Ironsides (3W)

Playings; 20 hours (2 Royalist wins, 3 Roundhead)

Although the Ironsides map covers all the British Isles it is the 1st English Civil War which is simulated, events in Scotland and Ireland are only relevant in the supply of troops into England and Wales. There are no units for the rebels in Ireland nor the Scottish army stationed there, Royalist units hunker down in cities, suffer attrition and hope for the cessation and possible transport overseas. There is no point in wasting men trying to suppress rebel cities. Scotland always enters in a state of civil war, instead of marching South and not worrying about a few highlanders in the hills the loyal Scots would do well to wipe the rebel Scots before heading South. The movement system prevents any Scottish army from swiftly marching South, if the King gets the Scots (1 in 10 chance) it is a relief to have a secure rear but it will take a long time before the Scots fight any English. Fans of Montrose will be disappointed to learn that there are no highlander units, at least you can no longer lose support in Scottish towns by your highlanders killing everyone inside then going home.

A number of obvious faults in the rules and charts have to modified, Royalists and Roundheads are mixed up, - should be + on the siege table and two terrain effects chart variations are provided. The map contains a number of errors so use the terrain chart on the handouts, even so the Sussex Downs are rated the same terrain as mid Wales. I doubt if the Downs were enclosed at this date but must have boasted a better road system than mid Wales if only on the grounds of worse weather on unimproved roads. Minor glitches on foreign maps can be ignored but when looking at what I can see out of the window the Acrylic paint and roller pen come to hand. The Severn should be tidal river below Gloucester because it just is, incidentally Gloucester should e 1 hex further South. There is no getting out of writing on the Map because 3 cities are on the city manifest but not the map. It ould be folly to expect every crucial city to be on the map (there is no time to play out every siege), some dwell close to each other at this scale, Leeds could include Bradford and Pontefract Castle. Some omissions will be missed by chrome hunters, no Basing House, others are debatable, Taunton had a big influence on events in the West but is not on the map. Those who donít mind changing the map can block out and add cities while changing resource levels to keep their total constant. Truro is a must without which the Royalists will never have a foothold in the West, locally I can safely say there has been nothing of worth at Aberffraw this millenium. Cardiff is in the wrong place (thatís Chepstow), Bangor is represented (an open town) but not the 2 serious walled towns of Conway and Caernarfon. The basic system is pulled out of Give Me Liberty. Commanders are rated as 1 to 4* Generals (Give Me Liberty only went up to 3*), the rating defining how many units each can command. The same activation system is used with a player choosing between moving 1 command or rolling a die for up to 6 moves at a risk of the opposition gaining 1 or 2 moves and then having to roll again. Generals can each command 1 leader of each lower rank, a 4* can move a 3*, 2*and 1* as well,the biggest moving single stacks will always be under 4* Generals.

More troops can be shifted by using more than 1 activation to move multiple commands out of the same hex at a risk of allowing the opposition to move away. The advantage of this system is to restrict activations per turn (2 weeks Summer, 4 Winter) and keep action to 1 or 2 crucial areas while everyone else sits around waiting for a high activation score. If just 1 activation will bring on a battle or save an army rolling is not advisable.

Although the overall feel and game play of this system is acceptable it can in no way be thought of as a simulation of actions in the ECW. The rank of the supreme leader in a stack will affect how big armies are on campaign, Charles and Essex are the only 4*s, the is no option to uprate Fairfax when the New Model Army is formed (nor to sack Waller, Essex and Manchester). Cavalry is harder to command than infantry, a 1* General can pick up 6 foot or 4 horse but cannot mix the 2, a family of Generals can mix horse and foot within a stack. Cavalry points are half the size of infantry (250 to 500 men), as the war progressed the ratio of cavalry to foot increased (the foot surrendered while horse ran away) yet in Ironsides it is handy to have plenty of PBI for use in sieges and to soak up the losses in battles. The overall size of armies that can be moved is roughly right, Charles can move his 4,500 horse and 4,000 foot to Naseby with 1 activation, the Scottish and Parliament armies at Marston Moor (7,000 horse, 20,000 foot) would take 3 activations to move around, Rupert and Newcastle would require 2 more. Good thing all the action around Cropredy Bridge took place the turn before or there would be way too many activations in a single turn.

