Saturday 30 November 2013

Duke of Exeter's Bowmen - Wars of the Roses

Following an intense period of re-basing and 'refreshing' some tired looking units of various periods, I decided to paint a new unit at long last.  These are the Lancastrian Duke of Exeter's Bowmen for the Wars of the Roses.

The figures are by Perry Miniatures and I have to say what a complete joy it was to assemble them. Some plastic figure sets are annoying to assemble, awkward and bloody hard work.  Not these.  I can honestly say that I really enjoyed assembling them.  It was quite a simple task to see what arms went well with which torsos and the whole project was made so much easier by the weapons already being cast into hands.  This makes for a nice easy project.  I used Humbrol Polystyrene Cement and this worked perfectly.

The Perry's sculpting is just amazing.  Some figures stand the test of time and will always look good.  By this I mean that some figures, like for instance, the Airfix 1/32 scale 8th Army set (which must have been sculpted 40 years ago) will remain timeless because the figures just looked anatomically spot on and are so evocative of the images we have of 8th Army soldiers.  Likewise some figures look awful from the time they are produced and twenty years on you are left wondering why on earth you bought them.  I think in 20 years time I will look at these and will still think what wonderful beautifully proportioned sculptings they are.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if in 30 years time these are still being produced.

The troops have been painted with various acrylics including, Vallejo, Miniature Paints and Citadel.  I used a base colour, darker wash, highlight, then line in method.  Long winded but I like the results.  I have an A4 folder where I keep a sheet per troop type of step-by-step procedures used for painting a unit.  There are about 25 individual steps for these troops and that's before I get to the basing(!)  I do wonder sometimes whether I should just try a dip method one day!

The bases are MDF by 'Products for Wargamers' and the flora is by MiniNatur.  I have moved away from static grass and use various lengths and types of grasses over a textured and painted base.  There are currently 20 steps in my procedure list of basing too now!

I have used livery badge decals on the coats of the bowmen.  These are the decals made by Citadel Six.  If there is one tip I can give anyone to using these transfers it would be 'use decal softener'.  Without it, applying them is very hard, and with it everything changed and it became an almost easy task.  The instructions they include with their decals are very comprehensive and are based on excellent advice.  I really like the Citadel Six decals and I will be using them a lot more as I push through 'tarting up' my collection. The Livery flag is made by Freezywater Flags, which I have done a little bit of brushwork on to give it more detail.

And here we have the box.  I have always had a weakness for really good box artwork and this takes me back again to those Airfix and Esci boxes (does anyone else remember the Esci Waterloo boxed set? - I must have spent hours just looking at that Scollins artwork).  I digress slightly there, but the Perry's have chosen well to have this magnificent Peter Dennis scene on the front of the box.  The shocking thing for me is that I must have had these sat on a shelf in my wargaming room for 3 years before I started work on them - a hidden gem, all still attached to their sprues!

As you can probably tell, I really like these figures.  Will I be getting any more? Oh yes - and I have already started painting them!  I have now also ordered the Perry's mounted men-at-arms set which I just can't wait to see having now painted the Perry's armoured commanders for the bowmen.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Wars of the Roses - After Action Report

Having spent too long re-basing my Wars of the Roses armies, it has been good to get a game in again.  As you will see from the pics, some units are not quite finished as far as re-basing goes, but I think I started to lose interest after the 400th figure or thereabouts!

The battle was loosely based upon one of the 'Scenarios for Wargamers' layouts by Charles S Grant.  I based the action on the holding action scenario again (as used a few posts ago for a French-Indian Wars game).  I modified the forces somewhat from that in the book and made numerous changes to suit my forces.

The purpose of the game was to test out a few more ideas for a modified 'Hail Caesar' battle.  I made more tweaks to try to get more of medieval feel to the game.  It was also good just to see how the newly re-based troops looked on the table at last.

Ian was to take the side of the defending Lancastrians.  I was to lead the attacking Yorkists.  I read the following brief to set the scene prior to deployment;

'It is 1461, Edward, recently crowned, is marching north to York to take his family's city and to depose Henry VI who the Lancastrian forces rescued at the Battle of Wakefield.  On the way north, Edward has heard that the Lancastrians are assembling their forces to stop him.  Edward's scouts report that the Earls Oxford and Northumberland are holding a strategic crossing south of York.  They are awaiting the arrival of the Duke of Exeter with his contingent.  Edward has rapidly set off, stealing a march to knock Oxford and Northumberland aside and to take the river crossing point before Exeter arrives.'

