Wars of the Roses – Battle of Towton – Battle Report

Battle number seven in our campaign was the bloody field of Towton. The size of the armies who fought this battle is often questioned but it’s clear it was a big battle. To represent this we went for a 1000 points per side and also ended up with each command split across three players. The Lancastrians were commanded by Stephen as Somerset supported by Andy as the Earl of Northumberland and Tong G as the Earl of Wiltshire. I commanded the Yorkists as the rightful King Edward IV with Tony F as Warwick and newcommer to the campaign (and rules) Pete M as Lord Falconberg.

Battle of Towton
Apart from the increase in army size the only historical event we decided to include was the weather. Neither side was allowed artillery and we rolled at the start of the battle to see which direction the strong winds were blowing. Unlike history the wind ended up blowing towards the east and as such played little or no part in the battle.

I was expecting this battle to be a straight up archery duel followed by a clash of infantry. This was reflected in my army choice and how the deployment phase went. I placed Lord Falconberg’s force of cavalry, infantry and militia archers under Pete M on the Yorkist left flank, with a similar force for Warwick under Tony F on the right. I took the main bulk of the infantry to create a strong centre.

To my surprise the Lancastrians deployed with Northumberland’s forces under Andy in the centre with an even mix of infantry and archers, while Wiltshires similar forces under Tony G on the Lancastrian left. Tony G also had some Irish Kerns. The Lancastrian right was formed by Somerset’s own command under Stephen made up entirely of cavalry, four units of Mounted Men at Arms, two Currours and two Northern Boarder Horse. The Lancastrians had also brought stakes for their archers which led me to believe they would fight a stationary battle behind their defences.

Having won the initiative I kept to the battle plan and started to advance my archers. I gave each of my other commanders orders to just hold the flanks. Not to go charging off but to use their cavalry as a threat, and keep my flanks covered as I advanced.

Following the plan Tony F pushed up the cavalry and archers, the militia billmen got left behind given their poor discipline rating.

Pete M did the same on the left flank, creating two lines, with the archers out front, but Stephen immediately began moving the Mounted Men at Arms forward. I panicked a bit at this knowing Pete’s forces where not that strong and so I moved some billmen units towards the left flank in case they were needed.

Over on the Lancastrian left Tony G was having trouble getting units to advance off the hill. This was the first stage in what would see the front of the battle twist with the Lancastrians advancing on the right but barely moving on the left.

The Lancastrians got to within striking distance and then paused, this may have been to wait for the rest of the cavalry to catch up. Pete moved some archers within range and tried taking a hasty shot, this was rewarded with a hit and Stephen giving the Mounted Men at Arms activation dice in preperation to charge.

Seeing the danger from the archers Stephen in a bold move charged in a unit of boarder horse destroying the archers completely. Pete’s respond was to send in some billmen who made short work of the light horse with their charge spent.

In the centre the Andy’s Lancastrian archers had advanced off the hill and into range of my archers beginning the archery duel. The Yorkists managed to score a few hits but were outnumbered four longbow units to four enemy longbows and two crossbows.

The Yorkists had won initiative and after much debate Pete decided the best option was to charge in first. Despite being out numbered Pete’s cavalry managed to hold in the initial fight and the follow up, causing some damage to the Lancastrians. This set the tone for the conflict of the Lancastrians failing to get any clear advantage in combat.

Out on the Lancastrian left Tony G started to advance the Kerns but then realised facing off against the Yorkist cavalry wouldn’t be in their favour. As per my instructions Tony F had not advance the cavalry too far, keeping out of range of the Lancastrian archers.

Back to the Yorkist left flank and Pete M had managed to get another cavalry unit to support the Mounted Men at Arms. Giving the men at arms a bonus dice for good measure Pete M took the fight to the Lancastrians.

In the centre my Yorkist archers had got the better of the Lancastrians. This was down to a number of factors, I sacrificed the good activation dice I rolled to ensure my archers got some good shots in (this did leave my infantry lagging behind), I’d also been able to cause some hits as the Lancastrians were getting into range. With the loss of the archers Andy started to bring up some infantry. I matched this with some Men at Arms in support.

After a hard fight Pete’s Men at Arms managed to dispatch some of Stephens cavalry. With more Men at Arms in support I still felt Pete was in danger of the flank collasping, so continued to move infantry off in support.

