Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Historical Battles Day

Last weekend I was at Didcot near Oxford for a historical battles day using Impetus. A big thanks goes to Bevan for arranging everything, and to all the lads who took part and made it such an enjoyable day.

Bevan came up with a system where we all drew a slip at the beginning of the day that told us the order of the battles we would fight and which side we were. I'm still not 100% sure how it worked out but it ensured that we all faced three different opponents.

My first game was a refight of Hastings commanding the Saxons against Simon commanding the Normans. Saxons deployed first across the top of the hill. The Huscarls were in the centre with the Select Fyrd long spear protecting the flanks and a couple of skirmish units out front. The Normans deployed some Knights to their left and some in the centre with half the infantry between and half on the right.

The Normans advanced the infantry first to try to disrupt the Saxon Shieldwall with archer fire. The Saxon skirmishers moved to counter and were able to win the missile duel. In Impetus skirmishers are more effective than low quality (VBU 3 or less) missile troops as the minus two for firing at skirmishers cancels out the higher VBU.

The Norman Knights then charged forward but the Saxon Shieldwall continued to hold. The impetuous nature of the knights means that even when they lose a combat there is little a general can do as they become disordered in front of the enemy and therefore continue to charge in unit their are expended. With the Norman knights expended and the Saxons began to move down of the hill to chase of the remaining Norman infantry.

Historically, the Normans won at Hastings when part of the Saxon line pursued some fleeing Bretons down the hill opening up the Shieldwall. In Impetus, only a small number of units are forced to pursue, Saxons not included, so this tactic cannot be used. Other refights on the day did see the Saxons break, key to which was the loss of Harold.

The next game was Cannae and took the role of Hannibal versus Edward in command of the Romans. In order to represent the battle two of the four Roman Legions were raw Legions and all of the Carthaginian forces were up graded. The Romans had to deploy first, and chose to place the two raw Legions on their left, the standard Legions on the right with Triarii placed on either side of the line to protect the flanks.

Even with the upgrades the Carthaginian troops, luck aside, would not stand up to a head-on fight with the Legions and therefore needed to get around the flanks. All the cavalry was deployed on the right opposite the raw Legions along with a unit of veteran spearmen. Two units of Gauls were deployed on the left flank with Spanish light infantry and skirmishers across the centre.

The Romans held their position while the Carthaginians advanced. The Carthaginian centre halted just within missile range and engaged the Roman Velites while the Carthaginians pressed both flanks. Despite stubborn resistance the Roman flanks began to give way with the raw Legions pinned without room to maneuver. With both flanks turned the Roman Legions on their right launched a final charge forward but were held by the Spanish light infantry. The Numidian cavalry had now got around the back of the Legions and the encirclement was complete.

This is the first time I have used an army that has been upgraded across the board and it did mean that the Romans were outclassed in almost all areas of the field giving a historic feel to the battle. The standard problem with the Republican Roman army was noted in all the battles fought during the day. That exchanging lines is too difficult so the Romans have difficulty utilising their extra numbers. 

The final battle of the day was Towton, John commanding the Lancastrians while I commanded the Yorkist. True to history the scenario had the wind blowing in the Lancastrians faces giving the Yorkist a range advantage for their archers. The armies deployed with the three battles side-by-side in a line.

Initially both armies advanced to get within effective archery range. The Yorkist pushed forward on their left resulting in the Lancastrian right checking its advance to prevent it being outflanked. The arrival of the Duke of Norfolk's small force on the Yorkist right prevented the Lancastrians from advancing on the other flank also.

This left the Lancastrian centre ahead of the rest of the line allowing the Yorkist to concentrate their fire on it which, along with the additional range from the weather, resulted in the Yorkist winning the archery duel. A final charge by Lord Fauconberg on the Yorkist left but the Lancastrian battle opposite to flight followed by the rest of the army.

This was the first time I have used a medieval army and the potency of the longbow was evident. As the next thing on my painting table will be a Wars of the Roses army this was a useful opportunity to consider how it can be effectively used. The key challenge will be getting the enemy to advance against the archers.

This was a great day and a great format. One that I hope we can use again.

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