Thursday 25 February 2021

A Bosworth Project update and interpreting history!

Bosworth 1485, is one of the UK’s most significant battles on home soil and together with Hastings 1066, bears witness to moments in time of the most significant and virtually instant dynastic, political and cultural change.

So it is surprising that we don’t know as much about this battle as one might expect and even though there has been notable advances in the past decade of our understanding of the battle location, a working scenario still lacks that certainty that I would like to hang my hat on! 

While I'm really just building up two general Wars of the Roses forces, framing it around the Bosworth theme does add an element of grandeur that should keep me sufficiently motivated to see it all through.

An underlying principle for this project is that it should have 28mm armies fighting over a typical UK dining / kitchen table, which will generally be 4’ x 3’ to 6’ x 3½’ for most of us. Because of this, it will also be the first of my armies specifically scratch built to fit into my ‘Pocket Armies’ theme of having a core collection for each army of some 12 - 14 units, from which forces of around 8 - 11 units can be drawn from to set up a game.  

Anyway, all of this feeds into a post that gives an update on the figures, a basing decision, a chosen rule set and a sticking point on deployment.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.


And herein is my main scenario building obstacle. Since 1974, we have had a visitors centre and battlefield walk located at Ambion Hill, courtesy of earlier research commissioned by Leicester County Council. Indeed, the rather splendid yearly re-enactment of the battle takes place there.

There has long been controversy about the site and in the early 90’s, Peter Foss gave a compelling argument for the relocation of the battle, a mile further south west, in his interesting book ‘The Field of Redmore’. 

Then around 2010, Glenn Foard and Anne Curry, with a Million Pounds worth of funding, did an extensive examination of the whole area, to better establish the exact location of the battlefield and with some interesting archaeological finds to back them up, they have put the battlefield a further mile beyond the direction / location that Foss had suggested and two miles on from the Ambion Hill battlefield and so my scenario needs to use that latest information.

To get there, I bought two easy read and wargamer friendly books that have their text based around the recent findings by Foard / Curry and importantly for wargamers, maps. If I had bought just one of them, I would have been fine, in ignorance I would simply have taken their deployment suggestions as correct, but having bought the two books, they take differing opinions on how the armies deployed - different enough to matter!

The first book I bought (well a Christmas gift really) was Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth By Mike Ingram (Helion & Company). It is detailed, giving a good wargame background and has the two armies facing each other on a west - east axis with the marsh to the right.

Above - this is a rough schematic of the essential elements that are my immediate concern. The units are positioned rather differently than their line of march might suggest. interestingly Ingham notes that the armies were orientated so that the furrows in the fields were not difficult to foot or obstructive to horse.

The new Osprey Campaign book, revising their original title was recently published in February 2021. I like the readability of the Osprey titles, so grabbed a Kindle copy. But his text has the two armies arrayed for battle on a north - south axis with the marsh between them.

Above - this rough schematic shows how this gives a very different dynamic to the battle. It does position the armies in a way that accords with the line of march. Is it helpful in describing how or why Northumberland stayed out of the fighting? perhaps, but no more or less than the other interpretation does.

Further and not shown in my diagrams, we have the contingents of the Stanley brothers, who are believed to have positioned themselves a distance away, between the flanks of the two main armies and so, their positioning will be quite different depending upon which deployment is chosen, as will the special rules that will need to cover Northumberland’s disengagement from battle or avoidance of making contact with Henry’s force or the Stanleys.

Both authors give good reasoning for their choices. I would like to take into consideration the routes of approach of each force and also, the new archaeology has identified a scatter of lead shot, mainly from artillery, so using the map that plots each of those finds, may help me to jump off the fence one way or the other.

It may well be that I end up with an ‘A’ and ‘B’ pair of scenarios that service both books, though I would still prefer to come to a favoured conclusion. 

I felt it rather ironic that despite all of the recent brilliant research and archeological finds, such a big question on deployment remains so debatable, while even the change in the topography still leaves the wargamer with some high ground and a marsh to consider, which in most respects is what the original Ambion Hill location did .... so the new information does not move me on as much as I had hoped. 

When looking at scenario / game design, I start off by drawing out a large map, on A3 paper, of the battlefield and then as I read the various accounts, mark the map with appropriate notes, so that it can all feed in to a final portrayal of the battle. This is the stage that I am at now and it is a useful way of seeing how the terrain impacts on manoeuvres as well as the moves and counter-moves of units and positioning of various leaders etc.


By contrast, the rest of the project is on a much firmer footing. I like plastics and the period is well served by the Perry 28mm offerings and conveniently supplemented by some Perry metals, these being mainly commanders, but also some foot Men-at-Arms for different poses. Front Rank do a nice artillery piece, which I received as a gift from one of the children (a non-wargamer I have to sadly add, but perhaps the gift is sweeter for that) which I have already painted and based.

