Thursday, 23 June 2016

Battle of Bosworth - Battle Report

Norfolk's van advances up to the lane and weakens De Vere's Van

Turns 1-2

Richard goes straight into the advance. Initially it looks like carnage as his archers score 4 hits against a Lancastrian archer unit in the first round, wiping it out, but then I remember that you have to cross reference hits with troop quality to get a result - just a flee (2 hex), disruption and single stand (25%) loss.

The next two turns see exchanges of missile fire up and down the line as Richard marches forward. No penalty for moving and firing in the same turn. The fact that fire happens for both sides on both sides's phases (so twice a turn) take some getting used to - but the results all look OK now with several units falling back, disrupted but no lasting damage. You certainly notice the difference between the 8+ of the hand-gunners and the 6+ of retinue archers - at least against soft targets (like levy archers). Time to pull the handgunners back and save them for men-at-arms!

The artillery on both sides is exchanging long and short range fire but with little effect - again about par for the course.

The movement mechanism works well and is almost identical to Steady Lads Steady, so penetration is OK and units can exchange positions with other units as part of their move. The command and control model (3 hex range) is good to, and far easier to manage with hexes than say a 9" radius. Both Oxford and Norfolk can keep to the middle of their lines and control them - and certainly stops you over-extending. Twice though Henry has been disrupted due to fleeing (really retreating) units coming back though him - something that would certainly cause issues for a General when actively engaged.

On the East flank the French contingent is putting on pressure but taking disruption

Turns 3-6

De Vere's archers try to hold off the Ricardian advance
Welsh spearmen on their flank

The firing on Richards left flank has left a Lancastrian archer unit stranded by the marsh. The concentrated fire of two Yorkist archer units manages to inflict 3 damage (not just hits) and sends it into oblivion - the first whole unit lost. This clears the way for Norfolk to shuffle the whole of the van to the right to better deal with the French creeping up on that flank, and perhaps clear the way for Richard to charge through as it seems he did in reality to try and take Henry on in personal combat.

Henry's forces taking a battering, a unit of archers flees in the foreground
Smoke puff = stand lost, red marker = disrupted

In the West Norfolk continues to keep the French at bay, and even push them back. However the front is now too wide for him to manage so Richard has to come forward to take control of the right wing, leaving his own battle standing behind under Northumberland. It highlights that at least for the 1st line you need two generals not one in order to maintain full control - and in a pick up battle there would be an interesting choice between points on generals to give flexibility vs points on troops.

Milanese handgunners and Norfolk's archers push forward

In the centre Norfolk's push forward continues, with more of Henry's units being forced to recoil, and take the odd stand lost. Getting real damage on units from missile fire is hard, and even when you get disruption its removed before the enemy gets their next fire - which seems a bit too soon. Eventually though Norfolk's men-at-arms get to within melee range of some of De Vere's archers (I keep having to remember they only need to be adjacent, not move onto the enemy hex). At first it looks like its a complete destruction of the archers, but then I remember that since De Vere is with them they get an extra D6, which is enough to reduce the annihilation to a recoil (a bit of a big swing, and only rolled a 3!).

Burgundian Pike/Spear men on the W flank await Richard's assault

After 6 turns (2 hours? No explicit time conversion is given but since we're at the same basic scale as SLS this seems reasonable), it looks like the opening phase is over and we're getting ready for the main match. De Vere has now been pushed back hard against Henry's Main battle, so that needs to get involved now in the fight. For Richard Norfolk's troops have gained ground, but not inflicted too much damage, but are now to spread out and out of puff themselves to destroy De Vere's Van, and certainly not Henry's Main. So time for Richard to pull back from the W flank enough to bring his Main forward.

End of Turn 6 - Norfolk's MAA in centre having not followed up to keep the line

Turns 7- 11

Norfolk's forces pushed relentlessly forwards, inflicting recoils but few stand losses, but enough to keep pushing Henry's line back. On the West flank a unit of French pike (4 melee+4 impact!) caused havoc within the missile units of Richard's flank, and Richards need to be there to control units stopped him from taking the lead in the centre - a job left to Norfolk.

