Saturday 24 February 2024

The Bridge at Muchado


One of the great advantages of wargaming, particularly when you have been a wargamer for a number of years and have built up various collections of toys, is that you can switch from, say, one period to another, or from a ‘serious’ game to something just played for fun. You can get embroiled in heavy-duty campaigns, for example, and then just put a few bases on the table and have a wargame, just for the heck of it, or just because you can.

The Estimable Mrs. P has been a bit concerned about my wargaming, worried that it has become bogged down in concerns about painting (which she knows I don’t much enjoy) and also in campaigns. It gets, she argues, too complex for her husband’s overheated little brain, and she is probably right. I tend to overthink stuff.

I woke up one morning with an idea for an English Civil War / War of the Three Kingdoms action. In a sense it follows on, or is at least parallel to, the gunrunning scenario of a few weeks ago. But it is different and stand-alone. The idea of the scenario is that both sides have to try to seize a bridge, to permit (or deny) the passage of carts to where the supplies are needed. Hence the bridge at Muchado was born.

The peculiar name, for those who are interested, arises from Mr Shakespeare’s play. He evidently had these three villages in mind when he wrote, about 1600, a play about them. Granted, he transposed the action to Italy and so on, but I find that these sorts of things do spark the imagination.

So, we have the hamlet of Muchado, with a bridge over a fordable stream (except by carts, of course). We have two other villages, Nodding and Abbot. Put them together and you do have (roughly) the name of a Shakespeare play. A quick look through my complete plays of the Bard yielded some commanders, as well.

The Royalists, based at Nodding, were led by Sir Peter, with Benedict’s blue regiment of foot, Claudio’s buff coats, Claud’s cavalry, and two companies of dragoons, led by Dogberry and Watchman. On the other side, Sir Peter’s illegitimate brother Sir John leads the Parliamentary forces. He has Conrad’s and Leonard’s regiments of foot, Francis’ cavalry, and Verge’s and Sexton’s dragoons. Both sides are also blessed with a gun, although I did not name the commanders. Possibly, on the face of it, the Royalist gun should be called Beatrice.

The picture shows Sir John’s troops deployed on the right, with Sir Peter’s on the left. Sir Peter decided to stand, more or less, on the defensive and let Beatrice do the talking, as it were. Perforce, then, Sir John took the offensive, aiming to cross the stream with his cavalry while storming and holding the bridge.

A few moves into the game and you can see the plans developing. Beatrice has certainly disrupted the Parliamentary foot, and Sir Peter has moved his cavalry around the wood to oppose Sir John’s cavalry. What the picture doesn’t show, however, is that Claud’s cavalry is uphill of the Roundheads, which will cause them a problem. Poor tempo dice rolling has rather hampered Sir John’s attempt to get his attack moving, however, and he is having to now spend a lot of time persuading Conrad’s regiment to start advancing again.

The main clash was on the near side of the bridge, of course. Claud’s cavalry charged downhill and routed two of the three squadrons of Francis’ immediately. The third squadron held out for another move before turning tail and running, incidentally collecting Verge’s dragoons (who had dismounted) on their way and routing them. Four bases down, Sir John’s army decided that discretion was the better part of valour and decided to beat a retreat.

The Parliamentary cavalry had been caught with their backs to the stream, disorganised and downhill of the Royalists. It has to be said, however, that Sir John’s dice rolling was poor, and that his combat dice were even worse. To be several points down in the cavalry combat and then to roll a one does not indicate that the combat will last long. It also indicates that crossing obstacles is difficult under my rules, which is at it should be. While Verge’s dragoons tried to cover Francis’ reorganisation, they were under fire from Dogberry’s dragoons in the woods anyway and could not really face three bases of Royalist cavalry looming on the brow of the hill. They beat a retreat to behind their cavalry, who, when blown away, took them with them.

As I said earlier, this was really just a bit of fun. It was nice to get the ECW boys out again, and have a proper battle (as it were) albeit with small armies. The whole action did not take long, it has to be admitted and I think Sir John’s tactics were flawed. He could probably have done to have crossed the stream with both infantry and cavalry, at different points on the nearside of the table. Then the Royalists could have been a bit overstretched. As it was, Conrad’s attempted to cross the stream on the far side of the bridge and discovered it was a famous ‘crocodile-filled’ stream, and failed. Sir John did not have the tempo to get them going again, especially as they were under fire from Beatrice (who was alarmingly effective, as it happened).

Still, the use of the play gave a bit of extra depth and fun to the proceedings, so it felt a little bit more than just a stand-alone scenario, or a bash just for fun. I might use the idea again, especially as my complete plays is stored in the same room as the wargames take place (I’m not allowed to call it the wargame room – it is the snug). Sir Peter and Sir John and their merry men may well make another outing. We shall see.

No comments:

Post a Comment