Out of the way forces did not stay still because the commanders forgot about them, they did slow up because the commanders couldnít spare the equipment and money to move them. Other reasons for inactivity would be evenly matched forces in nearby garrisons both waiting in vain for new supplies or conducting the sort of limited raids that would not be significant at this scale. A problem that is not covered is the parochial nature of the war, Parliament formed the New Model Army to have a national army under proven commanders who did what was required. The independence and lack of co-operation between Waller and Essex around Oxford before Cropredy Bridge was a lesson in how not to win. Troops were recruited to regiments not armies and although liable to transfer ad clear ideas about what was their fight and duties. Parliament recruited strong armies under Waller and Essex which repeatedly melted away, London troops being notably prone to go home. Even the Northern

Horse after Marston Moor showed a marked desire to return home however futile the project. Isolated strongholds in their own backyard prevented armies from advancing rapidly, Newcastle preferred to block up Hull rather than march into Eastern England. Apart from Trained Bands (tied to London and York, York? Shift them to Cornwall) no troops are tied to an area, you can transfer then at will to any theatre.

Being fair there are factors in Ironsides that keep forces from going too far apart from lack of activations. Assuming you are playing to win victory points must be earned by capturing all cities in each of the 13 areas England and Scotland are divided into. London nets 8 points, the Isle of Man 1, other areas are considerably larger and net from 2 to 5 points based on size and population. It makes a great deal of sense to knock out all enemy cities in some areas while holding on to just 1 city in front line areas. Hull, Gloucester and Pembroke (Milford Haven on this map) become foci of attention again. 120 points are required to win but Charles gets 50 for being alive and free, Parliament get 50 if they kill or capture him, major victories (8 dead from the loser) net another 5. Historically Parliament were rarely below 14 points a turn, the King seldom above 3, a net gain of 11 for the Essex boys. Points are counted in interphase turns, 3 a year but only 1 in 1642 (the game starts in September), a historical Parliament victory in late 1645 not counting battles.

Cavalry come into their own during battles but it is also important to be at least equal in foot. Battles begin with cavalry lining up against each other, the chart is factor based with a bonus for good odds. Although any number of Generals may be in a hex only 2 take part in battles (others may step in if either of those get stiffed) one to command the foot, one the horse. A die is rolled against each General to give a modifier for the whole battle of -3 to +6. Cavalry fight it out until 1 side is unable to continue, losses of at least 10% will inflict a morale test which may lead to disruption (unable to fight) or rout. The winner of cavalry combat can commit his horse to the infantry battle if he rolls less than his cavalry Generalís horse rating (Cromwell is an 8, most others are 3, 4 or 5). Artillery get to fire once but because they move 3 compared to footís 5 often neither side will bring any. Infantry combat follows the same system as horse, if cavalry has been committed there is a column shift. Either side can pull out of infantry combat at the end of a round or both can roll again, disruptions and routs will force an army to pull out, losses reaching the decisive 8 will make a force think about it. With 10% losses forcing a morale check, any army that can keep above 10 in strength is at an advantage even if faced by superior but fewer troops.

Disruptions are automatically removed at the beginning of a turn, routs are rolled for with a chance of recovery to disruption , remaining at rout or elimination. The worst thing that can happen to an army