I have collected most of the forces needed and just need to keep the momentum up of moving them from the lead / plastic pile, across the painting table. I am also grateful to fellow blogger Phil, who gave me a ‘leg up’, by gifting me some beautifully painted figures.

I don’t particularly want to create a pair of ‘fantasy’ armies, which this period can easily slip into, by including the more ‘unusual’ troops as being common, but I think I can get away with including a Lancastrian block of Perry pike to represent the French ‘long spears’ at Bosworth, plus some handguns / crossbow skirmishers to represent mercenaries, though whether they or significant cavalry should be available in general period scenarios is somewhat dubious, but never-the-less, they are nice components that can be an easily forgiven inclusion to various Wars of the Roses battles, whether historical or fictional, surely I am not alone in thinking that!

A ‘ward’ of bow and bill 'betwixt' boggy ground

So that is the figures sorted, well it will be when the not inconsiderable matter of painting happens!


In a previous post I discussed a thought that a standard 80mm frontage for units on a single base would be a good fit in getting a 28mm figure into the smaller playing space. Some rules are content to recommend this frontage with 15mm figures, so the basing will work within the rules, it just becomes a question of the aesthetic and that is a personal thing.

Anyway, the alternatives that I have looked at are a unit being formed by; 2 x 50mm, 2 x 60mm, 1 x 80mm, 1 x 100mm, 1 x 120mm. The Impetus style 120mm will probably be the most popular and best looking base for the 28mm, but I have to weigh that up against table size and being able to operate with space on the flanks and so after consideration and doing some mock-ups, I will be sticking with the 80mm, single based unit.

Base depths will vary. 50mm for archers and light troops and 60mm for heavier types such as bill and men-at-arms. The cavalry will have a depth of 80mm, so that they are not ranked in exactly a straight line, giving a sense of motion (and accommodating the lowered lance poses). Artillery are  60mm wide x 80mm deep with one piece and 3 crew to try and get a smaller footprint.

Foot bases have between 7 and 9 figures on them and mounted have 4 horse for heavy cavalry and 3 for their lighter brethren. This is actually helping painting because I only put one unit at a time on painting sticks and this makes the painting and unit production feel much faster or at least less overwhelming than when doing larger units in the later horse and musket period.

I have started adding a 10mm die holder on the back corner of each base to register casualties, which should help keep them universally suited to differing rule sets.

So that is the basing convention decided upon ...... for now!


My bookshelves have Hail Caesar, Basic Impetus 2, Ancient and Medieval Wargaming by Neil Thomas, Sword and Spear by Escape Games, both Swordpoint and Milites Mundi from Gripping Beast, Kings of War historical, Never Mind the Billhooks, Mortem Et Glorium and Bloody Barons II from Peter Pig, so there are different ways to go with this.

They are all good solid rules, but in my dabbling, I have been drawn to Never Mind the Billhooks and Sword & Spear. Of the two, I am preferring the Sword & Spear from Great Escape Games, mainly because they seem to nicely create smaller points of interest within each battle (wings / wards / formations), with a tempo that is at the right pace for units to get engaged in the scrum and being effective over a few turns before the accumulation of ‘hits’ start to see things going off the table in quick succession. This slow breakdown in cohesion of the battle does draw you in. 

Period scenarios can default into ‘line them up and advance’ type settings, so getting variations of battle results and occurrences within each battle / ward / formation, can give a nice bit of story telling.

I do have my own set that I wrote for the battle a long time ago, but they were based around the casualties made on individual units getting carried by the formation as a whole and causing the formation to degrade over time, until it breaks. I quite like that, but the rules are a little ‘tight’ in how formations are controlled and I think I would like to loosen things up a bit to get a bit more fun and interest into them - so I have started to explore this in tandem with the Sword & Spear games.


Other than the usual thing of hills, woods, streams and rough ground, I have been gaining a few medieval buildings from the Conflix series that are marketed by bachmann, which look quite the part. They do a very good ‘Merchants House’ and the Tavern’ is a perennial, though buildings are not part of the Bosworth battlefield, but will suit other scenarios. They are pricey, but they are resin and pre-painted and as such, a worthwhile buy as ‘forever’ terrain, that can serve a number of periods and landscapes.

Bits & Bobs:

I am still not fully settled on whether to use mat or satin varnish for the completed base. I generally like mat, but is does drastically dampen down armour and colour and this period has a lot of both. The satin really preserves the bright colours of the period and gives the armour a good sheen - but is less pleasing on a horse for example!

I picked up a farm cart, cargo, oxen and crew from Colonel Bill’s, which has already made an appearance in my ‘Stand Firm - Save the Treasury’ scenario (see Resource Section below) and makes a useful ancillary piece of eye candy on the table, as do my Highland cattle (from Warbases).


So there we are! The project moves onwards and no doubt a few Dungborough / Piggy Longton, fictitious, imaginations type battles will start to appear here on the blog as the forces build ...... until there is enough stuff for a Bosworth day!  

Resource Section.

Stand Firm, Save the Treasury scenario. LINK