on the centre right, engaged a range of targets. The demi-culverins fired diagonally across the Royalist lines to engage the Roundhead right while the sakers engaged, more conventionally, the Roundhead centre.

Sir Francis was the first to move and ordered forward a number of musketeers from Goode’s Regiment to occupy the village of Wrotham. The commanded shot gained the gained the village and caused much consternation to the Royalists. Unfortunately, the Royalists reformed, and with a greater numbers drove out the Goode’s commanded shot, the valiant forlorn suffering heavy casualties. Once ensconced in Wrotham however the Royalists achieved little.

Above, commanded shot of Goode’s Regiment are driven back in Wrotham.

In the centre things were more confusing. Initially Parliamentary dragoons advanced to disrupt the Royalist positions and, on the extreme left, drove back the Royalist dragoons. The advance in the centre resulted in the piecemeal advance of Royalist foot, which in turn prevented the Royalist gunnes from firing. Soon the Roundhead foot, more formed than their opposite number, advanced allowing the musketeers to ply their deadly trade.

Sensing they were gaining an advantage a number of Roundhead surged forward with clubbed musket and sword. Unfortunately they were pushed back and soon both forces reformed engaging instead in increasingly ineffective musket fire.

Below, the centre with Royalists on the right somewhat broken up while the Roundheads advance. Two troops of Parliamentarian horse, under Elias Batchelor, advance in support ready to engage the Royalists with carbine or pistol.

On the Roundhead left things were equally confusing. A number of dragoons under Captain Daniel Abbott – known for his zeal to the Parliamentarian cause, had earlier been successful against their opposites were now forced back when Royalist horse moved forward to counter them. Caught by enemy shot and horse before they could retire, the dragoons were ridden down. Abbott himself was fortunate to escape. Despite this, their action covered the advance of two Roundhead regiments who now pressed forward to engage the pursuing cavaliers as the sun set on the field.

Above, two troops of Royalist horse fall back from after having pursued too far and encountered the ordered pike of Vincent Boyce’s Bluecoats. To Boyce’s left can be seen a portion of William Wade’s Redcoats, veterans also.

As the light faded neither army was demoralised. Yet, Lord Morton had had enough. As the hour was late and with victory robbed from him, the Royalists quit the field. After a string of Parliamentary defeats in Melfordshire honour had been finally restored.


Sumatran Expeditions 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any game photos, so I thought a few photos of this evening’s DBR game would be in order. Now, my weekly Tuesday evening opponent recently purchased a Turkish army and after several games, where I have fielded a traditional pike and shot army, I decided a change was in order. After pondering a few options I decided on fielding my Sumatran army. Our regular weeknight gaming slot is reasonably short so our armies comprise just 300 points. Hard choices must be made in troop selection and army composition. We both opted for two commands, so PIPs were always going to be at a premium.

The Ottoman main command comprised both foot and mounted while the other command was primarily mounted supported by a number of bombards. In contrast the Sumatran army was more symmetric in composition with warriors, archers and elephants divided reasonably equally between the two commands.

With the weather determined the Sumatran commander ordered a rapid advance. Opposite the Turkish commander attempted to work each flank, hold with his centre while riding down the Sumatran foot with his massed sipahis opposite the Turkish left.

Combat was soon joined, first as Sumatran archers began to breaking up some of the Ottoman mounted and then, more critically as the Sumatran sword and spearmen became locked in combat with the aggressive Ottoman sipahis. Fortunately, the Sumatran foot were victorious in some combats while holding in others.

Above, some Sumatran warriors have broken through the enemy and pursued forward.

While Turkish bombards broke up some of the troops to their front other Sumatran foot pressed forward against Janissaries opposite. Now both commanders struggled to exploit the situation.

Below, a general view of the battlefield just prior to the Turkish left flank collapsing. 

Below, Sumatran foot prepare to charge the Turkish bombards in the centre. Two of the three bombards were actually overrun in the ensuing combats.

On the Sumatran left the Turks attempted to turn the now very exposed Sumatran left. Sumatran archers, fragile at best, along with elephants were thrown forward in a desperate attempt to protect the Sumatran foot engaged in a determined clash with the resolute Janissaries. 

However, the prophet would tonight, it seems, be with the Muslims of Sumatra. With casualties mounting the Ottoman host had suffered enough, and broke. 

