Friday, 5 November 2021

2nd St. Albans 1461


Having played 1st St. Albans last week, the bigger and more involved 2nd St. Albans went onto the table today using the same map, but much larger forces.

There are quite a few special rules to this scenario to impart flavour, which it does.

Both sides had potentially big armies (Towton would be fought shortly after), but the Yorkists were strung out and in consequence, only Neville starts on the map, with restrictions on when Warwick's Battle can arrive and their third formation does not make it at all to the battlefield within the time frame of the game.

The Lancastrians have a small advanced Battle (Trollope) already on the table, engaged with a detachment of Yorkist archers in the middle of the town.

Once Trollope deals with these, he can signal to the main army to enter play. These formations are large and each takes time to 'snake' onto the battlefield and there really isn't enough time for the Lancastrians to wait for each Battle to arrive and form us as a cohesive army, the situation demands that as each battle arrive, they are thrown into action.

The Lancastrian Men-at-Arms are allowed to arrive mounted, so they have the potential to penetrate the battlefield quickly, but this is dependent upon them scoring their activation number each round and ultimately, they will need their infantry support that is following up.

It is a dynamic situation. Which side can get into action 'the fastest with the mostest' and which Battles will reach their Flight (read break) Points first? - though the scenario, just as the battle, is weighted against the Yorkist.

Please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post which covers the highlights of the game.

Below - the at start set-up, note the Yorkist spiked nets and caltrop defences amongst the hedges in the top right. Neville's Battle sits below them, organising itself from disorder (representing breaking their encampment).

Below - Trollope (red) weaves his battle through the town's streets and attacks the archer detachment (white). He is initially repulsed, but in a second assault, he brings up his own archers, working on the enemy right flank and suffering heavy casualties, the archers flee the battlefield.

Trollope loses his levy troops to a vigorous pursuit of the enemy archers. One is lost and the other will not return. He forms up his remaining troops across the town centre near Shropshire Lane, while he rides back to St. Michaels Church to signal that the way is clear for the main army to follow.

Below - Exeter (Lancastrian - red) is the first Lancastrian Battle to arrive. His mounted Men-at-Arms push around the top (north) of the town, towards the hedges, where Neville's men have laid traps in the form of spiked nets and caltrops.

Neville (Yorkist) has already got his Battle mobilised and started moving into the town. His first contact is an archery duel between two contingents (centre of above map), but the initial contact is also the trigger for Warwicks Battle (off map) to roll dice for arrival times.

With Exeter's Battle fully on the map, Shrewsbury is the next Lancastrian Battle to enter play. His orders are to cut through the town and exit on the open ground on the lower side (south). This will see Exeter and Shrewsbury advancing on either side of the town, but Shrewsbury's advance is very tardy.

[game note - Exeter has a very low activation number, so to ensure he moves, I give him the first free automatic activation each round. Then under the continuation rules, another friendly Battle can 'try' to activate by rolling against their activation number. The result is that to keep Exeter moving, Shrewsbury is always left to test for activation, which he can fail to activate ..... and today that is happening a lot!].

Warwick and Shrewsbury are both moving towards
the open ground below the town ... slowly!

Their only saving grace is that Warwick appears equally slow in getting his forces moving.

Below - At the top of the town, Exeter (red) starts to get his (now dismounted) troops involved in  the messy business of fighting amongst hedges, spiked nets and caltrops. He is getting the upper hand .... but it is a slow, arduous business.

In the town itself, Trollope is keeping Yorkist troops under pressure, who's situation is not helped when the Kentish contingent, commanded by Captain Lovelace, treacherously abandons the Yorkist cause.

Regardless of that Yorkist set back, their resilient stand in the town inflicts great loss on Trollope, who's small Battle breaks and flees.

Below - To the south of the town in the open ground, Shrewsbury's and Warwick's mounted cavalry clash with charge and counter-charge. Warwick initially seems to to be getting the best of it, as the situation develops into a swirling cavalry battle, with the respective infantry forces making best speed to try and reach the fight and sway the battle one way or the other.