Forces come to blows in the centre, but the French push forward at left

As Richard's archers and handgunners inflict and push back Henry's mounted MAA Richard sees his chance, and just like the real battle calls his own mounted MAA to push forward alongside the marsh and engage their opposite numbers. The melee stalemates in the first round, Henry's personal presence (2D6 not 1D6) not enough to swing the melee.

With both main battles engaged Henry takes the chance to call on the Stanleys. Henry is one down in lost units so rolls at -1, a 5 is rolled, modified gives a 4 - so Stanley stays put.

In the next turn Norfolk decides to through his dismounted MAA into the melee against Henry. Now 2 units to 1 and a General's 2D6 on both sides the Yorkists inflict a push back, but not enough to damage Henry.

Norfolk joins the melee against Henry and his men-at-arms

Henry makes another call to the Stanleys. The rampaging pike have taken another scalp, but Richard's archers have evened the score, so its still a -1 roll. This time the roll is 2, modified to 1, so the Stanley's reckon that Henry's number is up and begin to mobilise for Richard.

Henry fights for his life in the bottom right

Richard's own position is looking perilous though. Floating free on the west flank he suddenly finds the French pike bearing down on him as they rout some Yorkist archers. It's not too clear from the rules whether Richard can escape/disengage from them next turn or has to fight a personal melee (not good as they roll on 12+D6 against his 2D6!).

Richard's looking at risk as French pike bear down on him

However before it can come to that the next round of the main MAA melee happens and Norfolk finally rolls high, eliminating Henry's men-at-arms, and with them Henry. It's Henry who gets to cry for his horse as the blows of the Yorkist swords and maces reign down on him.

The victorious Yorkist men-at-arms


With Henry dead and Stanley already declared for Richard (just in time), and Northumberland still standing by for orders Richard is in a strong position. Both sides had lost 3 units (excepting the final MAA), and had similar damage elsewhere. Richard would no doubt have spent the next few weeks mopping up the remaining Lancastrians before returning in triumph. The Tudor era would not have been, no Stuarts, and possibly no Civil War. And a certain car park in Leicester would have remained totally unremarkable.

A long shot looking to the West of the final positions
Northumberland and Stanley still in place
Considering the battle Henry probably defended too far back, and when he was pushed back should have immediately thrown his main battle into the fight to try and bring Stanley in. As it was he ended up with just no room to manoeuvre.

A View on the Rules

Overall I really liked the rules. Quite simple and straightforward, quick to play but giving a good game that felt realistic. It was interesting how many even minor bits are the same as I have in SLS, even down too things like interpenetration and retreat moves being +1 on a normal move to stop the victor chasing you straight down.

There were a few bits I think I'd be tempted to tweak though:
  • Melees happen when a unit tries moves onto the hex of another unit - as often it was not to clear if adjacent units were in melee
  • Disruption appears to have a very minor effect. I think it should last to the end of the unit's next turn, not til after the move phase, and it should have an effect on melee - amazed it doesn't - perhaps the same 1/2 stand number as firing.
  • Odd that armour class effects firing but not melee - think I'd be tempted to apply a -1 for A1, -2 for A2 on the opposition.

The command and control worked really nicely though. Certainly my medieval rule set of choice though, and its next outing may be in some form of medieval campaign later in the year.

Scenario Mechanic

I also liked the scenario mechanic for what happens to Northumberland and the Stanleys. The fact that the two leaders can choose the right moment to call them forward when the casualty difference is in their favour certainly means that the decision becomes a tactical one, rather than a purely random one, and also hints at the bigger strategic picture. Not sure the mechanism would work well for Napoleonics (except Saxons or recalcitrant Austrians) or ECW (not much on field treachery), but ideal for Medieval. In a campaign setting you could even have loyalty ratings/DMs for each faction, and maybe even make the points value of uncertain troops cheaper - so a small army of dedicated fighters or a large force that might fall apart or even turn on you if you don't keep winning.

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