is to rout followed by failed morale then losing all leaders as the opposing army swamps over the hex. Routed and disrupted forces move 1 point slower then when in good order so running away after a battle except into a nearby city is unlikely. The best bet is to emulate history and bug out with the horse leaving the foot to shift for themselves. With morale recovery occurring at the beginning of every player turn, defenders gain an advantage. Whatever losses the defender may take his next phase will be to recover morale, any disruptions are removed allowing a swift jump onto the still battered erstwhile attackers. If still weak after recovery, the army can hoof it before they are ttacked again. A common result of ECW battles was a draw, Edgehill, 1st and 2nd Newbury, both sides being to battered to fight again in the near future. Moving morale recovery to the last phase in a turn helps somewhat, when A attacks B, A recovers (Edgehill) or fails (Naseby) morale after the battle, he cannot exploit because next turn is Bís. B cannot recover or fail morale until after combat so if disruptedor routed will be unable to attack and take advantage of the mess A is in. If B is scarcely touched by the battle but A fails a rout test he will swamp over what is left, think of this as the post battle surrender of Royalist foot after Naseby. Overall losses will be greater from attrition and sieges than from battles which is correct. Attrition is related to the quality of troops and commander present. The only terrain modifier is for besieged units, numbers are counted by troop type and not overall total. 11 is the highest column for attrition tests, if stacks are going to be big they may as well be over 11 of each troop type. Attrition is heavily die based to the extent of some forces losing no units while others lose 6 or more. If counters were marked for where they came from, troops far from home could be disadvantaged, there are not enough counters to mark units by area without recourse to a colour photocopier..

Sieges are well common being the primary method of gaining cities, resource and victory points. There is no option to assault cities as Rupert took Bristol, in a turn a city will fall at no attacker loss or hold out with the attacker losing units to sortie (desertion would be more like it). For each turn that sieges continue there is an increased chance of the city falling, some will fall straight away others hold out for months. Sieges require a lot of attacking manpower, in order to qualify as investing a city the attacker must have equal points to the defenderís garrison and city strength. Cities can be pretty strong, London is 24 and there is no limit to garrison strength, 10 or 20 units in a strong city will be practically impossible to besiege. This is not strictly accurate, the difficulty in taking city depended on how strong the defenses were and how many defenders. Cities could be increased in defence, the Royalists fortified Reading and spent considerable effort on Oxford. Without a minimum garrison and the will to resist the defences were wasted. Parliament had 1,500 men to hold Bristol which the locals judged insufficient, the Royalists depended on a garrison in Arundel to threaten Sussex, it swiftly gave up. The common wargame system of having a multiplier for units in cities will not work either, players

will put 10 + units in crucial cities, multiplied by 2, 3 or 4 these would be well hard, stacking should not be a factor in normal play, hexes are 10 miles or so, the King had his main army that close to Oxford. The amount of units that can be crammed into a city would become significant when besieged but if that force were large it would be hard to block in and place under siege. To compromise, the printed strength of a city is the maximum number of units that may be besieged inside. The strength of cities for the purpose of sieges is now defined as the garrison strength (which may not exceed the maximum) plus the printed strength.

Players will tend to bump up the strength of cities with huge garissons because the leader system prevents Generals carting around large armies plus the recruitment rules allow a healthy surplus after maintenance of forces in play. Historically leaders stripped garissons to build up field armies, in Ironsides there are too many troops for the field armies so the surplus goes into garrison. There are no army maximums as in A House Divided, merely the counter limit which is more than generous. Parliament can raise 70 to 140 militia infantry plus up 118 veteran or crack foot. At 500 men a point thatís 70,000 plus 59,000 infantry, after trashing the local Royalists plus the Scots, Parliament shipped 25,000 foot and 14,000 dragoons to Ireland by 1652. By this time Parliament was beginning to pay off soldiers preferably by settling them in Ireland which was conveniently empty and cheaper than paying

them with money. There would be some further foot outside Ireland but not 100,000. A generous maximum would be 70,000 all in (foot plus horse), 140 points, including garissons and unreliable troops. 239 resource points are available in England and Wales, tieing army maximums to 1/2 a point of any type except ships for every resource point. This still involves a lot of counting up every interphase, doubling up recruiting costs will also reduce the number of units in play. Try 2 points to raise militia infantry, 4 horse and add a cost of 1/2 point to maintain infantry (this used to be free). If a basically sound but overlong system is put up with and the map submitted to minor surgery there is 1 other change that must be made (even if it the only change) before playing Ironsides. Needless to

say it is a pretty big change.

