Category Archives: Medieval

Edward on Campaign

My regular DBA opponent is accomodating 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.

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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…

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Castles in Korea

Last night I managed a couple of games which found my Japanese (Post Mongol Samurai IV/59b) engaged against Ben’s Koreans (Yi Dynasty Koreans IV/78). It is an interesting historical engagement, with some challenges for both commanders.

The Korean commander, has been looking for some alternate tactics for his Koreans, which have an interesting and arguably challenging mix of troops. As part of this he was keen to place his recently completed fortress, modelled on the Japanese castle of Ulsan built in Korea. The scratch built, and themed for the period, castle provided an excellent terrain piece for our games.

Above, a period drawing of Ulsan under attack while below a slightly simplified but very similar castle garrisoned by Korean peasant spearmen (7Hd). Note the different levels in both castles.

In the first game the Koreans were defending and the fortress was placed on the Korean right where it provided flank protection for massed Korean artillery and archers of the centre. The army stretched to the left where, on a generally featureless plain, the Korean mounted were massed.

Korean artillery was effective at least until the Japanese foot cut them down, as well as the many of the archers. Below, the Japanese, reduced in numbers by Korean artillery and archery, and Koreans just prior to the desperate Japanese charge of samurai and ashigaru.

Alas, the Japanese were now themselves overwhelmed by the sally by the garrison which was combined with attacks by a hastily assembled cavalry reserve. The Korean victory was complete!

The second battle found the Japanese defending. To ensure the castle was used the Japanese player also placed it. In due course it was determined to be on the Japanese  left. Unlike the Koreans the Japanese intended to attack on the opposite flank using a series of rocky hills to counter the Korean mounted superiority. In this game the threat of artillery fire was deemed too great and the fortress was quickly abandoned. Though for some time Japanese archers threatened to reoccupy it and thus threaten the advancing Korean cavalry.

Above, the more general situation with the Japanese on the left. Below, the situation on the Japanese right flank showing a portion of the sohei warrior monks on a key rocky hill.

Eventually the monks, supported by mounted samurai, overwhelmed the Korean left wing. However, under massed pressure by the Korean pike of the centre, the Japanese army broke just prior to the collapse of the Koreans.

A couple of eventful games between historical opponents set against a superb period themed terrain feature. I must say I’m so impressed with Ben’s castle I’m tempted to try scratch building one myself…

A Letter from Malacca

Last night we deployed some armies for a fascinating game of BBDBA. With my regular opponent keen to use his Post Mongol Samurai (IV/59b) I opted to use my Sumatrans or Malay (IV/37a). My Sumatrans were built for DBR and comprise considerably more troops than BBDBA requires. However, given the period covered by the late medieval period and DBA I thought it more appropriate they were used to represent the Sultanate of Malacca than the Sumatrans.

Despite having the army I’ve not used it in DBA or BBDBA. Primarily due to the warband being based three figures per base, as required for DBR, rather than the DBA requirement of four per base. One of the appealing aspects is the combination of elephants and warband which is, in my view, rather fascinating. So with some differences between this army under the two rule sets it would likely be an experiment at best, a disaster at worse.

I opted for two commands each with 13 stands and one of 10 stands. The centre, which would be allocated the highest PIP die, would contain the majority of elephants and a significant number of warriors (4Wb). One wing would contain the remaining elephants, a number of warriors and light horse, visible below in a staged photo before the game.

The combination of two elephants, six stands of warriors, a couple stands of archers all supported by the light horse, which can also be seen below, was complex. The combination of figures required at very least the second highest PIP die.

Finally the remaining wing, which would have the lowest PIP die, would contain the remaining warriors and the bulk of the archers who could at least fire even when movement was restricted. The allocation of PIP dice before the battle, as well as the role each command will play, is an important dynamic to consider in BBDBA. All part of having a plan, even when it’s not particularly cunning!

Now, to the battle. The Japanese, as defender, had selected and placed terrain. They deployed cavalry on the wings with massed dismounted Samurai in the centre. Ashigaru and Sohei monks extending the centre to left and right. Clearly the Japanese commander intended to hold in the centre while attacking on the wings.

For this particular game the Malay massed their elephants and warriors in the centre and left with the warriors interspersed by elephants. The concept was the elephants would breakup the enemy lines which the warriors would then exploit. The extreme left was held by archers and light horse. The Malay right wing was somewhat separated from the centre by a couple of steep hills.

In due course the Japanese were unleashed. The first attack was against the Malay right.

Here the Japanese foot, including warrior monks (3Bd), was partially bogged down by a combination of steep hills and Malay skirmishers. However, the Japanese mounted pressed the extreme flank. The Japanese mounted (6Cv) suffered heavy casualties as the Malay archers took a heavy toll.

Meanwhile the Malay left and centre, shown above, advanced to attack Japanese opposite. However, a diversion of troops to support the battle on the right caused a temporary halt. Now, the Japanese, having reorganised their right, surged forward to attack the Malay left. Soon the fighting was general with only a portion of the centres of both armies engaged. Below, a view from the Japanese centre with a small village, a hamlet in DBA terms, separating the centre of both armies.

