Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prelude to Battle

In the Midlands, the Yorkists head back north again upon the rendezvous between Salisbury & Norfolk, intending to defend the line of the river Trent. However, before they can reach the river the Lancastrians have crossed southwards! As part of the invasion, Somerset has taken his force to swing east and flank the river-line while Northumberland takes it head-on. A good plan, but one that rapidly comes unstuck when Northumberland probes the river-line and finds that he's pushing on an open door. Salisbury has gone, as part of his brief shift southwards to meet up with Norfolk, but of course Northumberland has no way of knowing this and sets off in pursuit. A messenger is sent to Somerset to update him that he's not a cunning flanking blow on a defended river-line any more, but is now badly out of position and needs to catch up with the main army as it heads south.

The Lancastrian advance comes to a halt shortly after it starts, as scouts come riding back with news of the new Yorkist force drawing close. Battle is at hand, and both forces come together near the village of Thoroton, close to Nottingham, for the reckoning. Can Northumberland win single-handedly? Will Somerset reach the field in time to make a contribution?

For the upcoming battle, I proved unable to resist the siren's call of Perfect Captain's rule-set 'A Coat of Steel.' Whatever its problems, I simply don't know of any alternative set that can match it for the 'flavour' of the period. Forces for ACoS are derived from the campaign game 'A Crown of Paper' (ACoP,) so I tweaked the numbers for companies to get an 'instant' army-list for each side that roughly matches the forces in the 'Richard III' campaign game. I did this after reading through some of the ACoS scenarios posted in the Perfect Captain's Yahoo group. A generic unit of 2Men-at-Arms, 4Billmen & 4Retinue Archers seemed to be in use in things like their Towton scenario for nobles' retinues, plus 4Billmen & 4Levy Bowmen units for levies, so I adopted this myself. Bam! Ready-made armies!

The Yorkist set-up is simple, with Norfolk making up the Main, Salisbury on the right, and Rutland on the Left. Norwich levies were dispersed throughout to bulk up the wards as required, and prevent Norfolk's ward from being disproportionately large compared to the other two. Lancastrian-wise, we have Northumberland in the Main, the Scots under Earl Douglas on the left, and the Newcastle Levies on the right under Sir Ralph Grey of Heaton.

A draw through some ACoP contingent-counters turned up a Gonne for Northumberland, so on a whim I adopted that and gave him one. I also used the draws of well-wisher counters to identify potential numbers of minor nobles who might turn up. I used the Minor Nobles list to select plausible backers and fill out Ward commands, adding a good bit more colour.
So, to a look at the Cards, to learn what characteristics will be on show: Gah! Right away, things look bad for the Lancastrians. While the Yorkists field a generally competent crew of old hands and loyalists, fortune has dealt the Red Rose a very worse fate. Somerset is Lethargic - hardly the characteristic you look for in a man meant to be riding to the rescue with reinforcements! Worse, Northumberland is impetuous, meaning he's unlikely to wait for him. Double-Worse, Grey of Heaton is a rank amateur, plus a trimmer who may well swap sides right there on the field. The man's a positive danger!

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