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The Battle of Marston Moor, 1644


The English Civil War, Very Civile Actions, 28mm

Sometimes – just sometimes – you take part in a game that really takes your breath away. This was one of them – a game to remember. With over 2,500 figures involved the scale of the battle helped, but it also had a more going for it – colour, the spectacle and the enjoyment. This is what wargaming is all about!marston-moor-16Refighting the Battle of Marston Moor using a set of rules designed for “company-level” actions sound like madness, but it was certainly fun. We used Very Civile Actions, a free set of rules produced by The Perfect Captain. The typical regiment involved in our game was about 50 figures strong – a block of pikemen, two “sleeves” of muskets, and officers drums and colours out at the front. In fact, most infantry regiments had about three or four flags each, which made the tabletop incredibly colourful. Most cavalry regiments were 12 figures strong, and in the end we managed to represent just about every formation that fought in the real battle.marston-moor-18Just like the real thing, the battle began with a Parliamentarian advance. I say Parliamentarian, but half the “Allied” army was Scottish – the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant. On the Parliamentarian side the Earl of Manchester’s Eastern Association were on the left, Lord Fairfax’s Northern Association on the right, and the Scots under the Earl of Leven were in the centre, and made up a second and part of a third line. Master Cromwell commanded the Eastern Association cavalry on the left, Sir Thomas Fairfax had the Northern Association horse on the right, and the Scots horse was divided up in support behind the two.marston-moor-14Facing them, Prince Rupert and Lord Byron commanded the horse on the right, with just a small cavalry reserve left in the centre,  while Lord Goring commanded the Royalist cavalry on the left – the Northern Horse. Rupert’s foot deployed on the right of the Royalist centre, and as the battle began the Marquis of Newcastle’s Northern Foot marched onto the battlefield behind the Royalist left. The scene was set for one big battle, fought over two days in a hotel in Fife, Scotland.marston-moor-13The two cavalry wings were soon locked in a bloody little fight that lasted for several hours of gaming, with neither side gaining an advantage. Of course there were spectacular moments, the most notable being the near fatal wounding of Oliver Cromwell while leading a gallant charge against the Royalist horse. The situation on the Allied right was similar, as both sides seemed unable to drive off the enemy cavalrymen. Still, all those charges and counter-charges looked fantastic! marston-moor-09In the centre of the field the two long lines of infantry fought it out over the ditch – in parts a much larger one than was present on the real battlefield – but although the Royalists were pushed back, their line held until the end of the first day of gaming. Honours were just about even, and the Allied superiority in numbers hadn’t had a major effect, mainly because there wasn’t the space to deploy the second or third line of troops, waiting to enter the fray. It was still all to play for.marston-moor-02On Sunday morning we started again, and over the morning the tide began to turn. First, most of the front-line regiments were becoming depleted, but while the Royalists lacked much in the way of reserves, the Allies had fresh infantry regiments eager to enter the fray. These began to join the fight, either by replacing “spent” units or by filtering forward to augment the battered troops in the front line. On the Allied left Henry Ireton – having taken over from Cromwell – began to drive Rupert’s horse back, and then at a crucial moment – Rupert was thrown from his horse, where he was skewered by a Scottish lancer. A great cheer went up from the Parliamentarian players, and within an hour the remainder of his horse were either routed or isolated, fighting a hopeless battle against the triumphant horse of the Eastern Association and the Scots.  Huzzah for the Cause!  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not…marston-moor-01On the far side of the field Fairfax and Goring never achieved such a spectacular conclusion to their fight, but at least both sides didn’t collapse under the pressure. With the flank battle won Ireton began sending units round behind Rupert’s foot, supported by the last reserves of the Eastern Association foot. They fell on the flank and rear of Rupert’s foot regiments, and one by one they were forced to flee or surrender. In the centre and left the Royalist had held their own – in fact in the centre they even pushed the Scots back over the ditch, and defied all comers throughout the Sunday fighting. However, darkness was now deemed to be falling, and with the Royalist right in a state of collapse, it was clear that the Marquis of Newcastle would be lucky to pull his troops off to fight another day. Victory was duly awarded to the Parliamentarians,  but it was a surprisingly hard-fought game, and the issue was only really decided during the last two hours of a weekend of hard gaming..

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