Edward IV (Army Commander), combination of handgunners, billmen/men-at-arms(on foot) and mounted men-at-arms.
Earl of Warwick, combination of bowmen and billmen/men-at-arms (on foot)
Lord Fauconberg, combination of bowmen and billmen/men-at-arms (on foot)

Earl of Oxford (Army Commander), combination of crossbowmen, billmen/men-at-arms (on foot) and one medium artillery piece
Earl of Northumberland, combination of bowmen, handgunners, billmen/men-at-arms (foot) and one Organ (volley) artillery piece
Duke of Exeter, combination of crossbowmen, men-at-arms (foot) and mercenary pikemen

Edward needs to take the bridge (both ends) by Game Turn 12 (Nightfall). Should both ends be taken then this will result in Yorkist victory.  Oxford needs to prevent Edward from taking the bridge by Game Turn 12.

The Duke of Exeter will attempt to arrive from the North to reinforce the Lancastrians.  From Game Turn 4, a D6 will be thrown.  On GT4 a one is required, on GT5 a one or a two is required and the chances escalating by one each turn until Exeter arrives on GT10 (if the bridge has not been taken already).  There are no Yorkist reinforcements.

Lancastrians will deploy Oxford and Northampton on high ground either side of the road leading to the bridge.  Exeter will start off board until reinforcement dice thrown successfully.  Yorkists will dice for deployment at either of two points.

View from Lancastrians end. Yorkists yet to deploy down road

Special Rules: These will be explained further on.

To Battle
Game Turn 1
 Warwick and Fauconberg enter on different points of the board and march in column towards the Lancastrians.  The Lancastrians await developments.

Northumberland awaits on high ground

Oxford on the opposite high ground also waiting. 

Game Turn 2
Fauconberg makes a triple move which leads his extended column out in front of Northumberland. This is a hazardous, if not reckless, move.  Warwick makes a single move from his very distant entry point on the board.  The Lancastrians open fire with handgunners, organ gun and the medium gun....which promptly explodes killing the crew!

Fauconberg deploys close to the Lancastrians, inviting fire

Catastrophe! The gun explodes on it's first fire!

Game Turn 3
The Yorkist columns advance and attempts to shake out the units into some kind of order.  Lancastrian fire hits and wears down Fauconberg's exposed bowmen.

Handgunners pour fire into the bowmen

Game Turn 4
Poor dice throws leave the Yorkists moving slowly.  Lancastrian dice luck is also poor. The first reinforcement test fails and then the organ gun misfires!

Crossbowmen prepare their bolts to fire on the advancing Yorkists

Game Turn 5
Poor dice seems to be the order of the day...Fauconberg blunders with his orders for the bowmen and they fall back one turn.  Lancastrians continue putting skirmish fire down and fail to bring on reinforcements

The very slow march of Warwick

Game Turn 6
Arghh! Those dice! Edward's mounted men-at-arms which had looked so threatening before suddenly blunder their orders, fleeing and losing 1/6th of their strength points in the process.  Lancastrians are amazed and continue to launch arrows into the confused Yorkists.  No reinforcements yet.

The battle lines draw closer

Game Turn 7
Yorkist handgunners tire of their ineffective skirmishing and charge the Lancastrian handgunners. The melee is drawn.  Lancastrians successfully reinforce - Exeter arrives on the bridge.  It's all looking really bad for the Yorkists now.

Exeter arrives to secure the bridge

Game Turn 8
Yorkist handgunners lose the melee.  The whole battle is looking disastrous at this point.  Suddenly the Lancastrians pull out a treachery card and discover that Exeter is not as loyal as they thought!  Exeter takes up a position on the bridge but refuses to advance any further to assist in the battle.  He seems to have deliberately misinterpreted his orders and has secured the bridge but no he in the pay of Edward? or is he just awaiting developments?  Northumberland and Oxford advance down the hill to confront the Yorkists.  Clearly Ian has decided that victory needs to be won in combat before Exeter's betrayal affects things.

