Author Topic: Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069  (Read 258 times)

Erpingham

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 4854
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Medieval warfare, Old School, home made rules
Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069
« on: January 28, 2019, 05:35:04 PM »
Despite regaining my wargames table this month (it spends December as a wrapping and present holding centre), I've lacked inspiration for a game.  However, I've been tweaking the modified Dux Bellorum rules (not changeing anything - just editing and clarifying) so I fancied a game.  Now, as I've mentioned before, I follow the AMW wargames yahoo group, which is about stuff to do with Neil Thomas' rules.  I was reading an exchange about One Hour Wargames and it was remarked that the idea is to focus on the tactical problem, not the rules minutiae (which is good because NT rules tend to lack such things).

What if I set up a tactical problem and free-styled the bits I didn't have complicated rules for?  I also recalled some thinking I'd been doing about units with attached archers - could I freestyle that a little to avoid too much detailed rule writing?

So, back to the dales of Yorkshire in 1069.  The Normans are struggling to contain a situation of rebels and marauding Danes.  A force of Danes, consisting of a Jarl Erik and his hirdmen and some shipmen (among whom there are archers) have had a successful raid but are now pursued by a superior Norman force.  Their road crosses a stream at a gap between wooded banks, exactly the right width for the Danes to deploy in (lucky Erik).  The Normans, led by Sir Ralph and Sir Hamo, come up upon the Danes in position.  It is still early - time for the infantry to close up and deploy for a set piece attack. R& H have three groups of archers, five conrois of knights and two groups of infantry.  Ralph takes four conrois of knights, leaving Hamo with the infantry.  Hamo dismounts his knights.  Veterans of Hastings, R&H decide to send the archers forward to soften up the Danes then charge through them with the knights, with Hamo and his infantry in reserve.

Phase 1 - the battle commences with an archer duel in which only the archers of each side are involved.  The Normans have limited ammunition (it turned out five rounds in this fight).  The Danish archers form skirmisher units attached to their ships crews - they can move from back to front of their unit only.  I gave them the same range as the archers (otherwise, as the rules were written, the Normans could have shot them down without reply).  After two rounds, one Danish sub-unit had been driven back behind its shield wall (freestyling again - I saw little point in getting them massacred) and by round four they'd all been driven in.  The archers got to shoot at the shipmen and those where the first lot of skirmishers were driven in were clearly on form as they dropped a few men in the shieldwall before they were recalled.

Phase 2 - the archers fell back behind the other two divisions and Ralph brought up his cavalry (this was a free reorganisation period - didn't play detailed manoeuver rules here).  The Danish skirmishers could have come forward but it would have been suicidal for them.  They were needed to form support ranks for their crews.  With no archery, Ralph had no difficulty getting his men into contact.  Ralph and his familia hurtled across the stream into the crew who had suffered from the archery.  Despite the difficult terrain he ploughed in, felling Danes left and right (Erik had deployed an LP to stiffen the Danes here and Ralph also used one to motivate his men).  The other three conrois faired less well - Erik sent one lot reeling with a single blow (again, LPs were in use here).  The other two combats were indecisive, with the Normans failing to get up the bank but the Danes losing men holding the line.  Ralph pressed on - now out of the stream and pushing hard on the retreating Danes it was over quickly - the Danish left fled for the hills with Ralph in pursuit (Ralph pursued off table, which was unfortunate for Hamo).  The two left most conrois stuck in there and it got bloody (there were a lot of draws, so close was the fight.  Draws mean both sides take full damage) but the Danes had the advantage of their archers at the back and they could lose more and stay functional than the Normans.  With no Ralph, no LPs were in play, which didn't help, but Erik could use his to shore up the line.  Hamo took control and recalled the knights before they were completely spent.

Phase 3 - The Norman infantry advanced allowing their cavalry to regroup behind (more freestyle).  Hamo had to hope the Danes were weakened enough, as lauching his common infantry across a stream against their equivents with added back up was dangerous.  One unit failed to make the ditch, recoiling and really unsafe for them to try again.  The others managed another draw, which was positive against their damaged opponents but they wouldn't have more success.  Hamo engaged Erik but despite the LPs and despite the fact Hamo's familia were fresh, the blood-soaked stream was too much.  The Normans were thrown back across the river with heavy casualties.  Erik, who always told people Harold's mistake at Hastings was not to counter-attack when he had the chance, charged in pursuit.  Despite Hamo's men now having the advantage of the stream, they were pushed back again (nice dice skills from Erik) and rout swiftly followed.  The Normans now had no commanders on the field and really we were into morale throw territory.  I allowed the cavalry to try to intervene to aid the infantry.  Only one conroi moved (not freestyle here - the other two failed movement tests) and charged Erik's hirdmen.  They bounced off with casualties.  With no commander to bring forward the archers, the cavalry spent and the infantry in a losing war of attrition, it was time for the Normans to withdraw and wait for Ralph to come back.  Erik and most of his men set off back to the ships, picking up stragglers from the routed crew.

