Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Showdown at Potterburn

Something of an interesting turn of events in Northern England: a potential three-way battle...

Potterburn is a decent estate of strength 7, located on the western edge of our campaign map - and caught between Lords Monkton and Whitcaster, the two Perkins brothers on opposite sides of the war.  With the lords having picked off the low-hanging fruit, they are now growing in strength to the stage where Potterburn can no longer stay neutral.

First to move is Lord Monkton, our solid-but-unimaginative Yorkist.  He marches west from Fishdale and arrives in Potterburn, with a force roughly equal to the local host.  Potterburn is also pro-Yorkist, but has no intention of simply rolling over to a bigger neighbour.  He holes up in the manor-house for a siege - or, more accurately, a prolonged stand-off while the two loyalists negotiate with each other about influence, titles, and other baubles.  

So far, so mundane - except that Lord Whitcaster then marches south into Potterburn with his Lancastrian rebel army!  This move is largely forced on the Lord Whitcaster, as every other direction has him hemmed in by more powerful foes.  The active Lancastrian decides to try his luck against Potterburn and his brother, since after all - capturing or killing his brother on the battlefield will certainly boost his chances.  

We now have the bizarre situation of three equally-sized armies all contesting the same area.  It is likely that the brothers Monkton and Whitcaster will fight each other, so Potterburn can theoretically sit back behind his walls and let them scrap away; the survivor will almost certainly be too weak to pursue a siege.  However, there is also the chance that by entering a fight he would tip the battle one way or the other and could basically make all the difference between victory or defeat.  

There's also the matter of Lord Potterburn's characteristics: Depraved morals, an enthusiastic fighter, and astoundingly treacherous!  The man's as predictable as a lunatic.  Basically because he is a lunatic, but just one that happens to have a title, and a large army at his disposal.  

[Based on reading about 'solo campaigns', the advice I got for a complex situation was to come up with several plausibly coherent courses of action per participant, and then roll a dice to randomly select a way for them to jump.  I'll do this for our battle, which may be a straight York vs Lancaster affair, or a far more random one with an unpredictable third-party taking to the field!]  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

First Turn Results

Back to relax in the comfort of Hadley Hall, Sir Richard reads over the reports that have come in from his spies through the region.

Lord Turstoke, the Lancastrian rebel to the south-west, has apparently fought a battle.  Despite being slightly outnumbered six-to-five by the neighbouring lord of Muncaster, the superior quality of Turstoke's retinue allowed him to triumph.
The start of battle, with Turstoke facing a line of Muncaster men while his own is split by a copse of trees.

Lord Turstoke himself, leading his dependable bodyguards.

Turstoke's right-wing starts the fight, putting the Muncaster militia to flight with a well-judged volley.

A sharp fight between the retinues, with Turstoke's men swiftly falling on the enemy flank.

The end of battle - the left-wing barely got engaged, but the right won things handily! 
Turstoke has now taken Muncaster as a vassal, and then swept on with his largely undiminished force to compel the weak lord of Greyburn to falling into line.

To the west, the Lord Monkton has taken Fishdale after a siege compelled them into line.  Lord Whitcaster has marched away westwards, snapping up the poor regions of Slagfield and Tursfield - poor pickings, but easily gathered up.

To the north, the rebel Lord Potterchester is apparently enjoying a run of success: the small Blackstoke region was compelled to submit, and also the pro-Lancastrian regions of Cornton and Leyley were swiftly induced into rebellion.

Some mixed news from north of Hadley, however: the Yorkist rival Lord Wolviston, who could at least have been a shield against the rampaging Lord Potterchester, has instead gone down to defeat.  He apparently attacked the Lord Turston whose lands lie between Potterchester and Hadley, but found himself narrowly defeated.
Lord Wolviston lines up his five companies to face seven rival ones.

Lord Wolviston shouts encouragement

The battle begins, with disjointed mobs clashing across the field.  

Wolviston's archers score a rare success on levies, but overall the dice are cruel!

An unnaturally skilled manoeuver by levies turns Wolviston's left flank!

Desperate fighting and high casualties all along the line, when finally - by a single dice-throw - Wolviston's retinue breaks and routs!
 The overall picture of these battles and marches begins to take shape for Lord Hadley, as he inspects his maps.

