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Unhappy King Charles!» Forums » Sessions

Subject: What a gem rss

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Ken McGechaen
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ILKLEY
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Recently my regular gaming buddy time Tim and I played our second game of UKC. And what a nail biter it proved to be! Neither of us have played such a well balanced and absorbing board game before. So here is how it went.

Early War

The Kings Standard was raised towards the end of late 1642 by Parliament, as both sides jockeyed for position using raids and events to gain a slim political advantage over the opponent. The first crossing of swords was at York, where Lord Fairfax assailed the King, and was peremptory driven off after an indecisive encounter. Fairfax retired on Hull to lick his wounds, recruit and generally stare at the King across the Vale of York, whilst the King did exactly the same.

Newcastle temporarily took over garrisoning York whilst the King went off on a brief foray to secure South Yorkshire, but soon returned to his eponymous city when his master returned. However the North was securely in Royalist hands by Late 1643.

In the Midlands the local notables raided back and forth, with the Royalists again gaining the ascendency with the assistance of Prince Rupert and his flying column. The Parliamentarian forces remained reticent about engaging him in battle. On the one occasion that the opposing forces met at Warwick, Waller elected to melt away rather than risk defeat. The pattern was thus set for the Midlands; Rupert rushing around with a rapid force of 3 brigades, whilst his capable brother Maurice held Shrewsbury.

The one disadvantage was that Charles felt unable to abandon York and come south, thereby having to breach the Parliamentarian barrier formed by Macclesfield – Nottingham – Peterborough. Thus the Royalist commander with the greatest capacity for commanding numbers in the field was neutralised by the Fairfaxes with a couple of brigades!

In the south Essex campaigned ineffectually towards the south coast, but after skulking in Portsmouth had to scurry back to London and safety when Rupert finally based himself upon Oxford and threatened to defeat him in detail.

On the Fowey Peninsular Bedford and Hopton engaged in a staring competition, with Bedford finally blinking first as he was dispersed in Bridgewater when Hopton finally advanced.

Mid-War

This is when things finally got interesting as Parliament finally got some usable cards. Waller, emulating the flying prince, coordinated with Essex in a minor campaign. Whilst the latter reduced Reading, Waller blazed a path through the central Midlands, culminating in the capture of Chester. This served to draw the attention of the galloping German, who pursued to Shrewsbury, but just could not bring Waller to battle.

The next stage of the Parliamentarian plan unfolded when Essex, with a 6 brigade army that included Bedford, laid siege to Oxford. Suddenly the fall of the university town, defended by a lone royalist brigade, would leave the hopes of the King in the south resting heavily on the shoulders of Hopton and his tiny army currently about Poole. Yet again the indefatigable Prince Rupert assembled his weary troops and moved boldly to give battle to Essex.

Only now was the trap finally sprung as “Swedish Brigade” was played for the ensuing battle near Oxford. With this ace, Essex could inflict a decisive defeat upon Rupert, Oxford would fall, and with it the south would surely succumb to Parliament. However fate is a fickle mistress and the result was yet another indecisive victory, this time in Parliaments favour. However Rupert had relieved Oxford, and a crisis that could have decided the war had been averted. Although Essex drew Rupert in once more by bombarding Oxford a second time, the opportunity had passed. Attrition and desertion whittled away the once formidable Parliamentarian force, and Essex was forced once again to retire on London to reconstitute his disillusioned command.

As if to emphasise the magnitude of this failure, 3 Irish brigades landed at Cardiff, and Henrietta Maria beat Parliaments naval blockade at Newcastle, arriving in the company of the Duke of Lorraine and his battle hardened army, and injecting new vigour into the Royalist cause in the North.

Only the overdue arrival of the Scots at Carlisle finally offered some new ray of hope to the dejected faction at Westminster.

The withdrawal of Essex to London allowed Rupert to consolidate in Oxford. Hopton was able to advance from the south coast to control the Wool Road and invest Reading. With the North, Wales and the southwest firmly under royalist control, the King's forces were sensing that one more push might cause the parliamentarian party to collapse for lack of political support. To this end royalist sponsored risings occurred in Kent and King's Lynn, and Byron, recently commissioned at Newark, moved to siege Nottingham.

