After our Christmas stay at Piggy Longton as a Guest of Lord Darcy, an ardent Lancastrian supporter, New Year finds us as the guest of his nemesis, Lord Trebian of West Rottington, an avid Yorkist.
It is New Years Eve and our greeting by Lord Trebian could not have been friendlier. For accommodation, we join other guests at a local hostelry, renown for strong ale and boisterous evenings.
As the day wore on, there was a growing carnival atmosphere as traders pitched their tents in the market square with a mixture of party games such as ‘shoot the Lancastrian’.
Lord Trebian had paid this trader 5 Groats to give every punter who asked, 3 arrows to hit a human sized doll at 100 paces. It was very popular, but in reality, it turned out to be a recruiting ground to find a group of elite type archers, with successful archers signing a pledge to serve Trebian for the next three days and receiving some nice coin in exchange.
Of all the trader tents, even the one selling Yorkist model soldiers in the new 300mm scale in carved wood, it was this one that I kept coming back to, not to shoot a Lancastrian, but rather wondering why Lord Trebian should be so interested in gathering competent archers to his fold on this day of all days.
That evening, the strong ale loosened a few tongues, but the most that I could gather was that Lord Trebian had banned the soldiers from drink that night and that the following morning, there was due to be some sort of exercise!
Please use the ‘read more’ tab to discover what New Year surprises crafty old Trebian has in store for Piggy Longton.
New Years Day 1472.
Dawn had barely broken when I was awoken by a right hullabaloo at the Market Square. Bleary eyed, I partly stagger to the doorway (note to self - stay away from the tavern’s extra strong ale), to the sight of soldiers running to form up into contingent sized units, with their local commanders giving orders and briefings.
Stepping closer, I recognised Sir. Bartholomew Rolfe, addressing his men. From the small bits that I picked up, it sounded like Trebian’s forces were readying to march on Piggy Longton to launch a surprise attack to steal winter animal feed.
There was to be an assault against Beacan Farm that would involved a group of retinue billmen and the ‘best’ archers - this was more than a simple raid. They were going to leave Piggy Longton without any winter stores!
The Yorkists would raid the farm’s barn and load up the carts with winter hay and bags of grain. There was much laughter as Rolfe told his men that the foggy brained Lancastrians would probably still be in their beds and miss the show!
|The barn at Beacan farm, the farmer’s cottage is in the background|
Cheers and hoorah’s went up and one by one, the contingents broke away and formed around their captains, falling into line of march - Piggy Longton and in particular farmer Joshua Bodman were about to receive some rather unwanted attention.
Sir. Bartholomew Rolfe was widely known and respected by the men. A recent post here (see link below in the Resource Section) describes his career from commoner to knight - a rarity, marking him out as both different and capable.
At Piggy Longton, the local population, including many of fighting age, were out for the count following a night of much drinking of the local Smoggy Ale. Lord Darcy had taken to ‘policing’ such celebrations with a contingent of levy billmen, while also taking his usual precaution at important events of having some Men-at-Arms and archers on stand-by, encamped behind the church, under the command of Sir. Cuthbert Elkstone.
|The route of attack and battlefield (in the white square).|
The shortest route for Trebian’s Yorkists was via the Smoggy Bank Bridge over Smoggy Brook. They would have to pass by Piggy Hamlet, but that was unlikely to be a problem, with the residents full of Smoggy Ale. In any case, the ox pulled carts needed a good road to move along after the recent December rains.
By mid morning Rolfe had crossed the Smoggy and was just approaching Beacan Farm. The plan was to put a rear guard behind the carts to prevent any advances from Darcy’s men and then once the carts were full, continue south and re-cross the Smoggy further downstream. This was the long way homeward, but it would avoid returning past the hamlet, which would be fully alerted.
As Rolfe passed the hamlet, a guard on outpost duty saw the enemy host and ran back to the church to raise the alarm. The levy who had been policing the celebrations the previous evening were ‘kicked’ from their slumber by their commander, Sir. John Flory, formed up and immediately dispatch towards Crown Hill to shadow the Yorkist host. The men encamped behind the church likewise formed up and followed the levy to “firm those folk up valorous and prop’r”.
