Saturday, 26 June 2021

‘A Hazardous Situation’

If you recall, Caesar had managed to get ashore, albeit just about and, I dare say, with his soldier's socks (the Romans wore socks with their sandals, at least in the north; if you think that all things Roman are stylish, think again) would require extensive drying out. Be that as it may, Jules was clearly taken in by the Briton’s offering of peace, and set up camp, sending out the legions (he had two) to collect corn.

In the meantime, there was a high tide and storm which damaged to Roman ships and forced the cavalry to return to the Continent. The Britons figured that their best approach was to attack the Romans and prevent them from gathering corn (after all, the Britons probably needed it themselves), prolong the war into the winter and see our Jules and his men off. Therefore they hid in the woods by the last patch of uncut corn and ambushed the Seventh legion when it arrived (presumably having beaten their swords into ploughshares).

At this point, the second battle starts.

The view is from behind the Roman marching fort, which is obviously front left. The other legion (not sure which it was, to be honest) is in the camp with its feet up, with only a couple of cohorts on guard at the gates, and the scorpions ready to spit arrows at anyone coming into range. In the distance, to left and right, you can just about make out the last uncut fields, each with half of the Seventh legion in, getting in the supplies.

If you look really closely you can see that the woods are full of Britons, awaiting their moment to ambush the Romans and kick them out of their country and away from their crops. In Caesar’s account (Conquest of Gaul IV.32) he sent the guard cohorts ahead, followed by a reserve to second them, while the rest armed and he led them out to relieve their colleagues.

The plans of the two sides followed, more or less, Caesar’s account (he is not, of course, the most reliable narrator in the ancient world). Caesar would rally the other legion (which I mentally designated the 10th, I am not sure why) and lead them to the rescue.

The soldiers are all Baccus, and the hedges and trees are Irregular. I actually placed every tree in my possession, excluding the palm trees (while kent is quite balmy, I doubt palms are native, somehow) on the table. Perhaps, as part of ‘terrain year’ (TM) I need to get some more. The corn stooks in the fields are, I think, by Timecast. For what it is worth, the rough ground to left and right are to my own design. I shall never be an artist.

The rules were my own, Polemos-based concoction; I had to add a fair bit to them to cover terrain and combat in fields and woods before I set out. Additionally, considering that the Romans would be disordered by the terrain, being in fields and dispersed, I have to make some more terrain shaken markers. A minor job but it did delay the start of the battle by a morning.

Anyway, Jules managed to enhance his reputation as a lucky commander. In the first part of the action there was barely a critical roll he made which he did not win. The British foot refused the charge the legions in the fields. When they did and managed to shake a cohort it won the subsequent round of combat. Then the British went to ‘waver’ morale and all the hard work of trying to get them moving was lost. To cap it all, having lost five bases to the Roman’s three, the Roman archers rolled a six-one against a base of chariots to which the British commander was attached. The chariots were recoiled shaken and I had to roll for the commander and, guess what? While the Romans had just been reduced to waver, the Britons went to fall back. Without a general, I could not see how they were going to get moving against Caesar, so I gave up.

The picture shows the field end of the action at the end. On the far side that vexellation there has suffered a fair bit, losing two cohorts, one of archers and the other a legionary (you can just see it routing off the top of the photograph). The near vexellation lost one cohort to the initial charge of the Britons, supported by some light horse (off-camera to the left), but the Britons made no further progress, in fact, losing three tribal foot bases in attempting to attack the Romans. To the right you can see the perimeter that Jules formed with the Tenth Legion. The base of archers who finished the battle are there, second base down from the top, just to the aide of Jules (who will, of course, claim the credit).

There were 22 bases a side here, and I did not increase the tempo point allocation for the forces involved. Thus each side had but 1D6 to bid for tempo and order soldiers about. This made it, I think, very hard for the Britons to co-ordinate their attacks, and also enhanced the ability of the vexellations to reform and resist the British when they did turn up – legions or defined vexellations thereof get an extra tempo point per turn, reflecting their better junior command.

The other thing that was important was the general’s ability to order folk around. Both sides did this. At the beginning of the game Caesar used his personal point to form up the Tenth legion and move it out while the Seventh were doing their best to resist. The British general used his to move his chariots into javelin pelting range of the Romans, although to rather less effect.