However hopes of an early end to the war proved illusory as the Earl of Manchester took control of parliament's forces in Cambridge and forcibly put down the rebellion in East Anglia, whilst the risings in Kent withered through lack of outside political or military support. The initiative once again seemed to pass to the parliamentarians as the Scots finally subdued the fortress of Carlisle thereby releasing Callander to secure Lancashire for the godly. Waller, having secured some support for the parliamentarians in North Wales, once again stirred to action, marching due south down the Welsh Marches. He rendezvoused with Massey in Gloucester having eluded a thrust by Rupert from Oxford to intercept him with his recently arrived Irish reinforcements.

The aim of Waller's march was to re-enter the West Country and thereby draw Hopton away from Reading. Having crossed the Severn Estuary at Bristol he cut the royalist communications with Devon and Cornwall. This had the desired effect as the hotfooted Hopton beat a rapid return to the West Country. He was able to elude Waller who had hoped to intercept him, but the effects of attrition had in any case reduced Hopton's forces to a single brigade. Nevertheless this was sufficient to prevent the collapse of the royalist cause of the Fowey Peninsula, at least for the time being.

Having stabilised the situation in the south, and having set up a base in Lancashire, the parliamentarian leadership was keen to press the issue in the North. The plan was for the Scots under Leven to cross the Pennines and rendezvous with the Fairfax's currently holed up in Hull . To this end the Scots boldly set off across country to Corbridge. The hitherto inactive Lorraine attempted to intercept them, but failed and they eluded his efforts as far as Durham. Finally he caught up with them, and they were forced to give battle. The result was an indecisive victory to the royalists which saw the Scots retreat to Thirsk, thereby interposing themselves between the King in York and the rest of his forces in Newcastle.

Not to be outdone by this manoeuvering King Charles himself headed across country to Preston, and then headed north to surprise Callender in Kendal. What should have been a royalist victory was a drawn battle which saw the King lose his veteran Life Guard, and ignominiously having to seek shelter from the Earl of Derby in Preston.

This bold, but somewhat reckless move, had uncovered York and Thomas Fairfax seized his opportunity to lay siege. Yet again Prince Rupert was required to hurry North through the Midlands with a flying column of troops and in an inconclusive encounter force Fairfax back to Hull.

At this point both sides were showing considerable war weariness, and the stage was clearly set for the Late War.


Late War

Initially there was some manoeuvering conducted on both sides in order to gain a better position in the Midlands. With Rupert in York, Byron and Prince Maurice, later supported by the King attempted to secure as much of the Midlands as possible before the parliamentarians could gather their forces in and around London . They were greatly hampered by their lack of troop quality and quantity, as well as the loss of the Midlands recruiting centre at Chester.

The first parliamentarian blow was struck in the West Country where bands of clubmen took out Hopton's final brigade, and with it royalist control of Devon and Cornwall. Essex struck out from London pushing back Byron and then Prince Maurice in turn to the Welsh Marches. Manchester meanwhile continued to secure the Eastern counties, but remained too preoccupied to subdue Newark.

As indicated earlier the King had come south from Preston, amalgamating Byron and Prince Maurice's depleted forces at Shrewsbury. However changes were afoot within the parliamentarian camp with the formation of the New Model Army. As a result Wallers’ brigades were transferred to Massey's command at Gloucester, and Tom Fairfax, elevated to the rank of Lord General, was joined by Ponytz in Hull who assumed command of his father's brigades, and of course Cromwell took command of the New Model Army units in London.

Perhaps predictably the first blow was struck against the king in the Midlands by Cromwell and Massey, who were able to coordinate a minor campaign. Massey effectively screened Oxford, whilst the redoubtable Cromwell laid siege to Oxford. King Charles advanced as far as Tamworth but the siege of Oxford was successfully concluded by Cromwell before he could intervene. He then followed this up by inflicting a minor defeat upon the King whose forces finally disintegrated as a result desertions. This left the only effective royalist army in York under the command of Prince Rupert. The Duke of Lorraine, it is true, still had considerable forces in the north of the country around Newcastle, but showed a marked reluctance to shift his base of operations southward.

With the prospect of both Massey and Cromwell moving through the Midlands unchecked, Prince Rupert departed from York, and made for Shrewsbury to collect reinforcements. He was promptly followed up by the Lord General who laid siege to York, his northern flank being covered by the remnants of the Covenanter brigades under Leven who kept an eye upon the inactive Lorraine.

