Saturday, May 11, 2019

Battle of Montgomery 1644 - For King & Parliament ECW

So after a dearth of gaming for me, Ken invited Alex and I over a game of For King & Parliament [click] at his house today with his outstanding 28mm figures (watch that pike, sir!  Ouch!).  This is the English Civil War version of the popular "To the Strongest" ancients rules on a gridded table. [click]  The battle fought was the Battle of Montgomery, 1644 [click].  I played the Royalists, and Alex played Parliament.

We played for approximately 3.5 hours when a decision in the battle was reached.  The game was very much fun and I really enjoyed playing on a gridded surface.  The reader will note from the pictures that you don't even notice the grids and it was refreshing not to have to measure or haggle over distances.  I think the grids are liberating, actually, especially in a game with defensive-type fire like this.  The grid really eases play and speeds things up.  I wonder how playing with a D10 instead of the cards would be.

My hard-charging brigade of Lancashire Horse - note how the grids are not really prominent!  I love the gaming mat!

Lord Byron (not that one, Steve, the other one).
 Brian's advice the last time we played this was "Hammer and Tongs" so that's how I played this time.  I rushed in with my Cavalry and was able to knock out a unit of enemy horse!  Knocking out units is not very easy and usually takes a concerted effort and some lucky cards.

Lord Byron would have multiple units shot out from under him, and get wounded, but remained until the end of the game.
 My plan is to advance my infantry in a general line and advance upon the hill, but unfortunately I left "the English Brigade" behind and my large infantry Brigade advanced sans the English Brigade on their right flank.

Alex plotting his next move.

Top of Turn 2.  My infantry (center-left) starting to move forward - 2 Regiments of the English Brigade are still in the rear with the gear.  Not smart considering they're my only veteran troops.
The first few turns seem to be going well but neither side is scoring any impressive kills, yet.  Alex needed to collect 14 victory medals to win.  I needed a similar number.  My plan is to continue to get the infantry up and online as quickly as I can so they can start fighting.  My cavalry plan kind of fell apart as I used up too much "dash"and all of my Cavalry's pistol shots trying to kill Alex's on-table Cavalry.  The pursuit rules when Cavalry destroy a unit are also tough on your Cavalry as you will need to rally them or lose them for a turn or 2.  

Alex was on-track to also receive reinforcing Cavalry which I was hoping to be prepared for.  Also, I didn't account for my forlorn hopes (skirmishers) in my plan and definitely did not use them properly.

My infantry advancing - the line should be 5 units long, not 3 but oh well!  The Cavalry battle is swirling on the right.
 I send one of my "blown" Cavalry regiments into the flank of one of Alex's infantry regiments and they do considerable damage to them which is one of my last successful efforts of the battle.

Flank attacks are rough!
 Right now my plan is starting to come together and the infantry come to grips!  I shoot first and am completely underwhelmed by the shooting.  It's apparent that while shooting has its uses, melee is probably more lethal.

Parliamentary troops standing! 
Can you spot the cross-hair that marks the corner?  

The grinding, slogging infantry fight on the left is going my way until Alex smartly pulls his troops back further up the hill and rallies off some of his hits, something I did not do.  This helped remarkably and gave Alex much more staying power as some of his units were on the ropes!  A cunning trap which I am too happy to walk into!  Alex makes good use of shooting and is slowly causing hits on my best infantry units.  Alex's coup de grace is probably the destruction of one of my veteran Regiments through shooting.  

An enemy forlorn hope is holding back the left-most regiment while I break up the line and move my 2 other infantry regiments into the hole created by Alex pulling back.

A forlorn hope is "guarding" my flank.
 Alex brings on a reinforcing Cavalry brigade and vaporizes my remaining cavalry, who are caught moving back to the safety of my lines.  It's a bloodbath with 3 units attacking them in their flank/rear.

We have lost the battle!
 Alex has a great turn of shooting and that, combined with over-running my forlorn hope, wins the fight by gaining enough victory medals!  It's turn 5 or 6 I think, and about 4:15pm.  Ken and I started around 12:45pm.  Not bad.  The game moves along at a good pace and you get the hang of things pretty quickly.  I wouldn't say the rules are simple, but they are very straightforward and you get the hang of everything in a couple turns.  Ken did a great job of manning the rules and explaining things as they came up.

A wounded Lord Byron at battle's end!
I am very excited to play the ancients version, To the Strongest and possible even get my Ancients re-based on single bases.  The rules seem like they would be great for solo play as well and that's a big plus for me.  I'd love to see other, fan-produced versions that might cover other eras.  I also think these would be good for mass-battle fantasy as well.

Thanks to Ken for hosting a very enjoyable Saturday afternoon game playing in an era I have never played before!  

Make sure you tune in next week when we play more Battle of Ziegenhain using Richard C's modern Battlegroup.

PS if you're interested in the mat, it's from the "Big Red Bat shop" here [click].


  1. Superb sir!
    I had purchased the pdf of these rules, with a view to hacking them for later 1680s battles (which I think the authors are working on anyway).
    Some great guidance here and superb pictures and figures.