Historically, Caesar rescued the Seventh legion but decided that the situation was too hazardous to risk battle (hence the title of the post – Conquest of Gaul IV.34). This is, I suspect, a bit of a gloss. While I do not claim that a wargame can really tell you what happened, I doubt if the Romans were in much of a state really to fight having been ambushed and nearly duffed up. Still, both sides fought on.

I learned quite a lot about the rules from this battle, and so I have revised them, and their WotCR counterparts. I am gradually transferring what is in my head to the page to make it work. Incidentally, the Heretical Gamer fought Flodden using the WotCR rules, which was kind and interesting as a write-up.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

The Time of Troubles

 ‘Halt! Who goes there?’


‘Friend of whom?’

‘Tsar Dimitri.’

‘Advance friend and be recognised.’

‘Who are you, exactly?’

‘I’m part of Voivode Vassili’s army; I’m scouting the wood to find the army of the False Dimitri.’

‘Ah. Well, I’m scouting for Voivode Alexander to find the army of the False Dimitri.’

‘Oh. Dear. Does that mean I have to fight you?’

‘Well, I was only supposed to find you, so I think I’ve accomplished that. But Voivode Alexander serves the true Tsar Dimitri, while Voivode Vassili serves the False Tsar Dimitri. But we’ve no cause to fight.’

‘Do you think either Dimitri is truly the son of Tsar Ivan?’

‘I doubt it. What was that?’

‘It sounded like a cannon shot.’

‘Oh yes. I think our missions are at an end. The armies have found each other.’

‘Should we rejoin our units?’

‘I think it's a bit late for that. We’ll just sit and watch. Vodka?’


As the preamble might suggest, I’ve finished painting the Muscovite army. Not, admittedly, the Russian village – miracles take a little longer, after all. But anyway, to mark the achievement I decided to have a wargame. Nothing, it seems to me is more frustrating than painting vast swathes of toy soldiers and then putting them in a box and forgetting about them.

The painted Muscovites in toto look like this.

Here you can see cavalry to left and right, Cossack horse to the front, streltsi behind them, and Cossack foot behind them, with the gun and general. Not too bad a job, I think, even if I say so myself and the painting is measured by my own low standards.

As mentioned, a wargame seemed appropriate, so two sides were dreamed up in a setting of the Time of Troubles, around the start of the Seventeenth Century, as the narrative above suggests.

To the left are Voivode Alexander’s men, slightly more cavalry heavy than Voivode Vassili’s, to the right. Alexander also has the artillery. His idea was to use his extra Cossack cavalry to outflank Vassili on his (Alexander’s) left and roll up the line. Vassili’s approach was to hold his right back and use the resultant superior numbers to smash Alexander’s right.

As you might expect from a battle where there are large numbers of cavalry, this one was quick (by these standards) and chaotic. Alexander decided early on that he needed to plug the gap on his left between the cavalry and Cossack light horse using his reserve cavalry, which you can see above on the right, led by himself. By the time he had marched behind his own troops, however, the threat to his right more acute, so he had to make a U-turn and start moving across the front of his own infantry. Meanwhile, his left-wing cavalry had attacked Vassili’s centre Cossack foot (with mixed results), the right-wing cavalry was under pressure and a base of Cossack arquebusiers was standing up magnificently to being charged by some of Vassili’s boyars.

You can see Alexander’s reserve about to charge across the front of their infantry. Actually, they were a tad too far away from the action when the photograph was taken, but rectified that and swept away the boyars threatening their foot, and another base of boyars which had been delayed by artillery fire. In the meantime, one base of Vassili’s Cossack foot had been routed, but the rest of the cavalry attack had been bounced. On Alexander’s left, the Cossack light horse were making little progress against the remaining boyars on Vassili’s right, while Vassili’s horse had routed Alexander’s on that side. On Vassili’s left, a unit of boyars routed their opponents after a lengthy struggle, while Alexander’s charge had taken out two of Vassili’s boyar squadrons. As I said, chaos reigned.

At this point, both sides had lost three bases routed and had to make morale checks. Vassili’s men threw an even score, and so adopted a ‘fall back’ position – all units lost their orders and moved away from the enemy a move. This was a bit tricky given the dispersion of the cavalry of both sides. Alexander threw a -4, and his army was reduced to a rout.

