Category Archives: IV/83a Wars of the Roses

An English Crusade

Our second game of the evening was an encounter between my Wars of the Roses English (IV/83a) and Robin’s Ottomans (IV/55a). Clearly the English were on a crusade likely in search of the Kingdom of Prester John.

Prester John as depicted in the chronicles of Hartmann Schedel (1493) – Public Domain.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen the Ottoman host deployed. As with all Robin’s armies they are well painted and based. However, I felt they would suffer badly against the English longbow. I envisaged a short game and one that was one sided. It transpired I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Below, the English left as it reacts to the Ottoman attack.

The Ottomans were to be well served by their aggressive commander and from the first moment seized and then held the initiative. The initial feint by a body of ghazi horse archers against the English right soon was replaced by a series of aggressive attacks on the English left by sipahis and additional ghazi. In support an aggressive pinning movement spearmen and azabs skirmishing archers occupied the English centre.

Above, the general situation just prior to the main attack. Below, a view from the English lines. The English mounted reserve is clearly visible mounted and is under command of Henry himself.

The pinning attacks on the English centre were arguably too aggressive and the Ottoman foot were cut down by English men at arms, billmen and archers. Yet the attack on the English left was being driven home with great determination.

Indeed, the English left was soon encircled and the attacked from the front, flank and rear. The attacks here were relentless. No sooner had one attack was beaten off another would come in.

Above, English gunnes are attacked from the rear and English archers from the flank. Below, Henry’s reserve is engaged by ghazi of the Ottoman centre. Henry is supported here by English billmen and in the distance by archers who have been attempting to drive off a body of ghazi.

Despite a series of complex Ottoman attacks the now isolated English units fought determinedly, their resolve unbroken. Slowly the English defenders reorganised and finally the Ottoman army, having been aggressive throughout, fell back.

No doubt the Sultan would be reforming for another attack on the infidel, but not it would seem tonight. The search for the Kingdom of Prester John could continue…

Edward on Campaign

My regular DBA opponent is accommodating in supporting my preference for historically plausible opponents. As a result over the last couple of weeks my Wars of the Roses English have been campaigning in Europe against historical and historically plausible opponents. My expedition was of course based on Edward IV’s expedition in 1475. They were to face, last night, an historical opponent in the form of French Ordonnance (IV/82a).

As far as army composition there are limited options with the Wars of the Roses English list. However, rather than use the optional Irish (3Ax) I typically select I supplemented the army with additional dismounted men at arms. It seemed a little more appropriate for the invasion.

The English, having landed and set our from Calais, were soon faced by the advancing French. Edward deployed on an open plain with only an enclosure and a scattering of fields to break up the battlefield. He dispersed his men at arms and billmen to support the archers and placed his artillery on the right. A mounted reserve was placed in the rear under his personal command with a further body of curriors on the right rear.

Unlike the English the French were initially somewhat constrained in their deployment by an area of fields divided by high hedges. This resulted in an initially complex deployment.

Edward was concerned with the massed French artillery train opposite his centre and initially advanced his own artillery to engage the French left rather than advancing his centre. The French countered by advancing, on their left, a large number of Francs “free” archers into the nearby enclosures. No doubt the French hoped to use the relative safety of the enclosures to disrupt the English right.

However, the English artillery, and advancing English billmen and men at arms, quickly resulted in a rapid retreat of the French archers.


Above the view from the English right as the Francs “Free” archers have pushed into the enclosures. Already a large number have been routed by English gunnes. The English billmen supporting the artillery would soon advance.

Below, a more general view of the battle with the English on the right and a portion of the French in the distance.

Undeterred the French commander now ordered forward his right, which was comprised mostly of mounted gendarmes and retainers. They had been confusingly deployed but French enthusiasm now found them redeployed quickly. As they pressed forward English archers and men billmen struggled to extend their own line. An initial volley of English longbows had limited success and soon the French surged forward.

In the ensuing melee a significant body of English archers were broken by this initial charge. However, English resolve stiffened and a second charge by French gendarmes was stopped by English resolve. As the French charge faultered archers hacked survivors with knives, swords and axes.

Above, English archers are both outflanked and engaged to their front by gendarmes, yet the French attack was halted.

However, it was in the centre that the focus of both commanders now turned. For some time the the French artillery, comprising a mix of types had been belching smoke and ball at the English centre. Edward had previously repositioned his own artillery to engage the French centre. English billmen, stiffened with dismounted men at arms, advanced on the French guns.

Below, the English centre before it prepares to advance supported by English artillery to its flank.

Unfortunately French artillery fire was unforgiving and the advancing English were broken up and suffered heavy casualties. Finally, a body of French gendarmes, the last fresh French troops, charged forward cutting down the English foot.

Edward, watched helplessly as his centre collapsed. It would seem the French had, this time at least, secured the advantage and with it the field. Despite this his campaign against Louis was far from over…

Beware The Pretender!

For me one of the very appealing features of DBA is the ability to build armies in matched pairs and to refight both historical and fictional games between these pairs of armies, at reasonable cost in both lead and painting time. Over the years I have had plans, and on occasions false starts, at building large Ancient or Medieval armies for rule sets such as DBM. Yet with such games my opponents generally tend to have a preference to use their own larger armies. This is of course a very understandable preference given the investment we as wargamers make in our own armies, especially when game time can be limited. It can be difficult after all to find time for a larger game and when you do it is natural for a wargamer to want to finally get his own troops on the table.

However, with DBA these time barriers start to break down. Armies require less painting time and with a game lasting an hour a couple of games can be played in an evening. There is now time to use your opponents army allowing historical opponents to be engaged. As such I tend to build DBA armies in historical pairs. Last night was no exception when four of us caught up for a gaming DBA gaming evening.

For my part I played three Wars of the Roses engagements, one against each of the other players. The result was three excellent games where each ran down to the wire. While I’m not going to provide a breakdown of each game they all had a degree of difference. Partly as a result of different player styles, partly based on army composition or deployment, and partly due to the vagaries of the dice.

In two games ploughed fields become a major obstacle, a result of a recent heavy rain or a late campaign season. In each players opted for alternate troops or tactics. Archery proved on occasion effective, while at others brittle. Bill and bow closed to melee while in another game mounted men at arms charged, perhaps foolishly, in an attempt to gain advantage and glory. All these elements can easily be found in historical accounts. Yet all remained in period. How very different from unhistoric encounters.

Above, in both photos, Irish light troops dominate a rock covered hill and threaten some Yorkist billmen while in the centre Lancastrian bill and bow advance on the Lancastrian main line. The Lancastrians are from my own collection while the Yorkists are from John Kerr’s collection.

If you haven’t tried historical pairs I would highly recommend it. It’s very different from “Open” events and in my view is one of the great strengths of DBA.