Monday, 25 November 2013

The Storming of Leeds: a WAB ECW version

Steve and I thought it would be interesting to run the "Storming of Leeds" scenario again, but this time use the WAB ECW rules and see how they worked with the small units involved.  All the forces and terrain were identical to those used for the game a fortnight ago using the 1644 rules.  One significant difference was that the Parliamentarian dragoons were deployed as skirmishers, as were one unit of Royalist dragoons.

Here is the map again.

The Parliamentarian forces south of the river were first into action, the dragoons firing at the defenders of the barricade whilst the clubmen formed up ready to charge across the bridge.  I decided that it would be better to replace the dragoons at the barricade with my small infantry reserve, (which had some pikemen) and therefore began to move them forward.  Meanwhile my artillery was attempting to find the range to inflict some damage on the clubmen.  [The WAB rules require you to estimate the range and then roll an "artillery dice" to determine the actual point of impact, followed by a second roll to determine the 'bounce'].  In the end it was the third round from the gun which hit and the clubmen had to take a test.  Although raw, they did have the advantage of being able to count extra ranks and this enabled them to pass the morale test.

Supported by fire from the Parliamentarian musketeers and dragoons the first unit of clubmen surged across the bridge.  There was no fire from the barricade as the Royalist infantry had only just taken up their positions, but the field gun did fire and a round of hail shot swept across the clubmen.  Undaunted they charged the barricade, but could make no impression against the pikemen.  Pulling back to regroup they were hit by another round from the gun and also suffered casualties from the musketeers.  This proved too much and they routed back across the bridge, their movement unsettling the dragoons and musketeers who also fell back.  For the moment, the bridge was safe.

Savile saw none of this; his attention was focused on the western defences.  Two further units of clubmen, those from Birstell and Liversedge were approaching the town.  They had been shielded from the fire from the defenders by dragoons in a skirmish line, but their final charge was met by a solid volley from the Royalist musketeers.  The clubmen ignored their losses and closed to melee.  Even though the Royalists were supported by a unit of pikemen the impetus of the Birstell clubmen carried them over the defences.  A further push was rewarded by the sight of the Royalists fleeing back towards Briggate.  Savile galloped over and rallied the defenders, but Parliament had gained a foothold in the town.  To the left of the Birstell men, the clubmen from Liversedge also charged the defences.  Their first push was stopped, but regrouping, and inspired by the preaching of Ezekial Sowerbutts, a local minister, they returned to the task and also gained lodgement within the defences.

Savile had moved a unit of pikemen from the church sector to support the endangered section of the defences, but these men refused to charge the flank of the clubmen.  A second order was sent, but the pikemen resolutely  stood their ground.  What was worse these pikemen also blocked a unit of cavalry which was trying to intervene.  Eventually, Savile intervened and ordered the captain to move his d*** men out of the way.

Nearer the river the Royalist defenders were also stretched to the limit.  They had managed to hold the skirmishing dragoons in check, but the introduction of  Fairfax's musketeers dramatically altered the balance of forces.  Fairfax's first volley inflicted crippling losses on the defending dragoons and although they stood their ground, their fire was too weak to slow the advance of the parliamentarian musketeers.  This is the view of the western defences as we halted proceedings for lunch.

The Birstell clubmen (yellow flag by the house) have advanced to make way for the first of the Parliamentary cavalry to cross into the town.  The Liversedge clubmen are part way across the defences, but threatend by cavalry to their right.  In the distance Fairfax's musketeers are ready to cross the defences and enter the town.  Not a good morning for the Royalists, but still with a chance to regain control.

When we resumed Fairfax ordered the Liversedge clubmen to charge the Royalist infantry behind the hedge.  Ignoring the cavalry to their flank they did so and pushed back the Royalists again.  Savile ordered the cavalry to charge and they failed to do so.  The Liversedge clubmen moved forward again and once again charged the Royalists, pushing them out of the enclosure and into the streets of Leeds.  This had the advantage of removing the cavalry threat to their flank.  The Royalist horse did manage to advance and take up a position threatening the flank of any further Parliamentarian cavalry crossing the defences. 

The Birstell clubmen were charged by Royalist infantry and beat them off.  Rallying, the Royalists charged again and this time it was the clubmen who were defeated.  Scattering before the pikemen they quickly crossed the defences and made for their own lines.  This allowed the Royalists to move further forward and take on Fairfax's musketeers.  The musketeers had little chance of withstanding the pikes and were soon joining the clubmen outside the defences.  However, this second advance had moved the Royalists too far from their supports and the Parliamentary cavalry swept down on their flank and cut them down.  The sight of the destruction of this unit panicked the Royalists nearby and three units of musketeers/ dragoons took to their heels.  Presented with such an opportunity the Parliamentary cavalry wasted no time in riding down the hapless Royalists.

At the bridge a second attack by the clubmen was rolling forward.  Again, the field gun welcomed them with a round of hail shot, but the clubmen pressed on.  The Royalist defenders didn't stand this time and abandoned their barricade and headed off up Briggate.  This precipitated further routs and soon a large body of infantry were heading for the road to York.  Seeing the infantry leaving the artillery men decided that they had done enough and joined the exodus.

It was left to the Royalist cavalry to cover the rout.  The only bright spot for Savile was that his sole remaining infantry unit managed to defeat the Liversedge clubmen and drive them back out of the town, buying the time for the remainder of the Royalists to pull back.

The scenario played out close to the historical facts.  The WAB ECW rules enabled the clubmen to stand up to morale tests better and they fared better in the melees, mostly due to their large size.  Artillery was much more of a lottery than in the 1644 rules.  The use of dragoons as skirmishers enabled the Parliamentarian clubmen to get closer before they came under fire and this too helped them prevail in the ensuing melee.  

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