The picture above shows the final positions. Vassili’s left, nearest the camera, has disintegrated either in rout or pursuit. So too has Alexander’s right, while his left is holding with the Cossack light horse, but the foot are looking a bit isolated and friendless unless Alexander can rally his men quickly from pursuit. But now everyone, more or less, is routing.

So a win, just about, for Voivode Vassili and the True Dimitri. But only just: in the words of the historian, the army was too damaged to pursue. Voivode Alexander lives to ride again.

The soldiers are Irregular, as are the trees, the only terrain feature to be rolled on the battlefield. The wood is of course where the scouts are hiding, watching the unfolding events. The painting guides I used were Michael Fredholm von Essen’s Muscovy’s Soldiers (Helion) and Shpakovsky & Nicolle’s Armies of Ivan the Terrible (Osprey). Sometime I might get around to writing reviews of them; the development of Russian / Muscovite armies before Peter the Great is quite interesting. I do already have a few Muscovites which I got in the late 1990s, I think. I could find no information about them then; a bit of repainting might be called for.


‘That’s good vodka, you know.’

‘Yes, but we seem to have run out.’

‘Oh. I’ve got some more. Here.’

‘Thanks. Do you know how the battle is going?’

‘Um. Let me have a look. That’s my lot, and they are moving backwards over there, and that’s your lot and they are, well, I don’t want to be rude but they seem to be running away.’

‘Oh, well. I’m not going to worry about that. Shall we finish the bottle and then potter off when everyone else has run away? It’ll be safer that way.’

Saturday, 12 June 2021

The Road to Limerick


‘Donal, Donal, wake up.’

‘For heaven’s sake, Dougal. It's still dark. What’s the matter?’

‘I’m worried Donal.’

‘Can’t you worry in the morning?’

‘I’m worried about the morning, Donal.’

‘Well, I’m awake now. What are you worrying about?’

‘Well, we, you and I are Irish, right?’

‘Yes, I know that.’

‘And so are our men, yes?’


‘And we do fighting our way, don’t we?’


‘And our way is to ambush the English so they can’t fight back, while they are marching to teach us a lesson we’ll never forget.’

‘You’ve been reading too many English news sheets, Dougal.’

‘So here we are marching on Limerick with these Spanish soldiers armed with long pointy sticks and bang things.’

‘Pike and arquebus, Dougal.’

‘Yes, but we are marching on the city. Usually the English march on our places and we ambush them.’


‘So, with this Spanish general, we’re going to get ambushed. It will be a disaster, Donal.’

‘It’s a bit late to worry about that, isn’t it? The English are only over the pass.’


I have been pondering the fate of Donal and Dougal for a while. You will recall, I’m sure (if you don’t, the Armada Abbeys link to the right should fill you in) that after settling a family feud in the traditional way, the cousins have teamed up with some just arrived Spanish to take Limerick, Dublin and invade England with the view of capturing London and making Queen Elizabeth a Catholic again.

At present, they are marching towards Limerick supported by some Spanish troops from the Armada ships which have just docked in their bay. Blocking their path is an Anglo-Irish army.

The initial situation is above. The English are centred on the village, wherein their bill and bow units are. Irish skirmishers are in the woods and fields to the front and left. The Hispano-Irish are to the right, emerging from a pass in the hills. They need to proceed along the road to reach Limerick.

The armies are fifteen bases each. The Hispano-Irish have an extra base of light horse and two bases of Spanish, one pike and one shot. The English (who had 13 bases to start with) have two bases of kerns extra. The English aim was to hold their left and delay the Irish in the centre while using their better infantry and cavalry on the open country on their right.

It did not quite work out like that. The picture shows part of the way through the battle. The Irish have deployed their light horse to the left and are giving the English staves a real good pasting. The Irish are also advancing their tribal foot – bonnachts or redshanks – into the centre, while their skirmishers are given the English kern a hard time. In return, the English bows on the Irish right are disrupting the galloglass.

It sort of went to the Irish plan. The tribal foot failed to charge the first time, and the English responded by failing to charge the Irish centre with their demi-lances. The Irish light horse destroyed the English, while the centre galloglass disposed of the English kern in the woods. Finally, a bonnacht base charged the white-coated English musketeers and swept them away, which also accounted for the red-coats who had just arrived to support them. With that, English morale dropped to ‘withdraw’, so they did.

