Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

No married man, nor widow’s son [preview]

A game of the outbreak of the English Civil War

English Civil War musketeers firing (photo: Tracy Kemp)

The English Civil War has interested me since reading a Ladybird book at a very young age – this was obviously a balanced account of gallant cavaliers and villainous roundheads with puritans abolishing Christmas – talk about striking fear into young hearts! I suspect the images gave rise to some of the unlikely painting schemes I’ve seen used on wargame figures over the years. Of particular interest is the way in which both sides need to organise an army and support it throughout the struggle and how a particular victory could turn the tide with England divided into a tangled web of Royalist of Parliamentarian loyalties.

Aim of the game

It’s 1642 and it appears that the dispute between the King and Parliament can only be by resolved by force of arms; both sides thus need to recruit men and arm & supply them to form an army. England had long been at peace and military resources were very limited; men would have to be recruited for those who supported your cause and that varied hugely by area. The game is thus concerned with the efforts to take control of those limited resources and to dominate areas so that they could be recruited from and, at the same time, prevent the enemy from doing so. The military demands are thus considerable: an army is required to contest the issue on a national level and local forces are needed to secure control at a county level.

The setting

England and Wales consist of approximately 50 counties as shown in Map 1.

There are a number of geographical features of importance:

Rivers such as the Tyne, Trent, Thames and Severn.

Ports such as Newcastle, Hull, London, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol and Chester.

Extant Military Resources

A small number of ‘gentlemen’ have substantial armouries which could outfit a couple of hundred men. Most of these are supporters of the King.

Each county has a ‘Trained Band’, effectively a Militia. Most are poorly trained (in many cases, training consisted of mustering on a convenient open space then heading to the pub). It’s really only the London Trained Bands have taken their training seriously and could be expected to perform well in battle.

Each ‘county town’ (i.e. the main town in a county) has a magazine holding the arms with which the Trained Band would be equipped should it be called upon to act.

Substantial supplies of arms are held in London and Hull (the latter as a stockpile for the expedition against the Scots in the previous year).

There are two ways to increase the supply of arms:

  • Import from the continent
  • Set up ‘production centres’

To enable the latter, sources of raw materials are marked on the map.

[There are numbers of men with military experience – in the long struggle by the Dutch for independence from Spain, the ‘Thirty Years War’ on the continent (currently in year 24) and the recent war against the Scots and the Irish rebels. I’m not planning on representing this aspect; historically they volunteered for one side or another rather than being recruited.]

The Players

Represent important men (they were all men) who played a significant role in raising the initial forces and securing areas for each side. Virtually all would go on to command forces and fight in battle.

The longer term aspect of being able to continue to recruit and, more importantly, supply the armed forces must also be considered in case there is no quick resolution to the conflict.

Important Aspects

Where will men be raised?

This will be done on a county basis with the numbers raised dependent on:

  • Who is recruiting (local people or those with a great reputation would do better).
  • The split in opinion between king and parliament in a county (many areas were heavily in favour of one side, a smaller number were more divided but this wasn’t clear at the outset of the war).

Where will arms be obtained?

The main sources:

  • Trained Band magazines
  • Hull – control of the town is unclear
  • London – solidly Parliamentarian,.

Where will the money to pay the armies and suppliers come from?

There are five sources:

  • The wealthy supporters of each side
  • Donations from e.g. towns, either voluntary of forced
  • Existing or new sources of taxation (much in the way of existing taxation is in the hands of Parliament)
  • By the ‘sale’ of titles by the king
  • Pawning the crown jewels

The ability to control areas will thus be of importance for raising money.

How will the armies be fed?

At this time there is means of setting up supply trains – armies will generally be fed and quartered by the areas they pass through. Promissory notes might be given as payment (with very variable chances of being able to redeem them) or by ‘free quarter’ (i.e. looting). The latter is more likely in known enemy areas but also occurred in friendly areas (which might impact on support in that area).

In the first instance I’m likely to ignore this aspect.


For ease, initially at least, I’m going to work on the basis of moving from one county to another. This will be rough and ready but will avoid bogging down in a lot of detail.

There were a number of issues of being able to cross significant rivers (those list above) only at certain points which may need to be resolved.

The most important aspect is Routes. Being able to provide a continuous link from e.g. a source of recruitment or resources to an army’s base was crucial. For example, it does the king no good to recruit infantry heavily in Wales if the border areas are held by the Parliamentarians, preventing them from reaching supplies and the other components of an army, cavalry and artillery.

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