Stephen shares a report of a solo game fought over the Christmas break…
Over the Christmas period I fancied a game of something and thought I’d go with Outremer (from Osprey) – a nice, simple, game with about 10 figures or so a side.
The background behind the game is that it is early May 1264, the build up to the battle of Lewes. The forces of Simon de Montfort are advancing on St Pancras priory where king Henry III is holding out. Both sides send out scouting forces to spy on the opposition’s moves. And it is in the peaceful Sussex village of Bishops Wyke where the two sides encounter each other…
The men of King Henry were led by Sir Edward Marsh and his men – a mix of archers, men at arms, spearmen, and the noted crossbow marksman ‘Big’ Eddie. De Montfort’s followers were led by Sir Gregory de Holt who also had a mix of archers, spearmen, and a pair of very capable swordsmen to bolster his forces – Balin of Brickenden and Howard de Shiel.
Gregory decided to shield his forces using his archer and crossbowman. He started in a difficult position, on the opposite side of a stream, meaning his levy would have to cross that and enter the village with little cover. Sir Edward’s group, on the other hand, had the cover of the churchyard and a cow field to screen their approach.
Edward’s two archers – Ewan and Gamal – took up position behind the church wall and as Gregory’s men advanced, they let rip with their arrows and down went Gregory’s archer, Bernard of Calcote. Big Eddie took up a similar position on the field wall and, carefully levelling his crossbow, he took a shot and down went Amis Hughes, Gregory’s crossbowman. This left Gregory with no missile support!
Gregory’s other men, Balin, Howard, and Cedric Brooker chose to wade across the stream using the cover of one of the cottages to keep them protected from the deadly hail of arrows. With little respect for the farmer’s crop, they tramped through the cabbages and carrots.
Edward left his archers in their advantageous position (with a French mercenary, Raoul Allaire, to protect them in case they were charged) and led the rest of his levy around the other side of the same cottage that Howard and the others had moved behind.
Having lost both archer and crossbowman, it was obvious that Sir Gregory and his men would have to advance as quickly as possible or risk being picked off. To this end, Gregory’s spearmen made a quick move down the village lane. Big Eddie was loaded and ready, raised his crossbow and down went Gareth of Whitley. Raoul took command of Tankard Jenkins and Hallet Adkin and raced them forward to block Gregory’s men. This led to a clash between the two sides at the crossroads in the middle of the village.
Meanwhile, Sir Edward and his men came lurching around the side of the cottage, with Will Fuller charging into contact with Howard de Shiel. They swapped several blows and eventually Howard came out on top and down went Will. This fight drew Sir Gregory and Balin over to join the melee. This was clearly going to be the decisive fight between the two sides, with both drawing in more men to join the battle.
At the crossroads the fight came to an end. Raoul Allaire’s experience had shown and he then called over to Big Eddie, Ewan, and Gamal to take them to the fight going on behind the cottage amid the vegetable patch.
Big Eddie and the archers formed a line, ready to drop any of Gregory’s men who were caught out alone, and Raoul came up behind Balin, swinging his flail, to take Balin by surprise. Raoul’s flail found its mark, but the blow was merely a glancing one with no harm to Balin, who then turned around to confront the Frenchman with a show of arms.
The fight behind the cottage carried on. One of Sir Edward’s men, John Manners, joined his lord with the attack on Sir Gregory. That didn’t look good, and Sir Gregory took a wound. But then Sir Gregory swung his sword and down went John bringing it back to a one-on-one between him and Sir Edward.
Balin prevailed in his fight with Raoul, and the French mercenary also fell under the blows. But seeing the line of archers ready to let rip, Balin decided to quickly charge in before they let loose. Having seen how deadly Big Eddie had proved to be, Balin made him the target of his attack. Eddie may be handy with that crossbow, but not with a sword. And so down went Eddie. Before he could charge the others, Ewan and Gamal took aim with their bows and peppered Balin with arrows. Balin had proved a good, and essential, part of Sir Gregory’s force. But he was no more.
Sir Edward and Sir Gregory continued hacking at each other. Sir Gregory had been wounded but he evened the score – taking a chunk out of Sir Edward. Neither could take another wound so the next would be the victor.
But time was up. The turn limit had been reached. Maybe a distant clarion call could be heard, marking the sudden appearance of a major lord with a sizeable retinue. Either way, it was game up, and both sides could slope away and lick their wounds.
The encounter had been a slight victory for Sir Edward and his men.