Monday, 15 April 2013

Battle of Hazelhurst 1 February 1643 AAR

It's taken me a while to write this up - a combination of being busy at work and a bit  of a dip in enthusiasm for blogging and modelling this last couple of weeks, although I've been doing a fair amount of reading and thinking about my various campaigns and periods...

Anyway, readers will recall that the Royalists had embarked on a winter offensive in Borsetshire in early 1643. They successfully manoeuvred around the  outlying Roundhead defences of Borchester and were poised to attack the town from the north, an aspect where the defences were uncompleted but first had to force a crossing of the river Perch on the Hazelhurst road.

Parliament's men had marched out to meet them and after a cold night out in the field the scene was set for a battle.

Keith played the Parliamentary commander and had at his disposal a fair amount of artillery, including medium and light pieces, a couple of regiments of infantry and some harqubusiers which, as we were playing DBR, were graded inferior. His strength was the artillery, which meant he could sit back and bombard the Royalists with impunity (they had no artillery at all) until they were forced to attack. His other advantage was the river, which ran across the battlefield and which the Royalists would have to cross the close with his army. There was just one bridge and the state of the river was unknown at the beginning of the fight.

The snow covered battlefield with the Royalists in the foreground
Armies were 300 pts each and we played on a 4' x 3' table. We diced for who would be the defender (in DBR this determines who deploys first and, under our house variation, who gets to choose which table edge they deploy in front of). I ended up with the lower score so chose the side of the table that gave me the hill, merely to deny it to the Roundheads, and lined up in conventional style with the cavalry on the flanks in readiness for an advance on a broad front. I had some dragoons and cavalry positioned on the road ready to try and seize the bridge.

The Royalists advance - their formations have already been disrupted by Roundhead cannon fire

As the King's men moved forward, the Royalist commander sent some dragoons ahead to scout the river - would his men be able to cross it without too much difficulty? Alas for him the Perch was, on a dice throw, graded as 'tricky'. This meant any troops crossing had to do so in single element columns and had to throw 3 or higher to do so successfully and were reduced to 100 paces. The combination of these restrictions, particularly the 'single element column' rule, severely hampered any attempt to manoeuvre - under DBR's command and control rules, player initiative points (PIPs) for each command are diced for at the start of the player's bound. This meant that a regiment of foot fighting on a three element frontage would burn up three PIPs moving into the river, instead of just one - and that's before dicing to see if the move is possible at all. To make matters worse, should a column fail to roll a 3 plus, then no other attempts to cross may be made within 300 paces that bound! We agreed this restriction also applied to recoil moves, so an element in the river that had to recoil under fire was not guaranteed to able to do so, and in fact many elements were destroyed as they could not recoil.

The failure to scout the river before committing to a broad front strategy was, in short, a disaster for the Royalists. They simply could not make any headway and were shot to pieces as they floundered in the water.

On the left flank Royalist cavalry come under fire from Parliamentary light guns and caracoling pistoleers as they attempt to close

On the right the Royalists redeployed into column in an attempt to maintain cohesion as they tried to cross the Perch.

The King's men met with little success. A couple of elements of cavalry managed to close with their Roundhead counterparts who had advanced to the bank and fired on them as they attacked. With deep formations, overlaps and the advantage of defending the bank the factors were 6-2 in the Roundheads' wonder the Royalists were slaughtered.

A detachment of dragoons did manage to cross the bridge but was forced back by concentrated cannon fire. The infantry, including the well trained Welsh pikemen, never made it across the water. The commander of the Royalist cavalry was mortally wounded as he tried to lead by example and take a column of his men into the water.

The Royalist army soon broke, and little wonder.

Lesson learned - don't try and attack across a river in winter!

If I was playing this scenario again I wouldn't dice for attacker/defender. I'd have Parliament the defender and therefore deploying first and, if I were the Royalists I'd deploy the bulk of my troops a little way back from the river in column with my dragoons out front. The dragoons would scout the river and if it was paltry, and therefore easy to cross, I'd redeploy into line. Should it prove harder going then the only option would be to try and force the bridge.

Thanks to Keith for being such a good opponent, as usual.

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