A Working copy on Excel - red shades show the Lancastrians, blue shades the Yorkists.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lord Hadley Rides Out...

It's the start of our campaign, and Sir Richard Ferrier, Lord Hadley is about to head on his way.  Nobody becomes the king's favourite or bags an Eardom by sitting at home!

Sir Richard prepares to set out from the courtyard of Hadley Hall
The estates of Turston and Greyburn lie to his north and south, both Lancastrian - but the former is stronger than Lord Hadley on his own, while the latter is a measly 2-income region, barely worth the time and energy to subdue.  Far more promising is the option to head west, for Rosford.  The Lord there is pro-Yorkist, and weaker than Hadley, so he should be made to see the wisdom of knuckling under pretty swiftly.

Hadley's Retinue on the road, marching to Rosford.  
Due to his overbearing strength and the fact old Sir John Demain - Lord Rosford - is already sympathetically inclined, it proves to be a walk in the park.  Nothing like a private army to smooth the way for yourself, thinks Sir Richard - why had nobody thought of this before now?  

Pitching camp while marching about and bullying the weaker lords into line - it's a fine old life!
 After getting Lord Rosford to submit, Hadley turns northwards, to Leadbeck.  The local lord, Sir Anthony Dewhurst, is similarly positive to his support of King Edward.  Just as with Rosford, he is also too poor to kick up much of a fuss and accepts Lord Hadley's commission.

Marching back to Hadley Hall, Sir Richard can relax in his chambers in the knowledge things have started pretty well.  Lords Rosford and Leadbeck are now his to command, in addition to his own troops.  Now his Lancastrian neighbours such as Turston to the north are outnumbered, and can be compelled to submit!  Just as long as nobody else out there does anything to spoil his plans...

Lord Hadley's first little outing to 'recruit' supporters.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Northern Map, 1461

I have just realised that I've not yet provided a full map on the blog - after all my discussions about how to make it!  Here, then, is the full thing:

With the key nobles shown on their respective home areas, it's actually a bit like this:

As I previously mentioned, I shall be playing the various individuals, but for simple blogging advantage I shall do it all from the 'perspective' of one noble - selected as appropriate, depending on the situation.  Since this is the beginning I can pick pretty much as I please, and have selected Lord Hadley.  He can be seen above in the right-hand column, second row from bottom.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dramatis Personae, 1461

For this campaign I wanted a specific figure to represent an individual, through 'thick and thin' (or, perhaps more suitably, 'to the death').  I can't do all 25 nobles sensibly, but the six powerful lords of the '12 income' castle areas are certainly do-able.  Rather than write all at first, I intend to follow particularly one random individual, and then see where the 'narrative' leads.

Here are the six power-brokers for our northern war:

Richard Ferrier, Lord Hadley - this fellow is our initial protagonist.  A pro-Yorkist 'new man', he shall be seeking to put down all resistance in the area on behalf of King Edward IV.  He even sports his Blue & Murrey colours as his livery, to advertise his loyalty to the new regime.  His own symbol is a castle tower, which shall hopefully grace more than a few battlefield triumphs.  He is described (i.e. rolled up as described previously) as easy-going and liked, but unscrupulous.  Decently skilled at warfare, his main characteristics on-field are his experience and - above all else - his driven personality, relentlessly pursuing whatever he perceives as necessary.  Pity any servant that fails to produce the goods for the big man...

Thomas Fawcett, Lord Wolviston.  Another Yorkist man, sporting blue & white livery plus a natty 'cross' heraldic symbol, poor Lord Wolviston is a bit too dour to be popular.  Genuine in his morals and dependable as an ally, he is nonetheless a grim figure and something of a 'plodder'.  Still, he's powerful and a decent fighter, so who knows if he shall become the favoured of the crown?

John Demain, Lord Potterchester.  This fellow is a pro-Lancastrian loyalist, giving only notional - if that - loyalty to Edward IV, while his longing for a restoration for Henry VI is an open secret.  His livery is red and yellow, and an ermine symbol is used by his men.  Although of slippery loyalty to those he feels are expendable, there's no denying his formidable reputation: popular and generous with the local gentry and commons, he's well-liked and also said to be a born fighter - deadly on a battlefield, even if lacking experience (no doubt something he'll soon put right.)   

