Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Battle of Cheriton 1644: In Deo Veritas - First Thoughts!

 Ken and I sat down on Saturday to play our first game of In Deo Veritas 17th century rules from Helion Wargames.  We picked a smallish ECW battle from the IDV rulebook (Battle of Cheriton) as Ken has a nice-sized (and beautifully painted) collection of 28mm ECW miniatures, and we thought this would be a good introductory scenario with a manageable number of combatants.

As most of you probably know already, In Deo Veritas are a 17th Century "big battle" set of rules that dispense with and abstract some detail for the sake of playability and aim to put entire 17th century battles on the table.  If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am a huge fan of "big battle" rules and usually aim to put historical battles on the table as much as I can, so the premise of IDV instantly appealed to me.  

Reading Darren's review of them really sealed the deal for me as I found out they were inspired by, and even structured a bit like Frank Chadwick's "Volley & Bayonet" which are some of my favorite "big battle" rules for the horse and musket era.

The rules and the sequence of play are straightforward enough that you can get into the action quickly, and there is a great card-driven activation system to activate "wings" on the table.  This gives you just enough random activation to add some nice tension and fog of war to the game.

Battle of Cheriton - facing off against the Royalists - this was the first time I've ever played a Parliament force!  (having only played 3 ECW games in my entire life - all the Battle of Montgomery 1644 and all for the Royalist side)

The sequence of play is familiar with movement, combat, and adjudication of morale issues occurring in that order.  I should also say that, like Volley & Bayonet, the movement distances are quite generous.  Units, at least later TYW and ECW units, are 3" x 1.5".  That should sound instantly familiar to V&B players!  

Right cavalry wing and right infantry wing ready to step off and deploy on the field!  We'll try to use the woods to our advantage to keep the Royalist Cavalry as bottled up as we can.

In hindsight I should not have started with my guns deployed

I found myself drooling over Ken's outstanding 28mm troops.

Left Infantry Wing

My plan is to use the right wings to keep the Royalists bottled up.  True to the "hammer and tongs" nature of 17th Century Warfare (what little i know about it), I want to strike hard with my cavalry and follow up with my infantry, eager to make contact.  Ken and I also have large cavalry wings facing off across the field on my left, Ken's right and a huge cavalry battle is in the making as both of us place our forces on "attack" orders.  I like the orders system and they seem intuitive in this case.  The orders also add a nice "fog of war" to the system as I found my right wing cavalry in a "pickle" as I had them on attack orders and not much range to work with!  As a result, with much of my cavalry being engaged, I had to charge a unit of horse straight into a Pike and Shot brigade frontally with telling consequences.  Even a 17th Century "newb" like me knows that's not going to end well!

A thunderous cavalry charge!

Ken and I had some questions during our play through that we couldn't find answers for in the book - for instance when charging do you square up against an opponent?  Is it the point of contact?  Can chargers fire?  Additionally we took some generous "artistic license" with assigning supports for our combats as support ranges weren't defined that we could see.  

One cool feature also of IDV is the disorder system and testing when in proximity to the enemy (again, familiar to V&B players).  This actually enables the enemy's saves which I like.  The combats themselves are simple affairs and the modifiers are manageable.

Detachments in the woods.  We kept forgetting about these poor slobs

cavalry advance onthe right!  note the edge of the woods keeping Ken's cavalry bottled up!

Cavalry battle on the left about to be joined!  

Cool pic of Ken's 28mm minis

Ken and I decided to reset the battle after turn 5.  I had made some initial deployment mistakes not knowing or appreciating the orders restrictions or the move distances.  My cavalry on the right got embroiled in a nasty fight with Ken's supporting Pike and Shot infantry and his Cavalry.  My characteristic bad rolling also plagued me throughout the entire game and I rolled plenty of "1"s at very inopportune times!  We'll refight the battle.  Hopefully my copy arrives in the mail soon so I can get even more familiar with the rules.  

Royalist Horse and infantry in the attack!

THe entire battlefield looking towards the Cheriton woods.  Parliament coming off the ridge to your right

Thoughts on In Deo Veritas
I enjoyed these rules and felt these are a good introduction to the period and allow me to better appreciate the contribution of each combat arm to the battlefield.

I am happy to report that the rules are "loose" enough to allow you to form a plan, and then fight it out, with the enemy naturally getting a vote.  They are straightforward and not at all "gimmicky" in the sense that you will be moving your troops, just not necessarily in the order that you might like.  I learned what I needed to learn by turn 2.  Originally I was going to base my ECW figures on 4 x 2" unit stands, but will instead mount them on 3 x 1.5 inch unit stands moving forward.  I am looking forward to playing IDV again, and frankly, they make me want to play Volley & Bayonet again!

Surprisingly I also played Tilly's Very Bad Day this week and enjoyed those, too.  So you could say this week has been a "crash course" in 17th Century warfare here at Sound Officers Call!


