Monday, 13 April 2020

Tadcaster 1642

The game went ahead this afternoon via FaceTime, starting at 4PM and finishing by 6PM. We got through half of the maximum 20 turns when the Parliamentarians pulled off a repeat of their tactical victory by acheiving 11 Victory Points.

I set-up the table (terrain, town, roads, and redoubt) and placed two bases of musketeers in the redoubt, then sent the briefing and maps below to my son.

Tadcaster Scenario Briefing - Parliamentarians - 7 December 1642

Commander: Lord Ferdinando Fairfax (Middling)
Deputy: Sir Thomas Fairfax (Lively)

The war has been going on since late Summer. The forces fighting for King and Parliament to prevent the King, led by his maleficent counsellors, overthrowing the ancient freedoms of his people have successfully resisted the would-be tyrant’s legions and thrown them back from London. In Yorkshire, those loyal to King and Parliament have prevented the King from seizing the port and arsenal of Kingston-upon-Hull.

You have 21 companies of Foot, 7 troops of Horse, 1 company of Dragoons and 2 guns (total c 1500 men). You are in occupation of Tadcaster and control much of the West Riding of Yorkshire for the Parliament. Second in command is your son, Sir Thomas Fairfax. William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle, has led a large army from Durham into Yorkshire on behalf of the King (badly counselled by his popish advisors of course). Newcastle has occupied York and is rumoured to be on his way to Tadcaster with 4 times your number.

On the evening of the 6th, you invited your senior officers to a council of war, at which all relevant matters were considered. The council decided to retreat the next day to Leeds in order to draw upon your strength in the West Riding. You have a redoubt containing a strong body of musketeers on the east of the River Wharfe, on a height commanding the approach to town from the direction of York. Under your orders the bridge across the river has been damaged and a few planks provide a narrow crossing point to restrict a sudden descent by the Royalists.

On the morning of the 7th, the majority of your forces in the town on the west bank of the Wharfe have been readied to march to Leeds. Some time after 10 of the clock you receive an urgent message from the redoubt of the advance of the Royalist down the York road. This is much sooner than you expected. If you march westwards now, your musketeers in the redoubt will fall into the hands of Newcastle and his Horse may fall swiftly on your army’s rear and catch you on the march. You have no option but to repulse Newcastle and rescue your force on the east bank. You will abandon the town, but save your forces.


Retreat down the Leeds Road with your whole force including the guns from the bridge and the musketeers from the east bank of the Wharfe.

Victory Conditions 

Each base lost will be 1 victory point (VP) to the opposition.
Additionally each of the musketeer bases in the redoubt lost will mean an extra VP for the opposition.
Each commander lost will be 2VP to the opposition.
The side that reaches 11 VPs first is the winner.
Darkness will fall after 20 turns. If the Royalists haven’t won by then the Parliamentarians will win by default.

Area map provided - had to photo my screen because I can't load pdf or Keynote files. I provided this as a clue to what might happen. If the Parliamentarian player noted the disparity in numbers then saw what was on the board, he might think "where are the rest?"

The table layout. Black rectangle marks the table (3 feet by 6 foot 6). Redoubt is on the ridge (brown oval) at the junction of the York Road and the white road. Two musketeer bases are in the redoubt. One gun model is at the western end of the bridge. Fairfax could place the rest of his forces anywhere on the western side of the river.
I did my usual scan of sources available to me and tabulated the results. I've put the number of bases I decided on under the Cooke numbers.


See 1 below.
900-1500 men in the town. Context implies more in the redoubt.

Newcastle: 4500 horse and foot
Newport: 1500 horse and dragoons
Newport: 2 guns
The Civil War in Yorkshire, David Cooke

Doesn’t list all sources. Not cross-referenced.
21 companies (5 musket, 2 pike bases)
7 troops (7 bases)
1 company (1 base)
1 at the bridge (1 base)
4000 foot and several hundred horse. (5 battalia plus 10 bases)
Newport: 1500 horse and dragoons (30 bases)
Newport: 2 light guns (1 base)
BCW Project
See 2 below.
Lord Fairfax: 900 men
Sir Thomas Fairfax: 300 foot and 40 horse
6000 at start of Dec
2000 at start of Dec

  • A.H. Burne & P. Young, The Great Civil War, a military history (London 1958)
  • S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. i (London 1888)
  • P.R. Newman, Atlas of the English Civil War (London 1985)
  • C.V. Wedgwood, The King's War (London 1958)

The game is told below through the captions.

Looking across Tadcaster towards the advancing Royalists coming from York. The available Parliamentary forces (minus the shot in the redoubt and the gun at the bridge) are in the foreground. Leeds road comes down from the town to the bottom right. Wetherby Road heads to the bottom left. My son elected to place all his forces in column on the road heading to the bridge.

