After much other stuff to keep my attention, I have found myself leaving my WOTR campaign for a while - well, no longer! Things have moved on again and the looming confrontation is a rather spectacular one.
Last time we hit the tabletop, it was for another attempt by the Yorkists to put down the Lancastrian rebellion in the north of England. This plan ran adrift at Holmewood, where some timely reinforcements and a highly aggressive performance by the Duke of Somerset saw the Lancastrians triumph. The Yorkists had to retreat away and lost all the advantages of their earlier victory at Thoroton. The stalemate resumed, and the northern armies had now racked up three clashes without one side decisively defeating the other.
This was another example of something that has become a strange feature of my little re-fight campaign: the lack of any high-profile deaths for a while! Not since Northumberland was beheaded have we seen the loss of a major figure - Warwick & Co. managed to flee en-masse from Gerrard's Cross to Calais, through sheer luck more than anything else. Similarly, the nobles Rutland, Salisbury & Norfolk all put in a swift escape from Holmewood when things went against them. Surely this can't go on!
The short answer is: no, it can't. I've gone back to the RIII board to progress the campaign. It's the early winter months of 1461, and the remaining armies are all closing in on each other. The Northern armies face each other across the River Trent; the Lancastrians hold London; while Edward of York has now moved to Gloucester. They are all close enough now to combine for a decisive battle. Whoever moves first can decide things in their favour.
It's the Lancastrians, in the end, who make the decisive move. Leaving the dead Earl of Wiltshire's men to hold the capital, Queen Margaret (with Henry VI and the seven-year-old Prince Edward in tow) lead their army west, seeking to destroy York. Simultaneously, Somerset leads his army south over the Trent and the Severn to join with them for the final confrontation. The Yorkists see the climactic battle is near, and their own northern army under Salisbury shadows Somerset's move south, so the armies all converge in Gloucestershire. Warwick, isolated in Calais, forwards Mercenaries from Burgundy to assist.
From the 'Richard III' game rules, the armies have been nosing slowly closer to each other to try and unify, but also to avoid being caught in a two-against-one attack from the enemy. Now, all have at last closed in enough for one side to launch an attack and also for the attacked to call in their other army as reinforcements. Various lords are uncommitted or declaring for one side or another across the land, but the decisive make-or-break battle is finally here.
The size of the forces are certainly impressive - the maximum combination of each side has produced a startling total of 21,000 Lancastrians combining to take on a force of 23,000 Yorkists. This, including also the time of the event (early in the winter/spring of 1461) means the 'Richard III' game has contrived what is practically a direct imitation of Towton - except in this case it is taking place in the south-west of England, rather than in the north.
What a massive clash this promises to be! Certainly the biggest yet in the refight (Gerrard's Cross was the next-largest, and saw about 14,000 a side) and as befits a decisive clash of arms, it seems impossible to believe that all the Nobles converging on the field will leave it alive. Most are fully committed and willing - although not all.
In the Lancastrian camp, Buckingham's doubts have clearly been on the rise after a few weeks in London with the triumphalist Lancastrian die-hards for company. Although he oversaw Warwick's rout at Gerrard's Cross, it seems that the prospect of a flat-out triumph by the Beaufort family in the king's name might not be entirely okay in his mind...
Likewise over in the Yorkist camp Edward's younger brother George Plantagenet, the Duke of Clarence, might just be getting a severe case of cold feet at the idea of lining up against the Royal Standard on a battlefield and committing what is technically high treason. Surely he won't betray two of his own brothers that are also on the field, though?
So - a massive battle in the offing, near-certain destruction by death and attainder for many noble families, possible treachery - and a sharp, decisive end to the first campaign with nothing less than the crown of England up for grabs!