Monday, 16 September 2019

Adwalton Moor - the Wargame

A combination of Fate and my own connivance with said deity, conspired to derail my plans to stage Cheriton over the weekend just gone. It's a tale of Football, Fate and Fawcets (Togger, Travails and Taps was the best British-English I could come up with).  Whilst searching through my files I came across some photos of a solo game of Adwalton Moor played back in April using my ECW rules. It was the 4th outing for the rules and they played well and just need a bit of tightening up.

Adwalton Moor was fought between Lord Fairfax's Parliamentarians and the Royalists under the Earl of Newcastle on 30 June 1643. In the initial contact the Parliamentarians drove off the Royalist advance guard, then continued until they met their main force. Fairfax's army, outnumbered two to one, nearly pulled off a stunning victory, but numbers eventually told and once the Royalists made a breakthrough Fairfax's forces were scattered to the winds. Eventually Lord Fairfax and his son (Sir Thomas - 'Black Tom') made it to Hull after various scrapes along the way. Sir Thomas had to take the long way round to Hull via Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire. The Parliamentarians lost Bradford and most of the rest of Yorkshire, but crucially were able to cling on to Hull.

The site of the battle lies a few miles south east of Bradford (or south west of Leeds, if you are of the Leodensian persuasion). The battle occurred as an encounter between the two forces on a long, narrow ridge bearing the road from Bradford to Wakefield. The two sides met on a saddle between two hills (Whiskett Hill to the north west, and Hangar Hill to the south east) on the ridge. Fairfax was heading south east from Bradford and Newcastle heading in the opposite direction. After the repulse of their advance guard, the Royalists deployed their musketeers in the enclosures, with the pikemen and horse some way behind by Hangar Hill. The Royalist musketeers were thrown back from the enclosures which were then occupied by Fairfax's men where they waited for the Royalists. The position was difficult to outflank because it was sited on a narrow ridge, the flanks of which were steep and difficult to manoeuvre on. It was going to be a head on clash in a restricted area.

It's at this stage that my wargame of Adwalton Moor commences. This wasn't a particularly tactical game. No sophistication. No room for manoevre. Layout of the hedges is obviously a simplification of what may have been there, and just marks the edges of what the Battlefield Trust map shows as 'Probable Enclosures'. The captions on the pictures below tell the story of the game.

Orders of Battle
The forces engaged were about 10,000 Royalists (split roughly 50:50 horse and foot) and about half that number of Parliamentarians, most of which were foot. See below for the Parliamentarian breakdown (I have nothing for the Royalists beyond the 50:50 split).

Lord Fairfax
Leeds Garrison          - 1200
Halifax area garrisons -   500
Lancashire foot          - 1200
Bradford Garrison      -  600
Horse                         - 650-700 (13 troops)
Clubmen                    - unknown

My toys are organised as follows:
  • Horse, 1 base of 3 figures = 1 troop. (Trotters are in 2 rows of bases, Gallopers 1 row)
  • Foot, 2 musketeer and 1 pike base, each of c. 12 figures = 1 battalia (battalion?). 
In addition each unit of horse or foot has a command stand made up of an officer, a drummer/trumpeter and a standard bearer or two. These are used purely to indicate what the unit is doing by the position that they occupy.

In my game of Adwalton Moor Fairfax's army broke down into 6 battalia and 2 regiments of horse, plus 3 bases of clubmen. Newcastle's army was represented by 78 troops (bases of horse) excluding command stands, and 10 battalia of foot.

The Wargame

Newcastle's cavalry look down Hangar Hill towards the enclosures in the distance where the Rebels are waiting. Royalist foot is in the middle ground. The figures are mostly Pendraken 10mm, with the odd unit of Irregular Miniatures and a handful of Lancer Miniatures. The chaps in the foreground are actually from Pendraken's "War of the League of Augsburg" range. I must get around to giving the horse standards.
View from Fairfax's position. Hedges are traditional home made efforts made from scouring pads on lollipop sticks
Bird's eye view at the start. Royalists to the right with scary looking numbers of horse (the second line is all horse, as are the columns to the rear)

And they're off! This was a job mainly for the infantry whose task was to push the Rebels back from the hedges to give scope for the horse to cross through and finish the job. The right flank was able to activate with a reasonable degree of co-ordination but the left look refused because they, well, refused to advance at first. The horse on the hill, next to the village (Adwalton) were deliberately held back.

Slow going this. The Royalist right gets held up at hedges allowing the left to make up some ground.

At this point, the Parliamentarians were singing Psalms to steady the nerves. We can disregard scurrilous suggestions that they were singing 'Ilkley Moor' - some of them were Lancashire men. And there were plenty of hats.

The wave crashes! Along the Royalist right and centre the foot are given a mauling and are repulsed. Eventually a column of horse make it to the hedgerow (far right) where the way has been prepared by a regiment of foot. Set some way back from the hedge is a regiment of Rebel horse, waiting to punish the Idolatrous!

Fairfax's horse charge and manage to hold off the main column of the Cavaliers, but 4 troops of the Papists' Fellow Travellers make it through and flank a regiment of Roundhead foot.

Meanwhile on the Royalist left. Having run out of fresh foot, the Cavaliers launch themselves at the hedgrows. At the bottom a (blue) regiment of 8 troops has made it over the hedge (there simply aren't enough foot to man the whole thing) and are met by the right wing (yes that's the whole right wing) Roundhead horse.
Eventually the Roundhead horse is seen off, pursued by the Blues, with the gap filled by another fresh regiment. It's about time the Parliamentary foot made themselves scarce. You can see that in the centre and far right (just about) that an organised withdrawal is occurring. They probably won't make it back to Bradford. I called it a day at this point.

So the game played out pretty much as should be expected (I'll take that as assurance that something has gone right.

My main source for this was David Cooke's very useful book The Civil War in Yorkshire: Fairfax versus Newcastle (Barnsley, 2004) . There's lots of inspiration in there with accounts of several small-scale actions around built-up areas, as well as the Big One near York. Oddly there's not much on the siege of Hull (though York is covered). But overall, it's well worth getting.

The usual BCW Project and Battlefield Trust links are below.


  1. Hey mate, great batrep. Your rules seem to work pretty well.

  2. Thanks for dropping by old bean. I hope your move is progressing well.

    The rules do work OK if I do say so myself. But then to coin Mandy Rice-Davies' famous comment, I would say that wouldn't I.

    They suit my solo play and work in a head-to-head game too. I've gone for a hybrid of Old School and my approach to SYW. No figure removal but there's a difference between pike and musket rather than going for total abstraction. Same with horse, they can stand off and go 'bang' if they wish rather than firing being subsumed into melee. Command and control/activation is similar to my SYW approach too (but with the Old School touch of making 'messengers' travel on the table at fast cavalry pace. The whole lot covers less than 5 pages, not through any economy of design, but because I know far less about this period so I'm not tempted to include all sorts of 'refinements'.