First over are a regiment of horse who deploy under the direct command of Sir William Fairfax along the hedgerow by the river. A Royalist horse unit has bounded over the ridge and does not deploy in time.....Meanwhile foot in the redoubt open fire on the advancing Royalist foot - a dice roll determined that they opened fire at long range rather than saving their best fire. Nevertheless they whittle down their foes.

Fairfax gets the horse under his command to wheel into the Royalists in column who are struck halted and shocked. They inflict 10 hits (3 bases plus 1 marker). The cavaliers rout off the field crying "murther, murther" as they haven't heard of the letter 'd'. Unfortunately Fairfax's men's blood is up and the Yorkshireman loses control and follow them off the field! This means against the 6VPs gained, they lose 7 to the Royalists!
Back around the eastern suburb the Royalists swarm around the redoubt and buildings. They lose one unit to effective musketry and another gets battered. To stand a chance against earthworks, shot needs to be at close range (60 yards). The Royalist horse south of the road looks to have caught a small Roundhead horse unit at the halt. They charge once, and then again - each time failing to charge home. This counterbalances the poor Roundhead luck in the loss of Sir Thomas and his harquebusiers. Roundhead dragoons have dismounted and pour shot into the flank of the cavaliers leading to the gaining of the 11th and winning Victory Point.

Side view of the same action.

So a satisfying game. I obviously couldn't see things from his point of view, but my son said it was difficult at times to picture what was where (I was holding my phone by hand) but maybe that added a bit to the fog of war. The rules continue to provide a simple, playable game. Shooting and melee are bloody, but this keeps things moving along quickly. I'm conscious of having no limit on muskets popping away all day so maybe a simple mechanic is needed there.

My son ended the game having thrown all his available forces over the bridge, thinking that there were extra Royalists coming directly from York and he needed to beat the first wave before they arrived. If the game had gone on 5 more turns I'd have started dicing for the arrival of Newport's column via Wetherby, but he'd repulsed the main force under Newcastle well before then.

He's keen to try another game and next time wants to use his Napoleonic Prussians.


  1. Need to re read this a few times, but it looks like a great game played in a most unusual fashion. Kudos matey for a great scenario and a novel means of playing it!

    1. It was a good way to fill junior’s time too during his uni break. And obviously locked down.

  2. I enjoy seeing the results of your OB research. Very helpful and something I should do more often. Often I forget where I got the OBs and my memory of my decisions fade quickly. Better to document in a post. Good to see a victory by your son. A victory helps provide incentive to return to battle. Enjoyable game to read.

    1. Thanks J. Advancing years is affecting a lot of us like that ;-) I actually hadn't thought of that as a reason but, it's a pretty good one! I was using the table as more of a 'justification'. It's proved useful to run through what sources I've looked at because I've had comments suggesting books I haven't read.

  3. Interesting - liked this a lot. This may be the wrong question to ask, since it will promote groans all over the known world, but I'd welcome a little more nuts and bolts on how you get the Facetime set up to work properly. I can see Facetime or Zoom as a possible way of sneaking some wargaming into my monastic existence - if I had to wield a mobile phone in some sensible way I think there would be trouble. A friend of mine did some of this not too long ago - he had a bluetooth camera (I think) mounted on his forehead, which he said worked OK, and had the added advantage of keeping him out of the picture - he used a big laptop. I should probably ask him about it, but last time I asked such a question he sent me a reply which very nearly did my head in - a man who enjoys complexity for its own sake (sorry Martin).

    This is beginning to sound like the sort of topic I should send an email about - apologies - there might be some general interest.

    The game reads well in its own right! Thanks for this.

    1. I simply called my son using FaceTime and pressed the flip button so he could see wherever I pointed the phone. I have no clear idea how it appeared to him. It would have been very patchy and shaky. I did a bit of "Bernie the Bolt" moving the camera around as directed.

      I suppose a really good way would be to have some sort of frame that held the camera at 'general height' behind the personality figure and just allow it to be pivoted. The player would only get the general's point of view.

  4. Really interesting game and method of playing it, I was considering a what's app video game and I guess it would be along similar lines so this is really helpful, I see what you mean about inexhaustible musketeers affecting the possible game outcome!
    Best Iain

    1. Give it a go Iain. I would keep the game relatively simple and unless you have duplicate gridded games, have it as a facilitated one-player game rather than something out and out competitive. I suppose you could try a competitive game using some kind of video conference app - I think FaceTime can do a handle full of people at a time, don’t know about WhatsApp.

      There’s a super account of an ACW game over on On Wargames and Such.


      Here you go.