Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Battle of Topsham 1689 - Beneath the Lilly Banners

This month was the occasion for our annual Christmas game at the Devon Wargames Group where traditionally we stage just one game that all club members are invited to play. The game is very much intended as a celebration event where the taking part is more important than the result. In addition the members pull out the stops in providing nibbles and beverages to help lubricate the fun on the table.

Our game this year features the 28mm collection of WSS/Glorious Revolution figures owned by Chas and Vince and utilised a great set of rules, "Beneath the Lilly Banners" for a large multi-player game as this was planned to be. In addition our scenario carried on where a previous game staged in January 2012, The Battle of Lavington left off. Thus we have Prince William returning to the shores of England landing in the South West at Topsham nr Exeter gathering new forces to continue the struggle. King James has responded by bringing his army supported by Irish and French contingents to Devon to crush the rebellion before it can get started.

King James II
Our game finds the two armies drawn up for battle between the hamlets of Topsham and Lympstone.

Prince William of Orange
Meanwhile back in the 21st century the Devon Wargames Group prepares to go large and get all the toys out on the table.
Prince William's forces

King James' host
Chas was our gamemeister for the day and following the arranging of forces and terrain gave the players a briefing on the situation. The table below shows the field of battle from King James' lines with Topsham on the left, Exton in the middle and Lympstone on the right.

Chas briefs the teams
Yeah, yeah, let's play!
There was no shortage of provisions with plenty of nibble and festive food, happily consumed during play.

The army marches on its stomach

Forces allotted, it was time to deploy, with cards detailing the possible morale grades for the various brigades which needed to be diced for once set up, including the grade of the commander.

View from the Protestant lines overlooking Lympstone and Lympstone Hill
Additional cards were distributed, some blank, some with special attributes granted to troops under that commander and some indicating the desire to join the other army and betray former comrades, oh dear, I was that traitor to the cause!!!

Looking along Willam's line towards the garrisoned town of Topham (top right)
The little town of Topsham, on the River Exe, was deemed important to both sides as it was the base for all of William's support from the Netherlands, and would be utterly disastrous if it fell into enemy hands. The game result would be shifted in the favour of the side holding the town. Thus a major victory would become minor, minor a draw.

William's troops garrison Topsham
All players selected a brigade, usually of about three to four infantry battalions, some with a cavalry squadron or two attached. I was initially serving with Prince William's army commanding two brigades of cavalry, each of four squadrons. I was placed in the most favourable terrain for cavalry, out on the extreme left flank facing Lympstone. It was here that the battle's deciding action would occur, and unfortunately for Prince William, my two set up cards told me that I was secretly a supporter of King James and would lead one of my brigades over to his cause, testing each squadron individually to see who would follow me. The other card said I would charge an enemy brigade at the first opportunity gaining a +2 advantage in combat in the first round.

With the terrain generally benefiting the infantry the forces matched each other across the table, with William's army strongly garrisoning Topsham and Exton, the latter with Dutch Guard, who I would end up tackling later in the game.

So with forces arrayed both armies advanced on in the centre and the Lympstone flank with James' army masking Topsham with a covering force of infantry. With the bulk of William's cavalry, I advanced on Lympstone sending the loyal brigade on to Lympstone Hill above the village to gain up hill advantage. The other, hopefully disloyal brigade, advanced on Lympstone village, just about to be entered by James' Irish infantry. I immediately attempted to send a courier to these troops commander to advise them of my intentions. However my messenger was intercepted and Prince William was advised of my treachery.

William's horse advance on to Lympstone Hill
With my treachery revealed there was no other option other than to order my brigade to follow me in a wheel and attack our former comrades flank on, on Lympstone hill. Needless to say the Irish brigade in Lympstone were a little surprised to see this move, and given the long range did not open fire.

My treachery revealed, the whole brigade supports my change of side and direction
Lympstone is occupied by James' Army
French Huguenot Infantry in support of the Topsham Garrison

King Jame's Guard lead the attack on Exton
Christmas cake anyone?

The loyalty check complete all four of my squadrons charged up the hill and smashed into William's loyal squadrons. Three of them decided discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew immediately. One however contested the attack and found the +2 advantage to my men was irresistible.

The cavalry battle for Lympstone Hill as William's cavalry fights each other!

The Irish in Lympstone had been preparing to receive cavalry, look on in amazement.
The cavalry battle went back to and fro for a few moves, but in Lilly Banners cavalry squadrons get used up quite quickly and with the balance in favour of James the flank combat shifted towards Exton in the centre tenaciously held by the Dutch.

William's Dutch Guard prepare to shore up his flank by grimly defending Exton
James' Guard meet William's Guard in Exton as the battle for the centre hots up
The battle for Exton became a protracted affair of musketry as the elite infantry of both sides swapped volleys in a battle of attrition where weight of numbers would be the decider. It was James who held the advantage as William had been forced to commit his reserve in a desperate attempt to shore up his left flank.

With volleys being exchanged, James brings up artillery to support the attack

You could almost hear the sigh of resignation as the Franco-Bavarian brigade of King James' reserve deployed in front of Exton and advanced on the badly shot up and depleted Dutch. In three turns it was over and despite a last minute attempt to break out of Topsham, Prince William conceded defeat.

William's Prussian allies were forced to hold their ground with a card directing their reluctance to fight

The remnants of William's cavalry are forced off Lympstone Hill as enemy infantry advance
Much fun was had by all, and many thanks go to particularly Chas who had the job of cat herding for the day as he arranged the scenario, set up the game and got everyone organised about what they should be trying to do.

So another year comes to a close for the club. Next month, January 2014, we are planning some WWII Chain of Command action and some ACW Fire and Fury. In addition there will be some fun with James Bond and characters to report on as we get in some gaming in North Devon at Chas's between Christmas and New Year.

With Lympstone Hill cleared of Williams troops James' army prepare to attack the centre around Exton

The centre ground, Exton from William's lines with Dutch Guard in occupation
The left flank from William's Line, very much in enemy control
Topsham becalmed as events elsewhere determine its fate
French infantry prepare to force the entry of Topsham
The Irish infantry attack William's extreme left flank
As the Irish attack, pressure grows on the Dutch in Exton
Top left, James deploys his reserve (led by yours truly), Bavarian allies move up to finish Dutch resistance in Exton
Suddenly William's centre has gone and James troops claim the high ground
The Franco-Bavarian reserve move on Exton

Too little too late the Topsham garrison attempt a break out


  1. What a fantastic looking game, great figures and damned nice terrain to boot!

    1. Cheers Ray, it was great fun. Nice way to finish 2013

  2. This game was a very good example of 2 key parts in wargaming :
    1st . Make sure that I am your Commander
    2nd . Always keep a reserve in hand and know when the right time is to use it.
    This second point is almost as important as No1. and is missed out in most games because we always try and cram every one of our toys onto the table as soon as possible.