I thought that the English would probably win this one. After all, they have far more pike and shot units than the Irish, even with Spanish support. Perhaps the English should have been more aggressive overall – their main advantage is in demi-lancers. The Irish light horse did a good job on their outnumbered English opponents, however, and the English were a bit unfortunate to have the red-coats too close behind the white-coats when the crunch came.

Could the English have fought on? Well, their right has vaporised and the right-hand infantry looks rather vulnerable to being outflanked and duffed up by the Irish light horse and the Spanish infantry, although the English left is solid and could have had a go at the kerns and galloglass facing them. Overall, however, I think probably they were fairly defeated by an Irish army that had a plan, and which was also a bit lucky with the dice rolls for their light horse.

The figures, incidentally, are all Irregular aside from my tempo marker, which is a big Baccus gun. The buildings are Baccus hovels and a Leven church, and the trees are Irregular. The rules were my own Polemos derived Wars of the Counter-Reformation, available from the rules page to the right.



‘What now Dougal?’

‘That worked Donal!’

‘You know, Dougal, it did. Amazing, but it did work.’

‘We won, Donal.’

‘Yes, well. I wouldn’t say I had a lot to do with it, nor you. It was Don-whatisname who did the planning, commanding, deploying and winning.’

‘It was a team effort, Donal, a team effort.’

‘What would you have said if we had been running back to Iffyahame with the devil after us?’

‘Probably nothing much, Donal. I’d have been puffing too much.’

‘Not much of a team effort then?’

‘Nooo. But look to the future, man. Now we have Limerick at our mercy. I think we should compose a poem in honour of the occasion.’

‘A poem? You mean we should summon a bard?’

‘Maybe, but perhaps we should do it ourselves.’

‘Are you a bard, Dougal?’

‘No, but dad never let that stop him either.’

‘I’m not good at even bad poetry.’

‘No am I, but I’m sure that inspiration might strike.’

‘Your brow is awful furrowed, Dougal.’

‘I’m thinking. Ah, I have it!’

‘Go on. I might regret this….’

‘There was a young fellow called Donal,

Who went for a fight in a funnel,

The English they ran,

For they were no fan,

Of Dougal and his terrible pun-al.

What did you think?’

‘You know the English have this new play-write chap called Shakespeare?’


‘That was nothing like his stuff.’

‘An Irish original Donal, an Irish original.’

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Conquest, Anarchy and Lordship

In my ongoing quest to try to work out what happened in the north of England after the Norman Conquest, I have come to the following tome:

Dalton, P. (1994). Conquest, Anarchy and Lordship: Yorkshire 1066 - 1154. Cambridge: CUP.

The book does divide, as the title suggests, into three sections. The first is about the responses to the Norman Conquest in Yorkshire, the second about how Yorkshire fared during the reign of King Stephen, and the final bit about what the concept of ‘lordship’ really meant in the century after the Conquest.

If Kapelle was a maximalist with respect to the Harrying of the North, arguing that it disrupted northern society almost totally, the Dalton would probably count among the minimalists. He sees the Normans dividing up the land in Yorkshire far earlier than other historians do, so that some lordships, particularly in the south of the county, were well established by the time of the Domesday Inquest (1086). The evidence counted towards this seems to be the number of demesne plough teams recorded in the Book, that is, plough teams (oxen in this case, of course) which worked the Lord’s own lands, the produce of which went either to the Lord’s table or into his coffers.

On the other hand, the Yorkshire entries in Domesday Book do look a bit like an administrative fiddle. As both Dalton and Kapelle acknowledge, the Yorkshire Domesday Book looks more like someone compiling a list of lands and rents from the safety of York Castle, rather than actually going out and seeing what was going on, summoning Wapentake juries and so on. Certainly for some parts of the county, particularly Cleveland, the quantity of information is rather thin.

Dalton takes ‘waste’ entries in Domesday Book to mean administrative failure to account for. Thus the extensive waste in Cleveland is not related to the Harrying of the North and the destruction twenty years before the Inquest, but to the fact that the lords of the lands were not really in possession of them, had not put in place full lordship, and were not exploiting them in terms of Eleventh Century agriculture. The fact that many of the lords of lands in Cleveland were certainly absentee, probably never visited them and had little interest in them would support Dalton’s position.

