|Herbert Gusset, the Earl of Grantham, rides out...|
One idea I've had for this year's gaming is a British Civil Wars campaign. I have all the armies and plenty of terrain and a couple of regular opponents so it should be relatively easy to get something up and going.
I play this period using Phil Barker's DBR rules and like them. The reasons why are like them are expressed far better than I could do by Keith McNelly here:
Keith expands on one characteristic of this rule set in another article here:
One of the distinguishing features of DBR is the option of playing in one of two scales. I believe the flexibility this brings to gaming is well suited to the civil wars in Britain where the vast majority of the engagements were skirmishes and sieges. As Keith points out:
Lets first consider the smaller points budgets, say 100 points. Using normal scale and such a points budget engagements between small armies of 1,000 to 1,500 men can be modeled... the first engagement of the English Civil War at Powick Bridge pitted some 1,000 Parliamentarian horse and dragoons against a similar number of Royalists.
And later on in the piece:
- Minimum bookeeping
- The ability to generate games quickly and with little fuss but in the context of a wider narrative structure
- Balanced games that can be played solo or with an opponent or two but which allow players to choose which side they are playing from game to game, so as to encourage the unfolding history book approach rather than it becoming a competitive event.
- Something that provides an intellectually satisfying distraction from real life.
This is starting to look very attractive. The sharp eyed among you will see that there are even a couple of civil war battle sites on the above map at Ambridge itself and also at Francester.
So, here's a go at providing a background for a campaign set in our fictional English midlands county of Borsetshire on the Welsh Marches starting in the summer of 1642, as King and Parliament start to raise armies.
According to Wikpedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borsetshire , the two major towns in the county are the cathedral city of Felpersham in the east and the county town of Borchester roughly 17 miles to the west. Obviously, in the 17th Century there would be no railways and, for our purposes, the Felpersham canal doesn't exist either. The road network would be roughly similar, excluding the modern ring road at Borchester, although it would be made up of little more than rough tracks that would be well nigh impassable in the winter months. The river Perch and river Mercer are navigable to to barge traffic.
Borchester is the commercial and adminstrative centre of the county and the local notables, led by a cabal of merchants and minor gentry of godly protestant persuasion, are for Parliament. There is a local trained band in the town and a limited supply of weapons and ammunition in the county magazine.
Felpersham is the seat of the Anglican Bishop, and the governing class, led by the landowning gentry, are for the King. The Lord Lieutenant is the Earl of Grantham, Herbert Gusset, who has extensive lands in the county but rarely visits it. The Royalists see Borsetshire as being of some value given it's proximity to the recruiting grounds of Wales, and the fact it sits astride the so called 'King's Way' from the principality to Oxford, a city where he enjoys great support and which will become his headquarters. It's strategic significance is further underlined by its location on the north-south axis from the midlands and north west England to the gateway to the West Country at Gloucester.
By September 1642 however the King is still in Shrewsbury, to the north, recruiting and raising funds for arms. The Parliamentarian field army under the Earl of Essex is marching on Worcester and a sharp skirmish, the first of the war, has just taken place at Powick Bridge between Prince Rupert's cavalry and that of Parliament.
In Borsetshire, several troops of horse, together with some dragoons and commanded shot have marched from Felpersham and crossed the Am at Ambridge. They are probing and scouting the defences of Borchester with a view to assessing whether an attempt can be made to storm the town.
The leader of the Parliamentarian forces in Borsetshire is Edward Dighurst. who has already raised his own regiment of foot to reinforce the Borchester Trained Band and who has enlisted the services of one Alastair Begby, a Scottish veteran of the wars in Germany, and an experienced engineer. The medieval defences of Borchester are being strengthened with earthworks and the Parliamentarians are also seeking to fortify manor houses at Perivale, Leyton Cross and Lakey Green. Word of Royalist troops to the south of the town leads Dighurst to send forth a detachment of horse and commanded shot to see if he can seize the river crossing at Ambridge at cut the King's men off from Felpersham.
On 24 September, the day after the opening action of the war at Powick Bridge, the little known skirmish at Ambridge takes place.