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Gaming => Battle Reports => Topic started by: Erpingham on June 12, 2018, 05:50:42 PM

Title: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Erpingham on June 12, 2018, 05:50:42 PM
Struggled a bit with where best to report this but decided on here in the end.

A full scale test for the latest product of the Medieval Dux Bellorum project.

The armies were English v. Scots 1385. 

The English mustered 10 units in two battles.  The left battle contained 1 MAA on foot, 1 retainer bills, 1 retainer archers, 1 levy archers, 1 levy bills.  The right battle were 1 MAA on foot, 1 levy bills, 1 retainer archers, 2 levy archers.

The Scots matched the English with two schiltrons containing 9 units .  Their right schiltron had two deep spear units, 1 unit skirmishing archers and attached 1 mounted French MAA and 1 unit of crossbows.  The left schiltron had 3 deep spear units and 1 skirmisher unit.

Terrain was basically a flat field with no impediments.

Moves 1-2 The Scots moved to attack, skirmishers on the left wings of the two schiltrons, French chivalry on the right of the line.  Long range english shooting disrupted the line somewhat (one spear unit failed to make a test to keep moving while shot at) but the Scots came on well. 
Move 3 The skirmishers came into range of the English archers, tying up the levies shots so that they couldn't target the spears.  On the right, the French put in a charge against the concentrated shooting of levies and retainers.  A lot of horses went down and when it came to charge home, they pulled up (unlikely outcome - needing 10 or less, they threw 12).  Luckily for them, the next move the retainer longbows would need to shift target against fast approaching Scots spearmen and the levies alone were ineffective, allowing a rally back to charge again. 
Move 4 The English weren't getting enough arrows on target to really disrupt the Scots advance, though 1 spear unit on the Scots far left fell behind the others.  The Scots schiltrons impacted the English line in good order, with the alignment of the two with their English counterparts meaning two Scots units faced archers, two MAA.  As expected, the Scots took damage from the men at arms but cut up the levy archers badly.  Remarkably, some retainer archers fought their opponents to a standstill (drawn combat with high scores = bloodbath)
Move 5 The action was general along the line.  The French charged again, taking light casualties and inflicting serious death on the levies on the English extreme left.  The levy archers on the left flank of English right also collapsed against a spear unit.  The other spear unit on this wing was losing heavily though.  The skirmishers on the English far right were exchanging arrows with the Scots skirmishers in an ineffective way (no hits scored by either party).  The English left battle had a bit of a tactical dilemma.  Two units of bills were totally unengaged, providing target practice to Scots skirmishers.  Should they cover right against the spears breaking through or aid their own comrades on their left?
Move 6 The bills swung right to cover the flank.  The Scots skirmishers shooting at them moved to support their comrades of their left schiltron, allowing the crossbowmen a shot next move.  Things were getting serious for the English on their left as the French flattened the remaining archers and the retainer archers were finally finished by the spearmen.  The English men-at-arms were gradually being ground down by the other spear unit.  On their right news was mixed.  The English MAA broke one Scots spear unit but another finished the retainer archers on that flank.  Suddenly, the English were looking vulnerable, although the Scots spear units and the French MAA were in no great shape.
Move 7 The archers and skirmishers on the English far right decided to call it a day (they took each other out).  The MAA began to swing round to confront the Scots who were reforming behind what had been the English front line.  The levy bills took the opportunity to charge the skirmishers repositioning from the centre and, unexpectedly, destroyed them on contact.  It was too late on this flank though.  The English battle was below half strength and the two remaining units had to test morale.  The levy bills failed and ran.  Casualties were now 80% in this battle, automatic break.
On the other flank, the English MAA fought on but the bills took some long range hits from the crossbows.  But it was no use.  With the right battle heading for the hills, the overall casualty rate had reached 70%.  Time for break tests, though I called it quits there.

Verdict : I'd had this fight set up for a while but hadn't had a chance to run it.  It followed the usual pattern of my Anglo-Scottish encounters, with close fighting.  The overall casualty rate of 7 English units lost to 3 Scots (of whom 2 were skirmishers so didn't count toward the morale threshold) was much more pronounced than when you looked at the state of the remaining Scots units.  It is an interesting question what would have happened with a third battle in reserve on each side.  Could fresh troops have crushed the battered Scots of their left schiltron (or shot them down) before the English left battle gave way, making for a balanced final act?

In terms of other learning points, I think I'm happy with the performance of the English archers.  They didn't scythe down the Scots like machine guns but they weakened them.  The stopping dead of the French cavalry was a surprise but it was rare event and the result to concentrated shooting.  Overall, though the English levy archers in this army are a liability.  They have all the melee effectiveness of a speed bump.

I'm still not totally happy with the pursuit and rally effects - how easy should it be to get troops breaking through back into action?




Title: Re: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Patrick Waterson on June 12, 2018, 06:49:32 PM
The coordination of archers and billmen seems to have been non-existent.  The point of having billmen, as I understand it, was to have somebody who could take the brunt of melee if the archers failed to halt or divert the oncoming foe.  Some form of get-out-of-the-way mechanism for the archers would seem desirable, even if this is just a matter of scuttling out of the way before the attackers get too close and then bringing up the billmen as opposed to having some form of evading interpenetration built into the rules.