For example, the main manor in West Cleveland, Acklam, was owned by Hugh, Earl of Chester. It was mostly recorded as waste. But Hugh’s main lands and main interests were in Cheshire, where he owned most of the county. Acklam would have been of peripheral interest to him. Similarly, a major landowner was Bill’s half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain. He hardly ever left Normandy and the furthest north he is recorded as having come is Lincolnshire in 1069, suppressing rebels there.

Dalton’s argument might hold some water in these cases. He suggests that between 1086 and 1100, and more so between 1100 and 1135, the Normans in the North got organised. There were various issues, mostly to do with the Scots who, under Malcolm Canmore and then David I regarded parts of the north as parts of Scotland. Canmore raided Cleveland from the west, along the line of the modern A66, in 1070. William Rufus established Carlisle and its castle, as well as Newcastle, to try to stake some claim to the north. He also started to divide lands up among Norman lords, a process accelerated under Henry I.

After Henry, of course, royal authority fell apart, particularly in the north which Stephen had few opportunities to visit or defend. He appointed an Earl of York to see to the royal interests there, but William of Aumale rather looked after his own interests instead, sparking a number of small wars in the region. These were nothing much to do with the Anarchy, most of which was played out further south, but to do with the aspirations of the local barons.

Another factor was the Scots, of course. While the Battle of the Standard was won in 1138, Scottish interest and influence did not cease. David I kept on interfering in the north, and his son, Henry, was Earl of Northumberland. Both held courts in the north and extended their lordship and authority south of the Solway – Tweed frontier. A number of northern lords gave allegiance to David, and gained lands in Scotland as a result. It all got rather complicated, as you can imagine.

The book has an extensive chapter on the Scots in the north, and it rolls, as I might have just hinted, into the concept of lordship, as it was experienced in the north and specifically in Yorkshire. There were two competing factors: good service and good lordship. The tenants required good lordship of their lord – that is protection, both physical and legal, and not too harsh terms of service. The lords required support and loyalty from their tenants and the performance of service, that is things like castle guard and payment of taxes and fees, the use of the baronial court for their suits and so on.

This was further complicated by the fact that, within a generation of the Conquest at most, landholding among tenants was complicated: many held lands of more than one lard. This might have come about through subinfeudation, marriage, division of land between heiresses, gift of land to religious houses and about as many reasons as you, or the medieval mind, might be able to imagine. Thus a lesser baron might hold lands, and different terms of service, from two or more tenants in chief and a religious house, which they may well have endowed. The rendering of service was not going to be simple under these circumstances and the lesser barons could, and did, play one tenant-in-chief off against another.

A lot of these disputes landed up in court, of course. And the courts were not the courts of the tenant-in-chief. Appeal was often made to the king’s court and Dalton, among other things, argues that the advances in law under Henry II, specifically the advent of English Common Law, was a consequence of the situation that emerged under his grandfather, not something that suddenly came to be in the years post-1154.

So a good, interesting book. The possibilities of Norman feuding and Scottish intervention are endless. I am getting tempted to buy some Normans, but am manfully resisting, at present.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

A Moghul Civil War

‘So, my brothers are in arms.’

‘Yes, your highness.’

‘And they have proclaimed themselves Mogul?’

‘Both of them, your highness.’

‘They can’t both be Mogul. I mean, there is only one Peacock Throne.’

‘Yes, your highness.’

‘Is our army ready?’

‘Yes, your highness. Prince, um, self-proclaimed Emperor Murad and his army are advancing on the shrine at Balaghat, your highness.’

‘That is unfortunate for him. The astrologers say that the Prophet of Balaghat is to be defended. Order the army to march.’


I do like, as the regular reader of the blog will know, the odd elephant on the table. The Mogul hordes have not been out for a while, either, and have no ongoing campaign associated with them as yet. The other thing, which I dare say I have mentioned (or banged on about endlessly, according to taste) is that it does seem to me that the Indian sub-continent pre the arrival of major imperialist and colonizing efforts from the West is an area ripe for some decent, fun wargames. The relative lack of sources should not deter us, and there were a lot of battles.

So I chose a sort of perhaps not atypical battle of Mogul succession, this one set around another of the seemingly interminable civil wars between the sons of various Emperors, often while the current Emperor was still alive (and even fighting). Even the winner was often weakened by the fighting.

I also wanted to try out some new terrain generation rules, the aim of which was to provide a rather richer environment than the current crop. I think, given the decisions about whether the country is open or not, the original rather sparse terrain can be created, but I can also generate rather more features, which at least might give the sides something more to think about in deployment and planning.

