Stephen reports on a clash between the Yorkists and Lancastrians.
I had myself a game of Basic Impetus the other day – a Wars of the Roses game.
The table was set up with the Lancastrians being led by the Earl of Oxford and the Yorkists led by Lord Stanley.
Oxford set up his Welsh archers in the yard of St Botolph’s church, his household troops (men at arms, billmen, and archers) in the middle and on his right flank, amid some trees, were some Welsh spearmen and some Flemish handgunners.
In response, Stanley had arranged his troops in a line. On his right flank, opposite the church, were some archers and a pair of ribaldequin (multi-barreled cannon). Stanley had also put his household troops in the centre and on his left flank were some Genoese pikemen and archers.
Stanley’s tactic on the right was obvious enough – use the cannon to pester the Welsh archers. Either they would be dispersed or they would have to come forward out of the cover of the churchyard. Which is what they eventually had to do. The Yorkist left flank made an early advance because the archers had some difficult terrain to negotiate and the sooner they got going the better. In the meantime, the centre was a bit tardy and made slow progression.
In response the Lancastrians initially decided to get involved in a missile exchange using their archers in the churchyard. To start with, though, they were out-ranged by the Yorkist cannon so they had no choice but to advance. The rest of the Lancastrian line made quick progress. The handgunners and Welsh spearmen moved into the woods, to what would prove to be a commanding flank position. Oxford urged his men forward, the billmen and archers being particularly keen, whilst his household men at arms were a little more cautious.
The Genoese pikemen were the first into the battle line. However, they found themselves in a precarious position – the Welsh spearmen threatened their flank, as did the Flemish handgunners. This made it difficult for them to be too aggressive or else they would be charged in the flank. The billmen of both sides eventually came to blows in the centre. It had been a cautious contact though, due to the risk of either side outflanking the other. The slow advance of the Lancastrian men at arms finally prompted the Yorkists to push the attack before they could join in.
Meanwhile, over by St Botolph’s, the Welsh archers had advanced beyond the hedges so they could get the Yorkist artillery in short range. Though the cannons had been pouring steady fire at the archers they had little effect. And once the archers were in range the artillery crew fared poorly against the weight of arrows falling on them. Off went the artillery! They’d done their job though – they’d drawn out the Welsh archers into the open where the Yorkist billmen could now advance on them.
The battle in the middle carried on. The pikemen were sent packing, but the Yorkist archers, who had to cross some rocky ground at the start, finally came up and a unit of billmen also turned to threaten the handgunners and Welsh spears. The clash between billmen and men at arms went back and forth with neither side really getting the upper hand. Then the Yorkists had a lucky turn with some demon dice rolling. The Lancastrian billmen were routed and things were starting to look dicey for Oxford.
But two can have luck! The Lancastrian men at arms showed their mettle and, with Oxford personally leading them, took the charge into the Yorkist men at arms, who were also being led by Stanley! Dice were rolled, and only one side could come out victorious…
Against the odds, the Lancastrians achieved an unexpected victory, routing the Yorkist men at arms and killing Stanley. It would be Lancaster’s day.
Looking at the result would give an unrealistic idea of how the battle went – Stanley’s men had taken far more casualties, but it hadn’t felt like that. For most of the battle the Yorkists had been in a commanding position, but the Welsh spearmen and Flemish handgunners had been in a good position, securing that flank, and Oxford’s men at arms had rolled some good dice. That proved more than enough.