Wars of the Roses – Battle of Mortimers Cross – Battle Report

The fifth battle of our Wars of the Roses campaign took us to Mortimers Cross. This would be our first straight up fight when compared to previous battles from the campaign. The Yorkists were 2-1 up in the campaign with a draw making up the forth battle. For the battle I took command of the Yorkist Left under the Duke of York with Andy acting as Lord Ferrers my second in command. On the Lancastrian side Stephen took command as Owen Tudor with Tony F second as Sir John Throckmorton. Both sides had 800 points for the Battle and as throughout the campaign we used the rules Sword & Spear 2nd edition.

Battle of Mortimers Cross
Historians don’t really know the exact location of the battle so we went for an open field with steep hills to one side and a river to the other. There was of course one historical event recorded for this battle and that was the three suns in the sky phenomenon. History records the Duke of York declaring this a good omen, but for the battle we decided this could have gone either way. To represent this we rolled randomly at the start of the battle to see which side had the omen, the omen would allow one dice reroll in the game. Unlike history the roll saw the Lancastrians claim the good omen.

The two armies drew up in standard formation, I took the Yorkist left flank with Andy having the right, Andy also had a few units starting on the far right in a flanking position (apparently the Yorkists did this in the battle so we allowed it during deployment). I decided not to have too many cavalry units for this battle, I wanted to build in a good core strength to the army. For this I had some freshly painted militia billmen and archers. Stephen for the Lancastrians had twice as much cavalry and a more varied force with crossbows and some Irish Kerns.

As expected the battle started with an archery duel in the centre, because I had a camp I was able to add additional dice for greater range and took a chance at some long ranged fire. it didn’t have the desired result but as the Lancastrian archers commanded by Tony got closer my archers started to score more hits. Rather surprisingly it was at this point Tony and Stephen decided to use their reroll ability. Admittedly this was to save a unit that would otherwise have routed but I thought it was early in the battle to use the ability.

The Yorkists didn’t have it all their own way and a unit sized gap soon appeared in the front line. Over on the Yorkist right flank Andy was also advancing archers but they would be facing cavalry rather than infantry units. Stephen swiftly advanced the cavalry to within charge distance in a bold move not unlike what was witnessed in the last battle.

The charge proved devastating wiping out two of Andy’s archer units and suffering no loses themselves. Even though it was very early on in the battle this had the potential of destroying the Yorkist right flank and separating the far Yorkist units from the main force.

Andy quickly countered the threat by advancing up some billmen and men at arms. Following suit over the cavalry charge I tried the same on the other side of the field. Tony had advanced some Irish Kerns on the Lancastrian right flank, so I charged them with my mounted men at arms.

I was expecting a walkover but the dice were not on my side and all the cavalry managed was one hit against the Irish but suffered two hits in return. I therefore decided to withdraw the cavalry rather than risk leaving them in locked in the melee.

Having failed to sweep aside the Lancastrian right flank I turned my attention back to the centre. The archery battle was going the Yorkists way so I spent time bringing up the rest of my infantry. Tony matched this by bringing up some men at arms.

My spearmen were the ones facing the men at arms but I didn’t hold back and charged in. At the same time Stephen charged again on the Lancastrian left flank, this time against Andy’s billmen.

The Lancastrian charge hit a solid wall with the Yorkist billmen holding their ground, locking the cavalry into a prolonged melee. Feeling emboldened I charged again with my cavalry against the Irish, this time making sure I had some bonus dice to add a little extra to the combat. It proved decisive and the Irish were routed from the table.

Back to the centre and the Yorkist spearmen were slowing being defeated by the Lancastrian men at arms. With the introduction of a second unit of men at arms the spearmen were routed.

With the Lancastrian cavalry still fighting the Yorkist billmen, Stephen brought up the mounted men at arms and destroyed the remaining archers under Andy’s command. But Andy now had fresh men at arms ready to join the fray.

With the Lancastrian loses mounting up I felt able to take more risks. The Yorkists had won the archery duel in the centre and the Lancastrian cavalry were facing a tougher challenge against the Yorkist infantry. So I continued the advance of my cavalry against Tony’s billmen.

Things started to go badly for the Lancastrian cavalry. The Yorkist infantry started to score hits and soon a unit of Currours and mounted men at arms were destroyed for no loses on the Yorkist side.

The battle in the centre started to draw in more units. With the destruction of my spearmen, I managed to get a unit of men at arms and billmen into the melee. Ultimately I’d lose the men at arms to this fight and a unit of mounted men at arms over on the left of the Yorkist line. Which pushed the casualty right up alarmingly.

Feeling they had nothing to lose the Lancastrians threw caution to the wind and charged in. Starting with their mounted men at arms against Andy’s billmen. But with the presence of the Yorkist camp Andy was able to add additional dice to give the billmen the best chance. This proved a wise move and ended with the cavalry locked in combat.

In the centre Tony threw the remaining Lancastrian billmen against the Yorkist archers, but I’d had time to bring up some billmen of my own in support.

At this point the Lancastrians were rapidly reaching their break point and just didn’t have enough units in combat to make enough difference. The last gasp came with the outflanking of the last unit of Lancastrian mounted men at arms by Andy’s dismounted men at arms. This was too much for the Lancastrian cavalry and their loss pushed them to breaking point, handing victory to the Yorkists.

As mentioned this was the first straight up fight in the campaign so far. Neither side had the advantage and so the battle was down to each sides order of battle and how it was deployed. For the Yorkists I decided to include a larger number of militia units to effectively add some fodder to the ranks and hopefully keep the army in the field longer. I also reduced the amount of cavalry units, mainly because I also didn’t want to spend too many points on commanders. The Lancastrian order of battle was fairly similar but two factors were different, the Lancastrians were spread thinner and additional points reduced the overall break point of the army. At the point the Lancastrians broke the Yorkists were still half a dozen units away from breaking themselves.

This battle put the Yorkists in a commanding position in the campaign, it’s the second battle of St Albans next and the Lancastrians are going to have to up their game.

Yorkist Loses
5 Units of Longbows (15 points)
1 Unit of Militia Longbows (3 points)
1 Unit of Spearmen (4 points)
1 Unit of Dismounted Men at Arms (4 points)
1 Unit of Mounted Men at Arms (4 points)
Total loses 30 points (Army break point 48)

Lancastrian Loses
2 Units of Dismounted Men at Arms (8 points)
2 Units of Currours (8 points)
2 Units of Billmen (8 points)
4 Units of Longbows (12 points)
2 Units of Kerns (6 points)
Total loses 42 points (Army break point 39)

Yorkist Victory