The picture shows the game a few moves in. Aurangzeb’s forces are defending the near edge, consisting of a village (with mosque) to the right, just on the edge of the shot, and the shrine, in the foreground. To the left is a steep hill, and there is rather more rough terrain than usual, alongside the village fields.

On the far side, Murad’s men are deploying. I confess I did have to think about deployment for both sides. Aurangzeb has his levies defending the baggage in the field to the right, then the artillery, war wagon, and infantry, then his cavalry on the left, and elephants in reserve. Murad’s plan was to keep his brother’s cavalry occupied with his light horse while his cavalry overran the artillery and rolled up the infantry line. Meanwhile, his infantry and elephant would speed up the road and deploy in the centre, ready to exploit the cavalry’s success.

A few moves later and you can see how the plans were evolving. Murad’s light horse was certainly disrupting the opposing cavalry, but Aurangzeb’s artillery was keeping Murad’s cavalry at bay well and truly. This is about the point, as the chroniclers say, it started to get complicated.

A few moves later and Murad’s cavalry were still being held and disrupted, so the man himself has placed himself at their head on his trusty elephant and rallied a base for a charge, although his supporting elephant base has been hit by fire. On the near side, Aurangzeb’s cavalry have sorted themselves out for a charge on Murad’s light horse. Murad’s artillery has rather incautiously (i.e. I did not have enough tempo to stop them) into the firing line.

A few moves later and it is all over. Murad’s charge was successful and demolished Aurangzeb’s artillery line. Murad himself set off in hot pursuit only the be hit in the flank by his brother and routed into the village. On Murad’s right, the light horse has fled and Aurangzeb’s cavalry then overran the artillery. You can just see one base of the latter rallying bottom left. In the centre the remaining elephants have clashed, to Murad’s advantage, but it will avail naught, for at this point the army morale collapsed.

It is an interesting point that for many armies (not just eastern ones) when the general was down or perceived to be down, the army fled. Often it was because the general was the paymaster and it was his personal cause that the army was fighting for. Without the general, there was no point in continuing.

This is quite hard to reproduce in a wargame without some artificial rules, but I seem to have managed it here. The general’s base is also an army base here. When a base is routed, two is deduced from the base 12 army morale, and if the general is lost another 2 goes. Thus the loss of the general’s base will cost 4 morale points to the army, or around one-third of the morale. This is highly likely to cause major disruption to the army, if not cause it to flee. In this case, a bad dice roll contributed to a negative morale score for Murad’s men and off they went.

I confess that this was not an expected result of the rules design, but it is rather a neat outcome. Not all armies have the general as a base, of course, and that makes the loss of the general a bit less catastrophic, at least initially. But for armies that rely much more on the general being alive and kicking, it gives me a handy option for representing the inherent fragility of such forces.


‘Yo, bro.’

‘Aurangzeb. Good to see you?’

‘Nice of you to drop in, Murad.’

‘I was really coming to worship, of course. Why did your men drag me away from my prayers in the mosque?’

‘I wanted a little chat, brother. We need to decide on your future.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, I have a nice cell in a castle in the river for you, or we can just castrate and blind you and call it quits. Which would you prefer?’

Wednesday, 2 June 2021


 Fear not, gentle reader, this is not another escapade into imagi-nations, but a real thing which happened in history, which you might not have heard about. I had not until I picked up a book by the name.

Parker, M. (2015). Willoughbyland: England's Lost Colony. New York: St. Martin's Press.

I confess, I probably would not have bought it, but the Estimable Mrs P encouraged me so to do, and she was, as usual, correct in doing so. The book is about, as the name suggests, an eventually unsuccessful colony founded during the Protectorate and lost during the Restoration.

I mentioned before that the Puritans were very interested in tackling Spain, and this had started before the Civil War with the Providence Island Company. Actually, the interest had started before that, with Ralegh and his voyages of exploration to South America and the quest for El Dorado, the famed and fabulous city of gold. Ralegh, of course, failed and was eventually executed for his pains to appease the Spanish government, thus making him a Puritan martyr.