A fascinating and enjoyable game, all resolved in 2 1/4 hours. Rumour has it that next week my opponent will be fielding his Royalists, their ranks expanded by new recruits. Another great game will be on the cards I’m sure…

Fortified Churches of Stari Grad

In a recent edition of “Arquebusier” (Vol. 35/1), the Journal of the Pike and Shot Society, Conrad Cairns provided an interesting article on “The Fortified Churches of Croatia and Transylvania”. The article covers a range of fortified churches over an extended geographical area and is supported by a small selection of photos. However, I thought readers of the article may find several additional photos of interest. The following were taken during my four days in the picturesque town of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar.

First up is the Church of St Jerome, centre foreground below. The church is literally on the seafront on the northern part of the inlet. I’ve included two photos of the church which, when I visited was empty. I understand the building is occasionally used for art exhibits. Mr Conrad’s article suggests the tower was added.

Another view, this time from the side.

Also mentioned in the article was the Church of St Peter the Martyr, part of the Dominican Monastery. Today this imposing complex is difficult to photograph from the town side due to its size and proximity to many other buildings. More useful photos can be taken from outside the old town as the monastery sits on the outskirts of the old town.

Below, another view this time from the town side. The bell tower is a later addition, though interestingly it’s base uses stones from the Ancient Greek city walls.

Below, another photo this time from inside the monastery in the courtyard.

The monastery suffered two attacks by the Turks including the devastating attack of 1571, when the monastery, and the town, was sacked by the Turks. Information outside the monastery indicates the two round towns were added in 1586.

On a side note the small museum inside the monastery includes some interesting artefacts from the Greek foundation of the town, originally called Pharos, and should be viewed in addition to those displayed in the small town museum.

Ramblings on Recruitment

I’ve been mulling over my views of competitions, points systems and variety in games following another excellent English Civil War game this week. One of the old chestnuts of wargaming that often raises its head is that of points budgets, points values and army effectiveness. It’s an interesting debate and one that is certainly not restricted to the Renaissance gaming community. I routinely use points budgets to assist with balancing games, but I tend to feel that points based games have too great an impact on rules and therefore games. I thought I would post a few thoughts on points values in DBR games, though I suspect they are equally valid across a number of rules systems.

I think it’s reasonable to say that the DBR rules points system has a few basic flaws. Arguably some elements are too expensive, such as heavy artillery, while others are often considered too inexpensive. Examples of the latter are baggage and foot armed with firelocks. All are apparent when players start forming armies devoid of one type and using as many troops of another type. This was one aspect that “Kiwi Points” has tried to address, with reasonable, but not perfect results. Yet, these differences are made more apparent in “Open Competitions” where armies of very different periods face each other. I’m of the view that an early arquebusier is, for example a fine troop type when facing archers or even early caracoling Reiter, though terribly outclassed by firelock armed musketeers.

Looking at overall points budgets most games have a clearly defined budget. In DBR competitions these tended to range from 350 points to 400 point, with 400 point competitions being more popular under DBR v2. With the exception of Australia and New Zealand DBR competitions have all but died out, though even here the number of competitions are few in number. Within these remaining competitions 400 points as being standard in Australia and 400 or 450 points in New Zealand.

There is of course a balance here between satisfying selected players need to place models on the table, providing visual interest on the selected playing area, providing a balance between manoeuvre and being able to complete a game in the allocated time. I’m sure each player will have divergent views on the optimal game size. However, I think the points budgets that are normally used encourage repetitive play. They produce, in my view, games where armies are overly optimised and armies tend towards similarity. It is for example very common for a 400 point army to always have six stands of baggage. Why, well with this points budget your lists decision aren’t too restricted and as they cost vs value decision is such you would be silly not too.

In contrast I look at three recent English Civil War games I’ve played in recent weeks all played with 300 points. Partly we use this points budget as we only have a couple of hours for our Tuesday evening games. However, they really allow you to mix army composition up. Further, the points budget is so restricted some hard choices need to be made. As a result my opponent, using the Scots Covenantors, has to his credit fielded three very different armies. For my part I’ve tried some variations as well. The result is we have had three very different games.

I encourage players to add some variety in army list composition, ditch the “effective” list composition, consider some change to your traditional points budget and try something new. You may enjoy it.