Learning points
*The idea of phasing the fight worked well and, I think, allowed a plausible medieval battleplan to unfold.
*I didn't expect the Danes to win this.  They were outnumbered both in terms of units (7 Viking, 3 of which were the attached skirmishers, to 10 Norman) and points (25 Viking to 44 Norman).  The power of a good defensive position.
*It was essential to limit the archer rounds.  I would have let Hamo order the archers up in support later for a bit more shooting but unfortunate he was hors de combat and Ralph nowhere to be seen.  In fact Hamo might have been better advised to order the archers up to do more damage when the cavalry fell back, but he stuck to the plan.
*The attached archers worked better than other ideas I'd had for this.  The idea I think came from early WRG rules, where groups of light troops could be attached as sub-units, but I wanted a rigid set of options as to what they could do - skirmish to the front or shoot overhead from the back.  It would probably be possible to use this in other contexts (e.g. hypothetical WOTR Bill/Bow units) - Ill think about it.
*Should I have given Erik some loot?  It would have looked good and perhaps Ralph would have paused to loot it, rather than being off over the hills and far away.
*Finally, for now, the fight could have been run in other periods.  A simple shift would be 1300s Flemings v French.  I might not tie the Flemish skirmishers so tightly to the infantry though.  And would a bit of extra armour for the French knights have made a difference?

Edit : Starting positions plan added





« Last Edit: January 29, 2019, 09:49:37 AM by Erpingham »
  • Anthony Clipsom

Erpingham

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 4854
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Medieval warfare, Old School, home made rules
Re: Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2019, 01:46:01 PM »
To follow up on my suggestion given in the last post, I re-ran a version of the scenario with different period armies.  This time we were in Northumbria, c.1388.  A Scottish army is falling back toward Scotland after a successful raid.  But the English are marching hard in pursuit.  The Black Douglas says he will hold the narrow pass by the burn until nightfall to give the army a chance to put some distance between the baggage and the English.  The English (led anachronistically by Calverley and the Earl of Northampton) come across the Scots deployed for battle, so deploy themselves.  It will be dark in four hours.

The army compositions were not too dissimilar .  The Scots had 8 units to the English 10, 27 points to an English 40.  Based on last time, I formalised the game structure.  The game would have four phases, each a nominal hour.  Within each phase would be as many moves as required.  Archery phases would be determined by throwing a d6 after each move.  When the score hit 14, the archers were out of ammunition and fell back to replenish and the phase ended.  The archers could deliver two phases, but not consecutatively.  The English non-missile troops formed two battles, the commitment of which would be a phase.  These would fight until either they broke under the rules or the commander sounded the recall. 

The battle is briefly told.  In first hour, the English longbows advanced and shot down the Scots skirmishers - they could have done this using their superior range without loss but they closed to get it over quicker.  Unlike the viking game, the skirmishers weren't connected directly to the Scots spearmen and, because the spears were in depth, I decided not to allow them to form a supporting rank if they withdrew.  By the third round, the Scots skirmishers were dispersed and the longbows engaged the close order troops, who suffered hits but fortunately the arrows ran out after five rounds.

In the second hour, Calverley advanced his infantry (whom we shall call gisarmers, because I had objections last time I used the word billmen this early).  The struggle was fierce but one sided.  After half a dozen rounds, the English were in no fit state to continue and one unit, which held on too long , took a big hit and broke.  Calverley sounded the withdrawal.

In the third hour, the longbows came forward again.  With no skirmishers to act as a shield, they closed right in and shot holes in the Scots.  Douglas considered ordering a charge but the loss of men as he struggled across the stream may have been too much.  Instead he pulled back, to widen the range.  Unfortunately, Northampton had no time to see this and bring his cavalry forward before ammunition ran out after four rounds.  As the archers withdrew, Douglas and his men resumed their positions (each phase has a "reset" to allow reorganisation).

The skies were darkening as they went into the fourth hour.  Calverley knew his men could not advance again so Northampton took the men of the third battle - mounted men-at-arms and hobilars - and tried a charge at the weakest part of the line, the Scots left.  All he needed was one drawn combat and the Scots would fail.  The first hit nearly did it (when I first totalled the dice, I thought he had, but then realised I'd missed the LP allocated to the Scots).  As the hobilars bounced off the Scots line, Northampton hung in there but it was to no avail and he was forced to rally back.  Both cavalry units risked annhilation if they re-engaged by this point, so Northampton reluctantly sounded the recall. 

That night, Douglas built up his camp fires and the army slipped away to rejoin their comrades over the border.

Another win then for the defence.   Despite there being no breakthrough of the Scots line, they were in a very poor state by the end.  It is an interesting question whether I made a mistake in rules interpretation on the Scots skirmishers.  I held them in front of the Scots army as expendible human shields, to protect the spears behind.  I could do this because they don't count toward an army's morale total.  However, their loss is taken into account against the loss of LPs - the Scots shouldn't have had any LPs after the first hour.  This was significant in at least one melee.  I think, though, it is an interesting question whether, if skirmishers have no effect on the army morale, they should have any effect on its leadership points.

