Saturday 26 December 2020

Battle of Towton

 I’d mentioned in an earlier post that as my wife was working a 12 hour shift today I decided to indulge my self in the Men Of Iron scenario of the Battle of Towton.

Allegedly the largest battle to have taken place on English soil and a Battle field that is unspoilt and one I have walked many times.

I’m not going to bore you with a round by round engagement. 

Key points of note in the real Battle is that it was a windy snowy day, the wind and snow was in the Yorkists. The two armies had deployed on low ridges facing each other and neither army was keen in launching an attack. However it’s reported that the Yorkists unleashed a volley of arrows which fell amongst the Lancastrian archers, with the snow in their faces they returned fire but their arrows fell short.

Within the game this is represented by the archers firing with the wind in their favour having a range of 7 hexes ( normal range 6) Archers firing into the wind have their range reduced to 4 and have a -2 modifier to their dice roll! 

In addition The Yorkist Duke of Norfolk with around 8000 men hadn’t arrived at the onset of Battle, in the real engagement he arrived as the Yorkist line was being gradually forced back with and beginning to creak.

The mechanism used in the game means there is no guarantee Norfolk will arrive. First he has to be activated ( 3 or less on a d10) then a score of 8+ on a d10 adding the number of times he has been successfully activated.

Finally the Lancastrians sprung an ambush, unleashing 200 horse on the Yorkist left flank which initially caused some disorder and forced the line to give before being held.

Within the rules the horse get a double move and any troops they end adjacent to are disordered - if already disordered they are destroyed so potentially a very effective one shot weapon. As I was playing both sides may initial plans were for the Yorkists to hold, they had no incentive to move and they needed Norfolk to arrive to bring balance to the armies. 

Faucenburg who was deployed with the Longbow was to cause as much disruption as possible to the enemy before withdrawing and redeploying to the Yorkist right.

For the Lancastrians I accepted the Northumberland and his archers would not last long against the Yorkist longbow but they were to advance cause what damage they could and screen Somerset’s line for as long as possible. 

The remaining troops were to advance as quickly as possible stretching their line to outflank the Yorkist with the aim of turning one or both flanks before Norfolk arrived.

The ambush was to be sprung once the Yorkist left flank was heavily engaged and disorder was starting to appear.

Here’s the initial deployment.

The opening rounds went pretty much as expected with Faucenberg and his archers gaining the upper hand against Northumberland who advanced into range but was clearly out shot by the Yorkists. Somerset commenced his advance extending troops to the flanks in order to force the Yorkists to do the same, despite a poor activation level (a 2 ) Essex also began to move in support of Somerset. 

On the second round Norfolk was activated but failed to score sufficient to arrive.

Faucenberg delayed too long in withdrawing his archers and they were caught by Somerset’s lead troops.

It was clear this was to be an attritional battle, the main problem for the Lancastrians was their Leaders were rated a 2 for Essex and a 3 for Somerset which meant on average they would only activate one leader each round with the free activation and the second was unlikely to succeed. 

Despite losing some archers Faucenberg managed to retire his disordered troops and Warwick became engaged with Somerset, the  early rounds of combat went in favour of Somerset causing a number of Warwick’s troops to retire to their rally point.

On the Yorkists fourth round they again succeeded in activating Norfolk -this was followed with a throw of 9 and Norfolk’s troops poured onto the right flank thus negating the Lancastrian threat..

Although too early the Lancastrians launched the ambush on the Yorkist left flank for with the arrival of Norfolk it was unlikely that the pressure on the Yorkist right flank could be maintained.

The ambush met with limited success it disordered a number of troops and the troops of Essex and Somerset managed to destroy some dismounted men at arms and infantry.

Then Wenlock managed to surround and destroy the ambushing cavalry and shore up Warwick’s left flank.

For the next few rounds both sides failed to activate and additional leaders after the free activation, the Yorkists focused on keeping Norfolk pushing on the right and then Wenlock pushing on the left leaving Warwick to hold the line.

Casualties on both sides were mounting and Warwick’s was the first battle to reach break point however his troops proved steady and continued the fight.

As the Yorkists and Somerset’s troops paused to reorganise Faucenberg brought his archers back into play disordering a number of Somerset’s men and preventing them from pushing forward.

With gaps appearing in both lines it gave the opportunity for both armies to try and recover some disorder although pressure was mounting on Somerset’s men as his losses were close to break point. Norfolk was starting to push the Lancastrian left and a double activation for the Lancastrians would be useful but wasn’t happening.

Wenlock managed to launch a small counter attack which proved successful in destroying sufficient units to force Somerset over his break point, however this attack cost Wenlock his life.

Somerset failed his break test ( he threw high) with the result that all of Somerset’s troops fled the field and were removed from the map. Although these troops are not added to the army break point it was obvious that Essex on his own would struggle to defeat the enemy on his own. However I fought another two rounds to see what would happen, Essex’s troops had limited success in causing more casualties but Norfolk was about to start working around Essex’s flank and it was only a matter of time his mounted troops began to attack the enemy in the flank and I called a halt. 

A true attritional battle, Norfolk arrived early and had a significant impact on the game , taking the pressure of the Lancastrian attack really before it had begun to tell. A most enjoyable game and certainly worth a replay to see how it would play if Norfolk arrived later.


Norm said...

Nice meaty game, I must drag mine back to the table this month.

Graham C said...

Certainly was - there’s still some important tactical decisions to make despite it being a bit of a meat grinder and Norfolk’s arrival is a critical point