Stephen continues his refight of the Wars of the Roses…
This is the second battle as part of my plan to re-fight all the major battles between York and Lancaster.
On to Blore Heath we go! Like before, this will be done using Basic Impetus. It’s worth saying a bit more about these games. The idea is they can be played by anyone at home who has limited space – table size for all these battles is just 3’ x 2’.
For anyone interested in having a go themselves then here’s the order of battle I put together for the game.
This one was always going to be difficult for the attacker. To reflect the difficulties faced by Lord Audley’s troops I classified the stream as Difficult Going. In addition, the archer’s stakes cancel out the attacker’s Impetus bonus, and the Yorkist’s will also get a bonus for defending the hill. It’s not going to be easy for the Lancastrians.
I decided not to waste time rolling for initiative for the first couple of turns, not until just before the two sides got into bow range. At which point initiative was rolled for because then it would be important.
Audley moved his forces forward. The infantry all moved in good order, keeping their line intact. This meant they had a few turns coming under telling bow fire.
The cavalry initially held back, unsure where they would be needed. In the end, the currours started wheeling and moving to the Lancastrian left, where they could support the infantry attack on that flank. I nearly turned the mounted knights that way as well, to load that flank for a hefty punch. But I could see it would cause a traffic jam, so I hung them back and decided to keep them in the middle where they could support the infantry there. That would prove to be a lucky decision.
It wasn’t looking good for the Lancastrians. Moving in slowly, against the Yorkist archers, had the inevitable effect. I wondered how long it would take and if the two sides would even come into melee. On Audley’s extreme right flank the levy spearmen had slogged forward against the archers on the hill, taking damage as they went forward. By the time they had splashed through the stream, hiked up the hill, and finally got into battle, they were all but spent. The archers dropped their bows and pulled out swords and mallets and finished off the spearmen.
The Yorkist archers were proving very effective. Not only had the levies been shot away, so had the Lancastrian centre – the billmen took a heck of a pounding as they progressed. Fortunately, Audley had held back his knights in the centre, and as the bills were dispersed, he drew his knights into order and got them ready to charge.
It had been a reversal of fortunes on the left. Here the Lancastrian archers had engaged Salisbury’s dismounted knights on the hill. It was obvious they couldn’t stay there, with arrows falling on them. Although their armour protected them from the worst, it was still a steady drip of casualties. There was only one thing for it – Salisbury himself took control and ordered his knights to charge down the hill in a counter-attack.
This wasn’t the only charge being made by knights. With his knights now all lined up, Audley gave mis men the order to charge through the stream and up hill against the Yorkist archers.
The wise money would have bet against them prevailing – through the difficult stream, up the hill, and then fighting across stakes. Historically, this is what did for Audley and how he lost the battle. But what can you do? Such a valuable asset to the army can not be left behind – at some point they have to go in, and it’s never going to be good for them under these conditions. However, the God of Battle (the dice) can be fickle. And fickle they were. Although the knights lost a lot of dice with all those obstacles in their way, they still made a good roll (4 of 6 dice rolled 6s) whilst the archers couldn’t hit a barn door (not a single hit!).
This would prove to be the decisive action of the battle – the Yorkist knights charging the Lancastrian billmen, and the Lancastrian knights charging the Yorkist archers. Whichever was successful first would win the battle.
That honour would go to the Lancastrians.
The Yorkists held the right flank…
…but the Lancastrians held the centre and left flank.
In the end Audley won the battle by the narrowest of narrow margins – there was just one point in it!
As Pyrrhus once observed, ‘Another victory like that and we are done for.’
On to Northampton next…