Ironsides games begin with very few cities under the control of either player most are ratted as neutral and are tested whenever a unit ends movement in the same hex. They will then become loyal to the testing unit or remain neutral but with a positive modifier on the next turn if that unit remains in place. Cities mean resources mean victory points so considerable effort will be placed on city conversion, once a city is loyal it will remain so but some out of the way places will still be neutral in late 1643. The best method is to despatch stacks of cavalry under single leaders and drop off cavalry steps at each

town passed. High activation rolls in the early few turns will be valuable in increasing territory. The 2 main armies begin in Nottingham and Northampton, historically the King went to (converted) Shrewsbury and Chester then headed for London by passing Coventry. Essex took Worcester from the King, noticed he was needed to protect London and the 2 met up at Edgehill. In Ironsides it is conceivable for both armies to stay put because all the minor leaders have shot off to convert towns. The initial set up leads to eventual control not unlike historically after a lot of trouble, one is reminded of Peloponesian War (part of Imperial Governor in the Ariel big box) where 2 special turns were used by Athens and Sparta to map out their pre-war spheres of influence. For those who want to fight a war rather than roll dice a historical set up is appendixed.

Parliament Initial Control

All cities in Southeast, South, East Midlands and East Anglia regions

plus London, Lincoln, Sheffield, Hull, Manchester, Scarborough, Leeds, Boston and Pembroke.

Royalist Initial Control

All cities in Border region plus Isle of Man. Truro, Newark, Shrewsbury (new city), Hereford and Worcester.

All cities not held by Parliament in Yorkshire, North Midland and Wales regions.


All units must be supported in the 1642 interphase. No victory points are awarded in the 1642 interphase.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones has a few words to say (thankfully not about colectable card games).

Ironsides, having played both solo and face to face several times I can honestly say I'm not particularly impressed with it. If I wasn't Enfglish and didn't have an interest in the period I would probably never play it again.

The quality of production is fine and I do like the movement activation table - this elemennt of uncertainty always adds something to a game. One thing that is missing is holding boxes - stacks of 5 or more counters are silly. 3W put these in their game Frederick the Great which is simillar to Ironsides but we've found plays better. On a final note I own a UK boxed game bought in 1978 and published by Ariel games called English Civil War. Despite its age its a much better game using a simillar premise as Ironsides but area movement. It has much les cities - therefore less sieges and naval rules are abstracted (how does the Royalist in Ironsides prevent his navy getting trashed in the 1st months of the war?) The one redeeming feature of Ironsides is that it has prompted me to read my copy of C. V. Wedgewood's "The Kings War".

The same friend who has Frederick the Great also has Lion of the North. A group of us spent many happy hours playing Great Battles of Alexander and SPQR (plus modules) and as this was teh same system it seemed a good, if somewhat expensive buy. Result, a bit dissapointed, its a trifle tedious, the rules are as you described fine in detail but missing the big picture. It is very difficult to imagine what units are doing as they move around the batlefield. We've only played the Lutzen scenario so maybe my opinion wil change after a go at tthe Brietenfield map, I can't see the Imperialist wining tthough.

On a happier note another friend has introduced me to the delights of Fire Team produced by WEG and designed by Jon Stoddard. Having some experience of small scale platoon/company level training I found this an excellent way of introducing the nature of modern weapons and the different tactical doctrines utilised by NATO and SDoviet typoe forces. Wel worth having 2nd hand. reference the Harrogate Pirate you wrote about in ZOC. It seems this man has a bad reputation everywhere for exactly the reasons you stated. A friend, Dave Thomas, wh'se a dealer and atends most shows tells me that all the other dealers dislike him and often make him the but of some evil trick.

ZOCo, army boxes are essential for Ironsides, luckily there are plenty of out of the way parts of the map to use as holding areas. English Civil War is Roger Sandel's game also published as Ironsides, a rather battered copy fetched £11 at the auction. There is no getting away from sieges in the English Civil War, Ironsides still has too few for the true simulation gamer. A more detailed book than Wedgewood's is S. R. Gardener in umpteen volumes although most of the juicy stuff takes place in volumes 1 and 2. I played Frederick the Great (3W) with Chris and am of the opinion that the S&T version is better although as usual the errata improves it. 3W's game is far longer we played 1 year in about 5 hours including set up and learning the rules, the whole campaign would be mighty long, Decision use less time for the whole show.