Meanwhile, scourers mounted up and rode abroad to alert Lord Darcy and to rouse as many local soldiers as they could. Time was of the essence, Darcy was very much on the back foot!
|Lancastrians will arrive on the top right corner|
Each time the Yorkists win a Bonus Card, the Yorkist player rolls a D6 adding +1 for each unit that they have adjacent to the barn (maximum 3 units) helping out and the total score is the number of bags of grain / bales of hay removed and placed into the carts in that moment.
The most that the carts will hold is 40 bags. Once Trebian decides to vacate the farm, either because his carts are full or because of enemy pressure, they will move south to leave the area. The game ends once the cart leaves the table.
Each time the Lancastrians win a Bonus Card, reinforcements will arrive on Crown Hill. The first reinforcements are automatically one unit each of Men-at-Arms and retinue archers (from the camp behind church).
For all following reinforcements the Lancastrian player receives a single unit of either archers or billmen (test 50/50 with a D6 for which type) of ‘dubious ability’, arriving on Crown Hill. Units of dubious quality is our term for those that are still heavily suffering the effects of the ‘night before. The Lancastrians will not receive more units than the Yorkists have in total.
Such units are always rated levy and although at company strength, the archers can only shoot once per activation and the billmen fight in melee at half strength (0.5 dice per figure). Ignore the rule that says billmen can only attack a unit if they have a leader with them. So these units reflect the way they have been rounded up in small parties and shoved into action and are therefore less effective in combat.
For this game, I will be trying out the new edition of Never Mind the Billhooks by Andy Callan, together with their specialised card deck.
Ignore the initial manoeuvre phase.
Amongst Trebian’s archers, just one contingent is formed from the freshly chosen group of good archers recruited at yesterdays tournament. They have veteran status, amongst their benefits, they get to re-roll 1’s when shooting.
Rolfe will have all the attributes of a heroic leader.
Rolfe must always deploy at least 4 contingents into the fighting line to protect the operation from Lancastrian interference.
Victory - Each unit of grain / hay placed into the carts and having left the table is worth 1 point, so a full cart will yield 40 points. Deducted from that is 5 points for every unit (not leader) lost by the Yorkists.
0 - 10 points is a = Lancastrian major victory. 11 to 17 points = a draw. 18 - 26 points is a Yorkist minor victory. More than 26 points = an outright Yorkist major victory and Lord Darcy is left hugely embarrassed.
If however Sir. Bartholomew Rolfe is killed, the game immediately ends with a Lancastrian major victory regardless of whatever else has happened and the partying at Piggy Longton will continue into a second day!
|The home of Joshua Bodman|
Our foe art upon us already!
As the Yorkists approached Beacan Farm, Rolfe could hear the distant pealing of church bells - the alarm at Piggy Longton was up and locals would be rallying to the church as an assembly point. His men had little time to act.
He posted some archers and billmen to his rear to await the inevitable Lancastrian intervention, while the rest of his force were ordered to work quickly to clear the barn and load the wagons.
|Rolfe’s line of 4 contingents, with another 3 raiding the barn.|
In true aggressive Rolfe style, rather than sitting defensively, he advanced his force towards Crown Hill to bring the levy gathered there into arrow range. However, the enemy were gathering atop the high ground faster than he had anticipated and there was an unease amongst the men at being pulled too far forward out from their defensive position.
|The three contingents raiding the stores.|
Suddenly the Lancastrian host started to advance. Sir John Flory heading the levy that had policed the hamlet, moved to attack Rolfe’s archers. These were the supposed ‘best’ bowmen that had been selected at last yesterdays tournament, yet their arrows failed and the billmen put them to flight.
|Flory moves down from Crown Hill and assaults Rolfe’s line.|
Shocked at his centre so easily breaking and seeing the levy moving through it, Rolfe was forced to retire his left, while calling up the contingents that had been helping to load the carts for support. He had to stabilise his front, but his right had got caught up in close combat and were getting drawn up Crown Hill. The whole thing was a mess of his own making. Had he only stayed back and fought defensively, his position would now be more certain and the contingents at the barn could have reached him more easily.