The idea remained, however, and further expeditions were launched, and they found the natives fairly friendly, on account of Ralegh’s decent treatment of them, as opposed to the Spanish. Not much permanent was achieved, however, until Barbados surrendered to the Parliamentary fleet in 1652. It governor, Francis, Lord Willoughby, had managed to declare for the King just before the arrival of Ayscue’s fleet. Willoughby already had a patent for Willoughbyland, however, and it was to there that he and other Royalists from Barbados fled, following up earlier expeditions which traded with the locals and set up a factory.

The result was a small, expanding and, at least initially, flourishing settlement. Guinea was a sort of paradise, mixed with nastily deadly wildlife. The coast was wetland and heavily forested, so much of the European settlement was further upstream, up the Suriname river. The English called the coast ‘drowned lands’. Most transport had to be by boat.

Initially, the crop was tobacco but by 1660 sugar was increasingly and profitably grown. This has social consequences, however, as sugar needs labour and the labour procured was slaves from Africa. At the Restoration Willoughby had secured a number of concessions from the King, including free trade and freedom of religion. In part, this was to keep the colony together, as each political convulsion in the Caribbean, Europe or Britain itself had its impact even in South America, with refugees and freeloaders moving to the margins to hide, smuggle or seek their fortunes.

Other Europeans set up in the Caribbean and South America, of course. Both the French and Dutch had colonies. The Spanish, who had got there first, after all, took a fairly dim view of all of this but were, firstly, not in much of a position to do a lot about it and, secondly, had not themselves attempted to develop the ‘Wild Coast’. Between the Orinoco River and the mouth of the Amazon there were four Dutch settlements, three French and two English, both of the latter, Paramaribo and Torarica in Willoughbyland on the Suriname River.

Once the settlement was established, of course, the planters had enough time to fall out among themselves, which they promptly did. Willoughby was not present, pursuing his interests in England for the most part, and the assembly he left behind divided sort of along party lines – Roundhead and Cavalier – and sort of along lines of interest, who had the best plantations, most money and so on.

Into this rather febrile atmosphere, Aphra Behn (nee Johnson) sailed in 1663, as a spy, sent to provide information on the state of the plantation. She would later, of course, be the first woman in England to earn her keep through writing, with plays, novellas, and poetry to her credit. Her masterpiece was Oroonoko, set in Suriname during the time of her visit. It features a brave and noble African prince tricked into slavery who leads a rebellion, loses the battle against the militia, and is horribly murdered by some nasty English (not all the English are nasty in the novella).

Parker observes, along the way, the Oroonoko said some fairly radical things about blacks and slavery for the time, and, since its publication in 1688, and more specifically the stage production of 1695, it became a central text in the anti-slavery campaign. Behn, of course, was a child of her age, but the use made of the text in the Eighteenth Century is interesting as preparing the way for the Abolitionist movement. The start of slavery in the later Seventeenth Century also contained the seeds of its abolition.

In Suriname things rather deteriorated, and the war with the Dutch was the final straw. A Dutch fleet of three frigates, a yacht, and three smaller vessels left Zeeland at the end of 1666 and arrived off Suriname in February, ahead of the French (who also fancied a piece of the action at the colony). As Parker observes, often an external threat unites people, but that did not happen in Willoughbyland. Slaves and servants were rebellious, Willoughby himself had died, and the planters were divided. The Dutch cruised in a landed 700 men near fort Willoughby which surrendered. Most of the garrison joined the Dutch. On 6th March Willoughbyland was surrendered to the attackers.

That was not quite the end, however. In 1667 the English, under Willoughby’s nephew Henry, despatched from Barbados with 7 men of war, 2 ketches and 2 fireships, along with 850 troops. He first attacked Cayenne (held by the French) and then headed for Suriname. The Dutch, with French assistance, resisted but the English retook the fort. International events overtook the recapture, however, and after the Dutch raid on the Medway, the subsequent peace exchanged Suriname for New Amsterdam.

The subsequent history of Suriname is one of slavery and violence; it became considered a cruel place with rebellions and runaway slaves forming Maroon colonies inland. According to Parker, there is practically no sign of English occupation, although there are plenty of signs of the Dutch. Further upriver there are Maroon villages still, the legacy of rebellion and runaway slaves. Perhaps this is the true legacy of Willoughbyland.

Anyway, at risk of making the post overlong, the possibilities for adventurous wargamers are multiple. There are small-scale fleet actions, European rivalry, small-scale sieges, and other actions, and a background of occasionally hostile natives. Plenty to consider for the wargamer, I think.