William Johnson, Lord Turstoke.  Sporting red and black livery and a Boar symbol, he is also a Lancastrian die-hard.  Far less well thought of than Potterchester, Lord Turstoke is widely experienced in wars but sadly this has given him nothing but excessive chances to prove his ineptitude and laziness.  He is said to be very charismatic and likeable in person, so clearly he's a decent enough sort - just not cut out for warfare.  More of a lover than a fighter, it seems!

Lionel Perkins, Lord Monkton.  Blue and Yellow livery, with a crossed-keys symbol.  He's a Yorkist, and the younger brother of the Lord Whitcaster (of whom more below!)  He may be a bit sluggish in action and something of a dull, bookish thinker - but when he moves, he moves!  Both skilled and experienced in arms, he is a dangerous fighter on the battlefield (when he eventually decides to get there...)

Richard Perkins, Lord Whitcaster.  With his leaf symbol and red livery, Whitcaster is a faithful Lancastrian.  His conscience has kept him true to the exiled king, even as his younger brother the Lord Monkton has treacherously aligned himself with the Yorkists and split the family apart.  Decent and experienced, he is a solid and capable opponent.

(When generating random names, I never noticed that two of the powerful lords had the same surname.  The chance for the two nobles, close by on the map and split between the two factions, for not being close relatives split by the wars was too good a dramatic fluke to pass up!)  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Personality goes a long way...

One of the more appealing features of the Wars of the Roses is that it allows very wide scope for the personalities of various lords and nobles to have a big impact.  

(Incidentally, this is not always a feature of some wargaming periods, as there seems to be some kind of unspoken convention everybody has agreed upon!  Many American Civil War rules allow for the colourful personalities in the various generals for example, but strangely the 'personal' element is largely absent from, say, WW2 games - obviously figures like Montgomery, Patton, Rommel, etc. were all quite bland and unremarkable types that just rubbed along wonderfully...)

Anyway, the wargaming gods have decreed that WotR games should allow for personalities to have an impact, as this opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities for backstabbing, betrayal, or just good old-fashioned incompetence.  The original Miniature Wargames article outlines a system, which is actually attributed to Tony Bath's famous work on 'Setting up a Wargames Campaign.'  Bath however set out the basics, and never tried to explain how the idea could be applied in practical terms.  Jim Webster in Miniature Wargames sets out a method of putting it into practice for determining how people act.  

For each area we have a lord in charge, and his personality is summed up in seven categories.  Each category is a simple 1 to 6 scale, with the opposite extremes at either end.  For example a roll for morality would be 'paragon' for a 6 (kind, generous, friendly- basically doomed in a WotR setting) going down through an unremarkable person around 4 or 3, then descending down to 'depraved' on a 1 (uses phone in cinema, cracks knuckles, etc.)  

The categories are as follows, along with an explanation of their effect:

This has no direct game effect, beyond being a handy mental 'hook' to hang your notional person on, so they stick in your mind.  In more practical terms, it also provides another dice-roll to use when averaging out your 'popularity' category (see below).

As with the above, the combination of Disposition & Morals is just to make the character recognizable as a personality.  It could also be used if necessary to see how two figures cooperate, I suppose - after all, a paragon is hardly going to be close to some depraved monster, is he?

The first real game-centric trait: how skilled is he as as a tabletop commander?  It's a straight 1-to-6 rating, but of course this can easily be tailored to pretty much any rule-set you care to use.  It also lets us settle off-table matters like sieges by rating his competence.  A lord with a '6' will be certain to topple any castle within a turn, but a level '1' incompetent could well be there until doomsday.  

This rating is again very similar to the above, rating how much of a rookie our man is.  In the Webster rules many rolls for checking military competence allow you to use "either his aptitude or experience" - so this is effectively a "do over" roll, to stop you getting saddled with a dead-beat.  Interestingly, I notice that Tony Bath's original system allowed the characters' experience to be raised with time over various battles, so a character - providing they stayed alive - would steadily improve their rating.  Webster ditches this for simplicity, and probably wisely: say what you like about Tony Bath, the man wasn't afraid of complex and detailed book-keeping!

