Battle of Marston Moor: 1644

A DBR scenario game. The Battle of Marston Moor 1644 was probably the largest battle fought in England, and the pivotal battle of English Civil War. The Scots had joined the Parliament and a joint army laid siege to York. King Charles sent Rupert north to relieve York. Rupert brilliantly out maneuvered a Parliamentarian army blocking relief and broke the siege on the night of 29/30 June. The next day the Allies broke camp and began retreating to the south towards their base at Tadcaster. Despite being badly out numbered (27,000 Allies to 18,000 Royalists) Rupert decided to attack. He needed his north country allies under Newcastle, which made up about one fourth of the Royalists forces, and summoned them at dawn to pursue the retreating allies. It the real world Newcastle convinced Rupert not to pursue the retreating allies and the Royalists spent most of the day taking up a defensive situation on Marston Moor, west of York. The Parliamentarians, realizing that they had a golden opportunity to defeat a large Royalist Army, halted their retreat, and formed up to fight it out. Night fell on a great Allied victory, and the beginning of the end for the Royalist cause.

This is not this scenario. Here we imagine that Rupert ignores Newcastle and despite being out numbered launches a morning attack on the retreating Allies. Would Rupert's original plan have resulted in a Royalist victory?

For our first attempt at this I based the troop levels, division into sub-commands, initial dispositions, etc. on Peter Young's book Marston Moor 1644 currently available from Windrush.

The Osprey by John Tincey confirms the troop levels (28,000 for the Allies and 18-19,000 for the Royalists). It does give a more complete description of the retreat saying that all of the Allied horse were opposite the Moor covering the retreat and that the Scots were leading the retreat south. It also indicates that there were more Scots horse than my original order of battle.

I was unable to find period maps south of the Marston Moor battle field. I used contemporary maps and made some guesses by expanding woods and bogs as to what it might have looked like in 1644. There are probably too many roads. This is actually a good thing for the game as without them it would take the Royalists an unreasonable amount of time to get down the table.

Our initial trial led to a Royalist victory. As expected they defeated Fairfax, but it looked as if he had done enough damage and delayed them enough for the Allies to be well prepared for the coming attack. Rupert's command only needed to lose one more element to break. Subsequently the Royalists shredded Manchester's command and chipped away at Cromwell until those two broke. Rupert's command fortuitously did not lose another element. Based on the Osprey and our experience I added another Ln(I), the Scots horse, bringing the total to 4 and included 2 in each of the Allies mounted commands. I left the dispositions alone as otherwise it would not be much of a game.

Another note. I know that Manchester was in overall command of the Allies. Cromwell is elevated to commander for game reasons. The Allies are spread all over the map and need a mobile commander who can locate himself centrally and by the game rules coordinate among the Allied commands. If the Royalists had actually attacked at dawn it is quite likely that Cromwell and Fairfax would have directed the Allies defense.

Army Lists

Royalist
TypeNumberCincSub 1Sub 2Sub 3
Pi(F) Gen21 (Rupert)1 (Byron)--
Pi(S) Gen2--1 (Tillier) 1 (Newcastle)
Pi(F)281414--
Pk(O)9--54
Sh(O)26221210
Sh(S)11---
Art(F)11---
Art(I)2--11
ME7520182017
Break3876.576

This is a basic DBR army list without any heavy artillery. No one deploys heavy artillery in this pursuit of a retreating enemy. The Royalist baggage is off table.

Allies
TypeNumberSub 1CinCSub 2Scots
Pi(O) Gen21 (Fairfax)1 (Cromwell)--
Pi(I) Gen1---1 (Leven)
Pk(O) Gen1--1(Manchester)-
Ln(I)422--
Pi(O)18108--
Pi(I)954--
Dr(S)4112-
Pk(O)17--512
Sh(O)43322018
Sh(F)1---1
Art(F)1-1--
Art(I)41-12
MBag3-111
ME11723.522.53239
Break5987.51113.5

Again standard armies from the book without any heavy Artillery. The mobile baggage are the supplies and heavy artillery the retreating columns are taking away from the failed siege.

Scenario Rules

The scenario should be played in 15mm Normal scale. The Allies set up first. The second Allied subcommand sets up in column on the eastern north-south road. The Scots set up in column on the western north-south road. The columns must face south and do not have to be continuous. These columns must be between the light blue dashed line labeled 2 and the gold dashed line labeled 3 with the head of the column touching line 3 and the tail line 2. Cromwell's command must also be in as many south facing columns as it likes. It is in the same box, but is not required to be on the roads or restricted as to the placement of heads and tails. The first Allied subcommand is the rearguard and sets up south of the road between Tockwith and Long Marston, but no further south than line 2. The first three Royalists commands set up second north of the red dashed line labeled 1. Newcastle's command, which was busy looting the empty Allied camp, enters anywhere on the north edge on turn four. The Royalists move first. The Allies should note that the Royalists can easily be on them in the first turn.

PDF Map

The map is Bob's big table. The black lines are roads. The blue lines are paltry rivers. The one to the north is a ditch that ran across the battle field, while the one on the west side and middle is a stream. The black squares are BUA's. The green ovals are a gentle hill, which is now called Cromwell's Plump. This hill is rather larger than the actual hill to give the Allied rear guard some more help in the initial stage. The green bits are Difficult Going woods. The purple bits are Rough Going bogs.