Up until this point the Lancastrians had made no use of their stakes. But having failed to get off the hill Tony G decided to deploy them to ensure the cavalry couldn’t threaten them. But this clearly meant Tony G was not going to advance and as such not pose a threat either.

Because the Yorkists had won the archery duel in the centre, were holding out on the left flank against the concentrated Lancastrian cavalry and with them nailing their left flank to the hill, I decided to let Tony F get into the fight, their cavalry moved to engage the Kerns.

With the casualties piling up Stephen decided to move up more cavalry to dislodge Pete’s cavalry that had been holding out for most of the battle. This was enough to finally destroy Pete’s Mounted Men at Arms. To help plug the gap Pete moved up some billmen almost destroying the Lancastrain cavalry.

The infantry I’d moved in support of the Yorkist left flank were finally in position and seeing the threat Stephen moved the Currours to get their charges in. However they would be facing two Dismounted Men at Arms and some billmen. The resulting battle saw the destruction of the Lancastrian Currours.

Some favourable dice rolling saw two of Stephens Mounted Men at Arms destroyed with the Yorkist gaps filled by more Currours and billmen.

Following a successful charge seeing both Irish Kern units destroyed by the cavalry, Tony F moved up their archers to engage with the Lancastrians, but lost a unit in the exchange.

With an abundance of threes for my activation dice I decided to just go for it and get my Men at Arms into melee with Andy’s archers and crossbows. Unfortunately for the Lancatrians, Andy’s counter attack failed utterly. Throwing three ones was probably the best indicator as to how the battle was going for the Lancastrians.

On the Yorkist right flank Tony F had continued the attack by moving onto the enemy bill men after dispatching the Kerns. The cavalry didn’t do as well as expected, infact it did aswell as the Lancastrians cavalry had been up to that point.

It was at this point that Stephens cavalry finally broke through the Yorkist left flank, but it was a real case of too little too late. The Lancastrians had reached their breaking point and all that was let was to play out the remainder of the turn.

The final blow coming from the exhausted Yorkist archers facing off against Andy’s poor Men at Arms advancing under fire.

As so ended the battle of Towton with a decisive win for the Yorkist forces.

This battle did not go as planned for either side. I’d created an army with a strong core of infantry and expected to get bogged down in a big fight in the centre. This was the first time I’d deployed a large mercenary pike unit for just that type of battle. But my archers won the archery duel in the centre and because both flanks had held out there was no threat to the centre. As to the flanks Pete getting a charge in first was a pivotal moment and kept the Lancastrians from overwhelming that flank. As to the Yorkist right flank, with no threat coming from the Lancastrians this allowed some breathing space, the Yorkists were able to see how the centre and left flank faired before committing any additional forces to those battles.

I don’t know what the Lancastrian battle plan was but by putting all the cavalry on one flank that meant it became a make or break. There were no archers or infantry as back up should the cavalry fail to make a break through, which is exactly what happened. The Lancastrian centre and left flank were also unclear, having declared they had stakes seemed to announce they would stay put and expect the Yorkists to advance. But the Centre moved off the hill and engaged in the archery duel giving the advantage to the Yorkists and never deployed their stakes. While the left flank struggled to get moving and then achored themselves to the hill giving the Yorkist the choice of ignoring them and even redistribute any uncommitted units.

The Yorkists are now 5-1 up in the campaign after 7 battles (one was a draw), with 6 battles remaining. The Lancastrians must win at our next battle of Hedgeley Moor. Not a great place to be given historically most of the Lancastrian forces fled from the field before the main fighting started.

Yorkist Loses
2 Units of Militia Longbows (6 points)
1 Unit of Longbows (3 points)
1 Unit of Mounted Men at Arms (4 points)
2 Units of Currours (8 points)
Total loses 21 points (Army break point 58)

Lancastrian Loses
2 Units of Currours (8 points)
3 Units of Mounted Men at Arms (12 points)
1 Unit of Billmen (4 points)
5 Units of Longbows (15 points)
2 Units of Border Horse (6 points)
2 Units of Kerns (6 points)
2 Units of Crossbows (6 points)
Total loses 57 points (Army break point 51)

Yorkist Victory