Rupert's Very Bad Day: Battle of Marston Moor (1644 AD)
Fast Play Rules for Students

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By Matt Fritz

Historical Background: The first English Civil War (1642 - 1645) was a power struggle between King Charles I and his royalist supporters on the one hand, and Parliament and its supporters on the other. At the battle of Marston Moor (1644) a Parliamentarian army reinforced by a Scots army decisively defeated the Royalists. It was a humiliating defeat for the dashing Prince Rupert (his poodle was among the many Royalist casualties). The battle left the Parliamentarians in control of the north of England. Much of the credit for the victory went to cavalry commander Oliver Cromwell, who was wounded in the engagement. His star would continue to rise until 1653 when he would become Lord Protector and ruler of England.

Battle Report: One unit under the command of Henry Tillier advanced alone to the center of the battlefield.  The rest of the Royalist army waited to see what would happen.  Lord Manchester led his entire command out to fight them.  Both sides starting sending in additional men and the conflict grew.  Prince Rupert made the controversial decision to send his cavalry reserve into the melee.  Lord Levens led the Scots into battle to counter Rupert.  It was at this point that Lord Goring decided to commit his cavalry to the battle.  The cavalry on both flanks met in a battle that was short, bloody, and indecisive.  With the cavalry having failed to tip the balance the battle came down to the desperate battle in the center between the infantry, where the pike was proving to be the weapon of choice.  Both armies sustained heavy casualties.  In the end the Parliamentarian & Scots army prevailed in a closely contested battle.  Both Oliver Cromwell and Marquis Newcastle were casualties.


The Miniatures: You can find 1/72 scale plastic figures from this battle from A Call to Arms, and Revell's Thirty Years War sets. Mounted commander were based individually, all figures were mounted two per stand. The cavalry were mounted on a 1.5" square base. Mounted commanders, musketeers, pikemen, and artillery crews were mounted on bases 1.5" wide by .75" deep. Here are some paper soldiers you can print and use.

Formations: Cavalry are six bases in a double rank line. Dragoons fought on foot so they can be represented by five musketeer bases in a double rank line (3 in front, 2 in back). You can put a horse holder figure with the dragoons, but it isn't necessary. Infantry are eight bases in a double rank line. Four pike bases are in the middle, and two musketeer bases are on each end.

Royalist Army

Left Wing:
Commander: Lord Goring
4 units Cavalry (6 bases each)

Center Left:
Commander: Henry Tillier
5 units infantry (8 bases each)

Commander: Prince Rupert
2 units Cavalry (6 bases each)
1 unit Infantry (8 bases)

Center Right:
Commander: Marquis Newcastle
4 units Infantry (8 bases each)

Right Wing:
Commander: John Lord Byron
4 units Cavalry (6 bases each)

Parliamentarian & Scots Army

Left Wing:
Commander: Oliver Cromwell
4 units Cavalry (6 bases each)
1 unit Dragoons (5 bases)

Center Left:
Commander: Lord Levens (Scots)
2 units Cavalry (6 bases each)
1 unit Dragoons (5 bases)
5 units Infantry (8 bases each)

Commander: Lord Fairfax
4 units Infantry (8 bases each)

Center Right:
Commander: Lord Manchester
4 units Infantry (8 bases each)

Right Wing:
Commander: Thomas Fairfax
4 units Cavalry (6 bases each)

The Board: A 7.5 X 5 foot table was used. The battlefield included a ditch and some rough terrain, but the scenario can be reasonably played without modeling the effects of these terrain features.

Deployment: Both sides deploy as indicated in the diagram and order of battle. No unit should be closer than 18" from the enemy.

Sequence of Play:
1. Parliamentarians Move
2. Parliamentarians Shoot
3. Royalists Move
4. Royalists Shoot
5. Charge
6. Melee

Movement: All cavalry, dragoons, and commanders move 12". Infantry move 6". Cannons can not move. Units cannot move closer than 1" to the enemy except when charging.

Shooting: Cavalry can shoot 3", musketeers and dragoons can shoot 12". Units may only shoot at enemy targets in front of them. If the wish to shoot at a target to the side they are only allowed to fire with two bases. They may not fire to the rear at all. Roll 1D6 per stand and remove one enemy base for each 6 rolled. Pike bases may not fire. If any unit in a formation is in range then all the bases in the formation may fire if they are not pike bases. Cannons have unlimited range and roll 2D6 per cannon, hitting on a 6. Cannons cannot fire between friendly units unless they have at least a 3" gap, they may not fire over units. Once a unit has fought a round of melee they may not shoot, or be shot at, until the melee is finished (note this means that both sides can shoot at each other during the turn that the units move into contact, but not on subsequent turns if the melee continues past the first round).

Cannons: Rules for cannons are included in this scenario, but the cannons didn't have any significant impact on the battle. For this reason they are not included in the order of battle. If you want to include cannons you can give each side 4 of them and deploy them with the infantry in the center.

Charge: Units may charge the enemy only if they can reach an enemy unit with their charge move. Cannons may not charge. Infantry can charge 6", cavalry and dragoons can charge 12". Both sides make their charges at the same time. If it matters, the Parliamentarians charge first. When a unit charges it is moved into contact with the enemy unit.

Melee: Enemy units that come into contact after a charge are locked in melee. All stands in a formation participate in the melee (unless hit on the flank or rear, see below). Roll 1D6 for each base and commander in the melee. Both sides should roll at the same time. Musketeers and Dragoons hit on a roll of 6, pikemen hit on a roll of 5 or 6. Cavalry hits on a 4, 5 or 6 on the first round of melee. If the melee continues after the first round then the cavalry hit on a 5 or 6. Commanders involved in a melee always hit on a roll of 4, 5, or 6. Cannons do not fight in melee. If they are contacted by a charge they are eliminated without a fight. If both sides still have bases remaining they remain locked in melee and cannot move or shoot. The survivors will fight again in the next melee phase. If a unit is fighting a melee with more than one enemy unit each base still only gets to roll once, they don't get to roll to hit each enemy unit. The commander can choose to divide his hits against the enemy units in any way he chooses.

Flank and Rear Attacks: If a unit is charged on its flank or rear it's ability to fight back is limited on the first turn of melee. A unit charged on the flank can fight back with only two bases. A unit charged in the rear can not fight back at all. On the following turns the unit can change facing and fight with all its surviving bases.

Removing Casualties: When a unit is reduced to a single base this last base is automatically removed. When an infantry unit takes hits the bases removed should be split evenly between pikemen and musketeers.

Commanders: Commanders are represented by single cavalry figures on white horses. They may join a unit during movement or charges to help them in melee. A unit with a commander attached rolls an extra die in melee and the commander hits on a 4, 5, or 6. Commanders participating in a melee can become casualties. Roll 1D6 after the melee rolls, he is a casualty on a roll of 6. This is the only way that a commander can be eliminated, they may not be shot or attacked in melee if they are not with a regular unit.

Resources: This scenario was developed with several useful suggestions from Reverend Aelred Glidden. A search of the Internet, library, and Magweb, turned up some useful resources for wargaming the English Civil War

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Move & Charge
Cavalry, Commanders 12"
Dragoons 12"
Infantry 6"
Cannons 0"

Range To Hit
Musketeer, Dragoon 12" 6
Cavalry 3" 6
Cannons (roll 2 dice) Unlimited 6

To Hit
Musketeer, Dragoon 6
Pikemen 5-6
Commanders 4-6
Cavalry, first turn of melee 4-6
Cavalry, after first turn of melee 5-6