Yesterday, Mr Steve brought his 15mm ECW collection down to Exeter to run through a game of "To Defy a King" as I was really keen to see how the rules played.
Steve play tested the rules and reported on their basic mechanism back in May and having met the author, Keith Johnson, and seen them being played at Warfare in Reading back in November 2014 I knew they gave a nice looking game.
We decided to play the rules straight from the book and so after throwing some terrain down on the table set about selecting a force from the rules using the cards selector army creation process to generate our ten unit armies, a late period Scottish force against Cromwell, Fairfax and the New Model Army looking to impose Parliament's will north of the border.
|Orders and quality level (T = Trained) chits placed|
The cards are dished out in proportions that reflect the period of the war being fought, so for instance our infantry was mainly large to medium size regiments (6-10 bases) with various ratios of pike to matchlocks 2:1, 3:2 etc and mainly Veteran or Trained with very few Raw. We ended up with a large nine stand regiment, two six stand regiments and a four stand regiment with three veterans and one trained.
|The Scots line ready to dispute Parliamentary sovereignty|
The Scots were not not as well trained or experienced but opted for more infantry to cavalry and having a single heavy position gun to counter our more mobile light gun.
|The New Model Army all lined up and ready to go|
With the two lines facing each other we settled into the basic sequence of initiative rolls to determine who activated first, issuing of orders, movement according to orders, combat, reaction and morale tests. My description, but I am sure you get the general idea.
|Cromwell and Fairfax with their, "increased quality" dice on their bases|
We were working to roll 2d6 for each stand of muskets looking to hit on a basic score of 8 or more. modified up or down according to circumstance, most hits requiring a score of 7 - 8 or more. Once all hits had occurred on a unit you had a simple save roll to make on any hits over or under six, with six removing a stand selected at random
Thus with ten hits you would remove a stand of pike or matchlocks and needed to roll 5 or 6 to prevent the other four hits causing another base loss, a bit like "Fire and Fury".
|The Scots lined up behind their "big" gun|
All good stuff and we started to get our heads around the process as we went along.
|Two veteran regiments of New Model infantry|
The close terrain prevented too much cavalry action on the flanks, but the cavalry fought on the Parliamentary right with a balanced scrap going on at the end, between a large unit of Roundhead "trotters" and Scottish lancers, with the advantage swinging in both directions, but with the Roundheads having the advantage of a unit in reserve and ready to support.
|The two lines prepare for a push of pike|
|Scots cavalry look to get around behind the Parliamentary right flank|
|Roundhead cavalry move out the Scots right flank|
There was a certain lack of clarity about how to apply certain rules in certain situations
One particular situation to illustrate my point about clarity occurred towards the end with Scots Lancers trying to push around the woods on the Parliamentary right flank. The lancers advanced in column and then proceeded to fan out into line as they cleared the obstacle.
The Scots were desperately running a messenger to the brigade commander to change his orders from advance to attack at the same time. As the Scots rounded the corner the Roundheads charged in, with the Lancers still in the process of changing from column into line, ie they still had two of their six bases in column behind the other four in line.
This situation might suggest an additional advantage would lie with the Roundheads having caught an enemy unit trying to change formation, over and above the number of elements able to fight in any ensuing combat; but the definitions about formations and charge to combat situations leaves this one unclear. So we played it as the Scots in line, and able to counter-charge bringing their lances into full effect, thus just leaving them to fight the first round two bases fewer as their only disadvantage. The rules are clear about what a particular formation looks like and how to change formation, but less so considering all the opportunities for disorder to occur, excluding crossing difficult terrain. Disorder can really impact on the ability of a unit to fight to its full effect and I have to wonder how, in reality, being between one formation and another with the commander just having received a change of orders and then having to react to a cavalry charge might present an opportunity for a modicum of disorder to occur.
We were a bit bemused by what seemed a strange design idea to have in some situations needing to roll higher than a given factor with 2d6 and in another situation lower. Not a major problem, but one that seemed unnecessarily designed to overwork the "little grey cells".
|Scots lines left, New Model Army right, as the two lines close. Note the absence of Scots cavalry on this flank and my comments below.|
The movement rates look about right for units moving tactically, although they are fixed rates and I would prefer an element of randomised movement that makes keeping those neat lines and determining charge ranges a bit more difficult to manage. In addition I would add in a grand tactical movement rate to allow units outside of "tactical range" of enemy troops to make extra movement and prevent them being ignored, This would give the cavalry their traditional role of feeling out the enemy flank. In the game our left flank cavalry were moving far too slowly to get into the battle and worry the Scots, tucked in behind their hedgerows, allowing all the Scots cavalry to move to one flank as seen in the picture above.
The rules are full of eye candy, which is nice but they could do with more attention to clarity of layout, rules intent and definition. The layout of the various subjects within the rule book seemed a bit strange or difficult to understand, speaking as wargamers who have thumbed our way through a lot of rule sets in our time. That said the basic concepts about movement, combat and morale appear sound and give a good game structure and in the absence of a specific rule or a clear definition it would be very simple to add your own house rules. or in one off situations with opposing proposals settled with the roll a die.
|A quiet Scots right flank observes the fighting in the centre of the line, as Roundhead cavalry 'feels' out their flank.|
|Scots cavalry can only look on as the infantry struggle gets going. The big red marker records the first Scots "push-back"|
|The only cavalry fight - in the balance but with Parliamentary reserves ready to join the fight|