Category Archives: Medieval

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…

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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.

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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…

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.