Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Return of the Abbeys Campaign

As many of you (if there are many, of course) might have noticed, my wargaming is nothing if not intermittent. This is usually because real life keeps breaking out, and that is also true, in spades, of the period from my last wargame (that is, the one where the Armada landed at Whitby) and now. However, the delays have not been entirely due to the exigencies of life, but also due to a decision I made when I started this round of linked battles.

The decision I made was that I would, so far as is possible, create suitable troops and terrain for each action. For the Armada landing scenario, I needed a bunch of rowing boats, my Armada ships to be rebased and, in some cases, repaired and a bunch of Spanish sword and buckler troops to be purchased, painted and based. That done, I found that the emotional investment had been quite high, and I was worried that the resultant battle would not live up to my imaginings, and the quantity of the work invested in it, particularly as the rule set was ‘experimental’. I needed some encouragement from the Estimable Mrs P to actually put the figures on the table.

In spite of all the anxieties, I enjoyed the game, even though, by many yardsticks, not much happened. The Spanish got ashore and the English ran away. Or rather, they made a tactical retreat. The English strategy for resisting Armada landing was never to fight them on the beaches, particularly. There are, in England, way too many beaches anyway.

My addled brain has, therefore, been working on the next action in the campaign, which, as I mentioned, is a Guisborough, where there was a priory. This was a large and wealthy place and was a centre for the rising against Henry VIII known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. As I read somewhere recently, the only mistake the leaders of the Pilgrimage made was to trust Henry VIII’s word as a king.

Fortunately (or, perhaps not, as we shall see) I have access to old maps. Guisborough in the 1840’s was a bit of a ribbon town, with the ruins of the Priory at one end, the parish church next to it, then the market place and houses. There is also a stream running from fishponds in the Priory Park (two thereof, presumably one for the Prior and one for the monks and lay brothers), to the south of the town and then round to join the river that runs to the north. Thus Guisborough is a bit of a pocket. The main road (before the by-pass) ran down from the hills, over the stream by a bridge at the western end of the park, into and through the town (turning left, or west) and then to another bridge over the stream, a bit above the confluence with the river.

A review of available terrain items suggested that another bridge was required. I did consider carrying on regardless and turning the first bridge into a ford, but that seemed to undermine my original decision to try to do things properly. Those of you who have seen the Yorkshire Tea advert will understand why this might be important.

So a bridge was purchased (from Leven Miniatures) and it now requires painting and basing. I already had a bridge, and that too needed basing; that is almost complete. I also suspect I need some stream and river bends to make the terrain work, and also a piece to turn a river into a stream, given the spans of the bridges are rather different. Of course, alongside the bridge a few extra suitable buildings were acquired, and they too will need painting and basing before action can be declared. I also need to consider Guisborough Priory. The tower of the church was knocked down in 1550, apparently, and fell through the roof of the nave, demolishing it. All that is left is the east end. I feel that I would like to represent it on the table, but cannot quite work out how at the moment.

This, plus the aforementioned real life, a job (which occasionally seems so surreal as not to warrant mention in the same breath as ‘real life’) and a research project have conspired to prevent any actual wargames being played. This has given time for my imagination to run riot, of course….
‘Someone to see you, my Lord.’
‘Who is it?’
‘He says his name is Bert Trousdale, my Lord.’
‘He says he is a militia captain from the next town.’
Don Pedro grunted. ‘Show him in.’
‘So, it is agreed then. On Monday next, you and your men will seize Hisborough Bridge and hold it, and we will come a relieve you and defeat any trained bands that remain.’
There was a rapid exchange of barbaric sounds between the Priest translator and Trousdale, with much nodding. Trousdale smiled, stood up and stuck out his hand. ‘Shake’ he growled.
Don Pedro allowed his hand to be pumped up and down. Trousdale bowed slightly, nodded, turned and left the tent. Don Pedro massaged his fingers.
‘Bring soap and hot water.’ The servant left the tent as well.
‘Can we trust him?’
The priest shrugged. ‘They are men of their word around here,’ he said, ‘so probably.’
Don Pedro looked at the scout. ‘Are you sure?’ he demanded.
‘Quite sure, my Lord. There are two bridges. One before the town and one after. The English army is in the town. The militia are at the bridge on the other side.’
‘Nombre de Dios,’ he mumbled. ‘Call a council of war.’
Of course, things are never as simple as they seem. There are two bridges. Trousdale is holding the one which is least convenient to the Spanish, but which is also least likely to get him hung as a traitor. So Don Pedro has to work out what to do about it. As a further complication it is possible that the militia (as opposed to the Yorkshire trained band army in the town) will not turn out to be as loyal to the Spanish Catholic cause as their captain believes; for that matter, it is not certain that Trousdale is either a militia captain or about to support the Spanish. It will all turn on some dice rolls when anyone asks.

Last time, someone (JWH?) asked for some orders of battle. For what they are worth, these are they:

Troops                  Spanish         English Home
Demi-Lancer         2                  1
Light Horse           1                  1
Pike                       4                  3
Bill                                             *
Shot                       4                  3
Bow                                           *
Skirmisher             1                 
Gendarme              1                 
Militia                                      4*

* Alternatives; The English home army may have 4 militia bases or up to 2 bill and 2 bow bases, the rest being militia.

For the Whitby scenario, the English had 4 militia bases. The Spanish converted their gendarmes, demi-lancers and pikes to sword and buckler men, on the basis that eighteen foot pikes and horses did not go well in rowing dinghies.  The Spanish light horse – mounted arquebusiers – were converted to foot skirmishers. The Spanish came ashore in two, six base, waves, separated by the time it took the boats to row back to ships and load the second wave. This was controlled by a die roll for each boat, but did not cause significant delays. Similarly, the boats rolled an average die to see if they drifted left (on a roll of two) or right (five). This did happen a bit but did not cause significant disruption. Nor, in fact, did cannon fire from the harbour, but that was because the English had a bad dice day. The Spanish troops also had to roll to disembark onto the beaches, but as they had a good dice day, it did not cause any delays. I think the scenario is rather better balanced than my play out of it…

For Guisborough I think the scenario might work quite nicely as a three player game, especially if the English think Trousdale is loyal, and the Spanish think he will be holding the near bridge for them. There being just the one of me, however, such decisions will all be done by dice.

1 comment:

  1. Without really having a solid basis for making any judgement, it looks reasonable and workable to me.