|The 3 contingents raiding the barn move to support Rolfe, but they are in difficult terrain and take Disarray tokens (disorder)|
In the race between getting Lancastrian units gathered and deployed into action and the Yorkists clearing out the barn, the Lancastrians were by far getting the better of it, with troop numbers starting to equal that of the raiding party. The loaders with the ox carts had counted out just 13 units of feed so far.
|Rolfe’s counter-attack against Flory (left)|
Rolfe put in a counter-attack to relieve his immediate front. While successful in breaking an enemy contingent, his billmen suffered a high proportion of casualties and wavered, before collapsing completely when next assaulted.
|Rolfe’s crossbow (blue) try to interfere with the Lancastrian advance, shooting into the flank of Elkstone’s Men-at-Arms.|
Sir. Cuthbert Elkstone’s Men-at-Arms were pushing against Yorkist archers, while being harassed by enemy crossbow hitting their flank. Regardless, they pressed on, chasing the archers all the way to the fields of Beacan Farm. The Yorkist defensive line was truly broken.
|Elkstone chases the fleeing Yorkist archers back into the fields.|
Rolfe seeing that his position was hopeless, rode over to the barn and shouted to the nearby contingents “grabeth what ye can, we art leaving bef're we art did finish”.
|Rolfe at the barn orders the carts to pull out!|
The men hurried with their last armfuls of feed and then fell in behind the carts as they pulled away to follow the Smoggy Brook southwards. A small contingent of loosely formed crossbowmen covered the retreat and Elkstone was obligingly careful not to follow too closely!
Counting the costs;
In total, the Yorkists had loaded 21 units of feed onto the carts. This is worth 21 victory points, but they lost two contingents in the battle, each costing them 5 points and so they leave the table having only scored 11 points - just about forcing a draw. Rolfe will not be happy with that!
Conclusions and thoughts.
Our final result can be attributed to two things. (1) The Lancastrian won the most Bonus Cards and accordingly that allowed them to bring on their units faster, while at the same time denying the Yorkists several opportunities to steal more feed.
(2) Rolfe would have been better holding his at-start defensive position. The Lancastrians would have taken longer to get into combat, giving more time for feed to be collected and the Lancastrians would have suffered more losses on the way in, especially allowing those Yorkist special archers more time to prove themselves.
With a better cohesive defensive line, perhaps one or two of Rolfe’s contingents could have stayed at the barn longer to help load up, rather than all of them being dragged away early because the line had collapsed. There might also have been less chance of Yorkist unit loss, as the cohesive line could have slowly dropped back rather than taking casualties in melee.
Though even at a draw, Lord Darcy had been humiliated and he will obviously be obliged to counter raid West Rottingham to save face and retrieve what is rightly his - but that story is for another day.
His Lordship at Piggy Longton has now seen his way through three different sets of rules, Sword & Spear, Historical Kings of War and Never Mind the Billhooks. As can be expected, each has strengths and weaknesses compared to each other, but His Lordship needs to stop dithering and settle on one set so that his troops know what they are doing!
Of course, he has been seen speaking with various heralds about the specs for the upcoming revised edition of Hail Caesar which will now additionally covers WotR - you just can’t help the man!
Also in the background, there is a set of rules that I worked up years ago for a Bosworth battle. They don’t seem particularly suitable for the Longton sagas (not informal enough for the skirmish / small battle), but I might make an effort to rework them - yes, another rabbit hole!
Best Wishes for the New Year to all readers and visitors to this part of the world.
To learn more about Sir. Bartholomew Rolfe LINK
A post covering the last time that Sir. Cuthbert Elkstone was in action (last seen fleeing for his life!) LINK
For more information on some of the battles fought last year (1471) and for a history of the parish, check the label index to the right of this post for the entry ‘Piggy Longton’.
For some background about the landscape and parish of Piggy Longton. LINK
My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’ is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current ongoing projects are up to. Link.