Trow Green Reality

The header image is the Forest of the Dean in Gloucestershire from Britain and Britishness crediting to Baz Richardson, flickr. 

I recently had a major server meltdown due to Microsoft needing to put new security layers on windows 10 because of a recently discovered (and catastrophic) hardware exploit in the Intel chip architecture. Because of hardware incompatibilities, my system got toasted. Still pretty much recovering but have been able to get access to at least some of my pictures and notes. -d_guy. 

To become more practiced in For King and Parliament prior to its release I continue to play out small scenarios based on the Trow Green setup. While the original is quite fanciful (and I will report of the original scenarios hopefully soon) this version has a fair basis in reality.

The Battle of Winnington Bridge in Cheshire occurred during Booth’s Rebellion in 1659. A poorly organized force of Royalists was routed by Lambert’s cavalry just a few months shy of the restoration of Charles II.

Two “squadrons”* of Lambert’s Regiment of Horse (Lt. Col. Benthnell) take on the foot “Brigade” of Royalist rabble (Capt. Bellamy). I also removed “Trow Common” as an impediment to movement to give the simplest of engagements:

TG-CAV-1

With just a single “Brigade” on each side, command and control is rather simple. Likewise, the  use of cards to decide initiative takes on its most basic form – one card per side. As foot cannot charge horse, Bellamy has few options (an organized withdraw being prehaps the best choice!). Even with the cards, Bellamy is forced to be simply reactive to Benthnell’s highly mobile force.

Logically Benthnell should use that mobility to move around Bellamy’s flanks and force him to change facings until an opportunity for a flank or rear charge presents itself. Any concerns about even meager firepower (detached shot tokens) have been removed in this scenario, so Benthnell should be able to maneuver at leisure.

Not having the patience for a game of maneuver, however, I decided to make Benthnell both confident and impetuous. He has well trained and motivated troops, many veterans of long service, and the enemy is, after all, simple rabble! He charges headlong into them.

The rabble now also have “untried” markers (sheep) which mean they have to do a rout test the first time any of several conditions occur. Being charged is, not surprisingly, one of them.

TG-CAV-2

The right flank rabble unit failed its rout test and was disordered before being hit by the full force of a charge, even so they managed to hold! The same occurred in the center. The horse gets it’s normal two to-hit cards plus two for their pistols and one more for the foot not having pikes. They pulled 6-2-2-3-8. Eight and above is a hit and their commander redraws for one of the twos and gets a seven. No help. The rabble draw a nine and save the hit. The left hand horse unit was unable to re-activate and the turn was over.

I realized shortly after the picture was taken that I should have drawn an extra card for the expended dash in the center.  I did so but failed to get a hit.

The FK&P rules concept of “Dash”** adds an essential feature to the horse. They can’t keep operating at full tilt indefinitely (nor can their pistols be fired repeatedly). When they hit the enemy the first time they need to maximize the damage. It is worth noting that had a horse unit managed to charge from the flank or rear they would have doubled their total number of cards, hence the attractiveness of maneuver.

Without firearms and not having the ability to charge horse, the rabble stand and glare at the enemy. Two of their units are now disrupted but withstood the initial charge of the enemy (although failing to inflict any damage).

 

TG-CAV-3

Activating with a four, the left hand horse charges again. No longer having their pistols they now have only four to-hit cards (regular two plus one dash and one for attacking foot without pikes). They score one hit (the eight) but the rabble again save. Because the rabble are disrupted they need nines or tens to score hits and fail.

I like that the to-save values remain fairly constant (effected mainly by the defensive terrain the unit might be in) helping to keep the outcome calculations fairly simple.

TG-CAV-4

The right hand horse draws a ten for activation causing the attached officer to try for something lower. The redraw is a two. The four to-hit cards (another expended Dash) score one hit (the nine) but the rabble, maintaining their unbroken string of spectacular draws, gets the save.

TG-CAV-5

The left-hand horse reactivates (with a six – the minimum they need) and expends their last dash in another charge. They are still unable to score a single hit (3-3-6-6), but the intrepid rabble (their cause being just!) score two hits (8 and 9) and the horse (2 and 3) can save neither. The right hand horse expended their last dash as well with similar results (although they received no casualties).

Another oops! Because the right flank rabble are disordered, they should score hits only on nines and tens, the eight should not have counted. This is one of the areas where solo play is disadvantaged, a hawk-eyed (and self interested) opponent would have immediately disallowed the hit! As we shall see the mistake would have little effect on the game.

Incidentally, wargame rules use “disordered”, “disorganized”, and “disrupted” to mean similar things (that is, a less than optimum condition) which is brought about by a variable number of events, often involving the taking of “casualties”. The appropriate term in FK&P is “disorder” (but I may occasionally slip-up in my usage). I tend to think of unsaved hits in FK&P as “casualties” but it is slightly more abstract than that. A “disorder” may be removed under certain conditions. It is even possible to slowly remove multiple “disorders” given sufficient time (turns) in a safe space and good card draws. That said, I’ll undoubtedly refer to unsaved hits (“disorders”) as “casualties” from time to time!

