I bought a copy of the new ECW rules “For King and Parliament (FK&P)” (Simon Miller & Andrew Brentnall, 2018) at Salute this year. I had heard good reports of their sister rules covering Ancient conflict, “To the Strongest”, and was further encouraged by an excellent demo game put on at the show. In addition, the rules were reported to be good for solo play and, due to diary constraints, my opposed gaming opportunities are restricted at the moment. After reading through the rules, I decided to try the game as a solo experience using the Battle of Montgomery, 1644 scenario provided at the back of the rule book.
Before discussing the rules, I will briefly outline the outcome of the game I played. The battlefield is fairly open and splits into a clash of foot on one flank and cavalry on the other. The infantry fight was fairly even. The dragoons and forlorn hope units were cleared fairly quickly due to their single hit strengths. The clash of the main units of foot was more prolonged with neither side dominating. The cavalry fight was more fluid. Initially Parliament was ahead, routing units of Col Trevor’s brigade, but the impact of pursuit became apparent, which opened up a gap in the Parliament formation. The remaining un-brigaded Royalist horse moved around the open Parliament flank looking for a decisive blow. At this point the returning Parliament foraging horse returned arriving in a compact block directly behind the now exposed rear of the untried Royalist horse. Fairfax’s veteran regiment charged Vaughn’s regiment in the rear; they had a large number of to-hit chances and missed them all! In contrast the Royalist regiment passed its untried test and promptly scored 2 return hits, killing the Parliament commander (Col. Brereton), and routing the shocked veterans! This action had bottled up the Parliament re-enforcements and allowed the other Royalist cavalry to attack and destroy the exposed Myddleton’s regiment and kill/capture the attached Parliament C-in-C (Sir John Meldrum). This ended the battle and gave the Royalists victory.
Regarding the rules themselves:
1. The authors use adjusted decks of playing cards to resolve all actions and combat, although they do suggest alternatives such as chits and dice. In my game I used D10 dice instead of cards and this worked OK, but they are not ideal when working out activations. There is a slight impact on the distribution of probability by using dice but this is minimal. I think in future I will move to a hybrid system of chits and dice. I think chits would simply ‘feel’ better for activations, and dice ‘feel’ more satisfying when resolving combat. I think playing cards would just clutter the table un-necessarily, and I dislike having to shuffle repeatedly, so I would avoid using cards.
2. The tabletop is gridded. Personally I’m fine with this (I play and like many games from RFCM, which often use a grid system), but other gamers may not enjoy such a mechanism. On the plus side, the grids allow rule mechanisms to be clear and simple and, significantly, allow players to use any basing conventions they are happy with. On the negative side, gridded games severely limit the movement and manoeuvre options, and can feel a bit like a boardgame rather than a conventional wargame. The appeal of a gridded wargame is purely down to a player’s personal preference, but I have noticed a marked increase in the number of gridded games produced recently.
3. The activation mechanism is the defining feature of these rules. The first activation of a unit will usually be successful, but there is always a chance of failure. The beauty is in the ‘Push Your Luck’ element of deciding further actions, where failure becomes more likely, and which can prematurely end brigade activations. Prioritising activations becomes a key decision, and placement of commanders can be vital to mitigate against failure. Essentially, this ‘Push Your Luck’ element is at the core of these rules, and if the card/chit/dice Gods are against you, then your plans can quickly disintegrate. This mechanism creates the fun and tension within the game, but players have to accept a high degree of luck and swing within the outcomes. I like the uncertainty and change of fortune produced, particularly in a solo experience. I know many gamers, especially those who like to plan meticulously, who would hate the system. So again, it comes down to personal preference.
4. Combat resolution is very simple to calculate and there is little need to refer to the rule book. I like the differentiation between firing tactics (single/double/salve), and the ammo rules work well. I would like to try artillery and see how these perform on the tabletop. The game I played lacked ‘Dutch’ horse, so again I would be interested to see how these work on the table. The use of ‘dash’ to reflect the freshness of horse units is a nice mechanism and fills an omission in other rule systems. Cavalry pursuit is important and can really muck-up your plans (as Parliament found out in my game). Rallying was not used as much as I expected because, once forces are locked in combat, they don’t have opportunities to recover.
5. The ancillary rules covering battlefield set up (terrain choices and placement, scouting, points etc.) all appear fine. I liked the ‘untried’ status of units in my game, and I particularly like the variable personality rules for generals, and the variable strategy options. One criticism of the rules is the lack of a QRS. Most of the rules are very simple and easy to remember, but a QRS would help to reinforce turn structure and remind players of modifiers to things like activations.
Overall, I like For King and Parliament. They give a quick, fast paced game with many important decisions to be made. There is a high level of luck which can engender significant swings of fortune, which could put some players off. I think they are eminently suitable for solo play. I don’t think FK&P will replace my favourite rules for ECW i.e. Regiment of Foote v1 (RFCM, 2002). Interestingly I rejected the second version of Regiment of Foote (RFCM, 2016) because it was gridded and was too much like Square Bashing (see an earlier blog post). With FK&P, the gridded mechanism worked well, but the core of the rules lies in the activation mechanism.