Losses start to mount as individual units first go disordered and then with cohesion lost, start to take heavy losses. The infantry from both sides start to feed into the clash, but the 'tail' of Shrewsbury's Battle is longer, with about twice as many troops as Warwick, so Warwick has an urgent task of defeating the enemy's best troops, before all of the Lancastrian forces reach the fight.

Below - Despite their successes, Warrick's front line becomes overwhelmed. Shrewsbury's archers start to form up on the other side of Tonman's Ditch and their shooting unhorses one of the Men-at-Arms contingents.

Beaten back, Warwick does not have enough strength to launch another attack. Up by the hedges, the Lancastrians have at last broken through the defences and Nevilles remaining troops are getting roughly handled, taking many casualties.

It is now very obvious that Neville and Warwick will spend all of their activations retreating. This coincides with the Flight Track now at the point in which after every free activation, the sides roll to see if their army flees and the Yorkist army is in that zone where the dice will determine how long they can carry on retreating before they are forced to flee.

With the situation reaching such an obvious conclusion, I call the game.


This is a fairly long scenario, more-so because it takes a while for the armies to actually get to grips with each other.

If the Yorkists can get the Lancastrian Flight score (through losses) up to 20, then the Yorkists can start to withdraw Neville with a chance to recover some victory by being able to claim they have saved their army.

It does however seem to be a scenario that favours the Lancastrian, but even so, the Yorkist player gets a good game, for while ever the game is in motion, both sides are equally drawn in to the play with the nuances that go on down at the hex level.

The system works off a D10, which often in games can produce chance swings that can seem too severe, but here, the range of outcomes is fairly tight by the first loss generally degrading the unit to 'disorder' status and then it is disordered units that can suffer badly (they get a chance to recover from disorder), so this need to harm a unit twice before it is detrimentally harmed does dampen down the D10 effect as indeed does the fact that 0 (zero) counts as zero and not 10 in this system and this lowering of the die value by a factor of 10% dampens down effect.

This is a 'series' game and this bundle (the deluxe 2019 reprint of three different modules combined) is giving a total of 20 scenarios, so that is a lot of play reward for learning one rule book.

EDIT - played the scenario again tonight, but face-to-face this time and things panned out rather differently, with the Yorkists having a much more successful game. Warwick moved up onto the top right of the map and directly supported Neville, who was already giving Exeter a hard time. The Lancastrians continually rolled poorly for secondary activations and so Shrewsbury was very late and hadn't got close to the action by the time we called it. A worthy scenario to re-visit.

Resource Section.

I run a sister webspace called COMMANDERS, which may interest you. LINK

There is another blog article here about Bosworth, using this system. LINK


  1. That does seem to be good value for 20 scenarios with just one set of rules. As with many of your board games, I can see parts of this battle translating nicely to the table top for a more skirmish level of action with Lion Rampant etc.

    1. Hi Steve. The box has three modules. Men of Iron, which is early medieval, Infidel which has crusade battles and Blood and Roses for the wars of Roses, so plenty of variety as well.

  2. This does look good with a handsome map and counters. I have yet to give this series a proper run-out on the table. At present, I find it difficult to carve out time for a board game when so many, many miniatures' actions beckon.

    Excellent replay. Was this F2F or solo?

  3. Hi Jonathan, it comes from the stable of (Simple version) Great Battles of History, so there is a ton of stuff related to it (I have SPQR and Cataphract). I know what you mean, I am torn between servicing both the figure and board side of things, but as long as things are hitting the table regularly, I don’t mind.

    this was solo in preparation for te same game face-to-face tonight, in which I am the Lancastrian side, so it will be interesting to see what my Yorkist opponent approaches this scenario.

    1. Are you playing these using simple vs standard rules?

    2. No, the Men of Iron series is a cousin of the Great Battles of History system, so only BGoH has a simple alternative rule set. The Men of Iron / Blood & Roses just have their own standard rules, but they are less intense than those in GBoH and nearer to the simple version of GBoH.

