Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Battle of Bosworth 1485: A DBA Refight

I managed to get another game of DBA to the table recently, this time to re-fight the decisive Battle of Bosworth.  I used an amalgam of two magazine scenarios, the first from Wargames Illustrated 193 and the second from Miniature Wargames 53.

As anyone interested in the period knows, the battle was largely decided by the (ostensibly neutral) Lord Stanley intervening on the side of Henry Tudor. Because I know this, the most suitable mechanism to reflect this seemed to be to roll a die every turn for Stanley to become "active" on the Tudor side, with an increasing chance each turn.  This would mean that King Richard's optimal strategy would probably be to attack, just as he did on the day.

I didn't check the history of these scenarios, since the most favoured site for the battle has (I believe) been moved since the time when the scenarios were written and published; I was merely using them as gaming scenarios.  That said, the tactical essentials of the battle appear to remain the same regardless of the site adopted.  I was also a bit sceptical about the strengths of the armies too, suspecting that the Tudor army looked a little weak in comparison to the Royal army, but decided to roll with it for this first attempt.

This is a very simple scenario in many ways: it is a straight fight to the finish!

The Forces:

The Tudor Army:  4 x Blades, 3 x Longbows

The Royal Army: 7 x Blades, 6 x Longbows

Lord Stanley's Contingent: 1 x Knights, 3 x Cavalry, 2 x Blades, 1 x Longbows

Henry Tudor rolled a D6 every turn after the first to see if he would take control of Lord Stanley's contingent.  He needed a 6 on the second turn, 5 on the third turn and so on, but would always need at least a score of 3.

The Set-Up:
The smaller Tudor army is bottom-left; King Richard is on the hill and on the forward slopes (centre-right) and Stanley is "awaiting developments" in the top-left

Henry Tudor's men in line of battle with the usual mix of the Wars of the Roses - billmen and bowmen with a smattering of dismounted men-at-arms

Stanley's forces.  This is unusual in consisting of quite a high proportion of mounted men, including some knights but also some lighter "Hobilar" cavalry

The view from behind Henry Tudor.

King Richard III's battle line, with some reserves on the hill itself
 The Battle:
The battle begins with Richard III moving into action; he leaves a reserve back on the hill, so he only has a very small numerical superiority over the Tudor army

A closer view

Stanley decides to commit quite early and begins to move forward slowly...

Stanley with his Knights, plus some Hobilars

Some very effective shooting creates a gap in the Tudor line; some slightly less effective Tudor shooting creates some raggedness in the Royal line (bottom-right)

A wider view of the same

The melee begins in earnest with King Richard and his personal knights (Centre-left), on foot, trying to burst through the gap in the Tudor lines

Stanley's men approach the Royal reserve

Royalist billmen turn the Tudor right flank (foreground)...

The Tudor line is slowly crumbling...

There is some real chaos now: elements of both armies have broken right through...

The contenders for the throne pass each other by in the swirling melee...

Stanley's troops are unaccountably slow...

The broken battle lines are beginning to favour the numerically superior Royal army, as it gets to find internal flanks...

Some of the troops have now turned through 180 degrees: in the bottom-left, the two left-hand units are Yorkists, and the right-hand unit is Tudor Billmen...; note that Stanley, seeing the crumbling Tudor resistance, has diverted his men-at-arms and supporting hobilars to the fray here (centre-top)

Stanley's light cavalry are about to hit some Royalist bowmen in the flank (bottom-right); but the main reserve body is well placed on the top of the hill to resist Stanley's infantry (top)...

The Tudor army is only just hanging on...only the difficulty in re-organizing his troops is denying the King a victory here...

The reserve bowmen swing into place just in time, but the Hobilars ride them down anyway...

But the remainder of the King's knights, fighting on foot, drive back Stanley's infantry attack

Stanley meets Henry Tudor (centre-bottom) just as the day is lost...

King Richard continues to destroy the opposition (left)

King Richard's dismounted men-at-arms take the initiative and charge Stanley's men...

The Tudor main line has finally collapsed...

As does the Stanley's line...

A wider shot of the main battle lines at the end of the combat: the sides have completely gone through 180 degrees now.  Henry Tudor's life and the embers of the Lancastrian cause will now depend upon the speed of his horse and the loyalty of his retainers...

And a wider shot at the end of the battle, showing the main battle (top-left) and the positions of the Royal reserve and the Stanleys' contingent (right)
Game Notes: 
Another great fun Wars of the Roses clash as history reverses and Lord Stanley becomes a folkloric figure for the man who arrives just five minutes late to save the day...I felt the scenario worked well in giving both sides a good chance of victory.  Fortune definitely favoured the King for most of the battle, as he seemed to get the better combat results and get more initiative points just at the right moment.  I was using the orders of battle given in the scenarios, but I wonder if it might be better to reduce the Royal Army's strength by a base or two to make Stanley's attack more likely to succeed more quickly and make the division of strength  more tricky problem for the King.
The key to the Royalist victory was getting a freak kill of a Tudor base very early on: this allowed King Richard and his men to split the Tudor line and create the overlaps and then flank attacks which lead to further recoils and kills.
As a quirk of these rules (unless I am playing it wrong!), there can be two versions of WotR battles using DBA using exactly the same forces.  Since the armies are basically combinations of bow and blade, the optimal deployment is to alternate those bases in the battle line (to give bonuses to the bowmen).  However, blades still have a decent advantage over bows so if the lines are mismatched (my blades fight your bows and vice-versa) then although it is not necessarily more likely that I will win, it is more likely that the combat will be resolved sooner.  If I have a temporary strength advantage, this seems to make it a much better strategy.  From the opposite point-of-view, when blades are matched against blades, they can fight for a long time before being destroyed.  When I have a bit more time, I may even have a look at quantifying these effects.
I think that this kind of battle works better in DBA than my recent refight of Northampton, because it seems clear that attrition as a strategy is irrelevant here and shock is everything.