Prince Rupert and Cromwell clashed near Tamworth, Cromwell having remained in the central midlands whilst Massey advanced into Mid-Wales via Bridgnorth. Uncertain of the royalist strength, and still not having made good his losses after encountering the King, Cromwell chose to disperse rather than risk giving Rupert a major victory. With hindsight it would have perhaps been better if Cromwell had been more assertive and given battle to Prince Rupert.

As it was his dispersal necessitated Fairfax breaking off his siege of York, and after reducing the Earl of Derby's stronghold at Preston , he swung south. The intention was for the Lord General and Cromwell's reconstituted army in London to trap Prince Rupert in the Midlands and finally annihilate the last remaining substantive royalist forces. However the course of politics is never smooth, and the ever shifty Hotham, Governor of Hull, surrendered the city to the royalists, which dispersed Poyntz's command with which the parliamentarians had hoped to finally subdue the North. These events were going to have considerable repercussions on the outcome of the war.

Meanwhile the elusive Prince Rupert, depleted by desertion, had nimbly eluded Cromwell, and was able to make a rapid foray into East Anglia , wresting control of Peterborough after the removal of Willoughby with the Self-denying Ordinance. This temporarily denying Pariament control of the eastern counties. Without pause Rupert swept south through Huntingdon to finally take control of Bedford, much to the panic of the city of London . The scene was set for one final climactic showdown between the New Model Army and the dashing remnants of Prince Rupert 's forces as the final actof the warwas played out. However, in a somewhat anticlimactic miscalculation, Thomas Fairfax led his forces to Peterborough, threw out the royalist garrison, and then headed North to siege Newark . Fairfax thus reclaimed control of the eastern counties for parliament, but with Rupert at the gates of London would this be sufficient to persuade the country to entrust the affairs of state to the elected members at Westminster, or would the Kings prerogative be finally upheld?


Conclusion

The royalists, with the connivance of the deceitful Hotham had political control of 24 locations in England and Wales, just sufficient by 1 to retain a political power base. Parliament had control of South, East and Midlands, as well as London, Reigate, The Wool Road, Bristol and Sheffield. Crucially Ruperts occupation of Bedford denied supplies to the City. On this, the fickle populace who had heckled King Charles 5 years before with shouts of “No bishops” and “Parliamentary privilege”, flung open the gates of their hearts and of London and welcomed their sovereign Lord back in triumph to his capital..............

And finally

What a gem of a game this truly is. Admittedly it will have a very strong appeal to those of us who live on this sceptered isle, with the environmental and geographical connections that brings. Nevertheless a better balanced and unpredictable game I have not played in many a year, and therein lies its true value.

Well done King Charles (Vasey)!

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Charles Vasey
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You certainly got a range of interesting stuff there. Did you feel having Lorraine and losing Grandee Recruitment was worth it?
 
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simon thornton
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Excellent and thrilling write up , well done. I Have to have this !.
 
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Michael
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Very well done, Ken! You really seem to capture the spirit of the game. I only wish I could get it to the table more often. Hopefully next weekend if my regular opponent is available.
 
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Ken McGechaen
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I was the parliamentarian player, but Tim certainly did not feel that Charles of Lorraine was worth the investment. In the end game he was definately damaged by the loss of Grandee Recruitment, and apart from securing Newcastle and occupying the attentions of the Scots, he was a bit of a white elephant, (to go along with Newcastles' whitecoates!)

Out of interest what was the rationale for the loss of Grandee Recruitment after the play of Lorraine? Presumably the royalist resources were being diverted to paying an army of mercenaries, and avoiding the worst excesses of the Thirty Years War?
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Charles Vasey
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Prozac wrote:
I was the parliamentarian player, but Tim certainly did not feel that Charles of Lorraine was worth the investment. In the end game he was definately damaged by the loss of Grandee Recruitment, and apart from securing Newcastle and occupying the attentions of the Scots, he was a bit of a white elephant, (to go along with Newcastles' whitecoates!)

Out of interest what was the rationale for the loss of Grandee Recruitment after the play of Lorraine? Presumably the royalist resources were being diverted to paying an army of mercenaries, and avoiding the worst excesses of the Thirty Years War?


Only in part, it seemed to me that the noted English hatred of foreigners meant that even hard-core Royalists would be appalled to see a army of mercenaries marauding and leaching off the body politic, even if they marauded and leached in the King's name. Continental armies did seem more prone to rapine than our own dear boys and of course if the King has a professional army he'll not be needing me to raise a company from my estates (so I'll keep the money). The reaction to the possibility of the King bringing Irish troops to England is instructive.
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