Being a British wargamer, I have often thought that I should take more interest in the wars that have shaped the island on which I live – let’s face it, there are numerous ones to choose from.
The English Civil War has always seemed a challenging period of warfare – tactics were evolving with the introduction of large numbers of troops armed with firearms. However, it’s not a period of history I really studied very deeply, so in gaming terms I am really after a set of rules that captures the essence of warfare in the period, without becoming bogged down in the detail.
For King And Parliament seem to be that set of rules.
These rules are co-authored by Simon Miller, who previously brought us Too The Strongest. He has taken the system he developed in that set of rules, and has worked to adapt it to this new period.
FK&P is designed as a fast-play set of rules, which can be played as either a two-player game, or expanded to cater for multiple players on each side. The rules are played on a surface divided into a squared grid – the size of these squares, and indeed the battlefield, are dependent upon the scale and size of the forces that you wish to use. A playing area is typically divided into a grid of 12 squares x 8 squares. On a 6′ x 4′ table, this equates to squares 6″ big – ideal for using 28mm miniatures. Smaller tables can be used to accommodate smaller scale troops – alternatively you instead make the base sizes of your forces bigger to give a grander spectacle – there is nothing to stop players playing on a 6′ x 4′ table using armies comprising of 15mm miniatures. Equally, it is possible to play a game on a 3′ x 2′ table, with 3″ squares and units of 6mm miniatures.
Using a grid enables players to dispense with measuring distance, which is an aspect of wargames that always seems to take up time. Furthermore, FK&P also dispenses with dice, instead using a playing-card based system to govern both Command & Control and Combat (Although the latter can still be carried out using dice – many gamers find that rolling dice to determine hits and saves in combat is a far more satisfying experience than drawing cards).
Other than a playing surface marked out in a grid, a couple of packs of playing cards, and perhaps some 10-sided dice, each side will need an army with which to fight. However, thanks to the use of the grid, these two forces do not have to be identically based – just as long as it is clear what type of unit is represented by each set of models, it’s perfectly possible for one side to be element based, whilst the other consists of individually based miniatures.
As I said earlier, the troop formations used during the ECW period are somewhat different to earlier historical periods. Thankfully, an entire chapter of FK&P is devoted to explaining this, so you will discover the different between ‘Dutch’ and ‘Swedish’ horse, as well as the various foot Battlia fielded by different armies, and how all these units can be represented on the battlefield.
FK&P contains a points-based army list, so armies can be built so that they are ‘points balanced’ should players wish. However, the rules also contain notes on how many men a typical Battalia represents, so armies can be drawn up from historical records on the numbers at particular battles.
Each army must have an Order Of Battle (OOB), which denotes the number of Brigades the army is divided into (A Brigade is a group of Battlia), which colonel is commanding each Brigade, and which General the Brigade reports to.
In multi-player games, each player can take command of one or more Brigades.
Playing the Game
The turn sequence is a variation on I-GO-U-GO, with the Command and Control having similarities to games such as Warmaster or the Hail Caesar family of games.
The active player chooses which of his brigades he wishes to activate, and then can activate each unit to move, shoot, charge or rally until either a unit fails to activate or the player has activated all the units he wishes to.
In order to activate, a unit must pass an activation test. A card (or chit) is drawn, and as long as the card/chit is of a value high enough to pass the test, the unit can be activated. The activation value starts at two, and any subsequent activations have to be higher than the previous value drawn. So it is possible for a unit to be activated several times, or not at all (should you draw a one for initial activation). As soon as a unit fails an activation fails, the turn is over for that entire brigade and the active player then chooses another brigade to activate. This continues until all the active player’s brigades have activated – at this point play passes to the opponent, who becomes the active player.
Play continues until one side has achieved a number of victory medals, determined by the size of the initial army (usually 40% of full strength).
Movement – foot units can typically move one box, whereas mounted troops can move two boxes.
Charging – Units will move into the box of an occupying unit, thus initiating combat.
Shooting – Units may fire at a target, using pistols, muskets or artillery. It should be noted that units have limited ammunition, which will expended during the game.
Rallying – this action can be used to recover from disorder, or to stop a mounted unit from pursuing.
Combat & melee
Combat is relatively simple, and can be carried out using cards, chits or dice.
The attacker needs 8+ to hit (9+ if disordered). If a hit is scored, then the defender has the opportunity to save against that hit (typically 7+ or 8+, plus modifiers). Should the defender fail to save, it will receive a disorder counter. Once a unit has received a number of disorder counters equal to its strength (typically 3) it is removed from play and the player who defeated that unit receives a number of victory medals.
Ranged combat does not allow a response from the defender, whilst melee combat has the following sequence:
- Defender shoots
- Attacker shoots
- Attacker hits in melee
- Defender hits in melee
Certain situation allow for the attacker to inflict bonus attacks – in addition, if a unit is hit in the flank or rear then the number of hits against it are doubled.
If a unit is lost, other units orthogonally adjacent must make a rout test to check how they are affected. A failed rout test applies a disorder token, which could lead to further unit losses and rout checks.
FK&P also include rules for cavalry pursuit, as mounted units of the time were somewhat well-known for destroying an enemy and then immediately setting off in pursuit of them across the countryside.
FK&P also include rules for Officer & ‘Gallant Men’, terrain generation, stratagems, officer personalities, garrisons, objectives and hedgehogs.
There is an extended example of play, a full list of points values plus example armies for early 1642 and a sample scenario.
The rules also contain a very good suggested reading list, as well as a comprehensive index, which makes them easy to navigate.
For King and Parliment builds on the solid game mechanics of To The Strongest to provide a fun gaming experience which is versatile enough to cater for all manner of size and shape of game; from small engagements with two players and a dozen units a side to large games with several players a side, with armies 40 or 50 units big.
The lack of measurement and the streamlined combat system makes for a game that plays quickly with a good level of abstraction – players do not get bogged down in the minutia of dozens of modifiers when engaging in a complex melee combat – but the combat results remain ‘realistic’ i.e. what you might expect, whilst throwing up the odd surprise.
My only reservation about the game is the I-Go-U-Go nature of the command sequence. However, this could easily be amended by a house rule to make the turn sequence more interactive – indeed, having brigades of opposing armies activating alternatley would encourage the ‘push your luck’ nature of activating a brigade, to try and get the most out of group of units before the initiative passed to the opponent.
The English Civil War is a period that I have been interested in playing, but I have never found a set of rules that has sufficiently enganged me to make me seriously consider collecting opposing armies. FK&P has me scouring the Baccus website as I look to construct Parlimentary and Royalist armies in 6mm. For anyone who has an existing collection of miniatures having played something like ‘Pike And Shotte’ from Warlord, these rules would be a no-brainer to add to your collection and revitalise your ECW gaming, maybe with several friends…