As casualties mounted the first to break was the Japanese left. A result of both casualties to the mounted and isolated warrior monks. Meanwhile, on the Malay left, the Japanese we’re gaining the advantage despite several attacks being thrown back with heavy casualties. Eventually the Malay left would became demoralised. Desperate to break the Japanese the Malay centre pressed forward in one final effort. Warriors and elephants smashed into the disrupted ranks with elephants leading the attacks and hardened warriors charging in support. While several parts of the Japanese line held others disintegrated in the onslaught. A hard fought but decisive victory had been secured for the Malay.

From an effectiveness perspective the elephants had proven difficult to manoeuvre using, as expected, many PIPs. The warriors (4Wb), while frustratingly slow, had proven generally resilient against Japanese ashigaru (3Pk) and in many cases deadly against Samurai (4Bd) and Sohei monks (3Bd). In many ways their effectiveness on the day was a result of the elephant and warband combination. The archers had proven invaluable on the Malay right, despite my less than optimal deployment. That said, a few different die rolls and the Malay right could have easily unraveled.

Interestingly the army played rather differently than it does in DBR, where enemy firearms often are seen. In this situation the elephants are held in reserve rather than risk being unnerved by the sound of these weapons. I now think it’s time I take the plunge and paint some additional warriors so I can field the army with the legal requirement of solid warband, rather than reminding myself throughout the game that the warriors were actually “solid”. It will be good to have a different army on the DBA and BBDBA battlefield.

A Korean Expedition

One of my preferences is to fight historical, or near historical, opponents. Having recently played a number of games between Japanese armies of the Sengoku Jidai period it was with anticipation I prepared to face another players well painted Yi Dynasty Koreans (IV/78) army. While I’ve had my Japanese for many years I’ve never used them against the Koreans. Historically the Japanese invasion of Korea occurred in 1592, and therefore is officially outside the period of the DBA rules. However, the later armies are effectively the same as those covered by the rules, excluding an increasing number of arquebus from 1542. As a result only a little historical license must be taken to accommodate an earlier invasion of Korea.

The Koreans in this period have a mix of foot including many armed with long spear. Those of better quality are rated as pikemen while the militia, who are of lesser quality, are rated as horde. These are supported by massed archers, artillery and light troops. The mounted component is numerically significant and comprises both heavy and light cavalry. My own Japanese have a range of options but I selected the ashigaru derivative providing an army whose foot were mostly armed with yari (3Pk), a few archers and of course a solid mass of dismounted samurai. In contrast to the Koreans only a few samurai opted to fight mounted.

The Koreans deployed their army on a plain bordered by two rocky hills which restricted their deployment initially. As expected the infantry was on the centre and right and their mounted concentrated on their left. The Japanese centre comprised the dismounted samurai and the centre was extended on both flanks by ashigaru. Finally, on the Japanese right the token mounted samurai were deployed, their rear ranks bolstered by followers on foot.

The battle began with a rapid Japanese advance which was clearly designed to restrict the Korean mounted deployment. The Koreans ignored this pushing their mounted to their left, arguably dangerously, as can be seen above. On the Korean right a rocky hill was secured by archers and light infantry, as can be seen below.

Soon, the Korean light troops were thrown even further forward, unwisely, to pin the Japanese left. While the Korean light infantry were quickly overcome the Korean archers, some on the hill and others on the flat, were more resolute. Indeed, Korean archery continually harassed the Japanese ashigaru who were unable or unwilling to engage, suffered heavy casualties.

The Japanese right pressed forward with the intent of slowly driving the Korean mounted, to their front, back. The ashigaru, armed with yari (3Pk) had the advantage and it was hoped that eventually the Korean horse would be pushed back and caught between the rocky hill to their rear and the Japanese. Instead, the battle swung back and forward inconclusively.

The Japanese centre meanwhile was disrupted by Korean artillery fire. An assortment of carts equipped with rockets being particularly effective in disrupting the dismounted samurai.

Eventually, on the Japanese left, a body of ashigaru flanked the Korean positions on the rocky hill on the Korean right and attacked the Korean main line from the flank. Simultaneously the Japanese samurai advanced in the centre engaging Korean spear and artillery. The Korean militia fought determinedly, pushing the ashigaru opposite back. The samurai, fighting the massed regular spear armed foot (4Pk) were more evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the battle on the Japanese right continued inconclusively.

While the battle on the Japanese right continued inconclusively, above, a decision in the centre was approaching. Eventually the Korean artillery was overcome and aa a result the samurai swirled on to the open flank of the Korean spear. Attacked from the front and flank the Korean pike were overcome.

With this massive rupture of the centre, Korean resolve collapsed. The army, including the relatively organised mounted component, fled the field.

The game was fascinating and despite only having 12 elements in each army lasted over 90 minutes. The final result was a 4-3 Japanese win with the Japanese only recovering from a losing situation in the last few turns. I’m certainly looking forward to a rematch.