Last night at the club we tried an adaptation of To the Strongest to refight the battle of Marston Moor. The aim was to see whether the flavour of the period could be captured with minimal changes to the rules, while retaining the big battle fast play characteristics of the original game.
I took the army lists from here http://www.gmtgames.com/tacw/TACWPlaybook.pdf and the terrain from my copy of Cassell’s battlefields of Britain and Ireland. The basic rules were adapted with extra rules for Cavalry pursuit, battalion guns, muskets, cavalry pistols. I gave each line of every wing a commander, with a wing commander and overall army commander. This made 9 commands for Parliament, and 8 for the Royalists. Army size was about 60 VPs each, 36 units a side of varying sizes. There were 2 players a side and we stopped after 3 1/2 hours with Parliament clearly on the way to winning, having taken 15 of the 20 VPs needed and lost 5.
The battle started with the Royalists remaining stationary and commencing bombardment with their cannons. Parliament replied in kind in the centre, destroying one of the Royalists batteries. One the left wing, a little known commander named Ollie Cromwell suffered a command failure, and the advance was delayed. This picture is taken after the parliamentarian second turn; having considered the risk of Royalist reinforcements and the ineffectiveness of their artillery, they advanced in the centre. The right wing cavalry were also unprepared to start the battle…
A couple of turns later and the Parliamentarian advance is general. The royalist right is advancing to meet them, the left staying securely behind the hedge and ditch. The red dice mark pistols remaining, all cavalry units started with 2 and could reload if they wished though in practice charging and rallying turned out to be a higher priority. The parliamentarians are struggling to manouvre through their own guns and restricted by the limit of 2 units in a square.
As the Parliamentarians advance, the Royalists respond with opening volleys from the Pike & Shot units and charges on the right flank. The yellow disorder markers show the effects on the Parliament forces, and the puffs of smoke identify units which have fired and need to reload before they can fire again. The first of the Royalist stragglers from York have started arriving to form a third line in their centre.
The Parliamentarians have also start firing and realoding, and the centre looks to have bogged down. On the right, the Parliament forces have piled forward and are charging over the hedge! Lord Goring goes down in a hail of pistol shots and the unit is disordered by the action. His 2 Line commander will take over the wing in the following turn – but now command a large number of units spread across the countryside.
In the near left, the commanded shot can be seen opening fire at each other on the extreme flanks of both armies. The Royalists are accompanied by a battalion gun, which allows a miss to be replayed each turn. The royalists have taken casualties in the centre – the final artillery unit and a small Pike and Shot unit are gone. On the Royalist right a unit of horse has been beaten by the veteran Ironsides facing them and has routed. The Ironsides pursue, Cromwell happy to have them attack the second line in front of them. Across the battlefield the second and third line commanders impatiently try to find a way of getting their troops engaged in the fight.
The Parliamentarian infantry advances in the centre, as more gaps appear in the Royalist line. They are holding back in front of the hedge, content to exchange musketry. In the forefront, one unit on each side is disordered and vulnerable, and on the extreme flanks on both sides the commanded shot exchange fire with limited effect.
The fight on the flanks gets bloody as one cavalry unit from either side routs. The Royalist commander also goes down in the combat, his victorious cavaliers start their pursuit, for which recovery will be very difficult. The second line of Royalist latecomers have arrived, and the reserves are edging left alog the edge of the table, to cover and expected collapse of their left wing. Rupert is superceding command in the front line of the cetre, getting the infantry to fire and reload more quickly.
the pursuing Ironsides have become stuck in front of a Pike and Shot unit left there to pin any advacing horse. They charge into it unthinkingly, are virtually unable to damage it but the fight back does little either. Without pistols they are taking a high risk continuing to attach a unit with pikes. Slightly to their right, some Verloren Haufen evade from an advancing Pike & Shot unit. The royalist line is bending and will soon break just past the end of the hedge. Second rank pike and shot units have been stepping forward to fill gaps in the front line.
The final position. 15-5 to Parliament, who have almost broken through between the centre and their left flank. On the right the hedge has limited their effectiveness and they haven’t got over it in spite of larger numbers.
It was a great battle, a massive undertaking for a club night and the rules got us almost through it. I mostly like the way it worked, I’ll make some alterations and look out for the next report!
For more on To The Strongest, the author’s blog is here http://bigredbat.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/TotheStrongest!