Battle of Benburb, 1646

Today I took part in a couple of large games for a period I am not that familiar with, and with a novel ruleset I have never tried before.

We were refighting the Battle of Benburb, which took place in County Tyrone, Ireland, on 5 June 1646, when Owen Roe O’Neill, the leader of the Ulster Army of the Irish Confederates, won a major victory over a Scottish Covenanter and Anglo-Irish army under Robert Monro.

The fighting took place during the Irish theatre of the War of the Three Kingdoms (otherwise known as the British Civil Wars), with both sides pledging allegiance to Charles I while advancing distinctively Catholic and Protestants agendas in Ireland.

After selling him some (unrelated) figures online, I was invited by Mark (third from left) to join in a large Sunday game he was going to host a few weeks later for a bunch of his gaming mates.

The event took place today in Mark’s lovely spacious wargames room. I didn’t measure the table, but it was certainly one of the larger ones I have played on.

The rules we used were ‘For King and Parliament‘ by Simon Miller and Andrew Brentnall.

What makes these rules so novel (to me, anyway) is that they don’t use dice or measurements. Instead of dice they use normal playing cards, and for measuring movement they use a gridded terrain.

Whilst I suspected that the gridded terrain would simplify movement, melees etc, I initially thought it would be off-putting for the aesthetic effect.

But Mark cleverly uses a system of discreet black dots drawn on the terrain to mark out the corners of each square, so the grid is almost invisible unless you are looking for it. To prove my point, you can hardly see the dots in these photos.

The original battle ended in a decisive victory for the Irish Confederates and ended Scottish hopes of conquering Ireland and imposing their own religious settlement there.

We were going to see if this would happen again. And with the speed of these rules, we were actually able to replay the battle twice in one day!

In the first replay, I was one of the Scottish players. Mark supplied all the figures for both armies, and they were all exquisite.

I love the trews on this very Billy Connolly-ish wee chappie!

The use of playing cards added some real excitement to our game … though they also added quite bit of table clutter. However, you do have to pick up all the cards after each move, which leaves a good time to admire the view and take photos!

Actually, the reason I took the above photo with all the cards still in place is that my wing of the army went down in an inglorious heap because of a particularly bad run of cards. If you bear in mind that better results occur the closer you get to 10, and bad things are more likely to happen as you go down the other way, you’ll see I wasn’t having much luck in this melee!

After a delicious home-made curry lunch outside on the sundeck (thanks, Mark!), it was time for our second replay. We all swapped sides, so this time I was Irish.

One thing I love about this period is the wonderful panoply of colourful flags.

OK, so how did our two games turn out? Well, as I mentioned earlier, the original battle ended in a decisive victory for the Irish Confederates. The same result happened in both our games, with the second being an almost bloodless victory for the Irish!

As for the rules, I couldn’t believe that we could run two such large games in one day, each coming to a decisive conclusion. The rules ran very smoothly, even with about half of us never having used them before. The cards provided some very interesting mechanisms, and the grid disposed of many of the complications that normal measuring often throws up.

And the period? Well funnily enough, over the last few days I had already been slightly tempted by Warlord Games’ new Epic 13.5mm figures for pike and shotte. If I do end up succumbing to this temptation, then the ‘For King and Parliament’ ruleset might be just the ticket!

2 thoughts on “Battle of Benburb, 1646

  1. Nice! Paperboys has been doing some 10mm ancients for To the Strongest as well; I didn’t know there was an ECW variant, though, which is useful as I prefer ECW to Ancients anyway. Thanks for the review.

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