Historically, there was a tendency for massed longbow archery to cause an opponent to shift sideways, funnelling them towards the men-at-arms.  Would this be worth representing in the rules?

The Scots seemed to perform well, much as one would expect; possibly a bit to well, given their historical record, but I would suggest that the answer to this is to clean up the English act  (longbows exercise evasion and/or generate aversion) rather than adjust the Scots.

Should the Scots be given some Scots cavalry?
Title: Re: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Erpingham on June 13, 2018, 09:24:32 AM
A lot of interesting comments there Patrick.  Here's a few thoughts back.

Bills and bows.  There is no evidence for bill/bow combinations in the 14th century.  In fact, the only reference vaguely in that direction comes from the battle of Stoke in 1487.  You can read the battle of Formingny as bills supporting archers but, then again, the archers operate independently of the bills there too.  The usual place for archers in English armies in the 14th century was on the wings of close fighting troops, though deploying archers in front of the close-order troops was possible.  Pushing archers forward then having them fall back is a possibility - this would fit what the English did at Neville's Cross and Homildon/Humbleton.  But, importantly, the Scots were taking a defensive stance.  They usually showed more aggression, closing the English down rather than needing the English to advance their archers to provoke them.

The compression effect of archery is an interesting question maybe for another place.  What it did was force the flanks toward the centre - how would one, with figures on rigid bases, represent this?

As to cavalry, I could have done but it would have involved sacrificing a spear unit to balance it.  Clear examples of battlefield use of cavalry by the Scots are in short supply.  Bruce used cavalry at Bannockburn and hobilars were used at Myton and they used knightly cavalry in Ireland.  They do appear to have shifted away from cavalry by 1330s, dismounting their men-at-arms.  A charge of individuals or small groups is recorded at Nevilles Cross and Homildon. A little later, there may have been some mounted action at Harlaw and  Sark.  So, no Scots cavalry is probably the historical option.  In fact, its quite likely the French would have dismounted too but I fancied a bit of variety :)

 
Title: Re: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Patrick Waterson on June 13, 2018, 07:52:43 PM
A couple of return thoughts.

Quote
Bills and bows.  There is no evidence for bill/bow combinations in the 14th century.

Would this be because billmen were not employed as a major part of the English lineup until the 15th century?  I seem to recall that at Agincourt archers were using mauls to 'pacify' French knights in order to take them for ransom, but am not aware of any mention of billmen.  Later in the century archers instead wield falchion or sword and buckler, suggesting that someone else now had responsibility for dealing with tough enemies.  My own guess is that billmen would have been introduced following Patay in AD 1429, a battle which demonstrated the need for a supporting infantry arm capabile of taking down knights in the latest plate armour (a problem first noticed at Verneuil but not acted upon, presumably because Verneuil was a crushing English success).  The English revival in the late 1430s and the 1440s might conceivably owe something to the addition of billmen.

This applies to France; I am not sure how early billmen became popular in England.  My impression is that at Homildon Hill the melee fighting was still being handled by the English men-at-arms.

Quote
As to cavalry, I could have done but it would have involved sacrificing a spear unit to balance it.  Clear examples of battlefield use of cavalry by the Scots are in short supply ... So, no Scots cavalry is probably the historical option.

OK, fair point, which I think amply justifies leaving them out of the OB. :)
Title: Re: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Erpingham on June 14, 2018, 09:49:41 AM
Quote
Would this be because billmen were not employed as a major part of the English lineup until the 15th century?

You've got me there.  I was adding a bit of flavour to distinguish my English from Scots.  English infantry in 1385 would have carried a mixture of spears, guisarmes and axes.  What exactly a guisarme was is a debateable point, as is whether it was a specific weapon as opposed to a class of bladed pole weapons.  I'd agree that hacking weapons as opposed to stabbing probably did become predominant over the 15th century, and there does seem to have been a tendency to refer to bladed pole arms generically as bills, though I doubt if all the bills would pass our definition of what bills are.  Was part of the shift simply linguistic - instead of lumping bladed pole weapons as guisarmes, they started to be lumped together as bills?  Or even what the French speakers had called guisarmes, the English speakers had called bills and we are seeing a change as English becomes more established as the written language?

However, the main point that integrated close-order/archer infantry units aren't well evidenced even in the 15th century remains true.
Title: Re: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Patrick Waterson on June 14, 2018, 07:28:02 PM
Which leads to the question of what archers were expected to do when melee opponents closed.  Would they tough it out and fight against a Scottish spear formation or simply evade?  (I know what I would do ...)
Title: Re: Trouble in the Marches
Post by: Andreas Johansson on July 27, 2018, 06:36:02 PM
I'm still not totally happy with the pursuit and rally effects - how easy should it be to get troops breaking through back into action?
Quite hard, or so one'd think from say Raphia, Guinegate (1479), or Lund.