      The actual mechanics and ideas are fairly straight forwards, but there are a lot of one liner important things tucked away here and there, so I find myself regularly diving into the Men of Iron rules, but they are quite easy to navigate.

      I suppose whatever score / rating someone would give the system, you could reduce that by 1 point, simply because of the repeated play / exposure that you get with playing so many different scenarios.

      There is a single game / scenario presented in a C3i magazine published a few years ago. It is a stand alone game, with a nice rulebook and covers the battle of Wakefield. It would give a good taster of the system.

  4. Will wait to see your face to face fight. When I fought this solo I thoroughly enjoyed it, for quite a while it felt that the Yorkists may just inflict enough pain on the Lancastrians to allow them to withdraw and gain a sort of victory. Then similar to yourself attrition suddenly took hold and the house of cards came tumbling.

  5. Hi Graham, I had the same sense, surprise that the Yorkists could give such a good account of themselves, even the flight track was going in their favour and suddenly the map turns red!

    The scenario talks about this being a long scenario, but that the Yorkists on occasions can win very quickly, I’d like to see how that might happen ….. perhaps I will find out tonight :-)

  6. Thanks Ray, the Bosworth scenario is the big attraction for me.

  7. Entertaining game,it's a big ask for the Yorkists to win I think, it does seem it's stacked in favour of the Lancastrians, much more sprawling than 1st St Albans, I found I was walking on parts of the battlefield when I did a walk at Wheathampstead, which took in another battlefield, from Caesar's invasion of Britain!
    Best Iain

  8. Hi Iain, nice to have a battlefield walk. My Last one was Bosworth ….. and then they decided they had the battlefield in the wrong location! :-)

    I have just played a face to face game and the Yorkists got a much better game, plenty of play in this one.

  9. Nice report Norm. It’s an interesting battle.
    Scenarios that include the forces marching onto the table are always interesting; watching the battle grow but usually take much longer so that time runs out and the game misses the conclusion. It’s kinda like we’re forced to either include the very beginning of a battle or the very end because it’s hard to get both. 😀

  10. Hi Stew, agree. There was a Gettysburg boardgame that started from the principle that at the start of the battle, there was a blank canvas and neither side knew of the location of the other as each were drawn into battle.

    They reflected that by have both orders of battle being released from the exact time-table or battlefield entry points and that mechanic puts both players more firmly in the boots of the historical command, creating a fluid and uncertain situation, which of course better captures the ‘essence’ of what Gettysburg was all about - interesting design approach.

  11. Great looking scenario! Nice to see game without minis. Remember me my early gaming years.

  12. Hi Michal, I think the figure table and boardgames complement each other well and I think there is a link to the past, the days when Avalon Hill could print and sell 100,000 games. We are very much in that shadow these days, but as always some very nice stuff is coming out.

  13. I always had a hankering to try Avalon Hill or similar games back in the day but never took the plunge and have never played a board game in my life - I always enjoy your write ups though Norm!

    1. Hi Keith, one day, one will press all of the right buttons, re subject, game time and complexity level etc :-). It has been a while since I have taken a situation created in a boardgame, to the table top and perhaps I should visit that soon and bring the two formats closer together.

  14. Read it immediately after we'd played. fascinating to see how it played out. Elements very different, but ultimately the Yorkists are doomed, I think, as they simply do not have the numbers to counter what the Lancastrians can muster. Though I do have some thoughts as to how I might play the opening differently.
    Interested how the caltrops proved much more useful than I'd initially imagined. As always theory goes out the window when a game is actually played.

  15. Yes, the caltrops caught me out, mainly because in my game, I deployed them blindly to the board to help the solo experience and stupidly, when I came across yours, I treated them as being some hit and some miss, but unfortunately I ran into a whole clump of them …. As you had intended!

    The Lancastrians have 3 big formations to draw upon, but I think if they are too careless with Exeter, it will trigger the Yorkist withdrawal rule, giving them the win. I like that the experience is that it is uphill for the Yorkists, but the yearn to keep on trying again remains.


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