Last Thursday I went to Battlefront HQ to play in a Lion Rampant rehearsal day. The ”rehearsal’ was to see if a big multi-player game of Lion Rampant would work and also to check out some ‘house rules’ for the big Lion Rampant day being held on 31st January. It was of course a good opportunity to see how my retinue played against the competition and to hone my tactics for the day. Well the evening went reasonably well and lesson were learnt by both the organisers and players!
The big battle suffered from the usual problems of keeping 12 noisy war gamers in order and somehow coordinating the turn system so that players at one end of the table knew when it was their turn to go. The other issue was that although I knew what was happening either side of me, it was very difficult to know what was happening elsewhere. In a way, this final problem isn’t so much a problem as a reflection as to what really happened in a battle in the middle ages. With no radio or mobile phone you would have no idea how your allies were doing until a messenger managed to find you and even then, the information would be out of date. So as a commander you could be winning your part of the battle, only to find elsewhere things hadn’t gone so well and a large force of very angry enemies were charging into a flank that you had previously thought secure.
I’ll leave Dan & Wayne, the organisers, to figure out how and if to sort out these complications and focus on the lessons learnt from my own battle. My retinue, now complete, consists of a Unit of foot knights ( including the leader), two units of expert archers, a unit of foot sergeants and a unit of Bidowers. It’s a typical English skirmishing force circa Agincourt to the Wars of the Roses ( if there is such a thing) & very much a defensive retinue. With no mounted units, I’m not going to be swiftly maneuvering around the battlefield, picking off the opposition. The expert archers are the killing units but they are fragile if caught in the open. Mounted knights will just ride them down. So the trick is to protect them whilst drawing the enemy into range.
So my tactics will be to keep the two units of archers in a central position as close together as possible. Any unit that comes with in range will have to face an onslaught of archery! I’ll protect the flanks and the front by positioning the Foot knights ( with the leader) to one side and the foot sergeants ( forming Schiltron) to the other side. My leader, Harry (Kane) Hotspur, should be close enough to add a point of courage to the archers in any morale test. Of course, I will use any rough ground to help protect the archers without compromising line of sight. The last of my units, the bidowers are there for two reasons. At worst ( for them!) they will be bait to draw the enemy into bow range. If all goes well, I will use them to skirmish and either add strength to a flank or wear the enemy down by fighting from cover.
Now all of that sounds great. I have a plan, what could possible go wrong…?
Well, on Thursday there were two problems. Firstly, I couldn’t roll the dice to get my units to move! It must have been six moves before I actually got within bow range of my opponent. By which time he had given up attacking me ( he wasn’t going to risk the archers even with my terrible dice rolling) and was attacking my ally on the right. By the time I started to move it was too late, my ally had been out numbered and slaughtered. The only good news was that because my troops had stood around impersonating the Stanleys at the Battle of Bosworth, the army was still intact. My ally on the left had suffered the same fate and had been all but wiped out, so I now had to fight three damaged enemies on my own.
The dice gods now intervened and at last things started to move and I was able to close with the opposition. The problem being that I was now trying to fight an offensive battle with a defensive force and all thought of a cohesive attack had disappeared, along with my allies. The battle ended in a sort of a victory. I had killed the opposition leaders and reduced their forces to a few half units but it did not feel like a victory, more an avoidance of defeat. The other issue was that on this occasion, the terrain was as much of a problem to me as it was a help. There’s nothing like a battle with the whim of the dice throw to remind you that war gaming is not chess! Ah well, I still have a plan and I’ll stick with it for now. Despite the set backs, I dont think that I could fight with this army in any other way and it’s too late now to change.
The final parting shot from Dan was ‘whats all that stuff on your bases?’ ‘Well it is a War of the Roses force Dan….’