Friday, 28 January 2011

Battle of Towton

Due to other distractions in life its been a few weeks since I last made a blog post. Primarily I've been focusing on getting my Normans painted so haven't done much of note but I have been invited to take part in an interesting Wars of the Roses project.

This year is the 550th anniversary of the battle of Towton so JP contacted the Battlefield Society so see if we could put on a demo game at their upcoming festival. They agreed and we went up to talk to them about the battle last week. Thankfully JP is taking on the organisation, constructing the board and painting the Yorkist. All I have to do is paint the Lancastrians from scratch by the 17th April. There goes February and March!

Coincidentally I had picked up Andrew Boardman's book on the battle at New Year so have quickly raced through it to get me up to speed on the battle. I'll do a more detailed post once I get through some other books but thought a brief intro would help me think about preparing the army.

The battle took place on Palm Sunday, 29 March 1461. While estimates vary on the numbers involved, there is no doubt that the battle was the largest fought in the Wars of the Roses, Boardman estimates that each side must have had around 25,000 participants. More than twice the usual number for a battle in the period. The battle was the climax of several years of fighting and would see Edward IV confirm his usurpation of the throne.

The battle took place on high ground between the village of Towton in the north and Saxton in the south. The battlefield was a plateau with a dale running east-west between the two armies. The Lancastrians came from York in north led by the Duke of Somerset and Earl of Northumberland, the Yorkist had marched from London and were led by Edward IV, Earl of Warwick and Lord Fouconberg.

In summary the armies faced of north-south with the Lancastrians having a slight numerical advantage at this point. The weather was against them, the wind blowing the falling snow in their faces and nullifying their archers. The Yorkists easily won the archery duel forcing the Lancastrians to advance.

The Lancastrians gained the advantage on the west of the line perhaps supported by an ambush from the Castle Hill Wood. The Yorkist line held long enough for the Duke of Norfolk to arrive with 5,000 reinforcements on the east side of the line and shortly after the Lancastrian army was in rout. The swinging of the battle line meant that their line of retreat had been compromised and the troops were forced to retreat through the River Warfe and Cock River. The Lancastrian army was wiped out - though the nobility escaped. Contemporary sources say that 28,000 died on the field making Towton one of histories bloodiest battles.

Reading up on the battle and visiting the battlefield has got me really excited about the project which I hope will be the spring board for other Wars of the Roses projects. I have a pile of Peter Pig's figures ready for the painting table.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Norman Update

I'm almost halfway towards the 6th February deadline for completing my Norman army and it's time to take stock. I have decided to reduce the number of archers and crossbowmen in a unit to seven reducing the number of figures I need in total to 105. To date I have painted 10 Knights and 26 infantry, that means I have just over a month to paint the remaining 19 cavalry and 50 infantry. Quite a challenge.

In addition to the figures painted so far I have ordered a Saxon church to represent the army's camp. I know it's not Norman but I needed something that was ready to go as I won't have time to paint anything else. I also still need to assemble the unpainted cavalry and 25 spearmen. Whilst my initial concern was putting together the Knights I have actually found putting the spearmen together more difficult as the cast have in most cases closed over the open hand resulting in detailed filing and gluing to attach the spears.

Apart from that the figures have been a joy to paint. I have not painted a lot of 28mm since my teens but they are not much more work than 15mm. I am seriously considering doing a whole period in them, perhaps American War of Independence, though storage is an issue as this small army is taking up two box files.

I am confident of finishing them in time, hopefully bases flocked as well, though I may have to take a couple of days off work. I would ideally like to get them usable a few weeks in advance to get some practice in but that maybe to much to ask.

In order to keep me motivated I have been reading The Normans: The Conquests that changed the Face of Europe by Francois Neveux. This however got me so excited that I almost pre-ordered Gripping Beast's new plastic Saxons. A glance at the growing pile of unpainted lead managed to rein in that urge, for the moment!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Wars of the Roses

Happy New Year!

That can mean only one thing, it's time to think about this year's projects. While continuing to progress on my Roman and Peninsular projects interest in the Wars of the Roses (WOTR) with the Sheffield club is high so I have decided to make this the main project for the first half of the year.

We have decided to aim to run a campaign in the summer which provides a realistic target for painting armies. We'd also like to refight some of the battles, one of the joys of the WOTR is that 15 battles took place within 32 years with similar combatants so the same figures can be used for a number of battles. I have a general interest in the period and have scattered some pics from last year's Tewkesbury Medieval Festival.

Whilst the battles themselves are interesting, the highlight of the period is the fluid political allegiances. Representing this in a campaign however is not straight forward and my current thoughts are on how the campaign will work.

Victory Conditions

The rules need to allow players to engage in diplomacy as they see fit without unhistorical ganging up. Ultimately the victory conditions for the campaign can ensure this as, assuming everyone is out to win, they will only help each other to a point.

Each player will take on the role of a leading magnate. In order to represent the diversity of the period these will varying in initial strength having three ratings from Duke, Earl, or Lord. The victory conditions for each will vary based on starting position but will be based on the faction surviving and increasing their influence.

Campaign Map

A campaign could be run without a map with each player accumulating and spending political points through fighting battles but I like a nice map and hope to use one. Several existing ones are possibilities. The board games Kingmaker and Richard III both have maps for the period. I have not seen the Kingmaker board but the Richard III map breaks England and Wales into counties.

Extra Impetus 3 also contains a Wars of the Roses map and campaign system based on point to point movement. This would be my preference as it allows players to use strategic movement to influence individual battles though I would like to add more towns and routes to the map to increase the options available to players.

Campaign Battles

My preference for moving between the campaign map and individual battles is to have the armies on the campaign map representing X points which are then converted into an army using a relevant army list. Not only is this easier than maintaining ongoing army lists it also means that multiple rule systems can be used, for while I myself play Impetus there is a strong contingent of WAB players at the club.

A number of tweaks can be made to the campaign rules which limit when players can field special units such as European mercenaries or Scottish allies.

As you will have gathered a large number of details for the campaign will need to be decided over the coming months. But first and foremost I need to get painting troops. As a friend at the club already has the Yorkist at Towton I have decided to paint up the opposing Lancastrian forces starting with the Retinues of the Duke of Somerset and Earl of Northumberland.