    1. Thank you sir! They were great fun and I'd recommend them. I really enjoyed the gridded playing as you could probably tell. How much different would they 1640 combat be from the 1680s? Admittedly my knowledge of combat anywhere in Europe from about 1300 to 1720 is pretty murky lol!

    2. Well we see a move from 2:1 pike to shot ratio to 3:1 and 4:1 - so I don't think it would make much difference in the rules bar effectiveness of shot and reduction in pike strength vs cavalry.
      I might just try them as they are, as the key thing is the gridded movement system.
      Looked like a great game - and as you say, must have granted real freedom in terms of not being restricted to measuring tapes etc.
      I hadn't though there would be as much drama with the rules when I first read through them, but your report is full of excitement, so I'm very enthusiastic to try them.

    3. Ahh That makes perfect sense. You might find the rules handle that with some very minor changes I think?

      There is an appreciable tension and excitement created by the cards. It's arguably the same as rolling dice I guess but to me it was a neat feature. They are definitely worth trying out!

  2. Great looking game! I have fought the Battle of Montgomery many times but never with FK&P. I should give it a try.

    1. It was fun, Jonathan. I am looking forward to playing the ancients version next.

  3. Steve, lovely looking armies in a nice sized action.

    I was thinking about your D10 idea, not having used the rules I might not be right here, but I would have thought that the problem of a D10 is that the all of the numbers are always available to you. So if you have played two 9 cards so far in the turn, with the cards, there would only be two more in the deck (is that how it works, one deck?), so chances of further 9's would be lower with card play, but not with a D10 system.

    1. Thanks Norm the minis belong to and were painted by Ken and they were a joy to push around the table!

      Yes we had discussed that about the D10 as well - The finite number of options. The other thing we quickly realized is that you'd need a shed-load of D10s as well in order to place behind the unit to remember the activation numbers. I'm sure there are remedies for that but it would be something to consider if you had wanted to use dice instead of cards.

    2. I am with Norm on this one. The switch to a D10 from cards changes the probabilities since cards represent sampling WITHOUT replacement while D10 introduces sampling WITH replacement.

      We use two decks per player.

    3. Jon, we also had two decks per player.

    4. Hi Jonathan Ken amswered for me. Yes we used two decks.

  4. Well, I did have a run of 10's, and that was fun. Later, I had a run of Aces, 2's 3's and 4's, which was also amusing.

    Bottom line, this game has lots of drama and ups and downs. It is not for those who game for the bell curve. It is possible [not probable] to pull lots of bad cards and be able to do very little while your army is ruthlessly slaughtered by some bully who pulls lots of good cards. Or it could be very dull as you both pull lots of bad cards. Yes, this IS a system that has that possibility. If you really can't live with that, it can be changed.

    A noteworthy aspect of the system is that it IS open-ended, and you can have turns where very little happens, but it is not LIKELY. That being said, there are plenty of game systems out there that eliminate the possibility of "missing" and nothing activating entirely, and eventually those games become repetitive and dull.

    So far we have played the game twice, and after 37 years of miniature gaming, I prefer some drama to predictability, and I think it is overall more realistic to have the drama. The only part I find unrealistic is that you can pretty regularly have commands only partially activated and - literally - nothing happen. There's a couple of very simple ways to remedy that, which I've used in other game designs and seen in some game designs.

    Overall, I think the system has a lot going for it, and it is not a "novelty" design. The mechanics are mostly very common, but the design is tight, which is the way I prefer it. It gives good "big battle" ECW feel, with enough of the tactical decisions and period flavor to make players say, "this is ECW" and not a generic set of rules.

    So if you are OK with battles occasionally spinning out of control, and are interested in some more excitement and drama in your ECW gaming, I think this is a set of rules that is worth investing time and treasure into. Yes, I'm sure there will be some tweaking - gamers are gamers, after all.

    I think I speak for Steve and myself when I say that we're looking forward to next time. Alex

  5. As you might know, I am a big fan of these rules; perhaps even more so than Top the Strongest!, which I like and have played quite a lot. Both would be very suitable to solo play. There ios a lopt about them on my blog, including an improved summary sheet.

    There is a fan made Napoleonic variant on the discussion group site. I personally think his take on things doesn't seem very Napoleonic to me, but hey if they work for 2,000+ years of history, that ain't shabby!

    The author recommends shuffling the (double, 40 card each decks) at the emd of each player turn, rather than playing all the way through the deck as I have done. Aside from car ply being faster than dice rolling, the big advantage of the cards is the ability to track successive activation numbers by playing the cards on the units.

    1. Cheers, Peter. We were reshuffling at the end of each player turn and that seemed to give us much better luck than going through the entire deck! A very neat and enjoyable system I thought. Cant wait to play the Ancients version next!

  6. Great Review and fantastic minis.

    You mentioned you would like to see other era's developed by game users. On the To the Strongest Forum I have detailed a very simple, rough and ready conversion for the Napoleonic wars.

    1. I would very much like to see that, Mr Cromwell. I'll check that out over at the forum! THank you sir!