The horse is now “blown” (no dash) and is fighting on a fairly even footing with the rabble foot (the horse still get an extra to-hit card since the foot is not pike armed). They have also lost their mobility, being able to move only one box per activation.

TG-CAV-6

The left-hand horse charges again but score no hits (the eights no longer count since they are disorganized). The rabble foot do no better with their two to-hit draws.

TG-CAV-7

The right-hand horse activates with a nine (this time the commander decides to accept the high activation) and attacks the center foot. The three to-hits deliver 10-10-1! The commander uses his replay to try to improve the 1 and draws a 2. The foot (drawing 1 and 3) is unable to make a save, acquires two more disorders and is routed. The 2 next to Capt. Bellamy indicates he was not hit (a 1 would have done so ) and he will remove to the unit on his left.

TG-CAV-8

The right flank foot must now test to see if the routing of the center unit affects them. They get two tries to pass but fail both (3-3) and acquire a second disorder. The left flank foot (which still has its “untried” marker), must first test for being untried and fails (6), receiving a disorder. They must then do a second test (two tries this time) because of the routed center unit and succeed on the first try (9). The “untried” marker will now be removed.

TG-CAV-9

The left-hand horse now manage to reactivate (8, 3 over the original 5) and charge getting 4-4-10 on their to-hit cards. The rabble attempt to save but draw an abysmal 2. This third disorder finishes them and they are routed.

TG-CAV-Last

The rabble have now lost 2/3 of their force and the game is over.

In the end the outcome is as was expected, the horse despatched the rabble foot. A favorite statement by sportscasters is “the game was much closer than the score implies.” The foot got very good draws a good deal of the time and the horse, by-and-large, didn’t. Even with the poor draws (and the near catastrophic number of disorders placed on the left-hand horse), the result of it all can be called “realistic”.

I hobbled the horse by taking away their mobility and relying solely on their initial shock value (which may even be considered a “realistic” use by cavalry commanders of a later period). The mid to late Seventeenth Century was witness to more than just a radical transformation of infantry weapon and tactics, but saw the cavalry moving away from being simply a mobile firing platform back to its more traditional speed and shock role.

In some ways this engagement prefigures a post-1700 combat. Shock horse against linear infantry with bayonets (missing, of course, the devastating defensive volleys fired by the foot). At some point FK&P will get extended to at least the War of Spanish Succession (and prehaps later). When that happens it MIGHT be interesting to give Horse three to-hit cards (eliminate pistols but allow an extra card for dash) but allow foot a defensive fire of two cards. I don’t know enough yet, however, to proclaim this a reasonable change.

Now to see if I can find the pictures and notes for the larger Trow Green battles I did.

——

* I’m not sure when “Squadron” as a subdivision of a horse regiment came into official use. As with the foot (where “Battalia” seems to have ultimately morphed into a “Battalion” as a regimental sub-division of about 500 men.), squadron seemed to be used as a term to indicated several troops but not the entire regiment of horse.

** I’ll wait until the rules are officially available to get into the detailed mechanics of Dash. I greatly appreciate the amount of thought that went into how the horse works AND that there is a strong realization that really good combat horses were not in infinite supply. Peter Edwards’s excellent, Dealing in Death – The Arms Trade and the British Civil Wars, 1638-52, has much useful information on this subject.

7 thoughts on “Trow Green Reality

  1. I must admit I did not read all of this post. Not being an active game player, this post made little sense to me. It emphasizes how little I know about war gaming. I’m impressed as always with your knowledge of the history, battle tactics of the time period, and the procedures of war gaming.

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  2. Hi Bill,

    Another great account. I wouldn’t have believed it possible to create a fun encounter with two such limited sides, but you prove me wrong again. I have spotted one more minor Oops! Moment. Benthnell, as he is not rated Gallant, cannot replay a combat card, only an activation! In your speculation regarding WSS, I am already thinking along similar lines. No pistols (although there may be a case for some horse early in the war, more research needed) but I need to come up with some variants for infantry fire. Of course, horse already get three cards without pistols, one dash and two melee. I am hard at work on a Ramillies Scenario for starters, no point in half measures! I already have all the figures.

    Best,

    Andrew

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  3. Andrew – thanks for the close read – very much appreciate it and part of why I often do reviewable details. Yes – good catch! In the end he needed all the help he could get so as not to let the side down, so he was retroactively gallant. 😀

    Fun rules!

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    • SPlendid! I fully expect them to perform like all newly painted troops, and pull a succession of disasters from the card pile of victory 😀

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  4. Pingback: The Battle Fought – Trow Green | In Red-coat Rags Attired

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