Basically, how swift in action is he?  If the lord commands a section of your army and you need him to bring it to the battlefield, he needs to roll against his activity level to see if he does it promptly.  A level '6' lord will clearly be bounding to your aid with Tigger-ish enthusiasm, while a lazy '1' lord may well only be out of bed before your crisis has come and gone!

Things don't always go well, and when you get beaten in a battle, those lords that had been submitting to you might take new ideas into their heads!  A roll against loyalty decides if your followers stick with you after a setback, or ditch you.  It would be a calculated risk to accept help from a highly skilled and powerful lord if he turns out to be as treacherous as an icy step...

Sometimes lords can submit without fighting doomed battles, if you're stronger than them or also if you're more popular than them.  Popularity is dependent on other personality features, so instead of being a dice-roll, the Popularity number is an average of the six previous rolls.  Unless you've rolled for the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, it very frequently comes out as being a 3 or 4, for generally liked/disliked.  One notable feature - a character with loyalty of 1 or 2 is rated as a '6' for calculating the average, as he is taken as a shameless dissembler - presumably channeling Richard III from Shakespeare!  

In addition to the above I have added in a few tweaks based on the characters' pro-Yorkist/Lancastrian bias.  When checking against a test for a similarly pro-'X' lord, I usually allow a pass when 'either' rather than 'both' conditions are met.  For example, a pro-Yorkist lord seeking to take over another pro-Yorkist will get a fight-free submission if he is either stronger or more popular, while a pro-Lancastrian target would fight unless he was both weaker and less popular.  Likewise, a lord on the tabletop who has an independent command may fail you if he is pro-Lancastrian and you are pro-Yorkist, just to keep that prospect of treachery alive and well...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Setting up the Wargames Campaign

To continue with my adaptation of the campaign system discussed previously: not everybody will have a Miniature Wargames with Battlegames (MWwBG?) copy handy, and although I'm adapting it and shall explain a bit of my thinking - I still strongly advise anybody interested to get a back-copy online!  

I wanted the campaign to be in a fictionalised region of the North of England, so I kept the basic notion of dealing out a random 5 x 5 grid of playing cards.  The result for me is in the picture below:

The numbers of the cards represent the strength or wealth of the region, the higher the better.  Court cards are naturally something special, so they are taken as a strength of 12 and represent a city, castle, or other powerful noble's personal estates. The other feature of the cards is their suit - since the Wars of the Roses is split between two factions, I took all the red-suit cards (hearts & diamonds) as nobles with a pro-Lancastrian leaning, while the black suits (clubs/spades) are taken as having pro-Yorkist sympathies.  Our protagonist lord may still have to fight in feuds with pro-Yorkists as rivals for royal favour, but they are generally more amenable to him than the Lancastrians.

From the photo above you'll see that I got a not-bad draw.  There are about 15 pro-Lancastrian regions compared to 10 pro-Yorkist ones, and an above-average six cities/castles.  I drew 4 Lancastrian strongholds against two Yorkist, but I felt this might be a bit too lop-sided and decided to switch one to make it three-each.  

Next, a bit of character to each region - which I think is an important bit of any campaign.  By looking around on Google Maps, I was able to get a quick list of appropriately 'Northern'-sounding names for each area.  I didn't want any actual places in the fictional map, so I split each name in two and randomly mixed them up.  For example, places like 'Whitbeck' or 'Cornforth' can be switched around to make 'Whitforth' or 'Cornbeck', for example - non-existent places, but they sound right.  You can do it manually, or - as I did - rig up an excel sheet to randomly generate match-ups for you.

Each area needs a lord to represent it, of course - and the names of the lards are handled in pretty much the same way as the place-names above.  A Google search for 'northern english surnames' turned up plenty of examples, and then I prepared a list of common first names - I used the character cards from 'Perfect Captain' but there's no great surprise to them: lots of Johns and Richards, etc.  Again, I randomly paired up the results.

Basically knocked up on an Excel spreadsheet - complete with clip-art for the Castle in Wolviston
Here's an example of some regions and nobles.  More on the personalities in the next post.