Northumberland advances off the high ground

Game Turn 9
This time the Yorkists have pulled a treachery card - Warwick has changed sides and is now leading his column towards the nearest Yorkist force with the intent to attack it.  The treachery cards having a freak selection this turn (they are picked at random each turn) means that the reinforcements for each side has effectively gone over to the other side!  I decide that Edward has to do something drastic.  Edward declares a do or die charge on Oxford with his men-at-arms/billmen block supported by his mounted men-at-arms. A more general melee develops as Northumberland supports Oxford.  There must be something like 300 figures locked in combat!  Oxford and Northumberland get the worst of it and give ground disordered.

The view behind Oxford's men just prior to Edward's charge which bowls them back

Edward's men-at-arms leading the billmen into the attack

Game Turn 10
It nearly being 2am it was decide that this would have to be the last game turn in what was turning into a really dramatic battle.  Edward charged into the Lancastrians again.  The melee was brutal, and which actually caused an automatic break of the Lancastrians by the number of casualties inflicted above their shaken score (I only realised this after the game, and instead performed a normal break test for the Lancastrians which led to them being pushed back again...darned fatigue!).  Edward led the attack and he survived being killed by a score of 9 when a 10,11 or 12 would have done for him!  We declared the game a draw.  Edward had not quite achieved his objective of taking the bridge, though Exeter (and his Lord Stanley-esque sitting on the bridge without moving) could have been judged to have taken it for the Yorkists, especially as Edward would probably have reached him in the next turn (if he rallied from his own losses).

...And so ended an absolutely terrific game.  It had everything, plenty of drama and a thorough testing of new elements of the rules we had introduced.  The only shaky thing was both sides getting affected by treachery.  This will be changed by an amendment.

The War of the Roses special rules introduced were as follows:

Treachery: A single card is drawn by each player at the beginning of each turn. If the card is a Jack then a D6 must be thrown. 
1 or 2 Brigade turns traitor and is taken over by the opposing player
3 or 4 Brigade halts and plays no further part in the battle - merely observing and watching and waiting...!
5 or 6 Brigade continues unaffected.

I left all 4 jacks in the pack thinking it would be unlikely to hit one, never mind find two!  I shall take three out next time and leave just one in the pack.

Ammunition Supply: An average dice is thrown at the beginning of the game for each missile unit. The number is recorded as the number of arrows/handgun ammo/artillery shots/crossbow bolts allowed to be fired by each unit in the game.  Counter chips are handed in each shot to show stocks.

Wind Direction: This adds 4" to arrows. Dice on D6 at beginning of game for wind direction
1 from North
2 from East
3 from South
4 from West
5 or 6 No wind

Movement and Firing 
Archers move a max of 2 moves and still fires
Crossbows move a max of 1 move and still fires
Handgunners move a max of 1 move and still fires

Artillery Explosion Risk
Gun explodes on firing if an explosion risk dice (a warhammer explosion dice - one side only marked as explosion) appears with an adverse roll.  The explosion risk dice is thrown each turn with the normal shooting dice. If the explosion symbol appears, examine the other dice.  If a 4,5 or 6 appear on any of the other dice then the gun has exploded. If only 1,2 or 3 has appeared then the gun has misfired this turn.

'Housecarl' Rule
This is a rule introduced for my Saxon armies for housecarls fighting in the front rank of Fyrdmen.  I have included Men-at-Arms on foot to be part of bill units. These will fight in the front rank as befits their status.  The unit thus fights using Men-at-arms stats.  However this reverts to Billmen stats as soon as the unit becomes shaken.  Even in if the unit rallies, it remains as billmen for the rest of the game.  Place the men-at-arms behind the billmen to signify this.

These additions really helped the game.  The battle was able to flow, yet was affected and influenced by factors which really made an impact on War of the Roses battles.  For instance, when arrow supplies were shot out, then the bowmen retired behind the billmen/men-at-arms and they could be forced to advance to contact quickly if losing men to an enemy arrow storm.

It was also interesting to fight a War of the Roses battle without being in the typical 3 vs 3 blocks facing each other for a grinding battle. The scenario allowed a different sort of battle to develop, with lots of challenges for the commander, but one which still felt suitably medieval and was without doubt, very enjoyable to play. 

I can't wait for the next game!