Overall, I think the scenario generated some interest and even a little excitement.  It was the most fun gaming I've had in a while and I can still think of questions.  What would I have done in the third hour if the ammunition hadn't run out when it did?  Push the longbows across the stream, thus preventing a reoccupation of the river bank at beginning of hour 4?  Continued hour three to allow a Scots counter attack to regain the bank?  Trigger the beginning of hour four with the English archers on the far bank and allow Northampton to ride to the rescue?  Probably the latter, because it sounds plausible enough and the most interesting, game-wise.

I have, I think, had enough fun with this and asked myself enough questions that it might make a Slingshot article (I don't think I've ever done a wargame scenario for Slingshot).  How adaptable it is, I'm unsure.  The key thing is the effect of the stream - if this doesn't cause sufficient difficulty, the defenders will struggle.  I also think it needs a "small battle/big skirmish" level of focus to the rules.  This is representing a battlefield where at most 3-4,000 men are engaged, maybe less.  Perhaps a set like Lion Rampant would work?
  • Anthony Clipsom

aligern

  • Committee Member
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2320
  • Country: gb
Re: Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2019, 09:58:11 PM »
At the =2016 Society conference Matt Bennett talked us through Hastings. He had come up with a tactic for mounted men called the Tour Francais, or French Turn, It is described in a slghtly later period and is a trained technique, the cavalry advancing, striking and turning very rapidly, not staying face to face with the defending infantry. The advantage of Tour Francais is that the cavalry have initiative, they ate not , at that point, attempting to break through the infantry , but to weaken them and thus get in strikes without much response from the footmen.
I woukd suggest that knights moving into contact coukd choose whether to go for a break-through or to perform Tour Francais ( or Normand) They dice and on a 4,5,6 they get to perform a TF and thus hit without being hit back, but then end the move at over an infantry move away facing the opponent. If they roll 1,2,3 they just fight as normal.
Second thought, in these rules I think thatt I recall that moving infantry can fight cavalry at no disadvantage, I think, if that is true, it misses out on Harold’s big problem at Hastings s, that he cannot attack whist there are still formed Norman cavalry around. For me those formed cacalrty are the ‘Iuvenes’ of the Tapestry, kept in reserve and rallied by Odo when things look a bit dicey.
Roy
  • Roy Boss

Jim Webster

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 3588
Re: Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2019, 07:01:20 AM »
we regularly use Lion Rampant for games where a 'unit' is about sixty or so men rather than a dozen.
It just needs a few tweaks with regard to unit facing etc
I've even used if for larger games

With regard to size, four of us fought a late Roman v Hun plus allies game to a finish in two and a half hours. There were over 700 figures on the table
  • Jim Webster

Erpingham

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 4854
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Medieval warfare, Old School, home made rules
Re: Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2019, 10:02:37 AM »
The basics of the cavalry fight are the same in the current version but the new combat system does have some effect.

It is assumed that the cavalry "engage" the infantry, without defining the nature of engagement.  The process of Ralph and co. moving in to the attack is not modelled but we can extrapolate what they did from the outcome.  Melee can be won or drawn.  A loser takes full hits, a winner casualties minus 1 (in a fight like those in the scenario, up to two hits are possible).  In a draw both sides receive full hits.  A double hit on the loser provokes a bravery test, which can provoke an additional hit.   Cavalry can be forced to break off from infantry as a result but may also do so next move voluntarily.  So Ralph can perform the tour francais if he wins the melee and takes no hits.  Or he can push on. 

Ralph's exploit in the report needed some lucky dice throwing to get a win (his opponent had both a higher combat and protection factor) and a double hit on the infantry to get beyond the ditch. In fact he was extra lucky, in he got the third hit too, though his opponent also caused a hit.  His next round was actually pretty straightforward - he just needed a single hit win or draw, because of the prior damage to the Danes from archery.

Whether Erik was right about Hastings is, of course, something history has debated ever since :)  What is true is going on the attack was risky and that final cavalry attack, now he was in the open field, was a serious threat.  A double hit would have finished him and effectively broken the Danish army.
 
  • Anthony Clipsom

Erpingham

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 4854
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Medieval warfare, Old School, home made rules
Re: Somewhere in Yorkshire, 1069
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2019, 10:11:42 AM »
we regularly use Lion Rampant for games where a 'unit' is about sixty or so men rather than a dozen.
It just needs a few tweaks with regard to unit facing etc
I've even used if for larger games

With regard to size, four of us fought a late Roman v Hun plus allies game to a finish in two and a half hours. There were over 700 figures on the table

Looks plausible then.  Incidentally, the scenario would be nice with Belisarian infantry with a bit of dismounted cavalry against Goths. 
  • Anthony Clipsom