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The Kirkwhelpington Skirmish, 1644

The English Civil War, The Pikeman’s Lament, 28mm

The hiatus in my gaming was down to a trip to North Carolina, for the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s carryings-on. Fresh from the pirate trail I arrived at the club without any lead, but managed to get involved in a small English Civil War skirmish game, laid on by “Old” Michael. Actually, as he’s our third Michael he should be “New” Michael, but he isn’t really young enough to pull that off. Anyway, his skirmish set near a village in Northumberland pitted a Scots Covenanter force against the Royalists. We played it out on a 6×4 foot table. I commanded the Scots, while Michael and Peter shared command of the North of England Royalists. the game was a straight-up scrap – equal forces, and may the best man win. I had a mixed bag of pike, shot, horse, dragoons and a small gun, while the enemy had roughly the same, only with dragoons and better cavalry instead of artillery and my forlorn hope. The table was dominated by the village of Kirtkwhelpington (a real place by the way), with the Royalists entering from the south, and the Scots from the north. In A Pikeman’s Lament you have to roll to do actions like move, fire or rally. If you fail, then your whole command foregoes the rest of its actions that turn. Both sides had two commands in their whole force, so we took turns setting to and rolling our people forward. I started by putting my dragoons into the closest part of the village, and moving my small frame gun up in support. I soon founds its limitation – it had the same range as a musket, so it got shot up by enemy shot. My gun crew retired, and kept running. Not a good start. By then I could see that the Royalist horse had split up, with half going round each of my flanks. On my left – the eastern side of the table – I sent a small detachment of Royalist dragoons packing with fire from my commanded shot. Some of them had reached the cover of a small wood, but the rest were still in the open when the Royalist cavalry appeared. they charged, and I ran into the trees. Then, the next turn, my two shot units poured fire into the enemy horsemen, and broke them. That made up for the loss of the gun. Over in the centre though, things were hotting up. The Royalists had two pike blocks to my one, and while I screened one with my own pikes, the other tried storming the building with my dragoons in it. I was lucky with my dice, and their shot drove the enemy back in disorder. Meanwhile my own shot there were rather uselessly milling about in a field and a wood – and one unit was even outshot and forced back by its Royalist counterparts. On my right the other unit of well-armoured cavalry were advancing round my flank, supported by a unit of dragoons. My own lancers hoped to ambush them, but the chance never came, and I kept falling back. the only bright spot there was the return of my gun, whose crew rallied. It was back in the game, albeit at half strength. Still, it and my commanded shot started peppering the enemy dragoons.My lancers fell back, as did my Border Horse. I planned to use firepower to break up the enemy horse, then charge in once they’d been whittled down. In fact that chance never really came, although I did kill one of their armoured horsemen before the game drew to a close. Yes, it might have been a bit cowardly, but I knew my cavalry’s limitations. Instead my border horse did what they do best – harras their bigger and more powerful counterparts from a safe distance. Back in the centre Peter finally launched his charge, and his pikemen drove my dragoons out of the building. Undeterred I fired at the house, shot the pikes up a bit, and then, amazingly, the enemy withdrew. They’d failed a morale test you see, and my troops went back in. So, this was turning into something of an impasse. To move things along, my commanded shot hacked their way through the small wood, and then fired and dispersed the remains of the enemy dragoons on my left flank.The Royalist dragoons on my right weren’t doing so well either. They charged my commanded shot, but I was in a wood, and we fought at equal odds. I won, and this second unit of Royalist dragoons high-tailed it from the table. hings were really looking up. However, I was sort of waiting for the shoe to drop – his heavy cavalry were itching to charge. In fact they never did. Every time Peter tried, he failed his activation roll.By then we’d pretty much reached the end game. Both sides held part of Kirkwhelpington village, but the attack on the Royalist right had failed, the one on the left had stalled, and in the centre the enemy pikemen were battered and pinned down. So, we ended the game, which turned out to be a Scots Covenanter win on points. That worked for me. As usual the rules worked well – there’s a good balance to them, and games with them roll along smoothly. This was a pretty enough game too, and a nice change from our more usual larger scale English Civil War battles. I’m sure we’ll visit Northumberland again soon! 


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