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.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

The Battle of Stoke Field 1487 - A DBA Refight

A recent issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy had a Wars of the Roses theme. 

One of the battles featured inside was the Battle of Stoke Field, which I have always had on my 'to do' list. In fact I think it was also features in a Wargames Illustrated in the last few years but I don't have a copy of that one to hand to check or compare.  Anyhow, the scenario looked quite interesting and I found it easy to convert from Lion Rampant to DBA.  The only problem was the lack of scale on the map (which is a constant annoyance in maps in WSS, despite how lovely they look).  Fortunately I am quite familiar with this area so it wasn't as much of an issue as it sometimes is.  I had no idea there was a bridge across the Trent at Fiskerton in 1487 though!

The Forces:

The Yorkists:

John de la Pole:
2 x Blades (Dismounted men-at-arms & Irish Gallowglass), 3 x 3Ax (Irish Kerns)
Francis Lovell:
3 x Blades (Dismounted men-at-arms & Billmen), 2 x 4Bw
Martin Schwartz:
3 x 4Pk, 1 x Ps (Handgunners)

The Lancastrians:

Henry VII:
3 x Blades (Dismounted men-at-arms & Billmen), 2 x 4Bw
John de Vere:
3 x Blades (Dismounted men-at-arms & Billmen), 2 x 4Bw
Jasper Tudor:
2 x Blades (Dismounted men-at-arms & Billmen), 2 x 4Bw

I still just used a single D6 for PIPs, gave each army a break point of 5 units rather than 4, and each army had the three generals named (with John de la Pole able to join either the men-at-arms or gallowglass, as he liked).

The Set-Up:

Now, it is often that a battle takes place on a site it shares with one of the premier manufacturers of wargames figures!  However, that it the case with this battle...

The scenario map indicates a decent sized hill (i.e. tactically significant) on the field, starting between East Stoke and the Eden Hall Day Spa .
The Yorkists are positioned on the hill, with the village of Elston to the south (right); the River Trent is mainly just off table to the left (there is a loop in the river towards Fiskerton at this point); the Lancatrians are deployed around the village of Stoke (now East Stoke) to the east (top)

A closer look at the Royal Army around Stoke; Henry's contingent is to the left of the shot, John de Vere's to the right, Jasper Tudor is commanding the reserve (centre-top)

A closer look at the King

and at John de Vere's contingent...

...and at Jasper Tudor's.

The Irish contingent form the left of the Yorkist line; Kerns to the front, Gallowglass and Men-at-Arms behind

The centre of the position with Lovell's contingent

And the Yorkist right, looking from behind Martin Schwartz' mercenary pikemen to the Royal Army
 The Battle:
The refight begins as the hitorical battle, with a charge of the Irish Kerns down the hill...

After a short, sharp fight, some of the Kerns retreat speedily back up the hill

After causing a little disruption, the King orders a general advance up the hill

The Yorkists spend their effort getting as much of their line reformed as possible

John de Vere leads his troops into Schwartz' mercenary contingent

Another, wider shot

Fighting is joined in the centre at the top of the hill, although the King is kept back by archery (centre)

Lovell and his Knights gain the advantage in the centre, routing some of the Tudor troops

A closer look at the gap that has formed

The push of the mercenary pikemen is irresistible and John de Vere's men find themselves pushed back towards Stoke.  Jasper Tudor hurries up some reinforcements (top); the handgunners harass some English billmen (bottom-right)

Using the impetus of the hill, the Kerns give a good account of themselves on the Yorkist left...

Fighting continues to-and-fro at the top of the hill.  Henry himself is now in the thick of the fighting (centre-left)

John de Vere's contingent starts to collapse; Schwartz takes a calculated risk in sending some billmen around the flank (centre-left) to try and catch John de Vere himself before Jasper Tudor can intervene

Unfortunately it does not work!  Jasper Tudor stabilizes the fight on this flank (top-left) and the mercenaries are pushed back

The Kerns have eliminated the Tudor bowmen facing them and are attempting to swamp the remaining billmen...

Henry Tudor is right in the middle of the fighting (centre) and must quickly destroy the Yorkists before his army routs...and he finds himself in a most perilous position!

He and his knights are surrounded!

The billmen and Kerns continue their scrap...

But it is all over in the centre and the King is captured! 

John de Vere and Jasper Tudor can probably escape...

 Game Notes: A hard-fought battle that resulted in a quite convincing Yorkist victory and a thorough re-writing of history.  Apart from a couple of moments of clumsy tactics on my part, the main reasons were the bonus for the hill (a +1 in DBA is really important) and the lack of emphasis on troop quality as opposed to troop function in DBA.  In the Lion Rampant scenario in the magazine, the Tudor Army is of generally higher quality, so that would probably equalize the effects of the hill. 

There is a tactical issue in DBA for WotR armies which I can never quite get my head around.  Do veteran players advance with their bowmen or leave them out of the hand-to-hand combat?  I feel instinctively that they shouldn't because the inevitable gaps would leave them vulnerable to flanking effects.

There are some good photos of a re-enactment and a re-fight of Stoke Field on Wargames Foundry's website.  It is a lovely area too, well worth a walk around, and the Eden Hall Spa is really good as well (if you like that kind of thing!).

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings a mixture of Baccus & Leven, rules were DBA v3.

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