  1. Fine looking battle, Steve! Keep at it and we will be seeing "All 17th Century wargaming, all of the time!" Ken has an expansive and handsome collection.

    1. Thanks Joonathan, easy to see why I'll never turn down a game with Ken's ECW troops!!

      The period is certainly fascinating to me and you'll definitely be seeing more around here!

  2. Some lovely pics there Steve and thanks for the thoughts on the rules:)

  3. The old saying of what goes around, comes around and perhaps there is a truth of this in Volley & Bayonet, as a few blogs at the moment are highlighting them and reminding us of what a fine set they were, also with their pre-glossy physical charm.

    The table looks splendid with Ken's forces, particularly enjoyable as the rulebook sells itself at the 6mm to 15mm range of scales.

    Some of the deficiencies that you mention seem a little basic and you wonder whether the rules fall into that trap of being written by a person who is intimate with their set and so fails to properly convey processes in their presentation and then not enough remote testing of the rules conducted to pick that up.

    I am just 'blind proofing' a napleonic set at the moment that are in any case very complicated and suffer from short cutting and short hand nature of rules writing by the author due to their own familiarisation of the set. I have been at it for a couple of weeks and it is the most tedious of things and I wish I had never started, but I am being thorough for a friend.

    1. I've read various reports on the rules that highlight the lack of clarity in quite a few areas, which is a shame. The rules I have been involved in playtesting have been spread far and wide to give as much varied feedback as possible. This seems to have paid off for the authors as there are no 'glaring' omissions, which is good.

    2. Thank you Norm. I think at the time, V and B were really ahead of their time in terms of representing a more operational concept and a simplified approach to combat, and one where the miniatures were irrelevant. They've always been enjoyed by me and it looks like IDV follow a similar path.
      Funny it's almost as if you were listening in on the conversation Ken and I had about the rules omissions :)

      The things we do for our friends :)

      I think many rules out there suffer from this issue. Many rules writers also fail to properly blind-test their rules amongst people who have not played them, or are unfamiliar with the period, and so their friends and acquaintances, who have played them, will deliver glowing remarks or padded criticism but sadly that's not what the author needs!

    3. Steve, that is a sound approach if the author is looking to publish! I for one would welcome a few blind tests with people I didnt know.

  4. A few notes.

    First, although we used 28mm figures, we used smaller units than normal in an effort to approximate the rule's specified basing- 3" frontage for all units.

    Your comments about the gaps in the rules are more charitable than my thoughts about this.

    I'm always very appreciative of people who share their homebrew rules for free, warts and all. However, once you start charging for rules (IDV cost $40) you become a professional rules author and you have an obligation to produce a professional product- not just in the presentation, but also in the substance.

    I don't understand how anyone who's played wargames for any length of time can leave out certain things that simply have to be included to do a complete job. An explanation of how units contact each other is among these. That's a part of every set of wargames rules- the same way specifying a move distance for each troop type that can move is a part of every set of rules. That contact rules may be difficult to explain is no reason to ignore them.

    So, to me at least, any set of rules that doesn't include an explanation of these fundamentals is not a professional job.

    That being said, I liked the bones of IDV very much and I think the author did a nice job overall. It just needs tightening up.

    1. Agreed whole heartedly, Mr Roberts!

      Hoping the FAQ answers these questions. I enjoyed the first play though and am looking forward to playing again.

  5. Outstanding looking game and figures. Great action.
    They have so much V&B mechanics in there, but a few subtle changes which make them unique.
    I am now liking what I see in TVBD too- and thinking of a quick convert to Late C17th.

    1. Cheers Darren the battle was lots of fun I cant wait to play again.

      I think the Tilly rules are simple enough that they can be hacked into.

  6. A very fine looking game and it sounds like much fun was had (gaps in rules notwithstanding). If I had infinite time and patience, ECW is the historic period I would most love to get into, if only to wistfully recall youthful summers spent watching re-enactors at Sherborne Castle! Hope you get that refight in sometime soon.

    1. Thanks Alan! The gaps weren't that bad AMD the author wrote Ken back personally to let him know his intent. That sounds like alot of fun watching ECW reenactors!

      Hey there is always room for one more army!!

  7. Great looking game and interesting to see a lot of consensus about the rules: good, but probably not independently play tested and proof read! Neil Thomas is correct that writing simple rules is more difficult than complex ones. I often wonder if some writers think people will be playing their games every night rather than once or twice a year.

    1. Thanks Jeffers nd good point.
      It probably comes from having so much familiarity with what you've designed that it may seem obvious?

  8. PS I have never been to Cheriton, despite passing it for many years as a child! Likewise I drove past Roundway on my way to work for five years and never stopped for a look.

    1. Smae here - I live within driving distance of many AWI and even ACW battles and I rarely venture out which is a huge shame.

      We must both rectify that!!