Rules were DBA, figures by Baccus 6mm.

Battle of Northampton 1460: A DBA Refight

Whilst I take a break from my ECW campaign as I wait for the (delayed! boo.) release of the Scots Covenanter Horse and I prepare a couple of other things, I had a go at re-fighting the Battle of Northampton from the Wars of the Roses, using a scenario from Miniature Wargames 38.

(is it just me, or is that WW2 set-up very nice indeed?)

The main difficulty with the re-fight of this battle is that it was partly (mainly) decided by treachery, when Lord Edmund Grey of Ruthin ordered his troops not to fight, having previously made a deal to defect to the Yorkists in return for preferment.  As a solo player however, I can't be allowed to "know" this unless designing a "one player against the system" solo game/scenario.  What I decided to do therefore was make the treachery a random event: in the first close combat in which the Lancastrian forces rolled a "1", the element could defect.  The Yorkists didn't have to accept it and could hope for a "1" later on in a hope of having a more useful element defect later.

The scenario wasn't very exact as to forces apart from indicating that the Lancastrians probably had more artillery but had less troops, so I just used the DBA Wars of the Roses army lists with the Lancastrians limited to 10 bases.  They would also be defeated after the loss of 3 bases rather than 4.  I can't find the exact choices but I think the forces were:

Lancastrians: 4 bases of Blades, 4 bases of Longbows, 1 base of Artillery, 1 base of Skirmishers (Handgunners)
Yorkists: 5 bases of Blades, 5 bases of Longbows, 1 base of Artillery, 1 base of Hordes (Levies)

n.b. I may have got the the proportion of Yorkists wrong: it may have been 6 of one and 4 of the other.

The Set-Up:

Lancastrians defending the earthworks to the left (North) in front of the river, Yorkists advancing from the right (South).

The view from behind the Yorkists.

A closer view of the Lancastrians.

Another (lighter) shot.
 The Battle:

Warwick begins the battle by advancing upon his left flank

The Yorkists begin to try and take the earthworks, but without success

The Yorkists try on the Right but are repulsed here too

The Yorkist line breaks up as it focuses on attacking individual parts of the earthworks

A second assault on the right is repulsed

Finally some success: on the far left, Yorkist Billmen get through the arrow storm and push over the earthworks

The Yorkists on the right however are still stuck

The King sends some billmen to try and restore the situation on the Lancastrian right

The main position is still being firmly held however

Having disposed of the Lancastrian bowmen, theYorkists are then hit by the Lancastrian billmen

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more..."

Success! Although the artillery is still blasting back the Yorkists, some brave billmen have clambered over the embankments (centre) and penetrated the line

The Lancastrians push back the Yorkist billmen on the right of the position...

...and push them right out of it!

The Yorkists are fully through in the centre however - the King orders troops from the left of the earthworks to come in and restore the situation...

But the Yorkist men-at-arms are also over the earthworks now...

At this point, the defence collapsed as this Lancastrian unit defected!

The position at the end of the battle.
Game Notes: Quite a good game, which ended up being quite close to the real thing in result, although this time King Henry was quite likely to get away rather than fall into the Yorkists' hands.  That said, the defenders may get slightly short-changed by using DBA since although it is hard for the attackers to win individual combats, it is hard for Blades (i.e. dismounted men-at-arms and billmen to be destroyed in infantry combat so they can keep on coming back and back, as there are no attrition or fatigue mechanisms. Because of the disparity in numbers, there is no sense in advancing out of the earthworks.  I should give this game a go with Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargaming rules too, since that set is pretty much entirely based upon attrition to see how that plays out. 

For those not familiar with the rules, the basic dynamic of the blades vs blades combat is that both sides roll a D6 and add 5, but they are only destroyed if their score is less than half the total of the winner.  Since the minimum score achievable is "6", it will be seen that one side needs to score "12" as a minimum to achieve destruction.  Because of a positive modifier for defending the earthworks and also for the general being present, then it is possible in this scenario, but it requires rolling 6s and hoping the other side gets 1s!  It is much easier to destroy bases when flank attacks are possible, but this is very hard in attacks on (roughly) linear earthworks.  All of this resulted in the relatively large number of ineffectual Yorkist attacks. Archery rarely has a great effect against solid infantry in DBA.
I was quite pleased with my easy "treachery" mechanism, since it worked fairly similarly to what happened on the day but didn't require me to pretend when playing one side that I don't know what the other side knows.
So all-in-all, quite a successful game. Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Timecast and Leven.